Thursday, 23 February 2012

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

I love those times of year when one of my family buys me a book that I've never heard of and I go on to discover a new author and a completely different type of novel. That's what happened with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I believe it was a Richard and Judy Book Choice in 2011 and I can't help wondering if it would have reached as many readers otherwise.

This is an astonishing novel, both in construction and content. Rose Edelstein's mother bakes her a lemon-chocolate cake for her 9th birthday and as soon as Rose bites into the slice of cake, she discovers an overwhelming 'gift' that will plague the rest of her life. For Rose can taste every emotion that goes into the baking and cooking of food - any food, anywhere. And with that gift comes the knowledge that her mother, father and brother are dealing with their own particular problems.

Not quite as linear as some novels, it often dips into different scenes in Rose's life and the dialogue has no enclosing quote marks, yet I was never confused about who is speaking. The beautiful writing and magic-realism qualities of the novel are a joy to read, while Rose's own journey into adulthood is often amusing, wise and poignant. The almost non-existent relationship with her strange brother who disappears at intervals culminates in a touching revelation that only Rose will ever understand.

Although it might divide readers' opinions, I have the feeling this is one book that will remain in the mind far longer than usual, and it's one which I'll want to read again with even more understanding and appreciation.



Teresa Ashby said...

Sounds intriguing and a bit different - I think I shall nip over to Amazon to check it out. Thank you x

Joanna said...

Thanks, Rosemary for this excellent review.
I received this book as a Christmas present from my youngest daughter and couldn't put it down. It was so different from anything I'd read before.
I found the lack of speech-marks odd at first, but I got used to that and it soon didn't matter.
There are many memorable scenes, but
the image of the brother will haunt me always.
It's an amazing book and I shall almost certainly re-read it in the future.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like one I should try. I've been enjoying reading many different styles recently and have found a couple of debut novels quite out of my comfort zone. I'll look this one up too. Thanks.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It's very unusual, Teresa!

I remember you mentioning you'd received it, Joanna. Like you, I will read it again one day.

It's great to try something completely different now and then, isn't it Maggie?

Diane Fordham said...

It does sound different. But different can be good :-)

Diana said...

The title alone makes me want to read it. Interesting

Patsy said...

Sounds interesting. Don't like the idea of no quote marks for dialogue though - can't see what possible benefit gimmicks like that are to the reader and think such things are just done to make the book seem different.

Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

This book certainly sounds interesting, thanks for telling us about it.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely, Diane!

I loved that title, Diana - and the story is as quirky.

I thought I'd detest that, Patsy, but it didn't matter at all in the end.

Definitely interesting, Debs - I suspect some will like it and some not!

Vikki said...

Thanks for giving me a loan of it! I'm looking forward to reading itx