Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. 

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. (

I was intrigued by the title when I purchased this book. The Particular sadness of lemon cake..  it has a nice ring to it. Much like 'The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind' which is one of my favourite movies.

However the story is quite a different tale. Not the dysfunctionality of Eternal Sunshine, but a girl telling us about a gift she has, being able to discern other people's mood by eating the food they've made. How we would all love to have that gift once in a while when we aren't sure how someone else is feeling, but in truth to be stuck with it day in day out must be just frustrating.
Which is exactly how our main character, Rose, is feeling. Coming home, trying a piece of cake and not tasting butter, eggs and sugar but a vast emptiness that sticks to the tongue. I would freak out for less.
We follow Rose as she comes to grips on this new found ability all the way through childhood, puberty, up until young adulthood. We stand by her side when her brother disappears, when she finds out her mother is having an affair, when her father tells her a mindblowing story. In the end she does learn to live with her ability, because it could have been worse.

I read this story quite slowly, one chapter at a time before I went to sleep. It's made up of a lot of small chapters so for a tired and worn out mother of a rapidly growing 10month young girl, I wasn't complaining. Not all chapters were equally interesting, some even a bit sluggish, but it felt like a diary and not every day is a day filled with interesting events, so even the more tepid chapters had their purpose.

All in all I liked this story. It didn't blow me away, made me cry or laugh, but it just shone a little ray of sunshine and sometimes that's enough for me.

Personal rating: 3,5 stars