Gourmet Rhapsody is about Pierre Arthens, the renowned food critic we've met in Hedgehog, who's recalling significant episodes in his life as he lays dying. In the novel, the critic's own thoughts and memories alternate with the stories of people whose lives he touched. The critic is in search of that one singular flavor, an elusive taste that he wants to experience again before he dies. The people around him -- his wife, his children, the concierge, fellow food critics, lovers, etc. -- tell the circumstances why they either love or hate Arthens.
As you can tell from the synopsis, nothing much happens in Gourmet Rhapsody. If Barbery wants to show the different facets of Arthens through his past experiences and by the feelings of the people around him, the attempt fails. In the end, Arthens is still a conundrum. We don't get to discover how he developed his high-brow tastes, his aversion for his children, his preferential treatment for the household help, and his choice in women. Gourmet Rhapsody left me wanting for more.
Read this book if:
- You love melodramatic French novels and cinema.
- You like translated fiction.
- You've always wanted to be a food critic.