Book Review: Gourmet Rhapsody

Gourmet Rhapsody

Muriel Barbery

Europa Editions

160 pages

Pierre Arthen is an abhorrent man.  He is a French food critic who alienates those around him, including his children, who harbor a hatred and resentment towards him for the way they were treated as children.

Everything is now coming to the surface now, because Pierre has been told that he has only 24 hours to live.  He has started to recount his life through different foods he has had, with his sole intention being to recapture a lost flavor that eludes him.  His sole wish is to recall that flavor before he dies.  Meanwhile, the narrative flips back and forth between Pierre and those who are close to him.

The basic plot reminded me a lot of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, although it has been years since I read it, so my memory is a bit hazy. Maybe I didn’t “get” Gourmet Rhapsody, because I would have anticipated that a story of this kind would involve some type of self awareness, with Pierre or his family members resolving some of the animosity that had struck over the years.  That didn’t seem to happen, and I didn’t see any remorse on Pierre’s end.  I suppose the ending, when he discovers the lost flavor, would be some sort of revelation on his part, but it did not seem all encompassing.

I read this book solely because I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I would have had very little interest in the book otherwise, and while I could see Barbery’s skills coming to light in Gourmet Rhapsody, it did not resonate with me in the way Hedgehog did.

Other Reviews:

My Cozy Book Nook

Paperback Reader

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

7 Responses

  1. I tried to listen to this one on audio because I also loved the hedgehog book, but I just could not get into it…

  2. I ve not read this or hedgehog ,I like premise of this thou some food critics are a bit up them selves ,but got hedgehog on shelves so will try that first ,all the best stu

  3. I listened to Hedgehog and adored it — it was the audiobook that got me into audiobooks. I tried to listen to this one when it came out, but they changed the reader for Renee, which I hated (because I had loved her in Hedgehog). I never got into it and abandoned it fairly quickly. Not sure I’d like it in print, either. Oh well.

  4. Well I didn’t get Hedgehog…too much philosophy, which I loathe. It scared me off of this one.

  5. This seems to be a resounding theme: “I read this because I loved The Elegance of The Hedgehog” and there the effusion stops. I rather dread reading this book because I, too, loved Hedgehog. It would be hard to beat that book, even with its tragic ending, even by the same author.

  6. I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you. I have it on my TBR pile too; I tried to listen to the audio and couldn’t get into it so I got the print because I tend to fall asleep to audios! If you like reading Europa Editions books, I started a blog challenge at We’d love to have you- even if you didn’t love the book! 🙂

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