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