Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen

I borrowed this book from the local library in an effort to support the service, along with Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, which I gave up on quite early. The librarian said her husband said it all came together towards the end. Unfortunately I didn't get that far and if a book doesn't hook me at the beginning, I'll never know how great it turned out to be.

Three-tiered plot

I persevered with Madame Proust's 1890s unpublished diary and learnt a lot about son Marcel in the process - her smothering love for him and his repressed homosexuality, his asthma attacks, (the physical reaction to his repression no doubt) and the louche lifestyle to which he was attracted. Author Kate Taylor recreates the times well through narrator Marie Prevost, who lives in Canada and carries out her research in Paris. But I found the backtracking and timeline switches hard to follow and became confused with the various characters in a three-tiered plot that didn't work. The constant time changes prevented the plot from moving forwards and this interfered with the flow for me.

Meanwhile, Sarah Bensimon, who lives in Toronto with foster parents, returns to her birth family's apartment in Paris after the war to search for them. People are reluctant to talk but she finds a witness to their murder in Auschwitz. In Toronto, she develops an ultra kosher kitchen and cooks kosher versions of French cuisine. I couldn't figure out what this had to do with the story although the title is ambiguous as it implies that Madame Proust  kept a kosher kitchen. She was also Jewish though, which makes Marcel so and Sarah's son Max, like Marcel, is stringing along an adoring young woman called Marie. Both Maries are thwarted when they learn the truth. I'm not sure why the men needed to be Jewish as the story would have stood as well had they been Catholic or Hindu but I was hoping to learn more about the French collaboration to transport their Jewish population to Drancy, transit camp to Auschwitz during the war and this wasn't forthcoming.

I'm not sure what the kosher kitchen had to do with anything or other authorial discussions about language for example or the Dreyfus affair. I think it was about different types of love - unrequited, motherly and gay. However, it was well written and researched and I enjoyed the author's take on Madame Proust's unpublished letters.

Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen is by Kate Taylor and published by Chatto & Windus, 2003.

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