Book of the Week : Little Culinary Triumphs by Pascale Pujol
“Pujol’s pleasant and fun debut features well-rounded characters and a delicious, Parisian appreciation of food [ . . . ] Sexy encounters, irreverent humor, and subtle twists keep up the pace of this quirky tale about a variety of French appetites.” ―Publishers Weekly
“In her debut novel, Pascale Pujol keeps the tone light as she takes on serious themes of economics and immigration. [ . . . ] The plot adds characters like ingredients in a recipe until everything finally sets like a creamy quiche. Will everybody get what they want ― or deserve? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s fun watching the schemes unfold.” ―The Star Tribune
Set in Parisian Montmartre, this heartwarming, comic tale is a must for foodies and Francophiles.
Pôle emploi employee Sandrine Cordier is dreadfully tired and bored by her job, helping the unemployed receive benefits. She does have "one great passion: food", and as a girl dreamt of becoming a cook until her family pressured her into a law degree and more respectable and safe lifestyle.
She finally finds some interest in it when she crosses paths with Antoine Lacuenta, an overeducated environmentalist activist she sets up with a training course in organic cuisine, as a way to both realise her desire of being a chef by proxy and to train him as a potential future employee for her imaginary restaurant. Together, they recruit talented cooks, such as Tamil Vairam Navaratnarajah. The implausible story follows heaps of 'characters' embarking on an adventure to achieve their goals, under the guidance of the Machiavellian Sandrine. As they discover a shady newspaper operation next door, they realise all of the scheming and corruption that goes on behind the scene of the property business, and the powerful alliances that might endanger their dream of owning a restaurant.
The book is witty and well-constructed, every single of the 28 chapters titles being related to food (Dog Food, Appple Turnover, and the grand finale, Champagne!). The chapters can at first seem a bit disconnected, but actually all the characters are somehow linked and their paths are intertwined.
Pujol doesn't shy away from sexy puns or dark humour, especially when they offer a searing critique of hot topics for current French culture, such as immigration, corruption and unemployment. Finally, this book is also a tribute to the French art de vivre and its emphasis on cuisine and hedonism.
“For much of this first novel, translated from the French by Alison Anderson, Ms. Pujol’s tone of voice is pitch perfect, sardonic and smart.” ―Wall Street Journal
“Good humor assured with the events of the bizarre gang of the residence Darcourt in Montmartre.” ―Cucina Italiana
Little Culinary Triumphs is published by Europa Editions and it was Translated by Alison Anderson.
Pascale Pujol grew up in Perpignan and lives in Paris. She worked as a journalist for over ten years and is now an economic and financial consultant and analyst. Little Culinary Triumphs is her first novel.
Alison Anderson works as a literary translator. Her translations include Europa Editions’ The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship. She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian. Her forthcoming translations include A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, and Amélie Nothomb's Hygiene and the Assassin.
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