You know how book reviews like to compare the lighter novels to those desserts that are more for personal gratification than anything else, those delicatessen type reads that can be more than fluff, but don’t quite have enough substance to be a critically acclaimed cheese-cake that people with horn-rimmed glasses might consume?
This is exactly that kind of book. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s heart-warming. There is a large cast of characters, and as always with these types of cuisine-likened books, that large cast is both its strength and weakness. There are quite a few story lines to keep track of and you have to be prepared for the point of view to be switching quite a bit, most especially when you want to know what happens next, of course.
Marlow Craftsman, publishing mogul, has sent his son Atticus to close down the Librarté magazine in Spain, as it has been costing Craftsman and Co. far more to maintain than it has been generating. Since his son’s trip, however, Mr. Craftsman hasn’t heard from Craftsman and Co’s heir for several months, and so he hires Inspector Manchego to find out what has happened to him.
Manchego is the kind of detective that could make Sherlock Holmes go into conniptions, and not the good kind. Not only is he terrible at looking for clues, but in the process of looking for them manages the spectacular feat of helping a thief spirit them away. Manchego is a large contributing factor to the humour in the book.
My favourites, however, were probably the five women who run Librarté magazine. They’re each as different as they could possibly be from the other, all at various stages of life and womanhood, having suffered, or suffering their fair share of turmoil. So it doesn’t help when they learn that Atticus Craftsman is bringing the threat of closing down the one constant source of happiness in their lives. Naturally, they put their heads together to stall and possibly eliminate this from happening. The friendships between the different women are tested throughout this ordeal in hilarious and touching ways, and it was both sweet and entertaining to read.
Despite being a light, fluffy consumptive, this book had moments of beautiful truth in it, and its practical view of life – especially when it came to the relations between the Spanish and the English – was refreshing. The author shows that the world won’t always be a rosy place, but that you can try and make that small little bit around you as rosy as you might want. (The only real down-side to this entire novel would be the fact that Atticus Craftsman considers Lolita to be an erotic novel.)
On the other hand, Sanchez’s descriptions of kissing manage to be whimsical and romantic without being too trite:
“The kiss tasted of nuts and chestnuts, hot wine, an open fire. Manchego and Berta, as different and as inseparable as two sides of a coin, remembered at that moment the sound of the San Martín church bells on a wedding day and how the echo rumbled and rang down the cliff until it hit the stream where they used to paddle as children. And the taste of stew, the whole village invited, finally our Berta is getting married, so grown up, how lovely, with a great guy, look how handsome he is, he looks like George Clooney, but taller. And the sound of fireworks, with a big finale, someone on the bridge sending rockets into the starry sky. That’s what the kiss was like.”
Dessert-like reads with great kissing in them? Surely the best remedy for those stressful weeks.