Friday, September 4, 2015

The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais

I had heard that the movie based on The Hundred-Foot Journey was not very good, but I hoped that the book might--as often is the case--be better. The book is the story of Hassan Haji, a boy whose Muslim family was forced out of India following partition (and an attack on their family home that resulted in his mother's death). Like many Indian emigres, they went first to London but eventually settled in a small village in France, Lumiere. The family decides to start an Indian restaurant right across the street from a French restaurant where a renowned chef, Madame Mallory, rules. The family clashes with Madame Mallory but she eventually realizes that Hassan is a gifted chef and takes him into her kitchen to train him in French cuisine. That starts his rise to the highest levels of the French culinary world.

The part of the book in which Hassan is still ensconced in his family is lively, as the family is full of characters and there is a bit of the classic "stranger in a strange land" plot. When he starts his ascent as a chef, however, the story falls flat. Although Hassan is purportedly passionate about food, the reader gets no authentic sense of passion or excitement. Consequently, whether or not he achieves his third Michelin star is a matter of utterly no concern.

Not recommended.

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