Food is one of my favorite things in the world (but you all knew that). I love to cook it, to eat it, to read about it. So I was delighted that my book club decided on The Hundred-Foot Journey for our October selection. This also means that when we do meet, we’ll be eating a selection of Indian/French foods. YUM.
The story itself is also tantalizing and delicious. Young Hassan Haji grows up in India where his parents run a successful restaurant, until tragedy forces them to flee. After brief excursions around Europe, they settle in the French village of Lumière, where the imposing Madame Mallory reigns supreme. Her gourmet inn is the toast of the town until the Haji family opens their restaurant and she discovers that Hassan is no cook–he’s a genius in the making, with more raw talent than even she can muster. And thus begins the saga that will take Hassan out of his family roots and into a greater destiny than even he can imagine.
This is a funny, poignant book that encompasses so many aspects of human experience. I appreciated the interspersion of humor and seriousness, as well as the way Morais depicted his characters. There’s something about the life of an artist, and Morais brings us the joy, grief, triumph, and trials that comes with becoming “great.” As I read, I kept reminding myself of the film Ratatouille and the short story “Babette’s Feast” (turned into a beautiful, spare film, and perhaps my favorite thing by Isak Dineson ever). What kind of commitment does it take to be an artist? What do you gain? What do you lose? Morais answers these questions with grace and humor, balancing the melancholy themes with dignity and joy. It’s a great novel–I’m interested to see how they turn it into a more family-friendly film.