Review: Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe

9780143113232lChez Moi by Agnes Desarthe was written in the author’s native French and translated into English.  This meandering story is about Myriam, a 40 something woman with a haunted past who secures a bank loan based on a fictitious resume to open a restaurant.  Chez Moi (“my home”) is just that, both home and eatery, tucked into a small corner on a quiet Paris street without so much as a sign announcing it.  Myriam sleeps on a donated banquette in the dining room and bathes in a deep stainless steel sink in the kitchen.

 Myriam attempts to do everything by herself- shopping, cooking, cleaning, waiting tables, and bookkeeping.  She’s a talented cook but doesn’t have any business sense whatsoever.  Almost despite herself she begins to have regular customers but soon finds she cannot do it all alone.  Just when she needs him most, the best waiter in the world appears.  Ben has grown up in the neighborhood and knows everybody.  He’s savvy with money and knowledgeable about the internet and in the kitchen.  He helps Myriam’s business really take off, but more importantly plays a role in healing her fractured heart and helping her move on from her past.

 We learn about Myriam’s past as she ruminates over mistakes she has made in her life.  Her biggest heartache is her failing as a mother to her son, Hugo, who she never loved properly and to whom she has done something entirely repellant.  She doesn’t see how the situation can ever be repaired.   Fleeing her life some years ago, she has shut down emotionally.  Over the course of the book she starts rebuilding her relationships and begins to make new friends.  She learns to rely on herself and trust her abilities. I wanted Myriam to succeed and I rooted for her, although I thought she was a bit disturbed. 

There are a couple of interesting peripheral characters.  Vincent is a florist in the shop next door with a crush on Myriam and breath that could kill an elephant.  Little brother Charles is a successful businessman, and Ben the waiter is happily asexual. 

Food and friendship are at the heart of Chez Moi.  It’s a slim volume but a slow read.  The vivid description of food is a highlight and the writing is pleasant but there is virtually no action.  Some might find it boring, but I liked Myriam and I’m glad I got to know her.  I liked the book for it’s dreamlike quality, the interesting turn of phrase and use of language.  I’d recommend it to those who enjoy character driven stories and beautiful writing, but if you like a little more plot and a story that moves along quickly, this isn’t it. 

I heard about this book from author Jennie Shortridge, who recommended several books as alternative choices for book clubs in this post.  My own book club will discuss Chez Moi in January.  It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks, because it was definitely a different kind of read than what we’re used to.

Tuesday Teasers

tuesday-tMiz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.  Let the book fall open to a random page.  Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
9780143113232lMy teaser comes from page 70 of  Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe, which my book club will be discussing in January.  It’s about a 43 year old woman- a great cook with no business experience- who opens up a tiny restaurant in Paris.  
“I launch into haphazard peeling and chopping, using an unorthodox technique which probably wastes a fair bit of time, but it suits me.  It consists in doing everything at once.”
Now if that isn’t the story of my life!!  Wasting time trying to do everything at once!
What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon

I love Sundays, but I especially love the 2nd Sunday of each month, because that’s when my book club meets.  This afternoon I’ll be at my friend Sara’s house, wine glass in hand, no kids in sight, eating good food and having adult conversations, ahhhhhhh.  Today we’ll be discussing 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, and while it wasn’t my favorite book of the year, I know others liked it, and we’ll have plenty to talk about.  We will also vote on our winter selections (December, January, and February).  I’m going to be suggesting the following (if you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts):

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe

This week I’ve been reading Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story by Kim Powers, which will be on tour for TLC in October (because who doesn’t like a good ghost story in October?)  It’s about the haunting of Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird) by members of the murdered Cutter family, immortalized in Capote’s book.  I’m also reading the dreamlike Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher, which I received from the publisher, W.W. Norton.  This one is about sisters Amy and Moira.  Amy lies in a coma after an accident, and Moira is at her bedside spilling out her life story.  After the first few chapters I’m getting the impression that Moira had something to do with the accident, but it’s not clear yet exactly what happened, so I will have to keep reading… 

Tomorrow is the kick off for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, organized by My Friend Amy! To celebrate, I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of Matrimony by Josh Henkin- the hardest working author/book promoter in town.  His book is everywhere, but you’ll have a chance to win your copy here (assuming you haven’t already won a copy elsewhere!) beginning tomorrow.  In addition to that, there will be a ridiculous amount of giveaways all over the place!  RIDICULOUS!  I’m not kidding!  What, you don’t believe me???  Ok, fine.  I’ll have to prove it.  I was just going to put the link here and ask you to take my word for it, but I guess I’ll have to copy the whole thing (and it’s just a coincidence that by posting it, I get extra entries in the raffle).  Take a look:

 

Daily Raffles:
Monday–Books and Chocolate sponsored by My Friend Amy and Hey Lady! Whatcha’ Readin?
Tuesday–Books and Going Green sponsored by My Friend Amy
Wednesday–Books and Coffee sponsored by My Friend Amy
Thursday–Books and Charity sponsored by My Friend Amy and Fashionista Piranha
Friday–Books and Movies sponsored by My Friend Amy

 
Win a Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit!
Do you find it’s your turn to host book club and not only do you not know what to serve but you don’t know what books to offer up for the next month’s selection?! Let Book Club Girl come to your rescue with the Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit.

One lucky winner of the kit will receive:

* A basket of cheese, crackers, cookies and wine for up to 12 people
* 5 great book group books to vote on for your group’s next pick. And Book Club Girl will then donate 12 copies whichever book is chosen for your entire group to read.
* 12 Book Club Girl mousepads to give out as party favors that night
* 12 Book Club Girl bookmarks to mark everyone’s favorite passages
* 12 Book Club Girl coasters to protect your coffee table from all those wine glasses!

TWO SORMAG Goody Bags containing books and more!

A Special Pamper Me Basket from Cafe of Dreams!
From Avon Foot Works
~ Inflatable watermelon shaped foot tub
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Cooling Foot Lotion
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Exfoliating Foot Scrub
~ 12 count Watermelon Effervescent Foot Tablets
~ An ARC of So Long At The Fair by Christina Schwarz
~ A variety of Hot Chocolate and Tea mixes

A pre-made blog template from SNSDesign!

A Subscription to Poetry Magazine from Savvy Verse and Wit!

BOOKS
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
John’s Quest by Cecelia Dowdy
Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson with Mike Blakely
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik
Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano
Isolation by Travis Thrasher
The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Every Freaking! Day With Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts
Dewey by Vicki Myron
The Shiniest Jewel by Marian Henley
Keep the Faith by Faith Evans
The Book of Calamities by Peter Trachtenberg
A is for Atticus by Lorilee Craker
After the Fire by Robin Gaby Fisher
Mike’s Election Guide by Michael Moore
War as They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg
Fixing Hell By Col. (ret.) Larry C. James 
Wild Boy: My Life with Duran Duran by Andy Taylor
The Last Under-Cover: The True Story of an FBI Agent’s Dangerous Dance with Evil By Bob Hamer
Border Lass by Amanda Scott
Insatiable Desire by Rita Heron
Hungry for More by Diana Holquist
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Trish Ryan
Never Surrender by General Jerry Boykin
Dream in Color by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez
Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton
Cobain Unseen by Charles R. Cross
Doing Business in 21st Century India by Gunjan Bagla
Branding Only Works on Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin
Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady, Orrin Woodward
How to Hear from God by Joyce Meyer
Knowing Right from Wrong by Thomas D. Williams
Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life by Caroline Pigozzi
Pure by Rebecca St. James
He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobson
So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman
Move On, Move Up by Paula White
The Rosary by Gary Jansen
Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Right Livelihoods by Rick Moody
by George by Wesley Stace
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh
Dead Boys by Richard Lange
The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman
Harlequin Titles: To Be Announced

Many other blogs are giving away books and prizes for BBAW as well! You can see the links to all of these giveaways here.

I told you it was RIDICULOUS!!  Happy BBAW to all the bloggers out there!  And to everybody, have a great week!