Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen

When Kate Taylor's Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen was released it got some harsh reviews for being less than historically accurate. The story, which partly takes the shape of the diaries of Marcel Proust's mother, is an historical fiction. But Taylor uses dates, names, places and events a bit more loosely than authors typically do and she does so unabashedly. Being a former history student, I was a bit concerned by this notion; yet, I quickly forgot all about it. The story is engaging, the plot she weaves does not make dates pivotal.

Beyond Mme Proust, the story involves two other females: Marie Prevost, who is in the process of translating the Proust diary (and providing us her access to the diaries) and Sarah Bensimon, a French Jewish refugee who was sent to live in Canada during the WWII. These three lives unfold over decades. They are most often stories of the everyday, un-life changing events. But they are compelling stories and the writing style of Taylor makes for an enjoyable read. Some exploration of numerous (maybe a bit too many) themes: family, self-satisfaction, bilingualism, belonging, food, Jewish identity, and a few others.

At times I felt as though there was enough in all three stories to make more than one novel, but probably not enough for three. I wanted more out of each one, they were all intriguing!

Not my favorite novel, and I was secretly hoping there would be more about food (kitchen IS in the title), but still well worth the read.


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