The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

By Monique Truong

From Publishers Weekly A captivating narrative voice, an insider's view of a fabled literary loved ones and the gradual revelation of heartbreaking secrets and techniques give a contribution to the visceral impression of this primary novel. From a couple of traces within the Alice B. Toklas cook dinner publication, Truong reimagines the Vietnamese cook dinner who used to be employed via the well-known citizens at 27 rue de Fleurus. Bonh, as he calls himself, is an exile from his native land, the place he used to be denounced due to a gay dating and banished through his brutal father. After 3 years at sea, Bonh results in Paris, the place he solutions Toklas's advert ("Two American girls wish...") and enters the loved ones of Gertrude Stein. the tale starts in 1934 while the ladies he calls "my Mesdames" are approximately to travel the USA, and Bnh fears he will be solid adrift once more. Flashbacks show his loneliness and guilt, his doomed amorous affairs (he enjoys a quick tryst with Ho Chi Minh, whom he is familiar with basically as "the guy at the bridge") and his unhappiness at having deserted his mom and his fatherland. The tone all through is poignant, lightened via Bnh's subversive wit; for all his bitterness and resentment, he's a charming narrator, as adept at describing Stein's literary salon because the contents of Toklas's kitchen. If Truong occasionally stretches the variety of Bonh's knowing and powers of commentary, analyzing even the options of Stein herself, the narrative jewelry with emotional authenticity. Truong's supple prose is permeated with sensual aspect, similar to A Debt to excitement in its evocation of the erotic chances of meals. however it is her intuitive realizing of the of exile-"the natural, sea salt unhappiness of the outcast"-that infuses her novel with richness and sweetness. Copyright 2003 Reed enterprise details, Inc. From Booklist Drawing thought from a fleeting reference within the *Alice B. Toklas prepare dinner ebook* (1954) to 2 "Indochinese" males who at one aspect cooked for Toklas and Gertrude Stein, Truong has concocted a tasty fictional memoir. confronted with the choice approximately no matter if to accompany Stein and Toklas to the US, go back to Vietnam, or stay in France, Binh, the Vietnamese cook dinner who has worked for the radical girls he has dubbed "The Steins," for roughly 5 years, displays again on his existence and occasions. Interspersing his personal tale with that of his illustrious employers, Binh meanders from side to side via time, recounting his younger misadventures in Vietnam, his time toiling as a galley hand aboard a crusing vessel, and his years spent cooking for the Steins and indulging within the joys and perils of the seamier part of Parisian nightlife. utilizing salt as a metaphor for "food, sweat, tears and the sea," and interweaving the narrative with feedback of materials, recipes, and unique dishes, Truong presents a savory debut novel of unforeseen intensity and emotion. *Margaret Flanagan* *Copyright © American Library organization. All rights reserved*

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Not my own, of course, but Monsieur and Madame's. The first thing I learned at the Governor-General's house was that when Monsieur and Madame were consumed by their lunatic displeasure at how the floors had been waxed, how the silver had been polished, or how the poulet had been stewed, they would berate the household staff, all fifteen of us, in French. Not in the combination of dumbed-down French coupled with atonal attempts at Vietnamese that they would normally use with us, no, this was a pure variety, reserved for dignitaries and obtuse Indochinese servants.

I know where they reside, where they dissolve discreetly into one another, where they inexplicably choose to rear their unmarked heads. A skill born from the lack of other skills, really. When each day is mapped for me by a wanton display of street names congesting the pages of the help-wanteds, when I am accompanied by the stench of the unemployable, I am forced into an avid, adoring courtship with the boulevards of this city. I must admit that in truly desperate times, my intimate knowledge of the city has saved me.

A pleasurable exercise for them, I am certain, as they always share a somewhat delinquent little smile. I am over there on the bench, behind them, on the left-hand side. I am the one with my head lowered, my eyes closed. I am not asleep, just thinking, and that for me is sometimes aided by the dark. I am a man unused to choices, so the months leading up to that day at the Gare du Nord had subjected me to an agony, sharp and new, self-inflicted and self-prolonged. I had forgotten that discretion can feel this way.

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