A New York Times Notable Book - life of Vietnamese cook working for Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas in Paris. Very sad that this gay young man's' life was so undermined by circumstances and the people around him. Lyrical writing. Look for all mentions of the sources of salt.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well-written and imaginative. I love a book that makes me think and inspires me to learn more. The Book of Salt sparked me to research how Stein and Toklas, two Jewish lesbians, managed to live in occupied France during the Nazi reign. Google is your friend
Very introspective book. Little action, not plot-driven. Narrator is the main character.
I expected this well-written book to have more about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas living in Paris than it did, but it focuses more on the main character, their Vietnamese cook, through whose eyes we see them. Besides his "Mesdames," Binh's narrative is about his abusive father and self-sacrificing mother back in Vietnam, and his homosexual loves and adventures. The book ends abruptly when Stein and Toklas leave for the United States - without him.
First off, Monique Truong is a super talented author and I will happily look for more of her books. Unfortunately, The Book of Salt is filled with all three of my Sleepy Read Triggers: religion (Catholicism in particular), cooking minutiae (Babette's Feast, zzzzzzzzz), and magical realism.
The three main characters in this historical-fiction are Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and Binh, the Vietnamese cook they take in at their famed Paris Studio. In addition, there are a ton of other intriguing characters, narrator Binh's family members, former employers, love interests, and various men he meets on boats and bridges (most of whom seemed to be love interests, but I got too confused to say so for certain). None of these people were introduced in a chronological order, their stories were all layered and interrupted, and then re-introduced in a pseudo-rhythmic manner with various constant and repeated refrains - all of which I think was meant to reference GertrudeStein's non-linear style, but which did not really appeal to me personally.
This is a very well written book. I'm looking forward to reading Monique Truong's next novel. 'Salt' is primarily the story of the Vietnamese, homosexual, chef, Binh. He is employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas who are lovers and bisexual. The images of the social scene in France during the 1930's are vivid and the regressive scenes of his childhood are poignant. The sexual images are not graphic and are not the main point of the book.
I loved the narrative of this story, how it flows between past and present, and even that the references/reflections made aren't always clear until a few pages later. Although it didn't grab me right away, I found Binh's character believable and engaging. I appreciate hearing a voice we don't often hear here in the U.S. - that of an immigrant in Europe - and how similar it is to those of immigrants everywhere. I also enjoyed the subtle humor throughout and the depiction of the famous historical characters. Who would have thought I would find Ho Chi Minh likable and interesting?
I hated this book, as much as I LOVED Monique's first book Bitter in the Mouth. Mind you, this book is well written, and depicts an interesting time period and characters. So I had to ask myself, why are you so anxious to burn through this book, and I suspect it is that I loathed the main character and narrator. I found Binh to be hopeless, depressing, and awful to read about and experience his very tragic life experiences. I am certain that other people will enjoy this book. It was just not for me, and I could not wait for it to be over.
This book was very well written. Excellent descriptions and character development. It's one of those books that I liked so much that I won't send it out on PBS because I know I'll want to read it multiple times.
Beautifully written tale set in 1930's France about Gertrude Stein's cook.
Paris in the '30s through eyes of Vietnamese cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Excrutiating read. Excessively flowery prose, poor and unfair character descriptions of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, and a flat main character (verbose writing does not mask lacking character development). The book has little direction and no point.
A fictional memoir of a Vietnamese chef and some American expatriates
Excellent adventure of a Vietnamese cook in Paris in the 1930's.
I din't read it it but my book club did and most people had difficulty with it. The subject matter should be intriguing- Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, Paris in the 20's.
It is a bestseller so many other people like it.
The New York Times Book Review states, "A lush, fascinating, expansive first novel about a Vietnamese cook in the 1930's sho works for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Winner of several literary prizes.