Book - 2012
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Growing up side by side in the Catholic village of Ste. Madeleine, pious grocer's daughter Marie Angèle aspires to a life of comfort while impoverished laundress' daughter Jeanne hides her Jewish heritage, until the outbreak of war binds the girls together.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2012
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781608197712
Branch Call Number: FICTION ROBERTS 2012
Characteristics: 231 p


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Dec 19, 2013

When people are deprived of something, particularly food, they cannot stop thinking about it. It haunts them. Scents of cooking follow them. They zone in on it at the expense of other things. While Roberts' novel is not about starvation, it is about deprivation, not only of food, but also of beauty and love. Hence, when Jeanne Nerin is lucky enough to obtain any one of these things, they loom larger than life in her narrative. The cheese sandwich that Bernie offers her aboard the ferry to London is likely the first bite of cheese that Jeanne has had in some time. We, too, can taste that sandwich, with its "thick yellow slice of cheese, yellowish bread" that she bites into and devours before doing the same to the second sandwich that Bernie proffers. When Jeanne turned thirteen earlier in the novel, her mother insisted on a meager celebration, and after consulting the sole cookbook (itself later described as a bible), _I Want to Cook_ by Brigitte Marisot, Jeanne and her mother decide on _Delicieuses_, as her mother had managed that day to procure two hen's eggs. "Snowy beaten egg whites folded with grated Gruyere and quickly deep-fried to become fat puffs" that Jeanne ate greedily: "Salt and hot oil on my lips, the billowy cushion of egg white melting to wateriness on my tongue," she recalls.

While other voices make up this novel, it is Jeanne's that is most important. Her ability to focus on those things that are often denied her and make them larger than life when she fortunately happens upon them or contrives to get a hold of them, help hold off the bleak, frightening realities of surviving as a Jew in Occupied France. Along with making much of food, Jeanne makes much of color, in part because her friend and one-time lover, Monsieur Jacquotet not only draws and paints the young Jeanne, but teaches her to draw as well, allowing her a way to express her fear, sorrows, pining, sacrifices, risks, and never-ending hunger.


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