The Last Banquet

All posts tagged The Last Banquet

The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

Published July 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumout is many things. Orphan, soldier, diplomat, spy, lover. And chef.

This is his story.

We meet Jean-Marie d’Aumout as a penniless orphan eating beetles by the side of a road. His fate is changed after an unlikely encounter finds him patronage and he is sent to military academy. Despite his frugal roots, and thanks to it and courage in great measure, he grows up to become a diplomat and spy.

Rising through the ranks of eighteenth-century French society, he feasts with lords, ladies and eventually kings, at the Palace of Versailles itself.

Passionate love, political intrigue and international adventure abound in Jean-Marie’s life, but his drive stems from a single obsession: the pursuit of the perfect taste. Three-Snake Bouillabaisse, Pickled Wolf’s Heart and Flamingo Tongue are just some of the delicacies he devours on his journey toward the ultimate feast.

But beyond the palace walls, revolution is in the air and the country is clamouring with hunger of a different kind.

What did I think?:

The Last Banquet, translated by Maria Maestro was recommended to me on a reading spa I went to at the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights with Chrissi Reads. To be honest, considering that eye-catching cover, it’s the sort of book that would have intrigued me enough to pick it up but I’m not sure on the synopsis alone whether I would have been compelled to follow through and read it. Luckily, the book-seller who encouraged me to give it a try was incredibly persuasive and I became excited to find out what it was all about. To be fair, the intricate details of the narrative within this novel haven’t completely stayed with me but generally, this book is a literary marvel. The way it’s written is so sumptuously detailed that for any lovers of language, it’s truly a joy to read. It’s not for the faint-hearted, (which I’ll go into a bit later) but it’s a surprisingly compulsive read and I found myself hanging on every word the author had written, the sure sign of a hooked reader!

Jonathan Grimwood, author of The Last Banquet.

In a nutshell, The Last Banquet focuses on one male lead, Jean Marie Charles d’Aumout who is found by the Regent of France in the late 1700’s on a roadside feasting on some beetles whilst his parents lie dead in a looted house nearby. The Regent takes pity on the young boy and takes him under his wing, sending him to a school and then to a prestigious military academy where he mixes with the aristocracy. This is the story of how Jean Marie rises from a penniless existence to the ranks of the wealthy as he takes his fascination that began with tasting beetles to whole new levels, continually on the quest for a more interesting and exclusive taste. Meanwhile, the French Revolution looms terrifyingly in the background, threatening the rich and entitled, and Jean Marie begins to understand the true nature of love and trust.

Our story covers the period of the French Revolution from 1789-1799.

This was such an interesting novel that I really didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I eventually did. From the very first moments, when we are introduced to Jean Marie eating stag beetles at the side of the road, I was instantly curious to see how the story was going to play out and of course, completely disgusted! My mum actually tells a story of when I was a young girl and she pulled half of a stag beetle from my mouth: (“It’s back legs still wriggling!” she delights in telling me!) and I don’t even want to think about where the rest of that beetle went! UGH. The fact that I find all kind of insect life absolutely grotesque in my adult years means that I wonder now whether the taste of that beetle put me off for life? Haha! Anyway, our lead character certainly doesn’t have any problems in that department regarding tasting the weird and wonderful. He will try anything and everything, despite the species and this is where my warning in the first paragraph comes into effect. If you think you might be slightly queasy regarding this subject, be warned indeed. Included in the text are multiple recipes for Jean Marie’s concoctions, including graphic details on how exactly they should be cooked.

Some parts are horrible, I have to admit but at the same time, the dark side of my brain was fascinated by his life, his strange obsession for new tastes (which does stray into the sexual as an adult as well), and how his happiness seems to hinge on this very unique quest of his. It is an odd book in this regard and I think you have to be pretty open-minded to see past this slight freakishness and appreciate the novel for what it is – something a bit different which is beautifully written and definitely has an edge over other books in the genre. The author did go to some unconventional places, that’s for sure but you know what? I actually respect and admire him all the more for being brave enough to do that and writing a book that I’m more likely to think about and want to re-visit years down the line. Despite our male lead’s quirks, he is an endearing and engaging character and because you follow him from such a young age and see his rise in society, you really want to know how it’s all going to turn out for him.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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August 2016 – Real Book Month

Published August 6, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Every other month I set myself a little challenge to complete which alternates depending on the month from Chrissi Cupboard Month and Real Book Month to Kindle/NetGalley/Review Copy Month. This August it is the turn for real books, which is one of my favourite months. I have a HUGE backlog of books just itching to be read and its a way of trying to get that pesky TBR and my own book collection down to er…more manageable levels, if at all possible! This August I shall mostly be reading :

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie – Alan Bradley

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

The Moth – Catherine Burns

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal – Mal Peet

Born Weird – Andrew Kaufman

The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

1222 – Anne Holt

The Panda Theory – Pascal Garnier

All these books have a bit of a theme through them – they are the books I have (shamefully) still to read from the wonderful reading spa I went to with my sister, Chrissi quite a while ago now. We recently went again to Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights for another spa and it reminded me I really had to finish what we had last time! So now… I will! Looking forward to all of these beauties.

A Visit to Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights with Chrissi

Published September 4, 2014 by bibliobeth

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Photo’s of Mr B’s from the website, click on the image to get there!

Ah, you can’t beat a good bookshop. And without a doubt, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in the centre of Bath, UK is one of the best bookshops I have ever been to. And I’m a bookshop fiend. I was over the moon when my sister found out about the bookshop and took me there as a treat for a “Reading Spa.” More about that later…

Mr B’s Emporium is an independent book shop set over three floors which was founded by Nic and Juliette Bottomley who left their jobs as lawyers to open the bookshop in 2006 (Thanks, guys!). The shop has done so well since it opened that it has twice won independent bookshop of the year in 2008 and 2011 where judges admired their “palpable passion” for books and their “compelling blend of traditional and modern bookselling methods.”

On entering the shop, I wasn’t quite sure where to start! There is so much to admire, look at, and touch for bibliophiles like ourselves that we felt quite overwhelmed. In a happy way, of course! The range of books is incredible and there always seems to be something different around every corner. For example, comic strips across walls, comfy chairs to sit on, free tea and coffee for customers and a fantastic concept where you can rent your own private reading booth, complete with headphones, biscuits and tea/coffee to shut out the world and just get reading! Not only this, but Mr B’s provides reading events with top authors such as Jeff Vandermeer, Sarah Waters and David Mitchell, book groups and ultimate gifts for book lovers like the Reading Spa or Mr B’s Reading Year. The latter involves eleven books being sent out a year (in paperback or hardback) based on a consultation with a biblio-therapist for your reading needs.

Reading Spa Room

Mr B’s Bibliotherapy Room courtesy of website, please click the image for more information on the Reading Spa

So, after being matched with a biblio-therapist (the lovely Emma) whose favourite books include The Time Traveller’s Wife and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Chrissi and I were taken to the beautiful Bibliotherapy Room where we had a cup of tea and a chat to Emma so she could get an idea of what to bring us. These were very basic questions such as: What are you reading at the moment? What was the last book you loved? Who are your favourite authors? Is there any genre you really dislike? (ME: “Chick-lit!” CHRISSI: “Really scary horror!”). Emma scribbled some notes, went away and came back with a towering mountain of books which she told us about one by one. I was really impressed with her bookish knowledge and it was so informal, it was like chatting to a friend. I was also really pleased about her choices, as they weren’t necessarily books that I would have been drawn to, but she sold them so well by the end we wanted the whole pile.

Emma left us in the comfy chairs with more tea and we discussed which of the beauties we just had to take away with us and which ones had to stay behind. It was a tough choice, but in the end we had it cut down to thirteen, and here they are!

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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

Dreams & Shadows – C. Robert Cargill

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie – Alan Bradley

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

The Name Of The Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

The Moth – Catherine Burns

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal – Mal Peet

Born Weird – Andrew Kaufman

City of Thieves – David Benioff

The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

1222 – Anne Holt

The Panda Theory – Pascal Garnier

Quite a nice haul, don’t you think? Please click on each link to get to the book description at GoodReads. Armed with a free bookmark and Mr B’s mug to go along with our pile of books, we headed off, DEFINITELY to return again.

Huge thanks to Emma and all the staff at Mr B’s for making our day such a wonderful experience.