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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake [Paperback]

Aimee Bender
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
RRP: 11.99
Price: 10.73 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Feb 2011

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother - her cheerful, can-do mother - tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes perilous. Anything can be revealed at any meal.

Rose's gift forces her to confront the secret knowledge all families keep hidden - truths about her mother's life outside the home, her father's strange detachment and her brother's clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up, she realises there are some secrets that even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the heartbreak of loving those whom you know too much about. It is profound and funny, wise and sad, and Aimee Bender's dazzling prose illuminates the strangeness of everyday life.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009953827X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099538271
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 13 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A book with such beautiful writing that sometimes I have to stop and taste a sentence a second time" (Jodi Picoult Grazia)

"A wonderful metaphor for the child's sense of things that are never mentioned, and Bender writes with wit, warmth and insight." (The Times)

"Intense, strange and incredibly moving, it captures the magic and the romance of the unknown. With nods to both Chocolat and The Time Traveler's Wife, this is a beautifully written book and one that you will want to talk about long after you have finished reading it." (Elle)

"A lovely book, warm and comforting with moments of sadness and brilliantly written" (Bookseller)

"Haunting... Bender's prose delivers electric shocks... Moving, fanciful and gorgeously strange" (People Magazine)

Book Description

The US bestseller comes to the UK - the unforgettable story of a girl whose magical gift becomes a devastating curse

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More dense cake than fluff 16 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover
The concept behind Bender's novel is truly unique: a little girl who can taste the feelings of those involved in the food-making process. I was surprised, therefore, when the book seemed more focused on the disintegration of her parents' marriage and the difficulties faced by her genius brother rather than the problems surrounding the main character. Told from a small child's eyes, the feelings evoked were poignant and real, and I was drawn into the beautiful destruction.

Bender's pacing in this book is fantastic. The push and pull are tangible, and it turns reading into what it should be: an all-absorbing affair. With that being said, there were a few brief moments where she suddenly jumps into the past, and it takes a moment or two for me to realize what had just happened. All of these scenes are relevant, of course, but the shift is still abrupt, even for the start of a new chapter. The lead-up to the explanation behind Joe's disappearances was well-played, and the ultimate revelation is reasonable, but it lacks the impact that it could have had due to the suddenness of its delivery.

I find myself torn in how I feel about the writing style. On the one hand, it is simplistic, and it matched very well with the mentality of a youngster. Even so, the "he said/she said" method was overly grating in some sequences, where a greater variety of verb would have been greatly valued. The story ends when Rose is in her twenties, and while there is much to be said for consistency in an author's writing, the change dispatched my assumptions regarding her word choices. The lack of quotation marks was also disorienting, as I couldn't tell sometimes whether I was reading first person narrative or dialogue.

In short, this book was a worthwhile read with a few flaws.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Both the Macs VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Having read the reviews here, it seems to me that so many reviewers just don't 'get' it. Nothing wrong with that, there are styles of writing that I don't like myself...! I think it's because you have to suspend belief, like you do when watching a film, or attending the theatre..... some can do that, and some cannot. I really enjoyed this one. Rose is only nine when she discovers her "gift" - that she can taste other people's emotions by the food they prepare, and she discovers that her mother is deeply unhappy on the inside. Food becomes something that cannot be enjoyed unless it is produced in a factory, in which case there are no emotions. To have to struggle with this makes Rose's life uncomfortable, added to which she has a brother that disappears from time to time. Its not until near the end of the book that we find out that Rose's paternal grandfather had a strange gift too, and her own father fears he also has one, hence his inability to ever enter a hospital. Finally, we find out what her brother's gift was.......

If you like a wee bit of magic realism, do try The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, but ultimately disappointing 18 April 2011
Format:Paperback
First of all, what a title! It instantly piques the interest and intrigues ... but overall the story falls a little short of it's promise. This is a thoughtful tale of Rose, who can taste people's feelings through their cooking. The writing is gentle and flowing and the premise thought provoking - but what a burden to have to bear! Poor Rose discovers things she really doesn't want to know, and how awful would it be to be unable to enjoy food simply for what it is?!

I think this book suffered a little from lack of plot development. Rose as a character does not really develop through the story until the very end, and the whole mystery of Joseph's "special skill" is perhaps just a bit too bizarre and pointless. The conclusion felt rushed and sudden, and quite unsatisfying.

All this is not say I didn't enjoy the book - I did. But I think Aimee Bender missed a trick ... with a little more tweaking of the plot, this could have been an amazing and unusual read. As it is, it is just a bit strange.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By scon
Format:Paperback
I was really disappointed by this book. I felt it had so much to offer but the more I got into it, the more weird it became. I'm all for suspending belief to a certain degree but this was just ridiculous. Furthermore, the author added a whole bunch of seemingly poignant moments - which as a reader you expected would all come together at the end - but they didn't. There are so many good books out there that my advice is not to waste your time on this one!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 15 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a choice of the Book Club Im in at work. I wasnt really looking forward to reading it as its not my usual cup of tea, but Ive felt like that about book club choices in the past and ended up really liking them so gave it a fair go.

I absolutely hated it. For me, there was no meaty story there whatsoever. I did think the idea itself was pretty good, but in my opinion it could have been made a lot better, I felt it was a very weak storyline. Not sure I would read anything else by this author, I didnt like the style at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Family Sage of Loneliness, Secrets and Food 1 July 2011
By Mrs. C. Colbert VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Take one dysfunctional family, sprinkle some magic dust, a few slices of depression, loneliness, sadness and mystery, stir in a pinch of family secrets and you'll have the most unusual tale of a young girl with the most unusual gift of knowing how someone is feeling while they're cooking a meal just by consuming it.

"As I finished that first bite, as that first impression faded, I felt a subtle shift inside, an unexpected reaction.......it seemed that my mouth was also filling with the taste of smallness....of upset, tasting a distance I somehow knew was connected to my mother, tasting a crowded sense of her thinking."

For Rose, every food had a feeling, by the time she was 12 she could identify exactly where it was produced or grown. As she grew up she found it more palatable to eat food that was produced in a factory, preferably not by human hands.

Her brother Joseph was distant and uncommunicative (and he keeps disappearing and appearing out of nowhere!), her mother was raw with loneliness (but keeps it well hidden) and her father rarely spoke to her (and he has a secret of his own).

This is, basically, a family saga as we follow Rose through her early years, her jobs, her college life, her crush on Joseph's friend, George, who is the only one who believes her, and, ultimately, as she comes to terms with her gift.

This is a wonderfully written story, full of oddball but memorable characters, which I felt enchanted by.

My favourite was the secretive and sad Joseph, I wanted to know more about him, how he was feeling, what he was thinking but the book focused mainly on Rose and the other characters were just on the periphery so I didn't feel as if all my questions were answered ......... but perhaps that was what the author intended .......... or perhaps it was just me not seeing the answers!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and I raced through the first 100 pages ...
Beautifully written and I raced through the first 100 pages but then waited for the" big thing," " the story " that I felt sure was coming. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Mrs KJ
4.0 out of 5 stars not my favourite type of tale
It took me a long time to get into, but saw it through - would have preferred a different ending
Published 2 months ago by Tpot&jug
5.0 out of 5 stars The Particular sadness of Lemon Cake
I have now read this book twice, finding new aspects on the second time round. I really felt for both the mother and child.
Published 2 months ago by Nanshirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Page turner for me
There are mixed reviews out there. It left me with lots of questions and great for discussions with my book club. It was a page turner for me.
Published 3 months ago by E. Houghton
4.0 out of 5 stars Sadness
I found this book almost unbearably sad, but found it written with great understanding and compassion for the individuality and idiosyncrasies of the human mind.
Published 4 months ago by T Twitcher
2.0 out of 5 stars too complicated
too obtuse. I kept wondering what the title of the book was all about. By the time I found out I was "scunnered " (Scots word) by the whole plot!
Published 9 months ago by apple
2.0 out of 5 stars rather pointless; can't recommend it
I read this for my book group, but would never have chosen it myself, as the twee title and soppy picture on the cover would have been enough to put me off. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kit
4.0 out of 5 stars sensitive narrative
beautifully written but Joseph's experiences left me feeling dissatisfied and questioning, very acute on the complications of family and relationships
Published 11 months ago by Mrs frances ramsden
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok
The book arrived more dog-eared than I expected. It still had it's charirty shop sticker & price tag on. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Sara Caistor
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written, captivating story
I love Aimee Bender's style of writing. It brings her brilliant story to life in the most creative ways. It is vivid and colourful and kept me glued to the page. Read more
Published 13 months ago by eVeB
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