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The Devil's Larder Paperback – 4 Jul 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140276416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140276411
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Jim Crace remains one of the most individual and elegant writers at work today. His books customarily defy category and the new one, The Devil's Larder, is no exception. The cover shows a sensuous female mouth crammed full of berries, with the juice running down her chin and the book's attitude to food is correspondingly erotic. The concept of a literary feast (i.e., a novel in which food is central to the structure) is not new but has never been handled with the sheer imagination and indulgence we find here.

This is a cumulative novel in 64 parts, in which the reader's cultural, culinary and sexual appetites are fully catered for in a discursive, episodic narrative. There is no plot as such, more a vividly realised series of anecdotes in which the briefly appearing characters come to life before our eyes through the indulgence of their various appetites. In these pages, a whole community and its varied inhabitants are vividly conjured by evocative fragments that coalesce into a rich tapestry. The reader may not always be sure about what is going on but the journey is highly pleasurable. We are invited to a restaurant that offers dishes going far beyond the borders of good taste; we can sample the delights of blind pie, a dish created for revenge; and we may try the fruit of the love-leaf tree that can do wonders for a relationship. The language has a Nabokov-like precision and resonance (although the refusal to deliver a straightforward narrative recalls Borges):

The atmosphere is sexual. We're in the brothel's waiting room. The menu's yet to be paraded. We do not speak. We simply wait and hike and climb. We are aroused...
--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A cumulative novel in 64 dark, unsettling tales through which Crace explores our foibles through our relationship with food. A critically acclaimed patchwork portrait of a community where meals are served with lashings of passion and recipes come spiced with unexpected challenges and hopes.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being a foodie of the first water anything to do with food mixed with erotica is going to draw me, but this truly is an odd little collection. There are moments of inspiration, the story of the honeymoon couple I did really love, there are moments when I was moved to tears, the hotel worker as an instance, and there were moments whenI thought: Whaaaa?
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Format: Hardcover
My thoughts when only a brief way through The Devil's Larder were that it would be easy pickings. Short bursts of prose, 64 "chapters" in 190 pages meaning that none outstays its welcome. And as always Crace's legends had the tang of truth to them, which displayed considerable talent as they are two removes from truth - myths which aren't even real myths. Very moreish.
Or so I thought. Picking it up again after an unnatural hiatus brought on by the World Trade Center attack - when books were put down, and TV became *the thing* - I'm afraid The Devil's Larder finally turned to ashes in my mouth. I could say, accurately, that reading gluttonous, lustful, avaricious prose seemed somehow fraudulent in the immediate aftermath, but I admit that even on its own undoubted merits, my enthusiasm for it was beginning to wane. Despite Crace's pre-emptive protests that The Devil's Larder is a novel because it has "unity of theme, unity of style, unity of setting - everything except unity of character," I know a glorified (albeit glorious) book of stories when I see it. And I'm looking at one right now.
However hard you try, it's hard to make people want to read 64 "chapters" in a row - ranging from two words to 10 pages - without either a plot to follow or at least one character to root for, frown upon or squirm with. The problem with The Devil's Larder is that, although some of the stories do contain interesting twists or developments, they're all narrated effectively in parenthesis, the kind of thing that would usually be one character's aside or prehistory, swagged in subquotation marks. There is, to appropriate a crashingly obvious food metaphor (but at least applaud me for keeping them to a minimum), nothing to get your teeth into.
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Format: Hardcover
In Crace's bizarre gastronomic collection, we meet an astonishing array of misfits trapped within their memories, obsessions and forbidden desires. Food rules the lives of these people in often alarming ways. From the boy who equates his mother's disappointment in him with a pie made of stones, to the adventurous diners who truly do 'eat what they are given'! Crace's sparse style is reminiscent of Saki, and just as tasty. Like a big box of chocolates, there's something here for everyone
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fizzing with fun and sly dark humour, this book comprises 64 tales about food. A very few of these seem inconsequential, but many more are delightful, like jewelled vignettes on velvet. Their settings are nowhere and anywhere - this city, that small town, the slums, the verdant countryside, the sea, the prison cell. Crace produces fiction that speaks to everyone, a kind of universal generosity of spirit - a cosmopolitan lack of limitation. There is also a deep sensuality in his use of language, an elegance and a brevity - there is no room for rambling here, but plenty of delicacy and ambiguity. Many of these tales are sharp - a box of eggs proclaims that:

These eggs are produced by hens that are:
Protected from extremes of heat and cold;
Free from hunger and thirst;
Free to range and forage on green pasture;
Free from pain, injury and disease;
Free from fear and distress.

A slum family eats a family meal of rice with grated cheese and a single egg for flavouring, two children to each spoon. The story ends: "We stay at home and contemplate the life of hens."

Other stories contain examples of human venality disguised as generosity: the gift of unwanted food for refugee families includes the discards from the larders of the town and a proclamation goes out that the town donated 200 kilos to its `unfortunate guests'. Crace continues:

"And that's not counting all the problems solved, all the larders tidied up at last, the daughters satisfied, the heartburns eased, the diets honoured, the separations finalised, and the blunders of the past concealed as gifts."

Readers of this measured and easy-to-read book will enjoy the superb accomplishments of this marvellous writer, but in some of these tales, as well as laughter, disguise, sensual delight and deep human despair there is a sting too sharp for the comfort zone. Oh, and I like the cover too.
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Format: Paperback
Sometimes you don't need a traditional narrative of beginning, middle and end. Sometimes an insightful commentary on a character's actions in two paragraphs will do.

Jim Crace's ingenious collection of situations, characters and stories are neat, potted commentaries and descriptions which use the theme of food to illustrate bigger ideas. He often doesn't complicate the issue by building up a story and character when this is not required, but he will drop us right in the middle of a situation, with no loss of atmosphere and detail, and draw out a brief and effective allegory.

Crace plays with the format of the short story in a way which matches the way we deal with things everyday, drawing inference, moral and conclusion in the things that we see and experience. That is why it is so effective.
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