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Lunch With Elizabeth David Hardcover – 5 Aug 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 5 Aug 1999
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st Edition edition (5 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316850543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316850544
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,565,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Roger Williams' first novel, a delightfully inventive interplay of recreation and fictional construct, involved the lives of two 20th-century icons, Norman Douglas--erudite charmer, gourmet, quaffer, scoffer, pederast--and Elizabeth David, who transformed British eating habits with the publication in 1950 of Mediterranean Food. As homage within homage within homage--the author's to Douglas and Mrs David; hers to Douglas (her essay about him is included in her An Omelette and A Glass of Wine); the fictional characters, Eric Wolton's to his seducer, "Uncle Norman", and Cherry Ingram's to Elizabeth David--the novel comes in two parts. The first details the unsentimental education--classical, culinary, sexual--of Eric, working-class Londoner celebrating his 13th birthday in Naples in 1911, and "ravished by Norman Douglas the length and breadth of Calabria". Man and boy take their pleasures lightly as they voyage across Italy's boot, later celebrated in Douglas's book, Old Calabria.

In later years, Eric resigns himself to exile in the Tanganyika police force, recalling that summer as "the best time in his life." And then he, along with Douglas's fashionable entourage--Harold Acton, Graham Greene, Gracie Fields--are summoned to a farewell lunch in Capri in 1951--along with Douglas's friend, Elizabeth David.

The novel's second part pursues a decidedly more fictionalised course: Cherry Ingram's mother had waited upon Elizabeth David in a hotel in Ross-on-Wye at the fag end of winter in 1946. (In the novel she is alone; in reality, she was there with a lover. She described the food as "produced with a kind of bleak triumph which amounted almost to a hatred of humanity and humanity's needs".) Now, in the late '80s Cherry delivers a whitefish to Chelsea to a "Mrs David"--bibulous, imperious, and demanding the fish's provenance. This chance encounter leads Cherry into an intriguing pursuit into the secrets of the past--her own, Elizabeth David's, her Neapolitan Donelli in-laws, Douglas's and Eric's.

This fabulation of fact and fiction wonderfully evokes the glories of the Mediterranean, of the privileged mondaine who sought out its pleasures. And yet, taken as a whole, the novel is rather a curate's egg (fact: Douglas ate only the whites of eggs, and Elizabeth David, while visiting him in Capri in '51, claims never to have eaten so many yolks) for it is perhaps less successful in connecting us to that gilded time and place through the unravelling of Cherry and Eric's own stories: the drama of their own lives can never measure up to the allure of their actual heroes. That said, the good parts are delicious and well worth sampling.--Ruthie Petrie


With remarkable daring and resourcefulness, Williams reanimates aspects of the colourful life and milieu of the author of SOUTH WIND- moving from the pre-WWI Sicily to Africa and post-WWII Britain. Douglas is an intriguing and controversial figure. In this fictional but convincingly researched and entertainingly executed portrait, Williams has brought both him and David intriguingly to life. It's more than incidentally a treat for Mediterranean-fixated foodies, and makes you want to re-read or read for the first time Douglas's Capri-based SOUTH WIND. (PUBLISHING NEWS)

Another of this month's confident debuts, a literary work crafted out of the eccentric life of controversial writer Norman Douglas, who, along with his accolytes and better known contemporaries, are brought to life with a light and assured touch. (EDITOR'S CHOICE, THE BOOKSELLER)

Enjoyable... (THE TIMES)

Takes an interesting proosition... and cooks up a deeply satisfying novel. (GLASGOW HERALD)

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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