After the Second World War, the American dream burned so brightly you could see it from across the globe—specifically in this case, from Spain, where our hero, Ceferino Carrión, stows away on a transatlantic ferry to escape conscription by the Franco regime.
Drawn by the lights of the silver screen, he crossed the country and became a new person—Jean Leon—his life intersecting with the golden age of American postwar politics and Hollywood glamour in a dazzling and brilliant way. Leon becomes good friends with aspiring actor James Dean, as well as Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, to name only a few. His chutzpah and the affluence of the era, combined with the magic of the Hollywood moment, led Leon to establish himself as one of the first celebrity restaurateurs, bringing the romance of the old country’s food and wine to a thirsty American public.
All this glamour comes with a price, though, and it’s one paid largely by Leon’s family on both sides of the Atlantic. Watching Jean come to terms with his past and present choices gave the novel a real emotional resonance for me.
I simply couldn’t help but devour this bestselling novel by Catalan author Martí Gironell, based on the real life of La Scala restaurateur Jean Leon. Nor could reading audiences in Gironell’s native country, which crowned the book with Novel of the Year honors in both Spanish and Catalan.
Bon appétit—I welcome you to dig in and enjoy the feast!
— Elizabeth DeNoma, Editor