What a delightful book! Richard C. Morais' tale
spans two continents and three generations of a
family of foodmakers from the poor streets of West
Bombay (seen through the eyes of Hassan Haji, a boy
with the finest gatronomic and culinary sensibilities)
who, following the sectarian murder of "Mummy" Haji,
translocates briefly to Southall as a stepping stone to
their final resting place in a small town in the Jura
mountains of eastern France.
The story is both funny, moving and uplifting in equal
measure. Mr Morais breathes life into all his characters.
Even the small parts are beautifully drawn. His sense of
place is also admirably acute. The description of Lumiere's
market and its fickle traders is particularly enjoyable.
At the heart of the story we find a conflict between two
worlds vividly concentrated in the relationship between
Madame Mallory, Michelin-starred chef-proprietress of
Le Saule Pleureur, a local shrine to haute-cuisine and
the Hajis' mission to bring the delights of Indian cuisine
and culture to Lumiere in the gloriously unrestrained form
of their own restaurant, 'Maison Mumbai'.
The battle culminates in tragedy but moves on through
reconciliation, forgiveness and eventual redemption.
A bright future beckons and Hassan is a worthy hero throughout.
'The Hundred Foot Journey' will be loved by food and book
lovers of all persuasions. The sights and smells Mr Morais
conjures into being had me salivating on more than one occasion!
A cracking read!
I really enjoyed the beginning of this book as our hero has a rather amusing way of describing events and his family - he being Hassan a Muslim in India when that was not the ideal thing to be. His family are ultimately ''encouraged'' to leave their successful restaurant business and originally land in England. Another failure ensues, so their father decides on a tour around Europe sampling cuisine until their Mercedes dies and they setup camp in the Jura region of France - in a house just opposite a Michelin star restaurant. Their chaotic lifestyle, noise, color and cultural difference cause consternation to the locals in particular the rather stuffy middle aged snob who runs the restaurant. This part of the book works very well, its amusing, engaging and keeps the interest and even draws a few giggles. All the characters are believable if not like-able, human and flawed - I particularly like the bumbling father and our uptight French chef - her indignation at the foreigners and their food is well described and whitty.
The flaw in the book is that after all this fun the story itself does not keep the interest as our hero persues his culinary career, food rather than his emotional life take precedence. I found all the descriptions of food and the story that evolves in the later half of the book much less interesting, less coherent, and ultimately less enjoyable - and wished our author had finished his story 60 or so pages earlier. Having said that perhaps if you are a foodie maybe you will enjoy this part even more.
In summary, good in parts, very readable but a tale of two halves - a good holiday read especially for foodies but not a total success or consistent as an end to end story.
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of Hassan - a boy from Mumbai, who discovers he has the equivalent of perfect pitch when it comes to food and cooking. The story documents his early, happy years in Mumbai, where his family run a restaurant business and the tragedies and adventures that lead him and his family through London, Lumiere and Paris on his journey to become a Michelin starred chef. The author clearly knows his food and what ensues is a touching story about triumph in adversity and about family, ambition and friendship.
A really good read.
on 12 February 2013
This is a fascinating read. The story of a rags to riches story of an Indian family - and in particular the son who loves cooking - who were forced to leave Mumbai during the Partition troubles. They move to France and set up the first Indian restaurant in the area and the son begins his cooking career. The author's descriptions of people, scenery and food are enough to place you in the story with the family problems of being "foreigners" . The recipes alone make your mouth water! Hassan - the young chef ` learns French cuisine and finally moves to Paris, opens his own restaurant and gains his Michelin stars. The work ethic of the Indian family is well documented and, young Hassan really deserves to attain his dream. The writing flows beautifully and, certainly, I was very sad to lose the smell of cooking and finish the book!
on 24 February 2015
A book about a family and a man, cooking and food, a story about the payments we make for the things we love. It starts in Mumbai and ends in Paris, we taste curries,molecular gastronomy, French country cuisine, and just home cooking.
If you like food as possibility and art, if you enjoy the suffering of making a business of what you like doing, if you follow what is going on in the world of cuisine. this story will resonate louder and will remind you of some events in the Michelin star wars of a few years back, and give a little depth to the news paper one line reports. Or if you like a small family saga with a difference this book will give you a lovely story.
A joy to read without the usual sentimentality of family sagas, a real find.
on 10 December 2015
This is a lovely novel that is narrated by Hassan Haji as if it were his memoir. The book starts off in Mumbai, then moves to west London and following a European road trip, the extended Haji family decide rural France is where they will find the happiness they have been searching for since leaving Mumbai.
In the small French village of Lumière they open an Indian restaurant where talented cook Hassan is the chef. Things for the family don’t always go to plan, especially as the village is already home to a Michelin starred restaurant whose owner Madame Mallory is less than happy with their arrival and a war of the restaurants begins. However, Madame Mallory has underestimated both their ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself down and move on’ attitude, as well as Hassan’s natural talent in the kitchen. Could he achieve what she has only dreamed of, a second Michelin star?
The characters are colourful, there is plenty of humour and I really felt I was among the chaos that was his family. This book is packed full of family drama, trauma, discrimination, but also passion and determination. They have their lucky breaks, but hard work also plays its part in Hassan’s rise to fame in the elite French culinary world. This is real feel good book where the flavours of France and India come alive from the pages. Be prepared to feel hungry!
on 28 October 2014
I bought this, as I'm sure will lots of people, after having seen the recently released film. Be aware, though, that the film is a very "Hollywoodified" version of the book, which spends much more time on Hassan's time in Paris and less on his romantic relationship than does the film.
Overall, the book is satisfying on its own and is especially good at bringing out the conflicted thoughts he has about how his food and his ultimate success, reflect on his heritage. Well described characters surround Hassan, although difficult not to see the film characters. May have been better to read the book before seeing the film, I think.
on 12 May 2015
This is an affectionate portrayal of the life story of a top chef, Indian by birth but French by calling. His discovery and education by a somewhat reclusive eminence grise is decently and amusingly handled, with the picture of family life Indian style convincing, though I don't doubt that those with insider knowledge will find plenty to query. There are amusing incidents, a little light romance, in fact all the right ingredients.
I would commend the decent grammar, and the absence of the obvious slack proofing which so frequently mars modern writing, technically this is exemplary.
So why just 3 stars? Well, I found that this faded a bit, with the early life both more interesting and better written than the later portion. How appropriate that a key plot device surrounds the awarding (or not?) of star reviews, and that this should be so clearly telegraphed early on that this is hardly a spoiler.
I suspect that this will have made a better film, as it seems to have been intended, with plenty of scope for good photographers and actors to strut their stuff. The writing is quite visual, sadly the "smellivision" which this really needs is, so far, only science fiction.
I wanted to like this book, the appetisers and entree were good, but I have to admit to feeling a bit "Ho, hum" when I reached the final courses.
on 3 November 2014
Very disappointing the synopsis read well a young Indian boy whose family run a successful restaurant in India are forced to leave due to partition. First they go to Britian then accross Europe eventually settling in France to open an Indian restaurant there, but opposite a french restaurant and the owner is non too pleased.
The writing style is very flat and makes for a boring read, the constant references to food are too long and unnecessary it doesn't grip you very hard to empathise with any of the characters so you end up not caring what happens. The ending drags on and not worth reading.
on 30 December 2014
Anticipating the film, I read the book first. The story is recounted by Hassan and falls into three parts - India, provincial France and Paris - each the setting for a particular restaurant.
In Mumbai, he is the young son of a Muslim restauranteur who builds a business from scratch. This part is of life in Mumbai, the way Indians eat and squabble, and the large supportive family. Really pictorial, the whole scene comes to life.
The family are forced to leave and eventually settle in a small French town where they set up another restaurant. The story here is partly of life in France, but mainly centred on a feud between them and a neighbouring restaurant. Here Hassan is growing up, learning to be a chef. Again, very descriptive of country life, spiced up by the feud.
Finally, Hassan moves to work in Paris, eventually forming his own restaurant. This part is the least satisfactory as it gets rather too foody - lots of dish descriptions - and seems to plod along. Interesting illumination of the way that The French state depresses business, through taxation and labour laws - and we think we are badly done by! Also a glimpse into the Michelin restaurant culture and how it is changing.
Overall though, its the people who stand out. Hassan's relatives, particularly his Papa, are vivid characters as are neighbours and friends, even market traders jump from the page. Recommended reading.
Not seen the film yet, but from the blurb it picks out just the second part - a shame as theres a lot going on elsewhere in this book that deserves a screening.