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3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 16 January 2011
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. Even now, I feel emotionally wrung out, which says a great deal for the impact that the author made with her tale. If one can work one's way past the stylistic ticks and unclear designations for speech, one will find an enjoyable story to while away a few hours.

Stimulated Outlet Book Reviews
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on 18 April 2011
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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on 9 August 2012
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake caught my attention when it was advertised as a 'must read' in a magazine and reading the one sentence summary that accompanied it, I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea, one in which could have gone anywhere.

Yes, the idea is original, there is nothing similar; The young 9 year old protagonist Rose grips the reader as she struggles to come to grips with what she is tasting. One minute she tastes a slice of cake like any child would, savouring its sweetness but then the next moment, this sweetness is tainted. Rose can taste feelings in the cake. She knows how her mother is feeling; unsatisfied, unappreciated and unknown. But Rose comes to know her mother in ways, that a child should now know. The hidden feelings that are usually buried deep within have risen along with the baking ingredients.
Rose tries to find understanding through her brother and his friend, but unaware to Rose, there is more that happens there than what she sees. Even the reader starts to question her brother's reactions.

This novel isn't just centred on Rose a child but moves with her into adulthood where she begins to accept her gift, even if still not completely understanding it.
Questions surface and most are answered but unfortunately when you read the end, you feel that Aimee Bender too, did not know where she was going with her plot. It feels unhinged like a half opened (or closed) door. It is neither one thing or another. You are left questioning what the end is.

A gorgeous title.
A fantastic idea.
Just perhaps not executed as well as it could have been.
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on 11 August 2011
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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on 17 February 2011
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender

The story focuses on Rose and how, starting in childhood, she develops the ability to taste feelings in the food people make (and also where produce originates). The food maker is not aware of the emotions themselves and it leaves Rose inhabiting a totally unique world ..................but it is not all about her `special skill'. It is also a story about her environment - her mother and father's relationship; her relationship with them both; her brother Joseph and his needs; her friends; school life, and later on her working life - which are all undeniably affected by her skill.

I was particularly intrigued with the idea of being able to `taste' the feelings of people. I had come across the idea that preparing food in a loving and focussed way enhanced the vibrations of that food. I had also stumbled across synesthesia, where for example, some people see music on a screen in front of their face (a neurologically based condition). So it was no problem at all to see this as an actual possibility!

As a child, Rose comes across as very intuitive (even without tasting the emotions) and mature for her years. She often appears to take on the `adult' role in the family. Communication (or lack of) plays a huge role in this family, which I think is fair to say is also true of how the majority of us interact within our own communities and so a reflection of the culture we live in.

The story is full of exquisite analogies, which brings the words to life. Throughout the book I had very vivid mental pictures and sometimes had to pause for them to take shape before I could continue reading. It is written in the first person, which works well in shaping Rose's world but I did find it difficult to follow at times, for example, where there is dialogue and no speech marks.

`Particular Sadness' is definitely a good description of how I have been affected. Even though I felt distanced and not too involved with the characters (concentrating too much on the images!), it still had the power to dip my spirits. It is poignant and certainly at places feels like a wilderness.

There is eventually a positive slant portrayed to being able to taste emotions and I would like to have seen this developed and given more prominence. I would also have liked to have seen how or if Rose's life balanced as she grew into herself. The ending was brilliant and made me reflect on Joseph - I rethought my perception of him and saw him in a different light.

Overall I would recommend this book to have a place on your bookshelf. It does deviate from the usual family saga but definitely worth reading with an open mind.
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on 17 January 2012
This book is fantastic.

It's written from the point of view of Rose, a girl who can taste people's feelings through what they've cooked. While that alone is an incredibly intriguing plot, there's a lot more to it than just that. The book spans from her childhood to her young adulthood - and not in a boring way that drags on - it's really just perfect. The writing is so honest, the characters are all interesting, and the story seems strangely realistic. It's that poignant kind of story that sticks with you. There is an unexpected, bizarre twist as somebody mentioned but it's things like that that make books great. I suppose it is a bit out there, but what is a book without a bit of strangeness?

I don't even usually write reviews on here, I just really think this book is great. It's written so wonderfully and I can't believe how under-appreciated it is on here. I stayed up late (...or early) just to devour a few more chapters of this, and that's saying a lot!
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on 23 November 2011
Having enjoyed the free sample, I downloaded the whole book to my Kindle. Sadly, the rest of the book didn't live up to the promise of the beginning. I really didn't enjoy this and ended up skimming through it, just to get to the end. I didn't warm to any of the characters and the whole book made me feel rather miserable. Not one I'd recommend - and I usually like quirky books too!
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on 20 November 2011
Did Joseph really "turn into a chair", having tried to be other sundry pieces of furniture along the way?

Has he disfigured himself or self-harmed?

Why is this a "gift" and not something requiring hospitalisation?

How can I possibly care about anyone involved in such a ridiculous story line?

Either - write in a surreal way,so that it is obvious that it is meant to be a kind of metaphor - or make it a bit more clear. Don't get me all engaged with the little girl character, only for me later to find out that she is just a kind of metaphor - along with her irritating family.

Don't like her Mum either for having an affair and it somehow just being alright!!??

What was the big deal about the Dad not liking hospitals?

So many unanswered questions - would love to hear someone else's answers to them, but judging by the other critiques, I don't think anyone else really got it either.

An Emperor's New Clothes of a book - just rubbish and too bizarre to be worth bothering with.

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on 28 June 2012
I couldn't wait to get my teeth into this book (pardon the pun) as I thought the idea behind it was truly amazing! A child who could taste her mother's feelings in the food she made! Brilliant!

What transpired was a slow paced tale of family life; so the girl knew her mother was having an affair because she could taste it in her food.....that was about the most exciting thing that happened in this novel - until the last four chapters or so.

I won't spoil the ending for those who have read these reviews and still want to read the novel, (why would you?) but suffice it to say - there were sooo many possible avenues to travel down with a concept such as this - Bender doesn't take any of them. She heads off down the most unpredictable route and I was left thinking that the family sounded more like the main characters in The Incredibles part 2!

NO, I didn't like this novel, I was hugely disappointed with it and I would go as far as to say that there went 324 pages of my life I will never get back.

The only part of the novel I did like, asside from the occasional well placed simile, was the description of the family's ailing Grandma who as a reader, you never meet but who is slowly and systematically posting her life away to her child and grandchildren before her own death. I found those descriptions quite poignant.

I wouldn't read anything else by Aimee Bender, unfortunately.
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on 20 December 2012
I had such high hopes for this book! Although the blurb sounded slightly unusual, I thought I'd enjoy it particularly as Jodi Picoult described it as "beautiful". Well, it wasn't. It was confusing throughout and completely unhinged in places. I tried very hard to enjoy it as I hate giving up on a book once I've started, but frankly I wished I hadn't bothered. I'm not sure what Aimee Bender was trying to achieve. In my opinion, she kicked the backside out of trying to be quirky and unique. I came away from the book knowing less about it than when I started. I still don't understand what all the underlying issues with the family were. I especially don't understand the brother's legs/chair legs incident. I found it slightly irritating that speech marks weren't used; I don't see the benefit in leaving the reader to occasionally reread a sentence to establish what is narrative and what is dialogue. I think the book had great potential to be really gripping and enjoyable.....had it been a completely different story! Unfortunately I won't be recommending this to anyone.
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