Monday, July 8, 2013

The Author Falls in Love with Catalan and a Special Cheese: The Telling Room, by Michael Paternitt

Ambrosio, a Catalan farmer, has a dream. He wants to recreate the family cheese. A big, bluff, creative character, he finally succeeds, bringing his father to tears. The cheese becomes famous. People around the world want to taste this fabulous cheese. Ambrosio expands his business beyond his capability to manage it, and the result is predictable.

I enjoyed Ambrosio's story and the feel of the life on a farm in Catalan. The story of cheese making was fascinating. That part of the book is an excellent read. It has heroes and villains, a great story.
Unfortunately, the author decided to tell his own story along side the primary story. He found the cheese when he was a young MFA graduate doing editing for a deli. He traveled to Spain, met Ambrosio and became involved with his life. It's a story he wants to tell. The problem for me is that telling his story takes away from the drama of Ambrosio's story.

The author worked on the book for a long time and apparently collected a great deal of information on the history of Spain, Catalan, and cheese making among other topics. Unfortunately, he insists on putting all the information in the book. Much of it is in footnotes, but instead of putting the footnotes in a Notes section at the end, he intersperses them throughout the text. Yes, you can skip them, but their presence on the page makes the book choppy. It's even worse if you read all the footnotes as you go along. I tried that.

I can only recommend this book if you love Spain and cheese. If you do, it's a book to read slowly and savor. If you're looking for a good story, it's there, but you have to wander through the author's life to find it.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.