Author: Richard C. Morais
Check the book out on Goodreads.
Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.
The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais (that of the famous chef Madame Mallory) and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages; charming, endearing, and compulsively readable. (Source: Goodreads)
This book really surprised me in a lot of ways. First of all, I have to confess…I didn’t know there was a movie coming out for this book when I first picked it up. I had no idea! And the movie looks amazing. Next, I did not think think the time frame within the book would be what it was, this was purely based on seeing the trailer just before I read the book. I thought, oh it’ll be Hassan, the main character’s, 20s and 30s. NO! This book went from before Hassan’s birth until his 40s. It was an incredible journey that spanned decades.
And it was lovely.
Hassan is from Mumbai, he has a talent for cooking that is a natural gift, and his talent is eventually recognized and nurtured by numerous French culinary professionals and supporters of the culinary world. Morais’ descriptions of the food and nature in this book makes everything jump of the page and fill all the spaces around you until you are totally sucked into Hassan’s Paris and Lumiere and London and Mumbai. As a huge fan of Indian food this book, especially earlier portions of the book, was basically a tease and a pleasure. The descriptions of the spices and tastes of food blew me away because the words filled me up with images and memories of fantastic meals I have had personal and had me watering at the mouth for Indian and French cuisine.
Overall, the world of this book felt so real and Hassan was such a fantastic voice to follow. His story, as an immigrant, as a child turned teenager turned man, as a chef, and as someone who suffers and succeeds in so many ways felt real. Morais created a complete and convincing world and character. Hassan was someone you could love for his dedication and the wonderment that he feels (especially early on in the novel) which really mirrors the way you as a reader feel.
Despite all my praise I cannot give this book 5 stars, only 4, and that is because I found some of the later parts of the book, primarily the Paris portion, a little dry and difficult to read. While I think it worked very well for expressing the wearing down of Hassan’s wonder and love for the food into the kind of monotonous day-to-day drive of work…it also kind of bored me. I think in the last 20 or so pages it picked back up but there was still a sort of dryness to the ending section. However, I think it was well worth it.
This book is worth a read because it was a pleasure of a journey to take and I really, truly enjoyed hearing Hassan’s voice and experiencing the joys and sorrows of his life. I don’t know that this book is for everyone because there are large portions where there isn’t much action, and some people may not enjoy this. That’s totally fine, even I found parts of the book a chore to read. However, there were a few moments where I send tears which really speaks to the quality of Morais’ writing because it really was superb. I will leave you with a quote from the book which really stuck with me:
It was such a small journey, in feet, but it felt as if I were striding from one end of the universe to the other, the light of the Alps illuminating my way. (p. 133)
Have you read The Hundred-Foot Journey? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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