Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Europa Editions
$18.00 trade paper, $10.99 ebook platforms, reissue available now

COOKING WITH FERNET BRANCA also appears in Literary Fiction & Story Collections

I was reminded of this review of a 2019 reissue by a stray comment, and I loved the book so much I decided to tart up the review and post it here. I so so wish someone would go get John Barrowman by the sleeve and gently but firmly make him understand that a movie of this book starring his beautiful self would be dynamite!

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany, where he wiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions-including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur of the book's title. Gerald's idyll is shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former Soviet republic. A series of hilarious misunderstandings brings this odd couple into ever closer and more disastrous proximity.

James Hamilton-Paterson's first novel, Gerontius, won the Whitbread Award. He is an acclaimed author of nonfiction books, including Seven-Tenths, Three Miles Down, and Playing with Water, He currently lives in Italy.

My Review: Cooking With Fernet Branca is part of oddball publisher Europa Editions's sinister plot to make Murrikins like me aware of the strange and sinister world of lit'rachoor published beyond our shores. Muriel Barbery owes her Murrikin presence to them, too. We all know how *that* turned out....

Well, before moving any farther along in this review process, let me send out the call: Does anyone know how to get hold of (wicked double entendre optional) actor John Barrowman? You know, Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood fame? He is literally missing the key to Murrikin stardom by not reading, optioning, and making this book into a Netflix movie. It suits every single national prejudice we have: Eastern Europeans as sinister lawbreaking peasants who eat strangely shaped, colored, and named things and call them foods (like Twinkies, Cheetos, and Mountain Dew are *normal*); Englishmen as dudis (you'll have to read the book for that translation) who do eccentric off-the-wall things with food that are repulsively named and gruesomely concocted (spotted dick? bubble-and-squeak?); and Italians as supercilious effete cognoscenti of world culture, who possess the strangest *need* for vulgarity.

The characters in this hilarious romp are the most dysfunctional group of misfits and ignoramuses and stereotypes ever deployed by an English-language author. They do predictable things, yet Hamilton-Paterson's deftly ironic, cruelly flensing eye and word processor cause readerly glee instead of readerly ennui to ensue. The whole bizarre crew...the lumpenproletariat ex-Soviet composer, the Italian superdirector long past his prime, the English snob who refers to Tuscany's glory as "Chiantishire" and "Tuscminster"...gyrates and shudders and clumps towards a completely foreseeable climactic explosion (heeheehee). And all the time, snarking and judging and learning to depend on each other. In the end, the end is nigh for all the established relationships and the dim, Fernet Branca-hangover-hazed outlines of the new configurations are, well, the English say it best...dire.

Read it. Really, do. And I dare you not to laugh at these idiots! Don't be put off by the sheer hideousness of the American edition's cover, in all its shades-of-purple garish grisliness. The charm of reading the book is that one needn't look at that...that...illustration...on the cover, but inflict it on those not yet In The Know enough to be reading it themselves.

And seriously...John Barrowman needs to know about this. Pass it on!

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