Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Book Review: The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
Haji Hassan, the central character and narrator of Richard C. Morais' debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey, has a unique passion and talent for food. Rooted in his grandfather's Bombay lunchbox-delivery-turned-restaurant, and tragic twist of fate transplants his family first in England then in the French Alps where Hassan's real talents and adventures begin.
Hassan's father establishes a Bombay-style restaurant in the quaint Alpine town of Lumiere, only to find that Madame Mallory, Lumiere's local and famed chef, will not allow her grasp of the town's cuisine or culture to be easily infiltrated. The Hundred-Foot Journey is as much fictional memoir as it is an insightful telling of journeys to manhood, friendship, and cultural understanding.
The Hundred-Foot Journey opens as a page-turner, immediately grasping the reader with it's character and plot development. This continues throughout much of the book but seems to loose its grip about 3/4 of the way in. The last 50 pages slowed and lost much of the excitement and potential seen in the first pages. The book ends with some lingering questions, but the questions seem to come out of nowhere and feel fairly forced.
Morais' writing style is authentic, and I caught myself considering this book a memoir rather than fiction on multiple occasions. He brings the key characters to life through his descriptions of their lives, looks, and interactions with others, but there were several characters who remain lifeless in spite of their important role in the book.
Even with those complaints, I did enjoy reading The Hundred-Foot Journey and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a good fiction. The historical, cultural, and culinary development of each stage of Hassan's journey are in themselves contextual treasures many readers will enjoy.