The Last Banquet

Jonathan Grimwood, Author
Jonathan Grimwood. Europa (Penguin, Dist.), $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60945-138-7
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-85786-882-4
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-1-60945-231-5
Hardcover - 359 pages - 978-0-85786-879-4
Hardcover - 978-0-85786-880-0
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With his parents dead, young Jean-Marie d’Aumont is found eating beetles on a dung heap and sent to a school for the “sons of destitute nobles” in Enlightenment-era France. He likes school fine, but he didn’t mind the beetles either (brown are sour, black tasty), and as far as he’s concerned, the most notable part of his rescue is the piece of Roquefort cheese he’s given. Along with the beetles, the Roquefort sets d’Aumont on the way to a career as gastronome, sensualist, and taster, a man who can determine what a woman’s eaten recently by rolling a drop of her breast milk on his tongue. The book, ostensibly a memoir written as the French Revolution picks up speed, at the end of a long life, is leisurely but never dull. Watching d’Aumont rise in the world—he makes friends with sons of nondestitute nobles, marries for love, assembles the largest menagerie outside of Versailles, serves as the royal envoy to rebellious and proto-democratic Corsica, and learns how to make a really top-notch condom—is full of pleasures (and recipes, for those wondering how to prepare, say, wolf’s heart). Grimwood, a journalist and, under another name, the author of a good deal of genre fiction, has the gift of making a character’s sensual pleasures as alive to the reader as to they are to him. (Oct.)
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