Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender

Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel Author: Aimee Bender
ISBN: 9780385501125
Pages: 304
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

When Rose Edelstein’s mother makes her a lemon chocolate cake for her ninth birthday, she is excited to try it; after all, it’s one of her favorite desserts.  But when she bites into it, she is filled with sensations she never expected – sadness, despair, depression.  She quickly realizes that, somehow, she is experiencing her mother’s emotions through her baking. 

To her horror, Rose finds out that this particular talent isn’t limited to her mother’s cooking – anything she eats, she can taste the feelings of the people who made it.  Through this unasked-for curse – or is it a gift? – Rose begins to understand more about the secrets each member of her family holds.

Review:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is one of those titles that received a lot of hype and positive press prior to its release.  As a result, I had very high expectations when I settled down to read it.  While I’m not sure it lived up to the hype, I’m still glad I read it.

Rose is certainly an endearing character, and since we’re with her over a course of ten years or so, the reader really gets to know her.  Her talent certainly is a unique one, and it’s interesting to see how she handles it.  At first she hates it, barely eating food because she fears the emotions she might experience.  But slowly she learns to utilize it to her advantage, realizing that it doesn’t have to be a curse.  I wish that this character growth had been more fully developed in the novel, as it was the most fascinating part of the book to me.

The overall feeling of the book is very passive; Rose tends to let things happen to her, rather than trying to take control of her circumstances.  She is a watcher, observing those around her and understanding them through their food.  It’s Bender’s beautiful writing that really ties the book together.  Without her exceptional prose, the story would not flow nearly as easily.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was certainly an interesting book.  I liked that it was unique, and Bender does a great job incorporating magical realism in the novel.  At the same time, I don’t feel like it really captured me, though I am glad I read it.  I’ll definitely be going back and reading some of Bender’s earlier works.

Comments

  1. I have been seeing reviews of this book everywhere! Most of them have been positive, but I can totally understand that there is a lot of hype for it right now. I do still want to read it, I am just going to be tempering my expectations after reading your review. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  2. I have been seeing reviews of this book everywhere! Most of them have been positive, but I can totally understand that there is a lot of hype for it right now. I do still want to read it, I am just going to be tempering my expectations after reading your review. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  3. The hype can be a book’s own worst enemy I think. My takeaway from the reviews of this book has been a “like it but don’t love it” kinda thing.

  4. The hype can be a book’s own worst enemy I think. My takeaway from the reviews of this book has been a “like it but don’t love it” kinda thing.

  5. I’ve been really tuned into the buzz around this one and am definitely going to give it a try! Love that cover; so eye-grabbing.

  6. I’ve been really tuned into the buzz around this one and am definitely going to give it a try! Love that cover; so eye-grabbing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just thinking about Lemon Cake makes me want to read this book. I would to read this book.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  8. Anonymous says:

    Just thinking about Lemon Cake makes me want to read this book. I would to read this book.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  9. This sounds good, but I think I will get it from the library

  10. This sounds good, but I think I will get it from the library

  11. I’m unsure about this one–the premise really doesn’t appeal to me. I am tempted though after reading the reviews on it.

  12. I’m unsure about this one–the premise really doesn’t appeal to me. I am tempted though after reading the reviews on it.

  13. I’ve been looking forward to this one…I actually have it on order.

  14. I’ve been looking forward to this one…I actually have it on order.

  15. I thought it was a fun read as well.

  16. I thought it was a fun read as well.

  17. This has been getting a lot of hype–always hard to live up to. I’m still looking forward to reading it but at least I’ll go in with more realistic expectations.

  18. This has been getting a lot of hype–always hard to live up to. I’m still looking forward to reading it but at least I’ll go in with more realistic expectations.

  19. Thanks to this review, I’ll keep my expectations in check and thus I may have a better experience.

  20. Thanks to this review, I’ll keep my expectations in check and thus I may have a better experience.

  21. I’ve just started this book so I’m not far enough into it to say but I’ve been seeing pretty much mixed reviews – like there’s just a little something missing. I’ll have to see when I get into it more.

  22. I’ve just started this book so I’m not far enough into it to say but I’ve been seeing pretty much mixed reviews – like there’s just a little something missing. I’ll have to see when I get into it more.

  23. Finished with the book in a single day> was expecting to read more about the brother and how Rose”s character develops> Was a little disappointed> But overall a good book>

  24. Finished with the book in a single day> was expecting to read more about the brother and how Rose”s character develops> Was a little disappointed> But overall a good book>

  25. I’m afraid my expectations are going to be too high when I read this one, so I may put it off for a while.

  26. I’m afraid my expectations are going to be too high when I read this one, so I may put it off for a while.

  27. Thank you for reviewing this book 🙂 I’ve been trying to find some great books in the internet, I’ll put this in my list.

  28. Thank you for reviewing this book 🙂 I’ve been trying to find some great books in the internet, I’ll put this in my list.

  29. i bought this and managed to get it on the pile.

    i look forward to reading it, but do not yet know what the time frame is going to be.

    i enjoyed your prespective on it.

    ~~

    i once ate a burrito that could tell the feelings of the people eating it. after a single empathic experience it no longer could feel anything.

    it is kind of the opposite of this book (eater feeling maker) instead food feeling eater.. but was an interesting experience all the same.. until it started crying. then it just got sad.

  30. i bought this and managed to get it on the pile.

    i look forward to reading it, but do not yet know what the time frame is going to be.

    i enjoyed your prespective on it.

    ~~

    i once ate a burrito that could tell the feelings of the people eating it. after a single empathic experience it no longer could feel anything.

    it is kind of the opposite of this book (eater feeling maker) instead food feeling eater.. but was an interesting experience all the same.. until it started crying. then it just got sad.

  31. I was disappointed by this book. The premise was interesting–but in the end, the book failed to deliver. There were moments were the writing was very insightful, but the poor execution (no quotation marks) and almost overkill on the dysfunction of the family really seemed to take away from the most intriguing aspect of the book, Rose’s ability to taste what others feel when preparing food.

  32. I was disappointed by this book. The premise was interesting–but in the end, the book failed to deliver. There were moments were the writing was very insightful, but the poor execution (no quotation marks) and almost overkill on the dysfunction of the family really seemed to take away from the most intriguing aspect of the book, Rose’s ability to taste what others feel when preparing food.

  33. I was very disappointed by the book . In the age of J.K Rowling , the magical realism was far from the mark . I wrote a book review about this book as well , but its not as positive as yours , I was surprised that you rated it 4 , but well its quite apparent in your tone that you didnt like it as much as you would have wanted to , anyways you are as always very honest . u can check out my review if you like thank you , the link is below
    http://karanvohraart.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-particular-sadness-of-lemon-cake-by.html

  34. I was very disappointed by the book . In the age of J.K Rowling , the magical realism was far from the mark . I wrote a book review about this book as well , but its not as positive as yours , I was surprised that you rated it 4 , but well its quite apparent in your tone that you didnt like it as much as you would have wanted to , anyways you are as always very honest . u can check out my review if you like thank you , the link is below
    http://karanvohraart.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-particular-sadness-of-lemon-cake-by.html

  35. I read this review because I am at the beginning of this book and I couldn’t decide whether or not to keep reading it. So far I am not loving it. Guess I’m not the only one.

  36. I read this review because I am at the beginning of this book and I couldn’t decide whether or not to keep reading it. So far I am not loving it. Guess I’m not the only one.

  37. I guess I agree with your opinion here. Only, I’d give it far less of a rating, like a 2. I thought it was terrible. It sounded good, but I still don’t know what the hell the point was of the story. glad you kind of agree.

  38. I guess I agree with your opinion here. Only, I’d give it far less of a rating, like a 2. I thought it was terrible. It sounded good, but I still don’t know what the hell the point was of the story. glad you kind of agree.

  39. Gia – This is one of those reviews that, upon reflection, I wish I could go back and give it a lower rating. The more I’ve thought about the book, the more I didn’t like it.

  40. Gia – This is one of those reviews that, upon reflection, I wish I could go back and give it a lower rating. The more I’ve thought about the book, the more I didn’t like it.

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