While in Las Vegas in early March I tore through Ann Patchett's Commonwealth. I had a feeling I would finish it on the trip, so I packed a second book called The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. No, this is not some kind of serial killer story, but rather a memoir about one woman's experience as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. The title refers to a technique for chopping onions.
The book is the true story of journalist turned corporate drone, Kathleen Flinn. Flinn is let go from her job in London and decides to chase a lifelong dream of receiving a diploma from the famous Le Cordon Bleu. With the encouragement of her boyfriend (who becomes her fiancé and later, her husband) she applies.
Much to her surprise, Flinn is accepted and begins to organize her life and prepare to move to France.
I have been to Paris a few times, so I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of neighborhoods, parks, wine shops, public markets and more. Flinn does a wonderful job of transporting you to the City of Light.
Where she doesn't do as well is keeping you captivated during her classroom sessions. She often focuses too heavily on the details of a certain recipe, which is hard to relate to as a person who doesn't cook. Additionally, there are recipes at the close of every chapter, but most are far too complicated for the average home cook.
For me, the best part of the book was Kathleen's relationship with one of the chefs. He is extremely hard on her at first, but slowly encourages her and helps to build her confidence. At one point, when she is very sick and has to miss a few classes, he practically leaps onto her when she returns to hug her and ask how she is doing. If this book were to be made into a movie, this chef would be played by Chef Gusteau from Pixar's Ratatouille (a human look-alike, of course).
In a book review on The Kitchn, the writer explains, "This is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon on the couch. It's light and amusing, and Flinn's adventures kept us entertained. But if you want something with real substance that will stay with you long after you close the book, it might be best to look elsewhere." I think that sums it up perfectly.
I have since moved onto Elizabeth by Sarah Bradford. As you may recall, one of my 2017 new year's resolutions was to read a book about Queen Elizabeth II. I searched and searched and finally settled on this one. Somehow I missed that the book was 530 pages, so I may be reading it for the rest of the year . . .