Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Review: "Cooking for Picasso," by Camille Aubray

About the book:
COOKING FOR PICASSO is a novel inspired by a little-known interlude in the artist’s life.

The French Riviera, spring 1936: It’s off-season in the lovely seaside village of Juan-les-Pins, where seventeen-year-old Ondine cooks with her mother in the kitchen of their family-owned Café Paradis. A mysterious new patron who’s slipped out of Paris and is traveling under a different name has made an unusual request—to have his lunch served to him at the nearby villa he’s secretly rented, where he wishes to remain incognito.

Pablo Picasso is at a momentous crossroads in his personal and professional life—and for him, art and women are always entwined. The spirited Ondine, chafing under her family’s authority and nursing a broken heart, is just beginning to discover her own talents and appetites. Her encounter with Picasso will continue to affect her life for many decades onward, as the great artist and the talented young chef each pursue their own passions and destiny.

New York, present day: Céline, a Hollywood make-up artist who’s come home for the holidays, learns from her mother Julie that Grandmother Ondine once cooked for Picasso. Prompted by her mother’s enigmatic stories and the hint of more family secrets yet to be uncovered, Céline carries out Julie’s wishes and embarks on a voyage to the very town where Ondine and Picasso first met. In the lush, heady atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur, and with the help of several eccentric fellow guests attending a rigorous cooking class at her hotel, Céline discovers truths about art, culture, cuisine and love that enable her to embrace her own future.

With an array of both fictional characters and the French Riviera’s most famous historical residents, set against the breathtaking scenery of the South of France, author Camille Aubray serves up a touching, delectable, and wise story, illuminating the powers of trust, money, art, and creativity in the choices that men and women make, as they seek a path toward love, success, and joie de vivre.

My thoughts:
Cooking for Picasso is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction. The author's imagining of what occurred during Picasso's stay in the French Riviera in the spring of 1936 felt compellingly real. Those few months had a lasting impact on Ondine, the seventeen-year-old who cooked for him, and the generations that followed. Although the parts about Ondine were my favorite, it was also a delight to read about her granddaughter's quest to find out more about Ondine's life. The characters were vividly realized and are still fresh in my mind after finishing the book. The scenery and the food were also deliciously portrayed. Readers will want to book a trip to Juan-les-Pins after reading this book! Cooking for Picasso is a sumptuous feast featuring France, food, and family -- an unforgettable combination.

About the author:
Camille Aubray is an Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship winner, and was a writer-in-residence at the Karolyi Foundation in the South of France. She was also a finalist for the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. She studied writing with her mentor Margaret Atwood at Humber College Writers’ Workshop in Toronto. Aubray was a staff writer for the daytime dramas "One Life to Live" and "Capitol," has taught writing at New York University, and wrote and produced for ABC News, PBS, and A&E.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher but was not obligated to write a review. All opinions are 100% my own. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission if a purchase is made through my link.

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