Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender)

Image found at Goodreads

Author: Aimee Bender
Publisher: Doubleday, 2010
Notes: I won this book from a fellow book blogger's giveaway, and received the book directly from the publisher.

A brief summary: "On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose." (from Goodreads)

My thoughts: I had high expectations for this book, because the premise sounded unusual and fascinating. I was pretty disappointed with the book overall, though, for several reasons.

First, I have some difficulty with non-standard punctuation and prose, and Bender's lack of quotation marks in dialogue made this book frustrating to read at times. I'm not a big fan of stylistic creativity in that way, though I can see that it lent a certain disconnectedness to this book.

Second, I felt as though many of the plot lines were left uninvestigated. Rose's father remains a mystery for the majority of the novel, though that is somewhat resolved by the end. The circumstances of Rose's brother Joseph remain alarming, unfinished, and unusually vague. Bender's world is magical reality; things are both like we know them and not, but there's not much clarification as to why or how.

This book was not charming or humorous, as some reviewers have said. I found a surprising lack of humanness in this book, which is also contrary to what many have said. Instead, I found it largely underdeveloped and flat.

Rating: 1 star

Want to see another opinion? Check out Lynne's review! She gave The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake 4 stars!


  1. Oh man, I'm kind of sad to hear this wasn't that good. So many people have been buying it at my store, I guess it got some good reviews. Maybe I'll have to pick it up and read it—I don't mind the lack of quotation marks so much, in fact I kind of like them, haha.

  2. Tahleen, I'm curious to know what you think if you end up reading it. The punctuation wasn't a huge issue for me—the plot was—but it was definitely distracting.

  3. I don't mind unconventional writing styles either but I do notice they tend to require more patience from me as a reader. So, I sort of need to be in the right mood to read them. I can't say this book ever caught my attention. I've read some good reviews, too, but my overall impression has been "sad" and potentially "boring." Here's to happy reading in the future! Cheers!

  4. Exactly, Chelle. It was pretty sad, though at the same time oddly disconnected. I felt little empathy for any of the characters, even the protagonist, and I certainly didn't feel like crying at the end (which is how one other blogger felt). Weird that it has evoked so many varied reactions!