Let’s start with Toast by Nigel Slater, as it was the more engaging and accessible of the two.
I want to say that it is entertaining as well, but I’m afraid that that makes it sound like a piece of fluff, which it’s not.
Toast is Slater’s memoir, told through the lens of food.
And oh, man, what interesting food the British have. I especially loved the names of all the different candies, like walnut whips, fairy fizzes, and how sprinkles are called ‘hundreds and thousands.’ I love that.
There were many terms I had to guess their meaning, sometimes through context and sometimes just by skipping that particular paragraph.
Turns out, there was a glossary in the back of the book for that particular reason, though I did not discover it until after I was finished reading. (And anyway, there was only one scene where I couldn’t guess by context, a scene involving a boy in a walk-in cooler who is, I think, doing something dirty to the meat platter).
All slang aside though, this was a good book. And it broke my heart a little too, sometimes. Especially the chapter ‘Marshmallows.’ Just try reading that and not being sad. I dare you.
Also, try reading this book and not being creeped out by the number of perverts Slater encountered in his childhood. Because it was kind of a lot.
Verdict: One of the best memoirs I’ve read. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy it.
Bel Canto is the first Ann Patchett novel I’ve ever read. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I’d heard about it in passing various places over the years.
But let me tell you: I almost thought I would never finish this book. I slogged through nearly 200 pages, oftentimes flipping to the end of the book and asking myself, “There are how many more pages to go?”
But once I made it to the 200-page mark, boy howdy. It was all downhill from there because by that point, the characters were actually sort of interesting. Who knew! So I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happened to them. Before that point I only kept reading for the sake of reading. Sad, I know. Especially when I could’ve spent all that valuable time watching TV. Or shopping for Christmas presents.
Now, this was a good book—don’t get me wrong. It’s very well-written and has an interesting plot. I was about to say that there were interesting characters, too, but that would be a lie. After 200 pages I didn’t care for the characters any more than I had before, it’s just that there were more of them introduced, and more details about them revealed.
So I guess I have to say that’s my biggest criticism of this book, that the characters weren’t emotionally engaging. I always felt at arms’ length from them, so much so that (spoiler alert!) when several of them are killed, not only did I not cry. I did not even feel sad.
My reaction, I suppose, was more along the lines of, “Well. Would you look at that. Too bad for them.”
And in case you’re thinking I’m not a book-crier, I’m here to tell you that I cried when I read Toast. So there.
So I think it says something when one of the main characters in a book is killed off and you just don’t care. I’m not sure what, exactly, it says, but I know that it’s something.
Verdict: An interesting plot and very well-written but with un-engaging characters. I wouldn’t tell you not to read it, but personally I don’t think I’d want to read it again.
BAWC Total Books Read: 51
BAWC Total Pages Read:13,762