Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit

Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit

by Adam Schell

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit by Adam Schell

Since the author is a chef and since eating and cooking are such an important part of the plot, I can’t help but compare this lovely book to a perfect meal, each ingredient singing with flavor and yet harmonizing with its fellow ingredients. When I read the flyleaf I was almost afraid to go on and read the book — a love story, a fable of how the Jews brought the tomato to Italy in the 1500s, with ribald villagers who speak in rhyme, a starcrossed couple, a mysterious priest who is described as ‘eggplant colored’ — what if it wasn’t as delicious as it sounded?

Well, it was exactly as delicious as that. It was also like Shakespeare got drunk with Marquez and they went out for a meal with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. The scope of what Schell decided to do in his debut novel was daunting — many first-time writers I think are cowed by their own imagination into writing about their senior year of college or first loves in their hometown — but I guess Schell never heard about ‘write what you know’ or, lucky for us, chose to ignore it. In Tomato Rhapsody he marries the true story of the voyage of the tomato from the New World to the Old with complete flights of fancy, made up dialects, imaginary poets, and creates a Tuscan landscape you’ll drool over. (I could smell the tomatoes growing in the fields, and it was a very good smell.)

The story of Marie and David is no sugary Disney story, the villagers are occasionally loathsome and racist, there is unkindness and cruelty, pain and heartbreak, but there is also laughter and love and best of all, there is tomato sauce. The author thoughtfully provides recipes to some of the best sounding dishes in the book on his website, — but you almost don’t need to actually taste them to get the flavor.

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