Novel set in Montmartre

10th January 2019

Little Culinary Triumphs by Pascale Pujol – novel set in Montmartre  (translated by Alison Anderson).

Little Culinary Triumphs is a debut novel by Pascale Pujol – and it is an impressive one. It starts almost as a series of short stories, with diverse characters in different situations. Then, a while into the book, we return to the first story’s characters – and characters from one story start appearing in others, until we get to a place where they all come together and everything makes sense as the conclusion approaches. It is cleverly worked.

We have Sandrine who works as an interviewer in a local government unemployment office – but who harbours a desire to run a restaurant. She is an excellent cook. We have Antoine – one of her clients – a former teacher, who is desperate to stay unemployed, but who she persuades to train as a chef. He is totally into green produce and saving the planet (his commitment is why he has fallen out with former employers). He lives in a hostel for unemployed men, where two of the inhabitants are very good cooks indeed (one specialises in Tamil cuisine, and one in Senegalise cuisine). The hostel is under threat, and about to be sold to a property developer. Then, a separate thread, there is Marcel who runs a magazine company, along with his spendthrift and not overly bright son (and his much brighter ‘child minder’, Luc) – sales are declining, a rival publication has launched successfully, and something needs to be done to save the company. And, yet another thread, there is a not terribly moral estate agent, Samuel, who impacts the lives of several of the characters in the book – and keeps on appearing. It then turns out that Marcel had an affair with Sandrine’s mother-in-law many, many years ago… Marcel is persuaded to to take on Sandrine’s children for work experience, and new ideas for his company start to flow. Two of the ‘short stories’ merge…

All we need now is for everyone to come together to foil the plans of the property developer intent on acquiring the hostel. And they do.

Multi-ethnic Montmartre is a key character in Little Culinary Triumphs. All the action is set in the area… and it comes through loud and clear. It is a part of Paris that never fails to enthral.

Little Culinary Triumphs is a book that brings together many strands of humanity into a definitely heartwarming story. Recommended.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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