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The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

The Debt to Pleasure (1996)

by John Lanchester

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (31)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
This cunning character study is not quite as funny as some people think it is, but that still leaves it quite a bit of room in which to be funny. The book's narrator, one Tarquin Minot, is a gourmand and snob whose obsession with crafting exquisite menus comes to serve as a metaphor for the sinister course of his life. Very arch and British in a Highsmith-meets-Wodehouse kind of way. ( )
  MikeLindgren51 | Aug 7, 2018 |
This is a dazzling book, and all the more impressive in that it was John Lanchester’s first novel, although he had already established himself as a respected journalist and columnist. Beautifully written, it defies ready classification, hovering between high class cookbook, murder mystery and espionage handbook.

Self-appointed (indeed, self-anointed) aesthete Tarquin Winot regales his readers with mouth-watering descriptions of seasonal dishes while recounting various episodes from his life. It is only as the novel progresses that the reader comes to recognise that an unusually high proportion of Winot’s family, entourage and acquaintances seem to have met untimely and sudden deaths.

As we join Winot, he is embarking on a journey from Portsmouth to Provence where he arranges a "chance" encounter with a journalist who is attempting to write a biography of Winot's elder and more celebrated brother Bartholomew (more generally referred to as "Barry"), who has become an established artist and sculptor. Engineering this seemingly fortuitous encounter is fairly easy for Winot, as we come to learn that one of his favourite books, and one which accompanies him wherever he goes, is the "Mossad Guide to Secret Surveillance".

Tarquin has nothing but disdain for the unstructured output of his brother, or his all too proletarian habits, and does what he can to disillusion the biographer. While doing so, we see beautiful glimpses of Winot’s relatively opulent childhood, although even early on there are signs of deeply-rooted dysfunction. Winot’s descriptions of the meals that he recommends at different seasons, and his appreciations of the countryside through which he travels, are perfectly sumptuous.

In Tarquin Winot, John Lanchester has created a grotesque, yet oddly enticing, character, , and the book is a joy to read (or, is in the current case, re-read with heightened – and not disappointed – anticipation). ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jul 13, 2018 |
Delicious, scrumptious, edible, entertaining, delightful, effervescent, droll, luscious, diverting, appetizing, floral

This book is all of these and many others, relentlessly and endlessly. I am not the intended reader: it's impossible not to be amused and instructed, but for me it's also impossible to be happy when an author is so tirelessly trying to be of impeccable seamless delicately balanced good cheer. I imagine if I was prone to sudden dizzying dips in general happiness, I would find this a balm, but I would only feel good while I was reading. the moment I stopped I'd be unhappy again. Just like it is with any diversion. A novel, I think, needs to want to do more: at the very least its author has to want, every once in a while, for more than just half a sentence at a time, to make the reader unhappy.
  JimElkins | Dec 19, 2017 |
I had sort of guessed going into this what it was going to be about. This book is definitely a slow starter and I honestly couldn't take any more of it after getting about halfway through. I skimmed from there on out. The concept is genius -- or was, in 1996, but reading it in a more modern era just had me, unfortunately, comparing it to the TV show Hannibal. ( )
  majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
Not just quite the book for me. The narrator is as wordy as Humbert Humbert, but much less charming or interesting, and cares desparately what people think of him. It's just not much fun listening to him. But yes, I like strong narrators, and food, surprises, and crime, so it was fun enough, in its way. ( )
  HerrRau | Jun 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Lanchesterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bruno, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My German engineer was very argumentative and tiresome. He wouldn't admit that it was certain that there was not a rhinoceros in the room. -- Bertrand Russell, letter to Ottoline Morrell
In memory of my father
First words
This is not a conventional cookbook.
I myself have always disliked being called a 'genius'. It is fascinating to notice how quick people have been to intuit and avoid this term. (p. 18)
Notice the difference between the things for which French aristocrats are remembered -- the Vicomte de Chateaubriande's cut of fillet, the Marquis de Bechameil's sauce -- and the inventions for which Britain rembers its defunct eminences: the cardigan, the wellington, the sandwich. (p. 26)
In all memory there is a degree of fallenness; we are all exiles from our own pasts, just as, on looking up from a book, we discover anew our banishment from the bright worlds of imagination and fantasy. (p. 35)
We are all familiar with the after-the-fact tone -- weary, self-justificatory, aggrieved, apologetic -- shared by ship's captains appearing before boards of inquiry to explain how they came to run their vessels aground and by authors composing Forewords. (p. 4)
The gleaming banks of seafood on display at the great Parisian brasseries are like certain policians in that they manage to be impressive without necessarily inspiring absolute confidence. (pp. 31-32)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330344552, Paperback)

Winner of the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel and a New York Times Notable Book, "The Debt to Pleasure "is a wickedly funny ode to food. Traveling from Portsmouth to the south of France, Tarquin Winot, the book' s snobbish narrator, instructs us in his philosophy on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of the menu. Under the guise of completing a cookbook, Winot is in fact on a much more sinister mission that only gradually comes to light.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A worldly Englishman describes his life, his travels, the people he met, his intellectual and culinary pursuits, interspersing his account with witty observations. By the end of the book you get quite a jolt to discover all this time he was murdering.… (more)

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