I usually steer clear of books about food healing the soul and I didn’t particularly enjoy Like Water for Chocolate. However, I had a copy of this novel and thought it would be a good addition to my Japanese Literature Challenge.
Rinko returns home from work to discover her apartment empty and her boyfriend gone. The shock causes her to lose the abiltiy to speak. With nothing left she decides to return to her home village and open a restaurant with only one table so that she can concentrate fully on her customers and prepare dishes that will ease their woes.
First Impressions: I really liked the fact that Rinko worked in a Turkish restaurant and her boyfriend was the maitre d’ from the Indian restaurant next door. I wasn’t expecting this multiculturalism from a Japanese novel. Intriguing!
Highlights: I just really liked the way the story bumbled along. It wasn’t really so much about food but a quaint village story. Rinko’s mutism didn’t hinder the story in any way and it was easy to forget this fact; only every so often were you reminded. One quirky detail of the novel that made me smile was that the mum’s managerial boyfriend also held a blowfish license for the deadly fugu fish.
If I was an editor: As the food preparation went into so much detail, I would put a warning to vegetarians and the squeamish (although this detail didn’t bother me). I would also want more background about the relationship with the Indian ex-boyfriend as it sounds so interesting in a Japanese novel. As most of Rinko’s experience seemed to be in a Turkish restaurant, I did wonder how she knew the fine art of so many ingredients and dishes.
Overall: A really touching and enjoyable read.
The Restaurant of Love Regained: 4 stars