In Paris, 1934, Bình has accompanied his employers, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to the train station for their departure to America. His own destination is unclear: will he go with the Steins, stay in France, or return to his native Vietnam? Having fled his homeland in disgrace, Bình has spent the past five years serving as the personal cook at the famous apartment on the rue de Fleurus. Before Bình reveals his decision, he catapults back to his youth in French-colonized Vietnam, his years as a galley hand at sea, and his days turning out repasts for the doyennes of the Lost Generation. With wry insight, he views the Steins ensconced in rueful domesticity. But is Bìnhs account reliable? A lost soul, he is a late-night habitué of the Paris demimonde, an exile and an alien, a man of musings and memories, and, possibly, lies. Love is the prize that has eluded him, from his family to the men he has sought out in his far-flung journeys. Intricate, compelling, and witty, the novel weaves in historical characters, from Stein and Toklas to Paul Robeson and Ho Chi Minh, with remarkable originality. Flavors, seas, sweat, tears The Book of Salt is an inspired feast of storytelling riches.
The Miami Herald
...seductive tale of exile, memory, sex, identity, language, the sins of colonialism and the social and cultural politics of food.
The New York TImes Book Review
...fascinating first novel.. Truong's birthplace...is evoked here with piercing yearning and authenticity.
The New York Times - Christopher Benfey
The story of the uprooted basket weaver is a parable for the kind of vessel that Monique Truong has fashioned in The Book of Salt. Against the odds, she has made unsettling art from precisely such exotic cuttings and transplantings.
The Los Angeles Times - Carmela Ciuraru
Binh is deeply troubled (clearly more so as the novel goes on), yet he is oddly noble, determined to find a life of dignity for himself. That the account of his life story ultimately proves unreliable makes Binh no less memorable or compelling a figure. And it makes Truong's debut seem more impressive and ambitious than most contemporary first works of fiction, which often read like thinly fictionalized memoirs. This novel, however, displays its author's supple imagination on every page.
A mesmerizing narrative voice, an insider's view of a fabled literary household and the slow revelation of heartbreaking secrets contribute to the visceral impact of this first novel.
Booklist Margaret Flanagan
Using salt as a metaphor for food, sweat, tears and the sea, and interweaving the narrative with suggestions of ingredients, recipes, and exotic dishes, Truong provides a savory debut novel of unexpected depth and emotion.
In a dazzling if sometimes daunting debut, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas's Vietnamese cook tells his story-and theirs.... A tour de force. Truong should take literate America by storm.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kitty Hall Prose for the discerning I will reread Monique Truong's The Book of Salt just for the enchanting way she has written this story. To put it simply she writes beautifully. The story of the man on the bridge is poetic as are several other parts of this book. I'm glad she... Read More
Rated of 5
by Ginney Dominic Well-flavored creation The Book of Salt is such a touching novel with Binh, the Vietnamese cook, who works for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris, mixing his metaphors as he reluctantly sails across the seas from Vietnam to Paris. His remakable journey is told... Read More
Rated of 5
I don't recommend this book. Truong's writing style is so elliptical that sometimes I didn't know what was going on--and I don't think that was always the intended effect. I found it hard to believe that the narrator could be as articulate as he... Read More
Rated of 5
I just finished reading, The Book of Salt. It was the most delectable, positively poignant and intriguing book, fact and/or fiction, that I have read in, approximately, the past 12 years. On average, I read 40+ books per year. Ms.... Read More
Rated of 5
Not a bad book but not intriguing enough to make me feel like I had to finish it. Had it not been selected for my book club (by me by the way) I don't think I would have finished it. I'm a novice "foodie" which is why I thought I'd like... Read More
Mistry evokes laughter and tears as he spins the great wheel of human life and charts the soul's confusion and the body's decline, the endless cycle of repeated mistakes and failures of heart, and, yes, the radiant revelations of love.
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