Giles Milton marks his fiction debut
with an olfactory shaggy dog story that meanders
happily through three hundred years of history and
ten generations of Trencom males, who are linked by
an uncommonly distinguished and sensitive nose, a
love of cheese, and a habit of dying early from
Alexander Trencom was killed by a blow to the head close to his beloved cheese shop in 1728, Samuel Trencom was crucified on foreign soil in 1769, Charles Trencom met his early demise with Lord Byron in Greece in 1824; Henry Trencom was shot in Constantinople in 1853; Emmanuel was murdered in the cellars of Trencom's in 1878, and Peregrine Trencom was killed by Germans during World War II while defending a small Greek island for no apparent reason. What is it that links the fates of these and other generations of Trencoms?
The story opens in 1969 when we meet Edward Trencom. He is the 10th generation to run the eponymous emporium considered "the oldest, finest and most famous cheese shop in London", and he is happy with his lot in life. Not only is he the author of the 12-volume Encyclopaedia of Cheese and head of the Most Worshipful Company of Cheese Connoisseurs, he's also the proud possessor of the finest Trencom nose in generations - a nose that can distinguish the provenance of a cheese down to the cow from which it originated, and he's happily married to Elizabeth, who first came to his attention because she "had the complexion of a ripe bethmale cheese, a cheese of which he was uncommonly fond".
Edward's gently maturing life takes an unsavory turn when a series of mysterious events lead him to discover a stash of long buried family papers that reveal to him the chain of murder and mayhem that has inflicted his family for nine generations - events that appear to trace to Humphrey Trencom's mysterious journey into the heart of the Ottoman Empire, following the destruction of the first Trencoms cheese shop in the 1666 Great Fire of London.
Although comparisons to writers such as P.G. Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe are apt, Edward Trencom's Nose is more historical than satirical. Weaving through three hundred years, Milton brings a light touch to the imparting of history with many a happy sidetrack to lovingly describe the cheeses that populate his tale. There is no great inner meaning to the novel, no message of huge significance to impart, just a jolly historical romp. As the reviewer for The Guardian newspaper so correctly says, "any old halfwit can produce 400 pages of stinking high seriousness, but it takes a real wit to manage 400 pages of mild, fragrant good humour."
b>About the Author: British writer and
journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire
in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the
British national newspapers as well as many foreign
publications, and specializes in the history of
travel and exploration. In the course of his
researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe,
the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the
Insatiably curious, Milton locates history's most fascinating—and most overlooked—stories and brings them to life in his books such as Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan, Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History , and White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves.
He lives in London, where he is a member of the Hakluyt Society, which is dedicated to reprinting the works of explorers and adventurers in scholarly editions, some of which he uses in his research. He wrote most of Samurai William in the London Library, where he loves the "huge reading room, large Victorian desks and creaking armchairs". At home and while traveling, he is ever on the lookout for new untold stories. Apparently he began researching the life of Sir John Mandeville for his book The Riddle and the Knight after Mandeville's book Travels "literally fell off the shelf of a Paris bookstore" in which he was browsing.
This review was originally published in September 2007, and has been updated for the June 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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