“Cooking for Picasso” by Camille Aubray

The novel is actually two stories. Yes, it alternates in time but it also seems to be of two different genres; a romance novel and a historical fiction. One is narrated by a current day young American woman who goes to France to find a long lost treasure of her French grandmother’s. She enrolls in a cooking class, finds love with a bad boy chef (who of course has a heart of gold like most romance novels dictate), while embarking on an utterly unrealistic adventure. It reads so saccharine I might never need to add sugar in my coffee again. I feel that the title belongs to the current day part of the book; a chick lit cooking/love blog.

The second and much more interesting story was narrated by the grandmother. As a seventeen year old girl she actually was cooking for Pablo Picasso. In 1936 Picasso left Paris for the French Riviera in order to escape his chaotic life caused by the friction between his wife and his mistress. And there was nothing Picasso loved more than pitting one of his women against the other. During his hiatus of Paris, the young budding chef also became his model and his lover. The author captures the artist’s complete and total misogynist nature (and I read “The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier” who was one of his first loves.) The author did not exaggerate his brutish treatment of women. Aubray also gets into his genius which went hand in hand with his narcissism that fueled his behavior. But the grandmother’s story is not really about the great artist. It’s about a girl becoming a woman in wartime France, immigrating to America, and how her love of cooking good food encouraged her to discover her sensuality. Unlike many, she led a full life enabling her to die without regrets. Surely, such a story deserves a more serious title.

Publishers: Random House

Publication Date: August 9, 2016

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