Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel
Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author: Aimee Bender
Pages: 304 e-pages
Published: 2010 Doubleday
Read For: Monday Night Book Club
My Rating: 2.5 stars

Based on who picked this book club book (she loves the heartwarming, yummy food type books) I was expecting something similar to Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, however, was not such a book. It was more melancholy than heartwarming, the food more disturbing than appetizing. But it was unique, I must give it that.

On one hand, the pace was great. It moved quickly, kept interest high throughout, and didn’t really bog down anywhere. Also, it had something to say. It wasn't just a story without a point. You see, everyone has something in their life that they have to figure out how to deal with. It might be rather normal, as shown through the parents in the book, or it might be something big, different, traumatic. Either way, there is strength in opening up to others, sharing part of yourself, and accepting part of someone else. The human bond makes us whole.

On the other hand, character development was lacking. I kept feeling like I was watching a '50s TV show with two-dimensional characters. It really made it difficult to figure out when it took place. 2010? 1980? The setting, also, was rather 2D. It took place in Los Angeles, and while the place-name-dropping was fun at first, it got old really quick. It started to feel like street names were included for novelty's sake.

The other gripe I have is that the POV wasn't solid. The second section of the book was titled "Joseph", (the main character's brother) and I assumed that meant it was switching POV. But it wasn't. And it took me 5 pages to realize that. Ugh. Also, even though I eventually figured out that Rose narrated the whole book, I had a very hard time keeping track of her age progression. Chapter 14 started this way: “There are heightened years. One was nine. Another twelve. A third, seventeen.” But then the narrative made it seem as if it continued from 12 years old…so much of this book is told as if it were memories, that the progression of time was never really certain.

I love how Fizzy Thoughts puts it: "it ended up being less about lemon cake and more about chair legs." (A pretty funny comment after you've read the book.) 

Last But Not Least, A Little Geography Lesson:

Southern California seems to view the state divided into two regions (anything north of Bakersfield is "Northern").

Northern California, however, tends to see three regions (Northern, Central, and Southern).

Therefore, when you declare that Fresno is in Northern California, a good 1/3 of the state is likely to be a little irritated. (Probably just as irritated as So Cal would be if Fresno was declared to be in Southern California.)  Just thought you all might want to know. (As a Nor Cal native living in So Cal, I have much experience observing this phenomena.)

[edited to add: I didn't mean to make it sound like nobody wants Fresno!  I'm simply lacking in the Central Calif. opinion...if you can provide that perspective, please do!]


  1. Interesting last comment about the book. Too bad it didn't turn out as nice as you would have liked.

  2. I lived for a year in southern CA (LA) and a year in northern CA (SF) and I never knew there was a Central!!

    I have yet to see a good review for this Lemon book:) At least one book I don't have to add to my pile!

  3. I really wanted to read this when it first came out and the more reviews I read the more I think I'll wait for it in paperback. It does sound interesting, but there seems to be a consensus of flaws throughout.


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