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Chez Moi Paperback – April 29, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143113232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,119,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the self-proclaimed biggest fucker-upper the world has ever brought forth, Myriam, 43, is an unlikely restaurateur, but her headlong, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink narration soon makes clear that she's got little left to lose in changing her life. With a past that she reveals only slowly and a stint cooking for a circus under her belt, Myriam fakes some cooking and management diplomas, takes out some loans and opens Chez moi, a tiny 25-seat Parisian eatery in which she also sleeps and bathes. With help from Vincent, the halitosis-afflicted owner of the flower shop next door; from Ben, a gangling, knock-kneed lad who shows up with a solid business plan and ideas for marketing and publicity; and from Ali Slimane, an elegant farmer with perfect meats and produce, Myriam's restaurant begins to flourish—which terrifies her. This lovely book is a cassoulet bulging with lush, delectable descriptions of cuisine and straight-shooting observations on life. Myriam's restaurant has as much to do with improvising ways of living, loving and finding one's way home again as with eating well. It's a frothy, complex pleasure to linger there with her. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

AGNES DESARTHE was born in Paris in 1966 and has written many books for children and teenagers, as well as adult fiction. She won the Prix du Livre Inter in 1996 for Un Secret sans importance and has had two previous novels translated into English: Five Photos of My Wife (Flamingo, 2001), which was short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Jewish Quarterly Fiction Prize, and Good Intentions (Flamingo, 2002). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

She professes to not loving her son the way a mother should.
I couldn't maintain any feeling for Myriam as I found her bewildering especially with some of her decisions and illusions.
I should have tossed this book at the very beginning, but I kept hoping it would get better.
Aunt Virginia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bundtlust TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Agnes Desarthe's Chez Moi is a classic novel in the style of Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies and Chocolat that revels in the sensual and emotional power of truly great food. Its narrator, Myriam, is a talented cook with a forged resume and a past tainted with disaster. At 43, Myriam feels that her life (including a failed attempt at motherhood) has been a failure, and her dearth of organizational abilities always leaves her in a bind. Her latest attempt is to open a restaurant with a staff of one: she doesn't want to hire waiters, cooks, or dishwashers, and she has no idea how a restaurant is run.

Despite a life tainted with tragedies, Myriam whips up extraordinary culinary concoctions that delight her audience. She shields herself from emotion with food, willing herself to forget about painful past betrayals and near-misses. But her small restaurant, which she's christened Chez Moi ("My house"), is her home, for she can't afford to rent an apartment and instead sleeps on the donated banquette and bathes in the large stainless steel sink.

The descriptions of food are heady and sensual, from delicate sauces to silken desserts. Ever practical, Myriam reuses things rather than throwing them out, and comes up with one menu for adults, another to cater to children.

Despite her lack of advertising (Chez Moi doesn't even have a sign proclaiming it's a restaurant), her creations attract a regular crowd of schoolgirls, young children, and workers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jambo on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Delightful little book I stumbled upon recently. Translated from French, this is the story of a woman who has lost everything and re-creates her world one piece at a time. I was constantly hungry as I read, and would love to have her restaurant in my neighborhood. Philosophy mixed in with food, friendship and life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ivana Schmitz on April 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read it in one day and found it delightful. Chez Moi is a psychological novel, it dives into the mind of Myrian, who is also the narrator. She's mad and a liar, as she warns the reader right from the beginning. Personally, I think that's what makes the character amusing.
Now to the part of why I found it delightful whereas some people were bored to death. The narrator mixes present and past, the latter being revealed in small bites here and there. Adding on to that, if you've never read a psychological novel before, it may get a little confusing. I agree with the review that compares it to "Like water for chocolate". It is sensual but not vulgar, despite Myrian's "unforgivable" sins from the past. Some reviewers complained the story had no action. Well, if you're looking for Harry Potter-like adventure, no it doesn't. The story is both extremely agitated and light-hearted. The tension is in Myrian's mind, her attempts to reconcile with her past and live on.As the narrator is a cook, food is often the means to compare feelings, solve problems, forget the past. I found it rich in imagery, to the point I could almost see and smell the dishes she was serving. It' s a bit stretching to compare Myrian to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, although it surely reminded me of her - you know how the French love to explore the mind of an adulterous woman! Myrian is kind of a 21st century Madame Bovary without the tragic ending. It is interesting to note that, in France, the book's title is "eat me", which is far more sensual than Chez Moi (at my place). I hope this helps future readers.
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Format: Paperback
Chez Moi is the story of Myriam, forty-three, who opens a restaurant in Paris. She has no idea how to run a restaurant, but has a love for cooking. As she struggles to run the restaurant, we also see her struggling to come to terms with her past, which we find out about in little pieces throughout the novel. As she continues to infuse her dishes with her love, Myriam begins to heal herself and find a second chance at life and love as she reconnects with her family after a six year absence or exile.

I think the novel is a wonderful character study of Myriam as she struggles to find herself once again and to realize herself as a mother, a friend, and a lover. Desarthe has such an interesting way with description; her descriptions are often lush and rich but at times can be quick and sparse. She does an excellent job of connecting the flow and the length of the sentences to the mood. When Myriam is frantic or upset, Desarthe's sentences are often short and come in quick, punches, emphasizing a sharp emotion. When Myriam is reflective and dreaming or hopeful, the sentences flow gently like breeze across the page.

The part of Myriam's character that I find most intriguing and compelling is her "traveling library" a selection of thirty-three books that she has shelved and displayed in her restaurant. She calls them her "traveling library" because they were the books that she selected to bring with her six years before when her husband (now ex) ordered her to exile herself. It's an eclectic collection ranging from The Sorrows of Young Werther to The Wild Palms to Kingdoms of Elfin and Alice In Wonderland. As the novel progresses, Myriam often pulls out a text and reads a small passage, and as readers we learn as much about Myriam from her reading habits as we do her reflections on her past and her interaction with those who come into her restaurant here in her present.
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