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The Club of Angels Hardcover – May 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first novel by this Brazilian literary and journalistic celebrity to be translated into English offers a rare and wonderfully barbaric story. The Beef Stew Club is a collection of middle-aged gourmands who meet each month to indulge in extravagant dinners. After the death of their leader, Ramos, from AIDS, a new member appears almost magically to take his place. The elusive Lucidio is a remarkable cook but after each of his meals, one member of the club dies. The club members' enthusiasm for their quiche, duck with orange sauce and paella might, indeed, make readers themselves want to indulge; as narrator Daniel puts it, "the possibility of dying really did have an effect on the taste buds... one ate in a state of exaltation, of near euphoria." The novel is an apparent whydunit although we think we know who did it, we are uncertain why until the end, when our certainty of the culprit becomes, as in all great mysteries, utterly derailed. On the way to his maniacal conclusion, Verissimo serves up a critique of male bonding (spoken through the gourmands' disapproving wives and girlfriends), along with a withering probe into the motivations of his eccentric characters, many of whom are variously frustrated and seek transcendence in the satisfaction of their palates. The book's pleasure is increased, as well, by the witty and deft illustrations by Verissimo himself (which recall Picasso's sparer moments) and the sure-footed, expert work of translator Costa. This swift and acidic portrait of a (literally) poisoned network of friendships has a bite that endures because of the great intelligence underlying it.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* There is limited suspense in Verissimo’s novel about the final days of a deadly dining club, even though it imitates a classic Agatha Christie structure. One by one, each of the 10 wealthy friends who meet monthly to devour extravagant feasts is killed upon accepting a poisoned extra portion of the dish he craves the most. The cook behind these dangerous delicacies is Lucídio, a mysterious gourmand who steps in to take the place of the group’s former leader, recently dead of AIDS. What appears to be a story about gluttony is just the opposite—each of the gastronomes starves from an empty life, and what better way to fill this void than with the most self-renewing of passions? Eating an exquisite last meal gives each man, if only for a moment, a taste of real emotion, and so they willingly partake in their own demise. In this way, the murders become more like suicides, the final course in the bizarre ritual of formal dining. It’s a plot arc so doomed that it’s not just amusing; it’s morbidly enthralling, like a socially acceptable snuff film. There is indeed a good mystery to be solved in Verissimo’s short work (nicely translated from the Portuguese), but it is the melancholic yearning that makes the prose stick in the head—and gut. The novel was originally published in hardcover in 2002 but quickly disappeared. If you missed it then, don’t now. --Daniel Kraus --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811215008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811215008
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,209,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The first of Brazilian author Verissimo's novels to be translated into English, The Club of Angels is a fascinating, carefully detailed, and darkly humorous study of ten deaths, the deaths of ten gourmands following their favorite meals. The men have been friends for more than twenty years, meeting once a month for sumptuous feasts together. They represent all levels of society and have achieved differing degrees of professional success, enjoying and respecting each other because of their shared love of food and their long friendship.

When Ramos, their leader, dies of AIDS, a mysterious successor, Lucidio (whose name suggests "God's light") suddenly appears and begins to plan and prepare their feasts. One by one, month after month, the club members die, but no one suggests canceling the meals, each of which features the favorite main course of one of the members. In fact, Verissimo suggests that the victim's pleasure is dramatically increased when he knows that his death is the end result of the meal. Each victim, in fact, always asks for the one extra portion of the meal, even after it becomes obvious to the club members that the person taking the extra portion will die.

Verissimo explores the phenomenon of death philosophically--"We grow up with our murderer," he says, and "We never [know] when he [will] kill us." But, he believes, "knowing the hour and manner of our death [is] like being presented with a plot, with a denouement, with all the advantages that detective fiction has over life." Knowing when and how one will die is the ultimate privilege. An ironically named "Mr. Spector" features prominently in the ending, by which time only Daniel, the narrator/chronicler of the events, and Lucidio remain alive.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anne on August 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A nice translation of a Brazilian author's work. A clever story of a group of men who gather monthly to dine with one another. The introduction of a marvelous chef restores the appetites of the men for one another's company and a zest for life--or is it death? A fascinating examination of what motivates people knowing that fate is staring at them in a plate of a favorite food.
While the ending is a little too pat, the book raises interesting questions and is a gem worthy of the short amount of time it takes to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By madhu m on February 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
starting with a macabre and devious story of a very secret club of epicures who cook & eat the deadly fugu fish in japan, verissimo's club of angels leads readers onto wicked & twisted terrains of gluttony & its implications. the book tells the tale of a group of friends who started out full of ambition in their youth and traces their path into the failure of the present.
verissimo's deft touch and light hand ensures a delecable read. although the plot cals for a heavy suspension of disbelief, thereward is well worth it.
a slight comic masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For 22 years, ten Brazilian men got together once a month for a gastronomic feast. Eight of them had grown up together and developed their culinary tastes around the beef stew with egg farofa and fried banana served in their favorite bar. Hence the name of their club. But the eldest and their intellectual leader died of AIDS, and even though he was replaced by another, the group had lost its pizzazz and was falling apart. Enter Lucídio. He offers to cook the meal that Daniel, one of the members and the first-person narrator, is scheduled to host. The featured dish is a marvelous boeuf bourguignon. Everyone raves about it and the club is re-energized. There is only enough for one person to have a second helping, and Abel, whose favorite dish happens to be bouef bourguignon, claims it, remarking, "Now I can die." The next morning he is in fact dead, from a heart attack. At each succeeding monthly dinner of the club, Lucídio is the cook, the meal is fabulous, there is enough for one person to have seconds, and the next morning that gourmand is dead.

No doubt many authors could make an entertaining novel out of that premise - a hybrid of sorts of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Suicide Club". But Luis Fernando Verissimo, a Brazilian author born in 1936, spins an especially sly and witty intellectual romp. THE CLUB OF ANGELS is part mystery story, part mordant satire, part roguish philosophy, and all in all a helluvalotta fun.
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