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Elza's Kitchen: A Novel Paperback – July 3, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

A mouth-watering tale of love and passion **** Woman's Own Marc Fitten is a writer to watch Gary Shteyngart A charming celebration of culture and cuisine Attitude Set in post-Communist Hungary, this surprisingly light and humorous confection challenges the initial darkness plaguing the restaurant chef Elza, some years after her divorce and tired now of her job and her life. Atlanta-based Fitten somehow brings about an odd combination of European prose style and American small-town manners for this quirky tale Glasgow Sunday Herald In Valeria's Last Stand, Marc Fitten has cooked up a confection as rich as a Joanne Harris bonbon ... The result is as sweet as a sunset-streaked glass of Tokaji. Lie back on the sun-lounger and giggle and coo at its well-crafted charm Spectator, on Valeria's Last Stand A delightful novel, firmly rooted in character ... Fitten brings [Valeria] to thrilling life, animating his Hungarian villagers with warmth and humour Sunday Telegraph, Newcomer of the Year A love story that, while intrinsically comic ... also manages to be moving. The book is written like a fairy tale Observer With much warmth and some comedy thrown in, this is a charming look at the peculiarities of life Woman's Way An exciting, captivating tale of a team of friends working together, to overcome the odds Lifestyle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marc Fitten was born in Brooklyn and lived in Hungary from 1993-1998. He is the former editor of the Chattahoochee Review and of the Red Hen Press Literary Translation series. Marc Fitten's first novel, Valeria's Last Stand, was published in six countries. He lives in Atlanta.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608197697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197699
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,448,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marc Fitten was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Panamanian immigrants and grew up in New York City and Atlanta. His novels have been published in multiple languages and he has also published op-eds in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

During the summers he is a resident faculty member at the Yale Writers Conference at Yale University.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jody Gerbig on July 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fitten's second novel shows his maturation as a writer. While his first was very allegorical, playful and humorous, his second is more grounded and complex, almost as if his writing is mirroring the development of Hungary, the setting of his books. Fitten still visits the farcical with several characters, including the Critic and the gypsies. But his development of Elza shows that he knows a character's chore. Elza, a middle-aged woman going through an existential crisis, is very real. Her anxieties about life, love, and her career are complex and subtle enough that I might be friends with this woman. And though I became frustrated with her several times, especially in her handling of a gypsy family, that tension is what made this book so readable in only a few days time. I couldn't put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By vox libris TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
I don't think this book can figure out what it's about. Is it a mid-life coming of age? A woman's need to right a wrong? The story of two lovers who need to be away from each other in order to grow? Elza is a chef in Hungary, but she's restless. At forty-eight, she feels like her life should go somewhere, but it isn't. Her restaurant is successful, but not recognized by Michelin. Her romance with her nearly two decades younger sous chef is equally stagnant. He wants to get married, but she doesn't. She decides that she needs to make changes in her professional and love lives, and at first, neither plan seems to work out well.

An excerpt:
Ten years of scraping pots and gutting chickens and getting burned by pans that spit oil at her, of giving up a normal life, had led her to this: no family, no love, no respect, a filthy kitchen and an ex-lover stirring a pot of cherries with an attractive owner woman? Elza did not think herself a jealous woman, but right now she wanted to break a few dishes.

Okay. So. As a romance, this is pretty good. Elza is kind of mean spirited, but, as another character observes, she's frozen in her head. She really doesn't know what she wants. Yet we like her, and we want her to find her way. But then the book takes an odd turn. Elza accidentally injures a child, and now we're off on some rot of retribution-fueled tangent. Strange, to say the least. One observation: none of the male characters is named. They are all referred to by their jobs - the sous chef, the dishwasher, the line cook. Only the women are named. It's an interesting choice, no? This is a quick book to read, and ultimately satisfying, but there is that odd detour that sort of throws you. Still, Marc Fitten has an interesting voice that deserves to be read.

Published on cupcake's book cupboard. @ViaAmaRisata
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alana de Wet on January 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was really not a good book..Not well written and the plot is thin and the caracters unbeleivable.. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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Format: Paperback
Elza's Kitchen is the story of a Hungarian woman in the grip of a mid life crisis. Her restaurant is a success, she entertains a virile young lover and she enjoys bourgeois comfort but her passion for life has faded, much like her youth. Casting around for inspiration she seizes upon the idea of attracting a well known Parisian food critic to her restaurant in the hopes that he will recommend it for the prestigious Silver Spoon Award but change will not come easily and Elza stands to lose it all.

In many ways I feel like this novel didn't quite come together, I thought the focus was too often pulled away from Elza, by the Critic mourning his dog, the Sous-Chef and Dora's new venture and the mischievous Gypsy family. It didn't help that I found it difficult to care much for Elza whose dissatisfaction seems selfish, all the more so when she discards her besotted lover, her Sous-Chef, but objects to his developing relationship with Dora. She is oblivious to his hurt feelings and, it seems, deliberately obtuse about the impact of her rejection on their working relationship. As a result the kitchen begins to fall apart, yet Elza accepts no blame for it.

For me the strength of this novel lies in the description of dining on Elza's simple Hungarian fare with a creative twist, a Paprika Chicken that is both tangy and sweet, pork tenderloin marinated in white wine with a paprika and dill sauce. Elza's menu is mouthwatering, especially when dessert pastries are added.

An interesting yet inexplicable, aspect of the novel involves the naming of the characters.
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