- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 24, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1101875941
- ISBN-13: 978-1101875940
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 928 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sweetbitter: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 24, 2016
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“Brilliantly written… Sweetbitter is the Kitchen Confidential of our time.”
—Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter and Prune, New York Times Book Review
“Danler’s sexy, astute debut is really a love story about the addictive pull of restaurant life… Anyone who’s ever tied on an apron will think, “Finally, someone wrote a book about us.” And nailed it.”
—People (book of the week)
“An unpretentious, truth-dealing novel… about hunger of every variety. Ms. Danler is a sensitive observer… and gifted commenter on many things. Sweetbitter is going to make a lot of people hungry.”
—Dwight Garner, New York Times
“… perfectly captures the raw possibility of a young woman’s first year in New York, opening up to a whole new world of wine, food, love and heartbreak.”
—Mackenzie Dawson, New York Post
"...a raw, shucked, pungent, wild love story."
"Danler... quickly draws you into the sparkling surfaces and the shadowy underbelly of the city... [Tess's] insatiable hunger for tactile, sensual satisfaction dares you to tag along. The journey is high-minded and dirty, beastly and bountiful."
“Danler’s ravishing debut is like inhabiting the heady after-midnight hours of a city drunk on its own charms… [her] descriptions of food and drink go beyond mouth-watering, verging on orgasmic… a first novel [that] tantalizes, seduces, satisfies.”
—Leigh Haber, O Magazine
About the Author
STEPHANIE DANLER is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School.
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What this book is not:
It is not an inside look into the secrets of Union Square Cafe, one of Manhattan's top restaurants. The protagonist isn't ever in the kitchen. Also, it is not a "small-town girl struggles with the big city but stays true to herself so she can conquer her career and get the dreamy guy" book. It is definitely not a beach read.
What this book is:
An exceptionally well-written story of a smart but very troubled woman struggling to establish a life and make personal connections, and mostly failing. She comes of age the hard way, taking her lumps brought on by bad decisions and a toxic environment. She lacks the family support many take for granted, and her loneliness is expressed on almost every page. The pain and dysfunction are so intimately rendered, I would be shocked if the author didn't live much of it herself.
Some reviewers have criticized the lack of development of supporting characters, notably the love interest, Jake. This may be a valid critique, but I am going to argue that this may by intentional by the author. A central struggle in this book is the narrator's inability to form true, enduring interpersonal connections that extend beyond the moment, despite her desperation to do just that. The secondary characters are seen through the narrator's eyes, she never gets to see their hidden selves. The aren't well developed because they never let her in.
Some reviewers have also complained that there are no likable characters. If you need a hero protagonist who does always the right thing, this is not the book for you - this a grown-up book with realistic people, who (gasp!) make bad decisions. There are multiple accounts of drug use and sex, and if reading about that upsets you, then this won't be for you. But this is not a book about drugs or sex, and both appear realistically, not gratuitously.
Not every book is for every person. I loved this book, and will be thinking about it for a long time.
[Updated review: 2018]
After watching the first episode of the new Starz series based on the book, I felt compelled to elaborate upon my original comment/review.
As a current professional in the service industry, it pains me to see how both the book and the show portray the reality of working in a restaurant. Simply put, it is not realistic and is very unfocused - for instance, while it might be plausible that in some alternate universe a new hire would be tasting oysters for the first time in the walk-in with another server/bartender who just so happens to know how to perfectly shuck said oyster, it is, in my opinion, unrealistic that they would have the time to do so given the fact that just seconds before, service was to begin in 7 minutes.
A few other things that the show (not book) got right/wrong:
* the maitr’d addressing the staff as “friends” - no, does not happen (unless this is common in NYC restaurants)
* Tess being tasked with filling the salt shakers as everyone else eats family meal - this is extremely unrealistic even in very upright/pretentious places (usually they have you complete a shift known as a “stage” and then decide to move forward but you are usually not tasked such as this)
*Tess’ obvious unease and discomfort came across very realistically and did show how overwhelming beginning to work in the industry can be
*Simone’s comments and general attitude were very realistic (every restaurant has that one server who’s been there for 1,000 years and basically runs the others or inspires fear/awe)
Will be interesting to see how the series plays out but it is generally enjoyable, if not wrought with many flaws.
Yeah, there's drugs 'n' sex 'n' the headiness of being young. You are not wrong if that doesn't all resonate with you. But the achievement is lovely for those who do identify.
Beauty, overblown self-focus, achy freedoms. I'll take it.
I'm not a server, BTW. Just an anxious millennial who kinda feels it and likes seeing it laid out in text.
How is this a good book?
First part - liked the writing. Beautiful, beautiful writing.
But the truth is - the character is dull. And her love interest is even more dull. In fact, quite creepy. Don't understand her. Can't relate. Not interested. I actually wished she would either just shut up or even describe her apartment more. That is how -yawn- she is.
The most interesting character is Simone. She could be the entire novel. She inspired, she provoked, and she still baffled - even at the end.
Liked the very beginning and towards the end, but a good chunk was insipid. How this book inspired a television series, or discussion, or even a newspaper review - I'll never know.
Book tells me there is still hope for those who dream.