La Cucina (Prior)

Book Reviews
Succulent saga...with a sensuous tone, a folkloric narrative style and a most original set of characters, La Cucina could well satisfy the hungriest of appetites.

Sumptuously appointed, celebratory and sensuous, this debut novel is a mouth-watering blend of commedia dell'arte and Greek tragedy. Prior cooks up a cinematic yarn full of characters so rich you'll fear they're fattening, but readers will be sure to splurge on this saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes and murder. Born in 1915, Rosa Fiore grows up on the family farm in the Sicilian village of Castiglione with six older brothers and her younger Siamese twin siblings, Guera and Pace (war and peace). Her childhood is punctuated by her parents' frequent lovemaking and the "disappearances" orchestrated by the local Mafiosi. Rosa spends most of her time in what is really the core of the family, la cucina, the kitchen, which is the outlet for all Rosa's passions except one, her lover, Bartollomeo. After he is murdered when she is 18, she flees to the big city of Palermo. There she becomes a librarian, abstaining from the pleasures of cooking and love for 25 years. One day, a mysterious Englishman named Randolph Hunt comes into the library, claiming to be researching the regional cuisine of Rosa's youth. She calls him simply l'Inglese. Reawakening her dormant spirit, l'Inglese initiates Rosa into the world of sexual and gastronomic abandon. But along with love comes risk of pain. When l'Inglese mysteriously "disappears," can the Mafia be involved? Ironic humor, fantastical subplot twists, attention to touching detail in setting and tone and a delightful gift for characterization make this sexy black comedy an award-winning recipe for pleasure. The combination of sex and food will undoubtedly invite comparisons with Like Water for Chocolate and 8U Weeks. Add a dash of Goodfellas, and there's something for everyone.
Publishers Weekly

Rosa Fiore, a middle-aged, overweight Italian librarian in Palermo, spends a quarter of a century furiously, exquisitely cooking away memories of the tragic murder of her first and only lover, Bartollomeo, whose throat was slit by his own father. Rosa's self-imposed exile, far from home, is filled with recipes so delicious she drives her neighbors wild. Rosa's dormant passion explodes in the arms of a mysterious stranger, l'Inglese, who enters her library to do research and immediately professes uncontrollable desire for Rosa's body and for her cooking knowledge. Thus begins a summer of gourmet meals and noisy sex. When l'Inglese disappears, Rosa's tortured daydreams of past frolicking lead to a house fire and her near death. Her slow recuperation begins when she is rescued by her long-estranged family, who bring her home. Reminiscent of Laura Esquivel and John Irving, mixed with a healthy dollop of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Prior's debut is clever, untamed, funny, and at times shocking. For larger fiction collections. —Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Library Journal

Librarian readers will probably tire of the cliched description of Rosa: an overweight, undersexed spinster, chided by her staff and revolting to her patrons. However, the food she cooks is fabulous. —Bonnie Smothers

[A] lonely, middle-aged librarian...experiences a sexual reawakening intimately linked to her sensual kitchen skills.... One day a mysterious stranger with thinning hair, a small mustache, and bad teeth arrives at the library to do culinary research... The two embark on an affair of torrid lovemaking.... But Rosa's new happiness ends abruptly when [her lover] vanishes.... Happily, though, a rosy—if inexplicable—ending lies in store for plucky Rosa. Less a banquet of the senses than a junk-food gorge.
Kirkus Reviews

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