I’m so pleased to be part of the blog tour for The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti historical fiction set in Bucharest featuring a book of magical recipes.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literature In translation
Source: Random Things Tours
Translator: from Romanian by James Christian Brown
Bucharest, 1798. A slave-cook lives in Bucharest, sought after by everyone. His sublime cooking satisfies even the sophisticated tastes of the Prince, who lays claim to him, whisking him away to the Palace. However, no one knows that the cook has in his possession a witch’s recipe book, the Book of Perilous Dishes. His food can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. And the rightful owner of this book is fourteen-year-old Pâtca, an adolescent initiated in the occult arts. Pâtca comes to Bucharest, to her uncle, Cuviosu Zaval, to recover this book, but she finds him dead, murdered, and the Book of Perilous Dishes has disappeared without a trace. All that Zaval has left her is a strange map…
The Book of Perilous Dishes follows the story of Pâtca, who uses her powers to avenge the death of her uncle and retrieve a magical recipe book left in his keeping which has been stolen by Silica the cook. Travelling from Romania to France and on to Germany to do so, Pâtca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to Silica the cook…
Take a plucky fourteen-year-old orphan add a generous dose of world-building and atmosphere, mix in a coveted recipe book with a touch of peril and let the magical story unfold.
I don’t normally read literary fiction but after reading the Book of Perilous Dishes, I think I may be reading a lot more. The author ( and translator) builds a wonderful picture of Bucharest in 1798 with lush descriptions of the people, places and food.
The book manages to pack a lot in its 255 pages and describes life in 1798 Bucharest including witch hunts, slavery, murder mystery and the political turmoil of the time.
The fantasy elements are light but beautifully woven into the story. I was tickled by the idea of recipes that can cause interesting effects such as hysterical laughter, forgetfulness, prediction and my favourite damaging sincerity. The recipes in the book are beautifully described and well-researched by the author
Patca is the main point of view character, and we follow her story over two time periods, one in 1798 and then thirty years later. Patca relationships with the people she meets are touching and her story drives the book leading to an ending that is deeply satisfying and heart-warming and left an impression long after I finished the book.
Don’t forget to read the translator’s note at the start of the book which is fascinating in its own right!
I received a copy of this book for a free and unbiased opinion.
Doina Rusti is among the most important contemporary Romanian writers and is widely appreciated for the epic force, originality, and erudition of her novels. Award winning and translated into many languages, she has written ten novels, including The Phantom in the Mill (2008), The Phanariot Manuscript (2015), and The Book of Perilous Dishes (2017). Doina lives in Bucharest and is a university professor and screenwriter.