Saturday 10 September 2011

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais

This book suffered from my high expectations because as soon as I got it out of the library, I couldn't wait to read it.  Telling the fictional story of an Indian immigrant to first England, then France, who rises from kitchen apprentice to celebrated three-star Michelin chef, it ticked all of my reading boxes.  Food - tick, other cultures - tick, immigrant experience - tick, faux-memoir -tick.

But unfortunately it was a mediocre book in many regards. I did like the central storyline but the book couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to be a realistic 'autobiography' or a fairytale.  As a result some of the situations felt very contrived and the main character, Hassan, had far too much luck to make the story credible.

Everything was much too happy too. There are some minor instances of prejudice but for the most part Hassan and his family fit in with rural France incredibly quickly and never miss home.  Hassan gives up his native Indian cuisine in order to be a French chef without a second thought as he accepts immediately that French cooking is 'better'.

The characters were caricatures too.  We had the old-fashioned grumpy French chef who didn't want to accept that an Indian person can cook better than she can.  We had the nasty Michelin inspectors.  We had angry chefs.  We had a stereotypically large and boisterous Indian family.  Which is why I think this novel would have worked much better with a touch of the fantastical, a touch of fairytale.  It could have been a magical book that way.

Despite all of my criticisms, I never wanted to stop reading this book and it did pass the time enjoyably.  The setting of rural France in the first half of the book was described absolutely beautifully and as someone who loves her food, I loved all of the cooking and restaurant sections.  It's clear that Morais loves his food too and did a good amount of research into both French and Indian cuisine.  But overall it just lacked that specialness.

Verdict: Interesting plotline but situations are too contrived and characters too stereotypical.
Source: Library
Published: 2011
Score: 2.5 out of 5


  1. hello, even though you did not like this book too much, you may enjoy linking your post to my new meme: I love France, on books, etc connected to France. you can link it here:
    Emma @ Words And Peace

  2. I know exactly what you mean. From the synopsis, this book sounds like just the thing that I'd like, but as I read your review, all the things you were critical of, would have driven me to distraction as well. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  3. Thanks for the link Emma, I'm off to check out your meme as I love reading books about France :)

    Karen, I wouldn't advise reading it. There are rumours it is going to be made into a film and I think it would be better in that format.

  4. Not properly focused, I know...but I've seen you're reading Villette. Looking forward to your review now! Mine is on FLY HIGH and... no, better not to influence your current reading. :-)

  5. The food sections appeal to me, but I think the things that you identified as shortcomings would spoil it for me; I don't like plot lines that are too neat and characters that don't ring true.

  6. I agree with your feelings. I read this in 2010 and did not form any deep connection with any of the characters. Honestly, I rushed through it so it'd be over. Here's a link to my review if you're curious: . I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  7. Had this been a real memoir I would probably be interested. Too bad it's so 'faux'! Those details you described do sound a little contrived. I know a German woman who has lived the last three years in Paris and still feels like a tourist.

  8. Too bad you didn't like this book. The premise sounds very interesting. Speaking of books with food, have you read Like Water for Chocolate? :)

  9. Not a fan of caricatures either. Glad you linked to wordsandpeace memes though because I found your blog!