“The afternoon knows what the morning never expected…”
Title: The Last Banquet
Author: Jonathan Grimwood
Genre: Historical Fiction; Young Adult; Romance; Food
Publication Date: 2013 (Canongate Books)
My Edition: Canongate Books (Hardcover, 2013)
Source: Prize from Book Depository
Buy: Signed First Edition from Book Depository!
Synopsis (adapted from the Book Depository):
Features Jean-Marie d'Aumout as a penniless orphan eating beetles by the side of a road. His fate is changed after an unlikely encounter finds him patronage and he is sent to military academy. Despite his frugal roots, and thanks to wit and courage in great measure, he grows up to become a diplomat and spy.
This novel was sent to me by The Book Depository as a prize since I had won the Quote of the Week. In this novel, the protagonist Jean-Marie d'Aumout tells his story from his early childhood to his late years, including his education, his friendships, his love life and, most importantly, the discovery of different tastes. The plot is fast-paced since not many philosophical endeavours are done. As for story content, I especially liked the beginning when Jean-Marie is still a boy and is discovering the privileged world his nobility has made possible. As Jean-Marie grows older, he becomes a womaniser in the truest and purest sense. While the confessions of love were not annoying, the graphical details of eventful nights were numerous to the point of sickness to a reader like me who isn’t into that type of reading. Jean-Marie’s ‘tastes’ are of a wide variety. Mistresses even when he’s old! I shook my head and put the book down at some disgusting acts. I’m sad that this effected my overall opinion of this book, but it did drag after all. A content-wise aspect which I liked is that the novel has almost the same amount of happy and bitter experiences. I also enjoyed the different settings and the protagonist’s growth throughout the book. Grimwood’s a good author: his writing style was enjoyable despite that hitch I mentioned before. It’s written in first person narrative and it is excellently executed. I didn’t detect any particularly interesting themes, or at least they weren’t strong enough for me to comment about them. I loved the characters though! Especially the friendships. My favourite character is not even a person.. it is Tigris, Jean-Marie’s pet tiger. She is such an exotic touch to the book. Although Tigris is blind she’s an amiable companion, at least to those who aren’t afraid of her! Jean-Marie is attached to her in a more loyal manner than he was to his wives. As far Jean-Marie’s personality, I definitely enjoyed his inquisitive nature especially when it comes to taste. The ending is satisfying in a queer way; the last banquet turned out to be different than the lavish dinner I expected when I started reading this book!
I enjoyed Jean-Marie’s delicious and sometimes disgusting journey. It is a fast read but I personally would have loved it more if it had less adult content incorporated with taste. I admit that at times it was sick to the point of closing the book and putting it away…
If you enjoy a good book about the French nobility try this out. However, beware of the negative aspects (which you may not mind) that I have mentioned in my review.