Keeping The Feast

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You do not have to know Italy to love this book.

You do not have to know illness or sorrow to feel the pain.

You do not have to know how to cook to appreciate the feast which is laid out before you in every word, every sentence, every description of finding solace in the country of warmth, generosity and abundant food when your life is bereft of any comfort whatsoever.

Paula Butturini was brutally beaten while covering the news in Czechsolovakia. Shortly afterward, her husband was shot while covering the news in Romania. The bullet ripped a hole through his midsection which was large, and a hole in their lives which was larger still.

As readers, we come to realize that the physical suffering is just one aspect of war; far more significant are the emotional accompaniments of depression, despair and destruction of trust. As one who personally experienced trauma beyond my control, I know that one’s life is forever changed afterward. You can never go back to the way it was Before The Incident Occurred.

One of the ways that Paula copes with this trauma is by eating, by cooking, by telling us of the abondanza which is Italy and so very nurturing to one’s soul. Her life as a cook mirrors her life as a wife; I found each aspect reflecting the change occurring in the other.

But when I say that I stopped cooking by the book, I mean it figuratively as well. Everything about our old life seemed to be in storage, somewhere far, far away. Our old life–a life of incessant work, deadlines, stories, interviews and research; a busy, fulfilling life bubbling over with the children, family friends, concerts, plays, movies, travel, reading, exploring–was suddenly on hold. John’s downward slide did not happen in a vacuum. Everything we had or knew or loved seemed bent on sliding down that dark, steep slope after him. We were here in Italy trying to stop that slide. (p. 135)

You must read this book. Don’t read it thinking you’ll escape all the childhood memories you have of what home tasted like, or what hope tastes like, or even despair. Don’t read it hungry. Don’t read it unless, like me, you have a homemade chicken broth on your stove with a handful of pastini to throw in before the pinch of fresh parsley.

Monday, January 18th: Tripping Towards Lucidity
Tuesday, January 19th: Park City Girl
Wednesday, January 20th: Baking Delights
Thursday, January 21st: Brunette on a Budget
Tuesday, January 26th: Farmgirl Fare
Wednesday, January 27th: Booklust
Tuesday, February 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, February 4th: Caribousmom
Tuesday, February 9th: Books, Lists, Life
Wednesday, February 10th: Book Addiction

Important update: Lisa M. of Books On The Brain, is hosting a discussion with Paula Butturini on February 22 at 5:00 PST. You may want to tune in for a chance to chat with the author or just to listen in.

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30 thoughts on “Keeping The Feast”

  1. I just knew you would love this book! Wonderful review. Thank you so much for the time and energy that went into reading/reviewing Keeping the Feast. It is very much appreciated.

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  2. :)This is quite an evocative review Bellezza, and it does sound like a story I can really feel for, something that really touches the heart. I agree that the emotional pain brought by war remains long after the physical pain has gone (and I must tell you that you just gave me something to talk about for a review I've been trying to write for 3 months now but still haven't managed to finish).Thank you for this review. This made my morning 🙂

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  3. Susan, it made me want to jump up and start cooking right away! Or, at least make a salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Or, at least find some bread and cheese! Or, grate some parmesan over pasta. And those craving are never very subdued for me to begin with! I almost wich there's been some recipes in the back of the book, although maybe that would seem trite. All I know is I sure was hungry reading it!

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  4. Oh it's nothing big really 🙂 It's this book The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (which I think you might know). I finished it three months ago, and absolutely admired the writing so I really had this feeling that I must do it justice by also writing well. I have a lot of notes for the book, and have made several attempts to write a review already but somehow I just can't form something concrete enough to capture my experience of the book. It's a 5-star book for me, so I'm sure you know the feeling :)Anyway, you just made me realize one major theme in the book: thelastingness of emotional scars caused by war. Thank you dear Bellezza!

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  5. Actually I've not read The Things They've Carried. But, I know how it is when you read an incredible book and it becomes almost impossible to write a review. That's why I've never reviewed some of my most favorite books (with the exception of L'Engle); I wouldn't dare to presume that I could comment on Atwood's The Robber Bride, Byatt's Possession, or even Tartt's Secret History. They just have to be read to be enjoyed, and anything I have to say about them will not improve the experience one bit.

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  6. This is Paula Butturini, and I wrote Keeping the Feast. We just finished dinner here in Paris, and then I sat down in the corner of the dining room — which is where our computer lives — and read this review and comments. I wanted to tell you that I was so moved by them that first I had my husband, John, read them; and then he had my 91-y-o father read it all too. All three of us thank you for reading the book so closely and with such care. We hope this story will resonate like this with other readers, too.

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  7. Yes, that's it. Some books "just have to be read" for one to understand what we loved about it :)But I'm glad you managed to find the words to express your delight in this book, as you have convinced me that it's good (and I like the cover too!)

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  8. Paula, I'm so glad that you stopped by! Your words, "We just finished dinner here in Paris" made me so lonesome for Europe! I love Europe with all my heart, and I hope very much to return to France, or Italy, to live some day. I'm glad that my review moved you, however it does not do justice to your experience nor relating of it. I could so acutely feel what you described, and I was so physically hungry during portions I just had to stop and think about the food for a minute. The salad with the olive oil and lemon juice, the fruits, the pasta, all so delicious and difficult to obtain here in the States. I remember the capers from the Cinque Terre so large I thought at first that they were olives!One final note, I'm upset with myself that I didn't mention the opening verse from the Bible which you had in the beginning of your book. I believe it was from Corinthians, and when I read that, I knew the book be wonderful.My hopes for continued blessings and strenth in your lives, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Bellezza

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  9. Like you, I really liked this one. I thought it was so beautifully written. I feel like it may have impacted you even more, since you DO love Italy 🙂

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