The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark, for a foodie like me was an absolute delight for the senses along with treating me to a really good story with a bit of mystery woven in. Not to mention, how could you not love the cover on this novel? It is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a long time and it was actually the first thing that attracted me to this book.
The story is about Luciano who, at the beginning of the novel is an orphan just trying to survive on the streets of Venice in 1498. One day while out trying to steal his latest meal, Luciano is stopped by Chef Ferrerro (Maestro to Luciano) who offers him a meal. Well there is no way that Luciano can turn down a free meal and while there he also gets a wash and some clean clothes. The Chef traces an outline of a birthmark on Luciano’s forehead but in a kindly way. Luciano has no idea that his life from that point on will be a completely different one and that Chef Ferrerro will play a huge part in it in so many ways.
Luciano becomes Chef Ferrerro’s apprentice. He is to learn the going’s on of the kitchen. This is a huge honor for a boy like him and he and the Maestro seem to form an instant bond. Luciano soon learns that there is a mysterious book that everyone is searching for. This book, among other things, is said to have the power to heal a person or offer immortality. Luciano believes that the book contains a love potion that will help him win over the girl of his dreams who is a nun named Francesca. His friend Marco from the streets wants this book. There is a reward for the book and that money can get the both he and Luciano to the New World. Luciano is conflicted though with his loyalty to both Marco and the Chef.
One will feel immediately drawn to Luciano. The first descriptions of him as a street urchin all the way to where he knew he wanted to make more of his life endeared him to me. I wanted him to succeed and learn. We can’t forget the Maestro though as he is also an interesting character. A man well versed in food and herbs with the knowledge to know how to put together certain concoctions to achieve what he wants such as taking a pair of men set to have an argument about something and turn them into snivelling messes instead. He is a man of honor, both to his profession and his family. However he is hiding a secret life as well; one that he hopes to groom Luciano for.
This book is beautifully written both in the descriptions of Venice and the food. The feelings of how food is such an important part of our lives and something we should take the time to truly savor. Or how food can evoke in us memories of other times like our childhood, for example. The author’s vivid descriptions of the wonderful dishes being prepared had my mouth watering and I felt I could see, smell and most importantly taste the dishes being described. In a word, I found this book delicious. It brought my senses alive. It made me want to grab a piece of fruit and truly savor the flavors that it would evoke in my mouth. I have to say that this book definitely leaves you hungry because all the food being prepared sounds so utterly divine.
There are several quotes in this book, too many to count but one of the very first that stood out to me and even by the end of the book was still clear in my mind is one that is near the beginning of the book and coincidentally enough even has something to do with the ending a little bit…
- ‘I remember that pomegranate well – the leathery red skin, the fleshy weight of it in my hand promising wine – sweet clusters of ruby fruit. As I lifted it off the pile, I imagined the satisfying crunch, the release of tangy perfume, the juices glazing my lips and running down my chin. Ah, that biblical fruit with its poignant umbilical tip, choice of the gods and food of the dead. I clasped it to my breast and ran.’ (pg 4)
I read The Book of Unholy Mischief for Elle Newmark’s Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour and I have to say a special thank you to her for the signed copy she sent to me. This is a book that will have a special place on my shelf and I can see myself reading it again one day just to experience again the beautiful writing and vivid descriptions of the dishes being prepared.
Please visit Elle Newmark’s website here and her blog here. In addition, you can view the book trailer on her website as well and that is here. The Book of Unholy Mischief can be purchased here in the US and here in Canada. Be sure to pop in tomorrow at Peeking Between the Pages as Elle will be visiting with a guest post.