Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Published By: Doubleday
Release Date: June 2010
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Library
Audience: Adult

I debated whether to even write a review for this one, but I know there are others out there who share my thoughts on so many other books that I felt I owed it to them to speak up. This book has won awards and has received so much praise that I truly was excited to read it, but I ended up doing something that I rarely ever do - I stopped before the end and walked away. I wanted to love this book and I tried, but it just wasn't the read for me. This does not mean that it was not well written or that it was a bad book. As our rating states - this one was just not for me. I am sure there is some deep symbolism I could have gained from this novel, but I just didn't have the patience or perseverance to get to that point.

The book follows the story of Rose, a young girl who learns at the age of nine that she can taste emotions in her food. The problem is so difficult that upon eating a slice of her birthday cake - lemon with chocolate frosting - her mouth fills with the sadness and longing that plague her mother. Emotions from the cook seep into the food and assault poor Rose's taste buds. I was so intrigued by this premise, but I just couldn't get into the plot or any of the characters.
Rose was whiny, her brother was withdrawn, and her parents were selfish and too caught up in their own lives to notice that their children were suffering. The whole novel was about the emotions and complicated lives of this one particular family. I felt like I was intruding on things too private for my eyes. It was painful for me to read. If I wasn't uncomfortable - I was bored. This was one book where the summary outshined the actual novel for me.

One Last Gripe: Joseph's special skill is just odd and didn't seem to gel with the story for me

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The concept of tasting emotions in food

First Sentence: It happened for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon, a warm spring day in the flatlands near Hollywood, a light breeze moving east from the ocean and stirring the black-eyed pansy petals newly planted in our flower boxes.

Favorite Character: George

Least Favorite Character: Rose 


On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.


  1. Great blog you guys have here. I have this on my shelf and have been moving it to the bottom of my pile for awhile. I think I'll keep it there... So many "award winners" suck, in my opinion, while so many GREAT books are passed up (Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, anyone?). Who picks these books? Thanks for a great review!

  2. I had wanted to read this one because my little sister LOVES lemon cake (so much so that she had it as her wedding cake). So I was hoping I would love the book and then pass it on to her.
    I hate slow reads, but I'm also not a fan of stories where they make it impossible for you to relate or like the main character. I'm all about characters having flaws but if I'm going to read their stories I want to at least like them.
    I liked your review, I liked that you were honest.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the review. The writing of this one was great - it just didn't appeal to me. I suppose that's what makes books so great - there is something for everyone out there. I am sure there are many out there who enjoyed this one.

  4. That book sounds really interesting. Great review, even if you didn't like it! :) Happy Reading!


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