The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
The story focuses on Rose and how, starting in childhood, she develops the ability to taste feelings in the food people make (and also where produce originates). The food maker is not aware of the emotions themselves and it leaves Rose inhabiting a totally unique world ………………but it is not all about her ‘special skill’. It is also a story about her environment – her mother and father’s relationship; her relationship with them both; her brother Joseph and his needs; her friends; school life, and later on her working life – which are all undeniably affected by her skill.
I was particularly intrigued with the idea of being able to ‘taste’ the feelings of people. I had come across the idea that preparing food in a loving and focussed way enhanced the vibrations of that food. I had also stumbled across synesthesia, where for example, some people see music on a screen in front of their face (a neurologically based condition). So it was no problem at all to see this as an actual possibility!
As a child, Rose comes across as very intuitive (even without tasting the emotions) and mature for her years. She often appears to take on the ‘adult’ role in the family. Communication (or lack of) plays a huge role in this family, which I think is fair to say is also true of how the majority of us interact within our own communities and so a reflection of the culture we live in.
The story is full of exquisite analogies, which brings the words to life. Throughout the book I had very vivid mental pictures and sometimes had to pause for them to take shape before I could continue reading. It is written in the first person, which works well in shaping Rose’s world but I did find it difficult to follow at times, for example, where there is dialogue and no speech marks.
‘Particular Sadness’ is definitely a good description of how I have been affected. Even though I felt distanced and not too involved with the characters (concentrating too much on the images!), it still had the power to dip my spirits. It is poignant and certainly at places feels like a wilderness.
There is eventually a positive slant portrayed to being able to taste emotions and I would like to have seen this developed and given more prominence. I would also have liked to have seen how or if Rose’s life balanced as she grew into herself. The ending was brilliant and made me reflect on Joseph – I rethought my perception of him and saw him in a different light.
Overall I would recommend this book to have a place on your bookshelf. It does deviate from the usual family saga but definitely worth reading with an open mind.