The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais is the latest book club pick, due mostly because of the movie that just came out. I’m always a little hesitant to read a book just because there’s a movie about it. Especially since no one in my book club has seen it. But it’s not a long book and it’s about cooking and the clash of cultures in Europe, so I figured there was going to be something I’d like. And I was right.
The book is basically a mash-up of Slumdog Millionaire, Julie & Julia, and My Life in France. So if you liked the movie or the books the latter two were based on then chances are you’ll like Hundred-Foot Journey. Morais is a great story-teller. Even though there were characters I couldn’t relate to, or plot points I thought were pointless, the story that holds it all together made me suspend my criticism and just keep reading. The narrator sounds like he’s actually talking to me and I want to listen.
The story begins in Mumbai with the Haji family, but after a tragedy the Hajis moves to London, where relatives help them establish themselves and adjust the Western World. Ironically, the part of London where they live is a Southern Asian ghetto, so they don’t have to change all that much. But due to a conflict between the two families, Papa Haji takes his six children, his mother, and sister and brother-in-law on a continental tour, ending up in alpine France. They remain here for most of the book and this is where the cooking part of the plot picks up.
They live across the street from a lady who runs an inn and is a two star Michelin chef. The Hajis decide to convert part of their house into an Indian restaurant and this upsets the chef who is very much into haute French cuisine. I won’t give more away, but the conflicts, resolutions, and coming-of-age are all very interesting. There’s a lot about French culture I didn’t know that I learn from the book.
I’d recommend this book to any one who likes to travel or cook because there’s a lot of both throughout. This book would be perfect to read on a trip, in fact. It’s not too complex that it’s going to tax you to get through it, but it’s entertaining enough to make the time go by.
Ultimately, what readers may take away from the book is that we sometimes make life more complicated than it needs to be. We need to remember to stay true to our foundations and be great at what we excel in. Forget all the drama and superficial things we sometimes get caught up in. Life is too short to focus on all of that.