Remember that riveting book Under the Skin by Michael Faber? A macabre mystery that by covenant amongst reviewers kept its dark secret quiet so that each reader could experience the shock? I hope The Cook receives the same respect because it’s so brilliantly done, it would be a shame to have it spoiled by careless reviews.
How best, then, to review it here? Carefully, carefully. Enough to entice you to find a copy and read it, not enough to spoil it….
Well then, it’s the story of Zac, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks here in Melbourne, who is given a second chance by the justice system. He goes to Cook School, a sort of boot camp for cooks, where others come and go but he learns to dream of a better life. He aspires now not to be a mere cook, but a chef, and a cordon bleu chef at that, with his own restaurant serving the very rich. And, as the blurb tells the reader, ‘he thinks he’s on his way when he gets a job as a house cook for a wealthy family’.
For foodies (like me) there is lots of fascinating writing about the world of haute cuisine, with occasionally disconcerting more-than-you-want-to-know detail about how the delicacy gets to the plate. (I’m not a vegetarian, but my concerns about animal welfare (particularly intensive farming and the transport of livestock) make me
choosy ‘difficult’ about what I will eat). But that’s not all that’s disconcerting. As I read, enjoying the tale, other elements of the plot begin to bother me. Isn’t it a bit odd that Zac’s relationships are so disposable? Isn’t it exploitation when the family doesn’t……? Hasn’t ambition gone a bit far when Zac….? What is this author up to??
The Cook is a droll satire that could only have been written in our times. It’s a dark parable that deserves to race up international best-seller lists.
I have one of Macauley’s previous books on the TBR, Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe. I bought it when it was on the Year 12 reading list a few years ago because I was intrigued by the title, but hadn’t got round to reading it. I certainly will now! (Update: see my review of Blueprints here).
Wayne Macauley blogs here.
Author: Wayne Macauley
Title: The Cook
Publisher: Text Publishing 2011
Source: Review copy courtesy of Text Publishing