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Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen    by Kate Taylor order for
Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen
by Kate Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2003 (2003)

* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

In this debut novel, Kate Taylor takes us deeply into the life of Jeanne Proust, mother of Marcel, via the latter's diaries. At the same time we discover the tragic fate of Sarah Bensimon, a very young Parisian Jew sent to Canada by her parents to escape the terrors of World War II. How these two women could be related to each other is only revealed in the very last part of Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, as Marie, a young Canadian woman of Parisian birth, learns to understand and forgive her lost lover.

Through Marie's translation of Madame Proust's diaries we read of her love and concern for her son as clearly as the respect and love she has for her husband. In Sarah's account, Marie makes us understand how Sarah managed to rekindle a sense of her former self through her memory and modification of the wonderful cooking in France to meet the needs of the kosher kitchen she must keep.

The writing in this book is fine. There are many characters in each of the three women's tales, and they all come alive. And through the eyes and feelings of the characters, Paris, Montreal and Toronto come vividly alive as well. However, I would have preferred less of Mme Proust and more of Marie's innermost feelings about the fact that both women were never able to acknowledge their sons' most intrinsic trait, since this must have affected Marie's progress toward the understanding and acceptance of those around her.

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