The Banquet of Esther Rosenbaum

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Alcemi, 2008 - Fiction - 253 pages
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It is Berlin, 1929. The inflation-hungry city is edging towards disaster, but seven-foot Jewish orphan Esther Rosenbaum is serving up a banquet for friends.
They are the bohemians, artists and kabarett composers who have sampled her finest recipes in the legendary Schorns restaurant, and long declared her Germany's most celebrated chef. Except it is a life built on quicksand: Schorns' proprietor is owned by gay black marketeer Leon Wolf - but patronised by Nazis. The revolutionaries who briefly seized power ten years earlier are distracted by personal feuds and vendettas, manipulated by one Bertolt Brecht. Whilst Esther, once a towering presence clad in her peacock tapestry skirts, has started to dress as a man to blend into Berlin's vicious night streets. The cook capable of creating delicacies such as chocolate hearts stuffed with saffron pen nibs, has stopped eating and is reducing herself to bone.
Using a burlesque brand of magic realism, Penny Simpson conjures fantastical elements to show how cookery can be an act of storytelling, and imagination itself an act of subversion and survival.

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