The Telling Room Michael Paterniti

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti [UBC – Day 17]

Note: I have omitted the phrase ‘Book Review’ in the title deliberately.

Michael Paterniti encountered awarding winning cheese Páramo de Guzmán the first time in a chef’s newsletter which he was assigned to proofread. The description of the cheese made a deep impression in him that years later he decided to find the origin of the cheese.Michael’s search for Páramo de Guzmán takes him to Castile, a small rural village in Spain where unpasterurized sheep’s milk is used to make this cheese. There he met Ambrosio the creator who made the cheese to taste just like the cheese that his ancestors used to make. What he expected to be a success story turned out to be a story of love and betrayal of a bestfriend and upcoming revenge and Michael was fully pulled into it.

What started as a quest for a cheese started off a series of story telling and the author is more and more drawn towards the Castilian way of living. He convinces his agent to get a publisher to sign him for the book and packs his family and kids and go to live in Castile with an aim to write the story of the cheese.

Now a lot of problems arises. First Ambrosio’s version of each event varies with each narration and then there are lot of unanswered questions but Michael is too scared to ask them. Ambrosio has become too dear a friend to Michael then…And the book about the greatest cheese remained an unrealized goal even after years and years of renewing the book contract.

The Telling Room is not an organized book. This is the result of multiple drafts that Michael has written when he tried to tell us the beauty of Castile, the Castilian way of living, the history of the cheese and lot more stories.

The struggle of a writer to actually write the book the way he wants it to be and the stream of postponed deadlines. To write as much truth as possible especially when you are a journalist. The difficulty of asking the tough questions. The possibility of losing something precious in the search for truth etc. These are Michael’s woes.

Michael finally ends this book with the initiation of a talk between Julian and Ambrosio,but some things wont change. Some stories will not analyzed. They are just told and retold even when they are not consistent or even may not be true.

There was something compelling about the narration which kept me interested in this book. This book introduced me to a lot of new things – Spain, making of cheese and more than that the concept of living closer to nature. I was also amused by the author’s inability to complete his book, to conclude his story. I felt being transported to a different world that I do wish the author has captured a lit bit of Spain in photographs. I would love to see a pic of Ambrosio and of course taste his cheese which will never happen because Michael got to taste the last tin made by Ambrosio.

Rating: 3.75/5
Publisher: Random House
First Release: July 2013

Note: I received a review copy from the publisher through netgalley in return for a honest review.

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