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Book Review: “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler

“What else am I doing?
I’m learning about food and wine
and terroir and how to pay attention.”

Every once in a while a book comes along that serves as a cautionary tale for overzealous readers, like myself. What is the warning?, you may ask. To remain wary of books that make it on all the popular lists, because once in a while all these media sites will be applauding what could only be described as an over-hyped dud.

I was promised a book that would blow my socks off, instead what I read was a book that left me with the feeling of trying badly fitting shoes. It was an uncomfortable experience.


Having just wrapped up watching Masterchef Australia Season 8, the only cooking show I can stomach, I really thought (from the short summaries I had read on the plotline) to read a coming of age story punctuated by the protagonist developing a profound appreciation and love of food and wine.

What I got instead was the tale of a clueless brat, whose journey to discover and learn about food was marred by her poorly selected, pretentious teachers, as well as her penchant to be distracted by less than worthy suitors, dodgy co-workers and work dynamics.

This book, like it’s protagonist, tried hard and it was painfully obvious. It really wanted for us to like it, like the main character, and that desperation to be liked and a popular read was cringe-worthy at times.

I really rooted for it to be an anthropological study of the New York fine dining scene, through the eyes of fresh but motivated newcomer. Instead it was book whose culinary influence was undermined by the ridiculous and cliche romantic triangle between the key character, her manager and her manager’s friend-maybe-lover.


Who should read it?
People who like the show “Girls” -_-
People who don’t mind having their time wasted.
People who buy into the hype, even when it’s clear that the said hype is not being delivered.
People who find it easy to live with regret, for poor book choices.
People who promise you Beyonce, when in fact they meant Carly Rae Jepsen.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 (*sigh*).

Just goes to show that sometimes the “popular opinion” doesn’t always mean anything.

Have you read this book? Did you agree with my review or do you think I was too harsh?

Let me know in the comments,

V x

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