books

A Very Sweetbitter Experience with A Book by Stephanie Danler

November 5, 2017

This is a review of an ARC and some things might have changed in the real copy

★★★★☆

A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant.

“Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…”

This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.

These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

I’ve wanted to read this for ages; ever since my eyes drifted over the gorgeous cover and pretty font. I have a somewhat weird thing about typography. However, when the book finally came from halfway across the world, guess what? Did they mess my order up? Did the book come irrevocably damaged in the mail? Well, yes and no.

warnings for: drug abuse, abusive relationships, alcohol abuse

The book was a little scuffed up, but nothing serious. The big talking point was the fact that it was an ARC. Yep, an ARC. Not only are you technically not allowed to sell them, but I also didn’t order it. In fact, I ordered a hardcover. I would have complained, but I was worried that they would make me ship the book all the way back to them and I really didn’t want the hassle. It had already taken a month to get to me. *sigh*

→ what I liked ←

I have never liked the idea of clams. Heck, I don’t even eat seafood most of the time because I’m worried that all of the seawater fish are soon going to become extinct but the way that this book describes food kind of makes me want to try muscles. The fishy kind, not the human kind. Anyways, yuck right? The idea repulses me but when Danler writes about the different types of food, you can actually feel the desire.

The way that Tess grows as a character is quite interesting to read about. She goes from a disillusioned child, to a broken adult and, in that sense, it’s a little bit tragic. I know that quite a few people say that she’s very whiny, but hey – she’s only 22 and she’s basically run away from home. Give her some slack.

As a book, it doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable things but nor does it glamourise it. I suppose that’s where the whole disillusionment with New York comes in. Admittedly, the abusive relationships that are highlighted in the book do seem like it’s going to be something good when we first encountered it. You actually start off liking the abusers a little bit, which just makes it all the more uncomfortable when you realise what crappy people they are. In that aspect, we are with Tess on her journey.

→ final thoughts ←

Loved it. Although I do think that I loved it a little more when I was reading it hence the four stars. When I was reading it, scenes didn’t seem like fillers but looking back at it, there were quite a few scenes where nothing all that interesting happened. Still, it seemed brilliant when I was reading it which I guess is what counts.

buy sweetbitter HERE

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