Monday, September 20

Book Review: Chef: A Novel

Title: Chef: A Novel

Author: Jaspreet Singh

Pages: 248

Summary: Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his pat.: a military camp to which he has not returned in fourteen years.

Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar’s camp, nestle in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand feet, the glacier makes for a forbidding battlefield; its crevasses claimed the body of Kip’s father. Kip becomes an apprentice under the camp’s chef, Kishen, a fiery mentor who guides him toward the heady spheres of food and women.

In this place of contradictions, erratic violence, and extreme temperatures, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, although he is a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict. Then, one oppressively muggy day, a Pakistani “terrorist” with long, flowing hair is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Wonderfully written, the story allows the reader to take a small glimpse of one man’s past.

Overall I enjoyed the book, it was a little slow moving at times, but for this book it was a good thing. I enjoyed the sleepy feeling the reader got as a tired man traveling on a train reminisced about his life as he returns to a place he left so long ago. The story was interesting, as he told it slowly, but detailed accounts to what happened at a war camp, what he learned, and some of his regrets to his actions or what he saw there. I think this whole aspect of the book was very well done, I enjoyed following along with the narrator, reading his life story, it was interesting, and as I said above, slow moving, but still kept a good pace to keep the reader engaged into the book. The author is also an extraordinary writer, he has an excellent writing style - almost lyrical at times, making for an enjoyable read.

What I didn’t like was that because the narrator was telling two stories at once; the present and the past, I found it to be a little jumpy at times, and sometimes even confusing when you were trying to figure out what was happening. Now, this can be somewhat explained. due to some circumstances at the beginning of the book (I won’t say, to avoid spoilers.) Which if this was the author’s intention, was a great ploy for the book, but even if this is the case I found that the past and present bled together at times, which made it hard to figure out where each storyline began and ended.

Overall, it was a well written book, and an enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this book to read. It can be slow at times, and as I said above, the plot can be jumpy/blend into the past and present, which can be confusing, but it was still a very well done book. Excellent writing style, making it well worth reading.

What to read next: The Piano Tuner, The Gathering, No Great Mischief

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge

This book was given to me curteosy of LibraryThings Early Reviewers program.


  1. I have read other great reviews of this book, and coupled with yours, I am really eager to try this one. I love that this is a slower and more quiet book, and have to admit that the history intrigues me. Is this a foodie book as well? I know that there is a subplot involving cooking in it, but I don't know how fleshed out that is. If it is indeed a foodie book, I will be rushing out to grab a copy!! Great review, Jules!

  2. Zibilee - It is a great book in that aspect (slower), although a lot of past information is given to you. The historical aspect was also very interested. Yes it is a foodie book. The narrator talks a lot about food, it wasn't as much as I thought it would be, but the foodie aspect is a prominent theme in the book. This book is a re-print, it was originally published in 2008, so there should be copies floating around at used stores, libraries bookstores. Hopefully you can snag a copy. :)

  3. I don't mind a slower paced book and I don't think the slightly jumpy aspect is enough to put me off either. The setting sounds wonderfully interesting — actually, this sounds like something my oldest daughter would really enjoy! Think I may have just found a perfect Christmas gift, thanks for the review. :)