Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell

Tomato Rhapsody is a novel set in 16th century Tuscany. It is a fairy tale for adults. It was fun to read and it seems like the author probably had fun writing it. From the very first page we know who is the villain in the story, as well as who is the fool.

The author offers asides like this one:

“A romance’s conflict, unlike a love story, stems not from self-created issues of pride, but from the more severe burdens that family and society place upon the lovers. ‘Tis why the romance is predisposed to tragedy, for the whittling away of one’s vanity is often a comical affair, but the confronting of deeply held societal and familial prejudices, resentments, laws and traditions is an altogether different and all too often tragic set of challenges.”

The romance is this case involves a young Jewish tomato farmer, Davido, and a young Catholic olive grower, Mari. The tomato is new to this region of Italy and thought to be the “love apple” or what tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. The townspeople are afraid to try it. There are many descriptions of food in the book including the invention of pizza.

There are a myriad of other characters, including a very unusual priest and a Duke playing at being a farmer. The ways their lives entangle with the rest of the villagers and the main characters is entertaining. The villagers common use of rhyme in everyday speech would probably make this a fun book to read aloud.

Here the fool explains why he will not eat a tomato until the priest has eaten one a day for 13 days:

“'So, let the priest eat twelve, plus one. Then we’ll wait a twelve-plus-one-day week and at the feast we’ll have the truth we seek. So on the day of our patron saint, let us judge then if he be healthy or faint.’”

The author is currently a Bend resident and has done some readings around town. I haven’t made it to any, but I would guess they’d be fun.

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