Book Review -‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ by Aimee Bender

by limebirdwriters

‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake’ by Aimee Bender

Lemon Cake

The reason that I chose this book was I was intrigued by the title and I liked the cover, which is always one of the first things which draws me to a book. I have read so many books over the years I am always on the lookout for something different.

If you haven’t heard of this book before, it is all about a young girl called Rose, from her discovering her magical gifts to sense emotion in food at age 9 all the way up until her teenage years. She lives with her mum, dad and brother Joseph. We are brought in at the start with Rose eating some of her mum’s chocolate lemon cake and finding it hollow and sad. Now if I’m honest I am a bit of a sucker for magical realism (which is shown in the story line of my current #NaNoWriMo novel), so I was immediately drawn to the theme throughout.

As soon as I started reading it one of the first things that I noticed was the obvious choice to not use quotation marks. This does limit those who would not be keen on untraditional narrative and although it did make some of the speech flow quite well, I did find a few times every now and again where I was a bit confused and frustrated. The advantages of Bender choosing to do this, is that there is the higher possibility of being sucked straight into the narrative. However, this isn’t for everyone, so I would bear this in mind before choosing to read this book.

From a writer’s point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed the language, which flowed and was easy to read.  Bender’s descriptions are full to the brim with emotion so you can almost feel what Rose feels when she eats the particular food, which I liked. I also felt that this was a clever way to be able to discover what is happening in the other character’s lives as this can sometimes be difficult with a novel which has been written in first person.


I think the main thing that I had trouble with was the whole scenario with Joseph (her brother). Like his sister, he also possesses talents, but I found that I actually didn’t entirely understand what they were. It was only actually when I read the interview with Aimee Bender at the end of the book that I realised that he actually turned into furniture. Then, once I had read this, I went back a few pages and things started to click into place.

Now, I like to think of myself as quite good as figuring things like this out, but I felt like it wasn’t entirely explained to  us as readers so I ended up feeling a bit like I was left hanging at the end. I’ve had a look at some other reviews and it seems that many others felt the same. Maybe Bender wrote it as a ‘reader can decide what they want to happen’ kind of thing.

This meant that I was left feeling a little empty at the end, which is never how you like to feel after reading a book. We are also given a hint that her dad also possesses talents, but we are only told that he feels drawn to go into hospitals, but this storyline isn’t explored, so we never actually find out what it is. To me as a reader, I felt a bit disappointed and that if we aren’t going to find it out, then maybe it didn’t need to be mentioned. Did anyone else feel like that?

Also I know this is completely personal preference, but as I am a sucker for romance, I felt gutted that Rose and George didn’t end up together. Obviously this isn’t a be all and end all and more realistic, but I was a bit like ‘Aww noooo’ when I realised that he was actually getting married. Just me being a girl though probably!


Although we are given some small explanations at the end of the story, I didn’t find it quite as satisfying as the first half, meaning that the four stars I was going to give it, have dropped to 3.5/5. I was going to give it 3, but I gave ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ a 3 and I enjoyed this story more.

This book is definitely for you if you enjoy a bit of magical realism and also the strong emotional language used. It could also be for you if you enjoy the rich descriptions of food in books, but if you’re a foodie you might not enjoy the fact that Rose resents food for the feelings she gets from them. I also quite liked Rose as a character and felt her quite relatable and won’t be forgetting her voice soon.

If you read this book, then please do let me know what you think about it, or if you read it soon, let me know too!

11 Responses to “Book Review -‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ by Aimee Bender”

  1. interesting book !
    I am being corious to read it soon 🙂

  2. I haven’t read this book, so maybe this recommendation will be way off.
    If you enjoyed the flowery, evocative descriptions of the food and the emotions inside them, you might enjoy “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Süskind(one of my favorite books).
    It’s about a boy in 18th century France with an incredible sense of smell. He also commits a few kind of icky murders, which may or may not be your thing.
    The language he uses to describe scents is amazing to me. I really like the way his writing flows, just the cadence of the words. There’s a chapter that’s nothing more than an old guy thinking about how things used to be different, but somehow it really captivates me.
    I read the English version translated from German, so I’m not sure who gets the credit for the writing: the author or the translator.
    Anyway, check it out if you feel like it.

    P.S. Let me sound like a snob for a second. They made a movie out of this book, but it was pretty lousy. If you’ve seen the movie and thought, “meh”, please give the book a chance.

    • Hey!

      Thank you for your comment!

      Yes I did very much enjoy the descriptions that she gave, I think it was one of the best aspects of the book. Ah yes, I have heard of that book before (well, more the film adaptation) but I haven’t actually looked into it. Maybe I will after your recommendation and add it to my reading pile! No, I’m open to all types of books!

      Your description of the language has really sold this book to me and it’s definitely something that I would like to look more into.
      Hmm, that’s a good question about writing credit as you never know if it’s exactly true to the words that the author had written in German. I would probably say that it’s a bit of both.

      No, I haven’t seen the movie so I would go in reading it with completely fresh eyes. I have just ordered it from Amazon for £1,40 so I will let you know how I get on!


  3. I think Joseph has a gift to make himself invisible. I have just put up my review and link up to yours here. Glad I am not the only one with all those questions!


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