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Review: Keeping the Feast

February 27, 2010

Paula Butturini was a reporter working in Rome when she met and fell in love with another reporter, John Tagliabue.  When John was offered a job in Poland, the couple decided he should accept the job, so they moved there.  After two years, they made a quick visit back to Rome to get married.

Shortly after their marriage, Paula was severely beaten by police in Czechoslovakia and John almost died from a bullet wound he suffered in Romania.  The couple’s life became mired in emotional and physical traumas after that – John battled hepatitis and drug-resistant clinical depression and Paula suffered the loss of loved ones.

Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini is a memoir that focuses on her life after meeting John, with flashbacks to previous times.  Upon reflection, Paula comes to realize that the best times of her life are the times she shares food with loved ones – from her childhood dinners with extended family, to dinner with friends and meals shared with her own family.  She celebrates that special time of our lives that we often overlook as being ordinary.  Her descriptions of food are wonderful and she had me wishing I could go to Italy to experience their food.

This book isn’t all happiness, though.  Paula and John survived some very difficult times that many other couple would not have.   I admire her honesty and her commitment and determination to make her marriage work.

I enjoyed Keeping the Feast, but don’t think I loved it as much as everyone else has, and I’m not really sure why.    The story and writing are good and kept me engaged until about three-fourths of the way through, when I was ready for things to be wrapped up.  Overall, the book left me with a sad feeling, but I think the point was to inspire hope.  I do think it’s a must read for anyone who suffers from clinical depression or has a family member or close friend who does.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.  To see who else is participating today, click on the logo.

Challenges: Memorable Memoir Challenge

Review copy provided by Riverhead Books for The Winter Reading Series on Books on the Brain.   I am an Amazon Associate.
35 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2010 7:10 am

    I did wonder how she managed to survive with him as many years as she did. They had *just* gotten married when this all happened.

  2. February 27, 2010 7:12 am

    Nice review Kathy. I don’t think I would enjoy this book, even though most have liked it.

  3. February 27, 2010 7:17 am

    Based on your review and a few others, I think for me the bests parts of the book would be the ones about the food. I’ll likely pick this one up at the library and skim it.

  4. February 27, 2010 7:32 am

    I truly believe that food can heal the soul. (So I should have a very healthy soul!!!! haha) I am drawn to this book by the reviews for that reason. I fell head over heels in love with The School of Essential Ingredients because of its premise of food creating bonds, and healing wounded spirits. Not sure when or if I will read this though. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of books that I need to read right now!

  5. February 27, 2010 9:14 am

    Great review. I know what you mean about enjoying a book but still ready for it to just wrap up. Also love the concept of good times around shared food – there is something magical about feasting together.

  6. February 27, 2010 9:54 am

    I can agree with the premise of the book – the joy that comes with loved ones and food. It will be interesting to read how that fit her life when things were so tough. Good review, Kathy.

  7. February 27, 2010 10:33 am

    I’ve seen a few reviews of this one now and really want to read it!

  8. February 27, 2010 10:35 am

    I have this one on my wishlist. If nothing, the theme of depression would make me want to read it. Sorry this didn’t work out too well for you. Good review!

  9. February 27, 2010 10:56 am

    Great review, Kathy. I liked this book way more than you did, I think. But then, any book that makes me drool is tops on my list 🙂

  10. February 27, 2010 11:09 am

    Great review. I am looking forward to reading this one to see how I react.

  11. February 27, 2010 12:35 pm

    I keep seeing this one around, and I’ve been admiring the cover, but haven’t read a review. It sounds interesting, but it does seem like it could be in the depressing side….

  12. February 27, 2010 12:44 pm

    Great honest review! Having depression run in my family I think I need to check this one out.

  13. February 27, 2010 1:13 pm

    I picked this up in the library yesterday, after seeing several reviews around. Most of the reviews I have read are similar to yours–but I am going to give it a try anyway–I like memoirs quite a bit–besides the cover is beautiful!~ 😉

  14. February 27, 2010 1:15 pm

    Oops! I hit submit too fast. I was also going to ask you where you got the Adriana Trigiani button on your sidebar? I LOVE it! I have about 35 pages left in Brava –life is so busy and I just want to go lock myself away and finish it. There is something about her writing that just draws me in from page 1 of her books. Did you read the Stone Gap series? Another favorite of mine.

  15. February 27, 2010 1:16 pm

    I find that I associated food with events, or rather the sweets/desserts with the events. Not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned.

  16. February 27, 2010 1:24 pm

    I love memoirs even when they are sad or difficult. Your review makes me want to read this despite it not being a perfect fit for you.

  17. February 27, 2010 2:33 pm

    I don’t like it when everyone else loves a book and I’m just sort of …meh…I’m like that with Making Toast, and I feel like such a jerk…I didn’t think it was all that great and what kind of jerk even says that about such a heartfelt memoir of grandparents whose daughter dies and they step in to help raise the grandkids… I’m a jerk…

    It’s good to be back…been a bit nuts for a while, and I’m hoping life can regain some semblance of normalcy now. Lots of issues with aging parents, mom in law had a car wreck and broke her back, my dad needed spinal surgery and I’ve spent the past months going back and forth between Montana, Washington and California, while hubby and kids pretty much take care of themselves. I think things are finally settled and I’m finally home!

  18. February 27, 2010 2:47 pm

    Great review! I’m thinking I will try this one … I read another review that piqued my interest, and now yours. (And I can understand that “meh” feeling when everyone else likes a book and you don’t … happened to me most recently with “Brooklyn.”)

  19. February 27, 2010 2:58 pm

    Thanks for this review. I have my eye on this book but I will appraoch with caution as too much sadness in a book can really get to me.

  20. February 27, 2010 3:07 pm

    Kathy, perhaps this book will lure you to Italy? Then we can look forward to your Italy posts!

    Thanks for your review.

  21. February 27, 2010 5:58 pm

    I have this TBR and I think I’ll like the foodie parts of this book. The rest sounds a bit sad and chaotic.

  22. February 27, 2010 10:14 pm

    I’ve read similar reviews, leading me to believe that the best thing to do would be to skim the story parts and focus on the food parts!

  23. February 28, 2010 1:43 am

    Oh I noticed that it’s so hard to find the right book for you, but Bellezza liked this and it sounds like this book would be good!

  24. February 28, 2010 10:50 am

    This sounds perfect for me: former journalist, bouts of depression, love memoirs, etc. Thanks for the heads-up.

  25. February 28, 2010 1:10 pm

    This has been on my list for awhile now.

    I always wonder when everyone else loves a book and I am luke warm on it.

  26. February 28, 2010 5:56 pm

    I don’t know that I’ll read this one, but I like the title.

  27. March 1, 2010 10:46 am

    Sorry this one didn’t grab you thoroughly. It made a great Weekend Cooking post, though!

  28. March 1, 2010 4:57 pm

    I do agree with you that this book had a feeling of overwhelmingly sadness at times. I liked the way she linked food into the memoir and wasn’t quite sure how she would do it until I read the book. I am sorry that you weren’t overwhelmed by the book. I can see that it has appeal in some aspects, but I can certainly understand your reaction to it.

  29. March 2, 2010 3:03 pm

    Sorry the book left you feeling a little sad Kathy. For me it felt hopeful in ways. I only felt sad for Paula’s little girl.

  30. March 2, 2010 7:32 pm

    Didn’t they have to endure a lot of suffering? Wow, it seemed like everything happened all at once, so suddenly, and then it takes a long time to put your life back together again. I admire their courage.

  31. March 3, 2010 5:19 pm

    Sounds interesting. I’m not sure I’ll read it as memoirs are generally not my thing and this sounds… well, not happy. But then again, I might need that some day so I’ll still add to my tbr. Thanks Kathy!

  32. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:02 pm

    Good to know you didn’t love it as much as everyone else. For some reason I’ve been resisting adding this to my wish list. Now I think I made the right decision.

  33. March 5, 2010 12:24 pm

    Sounds like a good book, though I doubt I’ll ever read it. I’m really picky with memoirs.

  34. March 6, 2010 8:52 am

    Great review, Kathy! Sorry to hear that you didn’t really like the book, though. It’s in my wish list and will take more time to consider whether or not to get it.

  35. March 22, 2010 2:46 pm

    Will put this on my list, thanks, for the review.

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