Unlike the rest of the books in the series, this one takes place almost entirely in the space of one evening. Sure, there’s a bit of setup and follow-through at the beginning and end, but the vast majority is all at the gala.
I’m going to start by saying: this was a difficult book to read.
For starters, I had a hard time liking any of the characters. Beena and her sister Sadhana both came across as annoying and spiteful in Beena’s memories of their childhood, and their uncle wasn’t any better.
What I like most about Pollan’s writing is that he works off the assumption that people generally want to know more about food. We might not want to be gourmet chefs anytime soon, but as a reader of his books, obviously I’m interested in learning more about what we as a society put into our bodies, and what place food and cooking serves in our lives.
This book felt a bit different than the other three. Okay, actually, it felt a lot different. For starters, the “problem” that the main character/narrator was having wasn’t obvious right from the beginning like in the others. In fact, it took almost until the very end of the book until we realize exactly what’s going on with him. Plus, he’s not being tapped to become one of the Riders, so it’s a much different dynamic between him and Death than the narrators of the other books.
It took me a bit to get into this book. Maybe it was the frame story – the narrator looking back on his childhood from adulthood – but I just didn’t love it right from the beginning. Once it got into the main story, though, the story of the man’s childhood, I felt like Gaiman really came into his own.