"Little Culinary Triumphs" by Pascale Pujol; Europa Editions (224 pages, $17)
A foodie's passion combines with other deep desires to create a fun and fast-paced novel set in the Montmartre section of Paris. Everybody's got an angle here, particularly Sandrine, the unemployment office worker who'd rather be running her own restaurant, and Antoine, the professor who's unemployed and wants to stay that way. Their paths collide and expand to include a cast of eccentrics who give the neighborhoods around the Sacre C–ur basilica their distinctive je ne sais quoi. There's a grandma with a seamy secret, a wallflower who writes a sex column, a Senegalese guy who cracks the French welfare system, and many more.
In her debut novel, Pascale Pujol keeps the tone light as she takes on serious themes of economics and immigration. She gently skewers the French bureaucracy, business executives, union officers and even real estate agents – "black suits a little on the tight side, white shirt a little too open at the neck, Bluetooth earpiece ... and black shoes that were too pointy." All of them deserve some comeuppance, right?
The plot adds characters like ingredients in a recipe until everything finally sets like a creamy quiche. Will everybody get what they want – or deserve? Maybe, maybe not, but it's fun watching the schemes unfold.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer