The first James Hamilton-Paterson book I’ve ever read was Playing with Water. This book isn’t fiction, it’s more of an autobiography Hamilton-Paterson wrote about his stay in an isolated little island some where in my home country, the Philippines. This book made me teary-eyed and homesick. It’s a lovely book about a writer’s reflection on life and his childhood. But I digress, this post isn’t about that book, it’s about another one, a laugh-out-loud book – Cooking with Fernet Branca.
If you’re looking for light reading, but don’t really want to read trash and just want to read a book and be entertained, and maybe even have a few laughs. This book is for you.
James Hamilton-Paterson is not a writer known for writing comedy or even light fiction. But when he does, it’s just hysterical. Cooking with Fernet Branca is the first of a trio of books about a pretentious Englishman who happens to be a ghostwriter of celebrity sports personalities. He purchases an isolated house in Italy hoping to find some peace and quiet to write his latest book. The house isn’t as isolated as he hoped it would be as it turns out that he has a neighbour, whom the Italian estate agent swore was only there a few times in a year. The neighbour turns out to be an East European woman with an indomitable character.
Read about Gerald Samper who considers himself a fine cook and entertains himself (and others) with his singing of arias and invented operas, not knowing that Marta, his neighbour has an impressive background in music. He thinks that she is a pauper, not knowing that he is actually living next to someone who is considered royalty in her own country.
It is funny. My husband read the book before me, since I was still busy finishing another book. He would read this in bed and from my daughter’s room where I would try to put T to sleep, we would hear muffled laughter and giggles. I would stomp in the room and find him red in the face, covering his mouth to conceal his guffaws. It is that hilarious. So yes, cooking with Fernet Branca is a definite must-read… that is, if you want to laugh.