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Stanley Park by Timothy  Taylor
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's review
Apr 13, 2011

really liked it
Recommended for: Poppy61
Read in April, 2011

I first picked this up from the shelf because my father's name was Stanley. Then I realised that it is set in Canada, and I have visited Stanley Park in Vancouver, where they have a great display of native American totem poles. And where we sat and watched a cricket match, which bizarrely I've never done in England (I'm English, by the way). What's more, our hire car broke down in Stanley Park on the first day of our holiday, and we had to wait there until a replacement was brought to us. Ah, memories! The book also reminded me that there are raccoons in the park. It was the first time I'd ever seen them, and I must have photos somewhere. The fact that I've been to Stanley Park added to the story, as I could visualise the setting, although I hadn't realised the forest was so huge. I was also perplexed by the statement that grey squirrels had been imported from Britain and were somehow threatening the native red squirrel, as in Britain the native red squirrel has been almost eliminated by the introduction of the more aggressive American grey squirrels!

This book wasn't at all what I'd expected. Based on the cover photo of a full knife rack with one knife coloured red, and the author's note at the beginning which mentions the discovery of the remains of two children in Stanley Park in 1953, the "Babes in the Wood", I assumed that the book was a thriller. In fact, it was something much better.
The descriptions of the food were mouthwatering, and Jeremy's dedication to locally-sourced food admirable. Unfortunately he was forced to abandon his principles and bow to the fanciful flights of fantasy of his rich financier, who recognised his talent but wanted to impose a concept based on image alone: the colour of the food (gold and purple) and a menu designed to impress by name-dropping, rather than by providing food which would make people want to return because of the quality. I enjoyed the descriptions of the cooking process, and noted that Jeremy's cooperative style was more reminiscent of Jamie Oliver than the aggressive alpha-male style of Gordon Ramsey or Lenny Henny's fictional 'Chef'. A style not at all suited to Dante Beale's aggressive market-response-led restaurant ideas, yuppies seeking "wired, post-national, with vibrant flavours"; "over sixty we're not much worried about - they don't like France or Italy or dishes that are too crunchy."

Another theme in the book is the research which Jeremy's father is doing amongst the people living rough in Stanley Park. Ironically, contrary to ingrained expectations, it is not the park-dwellers who are alcoholics and drug-takers, eating unhealthily and neglecting their children, but the high-earning professionals. Here it is worth mentioning Jeremy's godson Trout, a slightly other-worldly, perhaps autistic child, who perceptively cuts through the sophisticated surface image to reach the truths hidden within. Likewise, in the park, Jeremy's father's friends are true to themselves, more so than those in the false world of business.

There are a couple of strange and unexplained occurrences in the book, so that I am left wondering if I missed something or misunderstood. On the whole, it was well worth reading, with well-rounded characters and a brilliant payback, and I'm hoping to pass it on to somebody whose unusual first name is mentioned in the book, and who I believe will appreciate the foodie aspect, too.


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