Anne's Reviews > The Restaurant of Love Regained

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa
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's review
Mar 19, 2012

really liked it
Read in March, 2012

My copy of The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa was published last year by Alma Books, I notice that the novel is due to be re-released on 26 April 2012.

Set in modern-day Japan, the story follows Rinko, a young woman who finds herself penniless when her boyfriend clears their flat of all of her possessions. With nowhere to turn and not wanting to stay in what was to be their love-nest, Rinko sets off for her home village. A village that she last saw ten years ago, when she decided that she could no longer bear living with her flighty Mother.
After a long bus journey through the countryside of Japan, Rinko arrives back in the village to be confronted by an angry mother and and even angrier pet pig, and from there on the story gets stranger and stranger. Not strange in a bad way, but strange in a bizarre way.

Rinko finds that along with losing her lover, she has also lost her voice - completely and utterly, not a squeak is left. So armed with her notebook as a way of communicating, she decides to start up her own restaurant alongside her Mother's Bar. She names the restaurant 'The Snail' and will serve just one table each evening, the menu will be individually prepared using the best local ingredients and incorporating lots of magic. Customers slowly arrive, young lovers, families, local business men - and each and every table is entranced by Rinko's wonderful food, they taste the flavours and inhale the magic.

As time passes and Rinko becomes more and more successful, she also travels on her own personal journey. Long-held secrets are revealed by her Mother, and Rinko discovers a completely different person who has been hiding behind the make-up and the numerous boyfriends.
There are times during the story when the translation becomes a little stilted, but for me, this didn't take anything away from this unique and quirky little story. Beware if you are squeamish though, as Rinko prepares much of her ingredients from scratch, and that includes the slaughter and butcher of Hermes the pet pig!

Fans of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, La Cucina by Lily Prior and Chocolat by Joanne Harris will probably enjoy this novel - a mixture of Japanese food culture, magic, humour and very very different.

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