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The Epicure's Lament
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The Epicure's Lament

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,277 ratings  ·  209 reviews
For ten years, Hugo Whittier, upper-class scion, former gigolo, failed belle lettriste, has been living a hermit's existence at Waverly, his family's crumbling mansion overlooking the Hudson. He passes the time reading Montaigne and M. F. K. Fisher, cooking himself delicious meals, smoking an endless number of cigarettes, and nursing a grudge against the world. But his old ...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published January 25th 2005 by Anchor (first published February 17th 2004)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,277 ratings  ·  209 reviews


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Jess
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So great. This book was hilarious and dark and bitter and in parts so so wrong. I loved it! There were sentences that were so perfect that I had to re-read them and share them aloud. Part of me secretly wishes I could be more like Hugo: brutally honest, crusty, self-indulgent and totally not care what other people think of me. I had a very slight problem was the ending, which I won't spoil. I was hoping it would turn out differently, left up to the imagination and not as optimistic--perhaps Hugo ...more
Julie
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Forty-year-old Hugo Whittier loves Montaigne, sex, food, cooking, and his high brow man cave at Waverly, his family's down-on-its-heels Hudson River estate. Hugo also loves the cigarettes that are exacerbating his fatal disease. In the face of the end, Hugo chain smokes and scribbles his life, present and past, into a series of notebooks. There's a lot to record--a lot's happening on his way out. His brother Dennis is longing for another woman, who is cheating on her husband with Hugo. Hugo's lo ...more
James
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kate Christensen is an extraordinarily talented writer. While this book is by no means perfect, I gave it five stars because, when she's in the pocket, her prose swings like a gate.* The Epicure's Lament takes its crabby place in the estimable tradition of misanthropic curmudgeon novels such as Confederacy of Dunces, The Debt to Pleasure and, most exquisitely notably, Lolita. Hugo Whittier is an idle, antisocial gastronome, holed up in his family's ancestral mansion, smoking himself to death (mo ...more
Kirstie
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Ugh..I wrote a decently long review and Goodreads didn't save it. Suffice it to say that I thought the writing of this novel was better than average but it lost me at the ending. Also, I'm the type of person who tends to have to like the protagonist in fiction novels and I found the charisma of this man to be too manipulative and even pathetic.

Some great things about the main character is that he's a misanthrope and has a dark sort of wit about him. He tends to be brutally honest about relations
...more
Ann
Mar 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
A protagonist as neurotic as Niles and as sex-obsessed as Jack of Sideways, and a gourmet cook, to boot. What's not to like? Seriously, all the characters are well-developed and individual (with the possible exception of Schlomo) and the story is very compelling. I enjoyed this a lot, and found much to relate to. I'll be looking for Kate Christensen's other books.
Daniel Gillespie
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Cantankerous and funny. Every time Kate Christiansen puts a book out, I read it very quickly. My favorite goto for light fare.
Stefani
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was hilarious. Steeped in gallows humor, Hugo Whittier sneers his way through life, a hedonistic curmudgeon who charmingly attempts to seduce nearly every woman who crosses his path, all while drinking and smoking himself into oblivion. He truly is the definition of someone who DGAF, and his complete unwillingness to censor himself, his biting wit, or his unyielding misanthropy, makes him a remarkable and memorable character.

Leaving my corpse for others to dispose of, struck me then an
...more
Mike
Aug 11, 2018 added it
Shelves: rejects
50 page rule. WNF
Merlou
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved the rich prose, the high-level vocabulary and beautiful descriptions and literary references, but I expected Hugo to be more wry and sarcastically funny. Instead I found him to be a bitter, angry person with few redeeming qualities. I did not feel a connection to either Hugo or any of the other characters. There seemed a big disconnect to me between the quality of the prose and the quality of plot and character development. I really expected to like ...more
Kasia
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: some-of-my-faves
How can one even begin to describe the symphony of words and ideas that this brilliant author has woven into a magnificent tale of life, love and the true meaning of having control over any of it? It's books such as this one that move me, they make my insides tremble and hands shake in anticipation of what is going to happen next. Even before I got to the end it struck me that this was the best book I have ever read, my favorite novel; spicy, cynical, opulent, and extremely witty. I guess I can ...more
Jennifer
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found Kate Christensen through a link to her blog from some long forgotten web-surfing session, and I've been hooked ever since. The way the woman talks about food - I think about and mull it over long after I've read it, which in this day and age of constant sensory overload, is something. This book takes the best of her food writing and combines it with some annoying, contradictory, aggravating people and of course makes me fall in love with all of them. Very recommended.

*But Dennis is down
...more
Neil
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The character of Hugo Whittier has to be one of the great fictional creations, a real nasty piece of work but still strangely likeable. He's a forty-year-old failed poet and essayist whose life gave him enough ill turns--a lousy childhood, a cheating wife--that he's closed himself up in the family estate and decided to smoke himself to death. He loves Montaigne, M.F.K. Fisher, cooking, eating, and sex, but not enough to stay around.

When his older brother, a solid, duty-bound type thrown into a t
...more
Jennie
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-books
Tara recommended this to me, being a fellow epicure and snark-dispenser, and I am glad she did.

I know Hugo is supposed to be a pretentious, curmudgeonly anti-hero, but he's a hero to me: all he wants is great food, great reading, organization, sex, and solitude, with a bit of shit-disturbing thrown in for good measure. (He's an angry Frasier Crane.) Then various interlopers intrude on his (apparent) final days, meddling and muddling up his business. LET HIM EAT HIS BROCCOLI RABE IN PEACE, PEOPLE
...more
Sarah
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: some-favorites
As with most 5-star books, it's hard to articulate why I loved this so, so much (just realized my 5-star reviews are the most moronic). There is something about Hugo that is so starkly, unhypocritically human that I felt so much pathos for him as protagonist and not anti-hero. Christensen conveyed his voice almost perfectly. There were a couple moments where I thought his better angels were winning in an unrealistic fashion, but then I realized that human nature also means becoming invested in o ...more
Ellen
May 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ellen by: NPR
I freely admit that the protagonist of this book may not charm everyone the way he did me. On the surface of it, Hugo Whittier is a difficult character to love. An irascible, misanthropic hermit with alcoholic tendencies and a smoking habit that is killing him, Hugo finds his happy solitude at the decaying family mansion on the Hudson River disrupted when his much-loathed older brother and his estranged wife and daughter return to live with him.

Family drama, black-belt level passive aggression,
...more
Cher
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
The other readers on Visual Bookshelf gave this very mixed reviews probably because the several of the characters are not terribly symphathetic. However, Hugo, the main character, rung true to me. He prefers his own company to that of others, choosing a good book, a fine meal, an aged whiskey to the mindless social exchanges required of everyday interaction. Sure, he takes his misanthrophy and isolation to an extreme, but, hey, we all have our issues... This book is loaded with dark humor and so ...more
Joel
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
ok. The protagonist is a real ass. Just a bad human. And so are the other people around him, something that is explored in elegant detail. Its painful, right up to the end. And then it starts to come together. They become human; they evolve. In the story there is redemption, and insight that leads to reader in the direction of (some) compassion and understanding. For all of that, just a really good read.
kasia
Oct 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Review

Not nearly as good as The Great Man. Occasional sparks, yes, but ultimately more tiresome than anything else.
Christina
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Perfect. Smart and snarky and pungent. Hugo is a snarly old delight.
Jackie
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Good writing, but I had trouble liking a single character in this story. After dragging myself through three-fourths of the book, I started to like it...just a little. Maybe not enough.
Margaret
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some parts strained my credulity and sometimes the writer got very writer-y, but overall it was pretty good. Main character is a huge asshole with dying of a terminal disease after pushing everyone out of his life and everyone including his estranged wife come crashing back into his life. Parts are funny, and the plot is pretty good, though some scenes in today’s “me too” moment feel very uncomfortable.
Kathy
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 1/2. The writing is very good, the level refreshingly complex. But Hugo is so unlikeable and I guess that put me off. He is just not somebody I want to read about. The ending is darkly comic, and maybe the best thing about him. He realizes that the webs he has woven (getting his dirty finger in everyone's pie as the author says) have ensared him and actually he is more interested than he lets on. If there is a sequel I won't read it...
Toni
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting narrator who really wants to be a bad guy but can’t quite pull it off. I thought the book was way too long. I know that’s a theme with me, but the author needs a firm editor. Not every scene written should make the final cut. Also just too many cartoon characters to take the book seriously
Raven
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
No início é meio lento e chato e dá vontade de parar de ler toda hora. Muita descrição de situações aleatórias e nada realmente acontecendo. Mas depois que você chega ao meio da história, muita coisa acontece ao mesmo tempo e você não consegue parar de ler. No fim das contas, valeu a pena insistir na história.
Pamela Gottfried
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This one had been on my to-read list for quite a while. It’s well-written: the author is smart and talented. But I hated the book—the story, the unsympathetic characters—and would have abandoned it entirely except I retained a vague curiosity about why I’d wanted to read it in the first place, so I thought it only fair to complete it. The end was somewhat redemptive.
Lauren
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
It is very well written but the characters and storyline were just too uncomfortable for it to be an enjoyable book. The author's command of language and unique phrasing was intriguing so I am not sorry I read it but would not necessarily recommend it.
Jessica
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
More like the lamentable epicurean. Strangely enough, the recipes were dull compared to the dazzling observations of all manner of human failings, great revenge sex scenes and an original setting. This book almost made me miss smoking cigarettes. Well done.
Lauren orso
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2018
Forever impressed and enamored with kate Christensen
Emily
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
A dark comedy whose main character and his nastiness was much more sad than comedic.
Vicki Holmsten
Jul 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: women-s-fiction
Abandoned. Gave it 50 pages--I did not like the main character. In fact, I thought he was awful. Couldn't keep going. I was hoping for a new Ignatius J. Reilly from O'Toole's classic Confederacy of Dunces. No..at least not for me.

Because one review says Christensen "hits the sweet spot between a beach read and literary fiction," I will give her another shot with a different book.
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KATE CHRISTENSEN is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Astral. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award. She has published reviews and essays in numerous publications, most recently the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, O, Elle, and Gilt Taste. She writes an occasional drinks column for The Wall Street Journal called "With a Twist." She lives in Portland, Maine.
“…you’re doing the same thing I am, only more slowly, and less honestly. You drive a car; you use plastic products; you do whatever the hell you do knowing full well that it’s contributing to the end of everyone, and a lot of other animals besides. So don’t get all more-life-affirming-than-thou with me, missy, you’re on your way out too. In a way, you could see me as he canary down a mine shaft, or maybe synecdoche, the small part representing the whole.” 0 likes
“She was fierce and opaque, and not breakable.” 0 likes
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