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The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  5,147 ratings  ·  889 reviews
In the fall of 1991, while working at a gourmet deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Michael Paterniti encountered a piece of cheese. Not just any cheese. This was Paramo de Guzman, a rare Spanish queso reputed to be the finest, and most expensive, in the world. The cheese carried its own legend: Made from an ancient family recipe in the medieval Castilian village of Guzman (pop. ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  5,147 ratings  ·  889 reviews

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Petra - trying to lose weight is major deprivation
The author was a writer of articles - and therein lies the clue to the really unfocused writing of the book. At times the book seem to be a series of stories, connected ostensibly by the central 'mystery' but what reads like a lot of waffle.

It isn't a bad book, but the premise, discovering the best cheese in the entire world, how it got that way and why it no longer is wasn't anything like as interesting as the blurb made out. Essentially, it was a new business to discover and then make commerc
Daniel Farabaugh
Dec 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book suffers from one basic problem. The author turned away from writing a brief and interesting story about the making of an unusual cheese and replaced it with a story about the author. The narcissistic ramblings of the author are distracting and not particularly interesting. I would have enjoyed a brief book about the cheese, and finding out what happened with the cheese was the only reason that I completed the book. Utterly disappointed.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
In its simplest, purest, most reduced form I think this would have been a great book. It has colorful characters, a great story, betrayal, revenge, etc. When it stays true to itself, it does reach greatness, so I am giving it three stars for that.

The reason it is not a great book is because it is so unfocused. The author including himself in the story didn't bother me, per se, as it did some other reviewers. What bothered me the most about this book is how many meanderings and tangents there are
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a miracle of a book. As beguiling and infinite as a slice of great cheese, The Telling Room is by turns funny, self-depricating, gorgeous, delicious, sad, crude, generous, and entirely transporting. I love the sense of life-or-death urgency and desperation and hopefulness that the narrator embodies as he hunts for his piece of longed-for cheese. I love how both writer and cheesemaker lavish love on every aspect of their work, each man willing to risk themselves completely in order to tou ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir-biography
Magazine writers tend to be experts at the quick sell. They are, by and large, very good at compacting ideas rich with interest into the few short pages allotted them by a space restriction. So it should come as no surprise to discover that the flyleaf of this book is so darned engaging. The author hears about a magnificent Spanish cheese, flies to Castile to investigate and becomes embroiled in a tale of "love, betrayal and revenge." Mystery, duplicity, high-drama and atmosphere. I could get on ...more
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A story teller falls in love with a story

Murder, revenge, bankruptcy, love of family. These are some plot elements in this true story all set against the unforgiving Castile landscape where old castles are falling to bits and villages are slowly draining of people and even more slowly recovering from years of Franco's oppression. Since Franco's death in the mid 70's the country is looking to the future and individuals are trying to rebuild better lives by making money any which way they can yet
This is not a book about cheese. It is a love story--a cheesy love story, perhaps. Cheese is mentioned, sure, but that story comes early and occupies perhaps 40 pages of the 360. Remember the film version of Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief? It was called “Adaptation”: “A love-lorn script writer grows increasingly desperate in his quest toۿ…with many self-referential events added.܊” The script writer had so much trouble making a movie of the story that he spent most of the time talking about ...more
Diane Kistner
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading THE TELLING ROOM, I had a very difficult time of it. The book is heavily peppered with footnotes that force you to read them; some are asides with extraneous detail, but some are so important that ignoring them diminishes the story's power.

I finally figured out what was going on with the footnotes, and why, when I found this note at the beginning of the chapter "The Betrayal":

"*I would soon find out that digression was a national pastime in Castile, that to get to the crux
Cammie Mcgovern
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read an early copy of this book right after finishing Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree, which was interesting because, while they're very different subject matter, the reading experience is similar. Both authors are award-winning magazine journalists with a mind-boggling facility for interviewing subjects and getting them to open up in such an articulate, honest way you have the impulse to invite them to your own home for an interview so you might understand your own life better. Both books ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning, wild ride. Like the stories told by the larger-than-life cheesemaker Ambrosio, who is at the center of the book, it is a story filled with asides, short-cuts, side roads, embellishments, and huge, huge heart. It is the deepest kind of writing about a place; Paterniti embedded himself in a small village in Spain over a period of ten years to tell it. No wonder that long process of trying to tell the story--and coming up against the very limits of this story and of stories in g ...more
Donna P
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I was really looking forward to reading "The Telling Room," particularly because it is being compared to "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" - one of my favorite reads of all time. But in the end, "The Telling Room" was a huge disappointment to me.

The book certainly starts out well enough. In the fall of 1991, while working at a deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the author - Michael Paterniti - saw a rare piece of cheese. It was Paramo de Guzman, a Spanish cheese reputed to be the finest, and m
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
The last book I read was all about people obsessed with a fictional painting. This book is all about people obsessed with actual cheese. I really wanted to like this book based on the title and description, but man I did not. I am not someone who reads multiple books at the same time, but about 90 pages before the end of this book I stopped and read something else and had to force myself to go back and finish it off. The only thing that would have redeemed this book was if it came with a piece o ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I picked this one up because it was food-related- maybe some cool information about cheese? I didn't end up getting very far, though- I may not be the target audience for this one, I'm not hip enough.

The author very much inserts himself into the book. The first part, talking about his naive enthusiasm and then disillusionment as a graduate student, was kind of funny to me, since I've sort of been there. Even then, however, I was worried that I wasn't quite cool enough for the book. It possesses
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
The Author Falls in Love with Catalan and a Special Cheese

Ambrosio, a Catalan farmer, has a dream. He wants to recreate the family cheese. A big, bluff, creative character, he finally succeeds, bringing his father to tears. The cheese becomes famous. People around the world want to taste this fabulous cheese. Ambrosio expands his business beyond his capability to manage it, and the result is predictable.

I enjoyed Ambrosio's story and the feel of the life on a farm in Catalan. The story of chees
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I actually tried to find Michael Paterniti's email address so I could write him a fan letter, but had to settle for Twitter instead.

I loved this book.

It helps that I found it in a London bookstore, en route to Spain. Somehow I missed its release. I was looking for a book about Spain and not interested in the "I renovated a house in a village, got to know the locals and changed my life" genre. I was initially skeptical when I saw this one, but the blurbs (yes, blurbs still have impact) convinced
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I found this book waiting for me at the library because once again in some sleep-deprived (or, okay, I'll admit it: drunken) state I took someone's recommendation and sent in a request without really checking on what I was requesting, and then forgot I'd made the request in the first place.

I do this more often than I'd like to admit, honestly. I get a lot of emails saying, "Hey, your book is ready at the library!" and I have no idea what they are or why I thought I want to read them.

Anyway, I wa
Lucille Zimmerman
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My friend, author Dave Cullen (Columbine) told me about this book. He is a friend of the author and said he'd been waiting ten years to read.

What grabbed me was the title. I ordered the hardback cover and brought it on a work trip my husband was taking.

Before I finished reading Chapter One, I said to my husband who never reads, "We have to listen to this together." I immediately made him pull over at a restaurant in Silverthorne, CO so we could find WiFi to download the audio version.

We were bo
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I was completely captivated by Ambrosio Molinos, the main storyteller in “The Telling Room.” He is bigger than life, a down to earth philosopher with a singular mission of creating the world’s greatest cheese (Paramo de Guzman). That is his Achilles heel as he comes face to face with a business disaster, the cause of which he attributes to Julian, his boyhood friend. With Castilian determination, he vows to avenge the wrong doing.

Paterniti’s many visits to the small town of Guzman over a 10 year
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
May 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was one of those books that you either love or hate. I did not love it.

The description makes it sound like a combination travel narrative, mystery, family drama, and food essay wrapped in one beautiful package. I don't know what to call it. It starts out with overblown prose that indicates that one is reading a Writer with a capital W. Paterniti never misses a chance to use twice as many words as necessary to tell a story. He uses footnotes liberally to add details that he couldn't bear to
I can't rate this one as I picked it up and put it down more than a dozen times and found I just could not take this ride. There were parts of the tale I thought I could get into and then lost patience.

Library Loan
AmberBug com*
This book is filled with magic but isn’t fantasy. It captures time, culture and gives you the meaning of storytelling. Reading this will have you traveling through time, feeling that magic and wanting to hear more. True, this is a story about cheese but as the cover title says, “A tale of love, betrayal, revenge…” all of those descriptions are spot on. Michael Paterniti is very lucky to have met Ambrosio and has to be kismet. If the events of his life didn’t happen exactly the way they did, this ...more
Amar Pai
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
The gist of this story-- man works in deli, encounters rare & delicious cheese, sets off to Spain to find the man who used to make it and discover why he no longer does-- is interesting enough. There are vivid details about life in a small Spanish village, and if you care about the "Slow Food" movement then there's loads of discussion about that.

BUT, here's the thing-- the author, Michael Paterniti, is really in love with himself and the idea of Storytelling with a capital S. He goes off on a mi
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Such a complex book. At first the narrative seemed so straight-forward: find the man who made the cheese, and then lost it. However, as the pages passed, it was much more a book about life, loss and the interpretation of it all. I really came to love this book.
Jane Dugger
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

First, the narrator of the audiobook, LJ Ganser, was fantastic. He really brought the story to life. In fact I would be completely content to listen to him read the phone book.

Second, it didn't bother me at all that the author was all over the place with the stories inside stories. And every footnote was included in the audiobook.

The entire book fueled my love for Spain (I lived there for six months during college). The style of the story telling reminded me of the afternoons I would w
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 6/10/13
This is one of the lighter reads selected for my International Club of the Upstate Book Club. We all agreed that the title of this book was irresistible. Unfortunately, halfway through I started to skim the book. I think the way it is laid out, with long footnotes, does not serve the flow of the story very well. I wish Paterniti had decided instead to incorporate the asides into the text, interwoven chapters, etc.

I also really wish he had included his research sources. I flipped to the back more
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazing
Here's a very short quiz: upon finishing The Telling Room, did I:
a) bash myself over the head for not reading it sooner;
b) stare wistfully into the distance, processing what just happened; or
c) immediately open Amazon and order whatever other Michael Paterniti I could find?
Please find the answer key below.

The story starts with Paterniti working in a high-end deli and tasting was his boss described as the world's greatest cheese. The hyperbole and the taste stick with him, and years later he trie
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This rating is from a Fiction-lover’s prospective; I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. I read this for my book group. I would say, if you are a lover of history, especially Spanish history, this is the book for you. You will learn all about the sordid past of Spain in an enjoyable way(in other words, this isn’t a traditional history book) . If you want a book that provides “fun facts to know and forget”, you’ll enjoy this book. I learned far more about the history of Pringles potato chips than I e ...more
Kristine Williams
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kristine by: Received Review copy
For the first two-thirds of The Telling Room, I would have awarded it 3 stars--I was nearly as exasperated with the author as he was with himself! I found the footnotes fascinating, but their constant pull out of the narrative made for a bumpy ride. However, unlike some of the other reviewers, I found the ending both heart-breaking and extremely satisfying and the image it left of a modern Don Quixote surveying a lost world is indelibly etched in my mind. Ambrosio is all of us really--in an incr ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
There are some books that, when I finally read the last word, I'm not sure if I enjoyed the journey. That's the case here; I set the book down and thought to myself, "Huh? That's it?"

"The Telling Room" is verbose, complex, fascinating, frustrating.

If you're looking for a "foodie" book, this is probably not what you are hoping for; it's not firmly focused on the cheese. Rather, this is an exploration of how a cheese became a symbol of something that the author longed for, longs for.

It's a stor
Donna Olendorf
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
It took Michael Paterniti 10 years to write this book and the indecision of those false starts and wrong turns weighs this book down. It starts well --crisp prose and a lively voice--but then slowly loses its way. Most disappointing of all is the ending, which is more like a non-ending. Basically, the book just stops.

I started reading The Telling Room because the author came to Traverse City and signed a copy for my neighbor, who attended the NWS lecture and lent the book to me. Borrowed copy i
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Michael Paterniti won the 1998 National Magazine Award for his article "Driving Mr. Albert," which was first published in Harper's Magazine. A former executive editor of Outside, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Esquire, where he is writer-at-large. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and son. ...more

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“In the end, it wasn't so much that there was an alternative narrative--there always was--but it came down to belief: Which one did you want to believe. Which one suited you best? Or, perhaps more to the point: Which one told the story you were already telling yourself?” 23 likes
“After the cafes of Paris with their exquisite wines and creamy fromages, crepes and steak tartare-- screaming Adore me!-- Madrid was these store-bought hunks of unyielding cheese and brick-hard baguettes, consumed in leafless Buen Retiro Park.ll Madrid, dressed as it was, tasting as it did, prideful as hell, didn't care what you thought about it on your junior-year backpacking trip. That was your problem.” 5 likes
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