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Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  742 ratings  ·  167 reviews
A village in Tuscany is the setting for this joyous debut—a novel that defies all our expectations as it puts a fresh, clever, captivating spin on the age-old tale of forbidden love. Rich in literary delights, filled with spectacular wordplay, and rife with the bawdy humor of Shakespeare’s comedies, Tomato Rhapsody is the almost-true tale of how the tomato came to Italy—at ...more
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Delacorte Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  742 ratings  ·  167 reviews

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Start your review of Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone (18+)
Wow. Just – wow. I really wasn’t sure when I started … but wow – e cosi bello!

I’ll never look at tomato sauce the same way again.

It was an extraordinary book. It’s a fable about how the tomato came to Europe, and how it overcame the strange, popular prejudice that it was extremely and immediately poisonous, to become inseparable from Italian cuisine. It’s also about a wicked stepfather, the oppression of Jews in early Renaissance Europe, the curing of olives, Christopher Columbus, Catholic miss
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a most unusual novel. Set in 15th century Tuscany, it's a tale of love, lust, food and life. It features broad and bawdy comedy, poignant drama, rhyming dialogue (said to be in imitation of the peasant dialect of the place and time), random Italian words and phrases, commedia dell'arte elements, authorial asides, sensual descriptions of the joys of eating a tomato and creative explanations for the origin of foods such as tomato sauce and pizza.

I've noted that the book polarises opinion.
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all my novel-reading friends
Recommended to Judy by: Janice
Adam Schell has cooked up a gourmet treat to delight all the readers' senses. His recipe includes bushels of charm, wit and cleverness mixed with a delicious plot and saucy personalities. Take above ingredients and wrap them in Tuscan history, sprinkle with a dash of suspense, season with heartbreak, Christopher Columbus (really!) and failure, then steam all the above in sweet romance for 338 pages and glory in a delectable gourmet treat.

Davido and his grandfather are sixteenth century, despised
I kept hoping it would get better. For a short time it seemed as though it would. Then we got to the donkey dicks. This book came highly recommended to me. It presents a fantastic example of how two people with generally similar tastes can diverge drastically.

I found myself struggling with the writing from the very beginning. It was verbose and reminiscent of a student who has not yet learned which adjectives are descriptive and which merely distract. The plot felt disjointed. The author, for no
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I don't know what category to place this book. It doesn't seem to fit any mold, unless it's tomato aspic. It made me think of The Princess Bride and even Shakespear's comedies (not that I've read a lot of Shakespear).

This fable is a fun romp through Tuscany when the tomato (or love apple) was introduced to Italy. The story of the star crossed lovers is told in a lyrical poetic style and vividly brings all the characters to life while praising the virtues of the tomato. You may even find a recipe
Jul 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historic-fiction
This is a terrible book. The only reason I finished reading it was because I had nothing else with me to read on a long bus ride.

The author is an obvious snob who tries to show off how awesome he is through his writing, instead of actually writing a good story. He goes into needless side diatribes about the history of food, the amazingness of this recipe, and various theories on story-telling, and oh look! His story is obeying those rules perfectly! Not to mention the unnecessary and random use
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: italy
Well, I'm a sucker for Italy, historical fiction, and cooking, and the "forbidden fruit" angle is cute, but the fact that the characters are supposed to be speaking in rhyme and the lines don't scan is so maddening that it distracts and detracts from the story.
Vince Robertson
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I fear for Adam Schell: it isn't going to be easy for him to write another book as good as this one. This one is very, very good - marvelous, in fact.

It takes a little effort to enter the world of this novel, accustom oneself to the idiom in which it is written, and enter the flow of the narrative. Some of the descriptions repeat in a Homeric way which is both enthralling and sometimes frustrating. My usual diet is Lee Child, Robert B. Parker and John Connolly, more action and dialogue, but this
David Schmelkes
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous! Wonderful! Amid the slew of dreary American fiction, obsessed with dysfunctional families, addiction and vampires (YUCK!), I cannot tell you how delighted I was by this utterly original and refreshing novel. I have long loved works of historical fiction, but, truth be told, I often find them a bit dry, but not this one. Tomato Rhapsody had the literary chops and substance that I hope for in good literature, but oh my, an exuberant humor leaped from the page. Yes, it took me a few chapt ...more
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 50-in-2009, food-lit
I usually read more modern interpretations of Italian life and food (Frances Mayes, John Berendt), so Tomato Rhapsody did require a mental step back in time. Once I jumped back into this world before pasta sauce, it was easy to fall in love with the Tuscan village and it's interesting cast of characters. I was completely pulled into their daily life of market days and traditions like the testosterone and wine-fueled donkey race. The characters are easy to love or hate, and Schell's descriptive w ...more
Suanne Laqueur
I love love LOVE this book. That is all.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars! This was a fun book that captures your heart and stomach!!
Ekaterina Petkova
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting adventure in Italy, delicious cooking and history. The book was well written and easy to read although far from the romance and tenderness. Good sense of humor and very authentic characters.
Kiera Healy
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
So sometimes when I'm commuting, I have to hold my kindle close to my chest to make sure no one can glance over my shoulder and see what I'm reading. I had to with Tomato Rhapsody. About halfway through this frivolous light read, the most objectionable sentence in modern literature rears its head.

"One could not simply masturbate a donkey."

Be warned: this novel contains a LOT of donkey penises. Like, personally, one donkey penis is too many. But donkey cocks are responsible for a couple of major
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading a delightful new book: "Tomato Rhapsody" by Adam Schell. It is quite unique...part fable, part history, part Shakespearean opera, part comedy, part romance. It is a work of fiction and is set in Tuscany in the 16th century. The plot is built on the historical information regarding the introduction of the tomato to Italy by the Spanish who brought it from the New World. In this particular case, the Spanish was a Spanish Jew who survived the Inquisition in Spain by travelin ...more
Adam Schell's comic novel, "Tomato Rhapsody," is an original paean to the Shakespearean comedy - the entire novel sings with the same gusto as Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing." The sun-kissed hill-sides of Tuscany is the perfect setting for tales of comic, romantic silliness.

Schell's novel revolves around the introduction of the tomato to Europe, but involves much more than that. Starting with a hilarious opening scene involving a braying donkey and its tremendous "e
Bernadine Wilsenach
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I adore this story for many reasons but three I will share:

1. I avoid romances, do not enjoy 'em, so I was glad to learn the difference between a love story and a romance. In a love story, the lovers are kept from one another by their pride or misunderstandings and later realise their love and so it is predisposed to comedy. In a romance, the lovers recognise their love immediately but are separated by religion or society and so it is predisposed to tragedy.

2. I am an avid collector of anecdote
Bob H
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A rousing and unforgettable fable of how the tomato came to 16th Century Italy, to a Tuscan village in which it complicated the lives of the villagers, Hebrew and Christian, noble and peasant alike. It's bawdy, it's a story of star-crossed lovers, a story that stops here and there for recipes and cultural vignettes -- as if Chaucer and Shakespeare and Julia Child had stopped off in Tuscany to jointly write a parable.

And it is a parable, of change coming to a place and time, heralded by the arriv
Heather Miller
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely incredible! I would put it in my top ten books of all time. It was that good. It was a beautiful mix of romance, history, fiction, religion, poetry, and humor. I loved how all of the villagers spoke in verse. It was very Shakespearean. I found myself engrossed in the story and wanting to eat Italian food, make love in a vat of tomatoes (I probably shouldn't admit that), and bite into a ripe tomato. I hope Schell keeps writing because I've already recommended this book to ...more
Jun 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book, but I could only force myself to read through the first 11 chapters. Perhaps I don't like books that list all the characters in the beginning like a play. Quite possibly I prefer everyday language. Either way, the book bored me and it felt like a chore to read it, so I stopped. If you like old Italian plays, maybe you'll love it. Not for me, though.
Marianne Stehr
Sep 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
I know that I am alone in this, but I could not get into this book at all. I read the description, it sounded interesting, the reviews were great, but when it came time to read it, I felt like I had no understanding of what was going on and I wasn't that interesting in reading slow enough to find out.
Nidhi Jakhar
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved the book for all the images of delicious tomatoes, olives, red wine, sauces, figs it evoked. I could feel my mouth fill with juices ;) Always a pleasure to read about old Italy n quaint Tuscany in this one..the rhyming too did leave me inspired :)
Paul Burger
a fun quick read - interesting, wimsical, a page turner
Sherry H
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it

This definitely felt like a fable in its telling - but it's a BAWDY fable.

The story revolves around the introduction of the tomato, by Italian Jews, to Italy - or more specifically, to a group of eccentric Catholic townspeople. The townspeople are wary of their Ebreo neighbors, and warier still of the love apples they offer.

It's a story of forbidden fruit and forbidden love, secrets and schemes, a wicked stepfather and a delightful Good Padre, disguises and truths laid bare. Best of all, i
Gloria ~ mzglorybe
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This is a fable, as the description indicates. That has to be kept in mind, as it is not like anything I've ever read before and I read constantly. One doesn't know what to believe could really be true. The author received his degree in Creative Writing in college, and creative it is. It is the story of how the tomato came to "be" in Italy in the 15th century.

This was our book club selection of the month or I personally would never have picked it up, and admittedly struggled with the writing st
Geoff Wooldridge
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a strangely written tale of medieval Tuscany and the 'almost true' version of the introduction of the humble but ubiquitous tomato into Italian culture.

In fact, food plays a prominent role in this bawdy tale of love, lust and forbidden fruit. Olives, cheese, pizzas, truffles and other gastronomic delights (in addition to tomatoes) feature throughout the story and underpin most of the activities of the village characters.

The writing is frequently bawdy, not in a crude way, but more in the
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like all good Italian operas, there is love, loss, sadness and laughter. I will never eat tomato sauce or a pizza again without thinking of the characters in this story. It is a love story, foremost, and the history (in the loosest of terms) of tomatoes in Italy. There is religion involved, as any good Italian folktale has - both Jewish & Catholic. And this is a story written to tell over and over again. If someone, after too much red wine, started to tell me this story - I would sit and listen ...more
Maryann Ns
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The blurb at the top of this page says it well - no hyperbole for once.

I loved this book and have been telling others about it. It helps that I have been to Tuscany several times. The spirit of the villagers rings true. This is funny and the word play and language are fantastic as is the framing device of the book on how to write plays. While enjoying a fun read you can learn some things about this time period in Tuscany.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an enchanting fable of how the tomato came to Italy, told with wit, humor, and Shakespeare-like rhymes. I was hooked immediately and drawn in to the 16th century Tuscan village. The peppering of Italian throughout, had me feeling like I could speak the language by the end! There is a love story at the center, but love extends universally through family, friends and religion. I'll definitely read it again!
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The writing was beautiful and poetic. I really enjoyed the way the story centered around ingredients and the romanticism inherent in farming and preparing food. I didn't, however, really enjoy the story itself. It was a bit jarring to be tossed between exquisite prose and base story content. I wanted to jump over or breeze through the story-telling but sit, slowly read, and savor the prose. So, a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion, but the poetry of the prose is why I am giving it 4 stars.
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Around the World: Italy: Judy Recommends Tomato Rhapsody 1 14 Jan 23, 2012 06:33AM  

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The offspring of a fashion model mother and a rabbi father (a long story), ADAM SCHELL grew up more inclined toward football pads than the kind of pads used for writing. Stories, however, from Moses and King David to those of Judy Blume and S.E. Hinton, played nearly as vibrant a part of Adam's youth as did sport. Love of the game aside, the on-field success (allow me to drop the charade and switc ...more

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