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The Oysters of Locmariaquer

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  112 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
On the northwest coast of France, just around the corner from the English Channel, is the little town of Locmariaquer (pronounced "loc-maria-care"). The inhabitants of this town have a special relationship to the world, for it is their efforts that maintain the supply of the famous Belon oysters, called les plates ("the flat ones"). A vivid account of the cultivation of Be ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1964)
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Aaron Kent
Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book is the OG of "history of a food" books (I think Mark Kurlansky even writes the preface). I learned a great deal from this book, and I really would love to proclaim my love for it, but it just doesn't seem to be the case. What gives? Eleanor Clark is a sparklingly beautiful woman of the mid twentieth century; whip smart, inquisitive and with an amazing lust for life. She's done more than her homework on the subject and even inhabited one of the locales lovingly described in TOOL. For al ...more
B. Rule
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haven-t-finished
Oh, how I wanted to like this book. It's a microhistory of a place, animal, and foodstuff that wears its literary pretensions on its sleeve, which all sounds wonderful. There are brief passages that are beautifully written and very evocative of the tiny area in Brittany that is the subject of the book. However, the bulk of the book is a mishmash of unfinished anecdotes, flip literary and historical allusions, arch half-jokes, and cruel excoriations of the Breton peasants Clark allegedly encounte ...more
Carol Harrison
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
The idea of the book sounded promising: a glimpse of the life of a small village in Brittany and the importance of oysters to that life. I made it almost through the whole book, but just couldn't handle another chapter's worth of digressions and ramblings. It isn't that I don't enjoy the occasional ramble, and I'm sure the author must have been a most interesting person to talk to, but these ramblings all too often seemed to say to me, "Look how much I know about obscure topics--I'm sure you mu ...more
Hailey Roussin-Guillemot
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love the whimsical style Clark writes in. That I was at times completely lost didn't diminish my enjoyment. I gobbled up the technical information along with the local stories, history, and descriptions. I found it quite poetic, and approached in this way I could let go of striving to follow every lead and let the author take me on her journey of discovery. Perhaps it helps that I am in the same geographic location as she was writing this. I will re-read this many times to catch the crumbs tha ...more
May 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Believe it or not, I've finally finished this book! I began it in November of 2006 and, partly because it's nonfiction, read it in fits and spurts between then and now. Clark's writing is astonishing (every time I picked it up again, I was amazed to hear this woman from the 1950s still speaking loud and clear in her own voice) and she weaves together the history of Breton with the life cycle of the delicious Belon oyster (les plates)
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book that finds the entire universe in an oyster shell. Suffused with a sense of the dignity of labor, the complexity of human relationships to each other and to a place, and the mysteries of the natural world, which science explains and explains and makes more mysterious than ever. Poetic and surprising. Highest possible recommendation.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Late in Eleanor Clark’s extraordinary book, she tells us the oyster needs the same landscape that a plein air painter does: a certain air, light, chemistry. “The explanation,” she writes, “might be quite simple, not esoteric at all—in some common equation of factors and atmospheres.” Only a writer like Clark could find such a commonality, the kind you wander back to long after you’ve finish the book.

Though if your mind likes to wander while you’re reading, better to hold off on The Oysters of Lo
David Scaiano (Kirkendall)
dumb as hell
Ronald Wise
The sometimes humorous account of the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) and its cultivation in the Gulf of Morbihan at Locmariaquer in the Bretagne region of France. A charming combination of fact and myth regarding the Bretons, sealife, and megalithic monuments found there. The tasty Ostrea edulis, once plentiful along the coasts of Europe, was an early example of human-generated distruction through over-exploitation, pollution, habitat destruction, and the commercially-motivated introductio ...more
Elizabeth Quinn
Sep 02, 2009 rated it liked it
An odd but charming little book which won the National Book Award in 1965. Clark's book is an elegy for the Belon oyster of Brittany, facing extinction along with traditional lifeway of the rural, impoverished Bretons who once nurtured the prized delicacy. Part travelogue and part treatise on the oyster, Clark's book in no way resembles similar works being penned today. There is little reportage -- no interviews with experts, no marshaling of facts and figures, no reader-friendly overviews. Read ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: french-theme, food
This book was written in the early 1960's about a small town in France that revolved around the oyster industry. Interesting look into post-war rural France. The most interesting parts to me were about the local people, their lives, and their livelihood, and I would have liked a more sustained following of the individuals mentioned. Just when I got interested in one of them, the book took an extended foray into the history or science of oysters or the characters in Breton history or mythology. A ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A little more information about the history, mystery, farming, harvesting, growing, range of, names of, etc. information about oysters than I was really expecting.
There are amusing and sometimes hilarious brief stories interwoven, along w myths, obvious lies, and folk tales...I just wish there had been MORE of THOSE and quite a bit LESS of the pedantic stuff.
But you know, even the pedantic stuff was quite readable, often amusing, frequently presented w tongue-firmly-in-cheek, such as this gem:
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book in preparation for a short vacation in Brittany and now I want to spend more time there, but in the past, because I have the sense that a lot has changed in the 50 years since Eleanor Clark lived among the Breton people. Her amazing research and often witty presentation of area's history, legends, magical saints, and community life almost convinced me that I have lived among the hard-working people of Locmariaquer. If you choose to read this, pay attention to the people she ment ...more
Jim Booth
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Anyone who reads Eleanor Clark's classic The Oysters of Locmariaquer will come away from the book convinced of two things: 1) cultivating oysters is a complex and difficult task that might well suck the life out of one foolish enough to try to do so; 2) if the people from any place are up to the task of cultivating oysters, it is the Bretons."

See the entire review at www.thenewsoutherngentleman.wordpress... - link available at my Goodreads author page. Thanks for stopping by!
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
A good book, particularly if you like oysters. I'm not a huge fan, but I have a greater appreciation for them now and the Breton coast has always held an appeal. There's a bit of romance, even among the muck and labor of oystering. Parts of it were a bit of a slog, but the vignettes about the Bretons were interesting and appealing.
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This random book was picked up off the shelf at SW Welch based solely on the strength of its author photo. But what a photo! The book turned out to be amazing, charming and very imaginative for a non-fiction book. I think I would have liked this woman.
If you are curious at all about oysters, their lives, and the people who cultivate them, surely this must be the book to fit the bill!
Suzanne Auckerman
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Elizabeth gave me this book. It was fascinating, but a diffcult read as many French terms were used. I know enough French to get through most books, but oystering terms were beyond me. So once looking a lot of terms. This book was published in 1998 and it will be interesting to see what is going on there today as the industry seems very fragile.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
My bird club book club read this book thinking that it was about nature and oysters. We were uninformed. It's more a travelogue of Brittany in the 1960s. Nevertheless, after I finally adjusted to the stream of consciousness style,I enjoyed many parts of the book. Clark was a terrific wordsmith. I especially enjoyed her comments about the Breton saints. The book won a National Book Award.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
I learned a bit about the biology of oysters, and the ways of oyster people in France. It is surprising how much work goes into raising oysters. I thought you just hauled them in! I can't wait to eat some, now.
Feb 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, very charming in places.
Quirky and incapable of being put into a strict category, I'd say.
I would have likes a little less science and a few more anecdotes.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Beautiful natural and cultural history of the oyster cultivation in France. Some sentences are unwieldy, but the content is well researched and put together.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Can't get interested, which is rare for me. Very heavy prose and not enough story. I read almost half and gave it up.
May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Apr 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Can't give this book a rating because I haven't been able to get into it yet. This might not be the book for me. I need a book to catch my interest in the first chapter.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A great feeling of place

You get such a great sense of Brittany here, and if its people. The book is as much about place and time as oysters, and it's very diverting.
Jul 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
Made me hungry for shellfish.
rated it liked it
Jul 17, 2012
Mary Batts
rated it really liked it
Apr 25, 2012
Elaine Mccarthy
rated it it was amazing
Jun 30, 2017
rated it it was ok
Apr 13, 2017
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Eleanor Clark (July 6, 1913–February 16, 1996) was born in Los Angeles and attended Vassar College in the 1930s. She was the author of the National Book Award winner The Oysters of Locmariaquer, Rome and a Villa, Eyes, Etc., and the novels The Bitter Box, Baldur's Gate, and Camping Out. She was married to Robert Penn Warren.
More about Eleanor Clark...
“You are eating the sea, that's it, only the sensation of a gulp of sea water has been wafted out of it by some sorcery, and you are on the verge of remembering you don't know what, mermaids or the sudden smell of
kelp on the ebb tide or a poem you read once, something connected
with the flavor of life itself...”
“Obviously, if you don’t love life, you can’t enjoy an oyster.” 1 likes
More quotes…