3 reviews

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

Published: 2013-07-30
Hardcover : 368 pages
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17 clubs reading this now
3 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members

NPR • Entertainment Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone ...
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NPR • Entertainment Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .
By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale–like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.
What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.
Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

Praise for The Telling Room
“Captivating . . . Paterniti’s writing sings, whether he’s talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow.”—NPR
“A gorgeous and impassioned monument to the art and mystery of storytelling, The Telling Room is rich, funny, humane, devastating, and beautiful. It made me want to applaud, it made me want to cry, it made me want to move to Spain. Michael Paterniti is a genius.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
“Unforgettable . . . a must-read for all who think of Spain as magical, who consider cheese as the ultimate gift of love, who love stories of betrayal, despair, revenge and redemption.”—The Wall Street Journal
The Telling Room embodies the spirit of slow food and life.”—Michael Pollan
“Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters—and, yes, cheese—in memory.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: The premise sounds far-fetched, even a little silly: While proofreading a deli catalog in Michigan, Michael Paterniti is bewitched by a description of cave-aged Spanish cheese; years later, disillusioned with modern life and his own â??computer-soft hands,â?? he travels to its Spanish back-country source, where he becomes obsessed with its larger-than-life maker and his story of soul-stealing cheese-related betrayal. But donâ??t get too cynical (or annoyed by the sprawling footnotes) too fast, or youâ??ll miss the earth-stained magic of this story. Yes, Paterniti can be a hyperbolic virtuoso, â??given to tilting the most quotidian events into a Viking epicâ??--or a Castillian tragedy. He even opens with this quote from Pascal: â??Imagination magnifies small objects with fantastic exaggeration until they fill our soul.â?? But these â??small objects,â?? en masse, do become soul-filling until Paternitiâ??s life-altering epiphany in a moonlit field of sunflowers seems like an essential human experience. This transportive culinary memoir will launch a thousand gastronomical pilgrimages. --Mari Malcolm


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Book Club Recommendations

It's all very Spanish!
by mlpdrama (see profile) 06/17/14
We had Sangria, sheep feta with marinated roasted tomatoes on flatbread, sa few sheep and goat's cheeses from Spain; and finished with Spanish chocolates.
Even though I didn't like it, I gave the meeting a Spanish flair
by l0ve2READ (see profile) 05/12/14
Being the host for a book club meeting discussing a book I did not read was slightly difficult. I used Spain as a starting point and at least everyone liked what I served. We started with Spanish Cava, a sparkling wine, and a Spanish cheese plate. As a main course I served twice baked Spanish potatoes with chorizo, Manchego cheese , and peppers, a layered salad and for dessert, a cheesecake with a red Spanish wine-infused burgundy cherry sauce..
Wine and Cheese
by Maruta (see profile) 03/27/14

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Diana B. (see profile) 07/22/18

  "The Telling Room"by amanda w. (see profile) 02/25/17

Fun read, great use of words and descriptions. Good reflection of cultural differences and perceptions. Made me want to explore Spain.

  "The Telling Room"by Mary L P. (see profile) 06/17/14

This is book, appreciated and sold best to Foodies, and as a travel book perhaps for those going to the LaMancha, planes area of Spain. It is more than this, but without a desire to know more about the... (read more)

  "Let me tell you about The Telling Room - in my opinion"by Susan R. (see profile) 05/12/14

It was touted by my fellow book club members as a fabulous, we-just-loved-it! book. I could not get into it, and I really tried. I don't know what I expected after hearing all the kudos, but it just didn't... (read more)

by Colleen B. (see profile) 05/08/14

  "The Telling Room "by Marti S. M. (see profile) 03/27/14

Interesting non-fiction account of the joys and challenges of living in a small Spanish village and spending years in perfecting a cheese. The book is full of Spanish history and gives a good insight... (read more)

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