The Second-Worst Restaurant in France: A Paul Stuart Novel (2)

The Second-Worst Restaurant in France: A Paul Stuart Novel (2)

by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Second-Worst Restaurant in France (Paul Stuart Series #2) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
cloggiedownunder 3 months ago
“To go anywhere, with anybody, was an act of faith. You trusted in the others’ judgement, navigation, and sense of what they were doing. What did he know about Chloe? Very little, he realised, other than that there had been a succession of husbands, that she had a mind filled with enthusiasms of one sort or another, and that she had a tendency to act on impulse.” The Second-Worst Restaurant in France is the second book in the Paul Stuart series by popular Scottish author, Alexander McCall Smith. Food writer Paul Stuart has another deadline coming. His book, The Philosophy of Food, is due in six months, but he’s finding it difficult to work on it at home because his freelance publisher (and girlfriend), Gloria has moved her two Siamese into his flat. To the rescue comes Remarkable Cousin Chloe, a distant cousin of his father’s, who has an empty flat he can use. That, however, leads to more problems, and Paul is grateful to accept Chloe’s invitation to share her (rented) house in the French countryside over the summer. He enjoys her company but sometimes wonders about her outrageous tales: “Had he inadvertently stepped into a play – with a fantasist as director?” St Vincent de la Colline seems like a charming French village: set within gently swaying fields of grain, it has an excellent boulangerie, some fine buildings and a restaurant. But this, Chloe and Paul are told, is the Second-Worst Restaurant in France. Yet their twin landladies recommend it. They are greeted by the personable chef and then duly served by a rather surly and very pregnant waitress; the food, unfortunately, seems to bear out the descriptor. While Paul does get some work done on his book, he is soon involved in the dramas of the village where “nothing ever happens” but a baby is born in the restaurant kitchen, the chef falls in love with Chloe, the restaurant needs saving, a psychopath threatens a kidnap and a caravan explodes. “How quickly, he thought, did one become part of the world of others, with all that that entailed – the need to help them, and, more importantly, the desire to do so.” McCall Smith entertains the reader with lots of quirky characters described in charming little vignettes. Chloe’s pronouncements, tangential observations and mangled quotes are a constant source of humour and, after entertaining some doubts about his cousin, Paul learns an amazing truth. Paul and Chloe muse philosophically on a vast range of topics: monarchies, the peasantry and Marie Antoinette; miracles, angels and saints; the ranks of dictators; the superiority of cultures; teacher-student relations; generosity and largesse. Meanwhile, McCall Smith’s French characters speculate, amongst other things, on what language God speaks (inarguably French) and the car he must drive (a Citroen, of course!). This is a delightful read and more of Paul Stuart will definitely be welcome.
Anonymous 27 days ago
As I do all his books.
Anonymous 29 days ago
I have read all of his novels and they are so entertaining. He writes with amazing warmth and the characters are interesting an smart.
Anonymous 30 days ago
not as cohesive a story as usual by AMcS
sjillis 30 days ago
Writing a book on the philosophy of food is not going well for Paul. His girlfriend has moved her cats into his apartment, and they are a distraction. His much-married cousin, Chloe, offers him a vacant apartment she owns, but there are distractions there of a different kind—students, loud music, and a particularly attractive student, who his girlfriend sees him with. Newly single, Paul goes to France with Chloe, where they soon become involved in small-town life. They give the local restaurant, the eponymous second worst restaurant in France, a try, and Paul’s digestive system bears witness to the reason for the name. An amusing slice of life, this novel does not feature much action, but rather sly, often wry, observations on life. Apparently it’s the second in a series, and while I can attest reading the first book isn’t necessary, I plan to belatedly read it nonetheless.
JW88 3 months ago
Paul Stuart is a Scottish cookbook writer, fresh off of success from writing a cookbook in Tuscany, is now given the task of writing "The Philosophy of Good in Six Easy Chapters." After a break in his relationship with his girlfriend and editor Gloria, he finds it especially challenging to get started on his book. When his cousin Chloe suggests he meet her a village in the French countryside where she has rented a home, Paul decides a change of scenery is just what he needs to write his book. Life with Chloe, who has 5 failed marriages under her belt, is anything but boring. When they are introduced to the "Second Worst restaurant in France" via Chloe's landlord, they quickly understand why this restaurant has been bestowed this honour - the food is not fresh and is overall unpleasing. Poor Paul spends days in bed recovering from a bad case of food poisoning after dining at the restaurant at which time Chloe begins helping Claude the owner of the establishment and his nephew Hugo. Following his recovery, Chloe encourages Paul to help Claude find a few recipes which are more palatable and food safe. What he learns from his time helping is that a solution to the restaurants problems is readily apparent. In amongst his French adventure Paul learns a little more about Chloe through her narrative about her life and marriages. She has truly has led a colourful life and now looks like she's setting her sights on Claude. Supported by a delightful cast of characters, the plot immerses the reader in the French countryside. Although I found the book to read a little slow in places, the charm of the book is the community spirit of life in this village. I enjoyed this book and rate it 3.5/5 stars (rounded to 4 stars). Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 3 months ago
All of Alexander McCall Smith's books are wonderful. This is no exception.