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

79%

8 Critic Reviews

Paterniti’s thoughtfully complicated narrative is a brilliant tale, not only of failure, enmity and the joy of contradictions and conflicting interpretations but, also a thoroughly engaging meditation on storytelling...
-Toronto Star

Synopsis

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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



From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Michael Paterniti

See more books from this Author
MICHAEL PATERNITI's writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Harper's, Outside, Esquire, and GQ, where he works as a correspondent. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, Sara Corbett, and their three children. On twitter at https://twitter.com/MikePaterniti.
























Author Residence: Portland, ME
























Author Hometown: Darien, CT
 
Published July 30, 2013 by The Dial Press. 370 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Cooking, Romance, Literature & Fiction, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Telling Room
All: 8 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by David Kamp on Aug 02 2013

...250 pages into the book — “The Telling Room” snaps to, Paterniti nicely bringing it in for a clean, lean finish. Maybe it’s the uptight American in me, but I wish the rest of “The Telling Room” had been told so efficiently.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Jul 22 2013

...this book highlights Mr. Paterniti’s excessive love of digression, which undermines faith that the main story is strong enough to captivate readers.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on May 20 2013

...Paterniti’s zestful storytelling carries us along on a delightful journey through a village rich with the traditions of food and family.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by STEVEN JENKINS on Aug 02 2013

"The Telling Room" is 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.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Rosecrans Baldwin on Jul 28 2013

...food is not just about nourishment or flavor, but how we live; about the memories we attach to a taste, even memories that turn out to be lies. It is a wonderful book that can take so simple a thing and in it find much that is profound.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from NPR

Kirkus

Excellent
on Apr 27 2013

Enriched by Paterniti’s singular art of storytelling, this is a deeply satisfying voyage across a remarkable landscape into the mysteries and joys of the human heart.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel on Jul 28 2013

In the end, the heart of “The Telling Room” is the act of telling...but telling that same story constricts Paterniti, who shies away from questioning a narrative that he loves but suspects is flawed.

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Christine Sismondo on Aug 02 2013

Paterniti’s thoughtfully complicated narrative is a brilliant tale, not only of failure, enmity and the joy of contradictions and conflicting interpretations but, also a thoroughly engaging meditation on storytelling...

Read Full Review of The Telling Room: A Tale of L... | See more reviews from Toronto Star

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Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

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Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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