Book Review: The Telling Room

The Telling Room CoverBook: The Telling Room: A Tale Of Love, Betrayal, Revenge And The World’s Greatest Piece Of Cheese by Michael Paterniti

Expected Date Of Publication Is July 30, 2013 by Dial Press|Expected Number Of Pages: 350

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction- Memoir/Travel

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The Telling Room Is an e-ARC from

Goodreads Summary: 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.

The Telling Room is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year.  It is a book about cheese and stories and betrayal and history.

So…I felt like there was a lot of rambling.  There are a lot of stories, and there were times when I felt like Paterniti went off on these random, story-driven tangents that didn’t seem connected to this apparently awesomesauce cheese and the intriguing cheesemaker. And somehow, Paterniti managed to bring these seemingly unrelated stories back to the cheese.  There were times when I wished that he just got right to the point, but the strange thing is that I can’t imagine the story being told any other way.  And…The Telling Room really is more than a book about cheese.  Storytelling is also a really important part of the book, and there are several different stories of what was really going on with that famed cheese.

Seeing Paterniti’s obsession with this cheese, and how his own story got entangled with Ambrosio’s was interesting.  Some things really do make an impression on us, and that our own story can very much be changed by the stories we seek out and the stories that find us.

There is one thing I didn’t truly didn’t like about The Telling Room: the footnotes.  I appreciate a lot of the history incorporated throughout the book, but the lengthy (to me) footnotes at the end of each chapter got tiresome after the first couple chapters.  Had they all been at the end of the book, I, at the very least, would have skimmed them, if not outright read them.  After several pages of footnotes on my Nook, I got bored to the point of ignoring them completely.  

Final Thoughts:

So, I totally want to hunt down this cheese and try some, even though I know that’s not going to happen!  The book rambled on times, but it all connected back to Ambrosio’s cheese, so it was interesting to see how it all connected together.  While the footnotes made the book feel a little cluttered, I really liked this story about stories.  The Telling Room gets 4 stars.


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