Published: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Huckleberry House
In his second novel, author Eric Peterson dishes up a riotous spectacle of self-absorbed chefs, backstabbing politicians, and devious publishing magnates, set against a backdrop of haute cuisine, presidential politics, and an endless supply of top-shelf liquor and wine.
Fresh from a public humiliation and in search of his true calling, former college football star Jack Marshall enlists as bartender and steward aboard Horace Button’s vintage private railroad car, the Pioneer Mother, which is transporting the legendary food writer and social critic across the country in opulent style.
Decked out in a white jacket, mixing perfect cocktails, Jack is immersed in a style of living — and dining — he’d assumed was extinct. While striving to appease the eccentric, finicky Horace, and Wanda, the Pioneer Mother’s enigmatic chef, Jack falls under the spell of Giselle Lebeau, a gorgeous celebrity chef whose designs on him test his self-control amd his loyalty.
But when tragedy rocks Horace’s insulated white-linen world, Jack must take charge of a simmering stew of quirky yet powerful personalities — all while staying in Wanda’s good graces and keeping an eye on their newest passenger.
A story of service, serendipity, and second chances, The Dining Car is.more than a mouthwatering read — it’s a marvelous, exuberant work of fiction.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Food Network is one of my favorite channels on television. Food competitions and food history shows are very entertaining for me. So, in the last couple of months, I’ve been reading more food related books, whether they are recipe books, restaurant recommendation guides, or fictional books about bartenders aboard trains, pouring drinks for an esteemed food writer, as it the case in The Dining Car.
The great thing about this book was the way the author talked about the liquor and the food. He was very descriptive, but not in a way that made it feel like I was reading a catalog. It was easy to see the bar in the opening scenes at Biscuit Shooters/Mount Hollow and the spreads that Jack, the main character and bartender, witnessed aboard Horace’s train, the Pioneer Mother. Wanda, the chef on the train and creator of all the delicious food Horace consumed, was an amazing source of knowledge that Jack did not possess upon taking up this job. She knew everything from the proper place setting to all of Horace’s personal idiosyncrasies and handled them with more grace than I can imagine in such small quarters.
These scenes were the best part, but the connecting passages were somewhat duller and made the book drag rather more than I would have liked. It made reading it an unenjoyable challenge. Some of the characters alleviated this somewhat, particularly Wanda. My first impression of her was a no-nonsense woman who is used to an unorthodox work environment and the insanity that goes along with it. Horace, while an eccentric grandfather type, came across as annoying in his magazine articles. Peppered throughout the book, they were filled with excessively long and complicated words, as though he (or the author of this book) used a thesaurus while writing them. Jack, the main character, was alright, but I never really felt anything for him beyond seeing him as a vehicle to meet all these other people and witness all these other events.
On the plus side, I think that readers will see an elegant side of dining and, at times, humorous moments, such as when Horace punches a Senator or some of his other comments and drunken escapades. On the negative, you’ll have to wade through some rather dry passages, which I’d like to chewing on a tough steak that Wanda would never have let get to her table in the first place, all while Jack let’s your wine glass sit empty.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.