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Club Of Angels [Hardcover]

Lui Verrissimo , Margaret Costa
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 30 2002
A witty novel about sin and gluttony, by one of Brazil's most revered writers. Luis Fernando Verissimo's The Club of Angels is an irresistible, enticing book—almost as irresistible and enticing as the exquisite meals prepared within—about the sin of gluttony. Written by one of Brazil's leading authors and columnists, The Club of Angels was an immediate success there, and has been on the bestseller list since 1998. It tells the story of ten privileged men, who meet every month to dine fabulously and celebrate their friendship and singularity. When their leader, Ramos, dies of AIDS, the narrator Daniel meets his possible replacement—Lucido—in a wineshop. Lucido is mysteriously taciturn, but in the privacy of Daniel's kitchen, he recreates the men's favorite dishes, giving them a gastronomic experience like no other. The tale of bewilderment and death that follows creates an unforgettable literary experience. It is tinged with funny characters, witty dialogue, touching with mordant satire on all segments of Brazilian society. The Club of Angels has been translated into English by the renowned Margaret Jull Costa (translator of José Saramago, Paulo Coelho, Javier Marías, and Arturo Perez-Reverte).

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From Publishers Weekly

The first novel by this Brazilian literary and journalistic celebrity to be translated into English offers a rare and wonderfully barbaric story. The Beef Stew Club is a collection of middle-aged gourmands who meet each month to indulge in extravagant dinners. After the death of their leader, Ramos, from AIDS, a new member appears almost magically to take his place. The elusive Lucidio is a remarkable cook but after each of his meals, one member of the club dies. The club members' enthusiasm for their quiche, duck with orange sauce and paella might, indeed, make readers themselves want to indulge; as narrator Daniel puts it, "the possibility of dying really did have an effect on the taste buds... one ate in a state of exaltation, of near euphoria." The novel is an apparent whydunit although we think we know who did it, we are uncertain why until the end, when our certainty of the culprit becomes, as in all great mysteries, utterly derailed. On the way to his maniacal conclusion, Verissimo serves up a critique of male bonding (spoken through the gourmands' disapproving wives and girlfriends), along with a withering probe into the motivations of his eccentric characters, many of whom are variously frustrated and seek transcendence in the satisfaction of their palates. The book's pleasure is increased, as well, by the witty and deft illustrations by Verissimo himself (which recall Picasso's sparer moments) and the sure-footed, expert work of translator Costa. This swift and acidic portrait of a (literally) poisoned network of friendships has a bite that endures because of the great intelligence underlying it.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"As light and tasty as only the best souffles" Luiz Chagas, Istoe; "An ironic comment on a Brazil gone wrong" Carlos Graieb, Veja --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars all desire is the desire of death!! Feb. 24 2004
By madhu m
Format:Hardcover
starting with a macabre and devious story of a very secret club of epicures who cook & eat the deadly fugu fish in japan, verissimo's club of angels leads readers onto wicked & twisted terrains of gluttony & its implications. the book tells the tale of a group of friends who started out full of ambition in their youth and traces their path into the failure of the present.
verissimo's deft touch and light hand ensures a delecable read. although the plot cals for a heavy suspension of disbelief, thereward is well worth it.
a slight comic masterpiece.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky & unexpected Aug. 27 2002
By Anne
Format:Hardcover
A nice translation of a Brazilian author's work. A clever story of a group of men who gather monthly to dine with one another. The introduction of a marvelous chef restores the appetites of the men for one another's company and a zest for life--or is it death? A fascinating examination of what motivates people knowing that fate is staring at them in a plate of a favorite food.
While the ending is a little too pat, the book raises interesting questions and is a gem worthy of the short amount of time it takes to read.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Hunger is the only recurring desire...sight, sound, sex, and power all come to an end." Dec 16 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The first of Brazilian author Verissimo's novels to be translated into English, The Club of Angels is a fascinating, carefully detailed, and darkly humorous study of ten deaths, the deaths of ten gourmands following their favorite meals. The men have been friends for more than twenty years, meeting once a month for sumptuous feasts together. They represent all levels of society and have achieved differing degrees of professional success, enjoying and respecting each other because of their shared love of food and their long friendship.

When Ramos, their leader, dies of AIDS, a mysterious successor, Lucidio (whose name suggests "God's light") suddenly appears and begins to plan and prepare their feasts. One by one, month after month, the club members die, but no one suggests canceling the meals, each of which features the favorite main course of one of the members. In fact, Verissimo suggests that the victim's pleasure is dramatically increased when he knows that his death is the end result of the meal. Each victim, in fact, always asks for the one extra portion of the meal, even after it becomes obvious to the club members that the person taking the extra portion will die.

Verissimo explores the phenomenon of death philosophically--"We grow up with our murderer," he says, and "We never [know] when he [will] kill us." But, he believes, "knowing the hour and manner of our death [is] like being presented with a plot, with a denouement, with all the advantages that detective fiction has over life." Knowing when and how one will die is the ultimate privilege. An ironically named "Mr. Spector" features prominently in the ending, by which time only Daniel, the narrator/chronicler of the events, and Lucidio remain alive.

Playing with the reader's perceptions from the outset, Verissimo writes with tongue firmly in cheek, the ironies piling up as the deaths continue. His observations about life and death, about men and their friendships, and about our responsibilities, if any, to each other add depth to this unusual novel. The ending, which extends the concept of "orgiastic release" to its logical conclusion, will satisfy even the most jaded reader. Strange, thoughtful, and very clever, this novel is a fine introduction to a writer whose next novel, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, contains broader humor within a more complex, imaginative structure. n Mary Whipple
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky & unexpected Aug. 27 2002
By Anne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A nice translation of a Brazilian author's work. A clever story of a group of men who gather monthly to dine with one another. The introduction of a marvelous chef restores the appetites of the men for one another's company and a zest for life--or is it death? A fascinating examination of what motivates people knowing that fate is staring at them in a plate of a favorite food.
While the ending is a little too pat, the book raises interesting questions and is a gem worthy of the short amount of time it takes to read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars all desire is the desire of death!! Feb. 24 2004
By madhu m - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
starting with a macabre and devious story of a very secret club of epicures who cook & eat the deadly fugu fish in japan, verissimo's club of angels leads readers onto wicked & twisted terrains of gluttony & its implications. the book tells the tale of a group of friends who started out full of ambition in their youth and traces their path into the failure of the present.
verissimo's deft touch and light hand ensures a delecable read. although the plot cals for a heavy suspension of disbelief, thereward is well worth it.
a slight comic masterpiece.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beef Stew Club -- enjoy yourself! June 7 2011
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For 22 years, ten Brazilian men got together once a month for a gastronomic feast. Eight of them had grown up together and developed their culinary tastes around the beef stew with egg farofa and fried banana served in their favorite bar. Hence the name of their club. But the eldest and their intellectual leader died of AIDS, and even though he was replaced by another, the group had lost its pizzazz and was falling apart. Enter Lucídio. He offers to cook the meal that Daniel, one of the members and the first-person narrator, is scheduled to host. The featured dish is a marvelous boeuf bourguignon. Everyone raves about it and the club is re-energized. There is only enough for one person to have a second helping, and Abel, whose favorite dish happens to be bouef bourguignon, claims it, remarking, "Now I can die." The next morning he is in fact dead, from a heart attack. At each succeeding monthly dinner of the club, Lucídio is the cook, the meal is fabulous, there is enough for one person to have seconds, and the next morning that gourmand is dead.

No doubt many authors could make an entertaining novel out of that premise - a hybrid of sorts of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Suicide Club". But Luis Fernando Verissimo, a Brazilian author born in 1936, spins an especially sly and witty intellectual romp. THE CLUB OF ANGELS is part mystery story, part mordant satire, part roguish philosophy, and all in all a helluvalotta fun.

Let me tempt you with a brief excerpt:

"[G]astronomy was a cultural pleasure like no other, for no other brought with it the same philosophical challenge by which appreciation demanded the destruction of the thing appreciated and where veneration and consumption were one; no other art could equal eating as an example of the sensory perception of an art, any art, with the one exception, he thought, of actually stroking Michelangelo's David's butt."

Everyone in the book wants "more, more, more, more . . .". So in the spirit of the book, here's one more excerpt:

"All women come from one of two different lines, the Judaeo-Christian and the Greek. Those from the Judaeo-Christian line were descended from Eve, whom God had made from Adam's rib in order to serve man, tempt him and accompany him in his fall and ruin. Those from the Greek line were descended from Athena, whom Zeus had plucked from his own brain, and those women never missed a chance to remind men that they were sprung from the head of a god and had nothing to do with men's insides or with their damnation. Gisela belonged to the latter group."

Oh, yes - as each dinner concludes, a different line from Shakespeare's "King Lear" is quoted. Plus, the translator is Margaret Jull Costa. Finally, THE CLUB OF ANGELS is only 135 pages. Even for slow readers like me, reading it takes no more than three or four hours - about the time required for an epicurean feast. Enjoy yourself!
4.0 out of 5 stars A warning tale for foodies March 8 2014
By P. A. Doornbos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Compact novella about a group of 10 once promising Brazilian men and their dining club. For more than 20 years they have met in their homes once per month to indulge in food and drink. After the death of founder Ramos, who memorably declared a dozen years earlier that the club had at that moment reached its zenith, not every member is keen to continue... A stranger named Lucídio offers to prepare the opening dinner of season 22 in the apartment of narrator Daniël. Wonderful appetizers, a phenomenal main course (club member Abel's favorite) and a tongue melting desert. There is just one portion left of the main dish. Anyone for seconds? Of course Abel is the first to raise his hand...
By next morning Abel is dead.
And this repeats itself every month in Danirël's strangely designed and decorated apartment. Whoever consumes the left-over portion of his favorite dish, dies soon after.
Daniël's writings are quite detailed about the club members and their intricate histories, likes and dislikes. His best portrayal is of himself, accident-prone, fat, 3 times married, cannot keep his mouth shut, wearing woolen socks in sandals and creator of a fictional pair of lesbian Siamese twins. Remarkable man, Daniël. Plenty of quotations (?) from Shakespeare's tragedy "King Lear" and biblical lore because in Catholic Brazil the club is committing the deadly sin of gluttony.
Full of observations, ideas and surprises. Recommended reading for foodies, students of Shakespeare and canonic law and for fans attending the football World Cup in Brazil, esp. if your team plays in Porto Alegre.
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