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The Oysters of Locmariaquer [Hardcover]

ELEANOR CLARK


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon (1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1126007137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1126007135
  • ASIN: B0007H22SO
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Oysters is the Landscape Dec 30 2004
By Gussie Fink-Nottle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The opening line of this book is:
"WHAT YOU NOTICE in the month of May is the tiles, like roof tiles but white, stacked by thousands at one point after another along the shore."

The last line on page 203 is:
"BENEFICIENT Oyster, good to taste, good for the stomach and the soul, grant us the blessing of your further mystery."

In between these 200 pages concerning oysters, Eleanor Clark wrote a definitive classic on the amalgamation of geography, human history, ecology, and commerce. One reads much of the mystery or the character of this mollusk at this Breton coast. It expresses itself through the human being just as it does through its own.

These oysters of Locmariaquer can be appreciated or thought of in two ways. How they are farmed in this northwestern Breton Coast can be thought of as being incidental. The important thing, some argues, this is a place of scenary, good oyster eating, and tourism. Or one can see with an understanding eye, as the author wants the reader to see, at the landscape. This Locmariaquer landscape, with the oysters, is repleted with the rich voice of its ancestors, myths, history, and human foibles.

Equipped with this behind the scene knowledge, the mystery of the Locmariquer mollusk is revealed. Now we can trippingly roll off our tongue why these Breton oysters are dear to the gourmet. Put on a few more dozens of these oysters on the barbie, won't you? No, not on the doll.

*Note: This book was published in 1964. In the 1970s, some if not all of the oyster varieties named in the book had been devastated by parasites. Today, the region is cultivating the hardier Japanese oyster, the Japanese naissain (the Gigas) variety, to sustain the industry and a way of life.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An odd but charming little book June 21 2010
By Beth Quinn Barnard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An odd but charming little book which won the National Book Award in 1965. Clark's book is an elegy for the Belon oyster of Brittany, facing extinction along with traditional lifeway of the rural, impoverished Bretons who once nurtured the prized delicacy. Part travelogue and part treatise on the oyster, Clark's book in no way resembles similar works being penned today. There is little reportage -- no interviews with experts, no marshaling of facts and figures, no reader-friendly overviews. Readers will indeed learn much about oysters and the Bretons who raise them but in a discursive ramble that introduces a character here and a topic there, moving past both to another concern before circling back now and again to revisit people and topics as the need arises. For some readers, the two-steps-forward, one-step-back approach will feel haphazard and disorganized while others will enjoy the sense of conversation with a witty and well-informed friend. Either way, a must read for oyster lovers.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little cooking, a little history, a little poetry July 12 2000
By nick robertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
About 25 years ago I stumbled upon Eleanor Clark's history of the oyster beds in Normandy, or her memoir of living near the oyster beds. It's been a long time, but it was simply the best combination of food writing, history, travel writing and poetry that I ever read (yes, I'm reviewing a book that I read 25 years ago, but it stayed with me). My sister and her family are going to be living in Normandy, so I have to buy it for them, and reread it myself. It's unique; it makes every other book about travel and food and "our life in ...." seem pallid.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The world's mine oyster... Sept. 5 2008
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
which I with sword will open." Ms. Clark corrects our collective thinking on the most famous oyster metaphor in literature, indicating it has nothing to do with a pearl, or as she delightfully says, "but we would rather think not." Ms. Clark dazzles the reader, certainly this one, with her remarkable erudition, which she has focused on the raising of one seemingly simple sea creature, on the south coast of Brittany in France. Ecology, biology, sociology, history, zoology, literature are some of the intellectual areas that are drawn upon to create this one-of-a-kind book that made Locmariaquer an essential destination. But so much has changed, been lost, and yes, even improved since Ms Clark wrote her book at the end of the `50's, long before the coming of the TGV, and before the death of many of the species that she writes about. It was also long before the era of mass tourism.

This area of Brittany has long been poor, noted for two things: the baby oysters, and the large prehistoric megaliths at Carnac. The author describes the Parisian gourmet's excitement with the arrival of the season's latest harvest, carefully listing the classifications and prices, but also contrasts this seemingly ephemeral interest with the harsh reality of producing this crop with an image hard to forget: an 18 year old girl wanted out - drank a bottle of muriatic acid, it took her half the afternoon to die, and "they had heard her screaming way over at Saint-Pierre."

In chapter five Ms. Clark covers the oysters significance during the period of the Second Empire, giving the reader delightful dollops of history, and sociological insight from that period. Many of the greats from this period, as well as the lesser known make their appearances.

It is the quality of her observations that also helps place this book in the unique category. Concerning the revival of Brittany's "folk culture," she says "...embarrassing revival of bagpipes, folk dancing, folklore, etc., as if the word "folk" used that way weren't a death warrant in itself." Also, for the late `50's, the prescient: "Let's face it, there are too many people. The shores of the temperate zones are simply not big enough to hold them in July and August."

La Villemarque, a regional writer, is placed, as a pearl if you will, within the context of the national writers, Malraux, Sand, Proust, et al. Cassanova's famous exploits, and the "driving energy" are also wonderfully described.

Though the species have now regrettably changed, and the flavor probably diminished, there is a wonderful "oyster bar" in Montparnasse that would be the ideal setting for digesting this masterful book in many settings. After the second glass of wine, one might also speculate what her life might have been like, with her husband Robert Penn Warren, known most famously as the author of "All the King's Men."
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming mixture of history and culture Sept. 24 2013
By lizziel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gives great perspective on the challenges of oyster cultivation and exploitation over the ages, and also brings to life early life in France. I found it charming. No need to read it all at once, great to savor it over time.

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