Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray is a fabulous read. This book is told in alternating parts in present day America as well as 2 generations back starting in 1936 and ending in the 1950's. Picasso isn't painting. He has hidden himself away in Juan-les-Pins in a rented house on the seashore. He has his paints but he doesn't use them. He mostly sleeps away his days. He has employed the Café Paradis to bring him his meals daily. He has left orders to just leave them there and he will get them as he wishes and most of all tell no one that Picasso is living there. Ondine is a fifteen year old girl living with her parents above the Café Paradis. Ondine works for her mother in the kitchen. Ondine is ordered by her mother to deliver the food on her bicycle up the hill to the house and tell no one. Ondine left Picasso a note stating that she hoped that he liked his food. Ondine serves the food keeping careful track daily of his likes and dislikes in the leather book that her mother had given her. To Ondine's surprise Picasso leaves her a note and drew her a little picture. After serving the food Ondine is supposed to return on her bike and pack up the supplies and return them back to her mother's café. One day when she packed up she noticed that her mother's beloved pink and blue striped pitcher is missing. Even though she is not supposed to Ondine searches through Picasso's house to find the pitcher so that her mother won't be angry. Picasso catches her looking through his paintings. Eventually they develop a friendship and he asks her to pose for him. Ondine poses and Picasso paints several pictures and she asks to see them but she is mortified when she sees the painting is so grotesquely formed. Her eyes are both on the same side of her head ect ect quite Picassoesque. Ondine is surprised to find herself thinking quite sexually about this older man in his 50s. She has also noticed that Picasso paints nudes and wonders whether eventually he will ask her to pose nude. He eventually does, she asks if she will be paid which angers Picasso then decides that she will not pose nude. Meanwhile back in the café it is war time and no one has money and not surprisingly Ondine's parents find themselves in need of cash. Ondine is shocked to find out that their plan is to marry her off to an older man who has the cash to go into partnership with them. She is still very much in love with her one love, Luke. Ondine runs away straight to Picasso and offers herself to him.
Modern day New York. Celine who is Ondine's granddaughter is a successful Hollywood makeup artist. Celine's mother, Julie is growing noticeably weaker and her stepsiblings make all decisions regarding her care. Celine thinks that the medicine that is making her worse. During her last visit with her mother Julie gave her Ondine's leather recipe book from cooking with Picasso. Julie had hidden it in a special place in the kitchen. Julie said that her mother also hid things. Julie also tells her that Ondine had a special present from Picasso hidden but Julie had never found out where. When Celine's father died he left everything to the older sibling twins with all decisions to be made by the boy twin. Her brother makes all decisions about her mother and has placed her in a nursing home that will only listen to advise from him. Feeling frustrated Celine decides to use the tickets to a French cooking school vacation that her mother would not be able to use and revisit the sites of Grandmother Ondine.
Now I just loved this book but I must caution any future readers that there is sexually contact between 15 year old Ondine and Picasso who is at the time in his 50s. There is also talk later on about Picasso having sexual contact with many much younger women. Putting all of that aside this is a great mystery novel especially ( I think anyway) for women. I got this book on audio but think that it could be more enjoyed if read in book or ebook form. I will read it again in written form just for the pleasure of it.
I received this book from Blogging for Book for this review.