The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen
(Doubleday, 2004, 368 pages)
I read Kate Christensen’s memoir (Blue Plate Special) a few months ago and I was intrigued enough by her story and her writing style to want to pick up one of her books so I went with The Epicure’s Lament. Hugo Whittier lives alone on his family’s estate. The Whittiers are an old and established family and while Hugo isn’t exactly rolling in the dough he can live comfortably without needing to work. Told through a series of notebook entries we learn that Hugo is dying from a disease… a fatality he could prevent if he would only quit smoking. Hugo refuses, choosing to appreciate the fact that he has the option of dying on his own terms while also relishing in the joys of good food, good drink, and sex with the women of his choosing.
Things go off track (and the notebooks begin) when his brother, Dennis, surprises him by moving back into the family house. He and his wife are taking a break from one another and Dennis decided that coming home was his best course of action. Shortly after his arrival Hugo’s former (though they never legally divorced) wife, Sonia and his daughter, Bellatrix, (who is of questionable paternity) also come into the picture. Then comes Hugo’s gay uncle who wants to be reinstated in his old room – the room Hugo had claimed for himself these past few years. Hugo struggles with this disruption in his life and does what he can to ensure his plans for death on his terms will come to fruition without any sort of familial hindrance.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked Christensen’s writing style, I liked the quirkiness of the book, and I liked that I wasn’t sure what direction the story was going to go. I’ll definitely be reading more of her.