The author of the tantalizing HOUSE OF SPIRITS returns with a unique, sense-stirring memoir. Through a rich and researched text interspersed with art and recipes, Isabel Allende explores the aphrodisiacs that have propelled the ages from the kitchen to the bedroom. In APHRODITE, her writing is honest, literary and as passionate as the love goddess invoked in the title.
Allende writes in the introduction: "Since time immemorial, in order to stimulate amorous desire and fertility, humanity has called upon substances, tricks, magic acts, and games that serious and virtuous people hasten to classify as perversions. Fertility will not interest us here --- everyone else, you will have noticed, already has too many children --- we're going to concentrate on pleasure."
APHRODITE is indeed a diverse delight. Allende bolsters her own life vignettes with ingredients including an "Ode to Conger Chowder," the recipe for the classic coq au vin, a letter from Anais Nin to an anonymous man on the essence of eroticism, the symbolism of the forbidden fruits, discussion of the worded romance of Cyrano de Bergerac, and innumerable other pleasures.
The final product is hard to classify. Beyond a how-to manual or cookbook and wider in geographic and historic scope than a mere memoir, Allende's book promises new temptations on each page.
Reviewed by Krista Madsen on January 20, 2011