Following the birth of a daughter to his mistress, and locked in a wearying divorce settlement, Picasso secretly flees Paris in 1936 for the serenity of the south of France to recharge his creative batteries. There he meets Ondine, a 16-year-old chef who’s asked to cook for the mysterious guest residing in a nearby villa.
The two begin a long-term friendship in which they both inspire one another: Ondine to grow and bloom as a young woman; Picasso to begin painting again. The narrative cuts between Ondine’s story and that of her American granddaughter, Céline, who embarks on a quest to discover the truth about her grandmother and recover a lost family painting.
This richly-crafted tale of love, trust, art and food is wonderfully evocative of the sun-kissed Côte d’Azur, while weaving in a modern-day mystery. After a slightly adjective-laden intro, Aubray settles down into an easy style that’s ideal for whiling away some time en vacances on the Riviera.
Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray, published by Random House, $27.
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From France Today magazine