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