Book Review: Sweetbitter: A Novel by Stephanie Danler

Read this. But don’t just let your eyes slip over the pages mindlessly. Instead, find a quiet place to curl up with Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Danler’s novel is exquisitely intimate and sensual and she writes with such nuanced clarity, your skin prickles with each new sensation. Her characters are deeply flawed and complicated, and random streams of dialogue, dispersed throughout the book, invoke crowded rooms, the dinner rush. You can almost hear the hum of the room, the clinking of glasses, or cutlery on fine china.

Tess’s voice is young and crisp, like a slice of tart green apple, and the narrative moves quickly in bite-size bits, an amuse bouche for the mind. As a newcomer to New York, Tess chronicles her first year behind the elegant curtained façade of a fine dining establishment open and ready to experience taste as if for the very first time, and yet also carefully guarded. From the first taste of summer heirloom tomatoes, your mouth will water. Briny oysters on ice. A luxurious wine on the tongue. Tess discovers a city of wonders; sometimes extravagant, sometimes indulgent, often as gritty and biting as crushed black pepper.

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This book could be dedicated to anyone who has ever mastered the three-plate-carry, but it’s meant for those who want to taste all that life has to offer. Once you have devoured this book, watch the series on STARZ, now in its second season. But start from season one, so you don’t miss a bit. It’s just as sultry and deeply satisfying as the novel.

Bottom Line

Sweetbitter should be savored slowly. A rich, sensual, and indulgent escape that will make your mouth water.


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