Audie Award Finalist, Non-Fiction, 2014
In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as "the telling room". Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets - usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong.... By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale-like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.
What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.
Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers.
A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.
Editors Select, July 2013 - I consider myself a foodie, but never have I found myself so emotionally invested in any food, let alone a piece of cheese. Michael Paterniti’s sophisticated prose awakened my taste buds and transported me to a remote, other-worldly village in Spain where I came to crave Páramo de Guzmán, arguably the world’s greatest (and most expensive) piece of cheese. The Telling Room, however, ignited within me much more than a simple food craving. Paterniti’s expertly woven narrative, with detailed descriptions of both people and land, invoked within me nostalgia for a simpler time. At the center of Paterniti’s memoir is Ambrosio,the passionate Spanish cheesemaker, betrayed by his best friend, living with revenge in his heart in a land where grudges last a lifetime. As Paterniti gets implicated in Ambrosio’s tale, so does the listener, and the journey is every bit as satisfying as an excellent piece of cheese. I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of this book, and it’s such a delight to now listen to it in audio with L.J. Ganser as narrator. Katie, Audible Editor
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The Original Canned Cheese
Interesting story ruined by the narrator
Not quite at the level of Simon Winchester but similarly I liked that the story blended recent events with historical facts and interesting asides. I would recommend this book to a friend in print form.
Include a wedge of Paramo de Guzman cheese!
The narrator has no clue how to pronounce Spanish. Even simple words like "bella" (pronounced beya (correctly) , not bela (as pronounced by the narrator) ) are mispronounced. This might not be a significant issue for someone that does not speak Spanish but if you do or even have a basic understanding, you will be very disappointed and increasingly aggravated as the story progresses.
I fail to understand why a bilingual narrator was not chosen (there must be many) or at the very least why the present narrator was not coached.
The narration severely detracted from the story.