Recipes For A Perfect Marriage is a love story with recipes. In fact, there are two love stories in the book – one is that of Tressa and Dan, and the other is of Bernadine and James. Both stories are about the trials and tribulations of love, the ups and downs of married life – largely about the differences and similarities between partners and how they play out in a marriage.
Tressa is a fairly successful food writer in New York, fast approaching her forties. She thinks she is in love when she first sleeps with and later marries her building super, Dan. After the honeymoon is over, the truth of her marriage slowly starts sinking in – she is married to her building super, of all people! And he is so different from her! Little things about him begin to frustrate her to no end, and she begins to think she married Dan out of late-thirties panic and not out of genuine love for him. All she wants at this stage of her life is approval from her much-loved grandmother Bernadine, but sadly, this is not possible. Bernadine has been long dead and gone.
The marriage of Bernadine, Tressa’s Irish grandmother, and James has been one of the most perfect marriages, according to Tressa. Since childhood, she has always longed for a marriage filled with love, just like Bernadine’s and James’s. Little does Tressa know that Bernadine was in love with a charming young gentleman called Michael Tuffy before she married James. As Bernadine reveals later in her notebooks, her marriage to James was entirely arranged, just because her family could not arrange for the dowry necessary to marry Michael. She entered into married life with James with a lot of grudges, thinking that he was taking advantage of her family’s poor financial condition. Bernadine was, for years together, unable to bring herself to really love James and move ahead of Michael.
The day before Tressa’s marriage to Dan, her mother hands her the notebooks that Bernadine had written for the benefit of her future generations, containing her life story from her teenage years onward. Recipes For A Perfect Marriage alternates between chapters from Tressa’s and Bernadine’s lives, interspersed with some of their favourite recipes.
The book does sound promising, but I ended up feeling disappointed by the time I finished reading it. First off, there are no chapter headings, making it rather difficult for the reader to determine whether a particular chapter has been narrated by Bernadine or by Tressa. A lot of times, I read through almost an entire page of a chapter thinking that it was by one of these ladies, and it turned out to be by the other. It detracted from my reading experience a lot, as did the proofreading errors at some places.
Also, the characters of Tressa and Bernadine failed to gain any sympathy from me. Both of them sound so cold-hearted, so much lost in their own worlds that they do not see what lies before them. It made me sad to see how both of them did not even try to look at the many good qualities that both Dan and James possessed till it was almost very late. Dan and James seemed to be perfect gentlemen, who loved their wives and supported them in all ways possible, but sadly, both these women never found it in them – in Bernadine’s case, even with the passage of years – to love them, which is all the men seemed to need, really. Both Tressa and Bernadine were positively mean to their husbands, and my hands were itching to give both of them a nice spanking.
It would have been great if Tressa had read Bernadine’s notebooks, gleaned that her marriage to James was not as perfect as she was making it out to be, and learned from her grandmother’s mistakes. However, Tressa never does read her grandmother’s notes till the end of the story, which, sort of, disappointed me. If Tressa was so attached to Bernadine as she was depicted, wouldn’t she be interested in reading her notebooks in the hopes of finding some sign from her?
That said, some parts of the book were brilliant. The maturity with which some aspects of the story have been narrated stunned me and touched my heart. It is these parts which made me look past my problems with the book, and stick on till the end.
Recipes For A Perfect Marriage did not turn out to be as wonderful as I had expected it to be, overall.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?
Note: This book has been published under the author name of Morag Prunty and Kate Kerrigan in different parts of the world.