When an author combines a great location, the South of France, fantastic food, Provencal cooking, and the legendary Pablo Picasso, she has the ingredients for a interesting plot. “Cooking for Picasso” written by Camille Aubray, whose background is in writing for daytime dramas, has created a fanciful, yet entertaining novel.
Aubray has created three interesting female characters. Beginning in 1936, we meet the seventeen-year-old Ondine, who works in her parents’ cafe in the seaside village of Juan-les-Pins. Ondine has learned to cook from her mother. When a reclusive visitor to the village asks that lunch be delivered each day to his villa, Ondine’s parents send her. The mysterious strange is, of course, Picasso, who at the time was experiencing difficulties in his personal and artistic life.
After a brief affair between Ondine and Picasso, he abruptly leaves the village but not before he has immortalized her in a painting. A painting he promised to her, but did not leave for her. Ondine, of course, learns she is pregnant. When her young boyfriend, Luc, returns from several years at sea, they run away to America.
Ondine’s daughter Julie does not know about her parentage, and Ondine promised Luc that she would never tell her. When circumstances force Julie and Ondine to return to France after WWII, Ondine seizes the opportunity to confront the aging Picasso and demand her portrait.
The third important character is Celine, Ondine’s granddaughter and Julie’s only child. When her mother falls ill, she carries out Julie’s dream to return to Ondine’s village.
The plot sound very much like episodes of a television soap and knowing the author’s background in writing for daytime dramas, it is not difficult to figure out how it will all end. But, in spite of being a very contrived plot, “Cooking for Picasso” is a fun read. It combines intrigue, some good, some bad characters and a definite touch of glamour.