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The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa – Let’s play a game with book covers

October 25, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa (2008) French title: Le restaurant de l’amour retrouvé. Translated from the Japanese by Myriam Dartois-Ako.

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa is a celebration of food and its healing powers. Rinko works as a cook in the city and when she comes home, she is shocked to discover that her boyfriend has cleaned up their apartment and left. The flat is totally empty and with no home and no boyfriend, Rinko decides to go back to her native village, a place she left behind ten years ago, when she was barely fifteen.

The shock is such that Rinko is speechless. Literally. She can’t speak anymore and has to communicate through notes. Her village is in the country and Rinko has a complicated relationship with her mother, Ruriko. Rinko is an illegitimate child and she doesn’t know who her father is. Her mother runs the local bar, financed by Neocon, a rich man who paid for the bar and covers Ruriko with presents. Rinko dislikes her mother and Neocon.

Ruriko accepts to lend money to Rinko, so that she can launch her own restaurant in the village. She calls it The Snail. It becomes a very special place, where Rinko only serves one table at a time, creating a special menu for the guests. Soon, her restaurant has the reputation to foster love and bring a happy-ever-after to the guests. Her success is immediate.

Said that way, it sounds cheesy but it’s not, at least for the first part of the book, the one I enjoyed the most. I immersed myself in Rinko’s world, made of an indifferent mother, a strange pet pig named Hermes after the luxury brand and that she has to look after, a gentle janitor, Kuma, who helps her clean and install the restaurant. I liked Rinko’s resilience and the feeling that it was a tale out-of-time and out-of-space.

I liked the pages about selecting the right produce and preparing food. I enjoyed reading about Rinko’s soul-searching venture through her restaurant. Cooking for her guests is a gift, a way for her to spread her love to others. Rinko nurses her broken heart in the kitchen, bringing happiness to her guests. Cooking is an act of love, her way to connect to others and belong to the world.

As long as I was reading about the restaurant, I was fine and invested in the story. I started to get bored when Ruriko’s story came into the mix. I won’t tell much because it’d spoil the story for other readers but I thought it was too much. Improbable family secrets are revealed and Rinko’s world is once again turned upside down.

I rarely do that, because I don’t think books should come with warning stickers, but the last part is not for vegan and vegetarian readers, and that’s all I’ll say.

For another opinion, here’s Vishy’s review. And Bookmaniac’s.

As always, I looked for the English language cover of the book. As usual, I found it lacking and went looking for covers in other languages. Let’s play a game. You’ve seen the French cover and here are six other covers from other languages, including the original Japanese.

I’ve read the book and I can tell you that the Asian covers are the best to represent the atmosphere of Rinko’s tale. Naïve drawing showing her in her village in the mountains, connecting to nature and the locals.

The French cover is OK, it’s faithful to the text, it shows the delicate beauty of the book. It’s different from the other Western covers, with its blue tone.

The Western covers are all the same deep red tones, not a color I associate with Japan but more with China. The Italian one is good as it represents Rinko cooking and it’s a major aspect of the book. The Spanish one is cheesy with the rice heart and the worst one is the American one. I truly wonder where it comes from and who had the idea of such an odd picture considering the book.

And what about you? Which covers would lead you to pick up The Restaurant of Love Regained from a display table in a bookstore?

  1. October 25, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for the warnings for vegans! I did wonder as I started your review if this would be one for me, and obvs it isn’t! And such a strange variety of covers – I must admit that visually I prefer the Vietnamese one!


    • October 25, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      I’m not fan of these warnings, after all, you’re old enough to know what you want to read and stop reading if a book bothers you. Plus, who am I to decide for others whether they’ll find it offensive or not.
      And there’s also the fact that billets and reviews would be filled with warnings of any kind. Where does it stop, right?

      *spoiler alert* : But here, I was not happy to read about the pig’s slaughter.

      I like the Vietnamese cover too, it suits the atmosphere of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. October 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    I like the Vietnamese one most too. Not sure if it’s the book for me. I’ve noticed a tendency lately to translate Japanese books that more closely match Westerner’s view of Japan… so I’m somewhat sceptical.


    • October 25, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      With the food theme, I’m not surprised it made it into French and Italian translation. The restaurant’s name is The Snail, it screams slow food and all.

      I wonder if it was a big success in Japan too.
      Anyway, I agree with you, the Vietnamese cover is great, a little bit Douanier Rousseau.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. October 25, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Another vote here for the Vietnamese cover. I’m not seeing a US publisher of the book, I think it might be available as an international edition from Alma Books in the UK which has a Canadian distributor. Thank you for the warning, it does look pretty graphic for non-meat eaters.


    • October 25, 2020 at 9:38 pm

      The Vietnamese cover is leading the race!

      I should have written “anglo-saxon cover”, it would have covered all cases.

      About the warning: Like I said to Karen earlier, I’m not fond of these warnings (you could have warnings about anything, really) but here one passage was hard to read, even for me, and I’m good at blocking images I don’t want to imagine. (That’s why I can stomach a lot of things in books that I’d never be able to watch on screen)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. October 25, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    I really like the sound of this story. Thank you for the covers comparison – always so interesting! The Vietnamese and Korean covers are my favourites.


    • October 25, 2020 at 9:43 pm

      Everyone here likes the Vietnamese cover. I wonder who was the marketing target of the Western covers?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 25, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    i like it !!


    • October 25, 2020 at 9:44 pm

      I added your review to my billet. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 26, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    I’m not sure if it’s one for me; I’m trying to guess what the ending will look like but it did sound a bit to be s melodramatic ending. I loved the Vietnamese cover too; the Japanese, I would have taken it for s children’s book and the Korean, an 8-bit comic book, one of those that are reminiscent of the early video games…


    • October 26, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      I’m not sure I’d recommend it to you either.
      The Vietnamese cover is a hit! Everyone prefers the Asian covers to the Western ones.


  7. October 27, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    I think I liked the US cover. I’m a vego though not a vegan, I think I can read about animal slaughter without getting ill – what makes me sick is feedlots and trawlers with nets a mile long and chickens and pigs in cages, and, and, and .. Interesting the boyfriend was Neocon – a deadly insult in some circles not so long ago.


    • October 27, 2020 at 10:28 pm

      Yes, we have one vote for the US cover!

      Usually, I’m not in favour of warnings for books (or I would put one for most of the crime fiction books I read) but I’ve seen them among the blogs I follow and knew some regular readers of my billets would appreciate it.
      That said, you’re all adults and able to decide for yourself what to read or when to stop reading if what’s written makes you uncomfortable.


  8. October 28, 2020 at 2:15 am

    Thanks for the food warning. I can’t believe some of the things people eat.


    • October 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm

      You’re welcome but I still feel guilty about this warning.

      I should not decide in your place if it’s good for you or not. It’s a Anglo-saxon attitude, I did it because I noticed it in posts of the blogs I follow but it doesn’t sit well with me.


  9. October 28, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    Your international book cover comparison is highly instructive. The differences in marketing are amazing.

    The Asian covers, all three of them, really, have some resemblance to a common strain of American folk art, like Grandma Moses.


    • October 30, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      I love comparing covers. It’s incredible to see how differently a book can be marketed from one country to another.
      Maybe publishers should give us readers more credit: most of the commenters here voted in favor of the Asian covers.


  1. October 23, 2021 at 6:55 pm

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