Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


The Debt to Pleasure

Posted on

The Debt to Pleasure

Current Status:
In Season
John Lanchester
Henry Holt and Company

We gave it a C

In the excruciatingly arch novel The Debt to Pleasure, the author — former restaurant reviewer for the London Observer John Lanchester — tries to eat his cake and have it, too. On the one hand, he craves the reader’s indulgence to ramble on disjointedly about food, art, death, and the vagaries of national tastes in sauces and pickles. On the other hand, Lanchester would rather not be held accountable for the platitudes he’s dishing out. So he’s put them into the mouth of a comic alter ego, a pedantic gourmand and delirious Francophile named Tarquin Winot (why not?). The gradual revelation of Winot’s sinister side gives the book a wisp of plot. Nothing can give it a soul. A heavy garnish of literary allusions — wilted Wilde and potted Proust — and a timid soupcon of autobiography can’t disguise the main ingredient: stale food journalism. Pass the ketchup, please.