Review: Sweetbitter


By Stephanie Danler
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9781101875940, May 2016, 368pp.

The Short of It:

An apt title for a story that pushes you away as much as it pulls you in.

The Rest of It:

Youth. Remember it? Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve felt that elusive, fleeting happiness that percolates ever so gently when it comes to love. Well, this story captures it beautifully.

New York City is the backdrop for this novel and it’s dizzying in its perfection. Even with the bug infestations and the rats running through the street, Tess finds it to be magical in its own way.

“It’s ludicrous for anyone to live here,” she thinks, at the same time, she thinks, “I can never leave.” ~Sweetbitter

Tess moves to the city with the hopes to reinvent herself. In her twenties, it’s as if the world is there for the taking so when she lands a job at a well-known restaurant, she quickly falls into the routine of the place which includes many players, much drama and Jake, the bartender she’s completely obsessed with.

Tess is a work-in-progress. She’s green when it comes to love and war and she takes a beating both professionally and personally. Her eagerness to learn and her willingness to take it all in makes her vulnerable and somewhat innocent. Often times I found myself wanting to shake her a little but as I approached the final pages, I realized just how masterful the writing was.

There’s so much to love about this book. There’s food and wine and plenty of flawed, interesting people and Danler absolutely nailed the restaurant industry. I suppose it’s a coming-of-age story but it’s sophisticated, gritty and brutal in its honesty. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

30 thoughts on “Review: Sweetbitter”

  1. I’ve been going back and forth over reading this one – it seems like there were so many loves and then a few mixed opinions – but you reminded me why I first wanted to pick it up!

    1. Well, there is one thing that happens that made me very mad. I can see that one thing causing people to not like it but I felt like it was pretty true to what would actually happen in real life. READ it!

  2. Wow! You’ve made this one sounds really good. I have it on my kindle, but wasn’t so sure about it. Now I know that I have to read it. Great post, Ti!!

    1. Make sure you give it a little time. I didn’t get into it until a little ways in. Takes a little while to set the story up.

  3. I am so glad you read this one, and liked it so much. So did I. Having worked in the restaurant world for many years I found it to be spot-on. And the writing is so good.

    1. The writing was great. I am glad that it worked for me because at first, I wasn’t liking it but then it totally clicked for me.

    1. I never worked in a really nice restaurant. I’ve worked in family type restaurants but most the politics were the same. Very accurate in that area. And the whole New York thing. This writer has a love affair with NY but describes all of its characteristics honestly.

    1. The one thing the publisher could have done was to include bottles of wine along with the book because there is a lot of wine drinking and tasting and I was salivating over those parts. So, have wine handy.

  4. The reviews have been mixed on this one so it wasn’t high on my TBR list. Maybe I’ll reconsider now. Glad u enjoyed it.

    1. The author really captured the restaurant business as well as life in the big city. It melds together quite well. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    1. You’ll be upset by some of the choices the main character makes but the writing is so lush. At the beginning I thought I might put it down but nope… kept with it and I am glad I did.

  5. Whenever I’m reading a bunch of LT reviews of a book I just finished I always read your’s and think, “Yes! Exactly! And how beautifully said.” Then I notice you are the one who wrote it. So funny.

  6. Nice review. Hmm. I’m wondering if it has a dark ending. A naive girl goes to NYC and it doesn’t exactly pan out … OR ? And what is the Thing that happens. Ok. I’ll check it out

    1. Yep. I had heard from another blogger whom I absolutely trust that the book was wonderful and she was right. I was worried at first because it took a little bit of time for me to get the feels for it but by the end I was pretty impressed.

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