Chez Moi

( 8 )


At forty-three, Myriam has been a wife, mother, and lover—but never a restauranteur. When she opens Chez Moi in a quiet neighborhood in Paris, she has no idea how to run a business, but armed only with her love of cooking, she is determined to try. Barely able to pay the rent, Myriam secretly sleeps in the dining room and bathes in the kitchen sink, while struggling to come to terms with the painful memories of her past. But soon enough her delectable cuisine brings her many neighbors to Chez Moi, and Myriam ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (60) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $2.10   
  • Used (57) from $1.99   
Chez Moi

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99 price


At forty-three, Myriam has been a wife, mother, and lover—but never a restauranteur. When she opens Chez Moi in a quiet neighborhood in Paris, she has no idea how to run a business, but armed only with her love of cooking, she is determined to try. Barely able to pay the rent, Myriam secretly sleeps in the dining room and bathes in the kitchen sink, while struggling to come to terms with the painful memories of her past. But soon enough her delectable cuisine brings her many neighbors to Chez Moi, and Myriam finds that she may get a second chance at life and love. Redolent with the sights, smells, and tastes of Paris, Chez Moi is a charming story that will appeal to the many readers who fell in love with Joanne Harris’s Chocolat and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As the self-proclaimed "biggest fucker-upper the world has ever brought forth," Myriam, 43, is an unlikely restaurateur, but her headlong, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink narration soon makes clear that she's got little left to lose in changing her life. With a past that she reveals only slowly and a stint cooking for a circus under her belt, Myriam fakes some cooking and management diplomas, takes out some loans and opens Chez moi, a tiny 25-seat Parisian eatery in which she also sleeps and bathes. With help from Vincent, the halitosis-afflicted owner of the flower shop next door; from Ben, a gangling, knock-kneed lad who shows up with a solid business plan and ideas for marketing and publicity; and from Ali Slimane, an elegant farmer with perfect meats and produce, Myriam's restaurant begins to flourish-which terrifies her. This lovely book is a cassoulet bulging with lush, delectable descriptions of cuisine and straight-shooting observations on life. Myriam's restaurant has as much to do with improvising ways of living, loving and finding one's way home again as with eating well. It's a frothy, complex pleasure to linger there with her. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An original story of midlife transformation. Myriam is a woman with a troubled past and an uncertain future. At the age of 43, she decides to open a restaurant. She lies her way into a loan, buys food and fixtures she can't afford and opens her kitchen to almost certain failure. Just when she's on the brink of collapse, help arrives in the form of an angelic waiter, the daring decision to offer cheap but good takeaway and to turn her establishment into a gustatory haven for children. This synopsis could be the formula for cheesy commercial fiction, but the story is distinctly cosmopolitan. Myriam, a Parisian, is a beguiling character, and not entirely sympathetic. She's charming, but part of her charm lies in her prodigious powers of untruth. Desarthe (Good Intentions, 2002, etc.) allows scenes from Myriam's past to gradually unfold. The heroine is estranged from her husband and son because of an unambiguously bad choice of lovers, but the catalyst for this disastrous relationship was her already broken bond with her child. Desarthe deals with some heavy themes here, but she does so without melodrama, and without asking readers to pity her deeply flawed creation. Myriam has an engaging, sometimes very funny voice, and there are some truly arresting scenes-Myriam bathing in her kitchen's stainless steel sink among them. The writing is elegant, and the translation contains some Britishisms while also displaying a certain Gallic flair. The happy ending is slightly fantastical, but it's in keeping with the gently absurdist tone of the novel as a whole. Reading groups in search of spirited discussion would do well to choose this complex and satisfying tale.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143113232
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 587,466
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Agnès Desarthe has published six novels in France as well as more than twenty-five children's books. She has also translated numerous books from English to French. She lives in Paris with her husband and two children. Adriana Hunter has been working as a literary translator since 1998 and has now translated more than thirty books from the French, including two other novels by Agnès Desarthe.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


Forty-three years old, trailing secrets and extravagant lies, Myriam has just convinced a bank to give her a loan to open a small restaurant in the Eleventh Arrondissement of Paris. Chez Moi is a modest place, but the name alone signifies its importance. Too poor to rent an apartment, Myriam must live in the restaurant, sleeping on a banquette and bathing in the (thankfully) deep kitchen sink. The restaurant could be her last chance to create a new, stable life for herself.

Six years earlier, Myriam did the unthinkable; she initiated an affair with her son Hugo's friend. Humiliated and embarrassed, and unable to make amends, Myriam decides to leave her family. With her only possessions, a small suitcase and a thirty-three book library, she managed to secure a position cooking for the Santo Salto circus. The misfits and talented strays of the circus gave her a home, but they could not shelter her from her past indiscretion. Myriam had to find her own way back into the world.

With the establishment of Chez Moi, she cautiously opens her life back up for business. Still tender from the loss of her family, she has little faith in herself or in the future of her restaurant, and is skeptical of the people around her. Despite her misgivings, she puts all the love that she cannot give her family into the food she prepares. Gradually, whether she wants to admit it or not, the restaurant begins to change her.

Myriam has always felt that her life has been predetermined, but with the opening of Chez Moi, things begin to take a positive turn. Ben, an outwardly awkward yet astoundingly graceful waiter, appears at the very moment she needs him, and Vincent, the uptight florist next door, becomes her dear friend after a fraught beginning. Though she is a self-taught cook, her dishes are skillfully executed, and her vivid dreams and intoxicating visions for the restaurant create a haven for the local community. But as her success grows, so does her fear that her life could crumble again, leaving her with nothing.

By reaching out to Ali, a farmer whom she knew during her years cooking for the circus, Myriam hopes to bring his magic to her new venture. But Ali does much more than transform her kitchen; he transforms Myriam's entire perspective, allowing her to love again. And when, after six years of silence, her son seeks her out with the help of the new love in his own life, Myriam finally begins to make peace with herself.


Agnès Desarthe was born in Paris in 1966 and has written books for children, teenagers, and adults. She has had two previous novels translated into English: Five Photos of My Wife (2001), which was short-listed for both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Jewish Quarterly Fiction Prize, and Good Intentions (2002). Chez Moi is her first book to be published in the U.S.


Q. In Chez Moi, you deal with serious themes of maternal and romantic love, betrayal, and redemption, yet despite the difficult subject matter, you generally keep a light or even fable-like tone. Why did you choose to write the book in this way? Did you purposefully set out to make Chez Moi a positive, redemptive story, or did that notion evolve during the course of your writing?

Keeping a light tone has always been my way, whether I'm writing for children or for adults. It's a question of both aesthetics and culture. To me, humor is one of the most exciting literary devices.

"Redemptive" is not a word I would use. A book just has to end. Isaac Bashevis Singer used to say that in literature as well as in dreams death did not exist. I always have this in mind. There is something utterly not serious in fiction.

Q. You write so evocatively about food; it must be a love in your own life, in some form. Are you a cook yourself? Why is food such an integral part of this story? What did you hope to convey by making Myriam a chef?

At one point in my life I noticed that I spent more time cooking than writing. I love cooking, but still, I found it alarming. I started wondering what the problem was with me and realized that when you cook, you do it for people who are hungry. The average human being is hungry three times a day. That's an awful lot. When you write, nobody seems to be especially hungry (for fiction, I mean). There's something absurdly romantic in keeping up this activity. I often say to myself that my life would be happier if I were a cook.

The reason why food is so important in the novel is because it allows the perfect give-and-take relationship that will always be missing in art. Myriam is a chef because she has a problem with desire. Cooking is the only way she has found to give herself to others without being too threatening. In France the book is called Eat Me. The sexual tension is made much more obvious than in the English title.

Q. Myriam is a voracious reader and many of her favorite books are mentioned in Chez Moi. Which books have the most personal resonance for you? Are your tastes similar to Myriam's?

All of the books that are mentioned in the novel are part of my ideal list—but that list includes many more than thirty-three volumes.

Q. You started as a translator, and you've now written many children's books, two plays, and this is your sixth novel for adults. Is there one form you enjoy most? Do you still work in all of these forms?

What I enjoy most is going from one form to the other. I don't think I'll ever stop translating or writing for children. Recently I've translated Cynthia Ozick's The Puttermesser Papers and Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room, and both were such nourishing experiences that I don't see how I could do without them. It gives me the impression that I'm a better writer than I really am, and it's ego-free work, which is a wonderful holiday for an artist.

Q. What other writers have most influenced your work? If not a direct influence, who do you admire?

That is a particularly difficult question. Very often, in magazines, I read interviews in which the author cites Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Faulkner (very few women in general), and I think, "Wow, he must be really good having received such wonderful influences," but once I get down to read the actual work, I'm disappointed. I'll answer all the same, because, as we say in French: Le ridicule ne tue pas (ridicule never killed anyone). I admire and would gladly be influenced by: Virginia Woolf, I.B. Singer, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Primo Levi, Cynthia Ozick, Henry Roth, Marguerite Duras, and many, many more.

Q. What are you working on now?

I'm translating Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, and writing a novel for teenagers about three issues that torment me: beauty, adulthood, and novel writing.


  • Myriam says she cooks "with and out of love" (p. 3), yet is unable to feel love for her son. Is it possible to stop loving your child? What circumstances do you believe would cause something like that to happen?
  • The way Myriam describes flowers and food is deeply affectionate and almost anthropomorphic. Why do you think she is she able to so lushly convey her love for these things, yet have such trouble with people?
  • Where you surprised by Rainer's slap and the aftermath? Do you believe that love can die so suddenly? What are some other reasons that could cause a relationship to end swiftly and without argument?
  • When Myriam's betrayal and the reason for her abandonment are revealed, does it change your view of her? How were you able to understand or empathize with her unfaithfulness? If you were in her position, would you have made the same decision to leave?
  • Myriam has elaborate, realistic dreams that reflect her state of mind and desires. Why do you think she remembers them so clearly? What affect do they have on her? How do your own dreams affect your waking life?
  • At the end of Chez Moi, Hugo and Myriam reunite after six years apart. It can be argued that often it is much easier to remain estranged from a person than to make strides to patch things up. Have you had an experience in your own life when you had to choose whether or not to repair a relationship that had grown distant? Who made the first move towards contact, and how did it work out in the end? Was it worth the effort?
  • Ali tells Myriam, "You're the wildest person I've ever met" (p. 237). Myriam has taken such risks in her life but in her mind, she is merely a cook. Why do you think she's still so unaware of others' perceptions of her? Do you think your own self-perception is accurate? Are you surprised at what others see in you?
  • Myriam feels that she needs to leave behind the restaurant and everything that she's created if she's going to give herself wholly to Ali. What did the restaurant say about her that has now changed? Do you agree with her decision?
  • Desire, physical and emotional, plays a large role in the book. So does destiny. How are the ideas of desire and destiny intertwined? Do you think it is possible to will something to happen?
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    Chez Moi

    With a cover featuring prominent blurbs by Kim Edwards (The Memory Keeper's Daughter) and Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), it is clear that the publisher hopes to capture the commercial domestic fiction market with the English translation of his French novel. Indeed, it is easy enough to describe Chez Moi as a charming and touching read. However, this novel also contains a dash of philosophy that gives it a subtler taste than its American counterparts. The narrator is Myriam, 43, who has set up her own hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a quiet part of Paris, on a bank loan she obtained with the help of a forged hospitality training certificate. Chez Moi (meaning 'my place') is literally Myriam's home - as she can't afford a separate place to live, she spends her nights in the restaurant, sleeping on a bench and bathing in its giant metal sink. Gifted at cooking but hopeless at pretty much everything else it takes to run a restaurant, she initially drowns under a heap of unpaid bills. Fortunately, she is pulled from the brink of bankruptcy with the miraculous arrival of the orphaned Ben, an idealistic and self-sufficient political science student who becomes her indispensable waiter and accountant. As she feeds an ever-increasing clientele, who range from her awkward florist neighbour to the two vivacious schoolgirls who were her first customers, readers find out that her air of rootlessness is a result of her desire to abandon her dark past. This past includes emotional estrangements from her husband and son, a spectacular scandal that leads her to flee her home, and the healing purgatory that was her time as the in-house cook for a small travelling circus. The dream-like series of scenes both past and present is peopled with characters who seem too perfect or convenient to be real, from the indomitable Ben to the reassuringly solid farmer-grocer Ali to Hugom, her angelic son. But you soon realise that being bothered by this two-dimensionality is quite beside the point, as these characters largely serve as symbols or plot devices which allow the author to flesh out Myriam's own issues. She struggles with ideas of choice versus fatalism and the nature of truth, the latter even turning up as the philosophy class question that torments her two schoolgirl customers. The author handles these introspective interludes with a light and whimsical touch: For example, repeated references to Alice In Wonderland - 'too small, too big, my life keeps changing proportions and I'm never the right size for what I m trying to do' - culminate in the appearance of a character actually bearing a large mushroom. Meanwhile, cooking is the means by which she expresses and defines herself, and foodies will love how strongly she identifies with her gastronomical creations. Take the first meal she offers someone in her restaurant: 'I look at him and think he's feeding off me because I put all of myself into that first tart, that inaugural dessert.' Don't read this book on an empty stomach better yet, take yourself to a favourite cafe and allow yourself to indulge along with the printed word. Her descriptions of food are exquisite, from a shin of veal 'pale as a ballerina's tutu', to a carrot and walnut cake, with its 'unctous lemon-flavoured icing', it's 'grainy sponge' and finally 'the delicate alloy of cinnamon and brown sugar'. While the conventionally sweet ending might leave some craving something more substantial, the musings on love and relationships that come before still provide much food for thought.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013


    Great story

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Rainbow Dash

    Woohoo! Awesome! Although you could've made it a bit interesting by adding more detail and making like a scenario where the mane six had to help her with something or her and Derpy go on a quest. But besides that, I can tell you are a gifted writer. Nice job!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Make yourself at home in Chez Moi

    Agnes Desarthe's Chez Moi is a classic novel in the style of Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies and Chocolat that revels in the sensual and emotional power of truly great food. Its narrator, Myriam, is a talented cook with a forged resume and a past tainted with disaster. At 43, Myriam feels that her life (including a failed attempt at motherhood) has been a failure, and her dearth of organizational abilities always leaves her in a bind. Her latest attempt is to open a restaurant with a staff of one: she doesn't want to hire waiters, cooks, or dishwashers, and she has no idea how a restaurant is run. <BR/><BR/>Despite a life tainted with tragedies, Myriam whips up extraordinary culinary concoctions that delight her audience. She shields herself from emotion with food, willing herself to forget about painful past betrayals and near-misses. But her small restaurant, which she's christened Chez Moi ("My house"), is her home, for she can't afford to rent an apartment and instead sleeps on the donated banquette and bathes in the large stainless steel sink. <BR/><BR/>The descriptions of food are heady and sensual, from delicate sauces to silken desserts. Ever practical, Myriam reuses things rather than throwing them out, and comes up with one menu for adults, another to cater to children. <BR/><BR/>Despite her lack of advertising (Chez Moi doesn't even have a sign proclaiming it's a restaurant), her creations attract a regular crowd of schoolgirls, young children, and workers. The neighboring florist Vincent, with breath that could kill an elephant, expresses romantic interest in her. When the talented waiter Ben appears, he helps Myriam by creating a website and bringing customers (and a catering business). Myriam is fascinated by Ben's physical awkwardness (he seems to have some mild physical impairment) and his asexuality (finally, a strong asexual character whose personality isn't defined by his asexuality!), his broad range of knowledge, and his talent in the kitchen. Ben puts Myriam in touch with a romantic figure from her past, and this has earth-shattering consequences for the timid, haunted Myriam. <BR/><BR/>There are mentions of Myriam's Jewishness, although fleeting, and of her family: successful little brother Charles, an eccentric aunt, and her disapproving parents, and the role that all of these characters have played in her development. Myriam's past failures threaten to engulf her, until her new network of co-workers and friends gives her the ability to move on. <BR/><BR/>Beautifully told, this portrait of a haunted woman and her talent in the kitchen will be sure to delight fans of Joanne Harris and Laura Esquivel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)