Land of Milk and Honey, C. Pam Zhang
It was more than a little terrifying to look up from the opening pages of Land of Milk and Honey, begun outside on a sun bed in the Algarve, and see an ashy cloud descending. C. Pam Zhang’s second novel is an ambitious and linguistically rich dystopian tale set in the near future, after a smog envelops the earth suffocating agriculture and calling into question the future of food.
The cloud I saw turned out to be from a small fire around 20km away, but still lasted through the night. In Zhang’s story, a desperate chef takes a morally questionable role with a tiny community of mega-rich in Italy, who have found a way to survive, if you’re brave enough and wealthy enough to join them.
So much is masterful about this novel, from the ability to hold the bodily and the esoteric or philosophical at once; to its boundless creativity in the world it develops and the suggestions of how humans might survive such a disaster. It is terrifyingly bleak and orgiastically generous and fulfilling. Zhang’s own love for food is clear with every bite. The possibilities of the plot are fantastically well imagined and researched. It is an impeccably crafted book that puts ne’er a foot wrong, though almost a painful read if you’re not near an urban centre with a tonne of brilliant food options.