Read The Theoretical Foot by M.F.K. Fisher Online


When Robert Lescher died in 2012 an unpublished manuscript of M.F.K. Fisher’s was discovered neatly packed in the one of the literary agent’s signature red boxes. Inspired by Fisher’s affair with Dillwyn Parrish -- who was to become her second husband -- The Theoretical Foot is the master stylist’s first novel. In it she describes the life she all-too-briefly had with theWhen Robert Lescher died in 2012 an unpublished manuscript of M.F.K. Fisher’s was discovered neatly packed in the one of the literary agent’s signature red boxes. Inspired by Fisher’s affair with Dillwyn Parrish -- who was to become her second husband -- The Theoretical Foot is the master stylist’s first novel. In it she describes the life she all-too-briefly had with the man she’d ever after describe as the one great love of her life.It tells of a late-summer idyll at the Swiss farmhouse of Tim and Sara, where guests have gathered at ease on the terrace next to the burbling fountain in which baby lettuces are being washed, there to enjoy the food and wine served them by this stylish American couple.But all around these seemingly fortunate people, the forces of darkness are gathering: The year is 1939; World War Two approaches. And the paradise Tim and Sara have made is being besieged from within as Tim -- closely based on Parrish -- is about to suffer the first of the circulatory attacks that will cause him to lose his leg to amputation....

Title : The Theoretical Foot
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781619026148
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Theoretical Foot Reviews

  • Anna
    2019-04-27 20:48

    For once, I found a book in the library so promptly that I remembered where the recommendation came from: this list of ‘gentler women’s fiction’. I thought something gentle might balance all the non-fiction I’ve been reading about climate change, the flaws of capitalism, Brexit, etc. Gentle doesn’t seem like an apposite term for this novel, though. It’s very emotionally claustrophobic, which does not make for an especially soft and relaxing read. It reminded me quite a bit of A Dark Stranger by Julian Gracq. In both books, a small group of nebulously upper class people are on holiday in a beautiful locale, with nothing to do except brood obsessively about their relationships with one another. ‘The Theoretical Foot’ dials up up the intensity further by including more sibling relationships and removing the neutral setting of a hotel. Instead, the novel is about a house party, taking place in a bucolic Swiss estate. The descriptions of the house and surrounding countryside were the highlight of the book for me. As the afterword recounts, Fisher is describing a real place, which explains the convincing sensuousness of the details. I could evoke the whole place in my mind, and it seemed a wonderful spot for a holiday. On the other hand, the lack of holiday excursions and activities leaves only eating, drinking, and passing judgement (on one another and themselves). Thus the reader spends more time than is comfortable in the minds of each guest - but not the hostess. She is a thinly veiled portrait of Fisher herself, apparently. There is a lot of concern about unmarried sex, as the hostess is living with a man other than her husband and the first narrator Sue is backpacking around Europe with her boyfriend. Or rather, the concern seems excessive by today’s jaded standards, although at the time it would have seemed shocking in its frankness. I certainly appreciated the complexity of the female characters’ attitudes to men and sexuality. Surprisingly, given that it is set in 1938, the looming world war appears almost entirely absent. Presumably because the characters are all extraordinarily self-involved and live in privilege. While I found this navel-gazing narrative emotionally insightful for the most part, it also became stifling. These people never seem to think about anything but themselves and each other! What about their other friends and family? What about current events? What about their careers, hobbies, and interests? Even though the locale is beautiful, a holiday spent with nothing to do except perpetually socialise with unfamiliar and over-familiar people does not sound restful to me. Not that I am someone who requires constant exercise and diversion on holiday, quite the apposite. Ideally I like a museum or two, some gentle walking, and a great deal of lounging around quietly without having to exhaustively catalogue my feelings about those around me. I almost felt that the beautiful setting of ‘The Theoretical Foot’ was under-appreciated - while the characters enjoyed and praised it, that didn’t distract them from their melodramatic internal soliloquies.

  • Kate Brown
    2019-05-01 02:28

    At the heart of La Prairie, Tim and Sara's exquisite house on Lake Geneva, there is a mirror which reflects the scenes of one late summer day in 1938 with heightened clarity and colour. It's an apt motif for Fisher's fiction - if you have loved both the sensuality and precision of her food writing this newly discovered novel will delight you. Unsurprisingly the descriptions of the enigmatic Sara's delicious meals and carefully selected wines are mouth-watering.Though Fisher was American, she spent extended periods of time living in Europe, and this novel has a European sensibility - I kept thinking it would make a wonderful film or play. It demands your attention - Fisher head hops through multiple points of view, often in one scene, but she draws the characters with such a fine eye there is no confusion. Rhodes scholar Joe, swaggering through the day 'like a great heavy cat, a tom', and his 'tiny lewd and beautiful love', Sue, arrive at Sara's house to find no room at the inn. Sara's brother and sister, and Tim's poet sister with her companion Lucy are already staying. Lucy, as uptight as her girdles, is scandalised by the bohemian idyll.Fisher captures a single day, a moment as full-blown and beautiful as the vases of flowers gathered from the fields around La Prairie by Tim's sister. The sense that this brief perfection will not last rumbles in the distance like storm clouds gathering over the lake. War is coming in Europe, and the chapters are also punctuated by surreal, almost hallucinatory accounts of an unnamed man in hospital undergoing an amputation - the 'theoretical foot' of the title. Global and private tragedy wait in the wings as the friends dance before the darkening mirror, and enjoy one last night, one last meal. Reading Vanderburgh's afterword takes your breath away when you realise how much of this story is based on Fisher's own beautiful and tragic life.

  • Robin Meadows
    2019-05-08 21:38

    Beautiful writing on a sentence level but crude, unskilled storytelling and pointless, ugly story.

  • Alix
    2019-05-20 19:31

    This was a surprise waiting for me on the "new fiction" shelf of the Morrison Library. I, like most people, had thought that "Not Now But Now" was MFK Fisher's only novel. I am a lifelong fan of her food writing, so naturally I grabbed this one. It's a very thinly disguised autobiographical work, but if you didn't know about her life it would read like a novel. I can't tell exactly when she wrote it (it was published in 2016), but it takes place in August 1938, and must have been written soon thereafter; however, it reads to me like a novel from a slightly earlier era. Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway kept coming to my mind. The point of view shifts often (in fact, the MFK Fisher stand-in character is the only one whose mind we never read, making her the mystery at the center of the novel), and the narrative follows all the flickers of the characters' shifting thoughts and feelings. There is even a culminating dinner party scene where someone draws the blinds, a la Mrs Dalloway--and the action all takes place on one day. I am talking myself into believing Woolf was one of her inspirations. :-) Of course her real inspiration was her one true love, Dillwyn ("Tim") Parrish. I may have over-rated this a tiny bit because of my fondness for her and excitement at finding a new novel by her, because of course she's no Virginia Woolf, but I think she pulls it off pretty impressively.

  • Carolynmora
    2019-05-06 23:32

    I have adored MFK Fisher's non-fiction for many years and was surprised to find that she had written this novel, which was posthumously discovered and published. The afterword explains how auto-biographical the story is and why it wasn't published during her lifetime. I kind of wish I had read the afterword first, so I understood it more while reading it. A bit strange and dream-like, the book is about an assorted group of Americans on summer holiday in Switzerland, as Europe is on the brink of World War II. Given the author, I thought there would be more detail about what they ate, but I suppose there is quite a lot. Just not as much as I would have liked. :-)

  • Pascale
    2019-05-22 20:39

    A complete bore. This book didn't see the light of print during the author's lifetime, and Fisher's reputation gains nothing by its release. There is no story, and the characters are such paltry egotists, one and all, that it's impossible to give a damn for any of them. All they do is get drunk and spy on each other out of sheer boredom. The brief italicized chapters chronicling Tim's leg's amputation seem totally unconnected to the narrative of the long house-party. Presumably Fisher intended some sort of poignant counterpoint effect but she didn't have the literary tools to pull it off.

  • Paul Lima
    2019-05-10 02:26

    Boring characters in a boring situation with little discernable plot. I confess, I abandoned the book. Will the couple stay together or not. They want to. Wait, he wants to and she doesn't. Wait, they don't want to. Wait, she does and he doesn't. Wait, they will talk to someone about it and do what she suggests. Wait, they break up... Wait, they will discuss it again in the morning... And then the bok shifts to another character who seems totally miserable. Don't know what her problem is or what the couple will do. Don't care. Delete from Kobo.

  • pianogal
    2019-04-26 20:28

    Much like the new Harper Lee book, this one should have been left in the darkness from whence it came. It was just a bunch of rather wealthy people together in Europe whining about their lives. Sigh. She didn't even write that much about food. Sorry. You can skip this one.

  • Starre Vartan
    2019-05-22 22:41

    More of an impressionist painting than a novel, more like eating a multiday meal than reading, left me craving a bowl of handmade pasta with fresh herbs and a glass of Tannat.

  • Mills College Library
    2019-05-07 20:48

    Fiction F5351t 2016

  • Rutger-Jan
    2019-05-07 20:29

    Not as good as her culinary books.

  • Catherine Bateson
    2019-05-19 02:27

    I love M K Fisher's writing but this novel did not move me.

  • Donna Peterson
    2019-04-28 19:49

    Liked it better than many other reviewers. I found it helpful to read the afterward first. Help frame the story.

  • Kimberly
    2019-04-26 22:34

    Want to read after discovering in book page.

  • Laurie Campbell
    2019-04-23 21:44

    Couldn't get into it. Not really a plot. Never finished it just took it back to the library :(

  • Janet
    2019-05-16 20:43

    Terrible book full of neurotic, narcissistic, and uninteresting characters.

  • Rae
    2019-05-04 19:41

    I loved the character vignettes and the loose flow of the story. I do want to know whose idea it was to leave copy editing errors on what felt like every page.

  • Kay Bowen
    2019-04-27 21:34

    Absorbing, oddly.

  • Estela Campbell-Brown
    2019-05-16 02:51

    Very good, well written book. I love the 1920-1930s era so a great find

  • Trina
    2019-04-23 20:35

    Goodreads win. Will review once received.

  • Sheryl Kirby
    2019-04-25 23:33

    So when an unpublished book by your favourite writer ever is discovered and published, you’re kind of excited, right? When I finally got my hands on a copy of M.F.K. Fisher’s The Theoretical Foot, I was almost shaking with anticipation. And then…There’s a reason why Fisher’s novel was never published in her lifetime, A few in fact. First was that she based all the characters on real people (it’s quite close to being autobiographical), and people featured in the book found it to be mean-spirited and harsh. Second was that, sadly, it’s just not very good.The book is full of the gorgeous descriptive prose Fisher is known for, although she talks mostly about people and less so about food. But the premise — house guests and party-goers spending a day at a gorgeous home in Switzerland in 1939 the day before Hitler attacks Poland, and their often complicated relationships with each other — are too intense, too near-incestuous, and completely without context to make any kind of point.It is only from knowing the story of Fisher’s personal life (the main characters are meant to be her and her lover Dillwyn Parrish — while they eventually married, both were married to others at the time), from knowing her other writing and the events that came after the time of the book, that the reader gets any grasp of the full meaning of the work.The main story is interspersed with brief chapters about a man losing his foot to gangrene. In real life, weeks after the date of the story, Parrish lost his leg to gangrene caused by Buerger’s disease (a scary illness for which the cause is still unknown but which is almost always associated with nicotine use). Fisher is clearly painting the day of the dinner party as not only the last day before the war, which changed their lives forever, but as the last halcyon days of her relationship with Parrish — while they did later marry, he eventually committed suicide, and she struggled financially.Additionally, Fisher’s characters, while well-developed, are just horrible, self-obsessed people, and the character of Lucy, based on the real-life house guest Mary, a friend of Parrish’s sister Anne, was terrible enough for Anne to ask Fisher not to publish the work, which she agreed to.Had the work been published when Fisher was still alive, the editing process might have made her themes and plot much more clear, but The Theoretical Foot was a harsh disappointment for this M.F. F. Fisher fan.

  • Victoria
    2019-05-11 23:41

    A quietly thoughtful, atmospheric read. This novel is a cacophony of different voices with a cast of half a dozen tortured souls, who all are as mysterious and remote from one another as islands. None can seem to figure themselves, much less each other, out. This inability to understand themselves— especially their own needs & desires— is at the root of each's struggle to define themselves against one other.While I enjoyed Fisher's exploration of complex familial relationships & differing perspectives, this novel is made far more interesting when considered alongside its historical context. World War 2 was just about to begin, and Fisher's lover was just about to be diagnosed with a rapidly advancing terminal disease that caused him to lose his leg in a matter of weeks. The novel abruptly ends at the very precipice of both of these events, and the agony & pain described intermittently throughout the novel provides a stark contrast to the idyllic setting of La Prairie... Foreshadowing huge changes for each character that is blissfully passing their time in luxurious ignorance at the summer home.

  • Katherine
    2019-05-16 01:26

    Enjoyable novel that clearly depicts an era through it's characters interactions and beliefs. The intro to each chapter slowly becomes less jarring as the novel progresses and clarity comes. The writing style was brilliant for me - it felt like you were experiencing it all, another person in the room observing. For those who like a very strong and complicated plot this won't be for you. It's more focused on the character building and reflecting the societal values of the era.

  • Chai1965
    2019-05-20 18:34

    3.5 stars - feels very dated and often confusing but makes me want to read some of her food writing, as some of the descriptions are beautiful.

  • Sally
    2019-05-05 19:34

    I absolutely love reading MFK Fisher's timeless food and travel writings. I would not have liked this "fictional" book as much had I not known of the autobiographical references to MF and Dillwyn's life in Switzerland just before the beginning of WWII and Dillwyn's horrendous health issues. I would have much rather have read a nonfiction version of the events of that summer written by MFK Fisher - but this book was a gift and perhaps provides insights into Fisher & Parrish family relationships. I wish there were more works by MF yet to be published! But I am happy to just read all the others again and again.