Monday, February 15, 2010

The Healing Powers of Chocolate

I have to admit that I didn’t finish reading this book. I made it to page 167 of 294 (the last 60 of those pages are recipes and places to buy chocolate). It is so poorly written that I just couldn’t read it. My initial impression was that it needed a good editor, but after the first couple of chapters, I realized that what it really needed was a good author.

There is very little original writing in this volume. Most of the material in it was previously published in Ms. Orey’s previous two books. It is obvious she merely copied and pasted passages from those books into the manuscript with no regard to narrative flow.

She uses tables of information lifted directly from other sources (with proper attribution) without any discussion. The most egregious fault I found was her description of a tour of a chocolate factory. She was unable to make the tour, so she used the notes of a friend who did go on the tour. Just the notes in raw form, again copied and pasted into her manuscript.

Some of her writing reads likes notes also. I found it very jarring to encounter sentences that were grammatically incorrect or that had no point. She tells the same stories over and over, each time as if it were the first time that the story has been used.

Her tracing of the history of chocolate is marred by her lack of geographical knowledge. Countries wander from Central to South America and back again, depending on which page you are reading.

As for those “healing powers”, she is correct in citing the trace nutrients found in chocolate. However, reputable scientists have pointed out that they are found in such minute quantities that you would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate every day to gain any benefit from them. Ms. Orley smoothly skates past this little detail by recommending a “dosage” of 1 to 2 squares of dark chocolate per day as part of a healthy diet (she recommends either the Mediterranean diet or the French diet) along with regular exercise. She neglects to mention that it is the diet and exercise, not the chocolate, that is providing the health benefits.

She lives in the San Francisco area and takes us on a tour of the chocolatiers in that city, breathlessly describing their incomparable chocolates, recommending that readers choose those chocolates rather than chocolates from anywhere else. She then goes on to admit that she eats plain old Hershey’s Dark Chocolate. From Pennsylvania.

Review copy courtesy of Kensington Books

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