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Book review: The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner

Book review: The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner
Fruit Hunters
Adam Leith Gollner
Published by
RRP £18.99

Jack fruits, ice cream beans, mangosteens, egg fruits, rambutans. Leith Gollner is a guy with a bee in his bonnet - or, perhaps more accurately, a kumquat. Follow his global quest to discover a whole new world of fruit.  

I have to confess that, on initial reception, I thought reading 'Fruit Hunters' was going to be a real chore. Within the first few pages, I was forced to withdraw my previous statement. It's lucky I'm not proud. It's also lucky I'm a big fan of the American/Canadian style of writing found in my beloved Saveur, Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines- indeed, the author has contributed to the two latter titles.

Forget all the weird and wonderful confectionary and novel foods that currently about from supermarket shelves and television screens- Leith Gollner convinces us that fruits are magical enough in themselves. In 'Fruit Hunters', myths, legends and folklore combine with science and politics to fascinating effect and, while one can experience information overload at times, it's all intriguing enough to keep you ploughing on.

Leith Gollner is a guy with a bee in his bonnet- or, perhaps more accurately, a kumquat. Driven to biophilia from an early age after a family move to Bulgaria, he's since devoted a significant portion of his life to hunting out the bizarre, esoteric and downright elusive (his quest to sample the erotic coco-de-mer being a case-in-point). 'Fruit Hunters' expresses the extent of his commitment to all things fruity- clearly a true work of passion- not to mention extreme dedication- it evokes the same feeling in the reader.

I must confess I enjoyed the 'gung-ho' adventure parts best. I'm all about the fruit- what it looks, tastes, smells, feels like. I found myself truffling through the prose to discover the next wampee, jaboticaba, or chupa-chupa. Luckily, there were more than enough of these nuggets of joy to sustain me as I absorbed chapters on commerce, the fascinating world (no joke) of fruit marketing, Permanent Global Summertime and mass production. Just when it all gets a bit heavy and sinister, Gollner catapults you back into the world of the truly obsessive- painting vivid portraits of fruit conventions and (highly) individuals such as the Fruit Detective.

Reading the book is such an intense experience it's a bit of a shock to come to the end and return to the real world- like going from full-colour to black and white. Surely, I thought, it was the mark of a good writer was to command interest in the most mundane of topics- but then I stopped to reconsider, and realised that I now find the whole subject of fruit fascinating... Bitten by the 'Fruit Hunters' bug, I'm a full blown convert.
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11 June 2009
By: Zoe Perrett
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