Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR by Allegra Goodman


One reviewer described this novel as "abundantly delicious," and I couldn't agree more. When I read a book like this, it becomes the gold standard, and almost everything else pales in comparison. One chapter, which begins with the eating of a peach, is just the juiciest love scene ever but as chaste as the Jane Austen novel that apparently inspired this book. As the twentieth century draws to a close, two sisters with opposite personalities live in the Berkeley area. The older, Emily, is the brilliant originator of a dot-com startup. The younger, Jess, is a perennial flower-child student, involved with an environmentally holier-than-thou treehugger named Leon. Emily's boyfriend Jonathan has his own dot-com startup in the Boston area, so that their relationship is long-distance, with neither party willing to give up his/her company to move to the other coast. Although theirs would appear to be the perfect match otherwise, Jonathan lacks Emily's moral compass and is ruthless in his quest for market share. Jess, however, is the central character who finds part-time work in a bookstore, owned and operated by George, who made millions at Microsoft at a tender age, and now indulges his love of rare books and fine cuisine. Those two obsessions come together when he happens upon a collection of old, rare cookbooks. Jess signs on to help him catalog these books but is really more interested in the handwritten love notes, drawings, and menus that the now-deceased owner tucked in between the pages. I hungrily devoured and savored every word of this sumptuous, delectable novel, but I think the most appropriate adjective for it is "passionate"—passion for food, books, trees, success, whatever, but especially for a kindred spirit who at first appears to be anything but.

2 comments:

Lisa said...

It's definitely a book about passions; it's amazing the direction some passions can lead us.

Patti's Pages said...

Indeed!