Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman


Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight year old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, and twenty-three year old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy. 

Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley. Romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily is rational and driven, while Jess is dreamy and whimsical. Emily's boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess's boyfriends, not so much--as her employer George points out in what he hopes is a completely disinterested way.

Bicoastal, surprising, rich in ideas and characters, The Cookbook Collector is a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can't find what we're looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living. But above all it is about holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays.


I was instantly drawn to this book, you know when you see a cover and it just screams "Read me, Read me!"  Y'all know how much I love food and the idea of a book about food just appeals to me.  However I will NEVER make that mistake again.  This book has almost nothing to do with the Cookbook Collector, in fact that character, who is only mentioned by other characters, doesn't even show up until around page 100.

On top of that, the book has very little to do with the synopsis.  In fact at one point I decided that this book seems lacked in plot and was really just a character study, but a character study of way to many people.  I didn't even know who the main characters were.  Each time Goodman introduced a new character she went off on a tangent about another character in that set.  It felt very 7 degrees of separation like.  I understanding that books and characters can be connected but this one came off as too formulated which made it unbelievable. 

Allegra Goodman

Goodman opens her novel in 1999 with two sisters disagreeing and not understanding one another.  I kind of rolled my eyes and thought "not another one" having just finished Shanghi Girls (see my review HERE).  In truth the book isn't about the sisters at all, it's about, Silicon Valley, a bookstore, philosophy, IPO's, environmental issues, Jewish mysticism and finally cookbooks.  As the story continues it grows closer and closer to 9/11 which makes quite a few things easy to predict. 

This is one of those books where the author constantly drops other authors names.  I'm not going to say I am a Literarian but I do consider myself fairly well read and I hadn't heard of hardly any of the authors nor did I know any of the quotes she used to enhance her book.  But what really bothered me was that Goodman used the book quotes to repeat what the characters had already shown or told so I started skipping over them. 

I hate to admit this, but there were quite a few works in this book that I had to look up.  Words like Ziftib, xeriscape, enjambment, and quixotic.  With all the quotes and words I didn't know I got annoyed with Goodman.  It felt like she was showing off her education instead of writing my favorite a story.

Plumb Cake

There was one story line that I could like more than the others (If you haven't figured it out I did not like this book at all).  This particular story line is of course the one that involves the cookbook collector.  At the end of the book Goodman includes some cakes.  The above image is to represent "Plumb Cake" (American Cookery, 1796) w/ currants, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, salt, citron, orange peel candied, flour, eggs, yeast, wine, cream, raisins.  Adopted from Mrs. Simmons

This book did make for a good Book club book, the room was split on liking and hating it which always makes for a good discussion.  I fell into the hating group.

I give this book 2 sprinkles of glitter, not even enough to give it a good coating. 

I'm linking up with

1 comment:

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

Sorry you did not enjoy it, and I absolutely hate it when a book's synopsis does not represent the plot at all. Book club discussions are usually more fun when the book is hated, though.... ;P

Great review, and I would have definitely been intrigued by this book had I seen it at the store.

Thanks so much for linking-up to Literary Friday!

Ricki Jill