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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman, 2010, * * *

When I read the description for The Cookbook Collector, I was interested in reading about two sisters and their relationship with each other.  Part of what made these two sisters interesting was how different they were - Jess is the free-spirited, tree loving, vegan sister, the perpetual student who flits aimlessly through life with a generous heart and a luminescent beauty that attracts people to her. Emily, the older sister, is the total opposite who at 26 is the CEO of Veritech, a  promising  When the Publishers Weekly folks start tossing Jane Austen's name around, I expect a well-written, gentle comedy/satire. When a cover looks like an oil painting, I expect depth and quality. When the title includes the word COOKBOOK, I expect a soothing read. This is not that book.  Ultimately, this is a book about a bunch of yuppie techies working 24/7 during the dot com bubble from 1999 through 2002.   Given the present economy, I simply don't think readers are going to relate to that period today. The novel weaves back and forth between the various story arcs Emily and her business; her boyfriend Jonathan and his high-tech company; their relationship with each other; Jess and her environmental activism;  Jess and her job at Yorick's, a bookstore run by a wealthy older man named George who is sort of commitment-phobic. In addition,  there are numerous other  threads which touch on themes such as Jewish mysticism, family secrets, cooking, and house restsoration.   Overall, the quality of writing is above average but the multiple story arcs are uneven and insufficiently explored.  It is an easy read, but ultimately unsatisfying.

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