Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Random House - fiction
Source: Random House via TLC Tours
WARNING - If you like to go into a story not knowing all the strands before they occur, please skip the description because it may contain some minor spoilers. I went into the reading of Delicious! completely blind -- no reading of the cover blurb, no idea of what it was about -- and enjoyed the way the threads of the story were revealed and then tied together.
Something has driven Billie Breslin out of college and far from her California home. In New York, she finds a job writing for Delicious!, a magazine that has been published for over 100 years. As she slowly gets to know the people she works with, mysteries emerge about the characters and the building itself. Then, Delicious! is suddenly shut down and Billie is left alone to answer complaint calls and piece together the mystery of a hidden room, a series of letters written during WWII, and what became of the young lady who wrote to chef James Beard. As she works, both in the mansion that used to house Delicious! and the store of a cheesemonger, Billie slowly develops new friendships and begins to face the tragedy that drove her far from home.
When I saw that Ruth Reichl had a new book coming out, I jumped right on the bandwagon. I didn't even notice that it was a novel! No matter, though. Like her nonfiction, Ruth Reichl's first novel is full of descriptions that will make your mouth water, her first attempt at a novel surprisingly well-balanced and gripping. I particularly loved the WWII portions of the book. There's an interview with Ann Patchett at the back of the book -- a conversation, really -- in which they discuss the writing, the WWII letters and how the elements came to Reichl as she wrote. She claims to have known very little about WWII, which is surprising. Obviously, she's a very good researcher as she handled that well.
There were little things I disliked about Delicious! Because Reichl's writing is very descriptive, the book is a bit over-long and probably could have been tightened a little. There's a lot of "savoring". I honestly grew weary of that word, after a time. And, the tragedy is completely transparent. I knew what had happened (not the details -- just in general) within 50 pages, although it's not revealed for quite some time. I also have to admit that Sammy is a character I found a bit hard to believe in, although I liked him, and I didn't think there was a need for the ugly ducking to swan transformation. Billie was an interesting enough person to draw interest on her own merits before she was pushed to transform (by getting contacts, a haircut and a new wardrobe), which is good . . . but love doesn't fully come her way till after, which I found tad annoying.
None of the things I disliked about the book were enough to make me even remotely consider setting Delicious! down. I gobbled it up in a day, although it's nearly 400 pages and I'm a pretty slow reader.
Recommended - Foodies will particularly love reading the descriptions in Delicious! but it's a good novel, in general, so I also recommend it to those who like contemporary fiction, women's fiction, and romance. If you prefer minimalist writing, you might find yourself growing a little weary, but tight writing is my preference and I still enjoyed the various threads of the storyline enough that I was never tempted to set Delicious! aside.
Addendum: Is that cover fabulous, or what?
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