The Cookbook Collector

The Cookbook Collector

by Allegra Goodman

Faith Bowers (01/28/12): This is one of my favorite longer novels with a real lot going on. The main characters are sisters who live nearby but have very different values or so it seems. As typical of Allegra Goodman, there are many intertwining stories. My favorites are two stories: the growth and decline of the .com businesses and the story of George Friedman the Microsoft millionaire: what he does with his money and what he learns about relationships. There is much in character development that makes for a wonderful novel. To me one of the morals of the book is that money does not by happiness but does buy choices
Rating: ****

Patti's Pages: 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.
Rating: *****

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