The Cookbook Collector
Dial Press, 2010
What caught my attention initially was the title - my mum and I collect cookbooks, so to see a novel entitled "The Cookbook Collector" was attention-getting to say the least. Then I saw where people are calling Allegra Goodman "the modern-day Jane Austen". And at that point, I knew I needed to give in and read the book. Thankfully, I lucked out and the library had it available and ready for check out!
I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Goodman the new Jane Austen, but I can understand why people draw the comparison: Just as Jane knew humanity and was able to demonstrate the ridiculous and the admirable in her characters, Goodman is a keen observer of human nature and draws very believable, real figures. So while I can understand it, I don't entirely agree. The Cookbook Collector has a LOT of characters. And almost all of them get a chance to 'speak'/ be in the spotlight. While that creates a very developed, detailed and dimensional story, it was also rather confusing until I got everyone sorted out in my head.
Actually, that's kind of my overall feeling about the book: I was confused until I got it all organized. There are a lot of storylines, and figuring out how they all related - IF they were all related - took some mental attention. As the story progressed, it got easier and easier to follow. Whether that's because I was now totally engrossed in the story or because I had worked through the confusing beginning and made it into a clearer-in-general part of the story, I don't know. What I do know is this: Goodman wove an intricate tale, and took it somewhere I was not expecting. At all. Once I reached the end, I had a moment of thinking "I should've seen that coming," but then - if I had seen it coming, I wouldn't have liked the story so well. Because I did like it, a lot. Allegra Goodman may not be Jane Austen, but she can write an amazing and arresting story.
Book provided by my local library.