Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cookbook Collector and Other Titles

I had to stay away from writing for a few days as I received a most unusual book from Library Journal with a scary 7 day turnaround! I'm tweaking the review now and will send it in tomorrow. A Good Hard Look is the name of the novel which won't be out til next June and it revolves around the real hometown of Flannery O'Connor, Milledgeville, GA, and the denizens thereof.

 That's all I can say at this time but I can tell you to keep your eyes peeled for the most delightfully unusual book I've read and reviewed in ages. It's called Mr. Chartwell and it got a starred review last month.

Meanwhile I've given up on Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. I was listening in my car and the reader was putting me to sleep! A definite no-no while traversing Route 41. Can anyone who read it tell me why I should go back to it? Please?

I've traded it for Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari. Fussy me - I don't care for this reader either but the idea of a trip from Cairo to Cape Town intrigues me right now as I'll be going to Africa in September. I've also started Condi Rice's Extraordinary, Ordinary People, the story of her wonderful family and strict upbringing in Birmingham in the terrifying '50's and '60's. It's beautifully written and indicates a delightful sense of self-deprecation and humor that didn't come across while she was Secretary of State. It's on my Nook. Sure hope I can finish it before it disapirates! OK, Ms. Rowling - is that really a word?

Now, if you have patience and really enjoy a slow book that unfolds quietly, affording you time to acquaint yourself with the characters and begin to feel that you care for them, then The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman is for you. It's strange, I've been listening to this for quite some time now and it feels as though I'm reading two different books.

 It appealed to me because of the premise of the two disparate sisters, one very practical and by the book, the other, rather flighty and prone to impracticality. I wondered if I'd see Cynthia and me in here but, instead, I see the two sides of me. Uh oh, does that mean it's all about me as my sister would say?? The novel takes place in California during the dot com madness with the older sister, Emily, running Veritech a startup Internet company, taking it public and making the big bucks.

Jess, the younger, is a perpetual student, always broke, studying philosophy, following a bad boyfriend around trying to save the redwoods, and working for the reclusive bookman, George. There are a host of quirky characters, most of whom are with the wrong person or in the wrong place. Few are following their passions though all of them desire to do just that. Trouble is, we the readers are the only ones who can see it.

The chapters that follow the boom and bust of of the Internet world are actually very interesting even to someone like me who would normally tune out when business is explained. The chapters that follow George, his antiquarian bookstore, his growing feelings for Jess, and his deep appreciation for the unusual cookbook collection he stumbles upon are downright glorious! Ms. Goodman describes the worship of books in a way that underscores my complete faith that e-book readers will never completely replace the physical beauty of bound pages.

I highly recommend this one - so much so that I think I'll head out for my walk so I can get back to it. Hat and gloves may still be needed but I'm out of here.

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