The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

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The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A gentle yet investigative book about emotions between two very different sisters, told with plenty of freshness and honesty.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848875395

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The Cookbook Collector is all about emotions. Concentrating on two, young, American women who are vastly different in many areas of their lives and also on their outlook on life, Goodman digs deeper to find out what makes them tick - what makes them get up in the morning.

The title is certainly creative and as you'd expect, food and cooking do feature quite heavily, but with a light touch by Goodman. She centres on her two main characters, Emily and younger sister Jess, by giving her readers chunky chapters all about their background and past history. And I could see that a strong theme running throughout is about the choices made - and perhaps more importantly, why they were made.

The writing style is gentle but investigative. We soon learn that Jess is a 'tree-hugger' amongst other things. She cares deeply about the environment and makes her own personal commitments for a 'better world.' She's also a student of philosophy and in order to help pay the rent and buy the groceries (and yes, there's brown rice and lentils) she works part-time in a rather old-fashioned bookshop. Goodman spends a lot of time on descriptive text. Therefore we know what Jess looks like, what her apartment looks like, what her co-renters look like...

And as the two sisters (who live fairly close to each other) get together in the opening chapters, we hear Jess say to Emily So Emily ... what's it like being rich? And we find out by degrees that Emily is a no-nonsense, level-headed individual who is riding the very successful bubble. And as we get a closer look at Emily and her super-smart colleagues, we're drawn into all things financial. And it's here that I felt Goodman delivered her best lines. The reader is surrounded by mainly young men barely out of short trousers but who, with their magic fingers on the computer keyboard are now rolling in it. Cash. Dollars. So we see a lot of conspicuous consumption going on. But what we also see is arrogance; young men not willing to respect their older colleagues (what does a 50 year old know, for Christ's sake?) would be a stock comment.

As the story deepens and develops we see the two worlds of Emily (corporate) and Jess (environmental). Could there be some sort of compromise here? Or will there be an almighty explosion at some point? All is revealed by Goodman in her own good time. At the heart of this story is love, happiness, a meaningful future. What most of us want, really. Emily has a hot-shot boyfriend and everything in her life seems to be going to plan. But not everything in life can be planned, written in a diary, can it? Life's not like that. I loved the freshness and honesty of Jess - but is she too honest for her own good? There are some nice twists and turns along the narrative to keep the reader engaged.

While Goodman's style is light and easy, I did find her at times a little irksome when she tended to waffle a bit and became too wordy. The front cover says this book is Irresistible ... but personally speaking, I wouldn't go that far in my praise. Overall, a pleasant, engaging read.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

If you enjoyed The Cookbook Collector, you'll also like Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs.

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Buy The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman at


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