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November 16, 2014

Delicious!



Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Fiction
2014
Finished on September 23, 2014
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)




Publisher’s Blurb:

Ruth Reichl is a born storyteller. Through her restaurant reviews, where she celebrated the pleasures of a well-made meal, and her best-selling memoirs that address our universal feelings of love and loss, Reichl has achieved a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, with this magical debut novel, she has created a sumptuous, wholly realized world that will enchant you.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie initially feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to come to terms with her fears, her big sister, and her ability to open her heart to love.

It’s been many, many years since I first read Ruth Reichl’s witty memoir, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. As I recall, I enjoyed the first half of that book much more than the second half, laughing aloud at some of her childhood memories, as well as her anecdotes about her mother, “the notorious food-poisoner known forevermore as the Queen of Mold.” When Delicious! first appeared on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, I knew I had to give it a try, especially after reading so many glowing reviews by fellow bloggers. I quickly fell into Billie’s new life in New York, enjoying all the foodie details and atmosphere of both the city and the publisher’s offices, when the narrative shifted abruptly. As is my custom, I hadn’t read the publisher’s blurb prior to reading the novel, so I wasn’t prepared for the sudden demise of the fictitious magazine, Delicious! While I enjoyed the letters between Lulu Swan and James Beard, I preferred the foodie aspect of the novel more than the contrived World War II storyline.

Final Thoughts:

Part culinary fiction, part historical fiction (with a predictable mystery thrown in for good measure), this ambitious debut novel was a bit too bland for this reader. Good but definitely not delicious!

14 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed Reichl's memoir, but can't seem to get excited about reading her fiction. Guess I'll take a pass on this one...

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    1. I liked her memoir, but now that I've read two of her books, I'm not sure I'll read anymore.

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  2. A lot of people have loved this book but I pretty much felt the same way you did.

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    1. It certainly had potential. I would have liked more of the story from the first half.

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  3. Too bad! I keep hearing lukewarm reviews of this one. Sounds like Reichl needs to stick with the memoirs. I enjoyed Tender at the Bone and would love to read some of her others as well.

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    1. I enjoyed Tender at the Bone, but I didn't love it. It's going to take a lot to convince me to read more by her.

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  4. I am listening to this right now and am not sure how the letters will change the story. The narrator is doing a great job to keep me engaged.

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    1. I've listened to a few books with an epistolary format and if done well, it isn't jarring or disruptive. Hope the narrator for Delicious! continues to do a good job.

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  5. I've only read one of Reichl's books, but always said I would read more. Maybe this one!

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    1. Give it a try. A good read is a good read! They can't all be outstanding. :)

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  6. I had to go back to see what I thought. I had kind of a "liked but grew weary" feeling, from a distance. Yep, that's pretty much how I felt. I liked it but found it tiresome and annoying in minor ways. I thought you'd like it more than I did. Sounds like we felt about the same.

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    1. Sounds like this is the consensus for this book. Good but a little tiresome. Nice cover art, though!

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  7. I swear this book includes new technology that permits the reader to SMELL the food talked about. Every time somebody walked into that cheese shop/deli I could smell the cold meats and cheeses.

    Like Bookfool I had that "liked but grew weary" (great description) feeling about the book but I was glad I read it. Just didn't recommend it to anybody else.

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    1. Yes! I felt like I could smell the food in the cheese shop/deli, too!!

      I'm glad I read it, too, but sadly it won't make my Top Ten list for 2014.

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