Summary and book reviews of The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

The Cookbook Collector

A Novel

By Allegra Goodman

The Cookbook Collector
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jul 2010,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2011,
    432 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Cindy Anderson

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About this Book

Book Summary

Heralded as “a modern day Jane Austen” by USA Today, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Allegra Goodman has compelled and delighted hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, in her most ambitious work yet, Goodman weaves together the worlds of Silicon Valley and rare book collecting in a delicious novel about appetite, temptation, and fulfillment.

Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight-year-old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, twenty-three-year-old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy. Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley, romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily is rational and driven, while Jess is dreamy and whimsical. Emily’s boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess’s boyfriends, not so much—as her employer George points out in what he hopes is a completely disinterested way.

Bicoastal, surprising, rich in ideas and characters, The Cookbook Collector is a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can’t find what we’re looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living. But above all it is about holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays.

Chapter One

Rain at last. Much-needed rain the weathermen called it. Rain, drummed the little houses skyrocketing in value in Cupertino and Sunnyvale. Much-needed rain darkened the red tile roofs of Stanford, and puddled Palo Alto's leafy streets. On the coast, the waves were molten silver, rising and melting in the September storm. Bridges levitated, and San Francisco floated like a hidden fortress in the mist. Rain flattened the impatiens edging corporate lawns, and Silicon Valley shimmered. The world was bountiful, the markets buoyant. Reflecting pools brimmed to overflowing, and already the tawny hills looked greener. Like money, the rain came in a rush, enveloping the Bay, delighting forecasters, exceeding expectations, charging the air.

Two sisters met for dinner in the downpour. Emily had driven up from Mountain View to Berkeley in rush-hour traffic. Jess just biked over from her apartment. Emily carried an umbrella. Jess hadn't bothered.

"Look at you," said Emily.

"Mmm." Jess ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

With its well-developed characters, and a literary plot that touches on human nature, family, and the complexity of life, those who enjoy character-driven books about human nature, family, and the complexity of life, will find The Cookbook Collector an enjoyable summer read.   (Reviewed by Cindy Anderson).

Full Review Members Only (1259 words).

Media Reviews
NRP - Jennifer Reese

Goodman has shoehorned in a handful of distracting subplots...But she is a graceful writer and such an uncommonly astute observer of human foibles that when she focuses her steady gaze on the daily lives of the Bach sisters, her novel is pure delight.

Entertainment Weekly

Fans of Goodman's lovely, nuanced novels have a treat in store with this tale of two sisters.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

Goodman is a fantastically fluid writer, and yet for all her skill, she's a humble, transparent one who stays out of the way, never drawing attention to her style or cleverness. Even if you're coldhearted enough to resist Jess's sunny appeal, you're likely to fall for her creator.

Wall Street Journal

Sisters find that love can be wondrously, or tragically, accidental. Goodman is a romantic realist who dazzles with wit, compassion and vegan recipes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Enjoyable and satisfying, this is Goodman's most robust, fully realized and trenchantly meaningful work yet.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Goodman (Kaaterskill Falls) is remarkably successful in creating rich, engaging characters and a complex story of love and identity that reads like life itself. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Frequently laugh-out-loud funny but always fundamentally serious, the novel takes a clear-eyed look at the competitive instinct and the profit motive as they clash with our equally strong need for love and connection ... A witty, warm and wise look at the human condition in the digital age.

Booklist

Starred Review. A glimmering tale, spiked with hilarious banter, of ardent individualists, imperiled love, and incandescent interpretations of the mutability and timelessness of the human condition.

Reader Reviews
Vivian H.

Excellent story
I read this book after hearing a review about it featured on NPR. Were it not for my seeing the overall reader review lower than I could have imagined, I might not have felt compelled to write a review. The book is not perfect and there were some ...   Read More

Sheryl

the cookbook collector
This book opens up with some promise, then jerks the promise away quite early, sets you up for the most awful reading experience in your life, makes a dictionary a far better read. I wouldn't recommend this book to my enemies. Definitely not ...   Read More

Book Club Cheerleader

A Fine Vintage
Most families have their pigeonholes and identities. Coming from a family of three girls, I know first-hand about family roles and labels. My oldest sister, Linda, was “The Smart One”; my middle sister, Sheri, was definitely “The Pretty One”; so as ...   Read More

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Early Cookbooks and Recipes

In The Cookbook Collector, George purchases a large collection of old and rare cookbooks - all of which exist in real-life.

Cookbooks have a wonderful and interesting history. The earliest surviving recipe collection in English are the 200 or so recipes known as the The Forme of Cury ("The Rules of Cookery") which is believed to have been written on vellum around 1390 by King Richard II's chefs, but was not put into book form until 1790. Below is a sample recipe from that volume, along with my own modern translation:

Caboches in Potage (Cabbage Soup)
Take caboches and quarter hem, and seeth hem in gode broth with oynouns ymynced and the whyte of lekes yslyt and ycorve smal. And do (th)erto safroun & salt, and force ...

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