Review: The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

Title: The Cookbook Collector

Author: Allegra Goodman

Published: Atlantic Books June 2012

Synopsis: At the turn of the last century, two sisters are following very different paths. Twenty-eight-year-old Emily is a CEO of an internet start-up; twenty-three-year-old Jess is a grad student in philosophy, a vegan who rejects the rampant capitalism that surrounds her. Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley while capricious Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily’s boyfriend is fantastically successful; Jess’s boyfriend is an environmental activist. But as the burst of the Dotcom bubble looms and the falling towers of the World Trade Center cast a dark shadow over America, both sisters are torn between two loves, two lives. The Cookbook Collector serves up a lively stew of characters: bold young software titans, Berkeley tree-huggers, bibliophiles and a pair of investment savvy rabbis. In an increasingly virtual world, in an era of electronic organizers and onscreen identities, Allegra Goodman reminds us that the one thing that keeps us human is love.

Status: Read on June 23, 2012 {Courtesy Allen & Unwin Australia }

My Thoughts:

Actually this won’t be much of a review because after trudging through the first half of the book I basically skimmed the last, as I found that I had lost interest somewhere along the way. This novel revolves around two sisters, dotcom executive Emily and hippie philosophy student Jess, and takes place between the autumn of 1999 and the spring of 2002, against the backdrop of the tech boom and bust and September 11, set primarily in California. The novel compares the  paths the two sisters take in their relationships and career, contrasting their differing approaches to life and its challenges.

I’m not sure exactly why I failed to connect to the sisters, I found Jess more interesting than Emily, but only marginally and primarily because of her work in a rare bookstore. The story is cluttered with minor characters who are given too much importance through in some cases only a tenuous connection to the sisters.

I felt the plot had little in the way of action or drama, circling around the imminent public offering of Emily’s company for far too long and failing to move either character forward in the first half. What I would consider the pivotal plot points (family secrets revealed, Emily’s fiance’s betrayal, the dot com collapse, 9/11) are primarily crammed into the last 100 pages or so though there are multiple threads that don’t really seems to go anywhere.  I also thought he title of this novel misleading, it had very little to do with either the characters or the plot, except in the most oblique way.

This is not a novel that worked for me, but if you are considering reading it, it does have several positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon so I encourage you to get a second opinion, and if you have one, feel free to leave the link to your review in the comments.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Gerth
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 07:39:32

    I looked at this book when it was first in hardcover last year and never read it because the title and the blurb on the book flaps just did not go together at all! Doesn’t sound like some thing I would like. Thanks for the review!

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  2. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 12:12:28

    What a shame that you didn’t like this one, Shelleyrae. From the blurb it looks like something I’d like, but that cover seems oddly removed from the book’s contents (as Sue has noted), so who knows!

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  3. Marg
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 22:49:16

    I have had this out from the library a couple of times but not actually read any of it yet. I have heard mixed reviews about it though.

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  4. Kailana
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 04:06:03

    That’s too bad this wasn’t a better read!

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  5. notesoflifeuk
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 07:30:18

    I was about to comment that this sounds like a good read and then I read your thoughts… so maybe not!

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  6. Lindsey
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 00:48:02

    I did enjoy this one, mostly because I was rooting for Jess and George to get together in spite of everything going on! I did have some trouble with Goodman trying to cram so much into the end of the story and then creating such a tidy ending, though.

    My review is here: http://literarylindsey.blogspot.com/2012/02/review-cookbook-collector.html

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