Books: The Cookbook Collector

My book club’s selection this month was The Cookbook Collector, and that is really the only reason I read it. It took me most of the month to get through the first half of the book – not that it is such slow reading, just that I couldn’t get interested enough in it to pick it up when I had other books I was also reading.

Over the last several days, I finished reading it, and the second half was much more interesting than the first. It finally gets past all the dot-com details (which bored me, despite my interest in both computers and business), and into the cookbook collector referenced in the novel’s title.

According to what I have read about the book, it is supposed to be somewhat of a modern version of Sense and Sensibility. I never read that (I don’t think I’ve read anything by Jane Austen), so I can’t comment on that. But the leader of our book club said the Austen’s writing has something – she couldn’t identify exactly what – that Goodman’s writing lacks.

From various reviews I have read as well as comments at book club, it appears that Goodman has written better books. (The one mentioned this evening was Kaaterskill Falls; perhaps sometime I’ll read it.) I wasn’t bothered, as some readers are, by the coincidences (as strange as life is sometimes, who’s to say which coincidences are too unlikely to believe?), or by the role of 9/11 in the plot. I just didn’t find enough value in the book to recommend it.

I didn’t find out until after reading the book that Goodman’s idea was to write a novel about hunger. Looking back on it now, I can see the many examples – hunger for money, intimacy, meaning, success, family, as well as of course food. Perhaps the book would have been more interesting if that theme had been more explicitly woven into the story. I don’t think I’m that obtuse a reader, but that connection with the collection of cookbooks did not come across from me as I read.

It surprises me how many reviews of the book are highly positive. I guess it’s a good thing there are so many books out there, of so many different types – there’s something for everyone. This just wasn’t one for me.

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