Author: Ruth Reichl
Publisher: Random House
Type of book: 1940s, modern times, New York, Midwest, correspondence, food, cooking, recipes, history of food in WWII, rations, secrets, code, mystery, Italian-Americans during WWII
Year it was published: 2014
In her bestselling memoirs Ruth Reichl has long illuminated the theme of how food defines us, and never more so than in her dazzling fiction debut about sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must finally let go of guilt and grief to embrace her own true gifts.
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.
Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.
The character of Billie eclipsed other more likable characters, and I really don't mean it as a compliment. Billie is best described as super perfect at whatever she tries (writer and has an amazing palette? Check, fashionable for the first time? Check, intelligent and beautiful who purposely hid self? Check) Oh, but there are at least three negative aspects about her: low self esteem, purposely dresses badly and glasses. Supposedly Billie changes throughout the book, but the change rings false for me, as well as her trials and tribulations. I also liked Lulu Swan, a plucky teenager who is doing her best to learn valuable lessons during WWII and kind of wish that the whole book could have had Lulu instead of Billie. There's also Mr. Complainer who seems to have a love complaining relationship with Sal, Billie's employer and who also acts as a love interest. Then there's Genie who seems to be Miss Perfect and Billie literally worships the ground her sister walks on. Genie seemed to be far more likable than Billie. There are other characters as well, but at the moment I can't recall them well, sorry to say.
Changing everything about yourself gives you confidence
The story itself is told in first person narrative from Billie's point of view. At the start I thought I'd give the book four or five stars, but the further I read, the less I liked the character of Billie in particular. There is something about her that feels unfinished and I can't really relate to her character, although I should have been able to. (Jealousy of sisters as well as similar physical appearances.) The only strong points in the book are food history and descriptions of flavors and how they are done. The story, characters and others are weak points for me.
Ruth Reichl was born and raised in Greenwich Village. She wrote her first cookbook at twenty-one, and went on to be the restaurant critic of both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. She was editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years. She now lives with her husband in upstate New York.
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I have to admit that the cover and the fact that it was a foodie novel attracted me. Previously I've read two of Erica Bauermeister foodie books and have really fallen in love with the writing and the characters as well as the atmosphere, thus I hoped that Delicious! would be similar to those books. In someways, at least in beginning, there are similarities such as vivid description of food, and the setting of New York and colorful and memorable characters. But that only lasted a short time. The things that I did enjoy about the book, oddly enough, is the history of food and how it was used during WWII as well as being shocked on how Italians were treated during that time. And I also liked Lulu Swan and the whole puzzle of Billie and Sam trying to discover the next letters. However, there are numerous things I disliked about the book: one being that Billie sounds too perfect to be true. (Has an amazing palette that can tell flavors apart, but due to past can't cook, becomes famous with her sister as teenagers, and whatever she tries the first time she actually accomplishes it!) And something that really bugged me is the makeover thing. I am sorry but I never liked or cared for makeovers, especially ones where a girl gets contact lenses for glasses and dyes her hair from brown to blonde (Yes, I wear glasses and do happen to be a dark-haired brunette.) And it doesn't help that in the book I felt that the characters have something against women wearing glasses.
This is for TLC Book Tour
Monday, April 28th: Sidewalk Shoes
Tuesday, April 29th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, April 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Saturday, May 3rd: Books a la Mode – spotlight/giveaway
Monday, May 5th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, May 6th: Happy Pretty Sweet
Wednesday, May 7th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 8th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Friday, May 9th: Joyfully Retired
Monday, May 12th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, May 13th: girlichef
Wednesday, May 14th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Thursday, May 15th: Bookfoolery
Thursday, May 15th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, May 16th: Books in the City
Monday, May 19th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesdya, May 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, May 21st: Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 23rd: 2 Kids and Tired3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)