Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Delicious” is food writer Ruth Reichl’s first novel, and it shows. Pros: Reichl is touching, funny, evocative, an excellent prose technician, a great writer. Cons that to some are still pros: this is a romantic fantasy of the old school. There’s an obligatory love interest, but the romance is in its original sense of: adventure, excitement, not everyday life. And the fantasy is the same: a lovely daydream. This book is an homage to New York, the story of someone who goes to New York with a hole in her heart and gains not only healing but a vibrant, whole life.
I look forward to more; Reichl’s weakness wasn’t storytelling, but character development—most are New York “types,” not individuals. The plot is an excuse to put together everything lovely and exciting about being young, talented, and in New York, the most fabulous city in the world. (In the fantasy, of course.) The protagonist, fleeing to New York after a personal tragedy, lands a dream job at a food magazine. Her daddy is paying for an apartment for a year. Only one of her co-workers is nasty. Did we need the James Beard WWII subplot? No, though it was fun. Secret rooms and codebreaking don’t compare to New Yorker pride; the feeling of being the gateway to culture, class, success; freedom, theater, markets with fresh food, flowers and fish; ethnic neighborhoods; anonymity and community side-by-side; history. New York is brought to life in Reichl’s assured, vivid prose. She made us believe the very air there smells of dreams and sparkles of stardust fall to the dirty streets and inspires those who despair.
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