Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Delicious!

New paperback cover for 2015
Billie Breslin is just the kind of girl I'd befriend: hungry and bookish. 

Always agog and somewhat bumbling, this romantic comedy lead stumbles onto the foodie magazine scene in an enviable scenario (somewhat reminiscent of Reichl's own haphazard trajectory), where she endures bullying and a repeat caller who comically messes up the magazine's recipes. Hoping to prove her writing chops from the editor's assistant position, Billie's new job at Delicious! magazine still leaves wiggle room for a weekend job dishing Italian sides at a close-knit family shop, the fodder for Billie's first published article and an unsurprising romance.

The book's unexpected turn comes when Billie unearths a series of letters between a teenaged girl and James Beard written during World War II and hidden in a secret room of the magazine's boarded-up library. As Billie follows the late librarian's clues to find the hidden letters, her search also leads to deepened friendships and self-discovery, and, naturally, a makeover. (I said romantic comedy, right? Totally a Drew Barrymore moment.)

I've closely followed Reichl's writing for numerous reasons — okay, mainly the food writing with a large side of intrigue — and was excited to find her foray into fiction such a believable transition. Yes, there are several plot wrinkles that feel heavy-handed, but they're minor and, in my opinion, forgiveable. The characters, Billie in particular, are well-drawn and familiar, friendly people whom you want to like, making it easy to be drawn along with the story. But Reichl's imagined letters to James Beard are the real gems in this book, rich with history and curiosity.

I definitely recommend this story to the foodies out there, but also to the poolside readers interested in historical fiction and romance, for chick lit it be.

Delicious! A Novel
Ruth Reichl
Random House, Hardcover, May 2014
 $26 / Paperback $16
View the book at Barnes and Noble

Review based on a free copy of this book, courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.