Amanda Reads: Not Quite Delicious!

Hey, all. I just finished my first book of 2015! To be fair, I started reading it in 2014, but still, here we are.

I picked up Delicious! because I love food and I love books, so I assumed that this food-centric novel would hit all of my sweet spots. Ruth Reichl, unbeknownst to me at the time I started reading the book, is a well known food-memoirist, and Delicious! is her foray into the world of fiction. Sadly, it seems to me that it, like the oft-mentioned souffle, falls a little flat. I hate that we’re starting the new book year on a sour note, but it is what it is. Let’s talk about why I wasn’t thrilled with the novel.

The book starts off interesting enough: Billie Breslin is going for a job at the food magazine from which the novel gets its title, and part of her interview is cooking a cake that we’ve already seen in the opening flashback as a significant family recipe. Upon being forced into the kitchen, we learn that she has stopped cooking because she gets panic attacks whenever she goes into the kitchen–the reason isn’t clear, and much of the suspense in the early part of the novel hinges upon this mystery. However, in my personal opinion, the reason becomes obvious long before the character herself divulges the information, in a way that makes some of the intentionally misleading details feel contrived (I won’t say much more, or I’ll spoil it, but basically there are some plants that are supposed to lead you off the tail but which, in my opinion, give it away).

I will admit that I spent a lot of the novel not being quite sure where the plot was leading, which at least kept me interesting, but minor details in themselves were easily predicted: the “big twist,” the romantic interest… all of these came exactly as you would expect, which really took away from the narrative for me. Furthermore, I found some of the characters incredibly implausible. Billie’s friend Sammy speaks with such antiquated, unrealistic vocabulary that I felt the need to slap him every time he spoke. Billie herself goes through one of those rom-com makeovers that takes her from plain to gorgeous in a haircut and a wardrobe shift, which feels a little unnecessary given the fact that so much else is going on the novel and should’ve been given more attention.

That being said, I did like that the book had a focus on more than just the romantic interest. It was nice not knowing where the book was going, although it maybe did take a little too long to reach the “point.” There were some nice phrases and some interesting characters that redeemed the book for me a bit. Ultimately, however, I can’t say this ranks high on my list of books to recommend–it was just a little too lacking for my tastes.


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