A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.
I was so excited to start reading Delicious!: A Novel. The synopsis promises a story about a girl, New York, renowned chef James Beard (!), and a food magazine. It’s like someone asked me what I love and then pitched a big, fat juicy one right to me.
Delicious! is absolutely everything it promises, and more. A story about family and relationships, at its heart, the novel skips along at a delightful pace, revealing pieces of Billie’s story while sprinkling it with glimpses of Lulu, the most charming and hopeful little girl one could possibly imagine. As Billie discovers more about Lulu and her friendship with James Beard, Billie’s friendships with her colleagues and her new friends in New York slowly deepen, and she learns to trust both them and herself better.
True to its foodie roots, this novel cooks at a nice simmer–nothing develops overly quickly, but not too slowly, either. Reichl’s immaculate gift for balance as a chef comes through cleanly in her writing; Delicious! manages to be both contemporary and historical fiction, both an epistolary and third-person-narrative, both food novel and blossoming romance. I’m really not sure how Reichl managed to incorporate all of it without the whole thing becoming a hot mess. Instead, Delicious! is just that: flavorful, bright, rich, warm, and a little bit comforting. Reichl’s characters–every last one of them–are all entirely lovable and full of life and personality, each one of them distinct. I found the galley markedly hard to put down.
If Delicious! has a flaw, it’s that a couple of the most climactic scenes were just a tad rushed, for me, emotionally. I wanted a little bit more from these characters–I knew they had it in them, and I think Reichl does, too. That said, it didn’t keep me from enjoying every last minute of this novel. ALSO, there is also a recipe at the end for Billie’s famous gingerbread that…it’s just plain unbelievable. I made it yesterday afternoon, and it’s nothing like the gingerbread we’re used to. Intensely fragrant, light in color, the dense cake’s base flavor is fresh orange, with a medley of fresh ginger and spices to support. I’ve honestly never tasted a spice cake that’s so well balanced, and I can’t wait to have a reason to take one to a party. I love that the recipe’s been included here.
Two mild curse words. There is some sex between consenting adults, but it’s handled very tastefully, without much detail. 4 stars.
First Line: “You should have used fresh ginger!”
Delicious!: A Novel releases on May 6th.