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Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl

Delicious!: A Novel

by Ruth Reichl

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I have been a big fan of Ruth Reichl's non-fiction books so I eagerly picked up this, her first attempt at a novel. SAnd as much as I wanted to like it, I have to say that it was a big disappointment. Ms. Reichl spins the tale of a shy & unconfident twenty-something, Billie Breslin, who travels from California to New York after an unspecified trauma (not revealed until half-way through the book) to become the assistant to the editor of Delicious!, a food magazine not-so loosely based on the late, great Gourmet, which Reichl was the editor-in-chief. Billie has an amazing pallet and is able to identify by taste ingredients and spices that most people have never heard of. She also, despite being terribly gauche and not terribly attractive, seems to be able to charm the pants off just about everybody. When the magazine is suddenly shut down by its publisher (not unlike what happened to Gourmet in real life, Billie is asked to stay behind and honor the magazine's guarantee: anyone not satisfied with a published recipe will have the cot of the ingredients refunded to them.

This job hardly fills her days, so when one of the editors shows up to clean up his office, they start poking around in the old magazine library - unused for years - and discover a secret room and a cache of letters written during World War II by a young girls to James Beard. It is through these letters that Billie comes to terms with her own life and sees a new path for her future growth.

All of this would be charming in the hands of a skilled writer of fictions, but unfortunately Ms. Reichl is not that writer. Character development is sorely lacking, and the "family trauma" plot device just does not work. Reichl is a prime example of how talent in expository writing does not necessarily transfer over into fiction. Please give us more of the former in the future and less of the latter. ( )
  etxgardener | Jul 25, 2014 |
When Billie Breslin abandons college to work as assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine, she’s immediately known for her superhuman palate: she can taste any dish and list its ingredients and suggest the flavors it needs. She’s known for another trait, too: Billie does not cook. When Delicious! is unceremoniously folded by its parent publisher, Billie is the sole employee kept on to honor the magazine’s guarantee: “Your money back if the recipe doesn’t work.” Between phone calls from wacky subscribers, alone in the yawning old mansion headquarters, Billie discovers a hidden room and a cache of quirkily cataloged letters from a young girl to Delicious! writer James Beard during WWII. In the search for each letter and the young letter writer herself, Billie finds a purpose and a heroine, and gathers the courage to face the past she’s running from. There is indeed a secret readers may quickly guess behind Billie’s fear of the kitchen, but Reichl fills her plump novel with plenty—rich characterization, a bright New York setting, transcendent discussions of taste and food—to distract from predictability. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Famed food critic Reichl, the author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone (1998) and Comfort Me with Apples (2011), turns to fiction, and her debut will receive a robust marketing campaign, including specialized targeting of librarians and foodies. -- Bostrom, Annie (Reviewed 02-15-2014) (Booklist, vol 110, number 12, p23) ( )
  Autumnalwood | Jul 21, 2014 |
This book about Billie who works at Delicious magazine when it folds is part mystery, cook book, and love story. Billie continues on the job after the magazine ends to honor the guarantee of perfect recipes. She finds a secret room with letters from a young girl to James Beard. The letters were written during World War II. Billie must find this woman so she can get permission to write about these letters. Billie is also dealing with a tragedy in her past, that prevents her from cooking. This is where the book didn't quite work as you can guess part of the tragedy but its still a good book. ( )
  Coltfan18 | Jul 18, 2014 |
I really didn't know how to classify this book because there was a bit of mystery, an awakening romance, and a touch of history all surrounding an old building that is loved by some and seen only as a cash asset for others.

The story centers around Billie Breslin, a former caterer, who gets a job as the assistant to the managing editor of the culinary magazine DELICIOUS! But before Billie can get a handle on her new duties, the owner shuts down the magazine. He retains Billie to be the contact to handle any question regarding the DELICIOUS lifetime guarantee leaving her to work in the huge brownstone mansion alone. While researching in the 4th floor library, Billie makes a startling discovery which carries the story throughout.

The book is well plotted and the characters (though a bit stereotypical) are fun and entertaining. This was a great book for the summer! ( )
  cyderry | Jul 17, 2014 |
OMGoodness, this was wonderful. I picked it out before getting on a plane last week and I've been lolly gagging to slow down the inevitable conclusion. I'll probably read it again. Maybe sooner than later. ( )
  reginacorley | Jul 8, 2014 |
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To the memory of Marion Cunningham. I miss her every day.
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"You should have used fresh ginger!"
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Working as a public relations hotline consultant for a once-prestigious culinary magazine, Billie Breslin unexpectedly enters a world of New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors while reading World War II letters exchanged between a plucky 12-year-old and James Beard.… (more)

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