The Cookbook Collector

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Author: Allegra Goodman
ISBN: 978-184-887-5395
RRP: $29.99

Allegra Goodman tells a tantalising tale that will tug your heartstrings and keep you hungry for more right through to the very last line.


The Cookbook Collector contains the threads of many stories which are interconnected in a way that will weave them into a seamless tapestry intertwining high flying Internet start-ups, the book collector who uses his fortune to acquire the best and the rarest of everything, the Jewish Bialystokers and the Tree Savers.  Quite a collection of different perspectives and personality types rolled into this engaging read.

This story takes place between 1999 and 2002 which was a time of huge Internet innovations and one of the largest terrorist attacks of the current generation. This time in history saw so many changes in society, the economy and cyberspace, it was a time of major upheaval for western civilisation.

Jess and Emily are two sisters who have little more in common than their mutual parents. Jess is a philosophy student who also works in an antiquarian bookstore, is involved with the Tree Savers and is seen as quite flighty. Emily on the other hand is CEO of Internet start-up Veritech and totally grounded.

the cookbook collector

Emily is in a long term, long distance relationship with Jonathan who is the CEO of  Internet start-up ISIS on the opposite coast. The two are driven and dedicated to their careers. Always postponing time together and catching little snatches of time in their busy schedules at a time when their companies are going public and changing the playing field.

George, owner of Yorick’s bookstore where Jess works, comes in contact with a Cookbook collection inherited by Sandra who promised her eccentric uncle that the collection would be kept together. Her circumstances make the collection a commodity that has to be cashed in; for the right price and to the right person. Jess is the one that convinces her George is the right person and she then spends six months cataloguing the collection and immersing herself in the puzzle pieces left behind by the eccentric Cookbook Collector. Jess loves easily and deeply so is drawn into the secret language left behind in the collection, she begins to live, breathe and dream the collection.

The Cookbook Collector is a tale of love in it’s many forms and the many places it can be discovered if the pieces are put together just right.  Love that endures, love that catches you unprepared and love that shows you a new way to live.

It isn’t all love and roses though, there are also the underlying threads of betrayal and secrets which come together in an engaging feast for the soul.

Goodman’s writing style is deliciously descriptive and evokes the foods and wines before you. Her tale tells the history of cooking as collected by one who doesn’t cook, of living vicariously through acquisitions rather than in and of the time.

The major players in the story are distanced by many things but they are connected in ways which demonstrate that there is no coincidence and we are all connected. Some of these connections are easily recognised and traced to their origins – others though come right out of left field.

Goodman’s tale is engaging and thought-provoking with twists that will keep you guessing. This is a topical and relevant story of recent times, an inside look at the boom of the Internet and the effect of September 11. Set in the recent past it also delves much further into the history of cooking.

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