Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She’s lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.
When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream.
And her means of escape.
When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.
As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?”
I’m taking the (for me) unusual step of reviewing this book before I finish it. There’s something about it that has touched me, and I can’t wait to write about it.
I initially got this book as a daily deal from Barnes and Noble. I love all things Jane Austen, and this book sounded like it had a lot of Austen-esque influence. I started it yesterday, and at first I was disappointed. It seemed that the only connection to Austen was the names of the sisters. I was preparing myself to be grumpy about this novel.
But then Austen started creeping in around the edges. Quotes from her books. References to family meals and gifts of food. And I saw that this book is about Jane Austen, just from a sideways direction that I hadn’t expected. It’s about Austen’s influence on the characters, not her influence on the story.
And then the story began introducing ideas: that we are the sum of all of our parts; that our tastes in food are as much a part of us as our hobbies or our preference in decorating our house; that “love” and “like” are mutually exclusive and you have to have a care for both. I could go on and on. The point is, I found that these thoughts, and their presentation within the narrative, touched me in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
Because of these ideas, I related to the sisters in a raw, immediate way. I understand trying to control everything around you in a vain attempt to make the world bend to your wishes. I understand feeling lost and alone even when in a crowd of people. I understand trying to reconnect with people who have hurt you and whom you have hurt. And I understand the difficulty in letting down your guard when you’ve spent so long building your walls.
This book is like a leisurely meal–when reading it, take the time to savor the flavors and notice the textures. Those who live a high-pressure lifestyle may feel that this book isn’t for them, as it depicts the exact opposite of their way of living. But I think those readers are the ones who need it most, who need to see Lizzy as she evaluates her life and finds what moves her and makes her soul sing. Goodness knows, I needed that message too.
This book surprised me in all the best ways. And now, I have the urge to try some new recipes of my own to see if my husband likes them.