Just read a review in The Washington Post of Allegra Goodman's latest novel, The Cookbook Collector. I admit that the cover imagery, along with the title, bring to mind a gentle, women's-book-club-deals-with-life's-challenges-through-lifelong-friendship type of chick lit, but the review suggests otherwise. Ron Charles calls it "a searching contemplation of contemporary values in the age of sudden fortunes, sensational bankruptcies and terrorist attacks."
If any contemporary author deserves to wear the mantel of Jane Austen, it's Goodman, whose subtle, astute social comedies perfectly capture the quirks of human nature. This dazzling novel is Austen updated for the dot-com era, played out between 1999 and 2001 among a group of brilliant risk takers and truth seekers. Still in her 20s, Emily Bach is the CEO of Veritech, a Web-based data-storage startup in trendy Berkeley. Her boyfriend, charismatic Jonathan Tilghman, is in a race to catch up at his data-security company, ISIS, in Cambridge, Mass. Emily is low-key, pragmatic, kind, serene—the polar opposite of her beloved younger sister, Jess, a crazed postgrad who works at an antiquarian bookstore owned by a retired Microsoft millionaire. When Emily confides her company's new secret project to Jonathan as a proof of her love, the stage is set for issues of loyalty and trust, greed, and the allure of power. What is actually valuable, Goodman's characters ponder: a company's stock, a person's promise, a forest of redwoods, a collection of rare cookbooks? Goodman creates a bubble of suspense as both Veritech and ISIS issue IPOs, career paths collide, social values clash, ironies multiply, and misjudgments threaten to destroy romantic desire.
Newcity Lit gave The Cookbook Collector a mixed review, concluding that "it’s a pleasurable read, absorbing and cathartic without demanding much effort or emotional investment in return. Trading complexity for neatness and ambiguity for warmth, The Cookbook Collector may not be one for the ages. It is, however, ideal for the summer of 2010."
I've not read anything by Allegra Goodman before, though I know she's gotten a lot of awards. Any thoughts on this one?