The Cookbook Collector - Allegra Goodman

Allegra Goodman is a wonderful writer but I wish publishing marketeers would stop hailing her as a contemporary Jane Austen; it does them both a disservice. You could argue that marriage is at the center of The Cookbook Collector and that moral questions drive the plot, but it is a stretch to find many more parallels to the unique world of Jane Austen. What Goodman does provide is a mostly rewarding portrait of her heroines and their contrasting world views. Jess is the intuitive idealist and her big sister, Emily, a rational-and wildly successful-business woman, wants to shape and protect her. People have compared them to the Dashwood sisters from Austen's Sense and Sensibility, but the world Jess and Emily inhabit spans two continents and encompasses an endless array of secondary characters. It is a struggle to keep track of everyone and the more I read the harder it became. I think this would have been more successful if she had narrowed her focus and used her considerable skills as a writer to more fully flesh out the main characters and their extended families. I think Jane Austen would agree.