The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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July 10, 2014

That Part Was True

Because I have wonderful access to three different libraries, and because I am feeling rather highbrow in my reading at the moment (I am, after all, reading a history of the sofa) and because I am rash and overambitious in the stacks of books that I bring home from them :), I thought I would probably have to return this book {That Part Was True, by Deborah McKinlay} unread.  But then I decided that I could probably finish its 228 pages going back and forth on the bus, and then I remembered that there was food in it, and there it was, the Eiffel Tower on the cover, for Paris in July.  The first two things turned out to true, and delightful, even if the little bit of Paris was kind of silly.

It's all kind of sweet, if improbable.  The story begins with a letter from a British woman named Eve Petworth to Jackson Cooper, an American novelist who writes best-selling {perhaps kind of Spenser-ish) mystery novels.  Over the course of the letters and emails that follow, Eve and Jack share recipes and their deepest thoughts and yearnings (the improbable part), and even consider meeting in Paris, not for romance, but to eat.  Alongside {I liked  the fact that the story wasn't told entirely in letters}, the story focuses on each one's somewhat troubled life.  Jack is at the end of a second failed marriage, is having trouble wanting to write the next book, and '[sees] his fiftieth birthday coming at him like a freight train.' Eve's horrible, domineering mother has recently died, her horrible, domineering daughter is getting married, and she is beginning to realize that her beautifully-kept, comfortable home and her pantry shelves filled with homemade preserves do not nurture her or anyone else.

In the end, I liked this book just for what it was.  A little romance and a lot of cooking is always nice, the feeling that some parts didn't ring true didn't stop me from appreciating the moments that did, and the sense that the characters could be either under-developed or a little overwrought didn't stop me from curling up on the couch to finish the last 20 pages as soon as I got home.  It's funny, it wasn't so much that I wanted to know how the book would end as being sure that it couldn't possibly end in the most obvious/most trite way. It didn't ... but I think it would have been truer if it were about five paragraphs shorter. :)


JoAnn said...

Ooh, what was in those last five paragraphs? This sounds like a delightful summer read.

Karen K. said...

I think I know what you mean about liking it because it wasn't entirely told in letters. I like epistolary fiction, but sometimes it seems so unreal because inevitably the letters or diary entries are so long and include entire conversations in great detail. I suppose I just expect too much, after all it is FICTION.

Lisa said...

I think I'll look for this at the library - but only after I find the book on the history of the sofa!! As soon as I read that, I thought, "I want that book!"

Audrey said...

Lisa - in case I was being too cute, and not saying what is was, it's The Age of Comfort (see sidebar?)

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