Excellent Foodie Fiction
Elizabeth is the head chef at Feast, a chic New York restaurant. But she’s losing her touch, and when her boss brings in a celebrity chef/marketing expert to restore Feast’s reputation, Elizabeth decides it’s time for a break. She heads to Seattle, Washington, to a home and a father she’s barely seen since she left sixteen years ago. And she heads to an older sister who’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the same cancer that killed their mother during Lizzie’s senior year in high school.
Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was nominated for a Christy Award, nominated for two Carol Awards, and won the 2014 INSPY Award for a Debut novel. I read it, and while I thought the writing and characterisation was excellent, I did wish Reay had written an original story (Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary retelling of the Jean Webster classic, Daddy Long Legs).
Like Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy & Jane has links to Austen, in that sisters Jane and Elizabeth are named for the heroines of their mother’s favourite novel. Unlike Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane is a fresh story, not a retelling of a classic (or if it is, the retelling is unobtrusive enough that I couldn’t see what was coming in the way I did with Dear Mr. Knightley. As a result, I enjoyed it a lot more. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Dear Mr. Knightley, more that I always found the ending of Daddy Long Legs a little contrived, and the ending of Dear Mr. Knightley was even more so.
Lizzy & Jane was different, in a good way. It had all the strong writing and characterisation of Dear Mr. Knightley, with the added bonus of an original and compelling plot. Elizabeth has some deep-seated resentment towards Jane, who was never around while their mother was dying. While Elizabeth is in Seattle helping Jane face her health crisis, Elizabeth is also facing her own personal crisis, a crisis of identity and self-belief around her cooking. It’s the one thing she’s always excelled at, yet even that talent seems to be failing her.
There are touches of romance and an underlying Christian theme, but Lizzy & Jane is very much women’s fiction, Lizzy’s story of personal, professional (and spiritual) rediscovery. Recommended.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Katherine Reay at her website.