Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of "Lizzy and Jane"

Rating: 4 Stars
Review: In "Dear Mr. Knightley,"  Katherine Reay showed readers that she doesn't shy away from weighty emotional topics. "Lizzy and Jane" is more evidence of her ability to confront tough subjects and create a memorable reading experience. Though the title suggests that Reay's latest novel is inspired by "Pride and Prejudice" the sisterly relationship is very different from that of their namesakes. Reay's Lizzy and Jane have a distant relationship, and Jane's battle with cancer heightens the stress. Their journey is one of physical and emotional healing, portrayed with realistic detail. The plot takes us where few authors venture - into the life of a family affected by cancer and into the treatment center where patients, families, and nurses are fighting to defeat a formidable foe. It is a topic that is relevant to today's readers, but definitely makes "Lizzy and Jane" a weighty read. Reay portrays real-life family dynamics shaped by present fears and scars from the past.  The relationship between Lizzy and Jane is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, with moments of healing mixed with moments of hurt. They can cut each other with a careless comment, but also offer comfort that only a sister can provide.  Although their bond is not as ideal as Austen's famous sisters, it is reflective of real life and creates a strong message of forgiveness and love. 
Reay's talent for crafting fully imagined scenes is evident throughout "Lizzy and Jane."  Jane's illness and Lizzy's passion for cooking and literature are portrayed in dynamic detail, and blend to create a cohesive plot. Cancer plays a huge role in the story, impacting nearly every action, even Lizzy's culinary skills. Lizzy's experiments with recipes that will be palatable for Jane are described from preparation to completion, emphasizing the ingredients, aromas, and flavors. Reay's incorporation of classic literary figures, like Hemingway and Austen, is creative and adds a new dimension to the cooking scenes.  Whether in Lizzy's restaurant, in Jane's kitchen, or in social situations, food is a constant presence and character itself.  I became a bit bored during the food passages, and eventually skimmed them.  Foodies and cooks, however, will likely find them interesting and engaging.

It is a requirement for any novel inspired by Austen to contain a dashing hero. "Lizzy and Jane" has two heroes - one for each sister.  Jane's Peter is more understated, but still Austen-worthy. While he has flaws and doesn't seem like the most devoted husband in the beginning, his quiet care and love for Jane is soon evident. Nick takes the spotlight with his steadfast personality and respect for both Lizzy and Jane.  If readers aren't won over by Nick by the end of the novel, they will find him hard to resist when he quotes from "Persuasion."  The path to any Austen devotee's heart is most assuredly through her verses, and Reay blended perfectly with Austen for a savory ending.  
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Thomas Nelson: Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.
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?

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...