Friday, November 5, 2010
But Holly's four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla's chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter's heart. Juliet, Holly's childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can't find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla's essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.-- Gallery Books
I've been a pretty big fan of Melissa Senate's for quite a few years now. So when I heard that she was working on a book about love, food and Italy called THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL, I was pretty darn excited because those are three of my favorite things. When the positive reviews started trickling in a few weeks, I knew I just had to read this novel. Plus, I was in the mood for a little comfort food; and by that, I mean comfort food in the form of calorie-free reading!
I thought THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL was absolutely delightful -- although I'm not entirely sure it was a low-fat read. Not only was the story terrific, but there were also amazing descriptions of Italian food (my favorite!) and there were even some recipes in the back of the book. For the few hours that I spent reading this novel, I actually found myself hungry and craving some decadent foods like tiramisu, risotto, and Chicken alla Milanese.
There is no doubt that food was an integral part of this story, and I definitely appreciated that about this book (but remember this is coming from someone who loves food and recipes!) In THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL, I liked how Ms. Senate demonstrated the importance of food in Holly's life and especially the role it played in her healing process. After Holly loses her boyfriend and then her beloved grandmother, she experiences grief on a major level. She finds herself in a new town with no friends and no job, she has to decide what she wants to do with her life. Fortunately, Holly's grandmother left her her house and cooking school.
The problem is that Holly isn't really a cook and doesn't know how to run a shop and cooking school. She turns to her grandmother's recipe book and diary for some much needed guidance. While she tries to follow the recipes, it isn't always an easy thing to do because each one has a special "magical" ingredient like "a sad memory" or a "a fervent wish." It takes some time and lots of trial and error before Holly is able to truly understand what her grandmother means with these ingredients. However, throughout the course of the novel, Holly eventually learns how to prepare these recipes and sees the importance of including herself into each dish. And in the process, she also discovers valuable things about herself (and she even falls in love!)
One of the things that I adored about this book was how Ms. Senate incorporated Holly's grandmother into the story. Even though she died early in the novel, she still was a vibrant character to me. I felt as if she were fully developed through her journal entries as well as her recipes. And I especially loved hearing about her through the memories of the townspeople, her customers, and Holly. I also liked how she had an element of the magic about her since she could often times predict the future. She was just a very special character and I can see why she made such an important impact on Holly!
And there were some other great characters in this story as well. I thought Mia was interesting (and very insightful) and she actually contributed to the overall message of the story (and I can't say that's always true of young kids in novels.) In addition, I thought Liam, Mia's father, was extremely likable and I kept hoping that he'd be "the one" for Holly. (But that meant that he's have to appreciate sa cordula and I honestly couldn't imagine anyone who'd appreciate lamb intestines.) I also found all of the students in Holly's cooking school to be extremely likable. Each one had some baggage and/or issues, yet they were all able to eventually find some happiness through what they experienced as part of the cooking class.
THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL would be such a fun book club pick. Not only is Holly an extremely interesting character, but just think about all of the foods you could serve! There is a reading guide available with thirteen questions, and I just love them. Some of the topics that you might discuss include grief, loss, maturing, parent/child relationships, divorce, love, friendships, family dynamics, and the symbolism of food. I'm pretty certain that most book clubs made up of women could talk for hours about Holly and her friends.
Thanks to InkWell Management for providing me with a review copy of this novel.