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Delicious!: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Billie Breslin abandons college to work as assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine, she’s immediately known for her superhuman palate: she can taste any dish and list its ingredients and suggest the flavors it needs. She’s known for another trait, too: Billie does not cook. When Delicious! is unceremoniously folded by its parent publisher, Billie is the sole employee kept on to honor the magazine’s guarantee: “Your money back if the recipe doesn’t work.” Between phone calls from wacky subscribers, alone in the yawning old mansion headquarters, Billie discovers a hidden room and a cache of quirkily cataloged letters from a young girl to Delicious! writer James Beard during WWII. In the search for each letter and the young letter writer herself, Billie finds a purpose and a heroine, and gathers the courage to face the past she’s running from. There is indeed a secret readers may quickly guess behind Billie’s fear of the kitchen, but Reichl fills her plump novel with plenty—rich characterization, a bright New York setting, transcendent discussions of taste and food—to distract from predictability. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Famed food critic Reichl, the author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone (1998) and Comfort Me with Apples (2011), turns to fiction, and her debut will receive a robust marketing campaign, including specialized targeting of librarians and foodies. --Annie Bostrom


“Compulsively readable . . . a treat for anyone who loves a warm, character-packed tale—a delectable mix of flavor, fantasy, and emotional comfort food.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“[Ruth Reichl’s] New York is a fairy-tale town where beautiful food abounds. . . .  The novel presents a whole passel of surprises: a puzzle to solve; a secret room; hidden letters; the legacy of James Beard; and a parallel, equally plucky heroine from the past, who also happens to be a culinary prodigy.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating characters . . . There’s romance, intrigue, food history, and the fictional appearance of a very real American culinary icon.”—The Austin Chronicle
“Reichl’s vivid descriptions of food will have readers salivating, and an insider’s look at life at a food magazine is fascinating. Her satisfying coming-of-age novel of love and loss vividly demonstrates the power of food to connect people across cultures and generations.”Library Journal (starred review)
“This savory feast of a first novel blends the rich gifts that readers of Reichl’s memoirs and food writing have come to expect. To a tantalizing coming-of-age story about a budding chef and journalist she adds a bittersweet tale of separated sisters.”More

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (940 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's editor in chief, is the author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, and the forthcoming Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. She is executive producer of the two-time James Beard Award-winning Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, which airs on public television across the country, and the editor of the Modern Library Food Series. Before coming to Gourmet, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times, receiving two James Beard Awards for her work. She lectures frequently on food and culture.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Rita Mayberry VINE VOICE on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
“Delicious – A Novel” is Ruth Reichl’s first novel, although she is an established author of non-fiction and writer of innumerable articles and features in “Gourmet” and other prestigious publications. It is a total delight. It includes everything I love in a book, food, mystery, history, and personable characters. When you have finished this book, you know the characters and have watched them grow, which is, in my opinion, the point of fiction. By watching the characters grow, one cannot help but grow a little as well.

Ruth Reichl’s depiction of the quintessential New York cheese shop includes bits of every food specialty shop worth its salt, and the ‘foodies” captured in the story of the magazine, “Delicious” call to mind dinners at the International Association of Culinary Professional conventions I attended when in the food-writing business. People who love to cook for others are the most generous people on the planet, hands down, and one cannot help but like them – even the grumpy Maggie in the story.

Reichl’s research on World War II is impeccable, and the mistreatment of the Italian Americans in those years and the subsequent paranoia of the McCarthy era are well depicted. This is a book that makes you hungry for knowledge as well as for the delightful foods captured in the story.

Admittedly the year is young, but this book is, hands down, the most enjoyable reading experience I have had this year, and I heartily recommend it. Further, I cannot wait to see more fiction from this very talented writer. And, the icing on the cake is its dedication to Marion Cunningham, one of the true greats of the food world. There are many of us who miss her terribly.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Malfoyfan on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ruth Reichl's newest work is as rich and satisfying as the gingerbread her main character, Wilhelmina "Billie" Breslin, makes in the opening chapter. (Happily, the gingerbread recipe is included at the end of the book. I have to try it as soon as possible.) I'm glad to say that master food writer Reichl has seemingly effortlessly made the leap into fiction. At the beginning of the book, Billie, a 20ish student, is in New York interviewing for a job at an iconic food magazine called Delicious!; when asked to cook something as part of the interview, she quickly decides to make an old family recipe, which gets her the job. Billie soon settles into her work, but the magazine is suddenly and unexpectedly shut down and she ends up taking an interim position, which turns into something of a treasure hunt and more than a little mystery.

The magazine's offices are housed in an 1830s building called the Timbers Mansion; when alone in the building after the magazine's shut down, out of curiosity she ventures up to the top floor library, which had formerly been off limits. There she discovers a cache of cleverly hidden letters from a young girl in Ohio named Lulu to the famous chef James Beard, written during WWII. The letters, sometimes humorous and sometimes somber, bring the historical period to life in a wonderful way.

Delicious! is stuffed with terrific and memorable characters - my favorites are Sal, proprietor of a local cheese shop where Billie works part-time, and Sammy, one of the magazine's writers. There are also food descriptions so lush that I wanted to put the book down and go in search of something to eat. But this is a book that's hard to put down.
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79 of 99 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cotugno VINE VOICE on April 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First off, I am a big fan of Ruth Reichl. I've read all her memoirs, even attended a lunch she hosted at one of her book launches. So I looked forward to reading and reviewing this book. Her storytelling in her memoirs was irrepressible, given the characters she's met and in particular, her mother. But for some reason, her creation of characters out of whole cloth was not as successful. Billy, the central figure, is amazed when she's praised for being the absolute best, the nonpareil, at just about everything she approaches. From out of nowhere, she takes the New York world of foodies by storm, showing up everyone in this insular community with her infallible palate. She writes better than anyone. Her cake company founded with her sister while still teenagers in (small town?) San Diego was so famous it was featured in national magazines, but she credits everything to her glamorous, talented sister, and so is amazed when people recognize her worth. Where the book is successful is through some letters she unearths between Lucy, a young girl in World War II, to James Beard. I found myself looking forward to Lucy's letters and her attempts to create dishes out of the privations of the era. But in Billy's world, there is not one character that rings true, and I found her arc to be unrealistic and grew impatient with her story.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lulu on June 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was hoping for a delicious, summer read and had to give up a fourth of the way in. As a few other reviewers said, this reads like a teen novel or a script for a Disney cartoon. From the beginning the writing was exaggerated and over the top. By page 100 the writing was getting down right annoying...a twenty-something, who intentionally chooses to look like a frump, drops out of college and lands a job at a high end, gourmet magazine in New York after being put through a series of covert "tests" by her future boss. Ya right. The name of the magazine itself is ridiculous: "Delicious!" with an exclamation point. What serious, gourmet magazine would put an exclamation point at the end of their title? Certainly not the real-life "Gourmet" magazine, for which Reichl was the editor.

I never made it to the predictable romance and ugly duckling to swan makeover, which I saw coming and was confirmed by other reviewers. In the other reviewers' posts, I learned of the "mystery" that was alluded to from the start - the main character's secret. Thinking the book was about the character's fledgling career in the food writing industry but then learning there was going to be a predictable romance as well as a "twist" with the mystery that was hinted at in the first several chapters were probably enough plot lines. But, no, the main character had to also discover a secret room at her office with letters exchanged in the 1940's between food legend James Beard and a twelve year old girl.....after very melodramatic and unrealistic scenarios around the demise of the magazine, no less. At this point, I was annoyed that I'd even wasted time on 100 pages because the writings of the twelve year old girl were so unrealistic.
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