This story is real. By which I mean, the characters feel real and true. No cardboard cutouts, no easy happy-ever-afters, but real people dealing with heartaches, loss, relationships, and feelings. That's the core of the story, in my opinion. Relationships. Specifically the relationship between Lizzy and Jane, sisters who have hurt one another and struggle to get back to a good place again. But also the relationship between a father and his daughters, between a husband and his sick wife, between a handsome neighbor and a visiting sister. And even the relationship between life and food!
There are lots of literary references, I'd never analyzed how food is used in literature, but Ms. Reay excellently points these out using Lizzy's love of books and food. (And the dishes Lizzy makes! I could almost taste some of them. :) I loved the references to Jane Austen, but there are many more to be found hidden in these pages. It's like a literary feast for all the senses! It's quite obvious that Ms. Reay is a reader and knows her classics very well. She incorporates these stories into her story until they permeate the entire book, even when not mentioned!
This is not the type of story to throw you from one twist to another with loads of action. Instead, it's the quiet moments that shine. Like when Lizzy accompanies Jane to her chemo appointments. (The other patients and families that they interact with only there, yet I could picture that they were busy living their lives even while not appearing on the page.) Lizzy's conversations with Nick and Matt. Danny and Kate learning how to adjust to their mother being sick and finding their new "normal". Lizzy and Jane's dad, who is simply wonderful. Peter figuring out how to handle his wife's sickness and all the daily changes that comes with that. Lizzy and Jane themselves. Tiptoeing around one another, yet unable to deny the love they have for each other, even while sniping and criticizing.
This story is breathtaking. While it may be quieter, it still packs a punch! And that ending! Ah, such a wonderful ending. Ms. Reay uses a softer touch with the romance, but that just makes each moment so much sweeter. And the ending references one of my absolute favorite moments in literature! (Hint: It involves a letter.) Most definitely swoonworthy! I confess to rereading the last couple of chapters several times. ;)
This one is a keeper. Trust me. READ IT!!!
*Many, many thanks to Katherine Reay for providing me with an ARC in response to my enthusiasm via twitter. :)
"...I never forget a food reference."
I shrugged. "It's a gift."
"The cake, of course. Oh, but there's that quiche dinner too. See? Sixteen Candles and Dickens--all about breakfast."
"Under the Tuscan Sun?"
"Never read it, but I'm assuming a ton of Italian?"
"That was obvious." Cecilia smiled. "What's your favorite food reference?"
"I've got two. I think the best opening line in literature is Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. 'The year began with lunch.' All books and all years should begin that way."