Book Review: Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Posted by: Kristi

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Name of Book: Lizzy and Jane: A Novel

Author: Katherine Reay

Overall reaction: Although a good read and another one that I had trouble putting down, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed after having read Dear Mr. Knightley.  The story felt tense and uncomfortable and almost like you were in the middle of a real-life awkward conversation, which speaks to the writing ability of Katherine Reay, but probably isn’t the vibe I want when I’m trying to relax.  Also, the literary references felt more forced in Lizzy and Jane, which was disappointing because they were so fun to read in Dear Mr. Knightley.

However, the story was still engaging and thought provoking and dealt with some heavy stuff. The characters were relatable and honest and I don’t regret reading it.

Let me just say that I hate knowing any more of a storyline than I have to before reading a book.  Rarely do I even read the back cover because it can give more away than I prefer (this has worked for me because almost every book I read comes as a recommendation from someone I know or trust).  With that being said, in following you will find the very limited summary of Lizzy and Jane.

Summary: Jane, an aspiring chef, has lived away from her family (both literally and emotionally) for quite some time.  In a turn of events, she ends up back across the country in her hometown caring for her sister, who has a personality opposite of her own.  The novel is written from Jane’s perspective as she learns about herself, her family, and how helping often takes on different forms than originally anticipated.

And, I’ll leave it at that!

Characters I could relate to: Although the tension between Lizzy and Jane is not ideal, I think just about anyone can relate to tension within family members.  Also, because I am the sister who “moved away,” I can relate to some of the struggle that Lizzy goes through in returning home; however, relating to Lizzy is kind of a stretch as we are away from family for entirely different reasons.

I mentioned in my review of Dear Mr. Knightley that the characters were difficult for me to relate to (in a good way) but that Lizzy and Jane included a battle with cancer which made the characters fearfully more relatable.  Thankfully, at this time I don’t have anyone in my immediate family battling cancer.  However, cancer is like the summit of feared illness and anytime I read a story or article including a battle with cancer, my reaction is to try to relate if it were in my own family.  Lizzy and Jane gave me a glimpse into the everyday life of those fighting against cancer.

Who do I recommend to read this book: This is tough.  I liked this book but not nearly as much as Dear Mr. Knightley.  As I mentioned before, Jane is an aspiring chef and the story includes a lot of detail regarding food and cooking.  I am a somewhat from-scratch cook.  I’ve enjoyed learning more and more around the kitchen, but I found the food references a bit tedious.  I don’t know if that means I just haven’t hit foodie status or if this novel just didn’t quite hit home in this season of life.

Either way, the story is entertaining and engaging.  It’s also inspiring as Jane learns about the various ways that helping can take form.  I realize I’m being a bit hard on it as I came in with high hopes following Dear Mr. Knightley.   My advice: if you have time to read both, read Lizzy and Jane first.  If you’re only going to read one, read Dear Mr. Knightley.

If you’ve read Lizzy and Jane, I’d love to hear your comments on it!

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