Dinner With Edward: A Story Of An Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent
Pub. date: May 24th, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Format: ARC, paperback
Source: LibraryThing Giveaway
Thanks so much to Algonquin Books and LibraryThing for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Plot: The two characters, Isabel and Edward, are introduced to each other when they are both at a personal crossroads in their respective lives. Isabel is attempting to salvage her marriage, and Edward is mourning the recent loss of his beloved wife, to whom he was married for the longest time. They are introduced to each other by Edward’s daughter. Soon, a routine of weekly dinners falls in place, with Edward cooking fabulous meals that will have you salivating even if you didn’t mean to, sharing his culinary secrets, which slowly but surely metamorphose into life advice for Isabel, on slowing down and de-constructing her life. This is the story of a deep and meaningful friendship, love, sorrow, and moving on.
If my gushing over The Raven Cycle has not yet clued you in, I’m a sucker for friendship stories. This most certainly reflects how I value relationships in my personal life. I highly prefer and value my alone time, I’m your quintessential introvert loner, but I also have very intimate friendships with a few people, and I highly value these. I have always been one step behind the world navigating social constructs and the “rules” of friendships (yes, there are rules. Let’s not go around saying things like “real friendships don’t have rules blah blah.” Okay, maybe we can use guidelines, if that makes you feel better.) Anyway, there’s some navigating to do, and I don’t know if this is just me or other people, but there’s been a significant amount of response effort figuring this stuff out over time. I’m getting better at it. I am much more comfortable spilling my feelings on the internet than to people I am very close to, and I have also learned that this is okay.
My point is, I’m a sucker for a friendship story. So a premise such as the one about Dinner With Edward had me requesting a galley pretty fast. This is a sweet and touching memoir. Each chapter opens with a mouth-watering menu, and Edward’s secret techniques that he shares with Isabel not only reflect on his meticulous nature, but reveal the care that people hold for things they value. He does not seem like one to compromise on his priorities. Isabel, whose job of being an investigative journalist is reflective of her personality, and is unhappily knee-deep in the middle of an unhappy marriage that is contributing to an unhappy life. These dinners with Edward become her weekly safe haven, her happy place. They are exquisite and elaborate, and reflective of Edward’s personality- carefully planned and prepared, no skimping on details and no shortcuts. Through these dinners, a deep bond is formed. Edward slowly but gently gives her the valuable lesson of stepping back, slowing down, reexamining her life and figure out what gives her most meaning and happiness, nudges her out of her comfort zone, and gives her the courage to make some significant life changes. In turn, she is able to give him a sincere and solid friendship, companionship, an avid pupil soaking up his wisdom, and purpose.
While all of these things were beautiful to read, I found some things problematic. I like that the author acknowledges how sometimes the things Edward says are sexist, which she quickly attributes to the generation he belongs to. Which is fine, since this is a memoir, it’s not as if it was an active character choice, but I did find myself getting annoyed at some of the things he said, which are stereotypically things people say about millennials, technology, etc. I definitely found it hard to reconcile those parts of Edward as a person. Also, there were some parts where Edward makes nonchalant statements about how she’s not the only one he has these sort of dinners with, and I was struggling to understand his implication, or why that was even included. It’s very clear that Isabel had become a project to Edward (again, she acknowledges this), a broken bird that needed fixing.
Did I find some of his decisions for her problematic? Hells yes. Is this from my doggedly-feminist perspective? Hells yes. Did this impact my overall impressions of the book? For sure.
Overall, a sweet story, and I wouldn’t shy away from reading it. Obviously, the author is giving us a very poignant slice-of-life narrative, and I respect that. It clearly came to her in a time of great need, and it helped her take important action steps towards her own life. I will not discount any of this, especially with a memoir, because these are such real experiences. That definitely makes a difference for me. I think I would be more critical if it were a work of fiction.
If anybody else out there has read this book, or is going to read it, please share your thoughts. I am always interested in hearing people’s POV about the books I read.