A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge – Food, Family and Faith

July 25, 2014
About the Book:
Publisher: WaterBrook Press 
Source: Publisher provided via Blogging
for Books
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Series: A Table for Two (or Two Blue Doors), book 1
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

Some novel beginnings are humble and quiet, expanding from where they start,
kind of like a warm loaf of fresh, homemade bread has to first grow and expand
before it can be baked, so goes this stories opening. This is an apropos reference considering this novel is
actually, primarily about food – eating food, creating food, and us living vicariously
through the lives – and food! – of the people behind those concoctions. It’s leading,
first-person narrative is Juliette D’Alisa, the youngest child of six in a
French-Italian family who comes from a two-parent restaurant family. Juliette –
or Etta as she is sometimes called, is now a food critic following a failed
restaurant she was a part of with her brother and his friend, Eric, a man who
was once more to Juliette. Now, years later, her brother Nico is planning to
start a new restaurant and he wants Juliette to be a part of it, only trouble
is, her life has just gotten more complicated – she’s taking on more work
responsibilities and as luck would have it, she’s met a guy who could maybe –
just maybe, be the one she’s been waiting for.

Despite my pickiness about the whole first
person narrative, this is one I didn’t mind being written as such. Add in some
letters (emails do count) and a
fun-loving family, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a lovely 200+ page novel.
First things first, I liked that this novel kept things short and sweet. The
book was long enough, but not overlong, which is perfect because it used its
space wisely and didn’t ever seem to be moving too fast even with the pages
using parts of its ending chapters to share recipes; in fact, if any pacing
issue is mentionable, it would be that it lags in the beginning, which is
really the only complaint I have – it’s minor, believe me. Beyond that, this
book is gorgeous. There is something complexly “different” about it that causes
us to sit up and take notice – this is one of those stories where we find beauty in the norm and quiet of what it has to say. The romance is “barely there” in terms of being
“present” or maybe the better description would be that we don’t get a lot of
face to face time between the two, yet what is was elegant and developed with
class and where I’m concerned it didn’t hurt a thing that most of the defining
moments happen through letters – what can I say, I’m an old-fashioned romantic
sometimes – and of course, when we do have the pleasure of meeting the guy
through Juliette’s eyes, we instantly fall for him because, well, he’s pretty
awesome and then that ending… (happy) sigh.

Considering this is a series that is
going to stick with Juliette as its continuing protagonist (instead of the
usual three-book series about differing characters), there are unresolved
issues in this book. One being, her romantic future, another being certain
family tragedies that occur, then there is her work – is the restaurant going
to work or will Juliette find a new passion on her journey? So many questions
are left hanging in the air and yet, even not knowing much about Hillary’s pen,
I’ve a good feeling that in her hands, Juliette will get the best possible story
a girl could ever want – that and plenty of food.

Synopsis:
The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way? – Goodreads

Coming Next from Hillary Manton Lodge: Reservations for Two, arrives in 2015.

Sincere thanks to the publisher (Blogging for
Books) for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

8 Comments

  • Melissa Tagg

    July 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    YAY I'm so glad you read this. I adored this book. Loved, loved it. I loved the line where you said it's the kind of story where we find beauty in the norm and quiet of what it has to say. Totally agree. It's the kind of story you just settle into and don't want to leave. Can't wait for the next one!

    1. Rissi

      July 25, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      I'm SO very glad I enjoyed this book, Melissa! I started it at a time when I read something I didn't care for as well, which isn't always the best frame of mind to jump into something new, but aww…, I loved Hillary's easy, sincere and charming story. Ditto. The setting, characters, food, everything is all about "comfort" in reading and that is what makes it pleasant, and left me saying, "where's book 2??" ;)

      We'll wait together. :)

  • Courtney Clark

    July 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I'm so happy you loved it as much as I did!!!!! This is a great review, Rissi. You are right, it was so elegant and the perfect length. I loved the way she used the first person POV style – I agree sometimes that can be tiresome, but this really was perfect. I can't wait to see what happens next with Juliette on her adventures in Europe (and to have fun with more recipes). :)

    1. Rissi

      July 26, 2014 at 3:06 am

      Everything about this book was perfect! I actually enjoyed the first-person POV – Hillary has skills, and the quiet elegance of the story. That's what made it shine and I'm already eager to see what comes of book two – I mean, Juliette will be in Europe (as you say, Courtney), how exciting will that be?? :)

  • Tressa S

    July 29, 2014 at 3:47 am

    I love books about food or when there is food involved in the story and this one sounds really good. I also like slower-paced stories sometimes. Of course since you loved it, I'll just have to add it to my list to read. :)

    1. Rissi

      July 29, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      This one is really good, Tressa. It has a slow start up, but once I got "into" the story, I was gone. Such a sweet premise and it leaves us wanting so much more without being in a life-or-death situation. That's talent. :)

      Hope if/when you read it, it's one you'll enjoy.

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com

    August 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I think you've convinced me to try it. I love first person narratives.

    1. Rissi

      August 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Yay! Hope you enjoy, Juju. I wound up thinking it was quite good – and am anxious for the followup to arrive. :)

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