Happy weekend, my friends!
I am excited to share some thoughts tonight on a recent favorite of mine, Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay. I’ve raved about a few of Katherine’s other books here on my blog, specifically Dear Mr. Knightley and The Bronte Plot. And I am currently reading A Portrait of Emily Price, also by Reay. She is one of my favorite recently discovered authors. I love the way she incorporates classic literature into her stories and the beautiful messages her books promote.
Note: This is not a Pride and Prejudice retelling. I’ve had a few people ask about that. It is a beautiful story with lots of fun literary references, especially Austen related. So if you are an Austen fan, I bet you will enjoy this! 🙂
I actually this novel earlier this year but then decided to save it for after I was pregnant. All the descriptions of food and eating were a bit too close to home for my early pregnant self. I’m so glad I waited because it was so much more enjoyable now!
- I loved this book! I loved the relationships, the food, the beautiful message, and all the love.
- I love the setting in Seattle. I have a lot of extended family that live in that area so it was fun to be able to picture places like Pike Place Market and the Seattle skyline as I read the novel. Such a fun city to visit and explore!
- I may have gone to Half Price Books after finishing this book and bought a copy for myself 😉 It’s that good!
Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay explores the relationship of sisters Lizzy and Jane as they seek to repair their relationship as Jane battles cancer and Lizzy rediscovers her passion for cooking. Goodreads summarizes, “Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. . . . In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. . . . [and] surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past. . . . As she tends to Jane’s needs, Elizabeth’s powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. . . . [Ultimately] she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?”
I found Elizabeth and Jane to be authentic and raw characters. They read like real people. In fact, they remind me of myself. Their relationship reminds me of my own with my sisters. They have arguments. They feel grief, fear, and anger. They say things they shouldn’t and hold grudges. But they also find love, strength, healing, and purpose. They laugh together. They reconnect after years apart. What I love most about their characters is that they are willing to change. They both make mistakes, but they genuinely seek to be better and rebuild their relationship. And I love the strength they gain from growing together. I found myself feeling a part of their family and wanting to be their friends and confidants. I think their relationship is beautiful, with it’s flaws and it’s strengths.
As always, I loved all the literary references and the ways Reay incorporates them into the story. It’s so fun to understand those references and feel like at least I’m not the only nerdy person out there in the world 😉 Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors period (I’ve raved about her before). I loved the way her literature gave Jane strength and peace during her chemotherapy sessions. I found it fascinating how Elizabeth used the food references in the novels to build a diet for Jane to eat while she was sick as well. Like these sisters, literature brings back so many memories for me of my childhood, schooling, and relationships with others. I love Reay’s novels because they celebrate that powerful influence that books have in our lives.
More impressive than the literary references, the central role of food in this story is unique and fascinating. I felt really inspired to cook after reading this novel! I wanted to mix spices in a mortar and pestle. I wanted to make a shepherds pie and chicken salad and fruit smoothies. Reay does such a beautiful job incorporating food and literature into her story. I found it fascinating how Elizabeth used food to help Jane during her chemotherapy, and they way it changed both their lives. I have never read anything quite like this novel and it quickly became a favorite.
A few favorite quotes about the power and importance of food:
“Great writers and my mom never used food as an object. instead it was a medium, a catalyst to mend Hearts, to break down barriers, to build relationships. mom’s cooking fed Body and Soul.”
“Food is communal. Mom once told me that it was no accident that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. It was a sign that he was the Master of the Feast–and all celebrations involve a feast. Some of the best, most thankful moments of our lives involve food–almost all, really.”
Lizzy and Jane, pages 111 and 174
Perhaps most of all, I loved the beautiful message of the power of love and family to give our lives meaning and direction. This novel really struck me. I have been thinking about it for weeks since I finished. And I think it is because of the beautiful message. This is a story about family. It’s about building relationships others and really seeking to understand them as individuals. It’s about healing and saying I’m sorry and finding reasons to surround yourself with those you love. It’s about moving forward with hope and love. Ultimately, this is a novel about the whole person–about how to be your best self and to build strong relationships with God and those closest to you. It’s about love–love of family, love of God, and love of yourself.
I felt like I wanted to highlight the whole book! But here are a few favorite quotes about the power of love, God, and relationships in our lives.
“It’s never too late to learn that the love needs to be greater than the like.”
“She basically said that all our interest form our totality. We can’t be divided up. . . . I began to know how to cook for them when I focused in the whole person — what made them smile, what they clung to when scared it insecure, when what paintings are on their walls or books on their shelves.”
“I don’t think we get exempt from the pain because we live good lives. Some circumstances we can’t control — in fact, most are truly beyond our abilities. Instead maybe it’s how we get made new; it’s one of the only times we slow down enough to listen and receive grace, real grace.”
“Don’t go at everything alone just because that’s what you’ve always done. Dare to imagine something new.”
Lizzy and Jane, pages 201, 234, 280, & 312
This is a book that keeps getting better and better. I think it peaks in the climactic ending that leaves readers feeling satisfied and inspired to love deeper and to work for our dreams. I cannot say enough positive things about this novel. One of my favorite recent reads!
What books inspire you and stick with you?