Jaclyn's Reviews > Shakespeare's Kitchen

Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal
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Dec 16, 11

Read in December, 2011

I really like it when books do something a little different. I've read several books in 2011 that were structured in slightly different ways than what I typically gravitate to, and I've been enjoying spreading my horizons that way. This was one such book. Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of short stories, that are not especially related to one another, but sharing in common their characters and with some plot elements continuing from story to story. If that sounds like it might be confusing... well, it wasn't. It was too well-crafted to be confusing.

Here's the premise: young Ilka Weisz has accepted a position as a junior associate at the Concordance Institute, a think-tank affiliated with Concordance University in Connecticut. When she moves to Concordance in the beginning of the book, Ilka leaves behind a well-developed circle of friends - surrogate cousins, you might say - in New York City. Ilka is a social person and she immediately looks to get to know her new colleagues, becoming particularly close to the Institute's new Director, Leslie Shakespeare, and his wife Eliza. As Ilka and her colleagues gather for dinners, picnics and events, their lives become more and more intertwined. Each discrete story examines some different aspect of human relationships and behavior.

Shakespeare's Kitchen was a very good book. It was well-written, the characters were consistent and the plots were creative. So why doesn't it merit more than a three-star review from me? Well, as meritorious as I knew the book was, I just didn't love it. Toward the middle, I was thinking that I was loving it - but then it began to wear on me, perhaps to be a bit heavy-handed with the insights into the human condition. I liked the characters - some, like Ilka, very much - and found most of the stories engaging. But for some reason, this book was for me like that neighbor who is always polite, who you know to be smart and successful, but who you just can't bring yourself to be good friends with. You're happy to stop and chat as you walk the dog by her house, but you don't particularly want to invite her over for tea. I can't explain why I feel this way, but I do. It was a good book, I enjoyed it, and I knew all along that it was a good book and I was enjoying it. But it's not destined to be one of my forever friends - that's okay. Still a worthy library selection, especially if you like short stories.
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