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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belle in the Big Apple: A Novel With Recipes by Brooke Parkhurst [Review]

 Release Date: September 16, 2008
Publisher: Scribner/Simon and Schuster
Source: Bought
ISBN 0743296966

When Belle Lee, a vivacious, tart-tongued daughter of Mobile, Alabama, decides that the only way she'll ever make a name for herself as a journalist is to leave the family paper and head to New York,she soon realizes just how daunting life in the big city can be. An outsider desperate to carve a place for herself in the cutthroat world of New York journalism, Belle marches all over town in her kitten heels and her single Chloe suit to hand-deliver resumes and smiles, and to beg for a job from the indifferent or downright hostile office drones.She refuses to give up. With heroic persistence,a wicked sense of humor and a taste for the gourmet, Belle sees what it takes to become a New Yorker. She flirts with a gorgeous young man on the subway, only to learn later that he's stolen her purse; braves the judgmental stares of her neighbors; goes on a series of hilariously disastrous dates and then, finally, she catches her big break: a job as a production assistant at a conservative twenty-four-hour news network.

Belle throws herself into her work, sure that her talents will be noticed. All the while, she suffers the sexually suggestive commentary of one of the station's better-known male anchors, doggedly fetches scripts and pulls footage in the wee hours of the morning while working the midnight shift. Belle even maintains her Southern charm, baking cakes for her coworkers and befriending the office security guard.

Things start to look up when Paige Beaumont, the channel's star female news anchor, takes Belle under her wing. Paige shows Belle the ropes, dispenses career advice, includes her in the office gossip and also sets her up on dates at restaurants where, before, Belle had only dreamed of one day being inside. But when Belle uncovers the truth behind an illegal network deal that may jeopardize the election of female presidential candidate Jessica Clayton, she realizes that intelligent and ambitious women need to stick together -- and she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.

With thirty recipes for everything from Bribe-Your-Coworkers Pound Cake to Single-Girl Sustenance and how to make the perfect Manhattan -- all told in the delightful and plucky voice of a determined and saucy young woman -- Belle in the Big Apple is about finding love in the most unlikely places, following your dreams and staying true to yourself.
I wanted to like this book . I really wanted to like this book. I picked it up on a whim because it was discounted at Books A Million and I just ran with it. I liked the premise, I myself am doing an internship at a news channel next semester, I've been really into coming of age story involving New York City recently, and I am an English major. The stars were in my favor to like this book. 

Now, lets talk about what happened. 

From page one it was clear that Belle was a person of privilege, heck in the description it tells you this, so no surprise there, but what I was not expecting was for Belle to be so freaking codependent. If you're moving to New York City but your grandfather is paying your rent - you're not really moving to New York City. There are situations where this can be appropriate, where it's just a few months  or it's until you get on your feet, but the entire point of Belle moving was to get away from her family... but she never does. 

She moves up to NYC with a truckload of her family's antiques and an apartment that her grandfather found for her, and her break is even given to her because of her grandfather. It's not realistic, and making it seem like it is that easy for everyone makes people hate you. 

Life is a struggle, and a story about a "struggle" that doesn't really seem like much of a struggle just is annoying. Moving to NYC is huge, it's a dream, and for most it includes being miserably poor for months or years, it's not as simple as telling your grandfather you're going to go and be a rich girl there instead. While this did not destroy my opinion of the book, it just got on my nerves. She spoke about things being hard and then on the next page called her grandfather who set up a meeting for her. Maybe there just wasn't enough characterization for me to feel for her, which I think is the heart of the problem.

Now, for the redeeming qualities...

The recipes were interesting, though I think there were only one or two I would make myself.  I'm from Tennessee, so I also found the references to the south interesting as well, though... it's not all Spanish moss and honey suckles... 

The south is always painted in a very interesting picture in novels, we're either Southern hicks or the home of hospitality and hoop skirts, and I felt the later in this novel. Yes, the South is wonderful, but we're not that cut away from the modern world as I feel was demonstrated in this novel. 

We have large cities, we have technology, and we also have some mountains and fields and family traditions, but we're not backward. That was kind of a strange thing for me, some aspects of her descriptions I liked and appreciated, while others I felt were not accurate at all. 



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