Harold Fry is a retired soft spoken, quiet gentleman. He seems to be existing rather than living. He shares his small home with his wife, Maureen: a woman who lives to complain, even silently finding ways to show her disapproval of everything Harold does. She cleans, she glares, makes disparaging comments about everything and is all-in-all…a real bummer.
One morning the mail arrives and their life changes upon delivery of a single letter. It’s addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl and from a woman, a former coworker of Harold’s, whom he’s not heard from in over 20 years. Queenie Hennessy writes from her hospice room to say goodbye and thanks for the friendship Harold extended many years ago.
While Maureen nibbles at a cold piece of toast, Harold writes out a quick note to Queenie then starts out for a morning walk to mail his reply. But a strange thing happens…he finds he cannot mail it, the response is inadequate and so, he decides to walk to another letter box and ponder memories of Queenie, his previous work, Maureen and his estranged son David. Eventually he decides he must deliver his message to Queenie in person. This is the start of his unlikely pilgrimage. A six hundred mile walk from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
This is not an action book to be sure, it’s a study in human nature; our insecurities, hopes and resolution. Harold remembers particular events in his life- the losses, mistakes, regrets, passion, love and wonderful times. Just for the record (and this isn’t a spoiler) Harold is very devoted and in love with Maureen. He never had a romantic thing with Queenie and his pilgrimage isn’t a expedition to reunite with a long lost love. There are other things going on with Harold. Near the end of the book there are things revealed which I never saw coming. Much is explained about Maureen’s and Harold’s behavior.
Jim Broadbent is the narrator for the audio version. I read rather than listened to this book but a story read by Jim Broadbent must be good. I certainly enjoyed his portrayals of Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge as well as Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter. Great voice for narration.
Rachel Joyce is an excellent story teller and I will certainly look form more books from her in the future.
I liked reading how the scenery changed. The color of brinks was “no longer the color of flint but a warmer shade of red”…identifying flowers, ferns and birds as well as how the land changed terrain.
“Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways”
“I mean, it’s everywhere.” You have to keep positive though. You have to believe. That’s what I think. It’s not about medicine and all that stuff. You have to believe a person can get better. There is so much in the human mind we don’t understand. But you see, if you have faith, you can do anything.”
Food items I saw mentioned:
BBQ Cheese Beast with fries were served to Harold at the garage where he struck up a conversation with a young lady.
A breakfast where he had a full fry up including poached eggs.
Cheese sandwiches – “The nuttiness of the cheese and sweetness of the bread exploded onto his taste buds with such vigor it was as if he had never eaten before”
In the early years she had grown vegetables in the garden of Fossebridge Road…she took to looking up new recipes from the library. There were casseroles, curries, pasta, beans.
Maureen heated a small tin of tomato soup,….she used to love gardening. There wasn’t an inch of plot at Fossebridge Road that didn’t bear fruit or flowers. She had cooked every day. She had read Elizabeth David and took pleasure in seeking out new ingredients.
‘Today we are Italian,” she’d laugh, kicking open the door to the dining room and presenting David and Harold with asparagus risotto. Buon appetite.
Chicken curry, sherry trifle, tea served with toasted tea cakes………
When the neighborhood women discovered Harold’s mother left they brought over an abundance of food: casseroles, pies, jellied meat suet puddings, jams and fruit cakes.
“Please could I come in, Mrs. Fry?” Over tea and apricot flapjacks, the girl told her she was the one who gave him the burger all those weeks ago.
My representative dish a is a risotto. I didn’t make the asparagus risotto but tried one with onions, garlic, celery and too much wine. I did, however, learn from my mistakes with this recipe Squirrel Head Manor has the correct recipe as well as a lesson in reading a recipe properly.
Edward Gioachino Giobbi is an American artist and author of quite a few cookbooks. This particular one, Eat Right, Eat Well – The Italian Way was published in 1985. Don’t let the fact that this book is roughly 27 years deter you from trying a few of Giobbi’s recipes. They stand the test of time, as classic recipes always do.
This fare presented isn’t heavily sauced or laden with calories. This take on Italian cooking demonstrates the food isn’t always heavy with butter, eggs, creams and high fat items. More of a take on good healthy food which is prepared with the freshest ingredients and lower fat options.
The recipes are also presented with personal stories of Mr. Giobbi’s experiences living, traveling and cooking in Italy.
Here is an adaption of Fettucine Alfredo…..substitute Alfeta for the Alfredo. No heavy cream or sauce. The texture is enriched with the feta cheese.
12 ounces fettuccine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
3 tablespoons thinly sliced ripe black olives
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
salt & fresh ground pepper
Cook fettuccine according to package directions. Drain, return to pan and toss with olive oil. Toss with cheese, tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
More about Edward Gioachino Giobbi
A Week in Winter was the last new book I will read by Maeve Binchy. When she died last April 2012, we lost a creative story teller and popular author. I have read every single book and compilation Binchy has written and enjoyed each and every one. Her earlier books, such as Light a Penny Candle and The Glass Lake, are my favored books but I have to say, I never lost interest in any of the novels she published.
Binchy uses characters from earlier books to populate her novels. I Remember Brenda from her book Quentins so when she was mentioned in a few scenes in A Week in Winter, I recalled how Brenda looked and her role at the restaurant. Also the characters Declan and Fiona from Heart and Soul, and Cathy Feather are mentioned in passing.
This story is set in Stoneybridge, a small town on the west coast of Ireland. As with most of her other novels, Binchy has chapters dedicated to each major character and tells the story from their point of view. The main character is called Chicky Starr. You read her back story which involves falling in love with an American man (Walter Starr), moving to the US without her parents’ blessing, then facing her life without him when he leaves her….just as her parents predicted. But Chicky doesn’t tell her parents the truth about her existence in the US – she makes up a marriage to Walter and a fine life. She eventually “kills him off” telling of a fatal car accident and moves back to Stoneybridge. (This makes Chicky sound harsh, but she isn’t harsh at all…..she’s kind and understanding throughout the book.)
The house is a character in a way as this is the gathering place for all the characters. You read about the renovations to make it a respectable lodging house for holidays. The decaying mansion is owned by the elderly Miss Queenie Sheedy who decides to sell the house to Chicky. Assisted by her best friend’s son, Rigger, her niece Orla, you hear about the hard work and prep involved to establish this old place as a vacation destination. A relaxing one, with views of the Atlantic, cliffs and wildlife.
The first guests are John, an American movie star arriving under an assumed name; Winnie and Lillian, both loving the same man but Lillian is the over protective mother and Winnie is the man’s love interest; Nicola and Henry, both doctors who are married to each other – they have had so many unfortunate experiences involving their work and are all but numb to the idea of practicing medicine again; Anders, a Swedish man who is set to take over his father’s business but would prefer to be a musician;
Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher and uber critical of everything; one’s relief; the Walls, another married couple who won their Week in Winter and Freda, a young librarian, there on a get-away after being screwed over in a relationship. She also has psychic visions.
The story lines interweave and you see others point of view; you watch as problems are resolved and relationships form. The one story line I didn’t like and did not find satisfaction with was Nell Howe. She was completely unlikable and when she went away, and I mean just up and left the holiday house, there wasn’t a resolution. With Binchy’s novels you usually have an outcome, good or bad, but this character didn’t have a resolution.
This wasn’t my favorite of Binchy’s books but I did enjoy it. And I am very sad there won’t be any more books from the lovely and talented writer. (sniff, sniff)
Quite a bit of food mentioned in this book.
Parsnip and apple soup with homemade brown bread served during a kitchen lunch with Chicky and Orla.
For a cocktail party there was white wine, asparagus spears wrapped in pastry with dipping sauce and quail’s eggs.
Choux pastry, Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, Barmbrack.
A lunch of fresh salmon served with new potatoes and minted peas. Salads with asparagus and avocado, walnuts and blue cheese.
The dinners made me wish we were there. Smoked trout with horseradish cream and brown bread; roasted lamb, apple pie as well as vegetarian dishes (unspecified what sort).
Bowls of steaming, succulent mussels and fresh crusty bread.
Quite a few things appealed to me but what I chose to prepare the fresh salmon. Because we couldn’t get fresh – meaning not local to Florida – we grilled both Mahi Mahi as well as grilled salmon steaks (not the same evening!) This was served with potatoes and minted peas – we enjoyed two seafood dinners inspired from the book.
I am sharing this with Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking series. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.
Another murder mystery in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson. Actually, I ought to say Chief Inspector Banks as he needs to correct people on his position so many times. This is the fourth in the series and no, you don’t need to read them in the order printed/written to enjoy the stories.
That being said, it’s not my favorite of the four I have read so far. The storyline was easy to follow and of course I enjoy a story where I can’t quite figure out who the culprit is until the end. But the ending was too abrupt. It wrapped all the loose ends up but… I wish it had not been such a sudden ending.
Don’t let my opinion put you off though – if you enjoy the Inspector Banks mysteries, and you enjoy reading about the little pub meals sprinkled here and there in the novels…you would enjoy reading this one.
The storyline: A hiker is enjoying the beauty of a Yorkshire afternoon, climbing the valley above the village of Swainshead. When he sees a thicket filled with wildflowers and goes to investigate, he discovers a maggot-ridden body rotting in the clearing. Call in the authorities and the story begins. Once the identity of the body is discovered, the police wonder if there is a connection to an unsolved murder in Swainshead five years prior.
Suspects include the Collier brothers, the wealthiest and most powerful family in Swainsdale, Sam Greenock, a complete creep and owner of a guest house in town and Sam’s wife Katie, who is damaged by a strict religious upbringing. The two Collier brothers are very different from one another but their common goal seems to be directing the investigation away from them and the village. I especially disliked Nicky Collier – what a piece of work.
There are a few chapters devoted to a trip to Toronto where Banks combines forces (unofficially, of course) with Canadian police agents. I loved the descriptions of the pubs, the food and ales Banks tried and the British perspective on his short experience in Canada.
Some food items mentioned
Chapter 1: A breakfast of sausage, bacon, black pudding, fried bread, grilled mushrooms, tomato, 2 fried eggs, tea, toast and marmalade
Chapter 3: First things first, Banks thought, and headed for the bar. He ordered Cumberland sausage, beans and chips, then paid, took his numbered receipt and waited while Freddie Metcalf poured him a pint of Pedigree
Chapter 8: ……….Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe sat hunched over a pint of Theakston’s Bitter and a veal-and-egg pie
Chapter 10: Doors to both parts of the house were open, allowing access to drinks, a huge table of cheese, pates, smoked salmon and fresh fruit
Chapter 11: (Eating in a Canadian pub) Prime-rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, Caesar salad, White Russian, red wine, a pint of Creemore, coffee and cognac
Lots of food choices and although I was mighty tempted to have a prime rib dinner…..I decided to go with a creatively healthy version of the sausage meal. Instead of the Cumberland sausage (which I would love to have but don’t think are available in my area) I made a healthy meal of turkey sausage and vegetables. I was sorry.
Details are at Squirrel Head Manor but I can tell you, I wouldn’t make it again.
If my count is correct Peter Robinson authored 27 books in this series. I intend to read them all. Coming up I have reviews for A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy as well as An Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
I am sharing this with Beth Fish Reads for the Weekend Cooking series.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.
This book deserves to remain a mystery for anyone who read the book jacket and decided it would be a good story. I studiously avoided any reviews once I was well into the book. Gillian Flynn is the ultimate wordsmith applying apt and descriptive language, paragraphs which paint a picture of the room, the people and even the emotional dialogue.
One thing I read from others who had read the book was you don’t like either of the main characters. You don’t have sympathy for them.
Well…I was only about 30 or 40 pages into the story and thought, that’s odd, and why would it be so popular if you didn’t like the characters, and I disagree as I am liking one over the other right off.
Yeeeah…wait for it. This book is divided into three sections. Part one covers the early life of Nick and Amy, their first 5 years of marriage (and the courtship) summed up. They both lost their jobs and they are living in New York when Nick gets a call from his sister in Missouri. His mother is dying and help is needed. They move there and you read about the charming and cold hearted behavior of Nick and think you’ll have it all figured out.
You feel like you know them…just a tad more than scratching the surface. Part two continues on with the story from a different perspective – I widened my eyes at the revelations exposed here. This glimpse into a world of selfish people turns into a bit of a thriller… kept me guessing at how this would all turn out. I would have preferred a different ending but I am certainly not sorry I read this book. Doesn’t that speak volumes when you read or watch something and you still discuss it long after. Lots of psychological sickness and calculation in these pages.
Some quotes I liked:
“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold”
This is a memory Nick had of something Amy said years ago. Have you ever had a random memory of something you saw or heard when you were a kid and then as an adult, everything falls into place? Oh, that’s what that meant…because you now have a different perspective, a different and more mature (maybe) outlook.
I like this quote too:
“People say children from broken homes have it hard, but the children of charmed marriages have their own particular challenges.”
This speaks about Amy’s parents, Rand and Marybeth, who are soul mates (as they define themselves):
“My parents circulate the room, hand in hand….they call themselves soul mates, and I guess they are…I can vouch for it having studied them, little lonely only child, for many years. They have no harsh edges with each other, no spiny conflicts, they ride through life like conjoined jellyfish – expanding and contracting instinctively, filling each other’s spaces liquidly.”
“I don’t often say things when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you’d never guess from looking at me”
For the food aspect the live lobsters are the clear choice. This is the anniversary dinner tradition from the book. But I just can’t bring myself to lower a lobster into boiling water. Yeah yeah…..I know I eat steak, lamb and chicken………..but I would be a lousy farmer/rancher having to kill my food. So……I made Chicken Frito Pie. This dish makes an appearance in part one of the book.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.
Here is more on Gillian Flynn
I have been working on a few reviews and meals but have not had time to post lately. I did enter another writing contest and that 250 word story may be found at Lascaux Flash HERE.
So, I have not been completely idle. Next up will be the review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Wish I had discovered this author earlier. Off now to check out her two previous books Dark Places and Sharp Objects.
The Passage is a journey; a transition about life and death and about the individual stories in the book. It’s apocalyptic lit with detailed survival stories interwoven and spanning a hundred years. Liberally sprinkled with strong and weak characters alike and how they cope, what they hope for and how they live their lives. Is it survival or living? Definitely a difference between the two.
It starts in the year 2014. Military experiments gone horribly wrong and the outcome of the disaster which lasts for hundreds of years. I liked many of the characters in the middle part of the book. There are colonies of people trying to survive in the only world they have ever known, a terrifying world populated with superhuman creatures who are vampire like in their quest for blood and their aversion to light.
The viral creatures, who were once ordinary men and women, are relentless in their hunt to find food. The food being – people. The colonists whom you grow to like and support. Peter, Alicia, Sarah, Michael aka “Circuit” and Maus. They never knew a life where they could see stars at night because the lights must blot out the darkness, always shining to keep the viral creatures at bay. One colonist is an old woman called Auntie. She remembers the stars. She remembers her parents and the rounding up of the children to be sent on a train to the colony in California. She remembered an existence before the virals were a threat to an ordinary life.
What attracted me to this series was book two. I was wandering around Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of The Twelve by Justin Cronin. It sounded interesting and then I realized I need book one. So, now that I am done, I am wondering if I want to proceed with The Twelve. Was I captivated by the first book? Oh yes. Yes, it held my interest and I made comment to my husband that if this becomes a movie, and I watch this movie, I will probably be quite scared to walk the dogs through the woods at night. (We walk them every evening and there are lots of trees! Ok, you have to read the book for that to make sense)
“Before she became the Girl from Nowhere – the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years – she was just a little girl in Iowa named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.”
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born. ‘What did you say?” Richards said, and then he heard – both of them heard – the sound of the alarm. The one that was never, ever supposed to ring, a great tonal buzzing that ricocheted across the open compound so that it seemed to come from everywhere at once.”
“Courage is easy, when the alternative is getting killed. It’s hope that’s hard. You saw something out there that no one else could, and you followed it. That’s something I could never do.”
I only remember food mentioned twice. Food at a county fair and the meal Sarah prepared when her group was hunkered down for a night, hoping to survive. Sarah made a rabbit stew. Well….recently I had the chance to try rabbit and while I won’t say I’ll never have it again….I just couldn’t make it for this post. Not yet. My experience with rabbit may be found HERE at Squirrel Head Manor.
So…no food on this post. Good book, really had me going. But I am still debating if I will read the next one.
Foolproof by Ina Garten is a fantastic slender cookbook, chock full of recipes which have been tested, easy to prepare and ..well….they are foolproof. Published by Clarkson Potter with 88 recipes covering everything from appetizers, cocktails, main course, sides and desserts.
I am very interested in Duke’s Cosmopolitan, Sidecars with Dried Cherries, Crispy English Potatoes, Mushroom & Leek Bread Pudding, Salted Caramel Brownies (I have been having a slated caramel craving lately) and Winter Minestrone and garlic brushetta.
For starters I prepared Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken. It did not disappoint.
Just about all of the recipes use simple ingredients, many of which are probably in your pantry or fridge. The meal planning part of the book is interesting and gives me ideas for setting a table (nicer than I do now), has menu suggestions and even – if you are a social creature ( I am not) – step-by-step plans on dinner party strategies.
Basic recipes with exceptional delivery on taste. Recipe for this chicken may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
This book covers 17 countries through Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Supposedly these recipes were tested and re-tested to be sure of the outcome and conversions in measurements. 121 pages with many color photos – some of which are faded but you must consider this book was printed in 1972.
One thing I noted when flipping through the book was the appearance of an onion in each country’s introduction photo. I had not noticed the globe depicted on the cover this cookbook was in fact, an onion. A humble onion painted up to represent the earth. Very creative. Upon further reading the onion is given its proper respect as it is the common symbol of cookery in each of the countries recipes.
“the onion deserves a special word of praise here. Botanically it belongs to the proudest of all the flower families – the Lily. Its origin lay in the wildest wastes of Asia yet now grown world wide. Derived from the Latin unio meaning unity, many things in one. Flavorsome, moist and even medicinal, all these virtues have been ascribed to the onion, the rose of roots.”
Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
I started this book when I was on my Jane Austen kick last year. The flap inside the book promised time travel. Check. Promised a Mr. Bingley type character and knocking back meals and drinks with THE Miss Jane Austen. Check. (Yeah, I was more a Bingley fan than Darcy fan…but I was also all about Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when I was a kid…color me different)
What’s not to like (if you like this type of writing that is) so I eagerly dove in. Well, the author did deliver on all of those promises … but… there was just something (me scratching my head) that didn’t engage me. Actually, after reading this particular book I was cured of my momentary Austen Fever and reading all things by and/or about Jane as well as spin offs on Ms. Austen’s world.
The sorry plot: C.J. (Cassandra) is an aspiring actress and besotted with all things Jane Austen. She rehearses for a part in a play about Austen, steps offstage and goes through a door, finding herself in 19 century Bath England. C.J. is naturally confused but eventually realizes she time traveled. She’s hungry and grabs an apple off a cart which lands her a ticket to jail. During court proceedings she speaks up for herself, something not done in that day, and impresses the judge with her intelligence and verbal discourse. When a wealthy matron stands up and offers to take C.J. as a servant who will read to her (sort of a probationary sentence back in the day. I guess.) C.J. ends up in a household with a standing not much higher than a slave.
She gets beaten. She teaches another female servant to read. She gets taken in by an eccentric old woman who claims C.J. is her long lost niece (just for fun on the crazy old society woman’s part. I guess.) C.J. meets Jane Austen which is a thrill for our character but a disappointment for Austen lovers. Austen is written without character development; she is a mouthpiece of quotes from her novels and you don’t get a sense of who Jane is or what she’s about. Disappointing.
The second part of the book shifted abruptly in tone from the beginning of the novel. As if the author wrote the first part then put it aside for 6 months. You just can’t get the same rhythm with characters or story line (in my humble opinion) if you leave your characters to dwell on the pages and in your imagination. By part two, our main character C.J. was quite amorous. In a New York minute coy flirting turned to having sex on a bench in the middle of a garden party. The sex scenes just appeared and they were quite graphic. Now, I am not a prude and the scenes weren’t disgusting they were just…out of place. As I said, the second part of the book shifted to a very different writing style.
I have to say I am off my Austen kick and pleased I didn’t spend money on this book. For time travel I will stick to Outlander. No meal, no mas.