Monthly Archives: December 2011
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
This book has many of the features I love to read about – time travel, a bit of romance, it’s a historical fiction, genealogy, Scotland and lots of dialogue! I read this the first time after picking up a copy from the used book section at my local library. I was hooked! In the beginning you are getting to know Claire and Frank Randall. Frank is obsessive about his genealogy and they are in Scotland checking out the area where his ancestor, Black Jack Randall, went to battle in 1745 at Culloden.
Claire was a combat nurse, separated from Frank by war and her duties. She is reunited with her husband and they went on a second honeymoon in Scotland, getting reacquainted with each other again after a long separation. During one of their outings they visit a dolman. Something special in one of the rocks at a dolman they visited attracts Claire and, upon touching the stone, she is transported back in time – same place, but 200 years earlier. Naturally she thinks she’s landed herself in a BBC production of some costume drama when she sees the Red-coated British uniform and Scots in full kilted get up running from them.
Meeting Frank’s ancestor, Jonathan Wolverton Randall, is shocking (for obvious reasons) but to see him as the spitting image of her husband (Frank) is quite unnerving – especially since he isn’t kind and compassionate like Frank. She is saved from certain rape and interrogation by Capt. Randall by a Scot named Murtagh. He takes Claire to a cottage where she meets Jamie Fraser for the first time. The 7 or so Scottish rebels are as puzzled by Claire as she is by them. They think she’s a spy for the English. Randall thinks she’s a spy for the Scots or France. Viewed by all with suspicion it makes it difficult for her to escape. Claire ends up marrying Jamie so she may become a Scottish citizen and thus, untouchable by the English and protected. Still – even with her attraction to Jamie, she plans to try and get back to her own time.
There are so many interwoven story lines within this book with all the characters; I hung on to each chapter and was left hooked on these Outlander books. Happily for me, there were 4 more in print when I first started reading it so I quickly moved on to the other stories. I am awaiting the last book of this series to come out for what is promised to be a tear jerker finale.
There weren’t many detailed food scenes but Jamie helped himself to Bannocks more than one occasion but…..no matter how many times I planned to make bannocks, something came up. So I made soda bread
Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
For the record, I love the Outlander series but am not a huge fan of Lord John Grey novels. Lord John was a significant character in several of the Outlander books however, I just never took a shine to him and couldn’t get into the first novel in his series. Just not my cuppa tea.
Late in the year I signed up for the Italy in Reading Challenge over at Book After Book which is hosted by Brighton Blogger. While I will not complete reading 12 books with Italy as the main theme, I did strike down six Italian themed books towards my goal. Possibly I can get another one under my belt before December closes out.
This upcoming year Book After Book is hosting a new reading challenge. Any genre, read as much as you want on any subject. There will be prizes and it’s always a pleasure to see what other folks are reading and checking out their reviews…Sweet!
I am prepared for the upcoming year and being a loyal follower of Brighton’s site Book After Book, I have a game plan for 2012. Would you like to join in? Check out the rules HERE.
My stack of books are waiting for the 2012 Challenge. I’ll shoot this off to Twitter and Facebook and if you want to share this post, please pass it on!!
Kate and Olivia by Annie Murray
This book was also published under the title Birmingham Friends.
From the back of the book:
“Anna grew up with stories of her mother’s childhood in Birmingham and of Kate’s friend, Olivia. And when Kate dies, she leaves her daughter a final story, one that this time tells the whole truth of her life with Olivia Kemp. And as Anna reads on, she is shocked to discover how little she really knows about the mother she felt so close to. With Kate’s words of caution ringing in her head, she goes in search of the one woman who can answer the urgent questions she now has to ask… “
SPOILERS (you’ve been warned)
This book has twists and turns that you’d never see coming from the first few chapters of the book. It captures the intimacy of Kate and Olivia’s relationship as you read about their childhood friendship and experiences.
It gets way more complicated when they reach adulthood and move off in different directions. Kate becomes a nurse while Olivia enlists in the British Royal Naval Service (WRNS). But Olivia has secrets, even as close as she was with Kate, she never divulged the scenes she witnessed at her home. Her father being portrayed as a sexual addict and her mother cringing at the thought of his touch. This shaped Olivia’s view of men and she becomes very promiscuous. This isn’t to say there are lots of sex scenes in the novel, there aren’t. It’s well written and not a steamy romance type book at all. But a good study in human behavior as you read about the lives of two women, once so very close, and the different ways they deal with the war and people they interact with.
One of Kate’s proudest moments is when she is called to attend a birth as the doctor is running late. Who does the doctor turn out to be? Her own father. She was astounded to see her there and complimented her handling of the birth and care of the newborn. He said she was a credit to the profession and it was good she was there in the medical community. One of the proudest moments for her. The most sorrowful parts were the loss of Kate’s fiancé Angus.
Angus was listed as missing when his plane disappeared over the ocean. In a state of limbo, not knowing if she ought to give up and move on or hold on to hope, she is gently courted by Douglas Craven. He is a big man with a crippled leg therefore he cannot serve his country as many of the able bodied men were doing. Finally the war is over and Kate moves on, agreeing to marry Craven even though her true love, her heart and soul, will always be with Angus.
Douglas proves to be tender at first and then his true colors come out – a jealous and controlling man. Kate struggles with him constantly over issues of her independence. She wants to remain working as a nurse and he wants her home, awaiting him when he returns from work. Meanwhile, letters from Olivia are fewer and have less in them. Olivia returns to Birmingham only to be controlled by her parents who have her committed to an insane asylum.
Too many spoilers come up after all this so…I am done sharing here. It was a good read and while I would have liked the ending to be different, I am still interested in reading more of Annie Murray’s work.
As far as food scenes in the book, there were a few where it was more about what all they could have available and the luxury of it all rather than what they actually ate. After the war was over it seemed almost decadent to have so much accessible to them.
So this is inspired by its simplicity but also the goodness of having a comforting, nourishing bowl of soup. Sometimes basic foods symbolize celebration, especially after deprivation.
Smoked Turkey Vegetable Soup
(I assure you, it’s coincidence this was the choice right after our Thanksgiving holiday!)