If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar

IfYou KnewI have to start with saying, the ending of this book gutted me. It was emotional, I wanted a different ending for the characters I grew to like yet somehow it was the perfect ending.

Alice is a nurse at a hospital, one that works with comatose patients, and she is a lovely, caring woman.  You can really get behind this character,  have empathy for her in both her professional and personal life.

The story is told from several points of view bringing us different perspectives and information about what’s going on.  We have the nursing staff with Alice, Mary and Lizzie. Later in the book you want to throttle Lizzie (you’ll see).  They interact with these comatose patients, nursing them, comforting them and hoping for improvement.  We read about several of the patients, some in a passing reference because they are moved to another facility or they die.  The two main comatose patients are Cassie, a woman brought into the ward after a hit and run, and Frank,  a stroke victim.

There are also supporting “cast members” – Cassie’s husband Jack and her mother-in-law Charlotte, Cassie’s best friend Nicky, her step-father Marcus and her neighbor Jonny.

Frank is an alcoholic and one of the long term patients on the ward.  While the doctors think he is in a PVS (permanent vegetative state) he is actually aware of what’s going on around him.  He can’t speak, blink, move a finger to let people know he’s locked in.  What a nightmare.  From his point of view we learn about his previous life, the love for his daughter Lucy and what it’s like being an alcoholic.   He describes addition:  The addiction “pounced on me when I lost my job, it pounced on me when Ange (his wife) finally chucked him out.  After that it seemed to take up residence within me, switching places with the man I tried to be, consigning Frank to the shadows, meek and withered as the beats gnawed my bones, sucking out the marrow of my  life every bottle of whisky…..”   Great descriptions.

Cassie’s story has it’s twists and turns.  She clearly misses her deceased mother April, she loves Jack but is sometimes distant from him and her best friend Nicky is like a sister.  One day she witnesses something that changes her life (don’t want to give spoilers).  Shortly afterwards she is stuck by a car, obviously on purpose (that’s in the beginning) and left for dead. You come to wonder if she was targeted by her husband, best friend or step-father.  The story builds up as we learn more about our supporting cast.  I had my assumptions about what happened with Cassie but the end still surprised me.  I liked reading about Cassie and her life before she went into a coma.

While food was mentioned here and there, and I will note it because…I do write about books and food….it’s not a celebratory book to enjoy a meal.  It starts out interesting but near the end this plot grabs you by the collar and demands your attention.  Emotional ride here at the very end.  Ok so, there was:

Salmon fillets, salad and new potatoes and wine.
Homemade jam, lasagna
Croissants, prosciutto, melon and freshly squeezed orange juice

I would recommend this author and I will most certainly look for her future publications.  Well done, Emily Elgar, as you had me shed a tear at the end.
Great wrap-up.

For more info on the author check out her website HERE. Emily grew up in West country and currently lives in East Sussex England.  Much thanks to LibraryThing for my copy of this book.

Linking up with:

Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story
British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

2018FoodieRead BriFri


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

rebeccaRebecca. This is a classic I had been meaning to read for years.  I started it a few years back (it’s been on my Kindle that long) but was distracted by something else I “needed” to read.

We never learn the first name of our narrator.  She is described as young woman without worldly experience.  You know straight away she is impressionable, a bit naive but kind-hearted.  She is often referred to as the new or second  Mrs. de Winter.  Personally I think she was named after her father.  I thought that after this exchange with Maxim de Winter over dinner.

“You have a very lovely and unusual name,” said Mr. de Winter.”  “My father was a lovely and unusual person,” our narrator replies.

Our young lady is swept off her feet by the worldly and kind Maxim de Winter, eager to take her role as wife and lady at Manderley.  She daydreams about her new home, how they will have children and what a wonderful life they will have.  Gothic themes, love, jealousy and murder abound in this story.

When the second Mrs. de Winter meets Mrs. Danvers she hopes the two can become friends, have a friendly face to assist in her new role. The arctic  personality of Danvers was evident from the start – no friendly face or help with that one.

There were never any complaints when Mrs. De Winter was alive”, said Mrs. Danvers.    She is comparing me to Rebecca and sharp as a sword the shadow came between us……..”

Frankly, I would have been very nervous around Mrs. Danvers.  I didn’t grow up in a high society or upper class setting and I can imagine poor little new Mrs. de Winter is intimidated.  In over her head, absolutely.  It’s only later that you realize what an unhealthy, obsessive one-sided relationship Danvers had with her employer.


Since the beginning of the book is actually a description of the end of their lives at Manderley, I had to go back and read the first chapter again.  It all dovetails into a complete story.

Their lives are nothing like they hoped, they are merely existing.  Now I see Maxim had a genuine desire to experience a loving marriage with his young bride.  While she thought she was being compared to Rebecca and found wanting, it was actually the opposite.  Max was delighted with her open genuine spirit and her love.

Remember, I did state Spoilers and they will continue…..

We discover Rebecca didn’t drown but was murdered, her body placed in a boat and submerged. Are we then surprised that Maxim did it? That the second Mrs. de Winter stays with him and is actually happy he truly loves her rather than appalled over the murder?  Once Manderley burns they live a faded existence, avoiding talk of their past,  staying in hotels but living frugally.  It’s a sad story but oh so well written.

Curried prawns, roast veal, asparagus, cold chocolate mousse
Ice cold consume, fillets of sole and hot shoulder of lamb
Those dripping crumpets, tiny crisp wedges of toast, piping hot floury scones, gingerbread and Angel cake….and so much more.

I wanted to prepare the sole and asparagus but, as luck would have it, a friend caught 20 Mangrove Snappers and gave us some fillets.  What a gift!  It’s a wonderfully solid fish that grills exceptionally well.  We did manage the asparagus though. And  a Martini.

Linking up with:

February’s Monthly Motif at Girlxoxo

Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story

British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

2018FoodieRead BriFri 2018-Monthly-Motif

Great Houses of the National Trust

I am a big fan of our local library. It allows me to preview books before buying, I can check out the latest DVD releases and eBooks too. All free of charge – what’s not to love? My latest haul of library loot includes a detailed book of the great manor houses managed by the National Trust in Great Britain.


There were a few manor houses we had toured on a trip to England but there are so many ideas of other places we’d like to see.  It’s always exciting to see one of the places you have visited and among those in this book are Montecute House and Arlington Court.

Arlington Court was definitely one of my favorite places.  It’s in Devon near Barnstaple.  The grounds were amazing and you can just get lost in the solitude there.  If you are an Anglophile and want to plan a trip soon – this is the book for you.  Great to look at the photos and the history of the estates.

I wish the English Heritage organization would put out a book like this.  Maybe they have and I haven;’t seen it at the library.  We joked that each organization, The National Trust and English Heritage were defined as property with roofs and those without.  the English Heritage has the old ruins and castles and abbeys with sections of roof missing most of the time.  National Trust has 350 historic houses and gardens and English Heritage has 400 sites such as Stonehenge (Wilts), Battle Abbey (East Susssex), Tintagel Castle (Cornwall), Down House, home of Charles Darwin (Kent).

To compare check out this article .

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French (with chicken & avocado tapas)


Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French:   This second book in the Frieda Klein series was better than Blue Monday (#1) in my opinion.  More character development and the mystery was more intriguing to me. The London based psychotherapist, Frieda Klein, reminds me loosely of the Jessica Fletcher character from TV series Murder, She Wrote.  Loosely, as I said, because when our main character is involved, a murder is going to take center stage.

I like Frieda even though she isn’t what one would describe as a warm personality.  Perhaps you have to be completely in control and compartmentalize your life if your profession is psychotherapist. Yet there are qualities about her personality that I admire.

We have a rousing start with unbalanced woman named Michelle serving tea and buns to a decaying corpse she has propped up on her sofa.  The police, specifically Inspector Mal Karlsson,  involve Frieda as the woman in question may be a murderer or know something about the murder of the man in her home as she dragged him home from an alleyway.  There isn’t any identification to be found but, in a series of improbable events, Frieda Klein is set on the path to discovering his identity.  Early on in the story we learn the man’s name is Robert Poole.  More mystery about that later but to mention it would reveal a spoiler so, enough said on that now.  “Robert” is indeed a fascinating character.

Robert Poole made people “feel attended to” which is something most of us want.  We like when someone listens to us, seems to care about what we are saying, our concerns and our interests.


Characters from the previous book show up and as I mentioned, more character development in this book.  I have now read 3 of the 8 books in the series and look forward to the final installment when it’s published.  I think that’s called Day of the Dead.

Food is mentioned here and there.

Two whiskies and two packets of crisps.  He took a seat at the table and opened both packages. “I got salt and vinegar and cheese and onion.  I didn’t know which you liked.”
“Neither, really,” said Frieda.
“You probably don’t like pubs either,” said Karlsson.
“It’s better than the police station.”

  • Frieda and Reuben talking over the phone.  She asks him to put potatoes in the oven for baking so they can have those for dinner.  But he hadn’t put potatoes in the oven, he’d made a greasy, rich lasagna, garlic bread and a green salad.

Frieda on a date with Harry at a Pop-up restaurant:

“I am Inga,” said the woman, “And I am from Denmark. My husband Paul is from Morocco.  We cook together.  I will bring you wine and food and there is no choice. No allergies, no fads?”

They were served a plate of pickled fish with sour cream, smoked meats, yogurts, savory pastries and wine.

Evidently a pop-up restaurant serves a handful of people and they pop up in various locations, serve dinners and one day they relocate.

  • Josef bakes a honey cake with cinnamon and ginger.
  • A dinner party at Oliva’s place – Salmon fillets cooked in pastry, meringues for dessert, lots of wine.
  • Yvette hands out packets of sandwiches, ‘Cheese and celery for you, tuna and cucumber for you and chicken for me.”
  • Frieda and Chloe eat at a Tapas restaurant – They ordered squid, roasted bell peppers, a Spanish omelet and a plate of spring greens.

I had quite a bit of choice for my food inspiration and almost made lasagna, because it sounded so good. But I went with Tapas.

Chicken and Guacamole Tostadas for Tapas

1 ripe peeled avocado
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons finely chopped tomato
3 tablespoons minced fresh onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken
¼ cups smoked paprika
8 (6 inch) tostada shells

Place avocado in small bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 2 TB tomato, 1 TB onion, 1 TB juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and garlic.

Combine remaining 1 cup tomato, 2 TB onion, 1 TB lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and cilantro. Toss well.

Combine chicken, remaining TB juice and paprika; toss well to combine. Spread about 1 TB guacamole over each tostada shell. Top with chicken mixture and about 2 TB salsa.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday Heather’s February Foodie Reads and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith


Description:   White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for “no problem”). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly “foreign”— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire’s worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.

Why I selected this book: Last week I found a list of the Best BBC books from a poll outside the U.K. and decided to make it my challenge for the next few years. Additionally,  Girlxoxo’s Monthly Motif theme this month is diversity.  So I decided to read a selection from my BBC List that would fit the theme as I wanted to participate with Tanya and Kim.   I was torn between this one and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

The book addresses racial issues that seem to create a divide between the English-born residents and immigrants from the Caribbean and India.

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started… but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers – who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

The narratives between characters tends to ramble here and there and with that, I would start drifting.  Lots of good passages and quotes from this book though:

You are never stronger…than when you land on the other side of despair.”

It’s a multicultural community examining who is a true English person, how the immigrants fit in, the many different holidays and religious celebrations which do not overlap cultures and how the children of the immigrants identify with their lives.  Kids usually adapt.

Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

This is #25 on the list HERE.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday
Tanyaxoxo 2018 Monthly Motif


100 Books #BriFri

Cleaning out an old desk can be tiresome but every so often you are rewarded with an unexpected treasure.  An old letter you may have saved for sentimental value or knick-knack your child gave you one mother’s day long ago. One thing I found (which I had completely forgotten about) was this list of books I had printed from an old BBC article.


Evidently in my passion to read as many of these British authored books for a challenge, I printed the article and somehow filed it away in a notebook.  BBC Culture polled book critics outside the UK, asking for “an outsider’s perspective on the best in British literature.”  To quote:

In search of a collective critical assessment, BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari polled 82 book critics, from Australia to Zimbabwe – but none from the UK. This list includes no nonfiction, no plays, no narrative or epic poems (no Paradise Lost or Beowulf), no short story collections (no Morte D’Arthur) – novels only, by British authors (which means no James Joyce).”

Looking over the list I realize I have only read 10 and probably only reviewed The Sense of an Ending, at least on this blog.  The Lord of the Rings (#26) is actually 3 books so I can count that off as I have read those as well as The Hobbit.

Since I found the list, I wanted to share and see how many I can read over the next several years.  There are more books I want to devour but I am willing to revive this challenge and see where my interest lies.  If I don’t finish one then I will note that too.  Should be interesting.

Have you read any of the following and/or reviewed the books? I will be linking my reviews/thoughts as I tackle the list.  The ones I have read previously and not reviewed are marked in Orange. 

 Here is the list!

100. The Code of the Woosters (PG Wodehouse, 1938)
99. There but for the (Ali Smith, 2011)
98. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry,1947)
97. The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis, 1949-1954)
96. Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing, 1974)
95. The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi, 1990)
94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824)
93. Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954)
92. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons, 1932)
91. The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy, 1922)
90. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, 1859)
89. The Horse’s Mouth (Joyce Cary, 1944)
88. The Death of the Heart (Elizabeth Bowen, 1938)
87. The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett,1908)
86. A Legacy (Sybille Bedford, 1956)
85. Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker, 1991-1995)
84. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938)
83. Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope, 1857)
82. The Patrick Melrose Novels (Edward St Aubyn, 1992-2012)
81. The Jewel in the Crown (Paul Scott, 1966)
80. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym, 1952)
79. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000)
78. A House for Mr Biswas (VS Naipaul, 1961)
77. Of Human Bondage (W Somerset Maugham, 1915)
76. Small Island (Andrea Levy, 2004)
75. Women in Love (DH Lawrence, 1920)
74. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886)
73. The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald, 1995)
72. The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene, 1948)
71. Old Filth (Jane Gardam, 2004)
70. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot, 1876)
69. Nostromo (Joseph Conrad, 1904)
68. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962)
67. Crash (JG  Ballard 1973)
66. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)
65. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)
64. The Way We Live Now (Anthony Trollope, 1875)
63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)
62. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
61. The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch, 1978)
60. Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913)
59. The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004)
58. Loving (Henry Green, 1945)
57. Parade’s End (Ford Madox Ford, 1924-1928)
56. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985)
55. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726)
54. NW (Zadie Smith, 2012)
53. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)
52. New Grub Street (George Gissing, 1891)
51. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy, 1891)
50. A Passage to India (EM Forster, 1924)
49. Possession (AS Byatt, 1990)
48. Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis, 1954)
47. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne, 1759)
46. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
45. The Little Stranger  (Sarah Waters, 2009)
44. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, 2009)
43. The Swimming Pool Library (Alan Hollinghurst, 1988)
42. Brighton Rock (Graham Greene, 1938)
41. Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848)
40. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
39.  The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes, 2011)
38. The Passion (Jeanette Winterson, 1987)
37. Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928)
36. A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell, 1951-1975)
35. Remainder (Tom McCarthy, 2005)
34. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005)
33. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)
32. A Room with a View (EM Forster, 1908)
31. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene, 1951)
30. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe, 1722)
29. Brick Lane (Monica Ali, 2003)
28. Villette (Charlotte Brontë, 1853)
27. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)
26. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954)
25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)
24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)
22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749)
21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)
19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815)
18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)
17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)
16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)
15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748)
13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)
12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)
9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)
5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)
3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday . As I slowly make my way through the list I will update.


Blue Monday by Nicci French

Blue Monday by Nicci French
Publisher: Penguin Group

As I mentioned before, I started with book 7 – yeah, brilliant. But I was so taken with the story and characters that I decided I would grab book 1 and read the beginning, even if I do have a few spoilers along the way.

This book is the start of the Frieda Klein series and it begins in 1987.

It takes a while to get started, it moves rather slowly at first while you get to know the characters but, in my opinion, the character development is worth it. Frieda is a psychotherapist. She isn’t a warm character but I like her. She’s complex, cool and competent. Intelligent and a problem solver. Her mind never seems to shut down and so she walks the streets of London at night until she is weary. I like her rituals such as laying the fire in the morning so she can start a fire each evening when she returns home. I like her organizational method to approaching….anything.

This book introduces us to Frieda’s latest client, a troubled man named Alan Dekker. The short gist of it is he is an emotional mess. He is on the verge of a breakdown and anxious all the time about so many things in his life. To add to it, he and his wife Carrie are having trouble conceiving a child. He wants a child of his own rather than adopting and gives Frieda great detailed descriptions of his fantasy child, down to the hair color and build. He explains all this during his therapy sessions, a place where he should be safe and know his feelings won’t be shared. Unfortunately a little red-haired boy named Matthew Faraday has been abducted and he fits the description of the fantasy child to the letter. Big red flag here! Did Dekker abduct Matthew?

Now comes the ethical dilemma for Frieda about whether she needs to go to the police. Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson is assigned the missing child case and this is where he crosses paths with Frieda Klein. It’s explosive in so many ways. This sets up the premise that Frieda may be working, albeit hesitantly, with the police now and again.
The end wraps up fairly nicely yet leaves you curious about a few possible loose ends.

So. Now that I have read both the last book and then this book  I can say that I will read the series  – but I liked the characters in Sunday Silence better than this one. Clear as mud right? Knowing how some of these folks turn out and clearly the writing was crisper in book 7, that’s what interests me. Blue Monday needed to have the character development and the explanations about their lives but it wasn’t a I’m-in-love-with-this-series instantly had I started with this book.
Please don’t let me turn you off to the Frieda Klein series, I honestly do think it’s good.

Food mentioned here and there……
Curried cauliflower and chick pea salad
Marmalade Bakewell tart
Holubsti (pickled fish)
Kutya (wheat, honey, poppyseed and nuts)

Recipe for chickpea salad may be found HERE.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday , Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking Series and January Foodies Read at Spirit Blog.