A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes…and other bookish thoughts

barnesjulian_senseofanendingI recently finished A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  When I realized a movie was in the works for this book I decided to stop procrastinating and get started.  Every once in awhile I like to do a comparison of the book vs film.

Have you read this one?  If so you’ll know the ending and that would just about ruin the movie for me, knowing what was coming.  It’s not a dynamic book in regard to action or mystery but it’s a well written study of an ordinary man’s life and memories.   More importantly, how our memories change with age.

Tony remembered a letter he had written to a friend, it’s tone and language benign and casual. When that original letter is given to him some 40 years later he’s shocked by the vitriolic tome and his thoughts.  That letter changed many things along the way but it’s only revealed how all that worked out near the end.

This mess on the table here is my latest haul from the library. I just started The Alice Network.  It’s a page turner so far.  Himself by Jess Kidd is next, unless my Peter Robinson book is released then I’m jumping on it.

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The weather has been poor with rain every single day.  To get one of our walks in we went to a local mall and roamed it at a pretty good pace.  This particular mall is dying and almost 90% of the stores are closed.  That makes for good walking inside with nearly zero traffic.  Even teens don’t hang out there.

The only bookstore there is a Barnes and Noble so we walked around in there checking out some new titles.  Doug would like the new Neil DeGrasse Tyson book and I would like the latest Susie Steiner mystery.  The Pumpkin Cookbook was also available but as chance has it, I just grabbed it from the library.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  for the Sense of an Ending book.  The author, Julian Patrick Barnes, is an English writer.  He won the Man Booker Prize for this book.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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This book has more than one story line, there are multiple narratives and I hung on to each and every one. Of the Kate Morton books I have read so far, this is by far the very best one. It’s not predictable and the armchair traveling in this took me to Cornwall and London England, Sydney Australia and New York City. Traveling and mystery – what more could I ask for?!

The story lines all come together in spite of many characters living and dying in different time periods. There is a mystery about one of our main characters named Nell. The book starts in 1913 with Nell as a 4 year old, hiding out aboard ship destined for Australia. A lady she refers to as The Authoress tells her to hide and wait for her. But the lady never returns and young Nell is left alone with her suitcase at a port in Australia.
A port master can’t leave a small child alone so he takes her home for the evening. No one reports her missing, no one comes to claim Nell so eventually the port master and his wife keep her. No formal adoption, they just move away and start fresh.  Years later the Port Master and wife have four daughters and Nell thinks they are all her natural family.

On Nell’s 21st birthday her father (the port master) tells her about how they found her. It’s devastating to lose one’s identity just like that. In a snap Nell feels she doesn’t belong and tries to find out where she does belong.  The story skips back and forth in time so you know what happens with Nell until her death late in life. This introduces us to another major character – her granddaughter Cassandra.

Cassandra is close to her grandmother Nell and after her death she inherits everything. But there is one property she is surprised to find out about. The deed to a house called Cliff Cottage in Cornwall England.

Cassandra’s story starts in 1975 but we jump to 2005 and things get mysterious. She is the one who will search the clues left about Nell’s true identity. I like her character very much and enjoyed her chapters.

The Authoress is revealed as Eliza Makepeace (what a cool name!) and she is an adventurous character. She is also the writer of fairy tales. Her back story is fascinating and weaves into Nell’s story eventually. There are quite a few other characters that play crucial parts but rather than get into it all – please read this one if you are a Kate Morton fan. Twists I didn’t see coming and a good conclusion with mysteries solved.

Some food mentions here but it’s not a foodie book.
Bowls of beef and rosemary stew
Pasta with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese
Morgy Broth
Sandwiches (and tea of course)

Roasted chicken and smoked Gouda pressed sandwich.  There’s a bit of leftover spinach in there too.  A simple side salad with grape tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh. Yeah.  This was a treat Cassandra may enjoy at the hotel in Cornwall.

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Are you fans of Kate Morton’s novels?  If so, which are your favorites?  I have read this one as well as The House at Riverton and The Lake House.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday  and with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week’s Souper Sunday may be found HERE. Also linking with Heather’s July linkup for Foodie Reads. Check out Foodie Reads at Based on a True Story. You’ll always find good reviews there 😊

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Grounded Hearts by Jeanne Dickson: Irish setting, predictable story and conclusion

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In a nutshell – the setting is World War II, County Clare Ireland. As Ireland has declared their country neutral, any troops captured must be reported and interned. The story opens with a Canadian RAF bomber crashing, introducing us to a wounded flyer named Dutch Whitney. He doesn’t know where is but he needs to find his crew and make it to Northern Ireland so he can get back into the war.

He sees a light at a cottage and starts practicing his Irish accent so he won’t be mistaken for Canadian. (Ha!) Wounded, he makes his way toward the cottage. Twenty-eight year old midwife Nan O’Neil (a widow) answers the door and takes him in. She busts him right away on the fake brogue as it is soooo over the top. But so is her dialogue once you get into the book.

“Top of the morn….evening to ya. ‘Tis meself, “tis,” a muffled voice answered.
“Sit here, so”……she brought him water and surveyed his face. Ah, but he had altogether gorgeous blue eyes. His hand touched hers, sending a rush of heat over her skin. No, don’t be drawn to this fella. No good would come of it.

Nan will be sent to prison if she’s caught harboring a soldier but you can see that’s the way the story is going. It’s very predicable with her inward swooning over his eyes and muscular body.

C’mon, it’s so obvious she likes his looks and is attracted to him all the while telling herself to step back. It’s the template of other books where girl meets boy, girl tells herself she must not get involved, repeat this a few times and finally they get together. I thought it might be more Ireland-centic but that wasn’t the case.

I won this book from Goodreads in a Kindle format. Thank you Goodreads!

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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The Syndicate for #BriFri

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I have long been a fan of Anthony Andrews so when I saw he was in this mini series called The Syndicate, I had to get it from my library.  It’s 6 episodes total, 1 hour for each episode.

There were evidently two seasons prior to this one but you don’t need to see each season in order to follow along.  For a full summery of this show click HERE.

Basically, each season focuses on lottery winners, how their lives change and a bit of drama and mystery thrown in..  It’s a drama and we very much enjoyed it.  In All or Nothing we meet Lord Hazelwood (Anthony Andrews) and the small staff of Hazelwood Estate.  There was a large staff on this gorgeous estate but due to deepening debt, the staff is down to six people.

These six are loyal to Lord Hazelwood, a very down to earth fellow but Hazelwood’s wife and step-son seem to plot against him to sell the estate.  This changes quickly when the 6 staff members win the lottery.

The estate is stunning as are the landscaped grounds.  It’s filmed in the coastal town of Scarborough.  In real life Hazlewood Manor  is actually Bramham Park country house, located near Wetherby and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

It’s a good drama and I will certainly try and find the first two seasons.  Mark Addy stars in one of those seasons.  I liked him in The Full Monty as well as Game of Thrones.  This is another excellent show from Acorn TV.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday.  

Join in!  You don’t need to post on Fridays, just link up at her site on Fridays.

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secretThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is about a lonely and spoiled little girl book whose life changes when she is sent to England to live with her uncle.

Mary Lennox is spoiled and contrary 10 year old living a life no child should have to endure. She lives in India but has no involvement or love from her parents. They have left her care to servants and she never knew discipline or love or friendship. Thus, she was a horrible and ill-tempered tyrant of a child. When her parents die from cholera she is sent to live in her uncle’s manor in Yorkshire.

Her uncle has issues of his own, always staying by himself as he is in permanent mourning for his beautiful deceased wife. He is also a hunchback and feared that his only child, a son named Colin, would develop a hunchback as well. He never interacts with Colin and the child is kept pretty much locked away. Since Colin is never out of doors or running about as young boys should, he is weak and sickly.

Mary discovers him one day – each child was completely unaware of the other in this large lonely mansion. This is the beginning of a friendship for them although they do have their rocky moments and shouting matches. Their developing friendship is beneficial to them both as Colin eventually goes outside and starts to live as a young boy should. Mary in turn softens her demeanor and learns about giving and friendship and love.

What I liked about this old classic was reading about the Yorkshire moors. I also liked how Mary would refer to herself as getting fatter as her appetite improved and she put some flesh on her bones. In India it was so hot that she languished, never played and ate little. The heat was so great she didn’t have an appetite. But the descriptor as “getting fatter” was a positive in language and literature in the era this book was published. Today being called fat is a shaming mechanism.  That’s a shame right there.

When Mary first arrived at her uncle’s manor she met a servant named Martha. Martha plays a good role in this story and is helpful in getting Mary to examine her life. Martha asks Mary is she likes the moor and Mary replies that she hates it. “That’s because tha’rt not used to it,” Martha said in her Yorkshire accent, “Tha’ thinks it’s too big an’ bare now. It’s fair and lovely in Spring and Summer when gorse and broom an’ heather’s in flower. It smells of honey and there’s lots of fresh air,….”
Mary comes to love the moors.

Food mentions are brief. Colin comments “I do wish the slices of ham were thicker, and one muffin each is not enough for any one.”
Colin and Mary have breakfasts of homemade bread and fresh butter, snow white eggs, raspberry jam and clotted cream.

That makes me want to make bread.  I had not made a Sage and Onion bread in a long time  – this one seemed right for this book.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

Based on a True Story (May’s Foodie Reads)

British Book Challenge at Tales of Yesterday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

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The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…..it’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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Outlander Kitchen – an exciting cookbook for fans of the Outlander series!

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I remember picking up the paperback novel Outlander by Diana Gabaldon from the library’s sale table.  Historical fiction, a bit of time travel and a venue in the  Scottish Highlands had me very interested.  As with many Gabaldon fans, I fell in love with the series.  This was my first book by this author.

The books are great but I must admit I wasn’t a big fan of the TV show.   The actor playing Jamie just isn’t right (for me). Yes, I know I am in the minority regarding the actor playing Jamie but….it just doesn’t work for me.

Still….being a fan of this series I knew I had to check out this new cookbook, Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle- Sanders.  I am pleased to say this book is fantastic-  a wonderful gift for the Outlander fan.  Christmas is coming up so, keep that in mind.

Each recipe is preceded by a passage from one of the books (see below) and the photo of the pastry or dish and full recipe. This is enjoyable to read through without a thought to which of these recipes you want to try.

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The forward on this book is also interesting to read.  It describes how our author came to find her passion in the kitchen after enduring a series of less-than-satisfying jobs.  Many times I admit to scanning the beginnings with the dedications and thoughts.  This one had me reading each and every paragraph.  Interesting.

This photo was too good for me to exclude.  She has a shiba inu, a breed I adore!  Shibas are certainly not for the first time dog owner, too big a challenge, but I am fascinated with the breed.  We still miss our Kobe who left us too soon but Aja, our 14 year old cream shiba, still rules the house.  Ok, more pup info than I needed to share here….couldn’t resist.

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One of the recipes I wanted to try was a simple one, Mrs. FitzGibbons’s Overnight Parritch.  This oatmeal breakfast figures prominently in the books and it seems they have it for breakfast quite a bit.

Tradionally made from oatmeal and stirred with a spurtle (clockwise, to keep the devil away).  Parritch, or porridge, evolved from pottage, a thick vegetable and grain stew that served as the mainstay of the European diet until the seventeenth century.

1 cup steel-cut oats

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Just before you go to bed bring 1 cup water to boil in covered pot.  Stir in the oats and salt, cover the pot, turn off heat, and leave it overnight.  I did this but took the pot off the burner altogether.

In the morning, add the milk and butter and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to low and simmer gently until tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

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This isn’t an exceptional recipe and one I could have made without the overnight steeping.  It was a great breakfast though.  We added cinnamon and honey to our bowls and had a rib-sticking breakfast.  Perfect for staving off all the sweets everyone brought in to work, I wasn’t the least tempted as I had a good breakfast.

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There are scores of other wonderful recipes and of course, excerpts from the books.  This one gets an A+    🙂

To check out the author’s website click HERE.

Adding my review to Goodreads, and linking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series as well as Joy for her British Friday 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. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
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