For those of you who don’t know—and I didn’t—Barbara Pym was an English novelist, popular in the 1950s for her social comedies. She is the fifth woman Laura Shapiro discusses in What She Ate, and as such, this is the fifth post in my series about the nonfiction book about food.
Though her novels were not considered highbrow, they developed quite a following and have a beloved place in English culture. Pym wrote about relationships, about village life, and often about the church. She also included a lot of food in her writing, certainly mentioning the bad but more often celebrating the good of English cooking (when no one else was really talking about its positives).
Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is a tough book to discuss—though we attempted to do just that for my last book club meeting. It was suggested by one of our members last year, shortly after it was released, and when it finally got chosen as our monthly pick, I was looking forward to reading it. It’s a story about sisters, about immigrants, about mental illness. It’s a raw and powerful debut that I can’t recommend enough.
The novel follows two Chinese-American sisters, Miranda the oldest and Lucia the youngest, in the years after their mother dies from cancer. Lucia is adventurous and full of life, and when it’s determined that she has schizoaffective disorder, Miranda does everything in her power to keep Lucia grounded and get her the help she needs.
For those of you who don’t know, Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress (and, at the very end, wife). While Hitler took precautions to appear unattached in public, in private, it was well-known that he was with Eva. She hosted many of the meals at Berghof, a Nazi party retreat in the Bavarian Alps. If you saw my review of The Taster, Berghof will be quite familiar to you.
The majority of the novel is exactly what the title describes, or as one character puts it, “just women talking.” Eight Mennonite women sit in a hayloft to discuss a series of sustained attacks on the females in their closed community. The women have learned that men within their own community drugged and attacked the women in their sleep, and they must decide how best to protect themselves and their daughters moving forward.
For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you may recall my love of Karen Thompson Walker’s previous novel, The Age of Miracles. Because of that, I have been anxiously awaiting her follow-up The Dreamers since I first heard about it months ago. I was lucky enough to get it from the library on its release day, and I wasted no time getting right to it!
Like The Age of Miracles, The Dreamers starts with a seemingly innocuous anomaly. This time, a college girl falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. Her roommate, Mei, is unable to wake her, and the girl is brought to the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep and then another, people begin to worry. The dorm is put on lockdown. As the mysterious illness spreads, the entire college town is quarantined, doctors are flown in to investigate and the National Guard summoned to keep order.
As a lover of food memoirs, culinary news and food in general, Laura Shapiro’s nonfiction What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Storieshas been on my TBR since it’s release two years ago. I have been meaning to do a review-recipe series on it for far too long, and that day has finally come! This post is the first in the series, so I’ll give a brief overview of the book before diving into the first woman’s story.
As the blurb says, “everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political. Yet most biographers pay little attention to people’s attitudes toward food.” Those of you who enjoy food memoirs like me know that, while food plays an important part in the storytelling, those memoirs are rarely just about food. They are about the human experience. So much insight can be drawn from not only what people eat, but how and why.
Prior to Victoria Schade’s Life on the Leash, I’ve suffered through two 1-star dog-centric reads.* Thank goodness this light-hearted rom com of a novel has broken my mini-streak of disappointing books about dogs!
Cora is the owner of a successful dog training business in D.C. She loves filling her days with tricks, treats and training before coming home to her own loveable pup and an amazing supportive roommate. In growing her business (and smarting from a painful breakup), Cora isn’t exactly looking for love.
Though Louise Miller wrote The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living first, it is the second of her novels that I’ve read. Earlier this year, I picked up The Late Bloomer’s Club and adored it, falling in love with the town of Guthrie (Stars Hollow flashbacks!) as well as her food-filled writing. The paperback cover makes it look perfect for winter reading, so I waited until my holiday break to get it from the library. It wasn’t super winter-y, but it was a lovely read nonetheless!
Olivia Rawlings, Livvy to a privileged few, is a talented pastry chef working at an exclusive dinner club in Boston. When her life there goes up in flames, she flees to the nearest haven — a truck stop filled with delicious pies — and onto Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend Hannah convinces her to put down roots, even temporarily.
The time of year has come where I’m choosing to settle in with cozy books, and Ruth Reichl’s food-centric novel Delicious! fit that bill perfectly. Reichl is a well-known food writer, and her past certainly helped her craft the core of this novel, since the main character Billie Breslin works at the prominent (but fictional) food magazine, Delicious.
Billie has a phenomenal palate and can detect even the slightest amount of ingredients in a recipe with just a bite. It’s this gift — along with her appreciation of and curiosity about food — that earns her a job as assistant to Jake, the editor of Delicious. Billie fits in instantly, at home among people who are equally passionate about food, and her future is looking bright. But, when the magazine suddenly shuts down, her work family disperses, and she’s left alone in the office (housed in a 19th century mansion) to make good on the Delicious Guarantee.
Caroline Hulse’s debut novel The Adults is like a Christmas comedy (Four Christmases comes to mind) meets Big Little Lies. Though Claire and Matt are divorced, they decide it’s best for their daughter Scarlett to experience a “normal” family Christmas. So, they book a weekend away at a woodsy resort and bring their current partners along for the ride! What could go wrong?
Claire’s boyfriend, Patrick, couldn’t be any less like her ex, Matt. Patrick spends much of the novel secretly training for an Ironman, at one point even racing through a lazy river to practice his swimming. Matt takes a different approach to life. He has a laissez faire outlook, often “forgetting” important details and preferring recreational drugs to exercising. His girlfriend, Alex, is smart, extremely patient and would probably be friends with Claire in another life. The characters were almost caricatures of real people and weren’t exactly likable, but they were entertaining.