Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Merry Hall

Merry HallMerry Hall by Beverley Nichols
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A disclaimer by the author:

"This book -- as you may by now have gathered -- is not really a book at all; it is only a long walk round a garden, in winter and summer, in rain and in sunshine; and if it bores you to walk round gardens you will long ago have chucked it aside. So neither of us need worry."

If you want anything much to happen in a book, this may not be for you. It's also not very technical as to the plantings and methods of gardening employed at Merry Hall. But it is quite entertaining, chatty, and at times, bitingly funny. The author has an affinity for cats, so he can't be all bad. I'm planning to read his "Cats' A.B.C." on the strength of this:

“Let us be honest: most of us rather like our cats to have a streak of wickedness. I should not feel quite easy in the company of any cat that walked around the house with a saintly expression.”

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jane Austen's Worthing

Jane Austen's Worthing: The Real SanditionJane Austen's Worthing: The Real Sandition by Antony Edmonds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Head over to Austenprose for my review of Jane Austen's Worthing by Antony Edmonds. Besides the wealth of historical information about the town, the book contains one of best euphemisms for death that I've run across. James Shearsmith, writing of the death of James Ogle:

"Upon the death of Mr. Ogle [Warwick House] became the property of his brother James Ogle, Esq. a gentleman held in much estimation for his politeness and urbanity, but who did not long enjoy it, having recently been destined to share the lot incidental to our mortal nature."

In addition to our lovely Jane, there are documented guest appearances in Worthing by the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Lord Byron and the slightly less dangerous poet Percy Shelley. Much later in the century Oscar Wilde also visited Worthing, but that's another story for another day.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Jane Austen's Country Life

Jane Austen's Country Life: Uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novelsJane Austen's Country Life: Uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novels by Deirdre Le Faye

p. 55: Jane is attending Mrs Latournelle's Ladies' Boarding School in Reading with Cassandra where Le Faye suggests it probable she began reading "the wildly incredible" popular novels she later parodied in Northanger Abbey.

Thank you, Mrs Latournelle.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

30 Years at Ballymaloe

30 Years at Ballymaloe: A Celebration of the World-Renowned Cooking School with Over 100 New Recipes30 Years at Ballymaloe: A Celebration of the World-Renowned Cooking School with Over 100 New Recipes by Darina Allen

I'm only a few pages into this and already inspired to make something yummy, so I recruited my daughter to make the topping and peel peaches for a peach crisp for dessert this evening. I adapted a recipe from another favorite cookbook, "The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified" by Jessica Seinfeld. And while it may seem that these two authors are worlds apart, they share an emphasis on cooking with fresh, local foods, so chalk one up for my CSA as well!

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jane Austen and Names

Jane Austen and NamesJane Austen and Names by Maggie Lane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Head over to Austenprose for my review of Jane Austen and Names by Maggie Lane. Here is an brief excerpt to whet your appetite, especially if you enjoy the naming game.

“To use a person’s Christian name was a mark of intimacy. Well-bred people with feelings of delicacy towards others did not presume on this intimacy until it was clear that an acquaintance was becoming a real friendship. Most acquaintance, of course, never progressed this far, and people would remain on formal terms for as long as they knew each other.”

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


KimKim by Rudyard Kipling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.” The words Elizabeth Bennet spoke to Mr. Darcy reminded me of my struggles to frame this book before I read it.

Rudyard Kipling's novel of The Great Game in British colonial India has been described as "unrepentant colonialism," "an apology for British imperialism," and flat-out racism. Then others cite it as one of the best books they've ever read, calling its depiction of friendship and adventure both beautiful and revealing of the author's "love for India and its people."

Perhaps it is all of these things. It is certainly complex, full of the chaos and serendipity of life. Do imperialists ever grasp these things or is it only for the politically-correct? As Mahbub Ali says to himself at the end of the story, "It must be true...that I am a Sufi [a free-thinker]; for here I sit, drinking in blasphemy unthinkable."

The narrative is at times challenging to follow, but the scenes play out vividly: places, people, food, animals. We are carried along the road with Kim and his companions. As Kim is ignorant of the forces at play at the beginning of the story, so are we. The more he learns, the more we begin to understand. Ultimately, we wonder whether the seemingly naive lama is not right about the nature of life, "A good deed does not die. He aided me in my Search. I aided him in his...Let him be a teacher; let him be a scribe--what matter? He will have attained Freedom at the end. The rest is illusion."

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Galoshes 3:12

Overheard in the backseat of the van this morning, after a trip to the library:

SG: Mom, what are galoshes?
Me: They are rubber rain boots.
SG: OK, thanks.
CK: It's also a book of the Bible!