So, for any other romance novel lovers out there (no pun intended), you need to get your headphones on and download the Sentimental Garbage podcast.
It takes a favourite book each week, but also discusses such gems as the importance of very specific snacking in chick lit, why it is that women are the ones always expected to change in a straight relationship (key quote: “it’s not another woman’s job to sort your sons”) and why a dominating lover probably appeals to younger readers,
along with discoveries like Julian the Loaf (an idea I’m totally stealing), spoilers and musings on who writes the most enjoyable – as in the characters having the most enjoyment – sex scenes.
One of my favourite reads recently has been a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Uzma Jalaluddin set in the Toronto Muslim community, “Ayesha at last”. Unlike the original you get to see inside the heads of both protagonists, and there’s also a delightful twist at the end where you get a glimpse of the Darcy-character living his new, more mischievous life. Add to that some excellent side characters and the fact that the Kindle edition is only 99p and it’s a must buy. I’m just sorry that the publisher seems to have underestimated the print run as paper copies have sold out nothing in the states and here in the U.K.
Uzma also writes a column in the Toronto Star called “Samosas and Maple Syrup”. Here are a couple of examples, one on feminism and her sons and one on the interaction she between children and their grandparents.
When she woke up the next morning, Maria found to her great surprise that her riding-habit had not been put ready for her. Instead there had been laid out a very decorous dark-blue gown with plain white linen collar and cuffs, a dark-blue cloak and a dark-blue straw hat with delphinium-blue ribbons.
Maria was not very fond of this costume. In spite of the ribbons, it was rather a sombre and serious outfit, and it made her feel as serious as itself. However she knew better than to put it away and get out her habit, for she realised now that what she did day by day was not left entirely to her own choice. She was more or less under orders. And it seemed that her orders for today did not include riding.
The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge. The dress here actually is a rising habit and from about 40 years later than The Little White Horse is set, but as soon as I saw it it reminded me of this passage. Photo from @katestrasdin
It had been a frosty morning, to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of. But still, there were certainly a multitude of ugly women in Bath; and as for the men! they were infinitely worse.
This portrait by Manet of his friend, the actress Mery Laurent, is fat kinder than Sir Walter Elliott’s disappointment in Bath, but has exactly the same feeling of a face glimpsed on the street on a cold winter morning.
The King was determined to show that he did not lack for gold and silver, so he drew heavily on his treasury to make these occasions as grand as he thought they ought to be… he decreed that there should be a great sausage banquet, he got into his carriage and himself invited all the kings and princes to what he said would just be a spoonful of soup or so, but that was to make the surprise of the delicacies they were to be served all the nicer. “For you know, my dear,” he said to his wife the Queen, in very friendly tones, “how much I like to eat sausages!”
The Queen knew very well what he meant by that, which was that he wanted her to make the sausages herself, which she had done before, and a very useful task it was too…
Now the trumpets and drums played and all the princes and potentates in their fine clothes came to the sausage banquet, some riding white palfreys, some in crystal coaches. The King welcomed them warmly…but as the liver sausage was served, the King could be seen turning paler and paler, raising his eyes to heaven – faint sighs escaped his breast – he appeared to be suffering some terrible internal pain. And as the next course of blood sausage was served, he sat back in his armchair, sobbing and moaning, covered his face with his hands and wailed and groaned.
The whole company jumped up from the table, the royal physician tried in vain to feel the unfortunate King’s pulse, a deep and nameless grief seemed to be tending him apart. At long last, after much consultation and the application of strong remedies for reviving someone in a faint, such as burnt feathers and the like, the King to some extent came back to his senses, and barely audible, stammered out the words, “Not enough bacon!”
The Tale of The Nutcracker – Hoffman
As every Jane Eyre fan will know, she insisted on buying grey merino even for her trousseau, but seeing this 1860s crinoline with purple-slashes sleeves makes me think maybe it wasn’t so muted after all. Dress in the Met Institute of Fashion.
Once, when Moomintroll was quite small, his father got a cold at the very hottest time of summer. Moominpappa redused to drink warm milk with onion juice and sugar, and he refused to go to bed. He sat in the garden hammock blowing his nose and saying his cigars had a horrible taste…
When his cold became much worse…Moominmamma brought him a substantial rum toddy. Only by then it was too late. The rum toddy tasted just as bad as onion milk, and Moominpappa abandoned all hope and took to his bed in the northern attic room. He had never been ill before and took a very serious view of the matter.
The start of The Memoirs of Moominpappa
The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s somewhere where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!)
So begins Banana Yashimoto’s novella Kitchen, a warmly comforting read about a girl finding happiness again after an unexpected bereavement, and a friendship that grows into more. For someone who also likes hanging out in the kitchen and who enjoyed Luisa Weiss’ kitchen memoirs, this was perfect lazy reading.
The scratching of our pens mingled with the sound of raindrops beginning to fall …
While he made tea, I explored the kitchen. I took everything in: the good quality of the mat on the wooden floor and Yuichi’s slippers; a practical minimum of well-worn kitchen things, precisely arranged. A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful German-made vegetable peeler…
There were things with special uses like …. porcelain bowls, gratin dishes, gigantic platters, two beer steins. Somehow it was all very satisfying.
I looked around, nodding and murmuring approvalingly, “Mmm, mmm.” It was a good kitchen. I fell in love with it at first sight.
There were little new potatoes for dinner, creamed with green peas, and there were string beans and green onions. And by every plate was a saucer full of sliced ripe tomatoes, to be eaten with sugar and cream.
”Well, we’ve got good things to eat, and plenty of them,” said Pa, taking a second helping of potatoes and peas…
He cut into the pie’s crust with a big spoon, and turned over a big chunk of it onto a plate. The underside was steamed and fluffy. Over it he poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird…The scent of that opened pie was making all their mouths water…As long as the blackbirds lasted, and the garden was green, they could eat like this every day.
Little Town on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Your father says it’s Gaelic and pronounced Camasunart,” said Mother, “and it’s at the back of beyond, so there you go darling, and have a lovely time for the birds and the – the water, or whatever you said you wanted.”
I sat clutching the receiver, perched there above the roar of Regent Street. Before my mind’s eye rose, cool and remote, a vision of rain-washed mountains.
”D’you know,” I said slowly, “I think I will.”
Gianetta Fox sets off for Scotland in Mary Stewart’s “Wildfire at Midnight”