I have been spending a good deal of time in my new kimono,
Summer reading is a luxurious enterprise. With long, lazy stretches of a book in hand, the chapters fly by. Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before The War is a wonderful novel, that I admit, I bought because of the cover art.
It chronicles a time: the idyllic summer of 1914 on the brink of the first world war; a place: the English village of Rye; and a character: it is the story of Beatrice Nash, a young woman who comes to the small town in East Sussex to teach Latin.
It is a charming novel with a dreamy pace, excellent writing, subtle humour, and I was sorry when it ended. I loved the strong, intelligent Beatrice, who aspires to be a writer like her late father, and who acts with such determination, loyalty, and conviction that you cannot help but root for her all the way along.
Ultimately, it is a tale of love: romantic love, friendship, and the unbreakable bonds of family. In its small, personal portrait of history writ large, the book celebrates the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Highly recommended. I am now eager to read Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read it.
As a lover of food, wine, and cooking, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Victoria Moore’s new book, The Wine Dine Dictionary. I read her wine column in The Telegraph for years until the paper put it behind a nasty paywall. So an entire book of her sharp and entertaining writing is a real treat.
The premise is that food and wine are partners; each makes the other taste better.
I’ve had a little book in my kitchen for years, Eating & Drinking: An A-Z of Great Food and Drink Combinations by Fiona Becket, that has survived many moves and many a ruthless cookbook edit. It is stained and the binding has become loose, but I referred to it constantly when wondering what wine to serve with a particular dish, or conversely, what to cook to go with a certain wine. Moore’s book is a much more ambitious undertaking, yet she describes food-wine pairing as more of an art than a science, and reminds us that it should be fun. She even includes recipes from winemakers and lists what they eat with their own wines. Apparently, humorously, vineyard pests go with everything according to them.
My favourite alphabetical chapter is C: chablis, champagne, chardonnay, chenin blanc. Fortunately, I love all their wonderful gastronomical complements like Gougères, roasted chicken, and seafood. And, I am blessed with a son who can whip up a batch of the French cheese puffs as easily as detail a BMW. Therefore, optimistically, I usually always have a bottle of bubbly in the fridge.
The Wine Dine Dictionary is a great read and a useful resource. It’s a perfect addition to my kitchen, my bar cart, and my library. It has inspired me to be more mindful when cooking and shopping and made me more aware that what I eat and what I drink is more than mere sums of their parts. Victoria Moore knows how to create magic between plate and glass. Highly recommended.
We are vacationing at home. The house on the ocean that we moved to in winter has been transformed by summer. I move from the deck, to point, to beach chasing either sun or shade, and in both cases the view and the oceanic breeze. Books come along, with many on the theme of food and France:
And the post photo of the iconic Gucci bee is from a hardcover Gucci 2015 Gift Catalogue purchased at a yard sale last week (yes, really!).
Not a book, per se, but a collection of exquisite photographs of shoes, bags, and fashions from the then newly-appointed Gucci Creative Director, Alessandro Michele.
Since the debut, the house has gone from hit to hit, and Michele’s urban romanticism has made Gucci the ‘It’ brand once again. I predict that after Lagerfeld’s tenure, he will be at the helm of Chanel. He’s brilliant.
But enough of this writing; I’ve got books to read.
The Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson.
The Wine Dine Dictionary, Victoria Moore.
Eating & Drinking. Fiona Beckett
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, Pamela Druckerman.