Monday, 30 March 2015

The Year In Books - April 2015

During March I finished reading two novels and I recommend both of them as being very good reads.

In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif weighed in at nearly eight hundred pages but it was so unputdownable that I read it in a week.  It is the story of Asya, a young Egyptian woman from a family of politically active, liberal(ish)  academics.  It follows  her growing up - through school, through university in Cairo and then to England where she studies for a PhD.  The book addresses issues like love, marriage, fidelity, friendship, duty to family and husband, and the generation gap.  It is set during the 1960s and 1970s and the effects of war and economics on Asya,  her family and her friends, provides a backdrop to the novel.

I loved this book.  Asya is a complex, human character and I think Ahdaf Soueif gets inside the head of a young woman who is caught between traditional and modern, between her desires and reality. She writes realistically about complex situations that have no easy solutions.

The second book that I read was "Winter" by Christopher Nicholson, which is a fictionalised account of  true events in the life of Thomas Hardy and his second wife, Florence.   When Hardy was in his eighties a local drama group put on a dramatized version of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Hardy developed an infatuation with the actress (Gertrude Bugler) playing the part of Tess.  The book describes events from the points of view of Hardy, Florence and Gertrude.   Christopher Nicholson writes beautiful prose which evokes the time and place in which the book is set and which captures the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists.

My main choice of book for April is "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion.  This has been recommended to me many times so I seized  it when I came across a copy in my local PDSA charity shop.  I am not entirely sure that I am in the right frame of mind to read a book about loss and grief but, on the other hand, a book about dealing with loss and grief  might be just what I need.

This post has been written as part of The Year In Books curated by Circle of Pine Trees.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Week In View

March is half way through;  it does seem true that the older we get the faster time flies.   I've done a lot of sewing and knitting this week.   The picture on the above left is of the fabrics that I am using to make a  strip quilt which is to go in the car instead of a traditional-type car rug.  
After I'd finished my weekly shopping I decided to try out a different café for some refreshment.    I went to the Veg Out café, which serves only vegetarian and vegan food.    I had a hot chocolate and a slice of vegan chocolate cake, which was lovely.    The atmosphere inside was very relaxed and peaceful  and I sat enjoying my food and drink and reading a very long letter from a friend in the US.
Thinking about how quickly time can fly by, a few months ago I read an interesting article by a psychologist (whose name I  can't remember) who wrote that we can help stop the feeling of time slipping away by noting and celebrating important times during the year - birthdays, anniversaries, feast days etc.   
Celebrating feasts and festivals is something that our society doesn't do very well anymore,  which  I think is to our detriment.  Most of our festivals and feast days have been lost.  Those that are left have been taken over by big business and are stressful consumer fests, rather than times for us to mark time and celebrate our lives.  Bank holidays have become extra shopping days inserted into the year where we are encouraged to go and spend.   One of my goals for 2015 was to celebrate more "special days" and I am looking forward to welcoming the Spring Equinox next week.     I am planning to make a Spring Wreath as described by Anne Wheaton in her blog Life In Mud Spattered Boots , which is one of my favourite blogs.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

In My Kitchen March 2015

In my kitchen are root vegetables.  

I have been doing a lot of cooking with a  selection of  traditional winter vegetables.   In these "between" days, when winter hasn't quite gone and spring hasn't quite arrived. I want to eat  comforting, warming foods, and food made using root vegetables fits the bill nicely.    Parsnips are my favourite and among dishes I enjoy eating at this time of the year are Spicy Parsnip soup, Parsnip Gnocchi,  and Roast Parsnips.    Another dish that I made for the first time, and which hubby and I both liked very much, was  Root Vegetable Cakes (from The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron).  These used a mixture of swede, parsnip and leeks.  We ate them with fried eggs and homemade tomato relish.

In my kitchen is kale

This came from a local Farmer's Market.   I served it shredded and gently cooked in an inch or so of water, as a green vegetable.  

In my kitchen are Tiramisu wafers.

These are lovely for elevenses with a mug of milky coffee.

I was interested to read about The VegOut Challenge that Francine writes about in her blog Life In The Food Lane.   It is an interesting challenge and one that I would like to try a bit later in the year.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Year In Books - March 2015

My February read was "Bicycle Diaries" by David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame).  David Byrne takes his fold-up bike with him when he goes on tour and this book is a record of his thoughts about the things he sees, and the people he meets, as he cycles around some of the major cities of the world.

I enjoyed reading his thoughts about the cities that he visited especially the chapters about his visits to Manila and to Baltimore.  What I didn't enjoy about this book were his thoughts about some of the meetings he had with  people in the music and arts industries.  I didn't find these very observant or interesting.   Fortunately though they only took up a small part of the book.

My choice for March is "In The Eye Of The Sun" by Ahdaf Soueif.  

Ahdaf Soueif is an Egyptian author, although she writes in English.  I've read another of her novels "The Map of Love" which was the book that started my interest in the Middle East and in learning Arabic.   "In The Eye Of The Sun" was her first novel  and according to the blurb on the back cover, it is a love story and a story about what it's like to be a woman in the Middle East and in the West.    Ahdaf writes lovely prose with descriptions that evoke time, place and characters so I am really looking forward to reading this book.