Keeping the Feast, Paula Butturini
I found this on the library sale shelves and was intrigued by the back cover blurb:
When Paula Butturini's husband was shot and nearly killed twenty-three days after their wedding, it marked the beginning of a phase of life neither had planned. John would recover from his injuries, but the psychological toll lingered long after his physical wounds had healed. . . [This book] is a gorgeously crafted portrait of a marriage and partnership touched by depression, but even more, it is a testament to the extraordinary sustaining power of food and love, to the healing that can come from simple rituals of life, and to the stubborn belief that there is always an afterward, always hope.The author met her husband John Tagliabue in Rome, where both were working as journalists (she for UPI, he for the New York Times). Two years later, in 1987, he was named the bureau chief in Warsaw, and Ms. Butturini went with him, working then for the Chicago Tribune. Both were injured covering the 1989 uprisings in eastern Europe. Ms. Butturini was savagely beaten by police in Czechoslovakia, while Mr. Tagliabue was shot while traveling in a car with other journalists in Romania. His injuries brought him into a deep depression that left him unable to work for many months. The couple, only recently married, returned to Rome to live, hoping the familiar place would help. I expected this book to be a memoir of coping through cooking, with recipes, like Adrienne Kane's Cooking and Screaming. Though it is very much about food, it is not a cookbook, a choice the author deliberately made. It is a family memoir, of growing up in Italian immigrant families, of carrying food traditions forward, and of coping with depression (the author's mother also suffered from it). I found it a moving story. I also found the couple's work and travels interesting, particularly the adjustment of transferring from Rome to Warsaw.
The Blotting Book, E.F. Benson
The author's name caught my eye one day at Murder by the Book. I've never read any of E.F. Benson's work beyond the Mapp and Lucia series, apart from some of his ghost stories. This short book from 1908 is a mystery, set in Brighton. Morris Assheton, just turned twenty-two, has fallen in love. Under his father's will, his marriage will end the trust that has tied up his inheritance. His trustee, old family friend Edward Taynton, has been making some rash investments, and he needs time to set things right. He gets his partner Godfrey Mills to tell the young lady's father some lies about Morris, hoping to break off the match. In return, Mills demands a very substantial amount of money, to cover his own gambling habit. Learning of Mills's lies, Morris sets out to confront him. When Mills disappears, Morris becomes the prime suspect.
This was an interesting little story. It isn't a mystery in the "who-done-it" sense, because the villains are clear from the start. I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but the fun was in watching it unfold, and in the Brighton setting. I also enjoyed the smiling villain at the center. However, this doesn't have the fun of the Mapp and Lucia stories. It reminded me more of Benson's ghost stories, without the macabre.
Time Enough, Emily Kimbrough
This book from 1974 is an account of a cruise the author took with several friends along the Shannon River in Ireland. By this point, she was in her 70s, so she was content to leave the work of the trip to the crew of the boat. As in her other travel accounts, she and her friends spent their time squabbling a bit, watching the scenery, touring local sights of interest, and buying souvenirs. I've found that I enjoy her books more when they focus on the places she is visiting, and less on the "wacky" adventures or quirks of her fellow travelers. This was a pleasant-enough read, and I learned something about the geography of Ireland, particularly the Shannon, which stretches through the center of the country. Kimbrough took particular note of the small town of Banagher.
I found that [single wide main street] very poorly lit, but even in the darkness, interspersed among the shops, I saw several houses that seemed to me to have both substance and style. I doubt he lived in one of those, the young man of twenty-six who came in 1841 to fill the post of clerk to the district surveyor. His name was Anthony Trollope. He lived ten years in Banagher and began his writing there.If I ever get to Ireland, I want to visit Banagher as well.
Greenery Street, Denis Mackail
Lyn at I prefer reading recently mentioned the acronym "HIU," or "Have it unread." Many of my TBR books are "RTO," or "rushed to order" - usually after reading a blog review. I'm not sure where I first read about this 1925 novel, but I remember the excitement of learning that Angela Thirkell's brother was also a writer. I knew from reading reviews that this book was about the first year of a young couple's marriage. Unlike his sister's Barsetshire books, it is set in London, in an idyllic street "of thirty-six narrow little houses." Ian and Felicity Hamilton move into No. 23 Greenery Street after their marriage. Ian goes off to his work at an insurance office, while Felicity tries to cope with servants and a budget. It is a domestic story, based according to the editor of my Persephone edition on Denis Mackail's own early married life. There are some dramatic elements involving Felicity's older sister Daphne, and a venial trustee, as well as a plot twist that echoes "The Gifts of the Magi." And speaking of echoes, Greenery Street has "little gods" who lurk in rooms and sometimes provide commentary on the action. I wondered if Angela Thirkell borrowed that idea for her angels that do the same, particularly around Mrs. Brandon. (The editor says that Mackail was bullied by his older sister, their parents' favorite!) I see there are two sequels to this book, which are long out of print and apparently impossible to find. I will have to try inter-library loan, I'd like to read more about the adventures of Ian and Felicity. I also learned from the introduction that Denis Mackail was a close friend of P.G. Wodehouse's, and I found a picture of them in a biography of PGW that is still "HIU" on my shelves.