Marmalade and a List of Books

Watching the Queen having tea with Paddington inspired me to make some scones. Alan Bennett might have written about the Queen’s proclivity for a good book in “The Uncommon Reader,” but surely she was having tea and scones while reading, or perhaps pulling out her marmalade sandwich. I always wondered what she kept in her purse; the best part of her tête-à-tête. with Paddington was the big reveal of the marmalade sandwich. What a lovely respite from news of war, shootings, and virus the Queen’s Jubilee gave us.

Tea and scones, and a good book – here are recipes for both.

Unremarkable Books I’ve Read Lately To Pass The Time:

  • Rosie Walsh’s The Love of My Life
  • Monica Ali’s Love Marriage
  • Julia Quinn’s The Bridgertons – the whole series

Reading Now – B.F. Shapiro’s Metropolis

Looking Forward To Reading Soon:

  • Ruth Ware’s The It Girl
  • Lisa Jewell’s The Family Remains
  • Tom Perotta’s Tracy Flick Can’t Win
  • Geraldine Brooks’ Horse
  • Kimberly Brock’s The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare
  • Jane Shemitt’s The Patient
  • Julia Glass’s Vigil Harbor
  • Jean Hanff Korlitz’s The Latecomer
  • Christina Soontornvat’s The Last Mapmaker
  • Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

And from Ron Charles recommendations in the Washington Post:

  • Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming
  • Michelle Huneven’s Search
  • Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These

As for the scone recipe, I found this easy one in the New York Times:

Ingredients: 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1/4 cup if you want a sweet scone), 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position a rack in the top third of the oven. Thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of this mixture, add 1 1/4 cups of cream and stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a fork. Work quickly, stirring as little as possible, until a soft, shaggy dough forms. Add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough seems too dry.
  2. Use a large serving spoon or cup measure to drop the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet, allowing at least 2 inches between each scone. Brush the top of each with heavy cream and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

And from NPR, a note to be sure to eat your scones properly:

“The grocery store Sainsbury’s showed a photo with a fruit scone smothered in cream and jam. The problem: the photo showed jam on top of the cream. Customers in Cornwall argued the jam must go first…Some Brits take their afternoon tea very seriously. That’s landed the grocery store Sainsbury’s in trouble. They put up a picture with a fruit scone smothered in cream and jam. That is normal. The problem is the photo showed the jam on top of the cream. In the county of Cornwall where the picture went up, customers were outraged. They argued that jam must go first. Sainsbury’s admitted its mistake, saying it has all scone wrong.”

You can eat your marmalade sandwich anyway you like, but for a proper marmalade sandwich:

” It must be made of the best marmalade you can find and fresh-sliced bread. (Paddington likes the chipped Seville orange marmalade, with chunks of pith in, but not everyone does.) Homemade ingredients are best, of course, with plenty of marmalade between two thick slices of bread.”

Recommendations for Independent Bookstore Day

Although it’s been a while since I’ve walked into a bookstore, or any store, I still like to buy my ebooks from independent book stores. And, yes, I still read – not as much as before – but here are a few books I’ve bought and recommend:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

For supporters of women in math and sciences, the obstacles the main character faces will ring true. Elizabeth Zott, after overcoming her miserable childhood, can’t seem to get a break as she tries to forge a career in chemistry. Sidelined by male colleagues at work and cheated out of a doctorate, she finds love with a rower and fellow scientist, only to lose him before their child is born. Her ongoing frustrations will be familiar to a generation of career women with children, but the character is also funny, ambitious, and determined. As she morphs into a modern day Julia Child, the laughs get better. A fun book with a message – as Elizabeth Egan noted in her review: ” She’s a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.”

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Searle

Ah, to be back climbing the steps of Portofino! Searle’s story will transport you to the beautiful Italian town, and you will instantly feel its charm. Having been there (for a cooking class), the descriptions of the food, the sea, the steps, the old women, brought me back and makes me want to go again. Katy Silver takes the trip to Italy she has planned with her mother. Her mother dies but with a heavy touch of suspending belief, you will meet her anyway as Katy discovers not only the beauty of Italy but also the unexpected joy of hanging out with her younger mother.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

I didn’t become a fan of St. John Mandel until I watched Station Eleven on Netflix. The Sea of Tranquility is another catastrophe story taking the reader through three worlds in three distinct time periods, The novel opens in 1912 when the son of an aristocratic British family is banished to Canada for some rash dinner-table remarks about colonial policy, and then vaults into the 23rd century for ‘the last book tour on Earth,” with an author named Olive Llewellyn, whose home is a colony on the moon, and whose novel about a worldwide pandemic has become a surprise blockbuster, and finally to Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a loner detective living on the moon in the 25th century in a colony called the Night City. Mandel connects the plots across time to examine what really matters. A good book for fans of science fiction but also If you just need to take yourself out of the present for a while.

French Braid by Anne Tyler

One of my favorite authors, Tyler uses an area I know well as her backdrop – Baltimore. With her quiet style, Tyler slowly weaves a story of family. Jennifer Haigh in her review for the New York Times, notes ““French Braid” is a novel about what is remembered, what we’re left with when all the choices have been made, the children raised, the dreams realized or abandoned. It is a moving meditation on the passage of time.” Read her review for more: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/20/books/review/french-braid-anne-tyler.html

The Club by Ellery Lloyd

Thrillers are always a great distraction to the world at hand, and if you are a fan of Ruth Ware, you will enjoy Lloyd’s ride. From Publisher’s Weekly: “The Home Group is a glamorous collection of celebrity members’ clubs dotted across the globe, where the rich and famous can party hard and then crash out in its five-star suites, far from the prying eyes of fans and the media. The most spectacular of all is Island Home–a closely-guarded, ultraluxurious resort, just off the English coast–and its three-day launch party is easily the most coveted A-list invite of the decade… as things get more sinister by the hour and the body count piles up, some of Island Home’s members will begin to wish they’d never made the guest list. Because at this club, if your name’s on the list, you’re not getting out.” A page turner.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

If you know Lucy Foley from “The Guest List,” you will enjoy her latest. Like a game of Clue,  this story keeps readers guessing whodunit until the book’s final pages.

And here are a few books I have preordered and looking forward to:

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

The Lioness by Chris Bohjaloan

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

A Single Rose

In a rare interview, French author Muriel Barbery explained her love of Kyoto – a love beautifully revealed in her latest book – A Single Rose. Barbery noted:

“…we have long been lovers of Japanese culture and since we moved to Kyoto, a town that we are head over heels in love with, our feelings for this country have been confirmed. Our fascination began mostly as an aesthetic one, and has remained so: we are fascinated by the ability to create pure beauty, at the same time refined and pure; the kind of thing you see in the slow, sweet sumptuousness of Ozu’s films, in the splendor of the Japanese gardens, in the discreet sophistication of ikebana … It has had us under its spell for over ten years. And we are still at the dawn of our discoveries … But what we also love about Japan, without negating its somber and terrible face, is its repertoire of behaviors: the subtle politesse, the sense of security that results from social solidarity, a very special form of candor, as well. We don’t know how long these things can resist the infernal spirals of the contemporary world, but for now they make life here incredibly sweet and civil.”

A Single Rose tells the story of forty- year old Rose, who travels from France to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged Japanese father’s will. The story reads like a meditation with descriptions of gardens and temples, interspersed with notes on culture and folklore. The plot is simple snd predictable, but Barbery’s strength is transporting each reader to his or her own reflective inner world.

A short but worthwhile read, the book offers some quiet solace in these times of turmoil and uncertainty.

Whereabouts

A sense of accomplishment is overwhelming me. I donated three large boxes of books ( my covid year of reading) to the Friends of the Library this morning, and it wasn’t easy. After driving past a guard gate and through a tunnel, and stopping to ask a few masked strangers, I finally found the donation pallet described in their email among a warehouse of boxes. I just hope someone finds mine.

I’m reading Jhumpa Lahiri‘s new book “Whereabouts.” She is among my favorite authors and she reached a higher rung on my authors to emulate list when she moved to Italy to study the language and translate books. It’s been over ten years since “The Namesake,” and I was anxious to get lost in one her stories again.

But “Whereabouts” has no plot like her other books. Following a middle-aged woman’s thoughts and observations “on the couch, on the balcony, in bed…” was mundane at first and unclear where it was leading. Lahiri wrote the book in Italian and translated her words to English. Being somewhat biased by my own Italian heritage, I love the flow of the Italian language, and l appreciated the phrasing and descriptions she offered in translation. Sometimes a sentence would offer a window into my own world – “feeling reassured but also dazed by the outside world.”

As the short chapters evolve into a retrospective of her life, the narrator seems to emerge from complaints and despair of the past, and begins to appreciate the present. In the end, she has received a fellowship and is traveling to an unknown country for a year of study. The last short chapter shows her with a mix of hope, anxiety, and anticipation, leaving this reader a little befuddled but nonetheless satisfied.

NPR says “Whereabouts” is the literary equivalent of slow cooking; it demands patience.”

I bought a signed first edition of this book and I plan to reread it now and then. It will not be going to the library warehouse.

Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2018

The six books making the cut for the Man Booker shortlist this year include two American authors – Rachel Kushner for “The Mars Story,” set in a California women’s prison, and Richard Powers for “The Overstory,” about nine strangers trying to save one of the world’s last virgin forests.

The rest of the list includes:

  • Washington Black” by Canadian Esi Edugyan, based on the true story of the relationship between an eleven year old enslaved boy and his master’s brother who flee a Barbados plantation.
  • Irish author Anna Burns’ “Milkman” – told in the voice of a young woman forced into a relationship with an older man during the Northern Ireland conflict.
  • Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s “The Long Take” – the first book selected for the Shortlist in verse, follows a World War II veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder as he travels across the United States.
  • British Daisy Johnson, the youngest author ever shortlisted for the Prize, updates Greek myth in the tragic story of a lexicographer looking for her mother in “Everything Under.”

The winner of 50,000 pounds will be announced October 16.

I’ve read SNAP from the longlist and have “Washington Black” and “The Overstory” on my to-read pile, but I may skip the others. Do you plan to read any before the winner is announced?

Related Review: SNAP