Perfect Timing for Easter – The Music Shop

When I finished reading Rachel Joyce’s The Music Shop on Good Friday, I wanted to hear Handel’s Messiah.   With the same quirky style as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce delivers a love story with hidden notes of redemption and a nod to the healing power of music.

Spanning twenty years, the story revolves around Frank, who owns a music shop in England which stocks only vinyl records, and Ilse, a concert violinist who can no longer play.  In his review for The Washington Post, Ron Charles says:

“If you’ve read Joyce’s best-selling debut novel, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,”you already know her irresistible tone. There’s suffering here, too, and a searching journey, but this is a lighter book than “Harold Fry.” It’s a story that captures the sheer, transformative joy of romance — “a ballooning of happiness.” Joyce’s understated humor around these odd folks offers something like the pleasure of A.A. Milne for adults. She has a kind of sweetness that’s never saccharine, a kind of simplicity that’s never simplistic. Yes, the ending is wildly improbable and hilariously predictable, but I wouldn’t change a single note.”

I made notes for listening – click here to see my playlists.

Related Review:  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry


A Powerful Love Story for Valentine’s Day

51qBJz71b6L._AC_US218_51zpXTOlenL._AC_US218_Last week I accidentally found the movie The United Kingdom and was immersed in the historical fiction based on Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar: The True Story of a Love That Shook an Empire.  Based on the lives of Prince Seretse Khama (who would later become the first President of Botswana) and white English-born Ruth Williams who met and fell in love in 1940s Britain, the story is a powerful statement of overcoming racism and persevering for independence, but it is also a poignant love story across cultural, racial, and political lines.

I was reminded of the movie when Book Browse featured the book as one of its “five great book club books that are now movies.”

“…they were met with overt racism by the people and governments of both Britain and southern Africa; but with great dignity and extraordinary tenancity they, and the Bangwato people, overcame prejudice in their fight for justice–which, ultimately, led to independence for the country of Botswana…”

Although I am only half through the book, the movie seems to have been accurate in depicting the series of trials overcome by the couple, including the efforts of British government officials, family friends and church figures trying to prevent the marriage. After the marriage Britain attempted to separate the couple by luring him to London and then banning his return.

South Africa, which borders Bechuanaland, and was in the throes of apartheid, imposed economic pressure on Britain, adding to the political turmoil.  Britain’s secret Harragin special inquiry was to decide whether Seretse was fit to discharge his duties as his country’s Chief.  (The report reminded me of today’s secret political papers which later expose ulterior government motives).  The inquiry found in his favor but argued that South Africa’s opposition to his marriage, and therefore his chieftainship, constituted enough reason to bar Khama from returning to his country.  After seven years in exile, and with the help of friends in high places, the shameful report finally was released and Pariament acceded to Botswana’s right to mineral rights – both actions insuring the leadership and prosperous future of an independent country.

After his return home, Seretse Khama was elected first democratic head of the newly created nation state of Botswana, which he ruled for over 20 years before his death in 1980. Ruth took her place as the mother of the nation during Seretse’s life and after, and their son is now the fourth President of Botswana.

Whether you read the book (only available as a ebook) or watch the movie, this is a story worth finding, not only for its historical significance but also for its powerful message of love and redemption against insidious politics and arrogant men.

The Girl You Left Behind

9780670026616_p0_v1_s260x420JoJo Moyes latest book – The Girl You Left Behind – has it all – intrigue, romance, historical World War I setting, the French countryside, even art – with references to Matisse. Charming and suspenseful, the story uses the painting by artist, Edouard Lefevre of his red-haired wife, Sophie, to link two love stories – one set in wartime France, the other in a modern war of provenance.

When the Kommandant, who has occupied Sophie’s hotel with his enemy troops, takes an interest not only in her husband’s portrait but in Sophie herself, the picture becomes a negotiating tool for Edouard’s freedom. Years later, Liv Halston finds herself in the middle of a court battle to keep the picture that gave her comfort when her husband died prematurely. Moyes cleverly builds in a back story of wartime drama.

A friend recommended this book, and I happily lost myself in the story, but – even better – the references to Matisse, one of my favorite artists, reminded me of my recent visit to the Matisse exhibit at the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

Lunch in Paris

After reading Julia Child’s My Life in France and swooning with Meryl Streep over buttery trout in “Julie and Julia,” I thought to follow the gourmand’s footsteps on my next trip to Paris – seeking out all those gastronomical wonders.   It’s still a possibility, but now I’ve added another repertoire of places and foods in Paris – thanks to Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris.

I want to shop at Passage Vivienne, have lunch at L’Hermes, buy bread at the boulangerie…

Bard’s Love Story with Recipes, her subtitle, is more about the food – with several recipes at the end of each short chapter and a wonderful eight page index at the back of the book.   You could skip the Sophie Kinsella dialogue and go straight to the recipes, but then you’d miss all the happy banter. Bard’s voice is her twenty-five year old self, so beware of twenty-something anxieties, but her story is fresh and lively and fun.

Like the old Single Girl’s Cookbook by former editor of Cosmo, Helen Gurley Brown, Bard pairs food with possibilities, e.g.,  “Recipes for Seduction” and “Family Heirlooms.”   You will want your own andouillette when she exclaims

“ Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a plate full of sausage.”

She progresses from eye-contact to marriage, with lots of tasty experiences – and food – along the way.  As she recounts her life as an American in Paris, you will be reminded of others who found relocation to the City of Lights not so easy –

“…nearly a year had passed, but I still felt like a stranger…”

Eiffel Tower

But, this is a love story, and the most important person in her life lives in Paris.

“…one of the great gifts of an intercultural relationship is that when you fight, you never quite know if you are mad at the person, or … is he just being French?”

It takes awhile, but she knows she’s “not a tourist anymore” when a French girl asks her for advice.   I remember the same feeling when someone in Paris asked me for directions.

For most of the recipes, you’ll want Julia to prepare; however, there are a few that seem easy and manageable.  The easiest is her “Lemon Sorbet with Vodka” – pour a shot of vodka over a scoop of lemon sorbet.    See my post in “potpourri” for a few more recipes – with a few more ingredients.

Lunch in Paris is more than palatable; it’s tasty and enjoyable – and a quick read.

You can follow the author – and get more recipes – on her blog…