Book Club Read: The Nightingale

NightingaleAuthor: Kristin Hannah

Publisher:  St. Martin’s, 2015

A couple members of our book club were a little tired of reading stories centered around World War II. However, so many of my book blogging friends and other reviewers have praised The Nightingale, so I went ahead and recommended it as one if our choices. I’m glad I did. It’s a great story and members were glad we read it.

The Nightingale is a fictional tale of two sisters—Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne is about ten years older, a wife, mother and teacher living in the French countryside. As the story opens, Isabelle has just been kicked out of finishing-school and is back in Paris with Father. (Mother is dead.)

Shortly after Isabelle arrives back in Paris everyone hears that the German army has crossed the border and will soon be inhabiting France. Father sends Isabelle to the country to stay with Vianne. But Isabelle has a harrowing time just getting there. She ends up walking most of the way and German airplanes fire down at the civilians fleeing Paris. By the time Isabelle arrives at Vianne’s, she is determined to do something to fight back against the German invasion.

Vianne has other concerns. Her husband was drafted and sent to the Front prior to the invasion. Now she has total responsibility for their young daughter, keeping the house and garden maintained, and searching for ever decreasing supplies. All that in addition to her teaching responsibilities. The Germans seize control of a nearby airport and soon a German officer arrives and says he will billet at her house. Vianne could abandon the house, but then she would lose everything and have no means of feeding herself and her child. Vianne stays in her home and becomes the housekeeper for the officer.

The two sisters pursue different paths over the next five years. Isabelle returns to Paris shortly after the German officer arrives at Vianne’s house. She joins the Resistance and begins performing a highly dangerous series of missions. For this, she is called the Nightingale, although very few people know her identity. Most people think the Nightingale is a man.
Vianne’s pathway through the war was different. First, it was a problem finding enough food to keep herself and her daughter, and later others, alive. The rations were so skimpy that, without Vianne’s garden, they would have starved. Having a German office in the house didn’t help. As the war progressed, Vianne also worked to keep others alive and not just by providing food. Eventually, the regular German army officers were replaced by the vicious Gestapo. It was very dangerous. Vianne’s mission was just as heroic as Isabelle’s.

This was a well researched and well written novel. The characters were real, the story was well plotted, and it gave us all a lot to think and talk about. It was great to look at war from the viewpoint of women and, especially, in an occupied country. The enemy was all everywhere and, in Vianne’s case, right inside the house! The book club is all female and so we identified very strongly with the two main characters. It made for a very lively discussion about the various events and people in the book. As we summed up the book, most members said it was one of the best books they’d read in a long time. I can’t give you a better recommendation than that.

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Wondrous Words #340

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I’m taking an online class in Religious Literacy. I have come across several new-to-me words. Here are two of them:

1. discrete:  ” . . . and reccognizes how political, economic, and cultural lenses are fundamentally entwined rather than discrete.”

I’m familiar with discreet which means to be careful and circumspect in your speech or actions. I don’t recall seeing discrete before. It means individually separate which fits the sentence in which I found it.

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2. opprobrium: The opprobrium was directed at his unforgettable painting The Holy Virgin Mary (1996).

Opprobrium is a harsh criticism or censure

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

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What Am I Reading? The Nightingale

I’m currently reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve been anticipating this read for quite some time. In one of my bookclubs each member chooses a book for a month in the year ahead. This book was my pick for March. I’ve read many good reviews of the book and I hope the other members agree. I think there’s a lot to talk about.

Here’s how the book begins:

NightingaleApril 9, 1995

The Oregon Coast

If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. Today’s young people want to know everything about everyone. they think talking about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

 

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

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Book Review and A Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green TomatoresAuthor: Fannie Flagg

Publisher: Random House, 1987

I just finished re-reading Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe and, believe it or not, I loved it just as much as the first time I read it over twenty years ago. The storyteller is Ninny Threadgoode who is currently living in a nursing home in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s 1985 when Ninny is telling the story to Evelyn, a nursing home visitor, but she is talking about events that started in 1929 and moves on into the 1930s.

Ninny Threadgoode is the kind of storyteller the “South” is famous for. I have to say I’ve met a good number of women just like Ninny and they weren’t all from the South. These are woman from that era whose whole life centered around home, their families, and the people in their communities. They knew everyone, knew everything about them, and felt it was their duty to tell what they knew. They also had opinions about these people. The stories aren’t told in a mean-spirited way. They were simply told as a recitation of the facts (and opinions) that made for a great story the storyteller is convinced you want to hear.

The story Ninny recites is that of the events in a very small village in Alabama—Whistle Stop. Nearly everyone in Whistle Stop is mentioned at some point in the story, but the main characters are Idgie and Ruth, the two women who run the Whistle Stop Cafe. They play different roles in running the cafe, but Idgie tends to be the leader. She’s very generous and sensitive. The many hoboes roaming the country know Idgie will give them a meal in exchange for performing a simple job. The story is filled with all sorts of interesting things, including a murder.

I re-read this book as part of The Kitchen Reader Book Club’s selection for March. Because of that I paid a lot of attention to the “food talk” in the story. Food is mentioned often in this book. It’s an integral part of the culture in Whistle Stop and most definitely in the cafe. Because my mother was born in 1920, she learned to cook many of these meager foods that were available. The meals mentioned in Whistle Stop were very similar to the foods I ate as a child in the 1940s.

A lovely bonus at the end of Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe is a chapter devoted to the favorite recipes for food cooked at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It’s a nice selection from buttermilk biscuits to southern fried chicken to fried green tomtoes and more.

One of the recipes I’d like to focus on is gravy – specifically Milk Gravy. It’s a simple, multi-purpose recipe that, once you’ve mastered it, will allow you to do so many variations. In the 20s and 30s this was called Milk Gravy. Somewhere in the 1950s it changed to White Sauce. If you google White Sauce today you’ll be taken to Bechamel sauce. A few years ago Bechamel sauce was very popular and various writers were calling it “somewhat difficult.” Trust me, this is not difficult. I learned to make it somewhere around age 10 or 11. It’s difficulty is highly exaggerated. Let me explain how it’s made.

White SauceMilk Gravy/White Sauce/Bechamel Sauce

Gather these ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of fat (bacon grease or butter)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of warm milk

In a saucepan melt the fat. Add the flour. Use a whisk to mix this together. Whisk continuously as it smooths out and begins bubbling. (This is called a roux.) Take your cup of warm milk and very slowly add it to the roux while at the same time you are still whisking. Keep whisking the roux and milk until all the milk is absorbed. Then continue to whisk while the whole gravy/sauce thickens. Two tablespoons of fat and flour makes a thin sauce. I usually use three tablespoons.

Back in the 60s when my husband was drafted into the army he was sent to cook’s school. One of the first things he was taught was white sauce. They made huge quantities and added cooked hamburger to it and called it SOS. (Old-time army guys will know what that is.) My mom made this sauce, added in cut-up whites of hard-cooked eggs, poured it over toast and sprinkled the crumbled egg yolks over the top. (See Eggs Golden Rod) There are dozens of ways to use this gravy/sauce. Just let your imagination go.

If you’d like to join in and read or re-read Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, I hope you will. It’s not too late. Join us at The Kitchen Reader Book Club. Click the title for more information.

I’m also linking to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

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Posted in Books About Food, Weekend Cooking | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Book Review and Tour: A Lesson In Secrets

Lesson In SecretsAuthor: Jaqueline Winspear

Publisher: Harper Collina 2011

Maisie Dobbs is a woman who lives in England. In this story it’s 1932. She’s quite admirable. She was a poor housemaid when, at age 13, she was found reading in the mansion’s big library. Rather than get sacked Maisie was given an incredible education that was changed her life. She’s now a psychologist and a private investigator with her own successful business.

Maisie is asked by the secret service to take an assignment at a college in Cambridge. She apples for and gets a job as a professor. The college’s founder and president is well-known for his children’s books advocating peace. The books were controversial when, during World War I, they caused soldiers to lay down their guns and refuse to fight.

Now in 1932 there is still talk about the books. There is also a lot of talk about the National Socialist/Fascist/Nazi movement growing in Germany and the desire by some to join in and advocate Britain join in as well. Amid all this the president of the college is found dead in his office.

In order to keep her cover in tact, Maisie is ordered to stay away from investigating the suspicious death. That’s hard for Maisie, but lucky for her, Maisie’s colleagues and students really like talking. She’s able to gather information in an informal manner. Eventually Maisie is able to name the killer. She manages to do all this while going back and forth to London to check on her business, help find a missing friend and check on her dad. Yes she leads a busy life.

A Lesson In Secrets is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. I’ve liked following Maisie’s career and her personal life throughout the series. Fortunately, each story is fresh as Maisie is so willing to try new things such as working undercover for the secret service. At one point while half-way through I thought that Maisie was involved in too many things, but I quickly changed my mind. All those things are simply a part of who Maisie is — a thoughtful character who is sympathetic to everyone she meets. At the end she actually visits the killer in prison with a stack of books to read! That’s who she is.

I’m reviewing this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. The tour is designed to feature all the author’s books, not just the new one coming out March 29th. Today’s book, A Lesson In Secrets, is one of the previous ones I chose to feature. On April 18th I tell you about the latest book, Journey To Munich.

To see the complete schedule for all the stops on the tour, visit TLC Book Tours.

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Wondrous Words #339

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

1.  I was reading a Slate article written by Jamelle Bouie when I came across this sentence:

 “But epistemological caution shouldn’t blind us to the facts on the ground.

Epistemological is related to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

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2.  In A Lesson In Secrets by Jacqueline Windpear I found saloon:

” . . . but the driver of the black saloon would allow no more than one other car to narrow his view of her crimson MG 14/40.

I know saloon refers to a bar or drining establishment, but that didn’t fit in the sentence. Of course the story is set in the 1930s. Turns out there is another meaning for saloon. It can also refer to an automobile having a closed body and a closed trunk separated from the part in which the driver and passengers sit; a sedan.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

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First Paragraph: A Lesson In Secrets

I’m almost done reading A Lesson In Secrets by Jacqueline Winspeare. This is the eighth book in the author’s Maisie Hobbs series. It’s set in England it is now up to 1932. I like this one – so far. Here’s how the story begins:

Lesson In SecretsPrologue

Maisie Dobbs had been aware of the motor car following her for some time. She contemplated the vehicle, the way in which the driver remained far enough away to avoid detection—or so he thought—and yet close enough not to lose her. Occasionally another motor car would slip between them, but the driver of the black saloon would allow no more than one other car to narrow his view of her crimson MG 14/40. She had noticed the vehicle even before she left the village of Chelstone, but to be fair, almost without conscious thought, she was looking out for it. She had been followed—either on foot, on the underground railway, or by motor vehicle—for over a week now and was waiting for some move to be made by the occupants. This morning, though, as she drove back to London, her mood was not as settled as she might have liked, and the cause of her frustration—indeed, irritation—was not the men who followed her, but her father.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Every Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

firstparagraph

 

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Snapshot Saturday: Charlie Brown On the Sidewalk

100_3850.JPGCharlie Brown

I live in Charlie Brown country! Most people know this area as Sonoma County in northern California. Local residents, however, are very proud that Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown and his pals, was a resident of the county starting in 1958. The cartoonist died in 2000, but his memory – and his characters – are still very much alive.

100_3852.JPGSnoppy

All around the county you can see good-sized likenesses of all the Peanuts characters. The two characters I’m sharing today are outside Omelette Express, a local restaurant specializing in – you guessed it – omelettes. In future posts I’ll share more of these characters. They always make me smile as I travel around town.

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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit her website.

Saturday Snapshot

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Book Review: The Opposite of Everyone

Opposite of Everyone

Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: William Morrow, 2016

The Opposite of Everyone was an absolute experience for me. This was not a casual turn-the-pages read. I was in the middle of the main character, Paula’s,  life—in the present and her past. It meant reflecting back on how her earlier experiences brought her to this point. Most of those experiences were not good. It was something you wouldn’t want a child to go through. But, Paula was smart in a variety of ways. She made bad decisions that often had dreadful consequences.

What the Story Is About:

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to reinvent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paulaís birth name, Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her ownóone that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. With the two of them separated, each holding her own secrets, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasnít seen Kai in fifteen years, sheís still making payments on that karmic debtóuntil the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mystifying note: ìI am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.

Then Kaiís most treasured secret literally lands on Paulaís doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before itís too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together ón her own.

My Thoughts:

You know my number one test for a book is how real the characters are. The Opposite of Everyone is a winner! Paula Voss is as real as a fictional character can get. If she were a part of my regular life, however, I probably wouldn’t like her. But, as a fictional character, she is first class. She’s tough and smart, and always calculating the best advantage for herself, her clients, and the young women she helps via her pro-bono cases.

When the story takes a look at Paula’s very sketchy childhood, my heart aches for her. At a young age she learned to protect herself against people who might hurt or take advantage of her. That includes being able to throw a punch, if necessary. Paula’s life demanded she be a fighter. As an adult she chose the career that fit her skills.

Joshilyn Jackson always delivers a wonderful story that’s crafted to pull the reader into the lives of the characters.  She’s following in that great tradition of Southern Storytelling. I’m unable to find fault with this story. I can whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Joshilyn JacksonAbout the Author:

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including gods in Alabama, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and Someone Elseís Love Story. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, she is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website  |  Facebook  |  or Twitter.

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Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Joshilyn Jackson Book Tour Schedule

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Posted in A, Book Tour, Literary Fiction | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Wondrous Words #338

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

This week, while reading an opinion piece on who the nominee for the Supreme Court should be, I found two new-to-me words sitting side by side in the same sentence.

. . . the time for temperate, modest, and self-abnegating wonks is next vacancy, not this one.”

Abnegate is a verb and it means to renounce or reject somethingf of value.

I know wonky which means off-center or crooked. That doesn’t fit in this sentence. Here wonk is being used as a noun. I discovered the wonk refers to a studious or hardworking person.

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Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

Posted in Wondrous Words | 3 Comments