I had my first dose of the Covid vaccine yesterday so am feeling very happy this morning. The important thing is that Hubby and I have now both been done and hopefully it won't be too many months before some kind of normality returns. I can feel a bookshop marathon coming on for late summer or autumn... because of course I don't own enough books or have over 400 on my Kindle. *Cough*
Two books to review today. First up, Plum, Courgette and Green Bean Tart by Lisa Rose Wright.
For those whose Spanish geography is as suspect as mine, Galicia is that part of Spain which occupies the north west corner... just above Portugal. This is where author, Lisa Rose Wright, and her partner 'S', found themselves when they walked the Camino de Santiago trail a few years ago. They fell in love with the area which is rather different to most of Spain in that it's less hot, gets more rain and is therefore greener and less arid. The region was not invaded by the Moors centuries ago and considers itself to be 'Celtic'. The couple decide to spend several months searching for a property to do up with enough land to be virtually self-sufficient. They found it on day two, an old farmhouse in need of renovation, 'A Casa do Campo' which means 'The Country House'. So that was November and it took until May of the following year before they managed to sign for the house and it was officially theirs. Not that their troubles were over, officialdom and bureaucracy is a way of life in Spain and you can feel their frustration as they struggle to get the appropriate forms signed for all kinds of necessary things with their shaky Spanish. But what impressed me about Lisa and her partner was their grim determination to hang in there and get through the problems. I was also thoroughly impressed with their work ethic and resourcefulness as 'S' worked on the house and Lisa was head gardener and cook and helped with the house where she could.
This book was a real lesson for me in how people in Galicia live. I didn't know that chestnuts were a major thing there, 'huge' in fact. I didn't know how close to the land many of the people are, much closer than us in the UK. The locals speak Galego with Castilian as a second language, English is rare in the area. But I have to say I got the most enjoyment from reading about Lisa's growing year and what she did with her produce because to a much lesser extent that's how my husband and I live: lots of gardening, live off and preserve the produce, make something with it or freeze. Her courgette glut made me laugh. Been there! She quoted from somewhere as regards courgette (zuccini for Americans I think) plants, 'Plant 3 courgettes and hope 2 die'. She'd planted 7. Which is exactly what my husband does and then stands in the kitchen door with armfuls and a big smile, hoping I'll relieve him of the wretched things. Anyway, this book is joyous. I loved it. It's full of enthusiasm, zest for life and love. I loved hearing about the cooking and the meals and eating out (I want some of those sardines!) in Galicia. I suspect the late dining hours would not suit me and I would struggle with the heat in the summer, but my goodness it sounds glorious there and I almost envy them. Lisa has just published book 2, Tomato, Fig and Pumpkin Jelly, and I already have it on my Kindle ready to read soon.
Next up, Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce. It's my third book for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2021.
It's the 1950s and Miss Margery Benson is a domestic science teacher (goodness, how I remember mine!) who is unpopular and hates the job. After intercepting a cruel note being passed around a class, she walks out and decides to fulfill a lifetime's ambition of going to New Caledonia in the South Pacific to look for a beetle, the existence of which is uncertain. As you do. Needing an assistant she takes on Enid Pretty who is the exact opposite of Margery - small, pretty and chatty - and quite frankly drives her insane. But she has no choice and off they go across the world. Both women are keeping secrets, especially Enid who has a small red valisse that she never lets out of her sight. And why is she so obsessed with hangings and punishments for murder? This one did not grab me immediately. In fact, I was halfway through before I was sure I would read to the end. I don't know what the problem was as the premise of the book felt like a perfect fit for me. Perhaps I never really did believe in the two main characters and what they were doing. It was very well written and quite funny and I gave it four stars on Goodreads because it 'was' a good read, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting, I think maybe it was a just a bit 'too' whimsical. Some books end up affecting you like that and perhaps that's a good thing. And I know there are people who have loved this and would love it and that makes me happy, because it's all about books and trying them to see if they suit you, not about my opinion putting people off. We're all different and thank God for that.
And talking of bookshops to fall in love with and visit, or even the other way round... how about Waterstones, Bradford then?
Stunning or what?