Friday, 26 February 2021

A couple of reviews

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?


18 comments:

DesLily said...

I am betting that you could read every book in a library within 2 yrs!! lol... I am happy we both got our first shot of the vaccine! (sore arm but worth it!)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

What exactly is a "domestic-science teacher?" Here we have general science and them the specifics areas like: Chemistry, Physics, Botany, Zoology etc...

I do want to read this one soon. I have the eBook on my Kindle.

I love that library pic, oh how I'd love to browse in a gorgeous place like that.

Cath said...

Nooooo, I am too slow! LOL Not that I wouldn't give it a damn good go!

Yep, how weird that we got our jabs on the same day! My arm was really sore yesterday, but not so bad today.

Cath said...

Diane: A domestic science teacher taught cooking and house management to girls back in the 60s and 70s. We had it for a whole morning or afternoon every week for four years (12 to 15). I don't think they exist these days but they were always one of the most feared teachers in the school. Even our actual science teacher was terrified of ours.

I really hope you enjoy Miss Benson's Beetle, it has a lot to recommend it.

The library is actually a bookshop but isn't it lovely...

CLM said...

How gorgeous! I always like Waterstone's and was so sad when the one in Boston closed.

I thought you might enjoy this free Hitchcock event in April.
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hitchcocks-composer-bernard-herrmann-and-the-sound-of-suspense-tickets-143145803953?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Lark said...

That is one crazy cool bookstore! Talk about an amazing building. And to browse there? I would love that. And yay that you got your first vaccine shot. I've had my second; and my mom got her second dose yesterday. I feel so relieved that she's protected now. Maybe there will be an end to this pandemic after all. (Fingers crossed.) :D

Sam Sattler said...

Happy to see that you both have had the first COVID-19 shot now; you on your way then to having a chance for some normalcy relatively soon. I read The Times every day, and I'm hopeful that as Boris checks off all the milestones things will begin to lighten up there this summer in more ways than one. My second dose is scheduled for March 19 but my wife doesn't receive her first until March 26, so we have a way to go yet.

That first book you reviewed sounds fascinating. That's a part of Spain I am totally unfamiliar with but it sounds very special. I've only ever visited the larger cities in Spain and would love to do more exploring there in better times.

Sam Sattler said...

Oh...one other thing. For about a decade, Houston had a large bookstore that had taken over the premises of a 1950s-era movie theater. The only thing they did to the inside was remove all the seating, replace those with bookshelves, and place a large magazine/newspaper stand where the screen used to be. The lobby became the place to pay for everything. Sadly enough, they lost their lease at some point and now I don't even remember what replaced them. I used to love walking down to the magazines because of the noticeable downward tilt that the main aisle still had.

TracyK said...

Although I am not looking to add any new books to my shelves, both of these books sound interesting. I might not care that much for Miss Benson's Beetle, it is hard to tell. I am sure the other one is a very good read and in a great setting.

Very glad that you got your first vaccination shot, and your husband, I will be relieved when Glen and I can do that.

I had a similar teacher for sewing and cooking in eighth grade (called home economics here in the 1950s / 60s)). She was scary but I did learn a lot. She taught us how to make scrambled eggs in a double boiler, which is the way Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe makes them. And we made an apron with a bib.

That bookstore is gorgeous.

Terra said...

The book store reminds me of a cathedral. Those books you describe sound good.

Cath said...

Constance: I'm sorry you lost your Watersones, I didn't realise they were even in the USA. We lost ours here in my town too. They closed a lot about ten years ago to save money and ours went, I was very upset as I loved that place... in there every week browsing. They're mainly in the bigger towns and cities now which I don't get to very often and not at all at the moment of course. Sad.

Thanks for the link but I'm not a huge Hitchcock fan to be honest.

Lark: Sometimes I imagine all of us bookbloggers getting together to descend on one of these glorious bookshops. Can you *imagine*!

Very pleased that you and your mom have both had your second dose of the vaccine. I really do believe this is the way out of this crisis even it might still take a while for the whole world to get a handle on it.

Cath said...

Sam: Thank you. I think the summer might see the restrictions lifted quite a lot here but whether things might get difficult again in the winter it's hard to predict. The concern is the new varients that keep emerging I think. We'll see. I'm pleased to hear you're getting your vaccines too. My husband and I won't going anywhere for months as it simply isn't safe yet. I'm hoping to be able to go to Cornwall to see relatives, maybe late summer, early autumn. 'Fingers crossed'

You're one up on me as I haven't been to Spain at all, I've always felt that it would be way too hot. But reading Lisa's book I realise that that northern part of Spain would perhaps be more bearable in the spring or autumn. Galicia certainly does sound really special and having seen it a few times on TV docs I can see that it is.

That bookshop sounds wonderful. I can actually imagine it as there's one in Hay-on-Wye that's a converted cinema too. Or there was, I have no idea if it's still there but when I went there about 20 years ago I thought it was absolutely amazing. I could happily have a fortnight's holiday in that town and not go anywhere else.

Cath said...

Tracy: Most people do not dislike Miss Benson's Beetle and neither did I to be honest. Like you said, it's hard to tell how a book will strike you and some small thing about that one hit an off note with me. I just wish I could decide what it was!

*Fingers crossed* for you and Glen getting your vaccinations soon. I'm sure it will happen.

Yes, 'Home Economics' is another name for 'Domestic Science' a more modern name really, but it wasn't used in my school. I think women who taught it must have all been scary, perhaps it was compulsory. LOL! And here's a coincidence, I too made an apron with a bib. Yellow gingham and we had to embroider our initials on the pocket. But we didn't do that in Domestic Science, we did that in Needlework, but used the apron in Domestic Science. The two teachers were in cohorts I think.

Terra: The bookshop is wonderful isn't it? I wonder if it is actually a converted church.

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

Beautiful bookshop! And I LOVED Miss Benson's Beetle - but I'm a Rachel Joyce addict, so...

Mary said...

Lord, that bookstore is reason enough to visit Bradford!

Lark said...

Cath...all of us bookbloggers in an amazing bookstore like that? That's a trip I would love to take! :D

Jeane said...

Glad to hear you have got your shot- I still have a long wait for mine! I do think I would like that book Plum, Courgette and Green Bean Tart (though please tell me they didn't make a dish including all those together?) 'Domestic Science'- we used to call that 'Home Economics' and it was still taught when I was in high school! Our teacher wasn't scary, but the class was very boring- as my mother had already taught me most of those skills. I was rather appalled at how some of my classmates executed the cooking exercises though!

Cath said...

Davida: I'm so pleased you loved Miss Benson and it proves my point about us all liking different things and not to be influenced too much by book reviews.

Mary: Bradford probably wouldn't be on my 'must see' list but I might change that for that Bookshop.

Lark: That's a trip I would love to take too. Who knows? Maybe one day...

Jeane: No, the author didn't make that pie, she was just joking about a pie that would use up her glut of those ingredients. Yes, Home Economics was a popular alternative for Domestic Science, possibly more in the USA. It was one subject I was not keen on, I loved to bake but with my grandmother, not the cookery teacher at school.