Literary Pilgrimages

Anne here, pondering the idea of literary pilgrimages.  I've just flown a thousand miles north, to Brisbane, to attend a multi-author book signing, but though it's a book event, it's not a literary pilgrimage.
The kind of pilgrimage I mean is one to a place where either a beloved author wrote, or wrote about. I'm more in favor of the place written about, than the place where someone wrote. This post was what got me thinking about it. Avignon

One day I'd love to do a series of trips based on some of Mary Stewart's books. I've been to Corfu, where Mary Stewart and also Gerald Durrell were very much in my mind, but I'd love to recreate the journey her character Charity made in Madam Will You Talk, which starts in Avignon in Provence. I've been to Avignon (but did not dance on the bridge) but what I'd like to do is take a car, as her heroine did, or better still hire a driver to take me to all the places she visited. While rereading the book. Or possibly listening to an audio version while I gazed at the scenery. 

Naturally I would need to go to a wonderful restaurant to recreate the meal she had when Richard Byron finally caught up with her and ordered dinner.

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The Many Delights of What We’re Reading –June

Joanna here with our monthly round up. What have the Word Wenches been reading in June? What wonderful books have we discovered?

We have particularly exciting books this month.Wench glass

First up, Anne.
[Warning: cookbook ahead]

Anne here. As usual, I've read a lot of books in the last month. I've always been a prolific reader and it doesn't matter how busy my life gets, reading is a necessary part of my life. 
 
I caught up on my Louise Penny reading, with GLASS HOUSES, a book I bought a year ago and discovered I hadn't read. Absorbing and entertaining, as always, this is #13  in her Chief Inspector Gamache crime series. 
 
Sharon SWench shinnhinn — Mary Jo put me onto Sharon Shinn's fantasies first, and after her recent post I discovered that some more of Shinn's books were now available to me on kindle. I read and enjoyed the first two in the series — TROUBLED WATERS and ROYAL AIRS then discovered that book 3 and 4 are not available to me on kindle. Sigh. So frustrating to know that they are on kindle but not if you live where I do. I really HATE geographical restrictions.
rump grump grump.
 
Finally I read a biography, which I don't often do. It was Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David. She was a food writer,  famous before I was born, but who taught me a lot about cooking when I was a student living in a share house, and using an old penguin paperback of hers, FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING. I think it was as much the quality of her lyrical, evocative  prose and the little stories and anecdotes that prefaced some of the recipes that enticed me most. I bought all her books I could find, some from used book stores, and am happy to say they're all back in print.
 
I blogged about Elizabeth David some time back — you can read it here — and I found her biography fascinating, not least for the portrait of the difficult and unconventional woman behind the elegant and evocative writing, but also because of the difficulties she had with her various publishers. 
 

Pat brings us magic and what I'd call a "comfort read."
 
Pat here–I'm desperately seeking escape of any sort and a good getaway is hard to find. But here's a couple I've read in recent months that fit the bill.

Wench libraryTHE LIBRARY, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDER,  Mindy Klasky

Mindy writes fun paranormal chicklit, and one of her best characters is Jane Madison, a librarian who discovers she’s a witch. In Jane’s books, she has a magical warder assigned to keep her from creating magical disasters. David Montrose, that powerful DC warder, has his own series now, and we get to see all the problems he’s facing behind the scenes. Not only are his personal problems mounting, but magical DC is on the brink of warfare because of his best friend’s actions, while Jane’s talent is blossoming. He’s juggling more than fire balls to solve everything at once, without being demoted again. It’s a fun fantasy ride!

THE SEVEN YEAR SWITCH, Claire Cook

Lovely women’s fiction with a protagonist who was deserted by her adventure-seeking husband and left to survive on her own. She buried herself in raising their child, giving up the travel and hope of family she’d always wanted—until her husband comes home and wants back in her life again. She has to learn to live and trust and develop new relationships. There’s a lot of fun travel tidbits since she acts as a home-bound travel agent. I would have liked to see her learn enough to actually achieve some of her goals instead of just a potential new love, but it was a pleasant journey worth taking for the fun.

Mary Jo with what sounds like a fun read.

Mary Jo here. I had a delightful time reading the latest Trisha Ashley book, The House of Hopes and DreamsHer books Wenches house are usually about creative heroines in their thirties who are rebuilding their lives (probably in Lancashire), and in the process they find a great eccentric guy who is just right for them.  In HHD, the heroine, Angelique Arrowsmith, known as Angel, is a passionate and talented stained glass artist whose life has just fallen apart. 

Angel's lifelong best friend is Carey Revells, whose enthusiasm and skills as a home renovator have made him a reality TV star on a cottage makeover show, but he and Angel haven't met much in person since they left art school and she went north to work with her older lover, a famous stained glass artist.  The book begins with Carey recovering from an accident that left him bedridden for months and cost him his TV show and his girlfriend.  Then a solicitor informs him he has inherited a large, historic, and rundown house from an uncle he never knew he had. 

Wenches xmasThe house needs lots of work, and it happens to have a stained glass workshop created by Carey's great-grandmother, a noted glass artist.  So very shortly, Angel is living in the house, helping Carey, fixing up the glass shop, and coping with an alien looking black Chihuahua mix that likes biting male ankles.  Soon the house is flowing with friends, workmen, a film crew–and plenty of hopes and dreams fulfilled as well as an old mystery unraveled.  If you like friends-to-lovers stories, this is for you! 

The House of Hopes and Dreams is right up there with my very favorite Trisha Ashley, The Twelve Days of ChristmasWhich, by happy chance, is only $2.99 in the US Kindle store.  So if you haven't read it, here's your chance for a Christmas in July.  It will make you happy and hungry. <G>

 

Andrea brings us some frank words about a favorite author,
and dives into Sharpe's Rifles. Wench punish

Andrea says:  I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth George’s long-running Thomas Lynley detective series for ages. But after she shook up her readers by killing off a major character, I , like many, had a hard time getting back into it, feeling some of the books that followed lost the the sort of subtle psychological insights and interplay that made the books so interesting. I decided to give the last one a try and was heartened to feel George was getting back her mojo. I recently read her latest one, The Punishment She Deserves, and was happy to feel that George is back in top form. 

The plot begins with the apparent suicide of a well-respected churchman in a sleepy English college town. He ’s been picked on an anonymous tip accusing him of abusing children. Lynley’s sidekick, Barbara Havers is part of the two-person police team from Scotland Yard sent to do a routine investigation as the suspect supposedly hanged himself while in local police custody. Her superior is anxious to do a drive-by check up, but feisty Barbara can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right . . .
 
And so begins a probing to college binge drinking, protective parents and an intricate weaving together of mother-daughter relationships from a variety of backgrounds, probing into parental expectations/yearning for their children’s future, and what a parent will do to protect a child. I found it a complex, nuanced and sensitive story that deal with many modern day issues. Watching Lynley and Havers work through some of Wench waterlootheir own personal issues was also interesting to, as I like them both very much. It’s good to see them back in fine fettle and moving on with their lives! 
 
This month I also re-read Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo, one of the swashbuckling Richard Sharpe books set in the Napoleonic Wars. My current Lady Arianna WIP is set in Brussels and the battle, and I had read that the book is used in many military colleges because it’s such an accurate description of the battle. Cornell is a masterful storyteller, and the non-stop action is riveting—and heartbreaking because of the carnage. I’ve made some notes for my own story about battle locations and timing (don’t worry—there won’t be so much blood and gore!) and reminded me of how much I enjoyed the entire series. If you haven’t read it yet, get Sharpe’s Tiger, the first book, which is set in India . . . you’ll be in for a rollicking ride! Wench brass
 
As for me, I was reading S.A.Chakraborty's The City of Brass. This is the first in a fantasy trilogy based on a Middle Eastern mythos. It's a road trip through magical lands — unfriendly lands full of demons. Much adventure. If I say Djinns and flying carpets it doesn't come close to describing the intricate worldbuilding.
 
There's Revolution and palace intrigue among the magical. So satisfying.
 
City of Brass is Book One of Three so the ending is problematic It's not quite a cliffhanger, but close. And it's good enough to have me looking forward to Book Two.
 
So that June in the Wench Reading Year.  A good 30 days. How's it been with you?

Elizabeth David — food writer extraordinaire

Anne here, still thinking about food in books. Liz+in+kitchen
There's a very funny scene in a P.G.Wodehouse story, Something New, where the young hero, Ashe, has been hired supposedly as valet, by Mr Peters, an overweight, dyspeptic, cigar-smoking, insomniac millionaire. For his health Mr Peters has been placed on a diet of "seeds and grasses" by his fashionable doctor. In order to help his employer get to sleep, Ashe reads to him from Peters' favorite bedtime reading book . . .

Ashe said, "Lie back and make yourself comfortable and I'll read you to sleep first."
"You're a good boy," said Mr Peters drowsily.
"Are you ready? 'Pork Tenderloin Larded. Half pound fat pork—"
A faint smile curved Mr Peters' lips. His eyes were closed and he breathed softly.
Ashe went on in a low voice: "four large pork tenderloins, one cupful cracker crumbs, one cupful boiling water, two tablespoons butter, one teaspoon salt, half teaspoon pepper, one teaspoon poultry seasoning."
A little sigh came from the bed.

The scene made me chuckle, but it also made me think that if I were to be read to from a recipe book, my absolute first choice would be the books of Elizabeth David — not just for the recipes, but for the beautiful prose, the evocative images, the absorbing discussions of various methods of cooking, and the delightful food-related anecdotes she includes in her books.

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.” ― from An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

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