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Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in October 2014


books read
My husband & I spent the first two weeks of October 2014 in southern France (ending with 4 days in Paris), celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a very special trip because we hadn’t traveled often or far before that, and it was perfect. Oddly enough, even though we had ‘rest’ days, I didn’t get much reading in.


1. The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci (Nonfiction, Cookbook) 4 star rating

Tucci's Table by Stanley Tucci photo c57a1638-7a05-4d71-a001-dacb08ad6389_zpsrhqraen0.jpg I love Stanley Tucci! Whether he’s a hypersensitive tango dancer in Shall We Dance?, the husband of a beloved cooking icon in Julie and Julia, the mischievous Puck in A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, or any one of the scores of other roles he’s had, I think he’s brilliant.

So I was bound to love his new cookbook, written with his wife Felicity Blunt (sister of actress Emily Blunt). And I did!

Tucci combines his love of classic French food (which I was enjoying for the first time that month) with the bounty of food available in North America (especially in larger cities) to present a fresh take on the food that has enchanted generations of eaters.
4 stars


2. Dr.Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party by Graham Green (Fiction, Vintage, Satire) 4 star rating
Dr. Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party by Graham Greene photo 12e40f5b-ab90-44fd-a837-c8c3f96ea945_zpswml0af5g.jpg

A darkly comic novel about a misanthropic millionaire who decides to hold the last of his famous parties, first published in 1980.

At first, nothing seems to happen. Our narrator arrives as an invited guest to find other diners already at the table. There is a strange current in the air, eventually traced to the strange gifts Dr. Fischer has distributed to his guests.

Clever, as you might expect of Greene.
4 stars

3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Fiction, Literary) 3.5 star rating
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson photo 89892962-0cd8-43e9-8d67-2e419e32f10c_zpsgutpoihm.jpg

“In Gilead, Iowa, our narrator, John Ames, age 76, a retiring preacher, is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. The reason for the letter is Ames’s failing health. He wants to leave an account of himself for this son who will never really know him. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.”

Although this is wildly popular, I found it so-so. Perhaps my age—or study of the Bible—has me in a place in life where Ames’ wonderings seemed self-conscious and/or prosaic.
3½ stars

4. 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Fiction, Contemporary) 3.5 star rating

10:04 by Ben Lerner photo 32cff908-ec3b-4ccd-bb51-f7d3add63e15_zpswjb9lfp6.jpgTo give this books its due, I will note that it was named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by:
The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, NPR, Vanity Fair, The Guardian (London), The L Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement (London), The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Huffington Post, Gawker, Flavorwire, San Francisco Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, and The Jewish Daily Forward.

It was also the winner of The Paris Review‘s 2012 Terry Southern Prize and a finalist for the 2014 Folio Prize and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award.

It’s another that I found only ‘meh”. Again, I think perhaps I’m too old.
3½ stars

5. Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Fiction, children‘s picture book) 3 star rating

Maclear imagines Julia Child and her co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as children. They observe that adults have forgotten joy and are a grey and dreary bunch. Julia & Simone concoct delightful food that teaches the adults to be better people.

My goodness, I’m getting crotchety in my old age. I don’t think that children should be celebrated, to themselves at any rate, for teaching adults. This book seems to be saying “kids know better.”

Sorry, I don’t think they do.
3 stars


*   *   *   *   *

I’m including the only mystery I read this month in this post.

6. Death in High Heels by Christianna Brand (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 3.5 star rating
Death in High Heels by Christianna Brand photo c4ff71f6-c6c0-4d81-a2a3-a87169134cc7_zpsuoewlu2n.jpg

Christianna Brand, who died in 1988, wrote mysteries that were published between 1940 and the early 1980s. Her work thus overlapped with Christie and Marsh and she is considered by some to be their peer.

Death in High Heels (1941) was her first Inspector Charlesworth mystery and one of her earliest works, and it was my introduction to her writing. I had the feeling that Brand hadn’t quite crystallized her characters yet and, as a result, the book felt a little unanchored to me.

I was glad, however, to finally ‘meet’ Brand.
3½ stars


All in all, France was wonderful; the reading, a little less so. Have you read any of these?


P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

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10 Comments to

“Books Read in October 2014”

  1. On January 6th, 2017 at 11:08 pm Nan Says:

    Hey! You aren’t gone. Hooray. Have you seen the old film Green for Danger? From a book by CB. Very good. You may watch it on youtube.

  2. On January 13th, 2017 at 12:31 pm Debbie Says:

    I technically am still-sort-of gone, Nan. 😉 Just popping in to post my reading summaries, hoping to catch up to date.

  3. On January 7th, 2017 at 7:05 am Toady Says:

    That trip is a favorite memory, I’m sure. I would love to be able to do something like that with my husband. We just celebrated our 30th in December. I am watching our granddaughter 5 days a week at the moment though, so her mum can get through college, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Some day though, I would love to a big getaway.
    Gilead is still on my TBR a couple years later.

  4. On January 13th, 2017 at 12:32 pm Debbie Says:

    Maybe it seemed so special because we had never done it, Toady, but the memories are worth evrey penny. I hope that someday you’ll be able to go somewhere you really want.

  5. On January 7th, 2017 at 11:04 am Rebecca Foster Says:

    I enjoyed Gilead more than any of Robinson’s other books I’ve read (including the two pseudo-sequels). I’ve read Lerner’s first novel and his short nonfiction book about poetry, but 10:04 is one I haven’t gotten to yet. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading a brand new book by Kyo Maclear: her first for adults, I believe. It’s called Birds Art Life and it’s a memoir about watching birds to cope with grief and depression. I am enjoying it very much, and also liked her recent children’s book, The Liszts.

  6. On January 13th, 2017 at 12:33 pm Debbie Says:

    Maclear’s memoir sounds really interesting, Rebecca. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  7. On January 8th, 2017 at 9:49 am Buried In Print Says:

    I’ve never made it past the first few pages of Gilead and I’ve tried many times. Often after I’ve heard her in interview or read a piece about her, which freshly inspires me, but then I get stuck again…

  8. On January 13th, 2017 at 12:34 pm Debbie Says:

    I’m so glad to hear that, Marcie, because I don’t think I’ve ever read a lukewarm review of it and I was feeling pretty lonely!

  9. On January 10th, 2017 at 12:33 pm Naomi Says:

    I read Gilead a few years ago, but felt the same as you about it – it was okay, but it didn’t knock my socks off. I haven’t read any of hers since, and have wondered if I should try another?

  10. On January 13th, 2017 at 12:35 pm Debbie Says:

    And you agree too, Naomi! I’m feeling better all the time. 😉

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