Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, 2008
Loved this book. Short stories by the author of The Namesake (a great movie) and Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies. Really great stories about real people and real relationships. "[E]xquisite prose, emotional widsom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind." Okay, I finished this book early in August, so despite attending a recent book club meeting discussing it, I don't really remember it clearly enough to write a good description, though I did thoroughly enjoy it (I just recently purchased Interpreter of Maladies as a birthday gift for my boyfriend, and I gave my mother The Namesake for Christmas). Read the Amazon reviews.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher, 1943
A young girl, raised in rural California in the early 20th century, ventures to Europe with her first husband. Living in France, she experiences the local culture and learns about food. Eating is an art and a passion in France, something completely unfamiliar to this sheltered American girl. The Gastronomical Me tells the story of her emotional and physical journey into adulthood, learning to appreciate the sensuousness of food and the delicacies of a different culture, with the personal stories always starting from or relating back to her experiences with food. The author says it best herself in the foreward: "It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it . . . and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied . . . and it is all one."
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, 2002
I enjoyed the book and its insider/outsider view of Parisian and French culture. American-born Australian-raised Sarah Turnbull relocates to Paris on a whim during her year-long journey through Europe in the mid-1990's, moving in with a Frenchman she's known for all of a few weeks. Her experiences attempting to meld into the French culture are detailed in this book. Overall, I liked her story, although there were a few occasions when I just wanted to say, "Get over yourself." Some differences between her and her boyfriend, her familiar culture and her boyfriend's culture, were blamed by the author on the drastic difference between French and Anglo/Australian culture, when such differences can easily exist between people of the same culture. Not every difficulty encountered in a new relationship or while living in a new location can be blamed on cultural differences between nations. If you can set some of these exaggerated assignments of blame aside, the author's experience of her relationship, her move between continents, and her learning curve to living in Paris are a fascinating read.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, 1848
An engaging novel about love, lust and discreet improprieties in 1820's England. Young romantic Helen enters a marriage with a charming reprobrate. Unsurprisingly, his dissipation and verbal abuse of her and their infant child rises to an unsufferable level, at which point she flees to a remote rural unnamed shire, where local townfolk invent poisonous gossip about her as a result of her refusal to divulge every detail about her past life. The lesser know sister of Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights), Anne Bronte is an enchanting storyteller and her viewpoints in this 19th century novel square quite easily with modern-day feminist thinking on a number of subjects.