An Odd Couple. Of books to review, that is.

I’ve been reading up a storm recently, tossing one book off after another.  But to catch up on my blogging, here is a double-duty post of two completely different books, one historical fiction and the other contemporary memoir.

the miniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

This is a great example of a book I couldn’t put down, but didn’t think all that much of once I was finished. Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam, the teenage protagonist, Nella Oortman, arrives in the city full of optimism and nerves to begin her marriage to Johannes Brandt, a very successful, wealthy, and much older man. Her new household is unwelcoming, and while her new husband is kind to her, he is also disinterested in her sexually and romantically. Continue reading

John Saturnall’s Feast

John Saturnall's feast“From The Book of John Saturnall , with the Particulars of that famous Cook’s most Privy Arts, including the Receipts for his notorious Feast.”  —John Saturnall’s Feast, Lawrence Norfolk

I came to the last page of John Saturnall’s Feast and felt like I had understood nothing of the real meaning of the book. Yet the story fairly hummed along with descriptive  language, a deceptively familiar story line, and the reading of it was a pleasure — a regular feast of words. Set in the 17th century, a boy is cast out of his village after his mother dies, she being accused of witchcraft. The boy is taken to the local manor house, where he is  rises through ranks in a great bustling kitchen and eventually becomes a head chef. He also falls in love with the young mistress of the manor. Of course their love is improbable and doomed because she must marry a suitably chosen (but nasty and unattractive) man to carry on the legacy of her lineage.

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