Becoming George Sand by Rosalind Brackenbury

George Sand genealogy Frederic Chopin  When Scottish professor Maria embarks on a literary biography of George Sand, she finds herself drawn as much into her literary heroine’s way of life as she is her work:  Maria simultaneously engages in a lusty, extra-marital affair with a younger man, a la Sand, and a la Sand, must suffer the consequences.  Thus begins the novel Becoming George Sand, a theme for both the exploration of Sand’s romances and Maria’s life as explored in Rosalind Brackenbury’s gorgeous, plummy novel.

Unfortunately, I have never read a George Sand novel.  I saw the movie Impromptu with a very young, and moody, Hugh Grant as Chopin, a thousand years ago ( and that’s about all I ever knew of George Sand, the French novelist who wrote numerous novels, plays, political essays, travel books and kept her correspondence with the greatest minds of her day (1804-76), in addition to having famous lovers Frederich Chopin and Alfred de Musset, among others.

I did however, have the opportunity to meet Rosalind Brackenbury, author of Becoming George Sand, at the San Miguel de Allende Writers Workshop recently.  She offered a workshop on Writing About Historical Figures.  I approached the tented classroom and saw a striking, thin woman, who reminded me of Vanessa Redgrave.  We got on quite well in the workshop and I scheduled an hour consult with her on a novel in progress which she reviewed and offered some helpful comments on.

Entranced as I was by her, made it a priority to read her novel.  I’m so glad I did.

Becoming George Sand opens with a sex scene.  I mention this because Ms. Brackenbury taught a workshop in San Allende and mentioned that said sex scene caught the eye of Margaret Atwood and ultimately Margaret Atwood helped Ms. Brackenbury’s novel find it’s way into publication.  (Such are the vicissitudes of fate and may they fall such upon my willing head!)  The scene between Maria and her also-married lover Sean at Maria’s home while her husband Edward is at work is an attention-getter.

They do not undress each other, and she rather regrets this, as it always has erotic potential for her.  Their undressing is almost businesslike in its swiftness and self-absorption, it’s about getting naked rather than the performance of turning each other on.  . . . He glances at her, grins.  She’s undoing her bra– and she wants him watching now, and he does, as her breasts fall forwards and the bra drops to the floor — a new bra, but white, not the black she prefers, as she has picked up that he likes a virginal look, or at least a practical one, in underwear.  He sees her, and she sees him, just enough now, as his underpants slide off, and so do the rather prim white knickers she has on today, and both are kicked to one side; and then they are together, touching all the way down the length of their naked bodies, that first contact she loves, cool flesh warming fast, nipples rising to the chill air in the room — why does central heating never really warm these tall rooms? — and the weight of his cock rising adjacent her, its thickening and lengthening as she holds it adjacent her stomach.

Ahem.  You will have to buy the book to continue this lovely scene.  41DO7zqOS+L

And you should.  Because not only is Becoming George Sand an intelligent, literary examination of modern lives and modern marriages, it is also an overview of, introduction to and explication of the life and loves of George Sand and a meditation upon how her views may have led to, or at the very least heavily, contributed to the modern views of women, sex, sexuality, feminism, femininity and relationships.

Inevitably, as one supposes these things must do, the Maria’s affairs ends with regret on both sides and the modern day insistence on closure results in a final meeting between Maria and Sean.

So, she’s been fitted in before the dentist, and presumably, after lunch.  She imagines him staring into a bathroom mirror as he cleans his teeth, bares them to make sure there’s no lunch on them, and satisfied, leaves the house.  She knows his house, she’s seen it from the outside.  She has no idea about the bathroom.  He knows a lot more about her than she does about him; she wonders briefly is this is always true between men and women.

. . .[T]hen he opens his coat to her and draws her inside, as if into a tent, and holds her against him, her head tucked in under her chin, his familiar peppery scent, the roughness of his sweater and scarf, his hand in the middle of her back, pulling her in to him, hard.  They stay there for a moment, at the edge of the water, in that stony, icy time and place, and for that moment, a little warmth is conjured back, as she feels beneath her cheek the slow strong steady thud of his heart.  She thinks, it isn’t about sex, not now; it’s about knowing somebody in the bone-deep way you know yourself, and to give it up is heartbreak.

Heartbreak for Maria, Edward, and George, over and over.  But not for you dear reader, enjoy!


Toast — make toast and have the smell of bread wafting through the house as your book club arrives.  It will remind them and you of Maria at home waiting for her family after Sean has left.

Gnocchi — the meal Emily has at her friend’s home

Majorcan Soup  — Recipe courtesy of http://www.Spain.Info


Ingredients for 4 people: 3 chopped fresh onions 2 cloves of peeled and finely-chopped garlic 2 chopped leeks (only the white part) 4 large cabbage leaves, cleaned and chopped 80 g of shelled peas 100 g of spinach, washed and chopped 100 g of green beans 100 g of farmhouse brown bread with no salt cut into very fine slices 150 ml of olive oil ½ tsp of paprika Salt


Gently fry the garlic, onion and leeks in a casserole dish, without letting them brown. Add the tomatoes and the paprika. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon, then add the cabbage and pour on a little water. Cook for 15 minutes along with the green beans and the peas. Add the spinach and a tbsp more water, add a little salt, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. Then drain and put the broth to one side. Prepare an earthenware dish with half of the bread and drizzle with a splash of oil; cover with a layer of well-drained vegetables and place more bread on top, pouring on more oil. Add the rest of the vegetables and dip them with the broth put to one side; Drain excess broth.


They should be served well dry. Drizzle once again with oil and leave to dry a few minutes before serving.

Large Glasses of Red Wine


CHOPIN!  Too easy.


Maria — Kate Winslet

Edward — Joseph Fiennes

Sean — Aidan Turner

George Sand — Emmaneulle Seigner

Happy Reading & Eating!

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A Dog’s Purpose (Is Apparently to Make Me Cry)


My dogs, Eliza & Cleopatra

Bruce Cameron swears he wrote this novel because at the end, the dog doesn’t die.  BAH.  The dog dies three times!  And that’s not a spoiler.  It’s the premise of  A Dog’s Purpose, A Novel for Humans that Toby-Bailey-Ellie-Bear-Buddy is one dog who reincarnates to find his/her “real purpose” for being born over and over again.

A Dog’s Purpose is written in first-dog point of view, sharing important dogisms, theories and understandings.

“Dogs have important jobs, like barking when the doorbell rings, but cats have no function in a house whatsoever.” Bailey’s dim view of cats extends to horses and ducks.  But he likes other dogs.

    In the Yard I quickly adjusted to life in the pack, I learned to love Señora and Carlos and Bobby and just when my play with Coco was starting to assume a different, more complex character, we were taken to visit the nice lady in the cool room and the urgency I’d been feeling went completely away.

Bailey, the dog’s second incarnation, finds his true purpose when the little golden retriever escapes a bad situation and is rescued by Ethan’s mom.  When Bailey meets ten year old Ethan, doggy angels sing.  “I guess I had never bothered to consider that there might be such a thing as a boy, but now that I had found one, I thought it was just about the most wonderful concept in the world.”

Now, this book spent 52 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and claims it has the highest reader-ranking of any “recent book on the New York Times best-seller list.”  Everyone from Temple Grandin to Alice Walker has endorsed it.  And it’s a great book.  But to claim that A Dog’s Purpose is not a sad book, is completely disingenuous.

IMG_1554My dog Abra

In the end, though, A Dog’s Purpose is like my relationships with dogs.  I love them beyond words.  And when they must go, I grieve them.  But the love exceeds the grief beyond measure.


 Deconstructed Bangers and Mash  This is one of my favorite Boxing Day recipes but it works for A Dog’s Purpose.  I buy the little smokies beef sausages and cook them in the oven at 350 until browned.  Then I find the smallest newimg_3774 potatoes I can and scrub them, roast them whole with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.  When both are cooked, stack a potato and a sausage on a toothpick.

You could serve hot dogs, but I don’t eat those so I wouldn’t serve them.

Keebler makes a dogbone shaped cracker for people called Scooby Doo! Baked Graham Cracker Snacks.  I would serve these with fruit (grapes and berries) and a yogurt and honey dipping sauce.  I make the sauce using a container of Greek yogurt, honey to taste and cinnamon.  It’s simple and tastes great and is healthy than sour cream and much better with fruit.

Puppy Chow:  My family’s favorite Christmas snack.  My mother makes several pounds of it in November.

  • 9 cups Rice Chex™, Corn Chex™ or Chocolate Chex™ cereal (or combination)
  • 1cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2cup peanut butter
  • 1/4cup butter or margarine
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2cups powdered sugar
  • Place cereal Into large bowl, set aside.
  • In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
  • Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.


Man of the Hour, Norah Jones (MY FAVORITE!)

Hound Dog, Elvis Presley

Walking the Dog, Rufus Thomas

My Dog and Me, John Hyatt

Black Dog, Led Zeppelin

Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?, Harry Connick, Jr. (and many others)

My Buddy, Frank Sinatra’s version is nice

Beer for My Horses, Toby Keith

Your Song, Ellie Goulding


Really, the dogs are the most important characters, except for Ethan.  Dreamworks has a movie in development.

Ethan:  Zach Efron or Chord Overstreet (From Glee)

Hannah:  Carrie Underwood or Hayden Panettiere

Happy Reading!

Link to the Book Trailer video:“>

The Tale Around the Tale: Harper Lee’s New Novel “Go Set a Watchman”

gregory peck

Atticus Finch, Harper Lee’s beloved fictional attorney from her American masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird, embodies the strongest morals, ethics and actions.  He is an attorney who protects his client’s interests above his own, a father who teaches his children to respect other views and opinions even if they are different, and a neighbor who recognized and valued the unique in all.

“Atticus, you must be wrong.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong. . .”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

On Tuesday, the literary world was rocked by the announcement that Harper Lee would publish a new book this summer.  Harper Lee!  Author of one novel in her 88 years of existence had a new novel coming out.  I heard the announcement on NPR as I was driving and very nearly had to pull off the road I was so excited.  When I reached my computer, I began looking up the news articles.  Harper Collins would publish in July; initial run of two million copies; Harper Lee thrilled that the book was so well-received; manuscript thought to be lost until Ms. Lee’s attorney found a copy of it attached to an original manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird; story revolves around grown Scout going home to Macomb; written first.  You’ve probably seen the announcements too.

A day later, concerns began to be raised.  Ms. Lee’s sister Alice who died in November, 2014 at the age of 103, had been Harper’s attorney, protector and essentially her guardian.  That is when Harper Lee’s new attorney, Tonja Carter, became involved.  In 2011, Alice Lee wrote: “Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.”

Tonja Carter is the attorney who located the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

Shortly after getting her law degree from the University of Alabama in 2006, Ms. Carter started working at Alice Lee’s century-old law firm, Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter, LLC doing probate and criminal law work.

“Ms. Alice just loved her. She’s almost like family to [the Lees]” said William R. “Bob” McMillan, the circuit clerk of Monroe County who said he got to know Ms. Carter through his professional work, in an interview with Law Blog.

She’s also married to a pilot who is the son of a cousin to the late author Truman Capote, who was a close friend of Ms. Lee’s and also from Monroeville. In 2013, the couple opened a restaurant called “The Prop and Gavel” in Monroeville’s historic downtown square, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. The business is temporarily closed, according to its Facebook page.

According to the Martingale-Hubbell Law Directory, Tonja Brooks Carter graduated from the University of Alabama school of law in 2006.  Ms. Carter’s linkedin profile shows that her work experience as an attorney has been solely at the law firm of Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter in Monroeville, Alabama.  The Lee in firm was Alice Lee.  At this point, the firm consists only of John Barnett, III and Tonja Carter.  I have not been able to locate a website for the firm or a photo of Ms. Carter.  Her practice areas are listed on linkedin as including litigation, criminal law, family law and wills.

Ms. Carter appears to be as publicity-shy as her client, Harper Lee.

As do all states, the Alabama Supreme Court has established Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, to which Ms. Carter and all attorneys in the state are subject.  For example:

Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.7.

Conflict of Interest: General Rule.

(a) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless:

(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and

(2) Each client consents after consultation.

(b) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client or a third person, or by the lawyer’s own interests, unless:

(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not be adversely affected; and

(2) The client consents after consultation. When representation of multiple clients in a single matter is undertaken, the consultation shall include explanation of the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.

Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.8.

Conflict of Interest: Prohibited Transactions.

(a) A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:

(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client;

(2) the client is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel in the transaction; and

(3) the client consents in writing thereto.

(b) A lawyer shall not use information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client consents after consultation, except as permitted or required by Rule 1.6 or Rule 3.3.

(c) A lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee.

(d) Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.

(e) A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:

(1) a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter;

(2) a lawyer representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of the client;

(3) a lawyer may advance or guarantee emergency financial assistance to the client, the repayment of which may not be contingent on the outcome of the matter, provided that no promise or assurance of financial assistance was made to the client by the lawyer, or on the lawyer’s behalf, prior to the employment of

the lawyer; and

(4) in an action in which an attorney’s fee is expressed and payable, in whole or in part, as a percentage of the recovery in the action, a lawyer may pay, from his own account, court costs and expenses of litigation. The fee paid to the attorney from the proceeds of the action may include an amount equal to such costs and expenses incurred.

(f) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:

(1) the client consents after consultation or the lawyer is appointed pursuant to an insurance contract;

(2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and

(3) information relating to the representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.

(g) A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client consents after consultation, including disclosure of the existence and nature of all claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.

(h) A lawyer shall not make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer’s liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement, or settle a claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewith.

(i) A lawyer related to another lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse shall not represent a client in a representation directly adverse to a person who the lawyer knows is represented by the other lawyer except upon consent by the client after consultation regarding the relationship.

(j) A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that a lawyer may:

(1) acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses; and
(2) contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case.
(k) In no event shall a lawyer represent both parties in a divorce or domestic

relations proceeding, or in matters involving custody of children, alimony, or child support, whether or not contested. In an uncontested proceeding of this nature a lawyer may have contact with the nonrepresented party and shall be deemed to have complied with this prohibition if the nonrepresented party knowingly executes a document that is filed in such proceeding acknowledging:

(1) that the lawyer does not and cannot appear to serve as the lawyer for the nonrepresented party;

(2) that the lawyer represents only the client and will use the lawyer’s best efforts to protect the client’s best interests;

(3) that the nonrepresented party has the right to employ counsel of the party’s own choosing and has been advised that it may be in the party’s best interest to do so; and

(4) that having been advised of the foregoing, the nonrepresented party has requested the lawyer to prepare an answer and waiver under which the cause may be submitted without notice and as may be appropriate.

(l) A lawyer shall not engage in sexual conduct with a client or representative of a client that exploits or adversely affects the interests of the client or the lawyer-client relationship, including, but not limited to:

(1) requiring or demanding sexual relations with a client or a representative of a client incident to or as a condition of legal representation;

(2) continuing to represent a client if the lawyer’s sexual relations with the client or the representative of the client cause the lawyer to render incompetent representation.

(m) Except for a spousal relationship or a sexual relationship that existed at the commencement of the lawyer-client relationship, sexual relations between the lawyer and the client shall be presumed to be exploitive. This presumption is rebuttable.

(n) While lawyers are associated in a firm, a prohibition in the foregoing paragraphs (a) through (h) and in paragraphs (j) and (k) that applies to one of them shall apply to all of them.

Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.14.
Client with Diminished Capacity.

(a) When a client’s ability to make adequately considered decisions in connection with the representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment, or for some other reason, the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client.

(b) When the lawyer reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial, or other harm unless action is taken, and cannot adequately act in the client’s own interest, the lawyer may take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator, or guardian.

(c) Information relating to the representation of a client with diminished capacity is protected by Rule 1.6. When taking protective action pursuant to paragraph (b), the lawyer is impliedly authorized under Rule 1.6(a) to reveal information about the client, but only to the extent necessary to protect the client’s interest.

     Atticus Finch would definitely have upheld these rules of conduct.  He exemplified them.  Let’s all hope Ms. Carter does as well.

Revisiting Gilead: Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

Iowa Postcard Image

     “Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”   From Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson.

     I met Lila for the first-time as John Ames’ quiet, somewhat awkward wife in Gilead.  The mother of the child to whom Ames’ murmurings, thoughts, philosophies — the text of Gilead — were written.   Lila came to Reverend Ames when he had passed into his own-considered old age, 67, and gave him a child.  A miracle.  The Issac to his Abraham.

Sacrifice_of_Isaac-Caravaggio_(c._1603) Sacrifice of Issac, Caravaggio

    In Lila, she returns as the teller of her own tale.  Her birth as an ugly and unwanted child, stolen by a woman named Doll   taken from the home that didn’t want her into an on-the-road existence, a migrant worker even as a child.  But Doll loved her, cared for her, taught her what she knew.  “Doll always said, Just be quiet. Whatever it is, just wait for it to be over. Everything ends sometime.”

    Marilynne Robinson has written four novels, each of which is considered a masterpiece.  For Gilead, she won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Ambassador Book Award.   Robinson was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2013, she has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop since its inception.  the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award.  Lila was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award.  

     Robinson writes as John Ames in Gilead.  In Lila, she pens a memoir inside the life of Lila but from a third person point of view.  Close to the woman, but never completely inside her.  The reader intuits that this is how John Ames must feel sharing his life with Lila.  He longs to know her secrets, but she is too skittish, too distrustful.  All too ready to take the next train out of town. “You best keep to yourself, except you never can.”

    From the first page, the beauty of Robinson’s prose and the tenacity of her protagonist pulls the reader into the somewhat unlikely spell of the town of Gilead, Iowa.

Gilead was the kind of town where dogs slept in the road for the sun and the warmth that lingered after the sun was gone, and the few cars that there were had to stop and honk until the dogs decided to get up and let them pass by. They’d go limping off to the side, lamed by the comfort they’d had to give up, and then they’d settle down again right where they were before. It really wasn’t much of a town.

     With themes of loneliness, desertion, poverty and existential, theological and political questions running throughout these novels, why are they so beloved?  Perhaps Gilead represents the crux of our American struggle with our religious past and our humanist present.  With our country’s striving for peace by fighting wars.  With our rage against injustice while exercising our own prejudices.  It would take no less than a Marilynne Robinson to create a beautiful order out of the contradictory chaos.


For further reference:  an in-depth interview with Marilynne Robinson, and a New Yorker review of Lila:


The book features lots of casseroles, brought by the well-meaning ladies of John Ames’ church, sandwiches, catfish and corn mush.  For inspiration, I dug into my Grandmother’s recipe box.

Chicken California Casserole

Saute 1/2 green pepper chopped, 1 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 1/2 cup chopped celery.  Add 1 can mushrooms with liquid, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 teaspoon each of pepper and salt.  1/4 teaspoon each of curry and sage.  4 cups of diced chicken, 12 ounce package of wild rice (pre-cooked), 2 beaten eggs and 1 cup slivered almonds.  Bake at 350 for one hour.

Cornmeal Mush

1 1/4 cups cornmeal
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Mix together cornmeal, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. If using as cereal, spoon mush into bowls and serve with milk and sugar, if desired. If frying, pour mixture into a loaf pan and chill completely. Remove from pan, cut into slices, and fry in a small amount of oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Serve with sauce of your choice.


For dessert, I would add a dessert that speaks to Lila’s talent for roses.  I found this link that offers several dessert recipes featuring roses:


Though I couldn’t find many musicians from Iowa with whom I was familiar, I did find Bix Beiderbecke, born in 1903 in Davenport.  He would have been younger than John Ames, but older than Lila and his music may have been familiar to both.


John Ames:  Jon Voight

Lila:  Mary Steenburgen

Doll:  Melissa Leo

Happy Reading!