Crossing the Tracks: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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     I was browsing my local book sellers a week or so after New Year and picked up a hardbound book on the fiction shelf. The cover was bright, green and black with blurred lines of type:  The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.  “Ah yes, I think I heard of this, NPR, maybe?” I said to my buddy, Proprietor Wyn Morris.  “It’s supposed to be the new Gone Girl,” Wyn nodded sagely.  “Really?”  “Indeed.”  I plonked down my cash and took it home, vowing to place it at the top of the “to read” pile.

     Here’s a link to the NPR review:  http://www.npr.org/2015/01/13/376167043/girl-on-the-train-pays-homage-to-hitchcock.

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     Much like Gone Girl, there are exceedingly unreliable narrators though in this case, two women.  One the girl of the title.  She, Rachel, is on the train because she’s riding it into London, pretending to go to her office from which she’s been fired for getting wasted during a client lunch.  The train trip also allows her to spy on her ex-husband’s house and the nearby home of a young married couple (Megan and Scott) around whom she has created a elaborate fantasy.  As Rachel sips from yet another canned Gin & Tonic (yuck by the way), or pours herself a glass of wine from the brown paper bag on her tray table.  I couldn’t help but think train travel must be quite a bit different in the UK, but then again, I’ve only travelled by train in the US once that I can think of so for all I know loads of people are carting canned G&T’s with them all over the place.

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     Megan is the second narrator of the novel.  When Megan disappears, Rachel over-involves herself in helping Scott to find his wife.  Unfortunately, since Rachel was near the scene of Megan’s disappearance and in a dead-drunk blackout, her help is mostly in name only.

     It would be impossible to describe much more of the plot without ruining your read.  I will say, for those who were disappointed in the conclusion of Gone Girl, you will not find the same frustration here.  There is quite the corker of an ending.

MENU

     Other than a breakfast of eggs and bacon, I don’t recall anyone eating any food in this book.  There was an incredible amount of alcohol however.  So I’ve taken that as my cue for menu planning:

DRUNKEN CHICKEN

Ingredients
1 (3-pound) chicken
Seasoned salt
House seasoning, recipe follows
1 (12-ounce) can beer
1 sprig rosemary

Directions
Preheat a charcoal grill over high heat. When the coals are hot and glowing, carefully push them over to the sides of the grill, leaving an open space in the middle of the grill. Wash and drain chicken. Coat the chicken inside and out with seasoned salt, pepper, lemon pepper and/or garlic powder. Open the can of beer and carefully insert a sprig of rosemary. Then, place the beer can into the body cavity starting at the rear of the chicken. Carefully place the chicken on the center of the grill, facing 1 of the banks of the coals, making sure not to spill the beer. Cover the grill and cook until chicken is done, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning the chicken as necessary. The chicken is done when the juice runs clear.

PASTA WITH GIN SAUCE

You’ve heard of vodka sauce?  Well, Macheesmo says his Gin Penne Pasta is even better.  I’m going to try it.  It would go well with the Drunken Chicken and the book theme.  Here’s the recipe link:  http://www.macheesmo.com/2012/01/gin-penne-pasta/

BOURBON BALLS

You CAN make them, but I’d rather buy them from Old Kentucky Candies or Rebecca Ruth.  http://www.oldkycandy.comhttp://rebeccaruth.stores.yahoo.net

Another great dessert would be POACHED PEARS

Peel (carefully) pears.  If you want to serve whole, leave the stem intact.  If you want to serve halves, core them and halve.

In a stainless steel pan, mix four cups red wine with one cup of sugar until sugar dissolves.

Place the pears in the pan, then cover them with a plate to weigh them down and ensure even cooking.  Heat at simmer for ten minutes, then check doneness with a fork.  Continue to simmer to taste.  Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and serve warm or store in the poaching liquid until ready to serve.

MUSIC

You’re Not Drinking Enough, Don Henley

Crazy, Patsy Cline

Crazy, Gnarls Barkley

Family Tradition, Hank Williams, Jr.

Five O’Clock Somewhere, Alan Jackson

Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett

Friends in Low Places, Garth Brooks

Paula Hawkins’ Facebook page featured a link to a playlist created especially for The Girl on the Train:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLG3OkdArBbNCi2C0f_s1XttGebLGWFiCI.

MOVIE CAST

This, by the way, has lots of potential for a movie.

Rachel — Kate Winslet

Megan — Sienna Miller

Anna — Carey Mulligan

Scott — Tom Hardy

Tom — Christian Bale

UPDATE: The movie version will come out later this year and I didn’t get a single actor right. The producers went with several American actors. Here’s a full list: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3631112/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

Happy Reading, Eating & Moderate Drinking!

Summertime: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

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   In 1931, Smith College senior Lily Dane attends a football game with her friend Budgie Byrne to watch Budgie’s boyfriend play.  The two girls have been friends since they shared their first taste of ice cream summering at Seaview, Rhode Island, home to both families’ ancestral beach cottages.  As Budgie cheers on her all-star boyfriend, Graham Pendleton, Lily becomes mesmerized by the quarterback, piratically handsome (and Jewish) Nick Greenwald.

  Beatriz Williams, the author, terms the novel “High Society meets the Perfect Storm.”  http://bookmagnet.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/interview-with-beatriz-williams-author-of-a-hundred-summers/.  She says:

But the book is really about all the things that take place beneath the surface of a persona and a community, and the social and sexual turmoil that was turning everything upside-down in the years after the First World War. That’s the real storm taking place at Seaview and Western culture generally, and I think the book rewards a close attention to the details.

  (Note to self:  great tag line for a query.)

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  Lily and Nick fall immediately in love and, on New Years’ Day in the middle of a snowstorm, elope.

  But in a parallel story line narrated by Lily in 1938 from Seaview, we discover that it is Budgie and Nick who are married.  Lily, her mother, her spicy Aunt Julie and Lily’s six year old sister Kiki must watch the Greenwald’s marriage from their beach house a few doors down.

  Amidst the romance, the frustration, the obvious broken-heartedness of both Lily and Nick, there are elements of class warfare, anti-Semitism, the crash of 1929, rumors of WW2 and the rise of Hitler and finally, the infamous northeast Hurricane of 1938 that decimated beach communities including Napatree Point, on which the fictional Seaview is based.  Williams’ harrowing description of the storm surge and its aftermath is particularly vivid.  This website has actual photos of the community before and after the hurricane, showing the devastation.  http://www.oocities.org/hurricanene/hurr1938.htm.  Napatree Point has never been rebuilt and is now a nature preserve.

  A Hundred Summers is a New York Times’ bestseller and Kirkus reviews calls it a candidate for the big beach read this year.  I enjoyed it immensely.  The delayed gratification and yearning of Lily and Nick is a stark contrast to much of today’s fiction.  It is a good, old-fashioned love story.  One review compared it to Daphne duMaurier.

   Williams’ website:  http://www.beatrizwilliams.com

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MENU

Nick and Lily eat a lot of breakfasts and a lot of steaks.  There’s also quite a bit of champagne being quaffed, despite the impact of prohibition until 1933, and gin and tonics at the beach.  This would be my menu:

Gin & Tonic:  3 oz Gin, 4 oz Tonic, juice of 1/2 lime over tall glass of ice

Oysters Rockefeller.  Oysters Rockefeller was developed by Antoine’s in New Orleans, but it just seems to be like the perfect dish for this beachy, tony novel.  Here’s the supposedly original recipe:  http://www.gumbopages.com/food/app/erstas-rock.html.  That link alone has to merit a “like” for this blog post, doesn’t it, if not an actual follow?

Toast points with cream cheese and caviar

MUSIC

I recently caught a late night showing of Evil Under the Sun, a Peter Ustinov-as-Poirot 1930s-set Agatha Christie adaptation. Great movie, Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin, Roddy McDowell, James Mason, and Diana Rigg!  Gorgeous 1930s high fashion costumes.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083908/?ref_=nv_sr_1.  But I digress:  the soundtrack was totally Cole Porter.   It’s available on iTunes.  It would be the perfect backdrop for a book club discussion of A Hundred Summers.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/evil-under-sun-music-from/id299660594.

MOVIE CASTING.  This would be a really good movie, along the lines of The Notebook, I think.

Nick:  I can’t find my Nick.  Suggestions?

Lily:  Jennifer Lawrence

Budgie:  Natalie Portman (wouldn’t she look divine in all those 1930s styles?)

Graham:  Armie Hammer

Enjoy!

*Images postcards except for the football game which was from a football archive, no photographer listed