The Lake House by Kate Morton

lake house

Lake house in Albany, NY from Albany archives

Sadie Sparrow, forced into vacation from her post as detective with the London Metropolitan police department for her work on a missing mother case, retreats to Cornwall circa 2003 to visit her grandfather Bertie. While there, she finds an abandoned lake house — Loeanneth — the ancestral home of the deShiel family where a notorious crime occurred in 1933: the youngest child of Lord Anthony Edevane and his wife Eleanor deShiel Evevane  went missing.

So begins Kate Morton’s historical fiction, whodunit, Gothic romance, police procedural The Lake House. It has everything! A meet cute! An affair! A revenge plot! Tunnels! Fired servants! Charming grandpa! Pig-headed detectives! A crime novelist! And lots (and lots and lots and lots) of scenic detail. Grasses waving, winds whispering, brooks babbling, minds wandering, backstories telling, etc . . .

Midsummer-Ball_LgIt all began in 1933 at the Edevane’s Midsummer Party. Which actually was the deShielx tradition continued by Lord Anthony Edevane and Eleanor after Anthony rescued Loeanneth as a post-wedding, posf-suprise lordship gift for his wife.

So it all began in 1914ish when Anthony and Eleanor mlipton teaet cute: Anthony saved Eleanor from being run down on the streets of London by a bus bearing a Lipton tea ad on her way to see some tigers.

Actually, it all began in 2003 when Sadie Sparrow, incensed by the pigheaded of her superiors to consider her theory that a child’s mother has been murdered rather than run away, goes to the media and plants her theory in contravention of her orders. She is then placed on involuntary administrative leave by her partner where she discovers — Loeanneth. And a mystery she can sink her teeth into: the disappearance of 9 month old baby Theo.

Or perhaps it began when Eleanor was a child and her father’s best friend, Mr. Llewellyn, wrote a book for her that became a childhood classic.

Throughout The Lake House, each thought becomes a complex reference to the past and that reference is connected to another memory which strings along to the present or future.

The best view of the lake was from the Mulberry Room but Alice decided to mae do with the bathroom window. Mr. Llewellyn was still down by the stream with his easel, but he always retired early for a rest and she didn’t want to risk an encounter. The old man was harmless enough, but he was eccentric and needy, especially of late, and she feared her unexpected presence his room would send the wrong sort of signal. She’d been enormously fond of him once, when she was younger, and he of her. Odd to think of it now, at sixteen, the stories he’d told, the little sketches he’d drawn that she’d treasured, the air of wonder he’d trailed behind him like a song. At any rate, the bathroom was closer than the Mulberry Room, and with only a matter of minutes before Mother realised the first-floor rooms lacked flowers, Alice had no time to waste in climbing stairs.
The Lake House has interesting characters, a multi-dimensional plot, several elements of mystery and yet, at least in the audio version, it was at times a behemoth read (21 hours and 24 minutes!). The printed version is 512 pages long. If you love English-ness in your fiction, you will appreciate The Lake House. It seems a bit long for my book club, but there may be some that would lustily attack the pages, the details and the mysteries. There is certainly an abundance of food.
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TEA. Dearie me, if you played a drinking game every time tea is mentioned in this book you would be drunk by page 5.
During one particularly significant picnic, Eleanor provides
Ham Sandwiches
Cox’s Orange Pippins (an apple!)
Cake
There is also mention of “bully beef” (Corned beef) and tinned milk.
And Pear Cake.
From Chocolate and Zucchini, a lovely food blog, here’s a recipe for Pear Cake. It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try. http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/my-grandmothers-pear-cake-recipe/
MUSIC
Music wasn’t incredibly important to the plot of The Lake House but some of the names of the characters were incredibly musical. I think I will make a play list based on character’s names.
Alice — Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown
Deborah — Deborah by The Crickets
Clementine — Darling Clementine, folk song
Eleanor — Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles
Ben — Ben by Michael Jackson
Bertie — Bertie by Kate Bush
Anthony — Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) by Billy Joel
Sadie — Sadie by James Taylor
Isn’t that fun?!?!
Casting lake house book
Young Alice — Saoirse Ronin
Sadie — Kelly Reilly (love her in season two of True Detective)
Anthony — Jude Law
Eleanor — Sienna Miller
Ben — Jamie Dornan
Old Alice — Judi Dench
Bertie — Michael Gambon
HAPPY READING!
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For the Love of Literature: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

tamerlane

   A.J. Fikry has decided to drink himself to death.  His beautiful wife has died, his bookstore on isolated Alice Island (think Nantucket) is languishing and he has only one friend, a rare and valuable edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane.  So begins The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin’s love letter to books, book sellers and the corner bookstore.

    It took me less than 48 hours to read this book and I enjoyed every moment of it.  I enjoyed the main plot, the subplots and even the introductory pages, written in A.J.’s own hand about the short stories he particularly enjoys.  These notes are meant for his adopted daughter, Maya, who arrives very shortly after the book opens by being left in the bookstore.  Her mother leaves a note.

This is Maya.  She is twenty-five months old.  She is VERY SMART, exceptionally verbal for her age, and a sweet, good girl.  I want her to grow up to be a reader.  I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things.  I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her.  The father cannot be in her life, and I do not have a family that can help.  I am desperate.

books

     With Maya’s arrival, A.J.’s life and life view expand, as does his business.  Friends come to A.J., a new wife, opportunities and we these expansions and changes not only through the narrative but also through A.J.’s notes to his daughter.  He is a character we come to know by his thoughts on what he reads as much as by his own actions.  Gabrielle Zevin says that was an intentional component of her writing The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry:  

“I thought as a strategy it would be really interesting to describe people in terms of what they read and how they read,” she says. “I think you can do a lot, like describing people with their physical characteristics, things like that, but to me I’ve always found it to be a much more informative question to ask somebody what they read.”  http://www.npr.org/2014/03/28/294393870/in-storied-life-characters-come-with-a-reading-list

     In one of my favorite scenes, A.J.’s mother delivers a Christmas gift of three e-readers to the Fikry family.  Teenager Maya is secretly delighted, A.J.’s wife is neutral but A.J. himself is appalled.  He believes e-readers will spell the death of book stores such as his own and more than that, predicts dire consequences for the whole of literature.  “Everyone thinks they have good taste, but most people do not have good taste.  In fact, I’d argue that most people have terrible taste.  When left to their own devices — literally their own devices — they read crap and they don’t know the difference.”

    I, personally am in agreement with A.J.’s wife that there is room for both.  When I travel, I can take as many books as I want on an e-reader.  But at home, I much prefer a book.  Cover, paper, pages.  The smell and feel and experience of a book.  Thanks to my friends at the Morris Book Shop and many other book sellers, Sue Ann Allen, for one, I often find something I would never have found on my own.  Like Tana French.  Or Zadie Smith.

Morris Book

        In the end, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a story about stories and the people who read them.  “We read to know we’re not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.”  And what could be better than that?

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     I would replicate the meal Amelia serves to A.J. when he comes to visit:  lasagna and garlic bread with red wine.

Turkey Lasagna

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast, browned
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound whole wheat lasagna noodles
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the turkey and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

MUSIC

Since we are in the right place and time, I would play Carole King and James Taylor.

MOVIE CASTING

A.J. — Adil Hussain (Life of Pi)

Amelia — Lisa Kudrow

Maya — ?

Police Chief Lambiase — Woody Harrelson

Ismay — Holly Hunter-ish, but not quite right

Suggestions?

Happy Reading!

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

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Hush little baby, don’t say a word,

Mama’s gonna buy you a Mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing

Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s 1960 coming-of-age novel won the Pulitzer Prize, made the names Boo Radley, Scout and Atticus Finch cultural touchstones and arguably, at least in the case of Atticus Finch, archetypes, and may well have helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

    The story is a familiar one, not only in terms of this book, but to childhood itself.  There’s a new kid in town who challenges the norms.  Figuring an offensive burst is better than defending himself for his exotic background and petite frame, Dill taunts Scout and her brother Jem into confronting the stranger who lives in the spooky house within their midst:  Boo Radley.

   All the while, Jem and Scout’s widowed father Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the town of Macomb, Alabama, is fighting the struggle of his life, in court and out, in defending a black man, Tom Robinson, from the unfounded accusations of Mayella Ewell and her father Bob Ewell.  The book, and the film adaptation, are so full of iconic moments that one simply needs to see an image or read a brief quote and be reminded of the fullness of feeling contained throughout this beautiful novel.

.   Atticus and Tom   mocking book     to_kill_a_mockingbird_photo

  On the eve of the novel’s fiftieth anniversary, American media outlets celebrated the novel in the way only American media outlets would:  by unleashing venom upon the book, Harper Lee and the novel’s fans.  The Wall Street Journal said, “It’s time to stop pretending that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is some kind of timeless classic that ranks with the great works of American literature.”  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703561604575283354059763326.  The New Yorker published Malcolm Gladwell’s interestingly harsh criticism of To Kill A Mockingbird on the eve of the novel’s 50th anniversary.  Gladwell’s hypothesis is that Atticus should have been a stronger defender of civil rights and lacked moral fiber.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/10/the-courthouse-ring.

It just seems to me that to judge Atticus Finch by 2009 standards is unfair.  Atticus was a man of his time and place, as Harper Lee makes very clear.  “He liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him and because of Simon Finch’s industry, Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in town.”  He treats everyone with respect; including some people the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal writers deem unworthy.  And everyone, almost everyone, in the town respects him.

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.  The foreman handed a piece of peer to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge. . . .

I shut my eyes.  Judge Taylor was polling the jury:  “Guilty . . . guilty . . . guilty . . . guilty . . . ”  I peeked at Jem:  his hands were white from gipping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stage between them.

. . .

Atticus took his coat off the back of his chair and pulled it over his shoulder.  Then he left the courtroom, but not by his usual exit.  He must have wanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the south exit.  I followed the top of his head as he made his way to the door.  He did not look up.

Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.

“Miss Jean Louise?”

I looked around.  They were all standing.  All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet.  Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up.  Your father’s passin’.”

atticus-finch-1

MENU

The book is plumb full of great food, from Calpurnia’s summertime daily does of lemonade, to the many angel food cakes, to the Halloween pageant costumes of Maycomb County agricultural products including ham, beef, butter beans and peanuts.

My book club menu for To Kill A Mockingbird would include:

County ham and biscuits

Butterbeans (baby lima beans) with butter, salt and pepper

Roasted new potatoes (400 degree oven, salt & pepper and olive oil til crispy)

My grandmother’s angel food cake

1 1/4 up soften cake flour

1/2 cup sugar

12 egg whites at room temperature

1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/3 cup sugar

Measure sifted four, add 1/2 cup sugar and sift four times.  Combine egg whites, cram of tartar, salt and flavorings in large bowl.  Beat at high sped until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle in rest of sugar in 4 additions beating until blended after each addition.  Sift in flour mixture in four additions, folding in with large spoon, turn bowl often.  Pour into ungreased 10 inch tube pan and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.  Cook cake upside down in pan on cake rack.

And of course, Tequila Mockingbirds

  • 1 Jalapeño pepper slice
  • 2 oz Patrón Silver Tequila
  • 1.5 oz Watermelon-Basil Purée*
  • .75 oz Fresh lime juice
  • .75 oz Agave syrup (one part agave nectar, one part water)

In a shaker, muddle the jalapeño slice. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake for 10 seconds and double strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

*Watermelon-Basil Purée

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Chopped fresh watermelon
  • 7 Basil leaves

PREPARATION:
Purée both ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

 MUSIC

Must start with James Taylor and Carly Simon’s Mockingbird!  This video is too much fun, to see Sweet Baby James and Carly dancing the shag mid-song.  http://youtu.be/4WM_R-6AKHE

Rocking Robin, Jackson Five

Blackbird, the Beatles

Freebird (if you can stand it)

Little Bird, Annie Lennox

MOVIE CASTING

There’s no need to remake To Kill a Mockingbird, but if Hollywood should ever decide it wants to, I can only hope George Clooney will be cast as Atticus Finch.

 

Happy Reading & Eating!

 

 

Mockingbird illustration by Jon Janoski, credit Encyclopedia Britannica