Summer Reads 2015

dog_driving_carHeaded Out for A Little Fun in the Sun?  Want to take the perfect book(s) with you?

I thought I might be able to help.  All of these are in paperback, because I find it much more difficult to haul 5-8 hardbound books.  Any of the below books would be divine at the beach or the pool, on the campground or in the air.  I often try to match my reading to my destination, hoping to add a little insider info to my trip.  Just a tip.

Happy Vacating!

In Euphoria, Lily King’s intoxicating trek into the exotic locale of Papua, New Guinea, three anthropologists (Australian, euphoriaAmerican and British) find themselves far from home.  King’s anthropologists are simulacrums of Margaret Mead, her husband Reo Fortune and her future husband, Gregory Bateson.

Originally reviewed:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/love-in-the-time-of-malaria-euphoria-by-lily-king/

f_doerr_allthelight_fAnthony Doerr’s gorgeous novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.  All The Light We Cannot See encompasses WW2 within an examination of the lives and worlds of two teenagers:  Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfenning, a German whiz-kid desperate to live the coal mine fate of his home town of Essen.   Written mostly in the present tense, with recurring flashbacks throughout both children’s lives, All The Light progresses inevitably to their meeting during the siege of St.-Malo, France, in August of 1944.

Originally reviewed:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/all-the-light-we-cannot-see-by-anthony-doerr/

the secret place

Tana French has become one of my obsessions.  She publishes a new book, I must have it in hard back and begin reading immediately.  In the Woods, her first novel, remains my favorite of her five books; however, all are excellent.  Her most recent, The Secret Place, is my second favorite.  These are page-turning, mystery novels set in Ireland with a cast of realistic, driven and haunted characters.

BeautifulRuins_small-330-exp

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  On the rugged, Mediterranean coast of Italy, a land of five towns clings stunningly to the edge of the cliffs;  accessible only by boat, offering fresh seafood pulled daily from the Ligurian sea by men whose families have done the same for centuries and a hiding place from the modern world, the Cinque Terre seems just the place for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to have sought refuge during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.  In Jess Walter’s sumptuous novel Beautiful Ruins, they do just this.  And the tale of the IT couple’s visit to Porto Vergogna, a lonely innkeeper, a starlet, star-crossed lovers, a wannabe screenwriter (whose big concept is “Donner!,” a movie about the Donner party,) a nauseating Hollywood producer and fifty years of frustrated confusion make the novel one of my top five reads.

Originally reviewed:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/simply-beautiful-beautiful-ruins-by-jess-walter/

VacationersA New York family brings a large set of first world problems to Mallorca, where even more challenges await:  a Spanish tutor both mom and daughter have the hots for, a retired Spanish tennis stud and lots of gorgeous food and descriptions and you have The Vacationers by Emma Straub.  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-vacationers-by-emma-straub/

Other books that would make great traveling companions:  The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff (Utah); Boy, Snow, Bird (Maine); Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple (Seattle); The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion; The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro (Paris), Dominance, by Will Lavender.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Seaside Resort in the South of France 1927 by Paul Klee 1879-1940

Advertisements

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

1111-bw-lanvin-19

Madame Zen a legendary and mysterious Russian perfumer who lived and worked in Paris, created Lanvin’s famous My Sin perfume, among others. Kathleen Tessaro’s character Madame Zed in her novel The Perfume Collector is, according to Tessaro, based on “a fistful of facts” surrounding the real perfumer. Thus, Madame Zed is both at the heart of and absent from The Perfume Collector.

In The Perfume Collector, Madame Zed launches at least one of the careers of Eva d’Orsay and also holds the secrets to Grace Munroe’s past.  She is the both the top note and base note in the novel, to employ the perfume phrase.

Eva D’Orsay works in the Warwick Hotel in New York City in 1927.  Grace Munroe is an unhappily married former debutante in England circa 1955.  When Eva dies at the opening of the book, she leaves specific instructions to dispense a plane ticket to Grace for her travel to Paris to collect an inheritance that includes a luxurious apartment, stock portfolio and a box of cheap, glass tchotches.  Grace has never met Eva, has no idea who she is or why Eva would leave her an inheritance with the bequest that Grace be able to “choose for herself.”

warwick       The setting in the Warwick Hotel certainly appealed to me, as it’s one of my favorite places in New York, both to stay and just to stop into the bar for a drink.  I always expect to see Carey Grant right around the corner.  Tessaro said in an interview with the Keep Calm and Read a book blog:  “I researched and used the Warwick Hotel in New York City, which has the kind of glamorous history that embodied the extravagant, wildly optimistic spirit of the age. Built in 1925 by William Randolph Hearst, it catered to the needs of his Hollywood friends and especially his mistress, Ziegfeld Follies, and screen star Marion Davies, who had her own specially designed floor. It was always a show business hotel and so was from the outset, was accustomed to dealing with outrageous and larger than life characters. It was also the New York home of Carey Grant for twelve years.”

https://keepcalmandreadabook.wordpress.com/tag/kathleen-tessaro/

   So between New York in the Roaring Twenties and Paris at the height of Dior’s New Look and post-war euphoria, the setting of The Perfume Collector are marvelous.  And there’s a mystery at the heart of the book, that even once you have solved, keeps you turning the pages for a bit more information.

   But to me, the most appealing element of the novel are the descriptions of the perfume creations:

My Sin, the label read, in gold lettering.

Very carefully she opened it, holding the gold stopper to her nose.  Up wafted the intense floral top notes of narcissus and freesia, warming to a dark, almost animal muskiness.  It was intoxicatingly beautiful and, at the same time, dangerous, with jarring hidden depths.

My Sin has been discontinued, alas.  And from what I can find, the perfume named Aureole Noire by its creator Monsieur Valmont has never actually existed.

Bright, icy clear and yet tender at the same time — built on the original idea of contrasting states that had inspired him with rain.  Top notes of velvety violet leaves, luxurious white flowers and light geranium, warmed to fiery depths, created from ambers resins, smoky wood and smoldering dry citrus leaves.  Underlying does of ouhd and ambergris lent it a melting, shifting quality; metamorphosing from an apparition of pure light, to a burning dark core and back again.  It was a scent that lacked coyness, made no concessions to charm.  Like standing on the edge of a great and terrifying cliff, it was shocking, beautiful, sublime.

napoleon

  The novel is a swift, pleasant, escapist journey that transports the reader through exotic places and scents and times without requiring much effort from her.

  While writing this post, I found a beautiful blog on perfumes with reviews, history, and even personalized recommendations.  http://boisdejasmin.com.  You might want to check that out.

MENU

Salade Nicoise

Use Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa recipe.  We had this at book club recently and it was the most popular dish ever served.  Our hostess mounded the salmon and vegetables on a beautiful platter and made the dressing easily available for us to serve ourselves.  Heaven!  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-salmon-nicoise-platter-recipe.html

Crusty French bread (buy it)

A French wine, perhaps a white Burgundy, Macon-Villages

For dessert, beautiful French chocolates

MUSIC

Josephine Baker is a must.  Blue Skies, Bye Bye Blackbird

American in Paris, Leonard Bernstein

Soundtrack from Gigi

MOVIE CASTING

Madame Zed:  Shirley MacLaine

Eva D’Orsay:  Shailene Woodley

Grace Munroe:  Natalie Portman

Andre Valmont:  Chris Colfer

Roger Munroe:  Benedict Cumberbatch

Monsieur Tissot:  Jean DuJardin

Enjoy!

*Vintage Lanvin ad, postcard of the Warwick Hotel