In Tatiana de Rosnay’s The House I Loved fifty year-old Rose Bazelet writes letters to her long-deceased husband detailing her life since his passing. Napoleon III’s plans to raze Rose’s home as part of his re-imagined Paris consume the older woman’s thoughts. For Rose,who grew up in Paris and lived her most vivid moments in the house on rue Childebert,the loss of her home is too much to bear,and she turns to her only outlet—letter writing.
Paris is often synonymous with love,passion,and romance. Therefore,an elderly Parisian woman remembering her life and retelling it in letters to her dead husband seems fitting. However,Rose Bazelet’s story falls flat,and The House I Loved fails to live up to the intriguing summary on the book’s cover. Though Rose talks repeatedly about how the house on rue Childebert means everything to her,it was hard to believe that she was being sincere. For one,it was her husband’s childhood home,not hers,and until they married,she never set foot in the place. Rose did attribute many of her fondest memories to the house,especially her time spent with her mother-in-law,but she also experienced many terrible events in the house,including the death of her beloved only son,as well as a life-changing assault.
Though deeply in love with the house,Rose’s interactions with people were unbelievably cold. She continually mentions that she did not like her daughter from the moment the child was born. Rose also admits on plenty of occasions the detachment she felt toward her own mother. While Rose’s love for her husband was fierce,I didn’t understand how she could be so attached to the house and so distant from those who loved her most. Though I wanted to slip away into a romantic Parisian dream,The House I Loved failed to sweep me off my feet.
About the Author: Tatiana de Rosnay was born in the suburbs of Paris. She is a rench journalist,writer and screenwriter.
This review was written by girlfriend Kiri Bee.
There is a plethora of Jane Austen inspired literature,film,and art out there,each with its own little quirk,genre,and intended audience. All Roads Lead to Austen:A Year-long Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith is a memoir with an intriguing premise for Austen fans,cultural sponges and travel bugs. Smith is a California writing and literature professor who takes a year-long sabbatical to visit six Spanish-speaking countries,form book groups in each country,and discuss the works of Jane Austen with said book groups (in Spanish,which she studies along the way). She recounts these discussions in an accessible and scholarly manner,with some (upfront-ly pronounced) edits and modifications (though a few more enlivening “creative adjustments” may have added dimension to dialog suffering in translation). Filling in around these discussions,Smiths elaborates on the places she visits,the things she does there beyond the reading groups,the people she meets,some history and politics of the region,and of course,all of the books she discovers in each country (both Austen and local authors).
While the book discussions are engaging in their own right,Smith draws no real revelatory conclusion from them. Reading three of Austen’s works in two different countries each allows Smith to evaluate reactions to the same material across multiple borders,though not much is added by this device;in fact,it occasionally becomes repetitive. Austen wrote six novels. Smith traveled to six countries. Though some cross-cultural comparisons provide interest,her foundation seemed tailor made for a bit more intrigue and variety than she manages. Those who have not read Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,Sense and Sensibility and Emma will be out to sea for large sections of this book;it is lit heavy. This does mean that,for Austen-aficionados,there is no tedious exposition of each novel’s plots and characters to wade through. The more personal and travelogue-inspired portions add satisfactory color and context. In true Austen style,Smith begins her journey a single woman,finds romance along the way (with twists,difficulties and misunderstandings,of course),and winds up engaged to be married by the end. In some ways,this parallel is the most entertaining revelation in an unassuming and unusual take on Austen across cultures.
About the Author: Amy Elizabeth Smith is an Austen lover (and avid traveler) who teaches creative writing and literature at a small university in California. You can visit her here.
This review was written by girlfriend Alex Hopwood.
Well,it was quite hard getting up this morning,after the nicest Christmas vacation my family has ever had. Although I’m filled with hope for 2013,it wasn’t looking so great at 5:30am! I spent some time browsing Amazon’s New Year,New You Event this morning to find some inspiration,and it came in the form of this title:The New Rules of Lifting for Women:Lift Like a Man,Look Like a Goddess. (Santa brought a Bowflex to our house this year.) Happy (and healthy) 2013,Girlfriends!
We wish you and your family a joyful holiday season and may 2013 be your most fabulous year yet! We’ll see you next year.
Your friends at Girlfriendbooks
There is still time Girlfriends! Looking for a gift for that hard-to-buy-for brother in law or uncle? Listed as one of Amazon’s top holiday gift books is The Racketeer,John Grisham’s latest. Who doesn’t love John Grisham? I remember being so engrossed in The Firm that I was reading it at stoplights. He is a classic. Order today for guaranteed Christmas delivery.
Only one more day until Friday and Christmas break. Yay!
You can still connect with nature in the cold weather even if you hate it. Edle Catharina Norman shows you how in Beautiful Winter,our favorite home decorating book of this season. This book illustrates over 50 home projects that can be created with flowers and seasonal materials –even for the craft-challenged!
Of course,you can always purchase the look of nature for your indoors –like this Balsam Hill Noble Fir Wreath. Balsam Hill has even added the lights for you! This is truly a stunning wreath that you can decorate your home with for years. You can see all of their wreaths and garlands here. As an added bonus,not only are they beautiful,but right now they are on sale –Balsam Hill currently is holding it’s Last Chance Sale –save up to 50% off plus free shipping site-wide.
Count your blessings today,girlfriends.
At 40 years old,is it too late to marry for money? This is the premise of a magazine article acting beauty editor (and Jane Austen lover) Kate Shaw is tasked to write in Kim Izzo’s sharp rom-com of a novel,The Jane Austen Marriage Manual. Kate’s “research” takes her from the polo fields of Palm Beach to the ski slopes of St. Moritz,and finally to an old manor house in the English countryside. With the help of a brand new title,which came with the 1 square foot of land in Scotland that was a 40th birthday gift from Kate’s two best friends Marianne and Brandon (Austen-aficionados,insert knowing smile here…),“Lady Kate” quickly inserts herself into high society. Advised by her new friend,thrice-divorced and filthy rich Fawn,Kate sets her sights on handsome, older, millionaire financier Scott Madewell. Scott seems perfect:a nice,philanthropic,wealthy man Kate could really come to care for. His buxom 21-year-old Slovenian girlfriend stands in her way,however,as well as Kate’s own dalliance with a smoldering but penniless Brazilian stable hand,a Russian “businessman”’s attempts to bed her,and her growing attraction for maddeningly contentious British bed and breakfast manager Griff Saunderson. With the death of her beloved grandmother,the foreclosure on her house due to her mother’s gambling addiction,and her last boyfriend “borrowing” all her savings,what began as a fun assignment quickly becomes a necessity in Kate’s mind. To get her life back on track,Kate must live the Austen dream:she must marry well.
This is chick-lit at its best. Well written and fun,the plot flows from one fantastic situation to the next without overly glaring suspension of disbelief required. As the title implies,the story is peppered with both subtle and not-so-subtle Austen references,but nothing to limit the understanding of one who has never read a word of early 19th century literature. If there is one fly in this anti-aging cream of a read,it is that while Kate starts out as the epitome of a fabulous,independent,smart,modern woman,as her obsession with marrying for money increases,her likeability and positive qualities decrease,making it hard to root for her. Kate’s character devolution does make narrative sense,however,and Izzo redeems her with an ending that while predictable,has delightfully atypical and more realistic moments,and ultimately manages to be very satisfying for modern romantics of all ages.
About the Author: Kim Izzo is a journalist and author of two etiquette books including The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum. Her advice has appeared in The New York Times Sunday Style section,The New Yorker,InStyle,Glamour,Real Simple,and Cosmopolitan,to name a few. You can visit her here.
This review was written by girlfriend Alex Hopwood.
Girlfriendbooks’hearts are in Newtown,Connecticut with the families of those little angels.
When the colder weather hits,it’s always nice to spend some time on the weekend in the kitchen. If you are planning some cooking time this weekend,we have a recipe for you,courtesy of Little,Brown,from Andrew Weil’s new cookbook,True Food. Unfortunately I do not live near one of Andrew Weil and Sam Fox’s True Food Kitchen restaurants. Until they expand to the east coast,this cookbook should hold me over! There are more than 125 recipes from the kitchen of True Food Kitchen in a beautiful format that has pictures of almost every recipe (my pet peeve of cookbooks). Below is one of the many wonderful recipes in this book. Enjoy and have a merry weekend,Girlfriends!
Modern research shows that astragalus root,a Chinese herb long used to ward off colds and flu,has powerful immune-enhancing properties. The sliced,dried root is available online and in herb stores. It is nontoxic and adds a pleasant,sweet taste when simmered in soups. Shiitake mushrooms also boost immunity and have an antiviral effect. Garlic is an antibiotic;ginger,a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 lg onions,thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic,smashed
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
4 oz shiitake mushrooms,stemmed and thinly sliced (about 2 c)
2 lg carrots,julienned
2 1/2 pieces astragalus root (about 15″total)
8 c Mushroom Stock (see below)
2 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
2 c broccoli florets
1/2 c julienned scallions
HEAT oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions,garlic,and ginger and cook until soft and translucent,about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms,carrots,astragalus root,stock,and 2 cups water. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.
ADD tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Add broccoli and cook until tender,about 2 minutes.
REMOVE astragalus root pieces. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with scallions before serving. (Makes 12 cups.)
NUTRITION (per serving –6 servings) 75 cal,4 g pro,13 g carb,3 g fiber,1.5 g fat,0 g sat fat,987 mg sodium
Easy Flavor Booster:Mushroom Stock
Stock used in restaurants is usually made with chicken,but we serve so many vegetarian dishes that we needed something different for our sauces and soups. Shiitake mushrooms impart a savory essence;you’ll never miss the meat. Keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a month.
Chop 2 ribs celery and 1 medium onion and put in large pot with 2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms and 2 1/2 quarts water.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Turn off heat,cover,and let stock steep 20 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce.
Pour stock through fine-mesh strainer,discard solids,and let cool.
(Makes 2 quarts.)
**Recipe courtesy of Little,Brown;taken from True Food.
It wasn’t until the age of 30 that Kiera Van Gelder was finally given a diagnosis –Borderline Personality Disorder. It explained so much that had happened in her life up until then –a suicide attempt,drug addiction,failed relationships,promiscuity and depression. But even with a diagnosis and medication,life remained difficult.
In her brutally honest and insightful book,The Buddha and the Borderline:My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy,Buddhism,and Online Dating,Kiera introduces us to the daily struggles of a borderline. Bravely,she holds nothing back,writing about everything from her issues with her mother to her sometimes shocking sex life. It is a raw account of a young woman simply trying to get better –to be able to hold down a job,sustain a relationship,and get through one day without feeling like one giant exposed nerve. At times it is a heartbreaking book to read,to feel Kiera’s pain.
Her road to recovery brings her into a different type of therapy than she had done in the past –Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is a form of therapy that finally helps her and it becomes a bridge over which she could finally see past some of her pain and make decisions about her life. It culminates in Kiera moving into a group Buddhist home and discovering the peace and serenity she craved all of her life.
Although definitely not a light read,The Buddha and the Borderline is an engrossing look inside the mind of a borderline,from devastation to discovery.
About the Author: Kiera Van Gelder,MFA,is a writer,artist,and educator. She currently lives at a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center in Massachusetts and is at work on her second memoir. You can visit her here.