Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg


A Book as Tasty and Warm as 

a Home Cooked Meal (Feel Good Book)


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is about the bonds of a small Alabama town.  It’s about community, friendships, and love.  Told in an easy, comfortable voice, the book alternates between several narrators.  We learn town news in notices from the post mistress’s bulletin highlighting noteworthy events such as a meteorite that smashes a neighbor’s radio, boy scouts who were awarded merit badges, and updates on her husband’s snoring, wrecking the car, and losing his National Geographic Magazine.

The true bones of the book lies in the lives of Idgie and Ruth whom we discover in a third-person voice and in the reminisents of a chatty, congenial, elderly woman, Mrs. Threadgoode.  Mrs. Threadgoode befriends Evelyn, a discontent homemaker, at the Rose Terrace Nursing Home where Evelyn regularly waits in the hallway while her husband visits his mother in the 1980s.   In Mrs. Threadgoode’s endearing manner she unfolds the story of Idgie and Ruth’s friendship and love revolving around the Whistle Stop Café starting in the 1920s. Evelyn keeps coming back to learn more about the women and even a murder that took place, and through these stories and the encouragement of Mrs. Threadgoode, Evelyn eventually finds herself.

This is a warm, tender book that gets a big thumbs-up.

At the end of the book, Fannie offers recipes of many of the dishes served at the Whistle Stop Café. I love when novels include recipes!  My husband made me the fried green tomatoes from the book—yum!  And I made the pecan pie—double yum!  Making recipes found in novels is a fun and delicious way to revive memories of a book. I’m thinking I’ll be bringing thoughts of Idgie and Ruth to life again and again with that pecan pie.


Even though most of my book club members had already seen the movie, we chose to read the book and, no surprise, everyone loved it.  My fellow readers did mention that there were a lot more characters to keep track of in the book.  Also the book doesn't follow the timeline as smoothly as in the movie; you had to pay a bit more attention as to what year was being discussed in the book.  There were a few things that were different than the movie, but that didn't seem to make any difference because all members who had seen the movie, found both the book and movie were worth reading and seeing!  



Another Fannie Flagg book I’ve read and recommend is a perfect treat for the holiday season.  Click to read more about Fannie Flagg and A Red Bird Christmas.




Happy Reading,

Annette



Questions or comments?  Email Readinginthegarden@gmail.com


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder Returns on the Big Screen (Classic Mysteries)



Get ready, it's almost here!  The movie remake of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is due to be released in theaters on November 10, and I, for one, can't wait to see it!! I loved the book and am reviving my review below from a few years ago.  As for the movie, it's packed with a star-studded cast including:  Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot the master detective; Johnny Depp as American Samuel Ratchett; Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Michelle Pfeiffer as Mrs. Hubbard; Penelope Cruz; Willem Dafoe and more. From the trailers, it promises to be a visual treat that is probably best seen on the big screen. Although books usually tend to be better than the movies, this one just may rise up to equal it. 



You still have time to read the book.  Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, is a quick but captivating ride packed with one mysteriously dead American and a dozen suspects. Called to solve a case in London, renowned detective Hercule Poirot takes the Orient Express train from Turkey to France. In the luncheon car, Poirot is sipping coffee with a liqueur chaser when who would interrupt him but an American with “false benevolence of the brow and the small, cruel eyes.” The American had been receiving threatening letters, and asks Poirot to look into it. Poirot, however, wants nothing to do with the ugly American and dismisses his request even after repeated offers of big money.  He explains that he only takes on cases that interest him, and adds that he also does not like the American’s face. Case closed.   

When the same American is found dead in his compartment, stabbed multiple times, Poirot suddenly finds interest. Case opened. He starts investigating and discovers that on this train, motives are like assholes—everyone has one. With astute observations and loads of logic, Poirot ultimately solves the crime, leading the reader through each step of the intriguing process. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Hercule Poirot amuses me with his egotistical attitude and extraordinary powers of deduction and reason.  I would like to sample a bit more of Christie’s famous works.  There are just too many of them.  I don’t know when I would squeeze in 82 detective novels into my other reading. I did manage to find time for Death on the Nile, howeverwhich I found just as entertaining as Murder on the Orient Express.   



Happy reading, 

Annette


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

A Glimpse of Great Britain, Bryson-Style (Travel)


Notes from a Small Island is Bill Bryson’s travelogue from the mid 1990s when he made a farewell tour of the U.K. after having lived in England for twenty years. In his humorous trademark style, Bryson informs readers of his likes and dislikes of the British people, the places he visits, the culture, the food, and the architecture.  

It’s his keen observation and a sharp wit, that kept me turning page after page. I had to laugh as he pointed out how British life is touched with a kind of genius for names of prisons (Wormwood Scrubs), to pubs (Lambs & Flag) to flowers (Lady’s bedstraw), to the bizarre names of towns:  Whiterashes, Wigtwizzle, Blubberhouses, Titsey, Lickey End, and more. 

Bryson praises the Britons’ cheerfulness and uncomplaining manner as they smile and laugh easily, yet they can also been unyielding in their ways and you could be a target of their ire for merely standing in someone's usual spot at a train station.

It is evident throughout the book that Bryson has a particular love for old architecture, and he laments that the British heritage, set in “445,000 ancient or historical buildings, 12,000 medieval churches, 1.5 million acres of common land, 120,000 miles of footpaths and public rights of way, 600,000 known sites of archaelogical interest,” [1] is being nibbled away instead of preserved.

He complains about the rain—“that special kind of English drizzle that hangs in the air and saps the spirit.” [2]

And he notes how he “had never had tea with milk in it before or a cookie of such a rocklike cheerlessness. It tasted like something you would give a canary to strengthen its beak.”[3]


I can attest to the density of British biscuits, as they’re called, because lately I’ve been hooked on The Great British Bakeoff show where highly skilled amateur bakers whip up fantastic desserts that look like something from a magazine cover. I was so tempted by their creations that I broke down and bought British master baker, Mary Berry’s, Baking Bible. Just to get my feet wet, I thought it wise to start in the “kids” section.  

My first attempt at Pinwheel biscuits. 

Unfortunately, my first attempt at it didn’t go so well.  My biscuits looked more like flat potatoes than chocolate and vanilla pinwheels. The second batch looked more like that tempting photo.  But looks can be deceiving, because they tasted just like Bill described…rocklike cheerlessness.  (I did have more success with the cakes that not only looked good but tasted delicious, if I must say so myself.) 

My Hazelnut Meringue Cake and my French Apple Tart.

But just watching that show set in such a verdant, gorgeous location made me want to pack my bags and jet right over.  And I believe Bryson when he wrote “Britain still has more landscape that looks like an illustration from a children’s storybook than any other country I know.”

Crikey!  I think it may be time for a visit.




As a side note, my husband has read a lot of his books.  He particularly liked The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Neither Here, Nor There, In a Sunburned Country, and A Walk in the Woods (which I also read and loved).


Happy Reading,

Annette




Questions or comments?  Email Readinginthegarden@gmail.com




[1] Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island (1995; reprint, New York, An Avon Book, 1997), 84.
[2] Ibid., 107.
[3] Ibid., 19.