And so to the final week of the year. The first book I completed was “Fictitious dishes” by Dinah Fried. I found the concept quiet fascinating – the author recreated the food from famous books as part of a project and then decided to photographed them, and get it into a book form. The foods vary from the madcap tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the watery gruel from Oliver Twist, the lavish chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird, the stomach-turning avocado-and-crabmeat salad from The Bell Jar to the seductive cupcakes from The Corrections.
Its all done rather well, and since I have read many of the books she draws upon, it was all the more interesting. However, although she has made great efforts to put the food out in the exact scenario as in the book, I could not appreciate this on the Kindle reader, as reproduction of pictures has poor resolution and is in black and white. So, not a good medium for illustrated books. I then opened the book on my laptop just to enjoy the pictures, and it was well worth the effort, the details of each scene was amazing!
The other book I have finished this week is the account of a young Englishman of an educated family, Patrick Fenmor, who in 1933-34 walked across Europe to Istanbul. ‘A time of gifts’ is his account of his experiences up to Hungary. He is 18 years old when he does this trip – starts off in winter, with very little planning, on an allowance of one pound a month. It is an amazing adventure – at a time when he could do this with very little documents, and he had to cross only 3 borders to reach Budapest. He is young, impressively well read for an 18 year old who has had little schooling (or maybe because of that) and very little exposure to the politics of the time. His observations of the daily life of Germans a few months after Hitler’s ascent to power are interesting. Of course, the book is written many decades after the event from his diaries, and this probably allowed him to add the historical background to the numerous chateaus and castles he visits through Austria, Czechoslovakia; he possibly could not have known all that much at that age. He has a keen eye for nature and people. Of the beer drinking Bavarians he writes “The trunks of these feasting burghers were as wide as casks. The spread of their buttocks over the oak benches was not short of a yard. Chin and chest formed a single column…..” On being hosted for the night by a young Duke, he writes “There is much to recommend moving straight from straw to four-poster, and then back again. Cocooned in smooth linen and lulled by the smell of logs and beeswax and lavender, I nevertheless stayed awake for hours, revelling in all these delights and contrasting them with joy to the now-familiar charms of cow-sheds and haylofts and barns”.
His time spent in Vienna was particularly interesting. Vienna was the Eastern-most Western capital and attracted large numbers of the moneyed classes from Central and Eastern Europe. It had a population of very mixed lineage, and when young Patrick had to resort to his small talent in sketching portraits to get by, he even does one of “an Indian lady who was a Syrian Jacobite Christian from Travancore’. All in all a good read.
I have started “The creative destruction of Medicine” by Eric Topol, which will take some serious attentive reading. I am also reading on the e-reader “Burnt Shadows’ by Kamila Shamsie. I sought out this one as I really enjoyed her “God in every stone’ – a book set in 1914 in Kabul with a mixture of many faiths and lovely characters. More about these next week.
For now Happy New Year.