Some time ago, when this first of the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard showed up on my library shelves, I borrowed the book because I liked the cover. I struck gold.
There are now four Cazalet novels and I've read them all. Gulped them down one-two-three-four to tell the truth. That was back in the late 90s. Then one day a month or so ago I was browsing among the books to be reshelved and there was The Light Years. So I borrowed it and read it again.
I am again amazed at how Elizabeth Jane Howard has been able to create five husband/wife pairs, a few odd female relatives, a handful of governesses, children's nurses, and other servants, and fifteen children ranging in age from 17 to newborn and make them memorable from the first page. There's a family tree and a list of families, children, and servants at the beginning of each volume in this series, but I don't think I had to refer to these aids more than half a dozen times before I knew each character well.
This first book runs from summer of 1937 when the Cazalet family gathers at the home of the grandparents for a carefree vacation to the late summer of 1938 when the family is again gathered but is now listening nervously to the wireless to hear the news about Chamberlain's visit to Munich and the possibility of war.
A made-for-TV adaptation of The Cazalets is available from Netflix and I've added it to my queue. I want to re-read all four books before I watch it, but I'm now zipping through the second volume so it shouldn't be long.
I've become interested in tea recently. I've always been a tea drinker, starting with Lipton as a girl and moving on up to Stash and Twinings later. I've always liked "dust" teas, probably because my first tea drinking was typical American tea-bag tea, which for many years tended to be what was left over when the Chinese and English and French (more on them later) had taken the whole leaves off the top. This kind of tea needs to be doctored with milk and sugar to be drinkable.
Then I discovered quality tea and especially oolong and flavored teas. High quality tea can now be had in a teabag - especially those pyramid bags that allow the water to reach more surfaces. Really good tea doesn't need to be masked by milk and sugar but I've continued to use them even with double bergamot.
However, I bought some Mariage "Eros" a while ago and have moved up a step in tea-drinking. This morning I made tea in a pot with loose tea. The French have been tea-drinkers for as long as the English and they are very particular about their tea. The best of the French tea purveyors is Mariage Freres. One of their most popular teas, "Eros," is flavored and if you think about the French artistry with perfume you will get an idea of the subtlety of this flowery tea.
I used a ceramic pot and filtered the tea leaves out with a strainer. For my second and third cups I put a little hot water into the cup after I poured the increasingly strong tea. I should probably get one of those pots that have a built-in strainer so that I can remove it after the tea has steeped properly (three to four minutes for a black tea aromatic with 1 tsp of tea per six-ounces of water.)
Wilhelm wants to stay at the Hotel St Jacques when we visit Paris next spring. It was the hotel in the movie, Charade, which is one of our favorites and which we watched last night. Audrey Hepburn falls for Cary Grant while being chased by George Kennedy, James Coburn, and others. A wonderful movie.
The title of Claire Cook's new, 2009 novel, The Wildwater Walking Club appealed to me when I read about it in a blog a few days ago so I requested it from the library. It was just what I needed.
This is not great literature, but it's not chick lit either. It's well written and the main character is real enough for me to care about her and her attempt to pull her life together and find what she wants to do with herself. If she were to find love, too, well, that wouldn't be unrealistic for this kind of book.
I learned a good deal about growing lavender, the athletic shoe business, and Sequim, Washington. I relaxed and was entertained. This book, at this time, was just right.
The 22nd Ave Book Club has chosen for our next book Sinclair Lewis' Main Street. We had decided to read some best-sellers from the past and we were choosing from the 1920s. The other books we considered were All Quiet on the Western Front, Edna Ferber's So Big, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Lewis' Elmer Gantry, and a book by Zane Grey.
The movie last night was Gosford Park. I'd seen it before as had Mary Louise but we were eager to see it again. I turned on the subtitles, this being an Altman film where everybody talks over everybody else and the background noise, including the music of Ivor Novello, was substantial. What a fine movie with, as they say, a star-studded cast, starting with a favorite of mine, Michael Gambon.
My book club is meeting at my house tonight to watch a movie. We have a handful of DVDs and tapes to choose from including Gosford Park, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and one of the recent Jane Austen adaptations. Karla is bringing sangria and I'm providing grapes. I can't wait.
Peggy Noonan has long been a favorite writer of mine. She tends towards the conservative and has worked in a Republican administration, but she is far from strident and she is always thoughtful.
Her new book, Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now(2008) has blended into it pieces from her regular column at the Wall Street Journal, but it is a new and refreshing look at America and what we need to do. The book was written before last November's election and it is an indication of her even handedness and sensible approach to 21st century problems that it is still of value now that we know who won.
Noonan covers dozens of problems and observations and worries and questions. She complains of the loss of dignity at airport security, an embarrassment that the people who have created this system will never have to share with the rest of us. She laments the decline of respect for middle-aged women, the people who do so much of the planning and management and sometimes financing of the lives of the young and the old.
She worries that we have no true civil defense plans in this country. She is appalled that nobody in government is working to rebuild and harden our electrical grid. She points out that the Department of Homeland Security is a mess, with inefficiency and duplication and no focus. She suggest some ways our leaders could help us recover from the mistakes of the Bush administration.
This is an informed and unbiased book with much to recommend it to the informed and unbiased reader, especially one who is elected to political office in the USA.