Monday, July 31, 2017

July reading

Despite my traveling for most of July, I did manage to finish three books.  That's what long flights and layovers in airports can do for your reading life!

I reread Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, with the Victorians! group at GoodReads.  It's been decades since I read this book, and it was light, bright, mostly funny, and a good book to travel with. It was also fun to read a travel book while traveling.

I learned that JKJ actually did the Thames boating trip on his honeymoon, but decided to substitute two male friends for his bride in his story of the journey. I think this was wise as Harris and George were the butt of many jokes, snide comments, and general foil for JKJ, a position that might not have been well-received by a spouse. I also learned that Montmorency, the pugnacious dog, was also not along on the actual trip, and I think he also was a great addition to the narrative.

There are a lot of great illustrations out there for this book, and a particularly appealing graphic book. This book just cries out to be a graphic novel, so I may have to get my hands on it for the next reread.

If you're like me and love maps, then here's a map showing the journey related in the book.

The second book I read on my trip was Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg. Again it was a reread, and again I was reading it along with a GoodReads group, this time the TuesBookTalk Read-Alongs Group. Another again...I last read this decades ago as well.  I fell in love with all over again.

After months of focusing on Roman Britain, Northumberland, and ancient/medieval history, it was an absolute treat to return to Americana. Fried Green Tomatoes has one of my favorite narrative formats - an integration of "real" news reports plus multiple narrators from various time periods with past/present story threads. That's a very common format currently, but in the mid-1980s when Flagg first published Fried Green Tomatoes, it was much less common.

The novel takes place in a small town, a whistle stop town, in Alabama during the Depression and then in the mid-80s.  Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode is an elderly woman living in a nursing home telling a younger visitor about life in her town 50 years earlier and the friends and family, white and black, that peopled the town. There's a mystery, a villain, plenty of heroines and heroes, and a deep, rich vein of love and loyalty, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and joy of life that makes this a wonderful book to read...and reread. The book ends with a set of recipes that I vowed I would make when I got home, but haven't yet. I do have a garden full of green tomatoes, just waiting to be fried.

There's a very good movie version of the novel, though I haven't watched it in years, but my fellow GoodReads Tuesday groupons say that the ending is somewhat different, so we'll have to take their word on this.

The last book I read in July was Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, by Laurie Colwin. This book has been recommended many times by many book soulmates and I was wanting to dive into something completely different. It's short, it's a collection of essays about food, the writing is marvelous and Colwin's voice is amazing.  She is funny, self-effacing, and enthusiastic about the taste and texture of food, the endless opportunities for feeding yourself, family, and friends. I did drop everything and made a loaf of bread following her recipe and it was divine. I have her More Home Cooking on order, and am toying with the idea of reading some of her novels. I really do love her writing. Sadly, she died of an aortic aneurysm at age 48 in 1992.

You know a book is good when you are thinking of all the people you want to share the book with when you've finished it. I choose my daughter, Sarah, who loves to cook and appreciates good writing, and mailed the book to her this morning.


  1. I remember The Fried Green Tomatoes movie -- that's a good one! I wonder if I'd like a Laurie Colwin novel. I'm sorry to hear she passed away quite young; I had heard of her books.

  2. Welcome home. i enjoyed your posts from Hadrian's Wall.

    It is impressive that you finished three books when traveling. I an never seem to read when I am on trips.

    It has been so long since I read Three Men in Boat. I really need to give it another read.

  3. I love Fried Green Tomatoes! (The book, not the movie.) :)

  4. Welcome back! I loved both the movie and the book Fried Green Tomatoes. I am really glad to hear it holds up!

    I've never read the JkJ title, but really should as it seems everyone loves it.

  5. Nice writing about these books. Clearly your travels agree with your reading and writing soul!

  6. Welcome home! I enjoyed Home Cooking, too, but haven't gotten around to reading more of Colwin... yet.

  7. Really nice post about your July reads I have read and really liked Fried Green Tomatoes. An inspirational book about changing your life for the better. I also read Fannie Flaggs Redbird Christmas years ago and I loved that book as well.

    1. I'm always on the lookout for good Xmas books. I'll put that one on my list for December. I like Flagg's writing.

  8. I saw the movie version of Fried Green Tomatoes first and loved it. So often that ends up meaning I have a hard time enjoying the book as much but I found I loved the book just as much. Strangely, I never have read anything else by Flagg.

  9. I've only read JKJ's short stories...but I am looking forward to eventually getting to Three Men in a Boat. He's a riot.