Throughout The Care and Management of Lies, Jacqueline Winspear uses food as setting, food as emotional...moreDon't come to this book with an empty stomach.
Throughout The Care and Management of Lies, Jacqueline Winspear uses food as setting, food as emotional stand-in, food as communication, and, finally, food as reward and recompense. Her four major characters here all discuss and long for different kinds of nourishment, though none of them are particularly clear about what they want -- save the tasty treats that they dream of (and dream up) along the way.
This foodie-ness is at odds, somehow, with the time of the book, which is pre- and during-World War I, in Great Britain, mostly the countryside. I liked this contradiction most of the time -- it serves as a reminder that we "modern" readers haven't invented the food culture around us. However, sometimes, it also felt like the in-book recipes were written with a 2014 audience in mind, and at those times, I lost the thread of the otherwise neatly woven setting.
Winspear re-explores ground she's brushed upon in her (excellent) Maisie Dobbs books, but this time, there's no motivating mystery, so the book is moved forward by the historical action. When we first meet our two heroines, they're parting ways, somewhat: Kezia Marchant is about to marry the younger brother of her best friend, Thea Brissenden. Thea, a suffragist and wannabe radical, objects to Kezia's choice to live in the country as a farmer's wife.
As the book winds on, the point of view bounces first from woman to woman, then starts to include two others: Kezia's husband, Tom, and her land-rich neighbor, and eventually even Kezia's father is given a say here and there. If this makes it sound like Kezia is the central figure of the book, then that's exactly right. She sharpens in the reader's mind as the story goes in the same way everyone in the book seems to begin to see her more clearly, just as she begins to wonder if she's somehow disappearing too far into her wife/farm mistress role.
The questions here aren't so neat or tasty, and I loved that about this book (as I did with the Maisie Dobbs series). Thea's questions of identity and courage and possibly, quietly, the nature of desire are worthy (though Thea, the book's closest thing to an unsympathetic major character, herself swings wildly from pitiable to spiteful), and Kezia's surprising (to others) strength is also fun to watch.
This would be a great book-group read, as I think everyone would come away with a different favorite scene and character -- and certainly, everyone would come away hungry. (less)
Though the storyline makes this sound like it might be an emotionally heavy tome, Take Me with You is actually a cream-puff confection of a novel -- w...moreThough the storyline makes this sound like it might be an emotionally heavy tome, Take Me with You is actually a cream-puff confection of a novel -- which isn't a bad thing! Set in the near-present, it tracks the course of August Schroeder, a recently divorced and very burnt-out high school science teacher whose son has, also, recently, died. August -- let's go ahead and front-load what seems like our major conflicts -- has also, recently, stopped drinking. As you might guess, those descriptors all revolve around each other. August starts off on his annual summer vacation RV road trip, this time with a special memorial in mind for his son. When his RV breaks down, it looks like the trip won't work out -- until his mechanic offers him a great deal: free service of the motor home if August will take custody of his two sons for the summer while Dad/Mechanic is in jail.
This leads to a gentle summer of National Park explorations between the supposed-to-be unlikely trio. Call this the Best Possible Case Scenario book at every turn, and you can almost guess how things go. I did appreciate that the author didn't simply end the story with a perfectly tied bow: the boys don't leave their troubled home to go with August forever, and he does realize he can't solve their problems, but the ending is still much more sweet than bitter.
The author has a facility with dialogue that shows: long swatches of the book's descriptions happen only in dialogue, and much of that in the voice of a 12-year-old boy, and yet it was on the whole easy to read and believe. I enjoyed the book's gentle intentions and kind ideas of the world, possibly because they felt quaint every time I lifted my head.
I'm a big fan of the trashy fun found in the other Richard Castle novels, and I've really enjoyed the winks interspersed throughout the books to an au...moreI'm a big fan of the trashy fun found in the other Richard Castle novels, and I've really enjoyed the winks interspersed throughout the books to an audience that understands these are fiction books being written under the name of a fictional guywho is writing thinly veiled fiction about his life and work with the NYPD. (Got that?)
This e-novella, however, had most of the cheesy lines but somehow much less of the fun of the Nikki Heat books. The jokes are more obvious (a well-endowed woman is named Samantha Topper), the male lead character less fun than the dashing-but-sensitive-and-clearly-based-on-Castle Jameson Rook, and the female characters are just blah, blurry, beautiful back drops to the sexually charged (and too aggressively flirtatious) Derrick Storm.
Even at $2 per ebook, I'm not sure I'll continue this series.(less)