Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When Setting Comes To Life

There is nothing quite as exciting as reading a book when the setting comes to life.

Suddenly, you are right in the middle of a bitterly cold Canadian street. Where you can feel the icicles on your skin, the numbness in your fingertips, the bleakness and despair of the winter freeze. (Thank you, Louise Penny).

This is one of my favorite things, and I have the utmost respect for authors who are able to bring their settings to life.

Over the past few days, I enjoyed two books with this lovely talent on display, and one amazing film: Babette's Feast.

My mother, sister and I watched the 1987 film together and snacked on a platter of cheese, crackers and dried fruits while enjoying this incredible movie. The story is set in an isolated seaside Danish village in the 19th century.  The austere way of life is reflected by the pale palette of the buildings, clothing, and surroundings. You can hear the wind, feel the cold, and are completely immersed in the loneliness and starkness of this setting. Until Babette brings more than taste buds alive during her decadent meal of turtle soup, blini with caviar, and the spectacular Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce). You feel just as giddy as the devout townspeople who have tasted heaven for the first time in their lives. Such a charming, lovely, and romantic film. I highly recommend it!

Grade: A

Next up, THE CHOCOLATE THIEF by Laura Florand. This was my first book by Ms. Florand, and I must say it will not be my last. She transports the reader to Paris, with all of the quirks and charm and deliciousness of the city. The premise is fabulous...the American chocolate heiress vs. the talented Parisian chocolatier. Sparks fly between these two as a delightful courtship takes place. And it's nestled in tissue paper and dark bitter chocolate, dusted with cinnamon. Florand manages to pack all of my favorite things into one lovely story: amazing writing, laugh-out-loud humor, a charming romance, and a lush setting that brings the sweet simplicity of a perfect piece of chocolate bursting to life. Bravo, Ms. Florand!

Grade: A

Finally, a scrumptious amuse-bouche by Ros Clarke: Island Fling. This is a very fast read, but the gorgeous writing and vibrant setting make it a satisfying experience. Clarke brings the simplicity and beauty of a remote Scottish town to life, along with the layers of paint and regret of the two main characters. Her writing voice is a breath of fresh air, and her painterly writing style is a perfect fit for this art-inspired story. I love short stories like this that are a lush snippet of life. This is one quick bite, but it's satisfying and romantic. 

Grade: A

Happy Spring,