Florence’s Book Club: September

Before Rachel went off on maternity leave from her book club contributions to Florence Finds, she sent me in a book club post for June. Somehow I completely over looked it and recently rediscovered it, so thought it was about time I got around to posting! (In case you didn’t know, Rachel has a beautiful baby girl called Alice Emmeline.)

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
In my memory I’d studied these short stories at school, however reading/rereading them I’m not so sure. I like short stories, a perfect accompaniment for holidays. This time however they weren’t read on holiday but on my newly acquired Kindle in preparation for the baby. They were perfect for middle of the night insomnia – some are very very short, each is gentle with thoughtful and sometimes quietly unsettling emotions lying under the surface. They are also free to download on Kindle.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
I must admit it was the title that drew me to this book. Set in Kenya (or Keen-ya as her mother pronounces it), Rhodesia, as was and ending up in Zambia with the odd short journey to Britain sandwiched in between. It is an autobiographical/biographical memoir of her mother, AKA Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she refers to herself. I learnt a lot about Rhodesia and although her parents are no way in poverty they have to work hard to earn a living from the land, and sometimes it is a precarious living. There are touching mother daughter conversations, mad mother daughter conversations and sad mother daughter conversations.

…with my first best friend, Stephen Foster.”
Mum smiles at the memory. “Stephen and I used to take turns pushing each other on his tricycle. We wore matching romper suits. We had tea parties. We went everywhere together, hand in hand.”
“Stephen was one of Zoe’s sons?” I guess.
Mum frowns. “No, no, no,” she says. “Stephen wasn’t her son. Stephen was her chimpanzee.”

It’s an entertaining, informative and enjoyable easy read. One to add to FF African Book club post and thought provoking for new mums or mothers-to-be.

Restoration by Rose Tremain
Rose Tremain is one of my favourite female authors, I always think one gets a good quality female read from her. This book is different, it felt quite masculine and in some places it was a slow read. Set in England after the Civil War with Charles II now on the throne it follows surgeon Robert Merival on his journey of being King’s favourite, and relishing all the pomp, glory and debauchery that gave, to being married off to the King’s favourite mistress of the time and being sent out of London. He becomes Lord of a manor, again relishing in the pomp, glory and debauchery until he is no longer in the king’s favour. He joins a Quaker friend at a mental hospital where he helps care for the patients, reuses his medical knowledge and falls in lust with one of the patients. He then returns to London just after the plague, survives the Great Fire of London, returns to practising medicine and is restored to the King’s favour. If this intrigues you but you’re not sure about reading it then there is always the 1995 film with a young Robert Downey Jr as Merival.

Have you read any wonderful books recently readers? I’d love to hear your recommendations as I could do with something to help me turn my brain off before sleep these days!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Book Club: April

Today Rachel is back with more book recommendations and this month it’s a real mixed bag of a classic, current literature and a book for Mums and fans of social commentary. As always we love to hear if you have read anything particularly good recently or have your eye on anything. Just drop us a comment in the comments box!

The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier

This was recommended to me by my Mr B’s Reading Spa Experience.

It’s a Sunday afternoon tea in the drawing room novel. Set over one day with flashbacks to childhood and young adulthood all with an undercurrent. The Parasites refer to three siblings, they’re siblings through their parent’s marriage, and where their lives have been and perhaps are leading to. I really enjoyed it for the story and the writing, the descriptions are wonderful.

Grown up people… How suddenly would it happen, the final plunge into their world? Did it really come about overnight, as Pappy said, between sleeping and waking? A day would come, a day like any other day, and looking over your shoulder you would see the shadow of the child that was, receding; and there would be no going back, no possibility of recapturing the shadow. You had to go on; you had to step forward into the future, however much you dreaded the thought, however much you were afraid.

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Another book recommended to me by Mr. B’s. This caught my attention because I work in a predominantly Bengali community and this novel is set in 1971 during the civil war. I know nothing about the politics of East Pakistan/Bangladesh and although you learn a little about it, a golden age is more a story that happens the world over when there’s war. A story about mother child relationships, that no matter how old we are parents still worry, the parental desire to please ones children and the private lives and desires that we have no matter how old or who we are. But more than that it’s about a woman who finds strength and courage to take on a role that she would previously have said she’d never be able to do.

French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman

An American married to a British man living in Paris. She starts to observe French children and their parents. How there appear to be differences to how her Anglophone friends and family raise, and therefore how their children respond and behave. As well as observing lots she’s also spoken to, researched historical information about how various French institutions arose and read about the French way of raising children. Reading it one can think how wonderful everything is in France. It felt, for me, quite easy to agree with some of what she writes when it’s all hypothetical, the reality of a baby sleeping through the night the French way may be quite the other thing when the baby is really there awake and crying. It’s made me think, which is always good and I’ll be interested to see if I take this book down off the bookshelf once the baby is here.

What are you reading this month?

Rachel
x

PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

Florence’s Book Club

This month’s book club is particularly well timed for me with a ski-ing holiday looming during which I usually can’t summon up the energy to do much more than relax with a good book after a hard day on the slopes. I’m looking forward to catching up with some reading and all three of Rachel’s suggestions appeal this month – thank you Rachel!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

For part of my job I’m on a course and have to read well recommended and reviewed fiction for secondary aged pupils. This term it was The Boy in Striped Pajamas. I’d already seen the film, but remembered very little about it. It explores friendship between two boys during World War II, one in a concentration camp and one on the other side, telling the truth about what friendship means. It is in some ways a simple book, but reminded me never to forget the horrors of World War II and the concentration camps and has challenged me to read more fiction, or non-fiction, about world events so I don’t forget how fortunate I am.

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane

As a great friend would say ‘ the best thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t usually read, and the worst thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t normally read.’ I decided to broaden my reading a little for this month and read a book I wouldn’t normally choose. Set in modern affluent London, it tells the story of a creative woman subtly, but in a calculated way, and all through a chance encounter, manoeuvring her way into a family’s life. A good read that isn’t hard, but with a good story that gripped me in a slightly ‘peep through fingers, Joey in Friends put the book in the freezer’ way, but then I am a wimp. The book also tackles are bigger thoughts about who we are, identity and how others treat us, but I don’t want to give too much away.

‘…and I think, We’re all pretending. The room is full of constructs and inventions. People are experimenting, trying out lines… I watch the way they draw closer to and turn away from each other. I hear the things that they say and the things that they leave unsaid.’

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I like to keep an eye on the winners of the major literary prizes and this book won the Orange Prize in 2012. I should start by saying I have a bit of a soft spot for the ancient Greeks. This story is of Achilles but told from the perspective of his friend, confidante and lover Patroclus, from when they meet as boys to them going into battle to fight the Trojan War for Helen of Troy. There are lots of ancient references to Gods and ancient families but you don’t need to know anything about them to enjoy the story. My thoughts on finishing were that I’d read a lovely, and very unusual love story. It has made me want to re-read The Iliad but only when I have the luxury of lazing on a sandy beach in Greece.

What are you reading this month?

Rachel
x

PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

Florence’s Gift Guide: The Literary Edition

Please welcome Rachel back this month with another installment of Florence’s Book Club – her selection of books for December. It’s not a true gift guide, but the books have been selected with the Christmas season and Christmas gifts in mind. Thank you Rachel!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Published this year yet set in 1920’s Alaska. A heart warming story about Jack and Mabel who move to Alaska to start a new life. It’s one of those magical books where the reader is unwrapping a story within a story. A true winter book – the protagonists are warmly nestled in their cabin, only going out if they need to for food, knowing the hardship of a long cold winter. It reminds you of the importance of good neighbours, hoping and healing. Of joy and not knowing, nor necessarily planning, where life is going to lead you. The greatest recommendation is that the day after I finished it I found myself missing Jack, Mabel and community. A book that makes the people feel like friends.

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry: Strachan & Quinn Auctioneers (by Leanne Shapton)

My husband bought this for me a few Christmas’ ago having heard it reviewed on the radio. This book is set out as an auction catalogue, so there are lots of photographs and not many words, and it tells the intense love affair and relationship of Lenore and Harold. A couple who live in New York in 2002 when she’s a 22 year old journalist and he a 39 year old photographer. It catalogues their meeting, their relationship and the moments the cracks begin to show and the relationship ends. It’s clever, it’s wonderful and a highly unusual way of telling a story.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (Vintage Classics) by Stella Gibbons

Although the title suggests that it will be about Christmas and will return us to our friends from Gibbons’ famous book Cold Comfort Farm, it’s a little misleading. It’s a book of short stories where there is one story about the farm and a couple about Christmas. All are gentle and oh so very rural England in the 1930’s but each has its own undercurrent of emotion. I’m really enjoying dipping into these short stories in the lead up to Christmas and could imagine enjoying them lazing leisurely on the sofa with a blanket and just another mince pie or two in the lull after Christmas.

‘…bedding the shapely little tree into a flower-pot and fastening the glass bells and lemon on to the tips of its branches. She stood it in the sitting-room window, with the curtains pulled back, when it was ready, and could not resist lighting its tipsy green and white candles, just to see what it would look like.’

Seeing by Jose Saramago

So this isn’t one of my favourite authors but my husband loves him and I felt rather uneducated about books when he started talking about him, he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He doesn’t really go in for much punctuation and his stories are rather strange. Seeing is about an election where the majority of the votes have been left blank and what this implies for the officials, government and people. Saramago is a great writer and a good gift for someone who likes to read something a little different.

Miss Pettgrew Lives for the day by Winifred Watson

I’ve been wanting to write about Persephone Books for a while and Christmas felt the ideal time to do so. They are an independent publishers, each book is grey with a wonderful end piece from the era of the novel. They are mainly books that have become out of print, written by female author tending to be domestic novels but that would swipe many away often they are gently hard hitting. Miss Pettigrew Lives for the day is one of their most famous and tells the most gorgeous fairy tale, there is a film of it but it has a subtle, yet important change in it that just isn’t right, in my eyes. It’s now my go to book when I need to be cheered up. The other reason for mentioning Persephone in this post is because on Sunday ITV showed Lady which is an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s (The Secret Garden) The Making of a Marchioness, another classic Persephone book.

Rachel x

Florence’s Book Club

Good Afternoon readers! It’s time to share your reads this months, recommendations (do drop us a comment if you’ve read something brilliant recently) and opinions on this months choices by Rachel. As ever she has curated a wide selection and I’ve already spotted two from her list that I’ll be reading this month. Can you guess?

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
This book is mad. Its Waugh’s second novel written 15 years before Brideshead. It is nothing like Brideshead Revisited, but still as wonderful – just different wonderful. Whilst reading it I found myself really enjoying the way Waugh writes, his way with words. A story about a fictional group of ‘Bright Young Things’, they truly are characters in 1920’s London and how their lives intertwine. Yes they are wealthy, or broke but with wealthy friends or lovers, the parties sound great fun but not Gatsby-esque glorious. Where else do you get drunk majors, mad fathers, lost money, journalists of gossip columns making people up. Oh and if you’re into vintage cars there is a bonkers car race. This book may not be your cup of tea but I don’t think you’ll be bored reading it.

Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
My sister lent me this book. The author was sent to the depths of rural China as a child and now lives in France. His story is about the friendship of two boys who have been sent to Phoenix Mountain to be ‘re-educated’ there they meet the little seamstress. It’s a love story. A story of hidden love. Of teenage hidden love, climbing over steep mountain ridges to meet your love. It’s also a story of falling in love with books and the worlds they can take you to.

‘Did Four-Eyes stop to think about which book he would lend us? Or was it a random choice? Perhaps he picked it simply because of all the treasures in his precious suitcase, it was the thinnest boo, and the most decrepit. Did he have ulterior motives which we could not fathom? Whatever his reasons his choice was to have a profound effect on our lives.’

The Report : A Novel by Jessica Francis Kane
Based on the true event of the accident, where 173 people died, at Bethnal Green Tube Station during the war and the writing of the report. A tragic evening in March 1943, where the most harrowing fact is that night no bombs fell over London and Bethnal Green tube station in the impoverished East End was the only tube with a staircase that size with no middle banister. A report was written and the style of the report was ground breaking, the report was also buried for fear of the effect on wartime spirits, especially in the local area. The fiction part to it is the characters involved – their personalities and some of their actions. It is a book that is technically an ‘easy read’ the way the words, sentences and paragraphs flow, but emotionally as a fellow human being imagining oneself there in the midst, an onlooker or living at that time it’s hard and emotional. As someone who works near to Bethnal Green it made me want to find out more and surely that’s a good thing about reading.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico
After all the reports on the SS13 fashion shows of London, Milan and Paris it felt fitting to include this book this month. First published in 1958 and republished in 2010 by Bloomsbury, as part of a small collection. Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is about a London char lady who dreams of couture, of Dior couture. She saves and saves and makes her way to Paris. If you want to be wrapped up in a world of descriptions and daydreams of dresses and the wonder of humanity then do read this. Ps In this edition Mrs Harris Goes to New York is also included, it’s good but nowhere near as precious and delightful as Mrs Harris goes to Paris.

Rachel
x

Florence’s Book Club: August

Welcome to this month’s edition of Florence’s Book Club. Although the name is the same, after the popularity of Gemma’s Summer Reading post, we decided to keep the reviews short and sweet, more of a round up of what Rachel is reading as a taster to possibly inspire you. I’ve been inspired already reading the selection here and I hope you will too. We also hope you’ll participate too – let us know if you’ll be picking one of these up, or if you have a great read to recommend. Summer holiday season is still in full swing and I don’t doubt that a few of us could do with a good read or two to take away.

Lunch in Paris: A Delicious Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.
This is not a book for you if you’re a squeamish vegetarian nor if you’re looking for a ‘deep thinking, discover new words, enjoy the way a sentence feels in your mind having read it’ book. This is a book for a jolly good quick and easy read if you like reading about food, relationships and living in a foreign country. I raced through this book. American Elizabeth Bard met a French man, fell in love and moved to Paris. With recipes dotted in between each chapter I don’t know whether to store this book on my cookbook shelf or novel bookshelf. I think this would be a perfect read for going on a self catering holiday where one doesn’t want to take a recipe book but may want inspiration for what to cook – et voila it’s two in one!

The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky by her Daughter, Elisabeth Gille.
Have you read Suite Francaise? The novel that was started, but never finished due to Irene Nemirovsky being sent to Auschwitz, stored in a suitcase as her daughters hid and many years later the suitcase was opened? It is an amazing book. Back to The Mirador though. This book is written by Nemirovsky’s daughter from the perspective of her mother using letters, notes and family memories, as she was only five when her mother was taken to Auschwitz. Beginning with childhood in wealthy Russia, journeying to Paris, being a teenager, avid reader and writer living in some ways a treasured life… until the war. It’s an unusual book but good insight into another world, a brief history of Russia in the early 20th century, the outbreak of war in France and how it felt to be Jewish.

Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell
I was drawn to this slim book in the shop by its cover. Written in 1959 it’s about a wealthy Kansas housewife, her family, her thoughts, her emotions and her life. In our 20th century where we ponder combining career and motherhood here is a wealthy woman with no career, and staff to arrange her every need. How does she fill her days, especially when her three children are grown up? It’s amusing, it’s sad, it’s poignant. It made me think of Mad Men’s Betty Draper.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I shan’t even begin reviewing this book, just share my story of reading it to encourage a read or re-read. I read this first as a 19 year old and absolutely loved it. Re-read it in my late twenties and couldn’t rediscover what I’d loved the first time round, disappointed and determined to re-find it thought I’d wait and so ten years later here I am. I’m a little nearer to how my 19 year old self first found it, though surprised that I loved it, not being one for the dark brooding man. If this doesn’t tempt you for a read/re read how about this passage.

‘…for I am to take mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall live with me there, and only me.
‘She shall have nothing to eat: you will starve her,’ observed Adele,
‘I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adele.’
‘She will want to warm herself: what shall she do for fire?
‘Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold I will carry her up to a peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater.’
‘Oh qu’elle y sera mal – peu comfortable! and her clothes, they will wear out: how can she get new ones?’
Mr Rochester professed to be puzzled. ‘Hem!’ said he, ‘…How would a white or pink cloud answer for a gown, do you think? And one could cut a pretty enough scarf out of a rainbow.’

Rachel x

Florence’s book club: The Language of Flowers

This afternooon it’s Florence’s book club, returning with Rachel’s review of The Language of Flowersby Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I have a copy at home waiting for me to have spare time to read it and I’ve got high hopes so I’m looking forward to hearing what any others of you might think who have read it.

The next book is introduced at the bottom so make a note of it!

I really wanted to read this book. I’d heard lots about it, read good reviews by people whose opinion I trust plus a book about flowers and language, perfect. Yet…Like Victoria, our heroine, I was a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes loving it, sometimes bored, sometimes wondering what on earth could happen next and why was she spoiling something good in her life? It often felt that Victoria’s life seems to be getting better, have shoots of promise, making friends, working as a florist and then bang! Something else comes along and throws her story into another direction.

“I had loved, more than once. I just hadn’t recognised the emotion for what it was until I had done everything within my power to destroy it.”

The Language of Flowersis set in present day America, somehow I’d miss read the name Victoria and the role of the language of flowers in Victorian times, to think this would be a story passing between today and the Victorian era. It moves between the present day and probably 10 years earlier. Victoria’s traumatic life, unwanted from birth, sent from foster home to foster home until she turns 18 and has to fend for herself. From the beginning we know that she has been loved once but something terrible happened, this part of the story is slowly unravelled for us. We also know that somewhere along her journey she has discovered flowers, and the language of flowers.

“Now, as an adult, my hopes for the future were simple: I wanted to be alone, and to be surrounded by flowers. It seemed, finally, that I might get exactly what I wanted.”

I absolutely loved reading it in spring time as my new garden was coming to life. To feel and smell the flowers, see the buds of new life popping out whilst reading about characters who live, breathe and love flowers. To learn about the different meaning of flowers, at the back of the book is ‘Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers’. Victoria uses flowers to communicate. Her skill as a florist is partly in understanding her customers, their loves and lives, and choosing the flowers to express their hopes and dreams for when words have run dry, or when planning a wedding. There is a recurring theme about misinterpretation of definitions, how things aren’t always as they appear, meanings, and life, are not all as they seem. A rose is a rose is a rose…

“What does she mean, ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’?” I asked….
“That things just are what they are,” he said.
“’A rose is a rose.’”
“’Is a rose,’” he finished, smiling faintly.
I thought about all the roses in the garden below, their varying shades of colour and youth. “Except when it’s yellow,” I said. “Or red or pink, or unopened or dying.”

If you are planning a wedding, or recently have, flowers are important to you and are perhaps a worrier, now may not be the time to read this book. Some of our favourite wedding flowers appear to have uncomfortable meanings. This could also make planning your wedding flowers more fun, interesting or just add a different dimension. Or you could keep this in the world of fiction.

My final thoughts, when I was enjoying the story, had had a tough day at work, my brain and emotions ached from working too hard my first thoughts on commuting home were ‘oh good I can escape into The Language of Flowers – above twitter, blogs, and that says a lot about a book.

To try a development of Florence Finds Book Club and following on from conversations at Florence Finds London Afternoon Tea I wondered about whether to open up the discussion more. Please share your thoughts on this book but also any other novels about flowers or gardens that you’ve read and we can create a selection of recommended novels about flowers and gardens.

I don’t know about you but I like to read books about men and women, books set in the modern day to the distant past. I like reading a book that then prompts me to find out more about the subject by reading other books. This leads to our next Florence Finds Book Club. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I don’t know very much about it but do know it’s about Ernest Hemmingway and his marriage, written from the perspective of his wife. I’m looking forward to finding out more about him, being tempted to perhaps read his autobiography A Moveable Feast and maybe being nudged into reading one of his novels. If reading this book doesn’t appeal then please think about fictional books you’ve enjoyed that are based on real people for when we meet again.

So, it’s time to hear from you! Have you read The Language of Flowers? Or can you make a similar recommendation? Maybe you love a certain flower for it’s meaning or chose/are choosing your wedding flowers for that reason? I’d love to hear…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Book Club: Little Women and The Language of Flowers

This afternoon, we’re welcoming Rachel back to review her last Book Club choice, Little Women, with the option to also read the follow on book, Good Wives. I read both on holiday a couple of weeks ago and felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, them being two of my favourite books as a teen.

The thing I love about the Book Club though is the way hearing what somebody else felt when they read a book changes your perspective on it, even when it’s a classic you are familiar with already. For that reason, I loved Rachel’s review and think her choice for next month’s Book Club is perfect for Florence Finds – particularly as my thoughts turn to the garden with spring in the air and the romance that brings. I’ll let you judge for yourselves but please do join in and share your thoughts on Little Women and/or Good Wives, and let us know if you’ll be reading The Language of Flowers too. Don’t forget, all the book club titles are listed in Florence’s Amazon shop.

Little Women and Good Wives by L M Alcott

NB This review contains spoilers if you are yet to finish it.

I could write about how Little Women made me think about female friendships and how we’re drawn to stories surrounding them. (SATC anyone?) The different characters that make up our friendship groups. How we work as a friendship unit but within it some of us are closer to one friend, how we each bring out the best in each other and sometimes the calmest person gives strength to the loudest.

I could write about how I loved reading it in the run up, during and post Christmas. How it made me reflect on how we’re coming back to giving homemade gifts. We now relish making handmade gifts for our loved ones. There are wonderful passages about what they choose to make and give each other.

I could write about how I think I’m mainly Meg but with a little bit of Beth and Amy tossed in for good measure. (Though I do like my nose and would never dream of wearing a peg on it. Each time I read or think about Amy’s nose it makes me smile.)

Little Women

I could write about how I identified with Meg having completely planned what to say if Mr Brooke asked for hand in marriage. And when it came to it, it all went out the window.

I could write how it was good to read Good Wives in the New Year for New Year’s resolutions.

I could write about how I felt chastened reading about Meg’s desire and temptation for frippery landed her in financial trouble as I travelled on the tube to go sales shopping on the Kings Road.

I could write to all who are thinking about having a family, are pregnant or have a family that they must read the chapter ‘On the shelf’ to ensure their adult relationships remain strong with the arrival of the pitter patter of tiny feet.

I was all set to write about the heartache. About Laurie’s heartache. Let’s just say I missed my tube stop at the point where Jo refuses Laurie’s hand in marriage. I know, I know, of course Jo and Laurie shouldn’t be together but part of me will always feel that Jo and Laurie belong together. My heart kept saying – ‘Oh Jo why couldn’t you love Laurie?’ By the end of the book I’m just about convinced that they have all made the right matches.

And then…. The final chapter. Jo our strong willed, independent heroine, who breaks boundaries, lives by her heart and not society’s conventions sets up her own school. A school for boys. My head and heart scream – “What about the girls’ education?” I realise that even that is a step too far for Jo and L M Alcott to consider and feel thankful that I live in Britain in the 21st century.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I’m really excited about our next book. I’d been wanting to choose a more recent novel and it doesn’t get more recent than this one. It will be out in paperback on the 1st March. So read it first for Florence Finds.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is our next title for Florence Finds Book Club. I know very little about it apart from reading great reviews, hoping I’ll enjoy a good story and learn a little bit more about the language of flowers. What could be more perfect for a spring read? We’ll be reviewing this on 17th April.

Thanks Rachel!

Don’t forget, if you have a great read that you would like to suggest for Florence’s Book club (click for more info) then please just drop me a line on hello@florencefinds.com.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

Festive Friday Food – Rachel’s Plum and Orange cake

In part due to the funeral I’ve been at today, and in part due to lack of a wi-fi password at home(!) today’s Festive frock is somewhat waylaid… Please pardon the interruption to normal service and pop back tomorrow instead for a festive message. Xo

This morning festive Friday Food is brought to you by Rachel. When not found reading, Rachel is often baking and I was delighted to receive her recommendation which thoughtfully noted the contrast between the clean, fresh tastes in this cake and the majority of Christmas foods. It’s a welcome alternative over the Christmas period. I know I’m going to be trying it out. Thanks Rachel!


Image Credit: Let her Bake Cake

Plum and Orange Cake from River Cafe Cookbook Made Easy by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers.

Plum filling:
500 g ripe plums
50 g caster sugar
juice and zest of one orange
1 vanilla pod

Cake:
150 g unsalted butter
150 g caster sugar
2 eggs
85 g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100 g almonds, finely ground

Almond topping:
30 g unsalted butter
25 g brown sugar
zest of one orange
50 g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4

  • Halve and stone the plums and put in an ovenproof dish with the sugar, the orange juice and rind. Add the split vanilla pod and bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Scrape in the vanilla seeds.
  • Grease a 25cm round spring-form tin, lined with parchment paper, with extra butter.
  • Soften the butter and beat with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
  • Pour into the tin [it will be a thin layer] and push the plums and their juices into and over the cake. [I put a baking tray underneath in case any juices escaped.] Bake in the oven for half an hour.
  • For the topping, finely grate the orange rind. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar, zest and flaked almonds. Spread this over the half-baked cake, lower the heat to 160C / Gas 3 and bake for a further 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the tin.


Image Credit: Let her Bake Cake

It really is easy. I have a slow gas oven and these timings are good for me so adjust as your oven. Also don’t put the topping in too early as otherwise it will all sink in – it’s still delicious but doesn’t look so lovely. This cake will last for a good few days – so easy to make in advance and then keep nibbling on any leftovers.

Yum!

Just Festive Frock to go before home time readers and the holidays beginning 🙂

Happy Festive Friday,

Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Book Club: Breakfast at Tiffany’s & Little Women

Hooray! It’s that time again – Florence’s book club. Rachel is back with her thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I can’t wait to share mine (I’ll be leaving a comment later) and hear your take on it. Plus, I’m pretty excited about Rachel’s next choice which happens to be an all-time favourite of mine which featured heavily in my childhood. Let’s get going!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
So this is a book club. Yet try as I might to review just the book, the film just keeps creeping into my mind. Which came first for you? I knew of the film, but read the book first. After reading it I remember thinking ‘How can this story be so widely talked about with daydream moon eyes?’ The way everyone spoke I’d presumed this was a frothy, glamorous escape story. It’s nothing like I imagined. This is a dark story. Then I saw the film. Aaah: here are two different stories. This is my third re-read of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and this time I watched the film mid read. Like so many stories each re-read, & re-watch in this case, gives something new.

As is often the case, when there is a film, images are already in your head. The Holly of the film really does look like the Holly in the book.

‘…she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes.’

What really struck me this time is the theme of ‘travelling and home’. On first glance having ‘travelling’ on one’s calling card seems oh so decadent, teasing, yet the more one learns of Holly the deeper it runs. Her surname? Golightly. The cat with no name. It really struck me when she says ‘I’ll never get used to anything. Anybody that does they, might as well be dead.’ I like knowing where my home is. I’m glad I have an address with a number, road and town. I don’t want ‘Travelling’ as my address.

And as the story unravels it gets further and further from the film, or rather the film gets further and further from the book. So when I want to escape on a wet Sunday afternoon I shall re-watch the film. But when life feels blue, and I don’t want to run away from it, I will read the book.

I shall write no more. If you love the film do read the book, but expect a different story, or if you want to stay in the Tiffany blue box daydream then don’t; but if you don’t, know that the story you know isn’t Truman Capote’s.

Here are the prompts we left you with on the introductory post, which as you’ll have noticed I haven’t addressed so please don’t feel you have to.

  • Why do you love it/loathe it/like it?
  • Which happened first for you? Book or film and how were your thoughts different?
  • What do you think of the men in it?
  • What’s your favourite part?
  • What are your thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Little Women
Image taken from the 1949 film version of Little Women starring Elizabeth Taylor as ‘Amy’

We have The Help on the go too but the book for two month’s time is a childhood and adult classic that’s also a Christmas classic. One to cuddle up with cosy on the sofa with a mince pie, L.M.Alcott’s Little Women. It’s a long time since I read this and this time I’m going to be really interested in reading about the sibling relationship, thinking about which character is most like me, or I would most like to be like and how would I cope in their circumstances? I’m looking forward to reading about the sister, (I think Amy?) who wears a clothes peg on her nose to change its shape, Jo and Laurie’s relationship and strong female characters. If you’d like to read a little more, or read a part you’ve not read before then how about reading Good Wives too? We will be sharing our thoughts on this book on Tuesday 21st of February.

Thanks Rachel! Please do share you thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffanys (book or film) by leaving a comment. 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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