Advertisements

Archive for the ‘biography’ Tag

The Spirit of Place, Love and Art   Leave a comment

I’m a fan of Alice Hoffman’s prolific work and her most recent, The Marriage of Opposites, reminds me why. She often incorporates elements of little-known history with a touch of the mystical. On the surface that may not sound enticing, but in Hoffman’s hands it is never overwhelming.

Set on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel’s father is among a group of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution from the European Inquisition. To describe his daughter as headstrong is an understatement.

The narrative primarily focuses on Rachel’s life, but later alternates with others. While still in her teens, Rachel is forced to marry Isaac, a man nearly twice her age. Following his death she’s left without property of own and seven children – three from Isaac’s first marriage.

This is not a tale of survival, though. It is part biography but largely a love story. It’s full of passion that emerges when Rachel meets Isaac’s young cousin, Frederic Pizzaro*, who arrives from Paris to take over the family business.

Going against their religion and social mores, Rachel and Frederic marry. Their youngest son, Camille, shares his mother’s obstinate nature; she acknowledges him as her favorite, although the two are often in conflict. The story soon becomes his as he struggles to pursue his artistic endeavors and eventually find his place among the French Impressionists.

Hoffman’s tale is also about of the influence of the island’s bright colors, cultural expectations and what happens when they collide with dreams.

The Marriage of Opposites
Four Bookmarks
Simon & Schuster, 2015
365 pages

*Camile changed the spelling of the name when he moved to Paris.

Advertisements

Setting America’s Culinary Table   4 comments

Any foodie worth his or her cookware will want to read Bob Spitz’s Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julie Child. Even if you’ve already savored your way through other biographies, memoirs or the film Julie and Julia, this is a must-read. At 500+ pages the book may seem daunting, but Spitz’s writing is conversational and personal; his respect for his subject is clear.

And why not? Her contribution to food culture notwithstanding, Julia Child was an intelligent, loving, enthusiastic woman. For much of her early life, food was just sustenance. She didn’t start cooking, or truly enjoying meals, until she was in her late 30s; once she did, she never stopped.

The biography is told chronologically, except for the prologue. Here the author describes the scene at WGBH in Boston just before Child makes her first television appearance where she cooked an omelet using a hot plate. From there, Spitz tracks everything including her privileged childhood in Pasadena, Calif., life in the Office of Strategic Services outposts, her marriage to Paul Child, and her almost-accidental love affair with food. The most interesting aspects are those that show her as a woman filled with a joie de vie and the ability to change with the times.

Spitz did extensive research to tell Child’s story. The result is a portrait of an unlikely leader in the early days of the food awakening in the United States. Her television shows, her cookbooks, even the parodies of her, contributed to the word “foodie” becoming part of our everyday vernacular.

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julie Child
Four-and-a-half bookmarks
A.A. Knopf, 2012
534 pages

Posted November 18, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

Tagged with , , , , , , , ,