Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec / Still Alice by Lisa Genova / One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Temporary BrideThe Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was contacted on Twitter by Jennifer Klinec who asked if I would like to review her memoir, The Temporary Bride. As the book combines two of my favourite things - travel and food - I was delighted to accept, downloading my copy via NetGalley. Despite its seemingly romance novel title, The Temporary Bride is actually the interesting memoir of a fiercely independent woman. An inspired and insatiable cook, Jennifer Klinec travelled the world in search of fabulous recipes and one of her journeys led her to Iran where she spent several weeks practically living with a family in order to learn the woman of the house's culinary secrets. She also met the woman's son, Vahid, initially disliked him, but gradually built up understanding, friendship and then love.

As a fairly short memoir, I read The Temporary Bride in a day and wished I had known ahead of time to provide myself with snacks! Klinec's overwhelming love of food and cookery had me wanting to try the dishes she describes, several of which sounded divine. I had hopes of a couple of recipes being included at the end but was disappointed in this. Perhaps Klinec also has a recipe book out? I must check for one! Her descriptions of day to day life in Iran are nicely balanced with the positives of the culture getting mentions alongside the negatives. As a British reader, I found the restrictive laws and constant threat of arrest a frightening prospect, but appreciated learning how there is more than this to living in the country. The budding relationship itself is discreetly portrayed and I did empathise with the hoops Jennifer and Vahid needed to jump through simply to be together.

I would definitely recommend Klinec's memoir to foodies and I think that travellers will identify with her drive to see everywhere. The book is nicely observed and well-written. Just do remember that reading it will make you feel very hungry so be prepared!

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's a small bookshelf in the entrance to Chain Bridge Honey Farm which has a reasonable selection of second-hand books for sale. I spotted a good condition copy of Still Alice for 50p and decided to give it a read as the novel has been so popular since its film version was released. My first problem with the book however was caused by this duality. The Alice on the cover bears no physical resemblance to the Alice in the text, so there were a couple of significant points where I didn't immediately identify the small woman with dark curly hair described in the text with the straight auburn haired woman pictured. It does annoy me when publishers set their integrity aside to cash in like this! There must have other film images that would have been suitable and accurate to the prose. (Rant over!)

The novel itself is OK. Alice Hoffman is a Harvard University psychology professor specialising in language, who begins to lose her own ability to communicate as she develops early onset Alzheimer's disease. Oh, the (frequently hammered home) irony! Genova also piles on emotional triggers by including a historic family tragedy and a forthcoming possible birth so this could have been a real tear-jerker in the right hands. I didn't feel that any of the characters leapt off the page to me though. Alice's husband, John, is an unsympathetic creation seeming mostly to exist to spout medical information to the reader.

For me, this story and the affluent family at its centre were just too removed from reality, despite the novel telling a story that must have all-too-real elements for many families worldwide. There have been a number of dementia-related novels launched over the past year or so and, for a nuanced and deeply understanding portrayal of the disease and its harrowing effects, I would recommend Elisabeth Is Missing over Still Alice anyday.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have had One Hundred Years Of Solitude on my kindle for nearly a year now, since I enjoyed losing myself in my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Love In The Time Of Cholera. One Hundred Years is equally as immersive a novel which tells the story of a remote South American village from its inception to its happy years, on through a nationwide civil war, to its near destruction by greedy white industralists, and through years of constant monsoon-like deluge. I love the huge scale of the story, especially as it is contained within a single small village and, a lot of the time, in one large house.

The extended Buendia family are the central pivot and their matriarch, Ursula, is a great character. She sees several generations live and die, stay near or travel away, and all named for the generation before which leads to incredible potential confusion for the reader. It seemed at times as though all the many male characters were named either Jose Arcadio or Aureliano! Initially I tried to remember the familial relationships of each as they were mentioned, but this became far too baffling so I instead just kept reading and found that discreet indications in the text allowed me to know about whom I was reading as I got to know the family better.

Marquez' knack for language and description is fabulous. I loved imagining the invasion of the schoolgirls, Aureliano playing the accordion at his parties, the Colonel becoming wearied of endless war, Melquiades continuing despite death, the old Jose tied to the tree, the candied animals and the little gold fishes, the gringos locked behind wire fencing in their chicken coop houses, the people becoming moss-covered in the endless rain. One Hundred Years Of Solitude is worth reading for its imagery alone, but when so many human stories are threaded through as well, the novel transforms into a superb experience.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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