I used to be a dedicated re-reader, but until this past month, I've been forging on ahead on my endless "to read" list without much back tracking. But September proved to bring together some circumstances that allowed me to enjoy a couple of re-reads.
In the first place, the kids started up school again and that requires a hell of a lot of brain power on my part. Getting them into the routine again, meeting the teachers, staff, parents and new kids and helping ease the transition from the looseness of summer into the more-interesting-and-yet-more-stressful atmosphere of the school year has left me with few spare brain cells to devote to paying attention to new fiction. I've started and abandoned a number of books this month.
But a couple of things came to my rescue. The first was my wonderful book group chose to read Suite Francaise (which I read last January). Last time I read the book, I neglected to read all the author's notes at the end of the book which really was a disservice. Sarah emphasized that I really needed to read them to understand the scope and trajectory of the book that Nemirovsky had intended to write.
The notes are heartbreaking in a different way from the book. The stories in the book are exquisite and it is hard to believe that they are not her final draft. But the notes in the back reveal the urgency of the writer, the pressures (if you can call Nazi occupation and being of Jewish ancestry merely a "pressure") under which the composition took place and the purpose with which she embarked on creating her fiction.
I read the notes and then went back and re-read some of my favorite parts of the novel--particularly those sections about Lucille. And this time, thanks to the notes, I had some idea of what would or could happen to the character in the intended, but unfinished at the time of the author's death, final three parts of the book.
We got together last week to eat French food, drink French wine, and talk about this wonderful book.
Clockwise from upper right: Daube Provencal, sauteed greens, mushroom gratin, and salade vert. And for dessert I made chocolate orange creme brulee:
My favorite item in the meal was also the simplest--Lea made the perfect salade vert. I love a good salade compose with complex mingling of varied ingredients, but there is something about the purity of a salade vert that I crave in a totally different way. Simple, tender butter lettuces dressed with a perfect tarragon vinagrette make a convincing argument for less is more. Lea shared the recipe with me (listed below) and I'm going to make it again this week.
The other circumstance that lead to a re-read, or more accurately a re-visiting though this time in audio CD format, was the amount of work that needs to be done getting this house prepared for the change of season. The library kindly delivered up to me the full audio CD set of Harry Potter 7, all 17 discs worth, and I have downloaded it onto my MP3 player while I caulk and patch and prime and repaint chunks of the house. I have discovered that I'm not as fond of audio books when I haven't read the book version already. Call me a dinosaur, but the words are more real for me if they are on paper and first enter my brain in this format. But I do love a good audio book as a re-read (or whatever you call listening to fiction) and I think the Harry Potter series are remarkably well read by Jim Dale.
Now that we are (sort of) settled into our new routine I think I can spare some brain cells for new fiction again and our next book group book won't be a re-read for me: The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea.
adapted from Epicurious
Large bowl of washed and torn butter lettuces tossed with the following dressing:
1 1/2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped tarragon
1 tsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients except for oil. Then add oil slowly while whisking to emulsify the dressing and toss with butter lettuces.