- Nigel Slater – The Kitchen Diaries
- Michael Palin – Diaries 1969-1979 The Python Years
- Kate Morton – The House at Riverton
- Chimamanda Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun
- Tom McCarthy – Remainder
- Jed Rubenfeld – The Interpretation of Murder
- Maeve Binchy – Whitethorn Woods
They make a mixed bunch, some I ‘ve read about on other blogs – nos.3, 5 & 6 which I thought would be good. Ever since Kimbofu admitted to reading Maeve Binchy I’ve wondered about Whitethorn Woods, hence this choice. Half a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize for Fiction this year and is described on Amazon as “compelling”, “disturbing”, “fantastic”, “brilliant” and incredible”.
Which brings me to the diaries of Nigel Slater and Michael Palin. (Diaries and auto/biographies seem to be currently featuring high up in my reading preferences.) Nigel Slater’s cookery programmes are very entertaining and his food always looks delicious. His book is autobiographical (I’d like to read his autobiography “Toast” sometime) as well as being a recipe book. The photos were taken in “real time”; Nigel writes “After I have cooked each meal and it has been photographed, we sit down and eat it while it is still hot. Then I wash up.” That’s what I like – it’s real stuff. I’ll certainly be trying out his recipes.
And now for something completely different – via Michael Palin, a great entertainer and long-time favourite. I started to read this book as soon as I opened it and it had me laughing straight away with his description of how he gave up smoking and started to write a diary to keep his “newly liberated fingers occupied”.
John Cleese decribes Michael as “the worst man in the world to take on a commando raid. You might as well take a large radiogram with the volume turned up. On and on, hour after hour, tiring the sun with talking and sending him down the sky, Michael chats, quips, fantasises, reminisces, commiserates, encourages, plans, discusses and elaborates. Then, some nights, when everyone else has gone to bed, he goes home and writes up a diary.”
Of course, the enjoyment of this for me is not just the details of how Monty Python came into being, but also this is about life in the 1970s – the index shows the broad range covered from literature, films, theatre, TV and radio programmes through to the electricity power-cuts and the three-day week, politics and politicians, cricket, football, and a Yeti expedition; and not forgetting information about family, friends and colleagues. This should keep me quiet for a while. On second thoughts it won’t – as I’ll be reading bits of it out loud so D can enjoy it – he’s an even bigger Python fan than I am and he’s also started to read this. No doubt I’ll be treated to his versions of the Argument and the Dead Parrot sketches etc, etc.
To round off my birthday D treated me to a sumptuous meal at Hartwell House. The House is beautiful, with both Jacobean and Georgian features. It has spacious rooms, with decorative ceilings and panelling, paintings and antique furniture. Its most famous resident was Louis XVIII, the exiled King of France who lived there from 1809 to 1814. Our meals were delicious, my pudding was outstanding – passionfruit souffle, with dark chocolate sauce and orange carpaccio and orange sorbet , undoubtedly the best pudding ever.