Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Our book group never meets in August, too many people are away on holiday or visiting or being visited by friends and relations so we take a one month break. Years ago we established a tradition of having a supper party at the July meeting, and instead of reading a book to discuss at that meeting, we each bring a dish for the buffet, and three paperbacks, one of which must be relatively new. All the books are piled on a table and then, after much eating, drinking and gossiping, everyone can select three books for summer holiday reading. The system works very well, and it is surprisingly rare to find we have duplicates.

I’ve been giving my selection of books to contribute some thought, and thought you might like a sneak preview:

First up is ‘Notting Hell’ by Rachel Johnson. Set in what is now one of London’s most sought-after postcodes, this is mummy-lit of a very superior kind. Being a Notting Hill Mummy is a full-time job and requires a six-figure income. After all one has to have the house feng shuied, the kids in the best private nursery-schools, daily dog-walkers for one’s designer Labradoodle, a personal PA, and a family nutritionist. One must always be on the q.v. for who is going up in society and who is going down, what is in and what is out. Its all so exhausting darling, that you will need private yoga classes and regular wheat-grass smoothies to alleviate the stress.
As one of the cover blurbs says: “snappy, witty, clever, shallow, heartless, and hugely
BTW the author is journalist sister of blond mop-headed Tory MP Boris Johnson and I suspect that the characters are all based on real people.

Rated: 3.5*

My next choice is A Quilt of Dreams by Patricia Schonstein, a South African writer who studied literature at UCT under the aegis of J. M.Coutzee. The book is set in Grahamstown, a small city in the Eastern Cape, during the 1990s when political unrest was at its height. Reuben Cohen van Tonder is an unhappily married, alcoholic jew who runs a local bottle store. He had a ghastly childhood which has left him with a well of deep unhappiness and he is desperate for peace of heart. Vita Mbuli is a young Xhosa girl, daughter of a black activist, who has become determined to undo the curse that she thinks has given her family such bad luck down the generations. Although these two characters have never met, the story flips in and out of the past, linking them together. Magical realism is the ideal style of writing to interlace the brutalities of apartheid, anti-semitism, tenderness and hope.

Rated: 3*

My final choice is The Easter Parade by Richard Yates; I read and enjoyed his book Revolutionary Road which is being made into a film starring Kate Winslet, and that nudged me into reading this book – I think I preferred it to Rev. Rd.

It is about two sisters, Emily and Sarah Grimes who are the daughters of divorced parents. They grow up to become very different women; Sarah settling for marriage and suburbia, and Emily wanting a much more exciting life. Both women are trying to find the happiness that has eluded them since their parent’s parting. Beautifully written.

Rated 4*


Tony Blair, Cherie Booth/Blair, Alastair Campbell, Fiona Miller...wouldn't it be wonderful if we never had to hear from or about any of this incestuous little group of ex-chums ever again? No such luck. Apart from the fact that we'll hear no end of TB trying to sort out the Middle East (some hope), I now learn that the BBC has paid £250000 for three one hour programmes featuring Alastair Campbell reading his sodding diaries aloud. That's £250000 of license-payer's money so he can advertise his book. Words fail me. I am seriously, SERIOUSLY, pissed off.


Considering this is July the weather has been unseasonably cool, wet and gloomy. I long for proper summer sunshine. The other day I bought some strawberries to serve when my daughter came for lunch; I was intending to have them with some icecream, but it was so chilly I felt we all wanted something warm to eat.....hmmm, warm but summery, using strawberries....hey presto


400g ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
2 Tablespoons ground almonds
4 Tablespoons caster sugar

1 packet ready rolled puff pastry
Icing sugar for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 200°C

Using the base of a cake tin as a template, cut out a 24cm circle from the puff pastry and lay it on a greased baking tray. Using a sharp knife and a steady hand, score a second circle 1½ cms inside the edge of the pastry circle. Take care not to cut right through the pastry when doing this.
Sprinkle the ground almonds and 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar evenly over the inner circle. Place the strawberries, pointed end upright, closely together in the inner circle. If there are any gaps, cut a strawberry into quarters and use the sections to plug them. Sprinkle the remaining caster sugar over the strawberries.

Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, until the edge of the tart is puffed up and golden, and the berries are dark and beginning to caramelise.

A dusting of icing sugar over the berries is all the garnish required.

Serve hot, warm or cold with a dollop of crème fraiche or a scoop of icecream.

1 comment:

Bybee said...

Strawberry Tart...I'm mesmerized. Forgot what I was going to say...oh yeah. Richard Yates. I'm glad he's finally getting some recognition after all these years. The film version of Revolutionary Road will help a lot. Have you seen the Seinfeld episode, The Jacket? Elaine's father is based on Richard Yates...ummm....strawberry tart...