A couple of underwhelming books

>> Monday, February 24, 2014

TITLE: The School of Essential Ingredients (aka The Monday Night Cooking School)
AUTHOR: Erica Bauermeister

Growing up, Lillian discovered the power of food when she was able to use it to reach her mother during a time she'd become completely withdrawn. Realising she had a particular affinity for using food in such a way, she became the owner of a restaurant, one which offers very special cooking classes. After our introduction to Lillian, the book covers one particular cooking course, each chapter exploring a month and a participant.

I liked the sound of it, but it really didn't work for me. I wasn't particularly interested in the characters, just barely enough to keep reading and not DNF the book (it was close, though, and I only finished it because it's short). Their stories felt pretty trite and superficial. There was nothing there to offend me, but nothing that I liked, either. The worst, though, was the writing. Your mileage may vary on this (certainly, many reviewers on amazon comment particularly that this was something they loved), but to me, the writing style felt really corny. It's self-consciously poetic, overloaded with overworked metaphors and trying too hard for magical realism, as if the author is trying to channel Like Water For Chocolate and can't quite make it. Instead, it all feels unnatural and forced. Not a success for me.

MY GRADE: This was a C-

TITLE: Murder On The Home Front
AUTHOR: Molly Lefebure

This is a memoir written by a woman who worked during World War II as secretary to a forensic pathologist. We're not talking office management here, this basically meant being with him as he carried out his work, whether it was examining a crime scene or performing a post-mortem.

I was interested in the content, not just seeign what forensic science was like in the 40s, but what day-to-day life would have been like in wartime London. Of course the war would loom large in people's minds, but life, including completely unrelated murders and deaths, would go on.

Unfortunately, Lefebure's writing style didn't work for me. It's clear and understandable, but that's all it's got going fot it. There's no dynamism, no flow, no storytelling. In the sections I read she writes about crimes that sound like they must have been fascinating in a way that doesn't go much beyond a bare statement of the facts, making reading about them very dull. Also, the narration felt very old-fashioned in a bad way. It was written in the 50s, and some ugly attitudes shine through.

MY GRADE: A DNF, unfortunately.


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