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ALICE IN BED: A Novel ~Judith Hooper

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Interesting title for this book and it captured my attention and made me want to read it even before I knew much about the story!   When I learned it was about Alice James the sister of psychologist William James and writer Henry James, I did not hesitate to pick the book up and read.

I liked everything about this book – everything.  The writing was just perfect for the 1870s and captured the full image I had of Cambridge, Massachusetts I had tucked in my head.  The family is now living in Cambridge after being “hotel” children all over Europe.  Their Father being a lecturer and an interpreter of the “Divine Philosophy”.  There is little formal education for the children and lots of chaos in the family’s style.   Mary and Henry James are the parents of 5 children.  Bob, Wilki, William, Henry, and Alice.   Aunt Kate also lives with the family and they are surrounded with the elite of society.  Their home is located right across the road from Harvard Square.

Alice may prove over time to be the most intelligent of the family, but she is stuck with being a WOMAN and so no privilege is extended her way.  At about age 13, she begins fainting daily in the late mornings and is taken to numerous doctors about the “falls” and gets a number of bazaar diagnoses.  The medications make it worse; probably the corsets and crinolines and heavy-duty tight, restrictive women’s clothing also contributed to her ailment.   Women with hysteria diagnosis abounded.

Alice adored her brothers especially William who was thought to be a hypochondriac.  William was a talented painter but Father made him go into science and he became highly interested in the mind; studying very intently.  Henry abandoned his Father’s rules and took up writing and spent many years living in Europe.   On a trip to England at age 38, Alice fell and lost the use of her legs. She   was established in an apartment in England in a Spa City and could not travel again.  She began writing a diary which after her death was published and people were amazed how she understood politics and society and was so keenly aware of what was happening all around her and her caustic and keen sense of humor.

I kept wondering if I would describe this story as a biography, historic fiction, or a well-researched expose’.  I think I will use all three.  I enjoyed the detail and the feisty pro-woman stance, and how they fit evenly into the culture and the expectations for the traditional woman of that era.   There were several mentions of Emerson in the story but nothing about Margaret Fuller who would have been a kindred spirit to Alice.

History comes alive and I am very happy that TLC Book Tours sent me an advance PDF file to review this story.  I am sure I will read this book again in the future -Paperback.    I say that because my copy did not translate properly onto my Kindle. The print was so small, I had to keep stretching the page to be able to read it and the page then floated and would not move forward properly to turn the pages.  In the 390 page read I am sure I used up over an hour keeping the page in front of me.  This proved to be disconcerting.  (Hard copy it is 325 pages)

“Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.”

Judith Hooper writes a fine story and this is her premier novel – a very good work.  I know that many people will love this story and this history lesson.

“Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.”(TLC page)

Related:
Margaret Fuller
Hannah Coulter
Daughter of Sand and Stone

LIFE FROM SCRATCH: a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness ~Sasha Martin

Monday, March 9th, 2015

“I wonder if she’s right.  I wonder if, after Nick, the doorbell will continue to ring as we let in someone from Burkina Faso, then Burma, and so on, until the entire world is sitting around my dinner table.  An enormous global table.  No arguments. No food fights.  Just people there to share a meal.  What could I learn from them?  What could we learn from each other? “ (Page 286)

LIFE FROM SCRATCH is just the loveliest of books and I would expect nothing less from The National Geographic.  Food critic and Blogger Sasha Martin gives us the world in Food through 195 countries, 195 recipes in 195 weeks.  She attracts “foodies” from all over the globe and has wonderful conversations with her readers; it becomes a global conversation of interest and depth.

“Poignant and uplifting – not to mention delicious.  An amazing family tale.” ~A.J. Jacobs, author of THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY

Martin tells her life story and shares her relationship to food and her background.  How did this young woman develop such a joy in cooking and creation?  How did she end up living in so many counties and situations?  What is the tie that binds her life together and propels her into a life of her own creation?  What stirs her emotions and adds the sweetest touch to our lives?  And how on earth did she get her picky eater partner and baby to share in her experience over 4 years of exploration and writing?

The book is quite full of recipes and the story of how the blog post came together and how the family felt about eating that food.  195 countries and 195 recipes – many of which are contained in the chapters of the book.  We take a delicious nibble of the story and see the mother and daughter reunion taking place; a 3 generational study of mother-daughter relations all around us and how food is a universal language and a natural connector of all species.  The voice is heartfelt, emotional and a good chew.

National Geographic Books did not disappoint me and the story raised my spirits high.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for including my words on this tour.  I have added this book to my book clubs list, and my birthday list, and I know a lot of foodies and teachers will enjoy knowing about LIFE FROM SCRATCH.

There are 650+ recipes you can try on for free at www.GlobalTableAdventure.com  and a Global Table Adventure Starter Kit for those wanting to experience a Global Table Adventure.  There are discussion guides available for Book Groups.

Facebook: Global Table Adventure
Twitter: @Global Table
Pinterest: Global Table
#Life from Scratch

From the cover flap:

“Sasha Martin is an award-winning writer and blogger who spent almost four years cooking her way around the world.  She graduated from Wesleyan University and was an M.F.K. Fisher scholar at the Culinary Institute of America.  Her work has been featured on NPR and CNNGo, as well as in Whole Living, Bon Appe’tit, Smithsonian, and The Huffington Post.  Her website, Global Table Adventure is a go-to hub for foodies around the world.”

Related:
Glimpsing Heaven
When Women Were Birds
WILD 
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle 

LA BELLE CRE’OLE: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris ~Alina Garcia Lapuerta

Monday, November 10th, 2014

“The phrase ‘creole’ often puzzles the modern reader.  Many think that creole or criolla (in Spanish) means a person of mixed race from the former slave-owning states or the Caribbean.  However, the word merely indicates that someone was born in a colony, generally of European descent.” (From the author’s notes)

LA BELLE CREOLE is a biography about Maria de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo.   She is a heroine to the people of Cuba, who was raised by her material Great Grandmother on the family plantations  where she had free reign in her comings and goings until she was reconnected with her parents at age 9 with her Father and 13 with her mother.   Mercedes lived many years in Paris and Madrid before returning to Havana in the 1840s.  She was born February 6, 1789 in Havana, her parents left for Europe a few months later.

Her father thought a convent would be the best situation for Mercedes, but that was not to be with this society girl and her big ideas.

I read an advanced PDF copy of the book which did not include pictures or cover; I thought I should share Amazon’s Book Description here so we would both know the cover words:

The adventurous woman nicknamed La Belle Créole is brought to life in this book through the full use of her memoirs, contemporary accounts, and her intimate letters. The fascinating María de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, also known as Mercedes, and later the Comtesse Merlin, was a Cuban-born aristocrat who was years ahead of her time as a writer, a socialite, a salon host, and a participant in the Cuban slavery debate. Raised in Cuba and shipped off to live with her socialite mother in Spain at the age of 13, Mercedes triumphed over the political chaos that blanketed Europe in the Napoleonic days, by charming aristocrats from all sides with her exotic beauty and singing voice. She married General Merlin in Napoleon’s army and discussed painting with Francisco de Goya. In Paris she hosted the city’s premier musical salon where Liszt, Rossini, and great divas of the day performed for Rothschilds, Balzac, and royalty. Celebrated as one of the greatest amateur sopranos of her day, Mercedes also achieved fame as a writer. Her memoirs and travel writings introduced European audiences to 19th-century Cuban society and contributed to the debate over slavery. Mercedes has recently been rediscovered as Cuba’s earliest female author and one who deserves a place in the canon of Latin American literature.

The early reviewers on Amazon have all given it 5 stars and written very positive reviews.  For those readers who love a biography this book is a “treat” and it is very well written.   The author went to Georgetown University and now resides in England and is also Cuban heritage.  I was thinking as I worked my way through the book, how much my mother would have loved this story and enjoyed the extensive family history and the stunning descriptive paragraphs all gleaned from the author’s extensive research.

About the Author 
Alina Garcia Lapuerta Facebook

The copy of this book was sent to me by Chicago Review Press  for review and I appreciated the opportunity.

LA BELLE CREOLE was a good read.   I was saddened to learn that my copy did not include the family tree which was at the back of the book.  I grew a bit weary of the long narratives about the family at the beginning – the begats.  Family intermarriage was a security issue to keep the rich, rich and I get exhausted by the private club this creates in the world.

Related:
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
Imaginary Life 
A Snug Life Somewhere 
The Paper Garden

MY THINNING YEARS: Starving the Gay Within ~Jon Derek Croteau

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

“From the time I was a child in such an unsafe household, I’d been putting on layers of emotional fat, thickening myself for years to protect myself from the inevitable truth.  I must have been preparing myself for the ultimate rejection I assumed would come from my father, and eventually, everyone else.” (from page 210 of Advanced Copy Uncorrected Proofs)


MY THINNING YEARS is another self-help/recovery book from Hazelden Publishing.  It is a well written biography of a young man having to deal with identity issues in a verbally and often physically abusive household.  The author’s father only wanted certainly things for his three children and then they could not do them “right”.   His father was determined to destroy any “sissy” tendencies in his youngest son and determined that he was going to be a sports star in school – especially in baseball.   Croteau was a sport’s star but only in tennis.  His mother was very supportive and tried to protect her children managing her anger by chain smoking.

Food was a big issue along with perfect grades and achievements.  For the author, this translated into anxiety, anorexia, obsessive behaviors, perfectionism, and nearly suicide.  Many of his friends were females and neighbors who allowed Croteau access to their homes when his father rampaged.   Many of these friends stuck by him all of his life and protected him at school.  He loved to sing but was only allowed to be in theater productions required at school.

Croteau’s mother got him counseling help as best as she could provide by cashing checks at the grocery store and having a teacher provide the transportation so husband/father would not know.   His brother and sister had a hard time too, but not as tough as Jon because they were great at sports and not as sensitive.  Appearance was important and not having any “faggy” behaviors.

This is a well written account of how difficult it was in the 80s and 90s to find an identity and become self-affirming.  At one point in my career I was working with a group of teens as a counselor – all had eating issues, identity issues and food issues.  4 of the males in the group were anorexic and I wished I had had a copy of this book to share with them all; they were not alone it was a struggle for many.

I could identify with Croteau’s pathway too, because my home was run by a quiet perfectionist who used criticism as a tool.   My siblings were not safe or protective we were all in competition for attention and sometimes food.  Many, many people could relate to this recovery process and issues of self-affirmation.  It is good story telling.

“Jon Derek Croteau, Ed.D. is vice president at a leadership consultancy for higher education and health care clients across the globe. He is the author of three academic books on staff development and leadership as well as numerous articles for journals and periodicals, and he is a member of the speaker’s bureau of the National Eating Disorders Association.  Jon legally married his partner, Justin Croteau, in 2007 and currently resides in Vermont”

TLC Online Book Tours   and Hazelden sent me a copy of this book for review. MY THINNING YEARS is a very good read and resource.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Related
Conquering Shame and Co-Dependency 
Mind Without a Home 
Shadows In The Sun
The Isolation Door