LUNCH IN PARIS – Elizabeth Bard


Reading her book made me itch to get into the kitchen and start cooking! Immediately! And then buy a ticket to Paris for the pleasure of seeing the wonderful food markets she describes. At the end of each chapter are two or three recipes that have featured in the preceding chapter.
Not only do you get recipes, but you also read about the difficulties of adjusting to life and culture in France, which is worlds apart – quite literally- from New Jersey, USA , and a semi-Jewish heritage. It sounds so romantic: fall in love with a Frenchman, live in Paris, marry and settle down in Paris. Dream on. Elizabeth’s struggles to adjust, adapt, fit in and build a new life and many and varied. The language – the bureaucracy – and – and …
She also lets us in on the secret why French women are so damn thin. They’re wearing bikinis to the beach with utmost confidence at age 60! Want to know how? Portion control, and never, ever eating between meals. Simple. No snacking. Not forgetting the many flights of stairs in Parisian apartment buildings and the lack of lifts.
If you enjoy foodie books and memoirs, you should enjoy the book. Plus you can stun your friends by producing fabulous French dishes at your next dinner party
P.S. Do not open this book if you are dieting or trying to adopt a leaner, healthier lifestyle.


THE COLD DISH – Craig Johnson


Earlier this year I scooped up a terrific bargain at a booksale: five of Craig Johnson’s Walter Longmire mysteries, and have just finished reading the first story in the series.

Sheriff Walt Longmire,  long-time lawman of Absaroka County in Wyoming, faces numerous challenges –  staff issues within the Sheriff’s department, his own depression and despair over the (fairly) recent death of his wife, and now someone is systematically  knocking off the young adults who, as teenagers, gang raped a local Cheyenne girl, who was a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. The rapists went to trial but got light sentences, due to their young age.  But obviously the verdict isn’t sitting well with the local community. Is the murderer from the local Indian community on the Reservation? Or is an incensed  citizen of the small town dishing out community  vengeance ? Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the old saying goes.


Due to Johnson’s  skilful writing laced with dry humour, a  plot which could have been  heavy going, keeps the reader interested and entertained. I must say I was shocked and surprised by the revelation of the murderer’s identity, but the book is a great deal more than a whodunit.

What I enjoyed the most were the descriptions of the high mountain country, the changing seasons, and the tough people who live and farm in the area.  Johnson gives us a rich assortment of characters living in town and on the Rez, particularly Walt’s lifelong best friend, Henry Standing Bear. Henry is owner of the Red Pony Saloon. He is  grave (he never uses contractions in his speech ) dignified, and something of a gourmet cook.  And finally: Walt Longmire  himself is being  pursued and flirted with by several ladies in the town, to his gruff consternation. He is, after all, a widower, and he does have an  appreciation of female beauty. Well – in an old school kind of way, you understand.

A wonderfully well rounded read which I heartily recommend. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.



BOOKS BAGUETTES AND BEDBUGS – The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co – by Jeremy Mercer

Canadian crime journo, burnt-out and in a spot of bother at home, flees to Paris. Soon he’s penniless and ends up scrounging a bed at Shakespeare and Company, the legendary bookstore. George Whitman, the eccentric bookstore owner never turned away a homeless, broke, writer. He installed beds in odd corners of the rambling bookstore’s rooms where itinerant writers/readers camped for weeks, months and in some cases, years.
Oh the romance of life in Paris, following the tradition of literary greats! Oh the books! Oh! the cameraderie – the drinking – the girls – the bars, drinking wine under the bridges down on the banks of the Seine! Mercer loves every romantic moment.
But he doesn’t revel quite so much in the not so romantic life of scrounging food and showers, cleaning the bookstore, heaving boxes of books around in return for the free lodging and occasional meal.
Not to mention the whims of mercurial, eccentric George, who emerges as King of his castle, amongst a wonderful gallery of readers, writers, rogues, romantics, rascals, vagabonds, thieves, hopefuls, the lazy and the crazy – they’re all there, but the books is worth reading just for the pleasure of encountering George.
Mercer describes his five month residence in 1999/2000 at Shakespeare and Company with warmth, verve and plenty of warts (his own featuring prominently).
I loved every page. How I wish I were thirty years younger – I’d be off to Paris in a flash, living the bohemian life of a would be writer, sipping wine and desperate for a shower, along with the rest of the motley crew.
If you enjoy books about writers and readers, Mercer’s story is a Must Read.



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This month I’ve been Globetrotting with a French novel, an Indian novel, an African novel and the usual British & American reads. Plus a marvellous book of essays from one of my favourite American writers: Rebecca Solnit. Part memoir, part philosophical reflection, and beautiful writing throughout – balm for the soul. Highly recommended .
Ratings: 5* – Outstanding! 4*+ – Good to very good; 3* – average; 2* – run-of-the-mill; 1* – dismal; zero * – no comment. DNF – did not finish

5*A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit. Non-fict. Essays. A treat for the mind and heart. See review on GR:
5* 21 at 21. The Coming of Age of a Nation – Melanie Verwoerd & Sonwabiso Ngcowa. Non-fict. A survey of 21 ‘Born Frees’. Fascinating insights into South Africa’s new adults. Reviewed on this blog.

4*How it all began – Penelope Lively .Contemporary English novel – entertaining .Recommended . Review on
4* The Golden Son – Shilpi Somaya Gowda . Rich, satisfying read about the conflict between East and West, in the life of an Indian doctor. Reviewed on this blog.

3.5*The First Thing you see – Gregoire Delacourt. French novel. Ordinary people with dark pasts fall in love. Reviewed on this blog.


2* The Thunder that Roars – Imran Garda. African migrants and family history .
2* The Bookstore – Deborah Meyler . Chick-lit. Insufferable love interest.

21 at 21 : The Coming of Age of a Nation – Melanie Verwoerd & Sonwabiso Ngcowa



It has been 21 years since the dawn of democracy in South Africa. To mark the “coming of age” of the nation, Melanie Verwoerd and Sonwabiso Ngcowa travelled across South Africa collecting the life stories of people born in 1994. These “born frees” relate their personal journeys, dreams and hopes for the future of the country. The brutally honest voices of these 21-year-olds, challenging and disturbing, as well as funny and hopeful, give an invaluable insight into modern day South Africa. “A remarkable insight … It will leave no one untouched” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The book should be required reading for all South Africans and should be part of the high school curriculum to show our school kids that we are all human, regardless of colour and economic status.
I could devote a review to each of the stories, but will highlight a few to show the diversity of our country’s young people. The stories range from the heroic (child-headed households) to the heartbreaking, from incredible hardship to the hopeful with bright eyes on the future.
“I am Xhosa First” says Siviwe Njamela, and goes on to talk about the importance of traditional tribal initiation in black culture, a topic that many South Africans know little about and have no grasp of the cultural importance to the majority of our population.
By way of complete contrast is the chapter on Joost Strydom, titled Growing up in Afrikaner Paradise . He was brought up in the ultra-nationalist  Afrikaner enclave of Orania, and emerged as a stable, well-rounded, bright young man and not a howling racist as many might suppose. Our complex society is full of surprises and contradictions.
“Get me to 21” girl Jenna Lowe, died from pulmonary arterial hypertension. When interviewed for the book, she just wanted “to get to 21”. She passed away on Monday the 8th of June, just four months shy of her 21st birthday that she so desperately wanted to make. During her short life she became South Africa’s voice for organ donation with her campaign Get Me To 21.


And then there’s the vexed question of cultural and racial identity – still a big issue in South Africa, 21 years on into the New South Africa. The chapter on Ishmael Evans The Intricacy of belonging. He was born in Australia to ‘a *coloured guy from Uitenhage’ (his own words) and a mother born in Liverpool England. Because of growing Islamophobia in Australia, the family moved back to SA in 2010. Ishmael sounds and looks like an Australian, but is a devout Muslim . A good cricketer, he wants to play cricket at national level. He appears white, but thinks of himself as a coloured .
“I want to be a good dad one day” said Marcellino Fillies. That’s his ambition: to live a productive life and have a family. So many of the stories reflect a very South African problem, that of the absentee fathers. Which in turn lead to developmental problems, and lack of role models.
I could go on and on. If you live in South Africa: read this book!
If you live outside our borders and want to know more about us, read this book!
a *coloured guy – racially mixed parentage, often white & black.

THE FIRST THING YOU SEE – Gregoire Delacourt



A young French woman, Jeanine Foucamprez, is a dead ringer for the gorgeous global star, Scarlett Johansson.  But what Jeanine desperately desires, is to be seen, appreciated and loved for who she really is. She knocks on the front door of Arthur Drefuss, small town garage mechanic, and changes his life forever.

A perfect week follows: simple unaffected happiness and young love. Amongst the heady bliss, dark fragments of  the couples’ past history emerges. Naturally this  can’t last. The end comes, as it always does. Life goes on, as it always does. The dark strands added texture to what otherwise would have been a romantic  meringue.

Being a French novel, it was quirky, witty and unusual; all of which I loved. It was refreshing to read about a normal ordinary person (Arthur, the mechanic). I’m tired of reading about sophisticated urbanites or struggling young wannabees, or disenchanted middle aged couples sabotaging their lives and marriages.  British and American novels often present these  stereotypes. What I didn’t like was the constant references to films and songs that meant nothing to me.  But this said, I enjoyed the book.  It was very French which was a welcome change.  Recommended read.