A richly textured past intimately evoked.

ROSEMARY AND BITTER ORANGES

GROWING UP IN A TUSCAN KITCHEN

From an Italian journalist who lives part of the year in New York, a beguiling memoir of growing up in a Tuscan city, learning to cook local and family favorites.

Chen’s memories are soft-edged and nostalgic as chapters such as “Garden Lessons” and “In Emilia’s Kitchen” recapture the way it was in Livorno on the Tuscan coast during the postwar years. Born in 1948, she missed the hardships of the war years, during which the family’s elegant home was taken over by a destructive German regiment and food was in short supply, but her relatives still practiced the economies learned then. Drawers were filled with wrapping paper, bits of ribbon, and pencil stubs that might be useful one day; one excessively thrifty aunt kept a jar labeled “STRINGS. Too short to be useful.” Chen and her brother were constantly reminded how fortunate they were to have food, which they were forbidden to waste. (Here the author inserts a recipe for economical and filling minestrone; other chapters also include relevant recipes.) Emilia, the family cook, taught her how to cook and shop daily at the local markets. Chen describes their house with its marble terrace and vegetable garden, the nearby convent school she attended (the competitive girl strove to be the most virtuous), and visits to her paternal grandparents’ seaside home in Sicily, where freshly caught swordfish was a staple at meals and the bedroom had a wonderful frescoed ceiling. She also vividly evokes period housekeeping details: the laundress washed their sheets in spring water and dried them on the grass; the pantry contained only dry goods, as perishables were bought daily in limited quantities; the family didn’t acquire electrical appliances until the ’60s. Chen entered adolescence during that decade, and she notes the growing American influence on music, television, and fashion that irrevocably changed the way Italians lived. She closes with a bittersweet account of visiting present-day Livorno.

A richly textured past intimately evoked.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-2223-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?

DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

more