Monday, 15 September 2014

Reading in August-September

It's Twitterature time again! Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy to share short reviews of recent reads.

So what have I read during the past month?

Not a lot.

No great Christian books to share, as the only one I've finished since last time was in Finnish.

Just one book of fiction:

Simonson, Helen: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew, retired and widowed, lives in a small Sussex village. A new relationship in his life means he has to 'do the right thing' - even if it seems that half the village is against him.
A sweet novel. Perhaps even a gorgeous novel. Great main characters.

And two non-fiction:

John Hughes-Wilson (with Nigel Steel): A History of the First World War in 100 Objects.

The ONLY non-fiction book I finished in August. At 400+ pages, chock-full of interesting details, it's probably not surprising that it took a big chunk of my reading time.

The point of view is mostly British, and all the objects in the book are from the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Colonel John Hughes-Wilson is a notable British war historian and Nigel Steel is the Imperial War Museum's principal historian: great credentials for writing an overview of the war: background, events - many aspects

Recommended: for history buffs interested in the First World War.

von Bremzen, Anya: Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. A Memoir of Food and Longing.

The history of the Soviet Union interwoven with the story of one family and food.

Anya von Bremzen puts her and her mother's personal stories into their context in history, painting a living picture of the paradoxes and realities of Soviet life. Hospitality, feasts and famines, shortages and queues contrasted with the extravagance of the later 'ruling class'. We see the significance of food in human relationships - and in culture, history and politics, too.

This is one of the best food-related memoirs that I've read. Anya von Bremzen can write - and she has a lot of stories to tell.

Personally, I loved this book all the more for being able to connect some bits and things to my own memories.
I grew up in Finland - a next door neighbour to the Soviet Union. As a child, I visited the Soviet Union twice on tourist trips and read about the 'wonders' of Soviet Union in glossy magazines. Growing up, I also had an inkling of the non-glossy realities of the totalitarian state. Around the time I became an adult, the Soviet Union collapsed. I've been travelling in the Baltic countries since early 1990s. I've visited many flats in those khrushcheba houses and been on the receiving end of incredible hospitality. I've seen the Baltic countries shedding their Soviet influences - and yet, some 'pan-soviet' have foods remained. Salat Olivier. Prianik gingerbread. Plombir ice cream. Pelmeni. Kotleti. Borshch soups. And when Anya von Bremzen writes about them, I go "Oh, yes. I remember that!"

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous17/9/14 01:34

    Oh! I lived in Lithuania for a while, and have Mennonites-from-Ukraine ancestry. This looks like just my cup of tea.