Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town

     My last memoir review of the summer is Perfectly Miserable~ the book, not the review!  Written by Sarah Payne Stuart about her childhood in, and adult return to, Concord, Massachusetts, Ms. Stuart's story was very readable and had a lot of potential.
     I enjoyed her tales of her formative years in Concord yet wished she had given us more details about her family.  The information she shared about them was spotty, leaving me with more questions than answers.  I was pleased and satifsifed, however, with the way she wove tales of Concord's famous past residents into her own story, especially those of the Alcott family. References to Hawthorne and Thoreau were interesting, as well.

     In order to fulfill the promise included in her book's title, Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town, Sarah Stuart begins by telling her readers that she was not the perfect example of filial compliance, but then who really is?  And while she willingly moved away from Concord (escaped, if truth be told), she then returned, husband and children in tow, to recreate for her own children the childhood experience she had.  That seemed odd to me.  After putting distance, both physical and emotional, between herself and her parents, I remain puzzled about why she returned and what she gained by doing so.  She seemed to leap gleefully into the competition for house and neighborhood prestige in Concord, the "keeping up with the Jones family" syndrome,  a habit that I don't think she admired in the adults of her youth.   And where God enters in, I'm really not sure.
     I do recommend reading Perfectly Miserable, Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town yet I would be interested in the opinions of others regarding whether Ms. Stuart really delivered what she promised in the title.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

     Another detour on my summer memoir path is this gem of a book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.   Translated from the French by Europa Editions, Ms. Barbery tells the story of the residents of an elegant apartment building in Paris from the viewpoint of Renee, the building's concierge and Paloma, a sad but brilliant twelve year old tenant.
     The book is written in brief chapters, alternating between Renee's and Paloma's points of view.  I grew to quickly love both characters.     The Elegance of the Hedgehog also tells the story of an older,  Japanese widower who has moved into a recently vacated apartment.  Kakuro Ozu's connection to the disparate female narrators completes the emotional connection both were seeking.
     It would be difficult to pronounce this the best book I have ever read, but it is certainly the best one I've read in a long time.  The characters tug at your heart, stimulate your mind and capture your attention so well that I was truly sad when the last chapter arrived.     
     When reading this story, as Muriel Barbery states, "You have found a good hiding place."  And isn't all great literature exactly that?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Escargot at Brasserie Gigi
Picture by H. Chabot
     As sad as we were to see the Italian restaurant Mercato close in January, our happiness at the opening of a French restaurant in its' place knows no bounds.
     Brasserie Gigi at 102 N. Market St., purveyor of French cuisine extraordinaire, exceeded all of our expectations.   From the Escargot, prepared in a delicious broth of garlic, parsley, butter, chives, shallot and anise, served in the shell, to the chocolate pot de creme, all was perfection.
      Our party shared the Escargot, mopping up every last bit of parsley butter with extra pieces of freshly baked and soft (thank you!) French bread.  We pulled the delicious snails from their shells with a small-tined snail fork--many thanks to the waiter who, when he saw that one of our snails would not come out, brought us an even tinier fork with which I easily extricated the tender, recalcitrant mollusk.
We were served iced water throughout the meal from a large, chilled bottle and also enjoyed a very nice California Chardonnay.  Our waiter, Chris, was kind enough to bring an ice bucket to keep our bottle of white wine chilled tableside.
     Three of my dining partners ordered the classic Steak Frites for a main course.  We were all well pleased with the New York strip steak, seared and cooked to medium temperature with a nice, pink center.  The meat was moist, flavorful and accompanied by a delicious bearnaise sauce.  I dipped my skinny, crispy "frites" (french fried potatoes) in the bearnaise, too.  Oh yes, they were a little taste of heaven.  A salad of leaf lettuce and sliced tomato shared the plate with the meat and potatoes, dressed with a light and tasty vinaigrette.
     Shrimp Provencal,  tail-on shrimp tossed with linguine in a garlic and white wine sauce, was enjoyed by the fourth member of our party.  The lemon and thyme flavors dominated, adding much to the enjoyment of the dish.
     We finished our meal with after dinner drinks and two shared chocolate pots de creme.  The ramekins of milk chocolate were creamy, not too sweet and topped with fresh, whipped cream.  A sweet finish to a lovely meal.
We will happily return to Brasserie Gigi.