Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee. Food For Thought.

I want to start this review by saying I really enjoyed this book, even though it led to the biggest baking disaster that I have ever experienced. More about that later.

The story begins on a snowy night in New York City. Alexander “Sandy” Vandermeer Regal Portman is on his way to pick up his wife Emily, from the Upper West Side Animal Clinic where she works as a volunteer. When a yellow taxi cab swerves to avoid a little white dog running loose in the street Sandy dies in the ensuing collision.
For reasons that gradually become clear, as the story unfolds, Sandy is given a second chance at life, a chance to make amends to his wife. When he awakens to find himself inside the battered and broken body of the ugly little dog that caused the accident he has no clue just what this second chance will cost him.

 “I don’t know how long I lay there, moaning in the semidarkness and barn stench, without dying before I heard a door open. “Einstein?” It was a woman’s voice, one that I recognised. I was stunned and overjoyed when Emily appeared before the cage, her blue eyes filled with concern”
 “I named him without thinking, gently running my palm over the tufts of white wiry fur that stood up on his head and I knew that I had to save the animal, as if I could do so I could save my husband” 

Emily’s distant and cold hearted mother in law, Althea Portman, arranges Sandy’s funeral without consulting her. After the funeral she delivers another stunning blow when she tells Emily that her beloved home, an apartment in the Dakota building on the Upper West Side, belongs to the Portman Family Trust. It isn’t long before the eviction notice is served.
Emily adopts Einstein and brings him home.

 “We took a cab to the Dakota, my new dog stood on the seat next to me, his paws on the armrest so he could look out the window. He panted excitedly at the sight of the light brown sandstone and brick building with its high gables and deeply pitched roofs, balustrades and spandrels, the porte cochere archway leading in to the inner courtyard entrance.”

Emily is desperate to find proof that she owns the apartment, each evening after work she spends hours searching. When not searching, she bakes….. endless cupcakes, croissants and cookies.

cupcakes, croissants & cookies.
iternet images

Finally she resorts to ransacking Sandy’s private suite of rooms where she discovers his handwritten journals. As she reads her husband’s innermost thoughts Einstein tries to knock the last journal out of her hands.
Too late she discovers that for the last two years of their marriage Sandy had been unfaithful to her, many, many times.

“The pages forced me to admit what deep down I had already known but refused to see”

This isn't just a book about a marriage that went wrong, it's also about redemption as Sandy/Einstein tries to help Emily move on with her life and perhaps achieve as a dog, the greatness he always aspired to as a man, in the process. Sandy always dreamed of taking part in the New York marathon, when Emily can hardly drag herself out of bed to go to work in the morning Einstein forces her over the road and into Central Park.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship that develops between Emily and Einstein. As a dog owner of over 30 years I could relate to the “conversations” that the two of them have.

There is also a long list of other well drawn characters in this book, Emily’s rebellious younger sister Jordan; their deceased mother Lillian Barlow, a renowned leader of the feminist movement who influenced both of their lives greatly but in different ways; Emily’s work colleagues and neighbour Max.

I would give this book 4****.
Now to get back to that baking disaster.
Like Emily I love to bake and for this food for thought review decided that a New York cheesecake would be perfect.

internet image

Unfortunately ten minutes after the cheesecake was in the oven the spring form pan that it was baking in sprang open!
Oh! Yes, molten cheesecake, running out of the oven over the countertops. As I struggled to remove the baking rack the contents spilled all over the kitchen floor, disaster, ruined!
It’s a universal excuse but in this case it’s true the dog (Mr Ben) really did eat my homework, my floor has never been so clean!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The World of Downton Abbey.

“Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey a place that has captivated an audience of millions, all following the lives of one family and their servants against a backdrop of a fading Edwardian society. All of us can recognize a familiar character amongst them; Violet the Dowager Countess, the old fashioned grandmother; Mary Edith and Sybil, the squabbling sisters; Robert and Cora, the loving parents; or Rosamund, the interfering sister-in-law.”

Jessica Fellowes the author of The World of Downton Abbey is an established writer and editor. She has worked for the Mail on Sunday and for four years was Deputy Editor of Country Life magazine.
"Downton Abbey portrays a world of elegance and decadence, a world of duty and obedience and a world of romance and rivalry: this companion book, full of rich historical detail, takes fans deeper into that period than ever before.
Step inside one of the most beautiful houses in Britain, past Carson the butler at the front door and into the grand hallway. Catch a glimpse of the family having drinks in the drawing room before dinner, dressed in their evening finery, whilst Lord Grantham finishes writing a letter in his study. Then climb the grand sweeping staircase to the maze of rooms upstairs and peak through Lady Mary’s open door to see Anna, her maid, tidying scent bottles and jewellery on the ornate dressing table. Follow Anna down the servants’ stairs and into the kitchens to watch Mrs Patmore frantically preparing dinner. Mrs Hughes keeps a watchful eye from her study and the world of Downton comes alive before you.
Experience the inner workings of the downstairs life and be dazzled by the glamour of upstairs life with profiles of all the major characters, interviews with the actors, behind the scenes insights and in-depth information on costumes and props."
Amazon review.

When Downton Abbey first appeared on British TV screens on Sunday evenings during the autumn of 2010 it was a huge success and received many awards and nominations and I was hooked!
The second series which aired last autumn and the Christmas special that followed were even better (no spoilers but who doesn't love a happy ending?) and I’m very happy that a third series has been commissioned and will be shown later this year.
To receive this beautiful book on Christmas morning was the icing on the cake.
The photographs throughout are wonderful and it is packed with historical facts and information about life in England before, during and after the First World War, and the changes wrought as a result of it.

“Before the First World War, 1.4 million people were employed as domestic servants. It was one of the largest single employment groups – just outnumbering agricultural workers and coal miners – and was largely made up of women. Around 15 – 20 per cent of this number would have been working in the houses of the nobility and the landed gentry”.

To win a brand new copy of The World of Downton Abbey (I’m keeping mine!) all you have to do is go to my other blog Normandy Life and answer the giveaway question at the bottom of the post.
Click here to go to Normandy Life.

To receive 1 chance to win just leave a comment, answer the question correctly and your name will be entered into the draw twice.
The winners name will be picked at random and announced in my post when Normandy Life will be joining Laurie's Valentine's par-tay on Friday, February 10th.