Amandine by Marlena de Blasi
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
I have read and immensely loved Marlena de Blasi’s memoirs (check out my reviews of them here, here and here), the evocative way she writes about the places she lives in, the people and the food there. Amandine is the first work of fiction by the author that I read, and I have to say I did not enjoy it as much as her non-fiction works.
Amandine is the story of a girl, who is given up by her family as she is an ‘illicit’ child, born to her mother out of wedlock. She belongs to an aristocratic family, but is brought up in a convent somewhere in France, left at the mercy of the head Sister Paul, who absolutely hates her. Not all is bad for the little girl, though, for she soon wins over the hearts of all the nuns in the convent, as well as the other girls studying there. She has Solange, a mother figure, to care for her at the convent. But then, the little girl’s heart is broken over the fact that she has never known her mother, and doesn’t remember anything about her. Will she ever succeed in meeting her mother? Will she be able to escape the cruelty of Sister Paul at the convent? How will she face the changing times – it is the time of the Second World War, after all? All of this and more forms the book that is Amandine.
I enjoyed this book in parts, while I didn’t like the other parts all that much. In some places, the author’s brilliant narration shines through. She amazed me with her deep understanding of the thoughts in the innermost recesses of people’s minds. In some other parts, the storyline is highly dramatic and unbelievable, which didn’t go down so very well with me.
I would, however, still recommend this book to you, if only for the sheer brilliance that the author has demonstrated in some parts of it.
For You, Mom, Finally by Ruth Reichl
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
This was my first non-fiction read by Ruth Reichl, which I delved into with great expectations. I have heard great things about her Tender At The Bone and Garlic And Sapphires, both foodie non-fiction books, but haven’t had the chance to read either. I did read her first fiction book, Delicious, earlier this year, and didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected to. I picked up For You, Mom, Finally because the premise sounded interesting – a book by a daughter when she finally understands what her mom was all about, written after the mother has passed away. I heard there were letters in the book and, being the big fan of epistolary books that I am, I had to get my hands on this. Sadly, though, the book was disappointing.
In For You, Mom, Finally, Ruth gives readers a glimpse into what it was like to be her mother, who was neither pretty nor ‘domesticated’, born in an era when women were expected to be pretty and trained in household duties. Ruth goes on to figure out why her eccentric mom was the way she was, because of her thwarted desires, the lessons that her mother taught her when she didn’t even realise she was being taught. The book surely made me feel glad to have been born in a different era, still patriarchal, but with things having changed a whole lot from the way they used to be.
There are little moments in the book that are absolutely brilliant, that will not fail to touch anyone or provoke thought in them. The letters, the overall narration, though, felt unsatisfactory, at least to me. The book feels like it has been written just for the sake of being written, just because Ruth promised herself and her mother that she would write it. There is no depth in the story, and it would have been an outstanding read had that depth been there. There are excerpts from the diaries, notes and letters of the author’s mother, but they too are unsatisfactory in terms of building depth.
All in all, I was disappointed with this book. That said, I do still want to give her foodie non-fiction books a go.
What are you reading at the moment?