Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper (July 1, 2014)
A moving and detailed glimpse of life during war and a story about love--between a husband and wife, best friends with lives on different paths, love of family, and even love of country and duty. The story moves along at a slow pace in the beginning as the characters are sketched and the stage as set with the action picking up more toward the end. For me it was worth the wait to see how the characters grew and changed with their experiences. Of childhood friends Kezia and Thea, Kezia was the easier to warm up to--young and naive but wanting to be a good wife and partner to her husband. Since that is not my style, I expected to identify and prefer Thea, the politically aware and active suffragette. I found her to be judgmental and not very likable in the beginning but she does improve later on as she jumps into the war efforts, driving ambulances in the thick of the action in France. The love that Tom, a genuinely good man, had for Kezia was strong and tugged at the heart. The correspondence back and forth between Kezia and Tom with her descriptions of meals she 'cooks' for him in her imagination and his replies on how he enjoyed them were some of my favorite parts of the book. Her letters serve as a small escape for her, Tom and even his fellow soldiers. Because it is war, this isn't what I would call a happy book, but I found it engrossing reading and I was sorry to turn the final pages. It has inspired me to seek out the author's mystery series, set after The Great War, and give it a go. Lovers of historical fiction, romance, wartime novels and stories set in Britain and Europe will enjoy this one.
Author Notes: Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels featuring Maisie Dobbs, a former World War I nurse turned investigator. Originally from the United Kingdom, Winspear now lives in California. Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.
In times of war, many ingredients and even food itself is not plentiful either for those on the front or those back at home, but the book still has a strong food focus. Kezia seeks solace through the kitchen and instead of burdening her husband with worries of the farm and home front in her letters, she writes to Tom about the the inventive meals she makes for him in her mind. I loved how Kezia threw herself into the art of cooking, adding her own special and unique touches to the dishes she made, as well as seeing the love and care she poured into the food she made and shared with others.
For my dish inspired by the book, I could have gone with all manner of Kezia's fanciful creations but I chose to go with breakfast and to make an egg dish. Even lacking money and some ingredients, the farm produced eggs and Kezia still managed to cook a wonderful breakfast each morning for the farm workers.
I went with a Nigel Slater recipe from his Real Fast Food book--"Buttered Eggs"--intrigued by the sprinkle of sherry vinegar on top. I thought that it was something Kezia might have tried if she had stashed away a bit of vinegar purchased in London on her before-the-war trip. Kezia also mentions using sherry (the wine not the vinegar) for cooking in some of her letters to Tom. I added a sprinkle of minced tarragon because I love it paired with eggs. Adding herbs is something Kezia would have done to give it her special touch--although likely she would have chosen her oft-used rosemary. ;-) Served on long slices of toasted/fried grainy bread, it is a simple, homey dish made a bit special.
Nigel says, "A very quick dish, cooked in a matter of minutes. Use any good vinegar to sharpen the butter: ordinary red wine vinegar would be good enough, mellow sherry vinegar even better."
Adapted from Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater
Melt 4 tablespoons butter (I used two--rationing for the war and my arteries) in an omelet pan or small frying pan. Break two eggs and slide them without breaking the yolks, into the bubbling butter.
As soon as the whites are set, scoop the eggs out of the butter with a slotted spatula and slide onto a warm plate. Return the pan to the heat and cook over a slightly higher heat u until the butter starts to brown and smell nutty. Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar into the butter and pour quickly over the eggs.
Notes/Results: If you are an egg lover--especially eggs with runny yolks, you'll love this dish. Simple but decadent even with halving the butter to a more reasonable amount. I just couldn't do the four tablespoons that Nigel was allotting for one serving. (Yikes!) It was still more than enough nutty brown butter with a kiss of the bright sherry vinegar to give it fabulous flavor and to soak into the bread a bit. The tarragon gave it that extra bit of herby flavor and, along with a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, rounded things out perfectly. I am sure I will make these eggs again.
This morning-starter is being linked up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Let's Do Brunch! --featuring Nigel Slater recipes suitable for lazy morning indulging. This egg dish cooks up in minutes but is worth lingering over. ;-) You can see what brunch recipes everyone picked by checking out the picture links on the post.
Note:A review copy of "The Book of You" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought about the book here .