Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran

Pomegranate Soup: A Novel
- book #3 in the Irish Book Challenge - was a delightful read for a snow day in February. Appropriately described on the cover as reminiscent of Chocolat and Under the Tuscan Sun, the book tells the story of the Aminpour sisters, who have fled Iran and opened the Babylon Cafe in Ballinacroagh Ireland. Each chapter of the novel begins with a recipe that figures into the plot of the chapter somehow. At first I thought the book was going to be a fluffed up romance, but the emotional baggage that the sisters have brought along with them makes the book more complex, weaving in the history of the Iranian Revolution. I am tempted to try a recipe or two - especially fessenjoon - a chicken, walnut, pomegranate dish. Also, one of the characters climbs Croagh Patrick in the novel, as did the author, who is married to Irish American.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Skippy Dies: A Novel
- Book #2 of my Irish book challenge - was worth every minute of the time it took to read the 661 pages of Skippy Dies. I would loosely describe it as Harry Potter meets Animal House meets Dead Poet's Society. The setting is Dublin's Seabrook College for boys, and the title delivers it's promise early when 14 year old Daniel "Skippy" Juster dies on the floor of Ed's Doughnut Shop during a doughnut eating contest with his pudgy science-geek roommate, Ruprecht Van Doren. The book, which is sometimes sold under three separate covers, flashes back through the first two books, Hopeland and Heartland, to give readers the background into Skippy's demise - which includes drug-dealers, deluded and corrupt educators and young hormone-racing love. The final section, Ghostland, finds teenages trying to deal with the loss of a friend and sort out the mysteries of death. But the absolute joy of this entertaining story was the literary richness that it offers as well. Robert Graves, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost and some engaging history lessons mingle with some beautifully written passages about the redeeming qualities of story-telling to make this a book I won't stop talking about for a long time!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins

So as a way to spice up my already over-active reading goals, I have decided to take Laura Miller's suggestion and enter into a reading challenge for 2011. Since we have been talking about making a trip to Ireland, I chose the Irish Reading Challenge and decided on The Outside Boy: A Novel
as my first read because my cousin Martha had been trying to get me to read this book last summer. What a great novel to begin with. Set in Ireland in 1959, it is the story of 12 year old Christy Hurley's quest to determine the real story of his mother's life. He has been told by his father that his mother died giving birth to him - that they only shared 7 minutes on this earth. The story is sweet and engaging but also very informative as I knew nothing about the Pavee culture. Reading this novel led me to research these nomadic Irish travelers who are largely tinkers and constitute 0.5 percent of Ireland's population today.