It is labelled as a family story, an African story. But it is an Expat's story and the retelling is masterful. If you've never been an expat, you can't imagine the hardships that are endured. Alexandra Fuller lays them all out in a very colorful way.
What she also lays out for you is the madness in just how compelling a life as an expat can be; full of moments that show the extreme beauty of the world we live in and then its extreme cruelty.
"We should have seen that a story begun with such one-sided, unconscious joviality ...would end a decade later in defeat and heartbreak...how few have the wisdom to look forward with unclouded hindsight. Not my parents, certainly. Not most of us. But most of us also don't pay so dearly for our prejudices, our passions, our mistakes. Lots of places, you can harbor the most ridiculous, the most ruining, the most intolerant beliefs and be hurt by nothing more than your own thoughts."
"...It's not easy to leave a life as arduously rich and difficult as all that."
This moss-green, leather-bound book caught my eye as I was passing through the Home section. And while I was fairly certain this would be far removed from Ted Nugent's cookbook 'Kill It and Grill It', I couldn't imagine what the wolf would be. The wolf is hunger. Written after the outbreak of WWII, this little book is a book of thrift and good housekeeping ideas.
I was particularly impressed by three things:
1. That MFK Fisher included a chapter on how to boil water. Before you skip over it thinking it is a lark, let me tell you it is a must read for anyone that doesn't know how to make a proper cup of tea -- with lively water cooked au point and not, as she puts it, with the hell cooked out of it.
2. That much of our current debate on food and wealth ("Big Money") goes as far back as 1942.
3. That she includes recipes for Gazpacho and Ceviche -- page 60.
A rather interesting little read and hard to imagine any reader won't walk away with a new tip or two and plenty of dinner conversation.
If you saw the documentary on PBS, you might be put off by the text tracking all the commentary in the film. Don't be. The photos are the highlight (in case you couldn't tell from the cover). A great many of them were taken by the Harrison family during their travels and at their house/Friar's Park. Many are just spectacular.
Having loved Wolf Hall, I couldn't wait to read Hilary Mantel's sequel, Bring Up The Bodies. It's a heavy read, depending on what stage of life you are in, as you follow Thomas Cromwell in his mid-life working the machinations of the court to bring about Henry's desires. There are references to Cromwell getting rich in the process but you can't help but think Cromwell would do it anyway, would succumb to the King's whims because he learns most through serving, always looking forward and only momentarily looking back. He takes very little, if any, time for himself.
There is irony if we compare Thomas Cromwell serving his leader at any cost to our own current events in the news -- both hold actions that are skewed by the justifications stated emphatically by the doer and yet questioned by those that do not.
The gains made by those that are too feeble or cowardly to act is not lost on Cromwell. "They have eaten his banquet and now they will want to sweep him out with the rushes and the bones. But this was his table: he runs on the top of it, among the broken meats. Let them try to pull him down. They will find him armoured, they will find him entrenched, they will find him stuck like a limpet to the future. He has laws to write, measures to take, the good of the commonwealth to serve, and his king..."
Like Ms. Mantel states in her Author's Note, I do hope she continues her work in fleshing Thomas Cromwell out.