Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.11.01 Title: Bonjour Tristesse

Author: Françoise Sagan (translated by Irene Ash)

Publisher: Re-issue by Penguin Essentials (2011)

Pages: 112

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.16.08Where to read: Ideally by the French Riviera but if getting there isn’t logistically possible a quiet corner of a park – I chose Battersea Park on a bench near the water fountains one sunny day and happily whiled away a very pleasant few hours reading.

Where to buy: Belgravia Bookshop – I’m not on commission I promise I just simply love everything about this bookshop -location, atmosphere and of course the titles it sells-  a real haven for book lovers.

Refreshments: I was in the park so didn’t have much at my disposal aside from my packed lunch which was an Ottolenghi recipe of chicken and couscous salad which isn’t exceptionally French. However, I did finish the final pages sat on my tiny balcony drinking a dry gin martini (with Tanqueray No’10  which was rather delightful -and perhaps more refined!

Review:

The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cecile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures.

But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cecile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences. “Bonjour Tristesse” scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cecile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

Cecile is our narrator for the heady three months of summer spent in a villa on the Riviera. Vibrant, manipulative and conflicted in her every waking thought and action she epitomizes the confusion of a woman emerging into adulthood and one whose equilibrium is upset by an outsider. Her father Raymond is a romantic and has his head turned by the swish of a skirt and a teasing smile the thought of growing old and domesticated is both appalling and appealing. I quickly fell in love with both of their characters and was drawn into the swirling vortex of their superficial lives and captivating beauty – one that caught anyone within a mile radius and swept them away so they forgot themselves and their lives before Raymond and Cecile.

Remarkable and aloof, Anne, entangles herself into their lives and attempts to adapt them to a life both decent and bourgeois. She is depicted as being acerbic and condescending but in actuality is trying to find her footing in a game that is being played with rules she doesn’t understand.

Sagan weaves these individuals lives with aplomb and the descriptions and detail of Cecile’s inner turmoil is simply stunning. A novella that will fit in your back pocket, handbag or simply your hand as you stroll off to the park I would recommend reading this to everyone -it’s a triumph and just so…French.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Italian Food in Soho & Natural Desire in Healthy Women

MeleEPere_7Where: Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, Soho London.

What: Italian Trattoria and Vermouth Bar

Food & Drink:

Starter: Salt cod Mantecato, squid ink mayo, potato crisps

The dish arrived beautifully presented in a jam jar. The fresh lightly salted cold was substantial and with a thin layer of the mayo on top so when you dug in your enjoyed all the levels of flavour across the palate – especially if you used your potato crisp like a cracker.

Main: Mediterranean stew prawns, mussels, cod & samphire

Salty samphire resting on top of perfectly cooked meaty pieces of cod that flaked at the lightest touch, nestled between two substantial prawns and a number of mussels (all of them open and ready to be demolished) and all swimming happily in a hearty and robust tomato sauce that brought the whole dish together. A welcome surprise was a doorstop wedge of fried bread in olive oil which helped mop up all the aforementioned sauce.

Dessert:  Summer Morello cherry, pistachio, marshmallow & lychee ice cream

Cherries are not really my favourite thing in the world but I was intrigued by this dessert and the collection of flavours that were involved. Highlight was the lychee ice cream which was fresh and palate cleansing after the previous courses, the marshmallow was pleasant but slightly overbearing in sweetness especially when combined with the sweet yet extremely tart cherries. Pistachios added a nice crunch and contrast in texture.

Price: Dinner for 2 = £50  (£20p/p for 3 courses & a glass of proscecco).

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Title: Natural Desire in Healthy Women

Author: Gary Dexter

Publisher & Pages: Old Street Publishing, 224 pages

Why: At an event in Belgravia Bookshop I happened upon a startling beautiful cover and then caught sight of the title and I was hooked and had to purchase it -so obviously I did.

Review:

Amber Haldane, doughty campaigner for contraceptive rights, wishes to free the masses from the chains of sexual repression and nasty-mindedness. As she gathers contributions for her new periodical, Birth Control Monthly, she encounters the luminaries of the age: H.G. Wells, preoccupied by the appearance of mysterious green spheres in his apple trees; T.S. Eliot, eager to pick her brains about glandular secretions; and Wilhelm Reich, whose theory of orgastic potency is fundamentally Misleading, Damaging and Wrong.

Brilliantly eccentric Dexter weaves together poignant arguments with a satirical flourish. The characters which include a ribald collection of notable thinker, writers and revolutionaries pop into the narrative with ease. One in particular -Margaret Sanger- is a favourite with her formidable opinions and overbearing deliverance. Old beliefs are ridiculed with acerbic and intelligent strokes of the pen and Amber is glorious throughout even when in defeat.

Entertaining and enlightening Dexter introduces readers to the history of contraception and has prompted me to read further into the previously taboo subject.

In summary -and as many have stated before- Dexter provides welcome originality and humour to  the genre of literary fiction.

Rating: 9 out of 10

 

Hobnobbing at Nobu

DSC_kjpgWhere: Nobu, Berkeley Street London

When: Saturday Lunch Time, July 2015

Ambience & Service: 

Upon entering the foyer of the restaurant I thought it was going to be a dark and gloomy affair, but thankfully we were directed upstairs and into a light open restaurant and seated at a banquet.

The service was attentive and friendly -and didn’t show any sign of disapproval when I quietly requested a knife and fork, bringing one as well for my dining partner although he didn’t need them in order to make me feel better!

Food: Set lunch menu 4 courses £39 p/p 

sashimi-salad-003-mld109712_vertTuna sashimi salad with matsuhisa dressing – three substantial slices of light and fresh tuna with  a pleasant meatiness brought to life with a sharp and zingy dressing – delicious.

Nobu sushi selection – two nigiri pieces and two maki rolls with a seriously hot wasabi and agreeable pickled ginger palate cleanser. The stand out was the fresh salmon and avocado -always a crowd pleaser- with the avocado wonderfully soft and buttery against the fish.

Chicken teriyaki & steamed rice – in a word mediocre. The chicken -and there was a lot of it- was perfectly cooked but the sauce lacked flavour -as did the steamed rice- and the accompanying tomatoes and raw green beans just seemed out-of-place and a bit sad.

Whisky cappuccino dessert –  a triumphant end to the meal. A slightly harsh ground coffee bean crumb at the bottom rising up to an iced cream before finishing with a velvety whisky foam – delightful, refreshing and most welcome on a hot day.

 

Drink

Glass of prosseco on arrival was pleasing, not too fizzy and had notes of pear, the rest of the lunch was accompanied by tap water. However, diners around us looked like they were enjoying some rather exotic fruit juices and the wine list appeared extensive.

Price tag: £39 p/p + 15% service = £90

Rating: 8 out of 10 – certainly go again but next time order a straight selection of sushi as this is what they’re -quite understandably- best at.