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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Countless and precious childhood memories of mine involve my mother and a bookstore. If you are going to indulge your children, it is always a good and sneaky idea to better some brain cells at the same time and my mom knows that that better than most.

She has a trick I adore for picking out new books: analyse the first sentence. You can learn a lot from a first line in a book – what is the tone? do you like the voice? are you already curious? are you already bored? is it cheesy? or are you hooked?

Sometimes you can literally (haha) get sucked in by a book from the very first line.

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

Oh, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, how I loved reading you. The first line is heartbreaking as is the entire book, but it is the kind of colonial Caribbean heartbreak that everyone should read once in their lives. The detail literally jumps off the pages – the fact that our protagonist Florentino notices unrequited love in something as banal and repetitive as the scent of bitter almonds is a preview of the detail reflected in the rest of the novel. 

“The village of Holcolmb stands on the high wheat plains of Western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there’.” 

In Cold Blood was another favorite read, by Truman CapoteHorrifying and incredibly readable, Capote created a new genre of writing with this book and the first line captures this. The book is non-fiction, but a novel at the same time. The fact that Kansans call Holcolm ‘out there’ is reflective of the countless interviews Capote undertook to get to the heart of the murder case that would come to consume him. The fact that the town is ‘lonesome’ is reflective of Capote himself by the time he finished writing. It is a genius first line that is even more powerful after you have finished the book.

“Then there was the bad weather.” 

A Moveable Feast is another favorite, by Ernst HemingwayIt feels like you are entering into the middle of a rant – one that both loves and hates its subject. For anyone who has lived in Paris, this is quite reflective of the city. Moving to Paris feels like you are moving into the middle of a story that has been taking place for a very. long. time. No matter how hard you try, the city always has a step up on you. But that is part of its charm. And this book is charmingly and lovingly accurate.

(Note for the Brussels crowd: You can take comfort in the fact that bad weather in Paris still doesn’t come close to bad weather in Brussels.)

“One night in the middle of June, three brokenhearted people walked into Buena Vista Park at nearly the same time, just after dark.” 

How great is that? Why are they heartbroken? Why are they walking into a park if they are heartbroken? Just after dark sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it? I am already hooked on The Great Night by Chris Adrian.

Do you have any favorite first lines?

(This post may or not have been inspired by my latest online obsession: Goodreads.)  

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Work is mental at the moment so I have fallen behind on the Daily Challenges… Fear not, they will soon return.

Thought I’d post some shots from a weekend trip we took to the UK on a whim back in February.

We woke up super early on a Saturday morning and drove two hours from Brussels to Calais (Note – it is impossible to find good coffee along the highway from Brussels to Calais. Pack some.) We arrived at Calais and navigated the theme-park like terminal that is the Eurotunnel docking area. This is where you DRIVE ONTO A TRAIN WHICH GOES THROUGH THE CHUNNEL (sorry, the American in me still gets really excited about these things – we don’t drive cars onto trains and then drive them underwater in the US). You literally drive onto a train, park it and 20 minutes later, pop out into the UK. You drive right off the train in Folkstone and try your best to remember to stay on the left side of the road.

And the best part? With the time difference, it was only 10am.

Our destination that evening was Maresfield in East Sussex where we were having dinner at Wheelers of St James and staying at the Chequers Inn (yes, it was one of those splurge and feel guilty afterwards weekends). 

Our first stop on the way up to Maresfield was Canterbury:

-My camera then cooperatively decided it did not want to take pictures worth posting all evening (mental note Jessica, invest in a proper camera)- 

The Chequers Inn, housed in a gorgeous old carriage house, was gorgeous, dinner was delicious and everyone was very friendly. Highly recommended if you just want to get away, get dressed up for a night, but equally be able to stumble up to your room after dinner. This is a “have-a-traditional-cocktail-before-dinner-then-settle-into-your-booth-and-enjoy-the-many-courses” type of place, white table cloths included. Our room was massive and full of old school character like creaky floors, tiled bathrooms and bookcases full of old books. (In case you rock up early in Maresfield, there is also a nice pub just outside town where you can play a few games of pool/billards. I came this close to winning…and demand a rematch.) 

The next day we headed down in the sunshine to Lewes, which is a lovely little town with a 15th century bookshop.

Then we drove down to Alfriston, which is stunning and picture perfect. Make sure to take a leisurely walk around, go into the very dangerous kitchen shop (site of my Mexican cook book purchase) and then have a drink in the 14th century George Inn. There are rows of little walled walk-ways in the neighborhoods above the main street where you can look onto many a manicured lawn and, perhaps, dream of living here.

There are some beautiful views as you drive south towards the coast. (Cue D shouting “AHH, THIS IS ENG-A-LAND!!)

We continued as far south as you can go to Beachy Head which is.. how should I put it? WINDY. Just look at what the trees look like up here. If it had not been freezing, we would have gone for a walk. This is a place to return to.

And finally, we visited a castle. Not just any castle though, Bodium Castle. As I think I’ve already said, I grew up facing a picture of this place every night from my place at the dinner table. My Dad had visited it in college and fell in love with the place. So we went around dusk, just an hour before it closed, and walked around with hardly any other visitors. (Note: most English castles are actually closed during the winter months as upkeep and heating is so expensive in the winter. Bodium is open and exposed so this is one of the rare winter castles for visiting.)

Not bad for a little weekend, eh?

Planning your own trip to the UK? Some helpful sites to visit for more information: 

Eurotunnel

The Chequers Inn

The George Inn

Beachy Head 

Bodium Castle – National Trust site

Honestly, I think I need this dress. I’m sure I can come up with a reason to have to wear feathers… [reality check… actually, pretty sure I can’t, but what’s to stop one from dreaming?]

Simply gorgeous JCrew. You’ve done it again. Check out more of their “Collection” line here.

Photos from JCrew.com 

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