During my six months of everything French, I want to read two books –The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo and Le Divorcee by Diane Johnson. Check out the summaries below (Amazon) and then read to the end to see what’s cooking.
Hunchback of Notre Dame:
With an Introduction and Notes by Keith Wren, University of Kent at Canterbury. Set in 1482, Victor Hugo s powerful novel of imagination, caprice and fantasy is a meditation on love, fate, architecture and politics, as well as a compelling recreation of the medieval world at the dawn of the modern age. In a brilliant reworking of the tale of Beauty and the Beast, Hugo creates a host of unforgettable characters amongst them, Quasimodo, the hunchback of the title, hopelessly in love with the gypsy girl Esmeralda, the satanic priest Claude Frollo, Clopin Trouillefou, king of the beggars, and Louis XI, King of France. Over the entire novel, both literally and symbolically, broods the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Vivid characters and memorable set-piece action scenes combine to bring the past to life in this story of love, lust, betrayal, doom and redemption.”
and Le Divorce,
In Le Divorce, Diane Johnson delightfully recounts the adventures of two sisters from California who make a modern pilgrimage to the City of Light.
Pregnant and abandoned by her French husband, Roxeanne Walker de Persand turns to her younger sister, Isabel, for support, while the powerful Persand family exerts subtle but firm control over her decision whether or not to divorce. Complicating matters is the disposition of a family heirloom, a painting in Roxy’s possession that is suddenly discovered to be worth millions. In the midst of a variety of schemes, the stakes are suddenly raised by a crime of passion, disrupting everyone’s motives and plans.
Not since Edith Wharton penned her brilliant portraits of Americans abroad has an American novelist so perfectly captured the possibilities and perils of succumbing to the allure of Paris.
Here is what I will be cooking this week to start: Beef and Onions in Beer (Carbonnade du Nord), Provencal Chicken Pilaf (Poulet Saute au Riz a la Provençal), Potato Custard (Flan aux Pommes de Terre), Gratin of Chickpeas with Spinach (Gratin de Pois-Chices aux épinards), Pear Clafouti, and Vanilla Sauce (Crème Anglaise).
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