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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Robson, Nancy Taylor: Course of the Waterman | Main | Savage, Sam: Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife »

Hilderbrand, Elin: The Love Season

  

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St. Martin's Press © 2006, 294 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

The principal action of Elin Hildebrand's The Love Season takes place over the course of a single day (August 19, 2006): 63-year-old Marguerite Beale prepares an elaborate dinner for her goddaughter, Renata Knox, whom Marguerite has not seen since Renata's mother Candace was hit and killed by a car 14 years earlier. Marguerite is a professional chef, and is renowned in Nantucket circles for the quirkiness and culinary excellence of her one-time restaurant, Les Parapluies, but Renata's visit marks the first time she has cooked for anyone--indeed, that she has received anyone into her home--since Candace's death. The mystery of that event, how it came to have such an effect on Marguerite, is slowly revealed to the reader as Marguerite, emerging from her self-imposed exile in order to gather ingredients for dinner, allows herself to remember.

The mystery of that event, how it came to have such an effect on Marguerite, is slowly revealed to the reader as Marguerite, emerging from her self-imposed exile in order to gather ingredients for dinner, allows herself to remember.Hilderbrand tells her story primarily from the points of view of Marguerite and Renata. Through Marguerite's eyes we see her part-time, years-long affair with Porter, her friendship with Porter's sister Candace, and the uncomfortable threesome that formed when, inevitably, Candace allowed one of her many would-be suitors to win her. The pattern that emerges--an intense friendship between women intruded upon by a male--is to a degree repeated in the second generation: Renata sometimes feels torn between her best friend, Action, and her boyfriend Cade, recently turned her fiancé, the very proper son of Nantucket aristocracy. Renata is in Nantucket officially to meet her future in-laws, but her real purpose is to meet the mysterious godmother who's sent her cards and checks over the years, but whom she's never been allowed to meet. Interestingly, toward the end of the book Hilderbrand begins to tell her story also from the perspectives of other characters, as if the reader is granted a wider view of the events described even as Marguerite and Renata emerge from their respective, self-imposed prisons.

On the whole Hilderbrand has done a wonderful job of fleshing out her characters and their histories, even the minor ones. Only Candace fails to come to life (no pun intended) on the page: we are told that she was charming and vital, more like Grace Kelly than Grace Kelly herself, the sort of woman who attracts people to her without trying. But Candace's actions in the book don't bear this out: she comes off as a little silly, in fact, and one wonders what all the fuss was about. But as I say, the rest of Hilderbrand's characters shine. This is a very sensual book, the particular sense appealed to being taste: Hilderbrand lingers lovingly over descriptions of food--what Marguerite is preparing in the present, entrees from Les Parapluies, corn and squash and asparagus and red peppers lying crisp and fresh in out-of-the-way farmer's markets. Food is undoubtedly important to The Love Season, but for me the thick details sometimes slowed the story too much. Still, one keeps turning the pages: the mystery of Candace's death and the secrets her characters have tried to hide from themselves are compelling. This is a very good read. You're likely to live with these characters in your head for some time.

Review summary: The principal action of Elin Hildebrand's The Love Season takes place over the course of a single day: 63-year-old Marguerite Beale prepares an elaborate dinner for her goddaughter, Renata Knox, whom Marguerite has not seen since Renata's mother Candace was hit and killed by a car 14 years earlier. Marguerite is a professional chef, but she hasn't cooked for anyone since Candace's death. The mystery of that event, how it came to have such an effect on Marguerite, is slowly revealed to the reader as Marguerite allows herself to remember. Hilderbrand has done a wonderful job of fleshing out her characters and their histories, even the minor ones. This is a very good read. You're likely to live with these characters in your head for some time.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Comments

1.

I would like to receive an email address to pass along a compliment to Elin Hilderbrand regarding her writing. Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you,
Robert

2.

Hi, Robert. I'm writing you off-blog.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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