“Never has a book brought about such an in-depth discussion for our group. Everyone LOVED it! The story, told by one of the sisters, was one of survival, sacrifice, and the love of family. Not knowing who was narrating until the end provided an additional element to the story. When we got to that point in the novel, it changed how we viewed the book. These two sisters were each fighting their own internal battles as well as the battle to survive World War II in France.
“We discussed what these women went through, whether or not we liked the male characters, and which character we most closely resembled (Vianne or Isabel). We compared what we had been taught about that time period, and recalled stories of friends and family members that had survived the Holocaust. This book showed such courage and grace and we continue to bring it up several months after reading it.”
Paired with: “French cuisine! We feasted on Apple Tarte, Macaroons, Eclairs, Green Beans Amandine, and Coq au Vin.”
“British journalist Helen Russell was given the chance to spend a year in Denmark — and she discovered that the country has been called the happiest place on earth. Determined to find the secret of their success, Russell chronicles her adventures setting up a life in rural Jutland.
“We had endless topics to chew over. The author provided insights into all things Danish including family, food, interior design, health and child care, the change of seasons, community, and marriage. The book prompted one member to change her daily routines and her attitude about the dark winter months. We all appreciated the author’s sense of humor combined with excellent research and the reminder there is another way to live. We felt Russell gave voice to so many things that instinctually make us happy — like curling up in front of a fire with a great glass of wine in the winter, and celebrating the long summer nights — and reminded us to enjoy them. The consensus was that we could all benefit from living a little more Danishly.”
Paired with: In front of a roaring fire, we enjoyed a candlelit Danish smorgasbord including Risalamalande (rice pudding), Danish pastries, candy, smoked fish, cheeses and Gløgg along with multigrain bread (made with mix from Ikea).
“This is the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. Everyone agreed that McLain’s writing was wonderful. We discussed the characters, the time period, and the historical accuracy of the book. A few of us found Hadley’s mousiness annoying but most people felt a lot of empathy for her. Since that meeting, many people have commented that it sparked an interest in Richardson and Hemingway so they’ve read more about them.”
Paired with: quiche, haricots verts, and wine
“This is a love story with a strong female protagonist set in the Wild West. A fictional account of the life of the author’s great-grandmother Sarah Agnes Prine over twenty years of her life — from a girlhood traveling with her family on covered wagons through working on a ranch in the Arizona Territories to forming her own family — it is a story of physical and emotional hardship, and of family, friendships, and love.
“We were impressed by Sarah’s general ‘badassedness.’ She did everything the boys could do – and she did it better. She was fierce, skilled, smart, resilient, sensitive, hopeful scared, vain— and real.
“The book made us wonder what we would do in the same situation, in such different surroundings. We thought about whether we would want to be pioneer women, leading a life of adventure and terror! We loved it because it was a funny, sweet, heartbreaking and heartwarming story about love and family.”
Paired with: Settler themed victuals – chili, jalapeno cornbread, trail mix, flaky apple pie, homemade apple berry cobbler, and banana bread.