Stephane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell
A Bite-Sized History of France – Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War and Enlightenment
The New Press
Henaut is French, Mitchell is American. What started as his attempt to get her to try stinky cheeses (by recounting their colorful histories) expanded into a full-blown exposition of Greatest Hits of French Cuisine. Fifty-one breezy chapters focus on a specific item or genre of food and drink in historical context, from the Gauls to DeGaulle and into present day France.
Butter, cheese, absinthe, cognac, champagne, oysters, pastry, et al., are introduced and documented. Special appearances come from Julius Caesar, Louis XIV, Napoleons I and III, and Felix Kir, the priest and Resistance fighter who gave his name to France’s favorite aperitif.
– Bruce Collier
Meghan MacLean Weir
The Book of Essie
The Book of Essie is a dysfunctional family story that reads like a page-turning thriller. The debut novel by physician Meghan MacLean Weir centers around Esther Hicks, the youngest child star of her family’s evangelical reality TV show. Drama unfolds when the teenager becomes pregnant and the family must contend with what to do next. Each chapter switches in perspective between Essie; Roarke Richards, a schoolmate of Essie’s; and Liberty Bell, a former conservative child star who has formed a professional relationship with Essie.
The book, somewhat unexpectedly, grapples with some seriously heavy themes. But the plot-driven narrative, in which the author reveals bits and pieces of the full picture a little at a time, compels the reader to continue in a way that most “heavy” novels don’t. I stayed up way too late several nights to find out what happened next. A good read, but not recommended for sensitive readers.
– Marilu Morgan
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