Here is another book that’s been on my TBR list for awhile. Simon, of The Readers, loved it. I was a little unnerved by his comparison to Flavia de Luce, because I didn’t enjoy the first book of that series at all, in fact, didn’t even finish. I think I was nudged into reading this now because Joanna Cannon’s new book (Three Things About Elsie) is on the Women’s Prize longlist. While I enjoyed most of the book, the ending was too pat, too quick, and ambiguous, although I did finally figure things out with the help of Goodreads. I also had trouble remembering all of the characters early on. Taking notes helped. The main character, 10 year-old Grace Elizabeth and her best friend Tilly, try and solve a neighborhood mystery during the very hot summer of 1976 in the East Midlands, England. They make their way through the homes in the estate under the guise of helping their neighbors in order to earn badges for Brownie Guides. One of the themes of the book is outsiders- those on the fringe of society, and how a community responds to them. There are many outsiders in the neighborhood, it’s just that everyone isn’t aware of it. When you talk about outsiders, you’ll also be thinking about social norms and codes of behavior, so that’s present in the book as well. People think that they know their neighbors, but everyone in The Avenue had a secret, and part of the plot is who knows what about whom. Some of the secrets are transparent, but many are alluded to and ambiguous. In this case, the ambiguity was kind of fun. I came to my own conclusions about the nature of those secrets based on the information I had about the characters.
Grace is an endearing and precocious child, who is trying to define herself and figure out what kind of person she will be. She’s not perfect, though, and I cringed and chided her (literally- “Grace, what are you doing!”) for some of the thoughtless things she said and did, but she is overall a likeable hero.
THE BEAUTY: You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about my choice for the beauty of this book, but the image below represents people coming together, and that’s beautiful. Read the book to find out more.
from the telegraph.co.uk
THE FOOD: There were so many references to prepared foods and candy and pastry that I was googling my brains out. And biscuits! There must be a million different kinds of biscuits. These people eat a lot of sweets! (Quality Street chocolates, toffee fingers, Garibaldis, Milk Tray, and the ubiquitous Angel Delight, are just a very few.) I chose this recipe because it represents the beauty of diversity.
Indian Tea Shop Butter Biscuits
½ C butter at room temperature
½ C confectioners sugar
1 C all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Sift sugar over butter and cream until light and fluffy.
Add the flour, salt and vanilla at once and mix until
Transfer the dough to a cling wrapped surface and make a
log. Cover it with cling wrap. Refrigerate the dough for an
hour. In the meantime preheat the oven to 350º.
Cut the dough into half inch thick cookies. Bake in a
preheated 350º oven for 22-25 minutes, rotating the pans
halfway through. When they start to brown, they are done.
They can go from brown to burnt very fast!
Transfer to a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.
Tasty little buggers!