Friday, April 21, 2006
Bread and Chocolate - Philippa Gregory [April/06]
I was a little iffy to read this collection of short stories by Philippa Gregory. Back when I bought it in January I had read The Constant Princess and The Other Boelyn Girl and liked both of them, but since then I have read The Queen's Fool and part of Wideacre. Was not a big fan of either. This left me wondering which category Bread and Chocolate would fall in to. It turned out to be a worthwhile read, with all the stories having a theme of disasterly lifestyles to them in some capacity. Someone else noted that there was only one short story in the collection that took place in the past, and that is surprising considering that Gregory is predominately a historial writer. You have to wonder what was going on when she wrote these short stories, a divorce or something tragic, becuase most of the characters in this collection are women unhappy with something in their life and fighting for what they want.
The Stories include:
"Bread and Chocolate" - About a monk who is offered a chance to be a television chef and meets a television chef regular who tempts him with chocolate cake....
"Coo-eee" - About a cruise guest lecturer who on one of his voyages meets a Yorkshire woman that is larger than life and leaves quite an impression on all that meet her... including the lecturer.
"The Favour" - This is the short story set in a historical setting. A young woman rejects her young lover and then is left with the consequences when he is fatally injured in a jousting competition.
"Theories About Men" - This woman thinks she has men all figured out, so when she finds out that her husband has been having an affair after many years of marriage she gets to put her theories to the test.
"Lady Emily's Swim" - An angry, bitter woman at the end of her life gets the chance to swim 20 laps a day as a gift from her daughter and the reader is left shocked by what goes through her mind while doing so.
"The If Game" - A story about a man who plays the "if" game with a colleague at work, but he is stuck in the "if" game and can never seem to think about the now, only about the "if".
"The Conjuring Trick" - A couple are living the dream, they have everything they want, but then the economy changes and they are left conjuring up a fantastic story to get money to buy off their extreme debts. See what happens to them as a result.
"The Wave Machine" - This is my favourite story in the book. It is about a little girl who is sent to live with her uncle while her mother pilots her father to daily doctor appointments. She has always lived in the city and so spends the summer looking for the Wave Machine that powers the ocean and making an impact on her Uncle's life.
"The Magic Box" - I think I had read this story before, but it is about a young woman faced with a unfaithful husband after she has already given up so much. Then she finds an old-fashioned camera and the reader sees the magic come alive...
"The Garden" - A woman who has a controlling husband, one that even attempts to control nature, gets revenge for his wrongs.
"The Last Swan" - A tale about young girls that join a national synchronized swimming team and one girl that defies a young man that thinks he knows everything.
"The Bimbo" - A bimbo comes to work for a London law firm, but by the end of the story she might be smarter than she looks.
"Going Down River" - A man with all his learnings goes to live with an undocumented tribe and write his thesis. The reader soon learns that he might not know everything.
"The Other Woman" - A woman finds out that her husband is cheating and decides she needs to learn about this other woman which results in her getting closer than she originally planned.
"The Visitor" - A couple who want everything perfect receive an unexpected visitor for the holidays who shakes their life up.
"Catching the Bus" - A woman has saved to one day make a better life for one of her children, this is her moment.
This was an interesting collection of short stories and an enjoyable read for the most part. Good to see that it is possible to like some of Gregory's work again.