Last night I hosted book group. Normally a brisk monthly affair, this time it was somewhat delayed due to the 638 pages of tiny text contained within Kavalier & Clay. The book was my choice, recommended to me by a friend who said it was the best book she'd read in the past two years, if not ever. High praise indeed.
I enjoyed it insofar as it was beautifully written, the prose was peppered with some of the most evocative and elaborate metaphors I've ever come across. The pseudo-historical context reminded me a little of Memoirs of a Geisha, and there was something in the epic-ness of the story that made me think of His Dark Materials. I loved the descriptions of Manhattan in the 1930s and 40s, the fashion, music, and era-perfect dialogue were all so seductively drawn. I wasn't so keen on the subject matter - comic books are just not my thing - but it didn't matter so much, as the story itself was compelling and tragic. Such sadness was experienced by the characters, and I truly felt it.
Our book group consists of seven women from round our way, all strong and articulate and excellent company. One of the best things about the dynamics of these evenings is that we've somehow managed to create an environment whereby each of us can have a different view and feel completely happy and confident to express those differences. A rare thing indeed.
My book group ladies deserve special treats to go with the literary chat. Last night I made roasted butternut squash, cheddar and sage nibbles, strawberry and rose petal sandwiches, and chocolate macarons.
None of these recipes are my own invention and I can find no trace of them online. But the sandwiches are pretty straightforward so I'll give you a quick rundown here.
Strawberry and rose petal sandwiches
Spread slices of brioche loaf with clotted or whipped double cream.
Mix a teaspoon of rosewater into some good strawberry jam and then spread this over the cream layer.
Wash and top a few strawberries before slicing them thinly.
Place a layer of strawberries over the jam on one side of the sandwich.
Pull off the white heels of your rose petals (unsprayed, fragrant ones) and place the petals over the jam on the other side.
Sandwich together, cut off the crusts and slice into three fingers.
Dust with icing sugar and scatter with yet more rose petals.
Divine - these almost have the taste of a Victoria sandwich cake but take a fraction of the time. You really must try them.