Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Landing by John Ibbitson

This is the third book in a row that I've read that features a person obsessed by a musical instrument from a very early age. In this one, it is teenaged Ben with his fiddle. It's a quiet story set in northern Ontario in 1934. Ben Mercer feels like he is trapped by his life on a farm with his mother and curmudgeonly uncle Henry. "Henry never smiled, never had a good word. Henry and Ben were pretty much at war now, the two of them, though they rarely spoke and never raised their voices. The war was fought in the silences."

The Muskoka cottagers who own most of the property nearby seem to come from another world entirely. Ben gets summer work fixing up a nearby cottage for a rich widow from New York and suddenly the doors of possibility swing open... but dreams are a far cry from reality.

I recently saw the movie Julie and Julia, so I took notice when boeuf bourguignon was served at a lavish party by the New York widow. The story took place 27 years before Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, (the book that brought French recipes to American cooks), but it entirely possible that the widow learned how to make this stew without the help of Julia Child.

Readalikes: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire; Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks; A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.

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