52 weeks – 21 October, 2012

Book

My Dream of You, by Nuala O’Faolain. This is a novel written after Are You Somebody?, the first volume of her memoirs. But O’Faolain puts her whole self into everything she writes, fictional or autobiographical, so her passionate personality comes through on every page.

The protagonist, Kathleen de Burca, shares some characteristics with O’Faolain, but she is a fully realized character in her own right  — vital, troubled, talented, sensual, and self-destructive. Kathleen has a love-hate relationship with Ireland, comes from a dysfunctional family, and is searching for love and meaning in life following the death of her close colleague and best friend. She returns to Ireland after many years in exile to research a scandal — an affair in the 1850s between an Irish groom and the young wife of an English landlord  — with a view to writing a book about it. Chapters alternating between Kathleen’s present day life and her changing versions of Marianne Talbot’s life illustrate the universal desire for love and show how little we may know of others’ lives.

Food

On these misty, grey mornings, fruit is not the answer. I recently discovered Bonne Maman’s Chestnut Spread. It’s the perfect consistency to spread on multi-grain toast and brings that autumnal feeling to breakfast. Cherry or plum preserves are optional but a good cup of coffee is a requirement.

Music

Early Music Vancouver’s fall and winter season has begun. It and the other 2012-2013 series of plays and concerts provide great consolation on dark, wet evenings at this time of year.

Tanya Tomkins played two of Bach’s Cello Suites on a baroque cello at the Jazz Cellar last week. She is a wonderful musician and also a lively and entertaining speaker. She played Suites 1 and 4 as planned but left out Suite 5 owing to a shoulder injury.  The extra time was filled by her talking about some of the ways early instruments are different from modern ones and how they influence a musician’s playing: strings of gut or gut wrapped with metal instead of all metal, lower string tension (and tuning at A415), a lighter and differently shaped bow. Delivered by someone else, this could be dry material; with Tomkins’ sparkling delivery, and with Early Music’s characteristically receptive audience, it was fun.

Give me baroque music, thoughtfully played, in such an intimate setting, and winter can go on for ever.

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