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  • Writer's pictureGaili Schoen

Two Favorite Book Series!

Isn't it exciting when you find wonderful books that are a part of a series? I have two favorite series I want to share with you today to make your winter reading cozier.

The School of Essential Ingredients series, by Erica Bauermeister

I love The School of Essential Ingredients and its sequel, The Lost Art of Mixing, for the stories mired in the sensuality of food and cooking. In The School of Essential Ingredients, Lillian runs a cooking school in her restaurant. She and her eight students all have a story and a reason for seeking out the classes.

For Lillian, cooking brings healing and transformation. She teaches with wisdom and love and without recipes. Clumsy student Chloe has come to the class to improve her skills and regain her self-confidence. Older couple Helen and Carl recall happy memories of meals in Provence as they heal their wounded relationship. Tom is fulfilling his promise to continue cooking after his wife, a talented chef, dies. Ian and Antonia find a way to feed each other precisely what they need. Isabelle, a widow, finds solace in the new memories she makes in class. The kitchen’s flavors and aromas rejuvenate new mother, Claire.

“The beef bourguignon was bubbling in the oven, the smells of meat and red wine, onions and bay leaf and thyme murmuring like travelers on a late-night train.”

Several characters return in The Lost Art of Mixing. Chloe and Isabelle now live with and care for each other in meaningful, life-enhancing ways. Lillian’s and Tom’s romantic relationship is about to be forever altered. New characters also appear. Lillian’s accountant, Al, and dishwasher, Finnegan, turn out to be sensitive beyond what their exteriors suggest.

These books are a joy to read in succession, especially for foodies and cooks.

The Harold Fry trilogy, by Rachel Joyce

On February 7th, celebrated English author Rachel Joyce will release a new novel, Maureen: A Harold Fry Novel. This is the sequel to her beloved international bestsellers, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

In The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Harold receives a letter from a woman he hasn’t seen or spoken to in twenty years. Queenie, in hospice and dying of cancer, has written to say goodbye. Harold is retired and his wife, Maureen, doesn’t seem to enjoy his company anymore. So, Harold decides to walk more than 600 miles to say farewell to Queenie in person. By mail and messenger, he asks Queenie to wait for him.

On his journey through England, Harold meets a cast of characters and becomes a national celebrity. As he walks, he grapples with the pain that has hobbled his marriage.

In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, we recount the story from Queenie’s point of view. She is stunned Harold is walking the length of England to see her. Though she cannot speak, at the urging of a hospice nun, Queenie begins writing about her own life story. She writes of her feelings for Harold and his son, revealing the secrets she never shared.

“This is the conclusion I have come to: if we work at it, it is always possible to find a rational explanation for what we don't understand. But perhaps it is wiser once in a while to accept that we don't understand, and stop there. To explain is sometimes to diminish. And what does it matter if I believe one thing and you believe another? We share the same end."

You can start the trilogy by reading either Harold Fry or Queenie Hennessy first (you can check them out from the library, on Libby, or order below); Maureen should be read last. I have pre-ordered Maureen from my local bookstore, and I can't wait to continue the story!

I’m excited to report that The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will be released in April 2023 as a motion picture starring Jim Broadbent as Harold Fry and Penelope Wilton (from Downton Abbey and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fame) as Maureen! Rachel Joyce’s novels are fascinating, heartfelt, and insightful, and I wholeheartedly recommend them!

These reviews first appeared in Pam Lamp's wonderful blog Who I Met Today. Check it out! She reviews books, posts fascinating profiles, and provides recommendations for food, drink, travel, along with other great content.


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