Archive for the ‘Reay Tannahil’ Category

Lois gave me these two lovely books for Christmas, and they have entertained me greatly! The writing style is clear and elegant, with a gentle mocking tone—fun to read, in fact. In her obituary Tannahil is called an “accidental pioneer of food history”, as her main claim to fame is the History of Food (my first introduction to her writing) a job which she was assigned after putting together 2 illustrated presentation books (one of which I have, also a gift of Lois, many pictures of Regency England each with Tannahil’s wry comments). Her History of Food is still one of the best in the field, despite the fact that she had no qualifications for writing it except her excellent intelligence and sense of humor. Supremely adequate, as it happened!

I keep the History of Food by my bedside as a fine resource to dip into—particularly when my current book might disrupt my peace—but of course it doesn’t offer very much in the story department. Having the Builders In—and its sequel, Having the Decorators In—have diverting stories, with characters that we can relate to, despite the medieval setting. The details of daily life—the buildings, costumes, food—are interesting, but not belabored. This is the way I like my history—wrapped up in a well written story. Tannahil must have had a lot of fun writing these books, which surely stemmed from her research into food history—food plays an important part in the plot, though clothing has just as important a role. After all, the main character in the first book is a young woman, whose gauche taste for pale pinks and baby blues must be dealt with by her future mother-in-law, an elegant woman, who runs the castle which is to be renovated. The trials with the builders (something which ALL house owners are familiar with) are exacerbated by an interesting plot development, as are the trials with the decorators in the next book. All solved, and each book neatly ended with a wedding, or even two. Charming books! I see that the author won prizes for her romantic literature, and that at one time her books were known world wide: “A Dark and Distant Shore (1983) was an 800-page bestseller, combining, said one reviewer, Gone With The Wind, The Thorn Birds and War and Peace. The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1985) followed, set in medieval Scotland, France and Rome; Passing Glory (1989), won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year award. Next came Still and Stormy Waters (1993), Return of the Stranger (1995) and then Fatal Majesty (1998), about Mary, Queen of Scots.” To judge by Having the Builders/Decorators In, these books might be worth scouting out. If one is in the mood for Romance, that is.


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