Saturday, December 2, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation – from Kitchen Confidential to The House on East 88th Street

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000). Before (and during) his book and television career, he was the chef at Brasserie Les Halles, which I went to several times, although never caught a glimpse of him (I didn’t mind; the steak and frites were good). When the book was a huge bestseller, everyone in NYC warned each other not to read it or we’d be afraid to ever eat out again.
Food preparation is also important in The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010). The heroine is a white indentured servant on a Virginia plantation, placed under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook for the family and gradually moves from the slave quarters to their home, never fitting in either place. This was one of my Favorite Reads of 2010 and also made a good book group discussion.
Another book about a dwelling is Maida’s Little House by Inez Haynes Irwin (1921). Irwin (1873-1970) was a Radcliffe-educated journalist and suffragette, born in Brazil to a family from Boston that returned when her father died. She spent WWI as a war correspondent but from 1948 on, she lived in Scituate, Massachusetts where she wrote adult fiction and the 15-book Maida series. Maida is the unspoiled, motherless daughter of a millionaire, who yearns for friends and a simple life. In this book, she invites a group of friends to come stay in a house that's just for her behind her father’s mansion outside Boston (fans can read about Maida's Little Island here).
Another memorable house was created by E. Nesbit in The House of Arden (1908). When young Edred Arden inherits the title of Lord Arden and the dilapidated Arden Castle, he and his sister Elfrida search for the family’s lost treasure of the Ardens, needed to restore the house. With the help of the magical Mouldiwarp, they travel back in time searching for clues.  I checked this and the sequel out of the library quite often.
My fourth link is The Armourer’s House by Rosemary Sutcliff (1951), which tells the story of Tamsyn, nearly nine, who comes to live with her uncle’s family in sixteenth-century London just as King Henry VIII marries a new Queen, Anne Boleyn. There is a lovely new edition from Manderley Press.
When I was editing women’s fiction for Penguin, one of my authors, a delightful lady from Nevada, was building a house and became so consumed by the project that her next regency featured a titled gentleman in the same situation: Lord Barry’s Dream House by Emily Hendrickson (1996). The heroine is his architect: she has modern ideas while he is a traditionalist but you know what they say – love conquers all. Ms. Hendrickson was a stickler for period accuracy and would be appalled by the anachronisms in many of today’s historical romances. Sorry about the lurid sunset on the cover! Editorial battles with the art department were legendary!
Among famous books set in New York is The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber (1962), featuring Lyle the Crocodile who is living in the house’s bathtub when the Pimm family moves in. My NYC apartment was on East 89th and First so you could say they were neighbors . . . if they were real.
So this month’s #6Degrees took me from NYC to Virginia to Massachusetts, three in various centuries in England, and then back to NYC (a few miles north of where I started). Have you read any of these?  Or seen the movie that apparently came out in 2022?
Next month (January 6, 2024), Kate has chosen Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022), which I liked so much I made my sisters and my book group read it.


Davida Chazan said...

Well, most houses have kitchens so... nice chain!

TracyK said...

I like your theme and your choices. I remember Lyle the Crocodile. I remember reading the books to my son when he was young.

JaneGS said...

Always fun to read your choices for 6 Degrees--I've only read one Rosemary Sutcliffe, but the Armourer's House is definitely appealing. I'm not sure I have what it takes to read Kitchen Confidential.