This post at Chasing Ray made me pick up Jo Walton’s Farthing, and not only is it all the things Colleen said it is (I’m nearly done but not quite, so I’ll take her word on the ending, and I won’t repeat all the things she said about it) but it fits perfectly into the whole Food and Books theme (and please, keep the suggestions coming). Most of the food scenes fit into the “food defines character” category – strong vs. weak tea (the main characters prefer it weak, but please make mine strong), a six course meal vs. nursery tea. Of course, some of these meals end up being served up to the reader, as well, notably the pancake devouring scene. Our narrator (alternating chapters with omniscient) has a hearty appetite and occasionally feels dumpy, but this doesn’t stop her from having a slice of fruitcake after the pancakes and caviar. It makes me hungry.
This is not quite the same as girls being sent away to the country to eat good food and recover their health and vitality, the lack of which in contemporary fiction was pointed out by BabelBabe, but it is in the same general arena (boy was that a convoluted sentence). Lucy seems to be one of the more healthy, balanced individuals in the story. She tries to see beyond the strict class and race notions she was raised with. She doubts the honor in “Peace with Honor” and tries to defy her nasty mother. And she eats good, solid food.
But what, really, is the modern equivalent of Eight Cousins or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the girl brought back to health by real meals and activity? We may not have the corsets and bustles that Louisa May Alcott let Uncle Alec rail against, and girls are no longer expected to sit around and simper and do needlework (nothing against needlework, K), but I’d like to do an Uncle Alec on most adolescent girls I see. Feed them oatmeal and dress them sensibly and put a real bloom in their cheeks. Where are today’s books where this happens?