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Julia asked which dessert I would make again – the Madeira Cake, the Victoria Sponge, or both. Good question. I will definitely make the Madeira Cake again – it was good plain, or you could dress it up with some berries or a chocolate sauce or something. Maybe a lemony glaze. But absolutely worth eating plain, and very satisfying. I didn’t like the sponge quite as much – it was basically a giant strawberry shortcake in terms of flavor. Tasty, certainly, but I didn’t swoon. Maybe I needed sweeter strawberries, or a bit more jam, or a dash of sour cream or yogurt in the whipped cream to make it more interesting. You could mess around more with the sponge – using different fillings or the flavorings suggested in the book.

In book news, I just finished listening to Leif Enger’s new one – So Brave, Young and Handsome. And typing out the title just reminded me – I never noticed a mention of the title in the book. I can’t remember if any of the characters were ever described as “so brave, young and handsome.” Maybe Hood Roberts, the young mechanic – he was the only young one, and the only one that someone might have spoken of in that tone of voice. It didn’t hit me quite as hard as Peace Like a River, but it had the same sort of humanity to it. Characters who are flawed, but capable of facing redemption. A run from the law. A sense of adventure. A description of what it means to be at home in certain places and with certain people. Heart and humor, and an old-fashioned feel without seeming like it was trying too hard. I wasn’t sure about the audio version at first, but it got me hooked after a few minutes. It all felt real.

I listened to a podcast of a reading Enger gave, and he talked about how he wanted to write for as wide an audience as possible – young adults on up – and his books really do seem suited to that. They have a good balance of character and plot, and there’s no reason you couldn’t hand one to a high schooler or your grandfather. I think he’s succeeded – and I will certainly go back and read both this one and Peace Like a River again.

February 2023

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