Cinnamon and Gunpowder
This summer would be infinitely worse without this Booker Prize looker of a novel by Eli Brown -- "Cinnamon and Gunpowder." Sometimes, and this happens most summers, what you really want is a book that you cannot put down and eventually the book gets totally sweat stained, sand filled and destroyed by sunscreen, sun and everything else that's beach-related.
The book, set in 1819, is filled with pirates, but not the fairy tale standard ones -- rather, these are much more intriguing characters that will hook you tight onto the page and leave you begging to jump off a plank and into the ocean of pages to come. The premise is that chef Owen Wedgwood, our anti-hero, has been kidnapped by this unruly bunch of big guys and to be spared he now has to cook a wondrous and most exquisite meal for the troops every Sunday -- made up from what's available, of course.
The adventures are hysterical and silly, but the novel reads with a joyous summer glee with prose that is well thought out and soothing to the palate and even the ear. The silly recipes inside are overkill, but the rest is pure bliss. Meals are described: " 'Three courses,' I announced. 'Herring pate with rosemary on walnut bread. Tea-smoked eel ravioli seared with caramelized garlic and bay leaf. As a touché finale, rum-poached figs stuffed with Pilfered Blue cheese and drizzled with honey...' " This allows interesting ideas of the times to come alive through food and friendship.
The crew travels by Africa, runs off with treasure of some kind, finds where respect and mercy meet and have all kinds of adventure as they eat their way from mast to plank. The Mad Hannah Mabbot, a crazy lady pirate, is the most interesting character of all (she could be played by Angelina Jolie, of course), and has demons that only she can face. The book feels imaginative, laden with details and remains playful throughout. Brown has done a fine, fine job in creating the perfect summer read.
"Cinnamon and Gunpowder"