2016 reading challenge, Books, Books Are My Bag, Food, Reading challenges

Garlic, Mint & Sweet Basil – Jean-Claude Izzo


Have no fear: an excess of basil, like an excess of love, will not damage the heart.

I’ve never read a Jean-Claude Izzo novel. In fact, I’d never even heard of him before I saw this in Libreria back in June, and was attracted by the title, the bright cover, the fact that it is a collection of essays (I am forever promising myself I will read more non-fiction), and slim. But mostly the cover.

I took it with me to Scotland, and read it over breakfast, mostly, surrounded by windows looking out to the sea on three sides, and was reminded of my time living in Italy, and of learning to cook. It made me think about how people moving into a place can change it, and how where we live shapes us. It was extremely refreshing to read a book about France that is very much not about Paris – as much as I love Paris and miss it, France is a vast and varied country and there is so much more to it than one city. Paris speaks for Marseille no more than London speaks for Newcastle, and this is a love letter, a collection of love letters, to a city that is very much its own.

Izzo writes with such clarity about love, and food, and writing, and family, and travel, and home, and it was a beautiful way to spend my mornings, listening to the wind around the house and eating kippers – far flung from Marseilles and basil!

It also, pleasingly, ticks off a category of my reading challenge – I’ve been hopeless at this lately, and can’t really take this as a recent triumph as I read it in August, and we are now firmly into November – a food memoir. It’s not necessarily the traditional sort, but so much is told through food, and it is so personal, that it fits well enough for me.


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