Tag Archives: beach reading

A Table for Two

Restaurant Critic's Wife

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife: A Novel by Elizabeth LeBan (Lake Union, $24.95, 306 pages)

What we have here are the confessions of a restaurant critic’s wife done up as a rambling narrative. Lila falls in love with Sam Soto whose dream it is to be a newspaper food critic. I kid you not.

It all began back in New Orleans where Sam was a political reporter for the local newspaper. Lila is a high-powered hotel special events troubleshooter who loves her job. Sam captures her heart through her stomach. He cooks for Lila making yummy breakfasts and, well, you get the idea. Pretty soon they are a couple.

Sam catches his big break, but at the Philadelphia Herald. They move for Sam’s work. Lila enjoys socializing and being part of the community; however, Sam’s worldview is vastly different then hers. Alas, the life of a restaurant critic is filled with incognito dinners, no close friendships and keeping a low profile, which makes for quite a difficult lifestyle for Lila.

The frustrations and travails that follow are the heart of the story. Both Lila and Sam must face their issues and decide whether life is to be lived in secret or in the community. Only the real wife of a food critic could have written this novel. Clearly, Ms. LeBan has drawn from her own experiences to create such a believable tale. It’s impossible to determine where her life leaves off and her imagination begins to work.

Restaurant Critic's Wife back

Well recommended for foodies and folks on vacation.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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California Girls

The Swimsuit: A History of Twentieth-Century Fashion by Sarah Kennedy (Carlton Books; $34.95; 304 pages)

This is a serious survey of the evolution of the ladies’ swimsuit in the 20th century.   The text offers a chronology of the garments worn by bathers, accompanied by countless illustrations and photographs.   Don’t let the fancy layout and gorgeous swimsuit models in the modern era suits fool you.   There’s a strong correlation between the social and political achievements during the last century and the freedoms we now enjoy.  

Innovations in fabric production have allowed designers to create remarkably colorful and daring shapes that stand up to water and sunshine.   In the past, there were several concepts that seemed like good ideas but failed miserably when put to use.   The rubber suit was one of them.   It seems that it was only good for a couple of swims before it crumbled – not exactly a pretty picture!

Author Sarah Kennedy traces the various manufacturers and designers whose work stands out and has survived the whims of fashion.   She has brought together resources from England and the United States.   There is a comprehensive list of designers and manufacturers as well.   This book would make an excellent present for the swimsuit fashionista on your holiday gift list.

Reviewed by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

Take Away:  Women will enjoy reviewing this clever look at the female liberation movement, from an on-the-beach perspective.   But don’t be surprised if the males in the household (ages 15 to 80) are caught using it for scientific research purposes!

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