One of my favorites and it isn’t filtered, all photos were taken with my iPhone7
What could be nicer than a weekend in the country, well it could be sunny and warm rather than drizzle and cold!!!! But hey, it was a weekend in the country with lazy days. I, of course, took a book with me to read and post and guess what, I didn’t like it at all, my deal with books…if I don’t like it I don’t read it, too many that interest me to waste time on ones that don’t appeal to me and I don’t do negative reviews. I believe I’ve mentioned that before (I have been told I repeat things, sorry!) internet was difficult at best, did I mention I was in the country! Couldn’t pull up my Kindle books…lots there on my TBR list, so I decided to walk around, between raindrops and wearing a borrowed sweater, and take photos for you. I’m posting them without comments. Rather between blooming, daffodils done, redbud trees turning to their wonderful heart shaped leaves, fruit trees getting ready to bear fruit, roses getting ready for their June blooms. And the hard part I was just a few days short of a glorious bed of Lily of the Valley, drat! What I love at this time of year is all the spectacular shades of green (my favorite color). Be sure to go to the end, I have my method for cooking fresh asparagus which we served to our Saturday evening dinner guests. Easy, easy, easy and really good.
Three varieties of asparagus freshly picked from the vegetable patch….what to do with them….lots of things but here is my quick preparation…
NENA’S QUICK ASPARAGUS
Break the stalk where it wants to break, of course wash them, Peel the stalks if necessary. In a sauce pan, that will hold your bounty, melt a generous amount of butter when melted add asparagus, cover pan and vigorously shake until fork can easily pierce the stalks. Obviously time varies with size of stalks. To finish sprinkle with sea salt and a generous grind of pepper. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature. Great as is or with a hollandaise. Enjoy!I’d buy this for the cover….lots of cookbooks on asparagus, if you do Kindle check Amazon Prime they have several that are free, at least when I Googled asparagus cookbooks.
This is a repost, the first repost I have done, the original appeared in May 2017 (I have changed the dates of RSM to this year everything else remains the same!) and since we are talking vintage….why not do a year old post…not very vintage but you get the idea. What I didn’t talk about in last year’s post was how the bicycle (and the motor car) totally changed fashion, you can’t ride a bicycle with a bustle. Let’s look at a couple of the fashions of Victorian times….and then read ALL sbout it in a charming blog, The Victorian Cyclist.
Check The Victorian Cyclist
A vintage card (you can find lots at Randolph Street Market) with an old fashion bicycle.
I am so excited to share the information on this season’s first outside/inside Randolph Street Market that will occur on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5 and I thought it was the perfect time to think about all the wonderful picnics we can have this summer and what better way to get to them or travel around when we find the perfect location than on a restored Schwinn bicycle! Well, lucky us we have just the thing at RSM (of course, we do!!!!) Mike’s Bikes returns for the 12th season.
Looks like a perfect day for a picnic. Not only can you find the right bicycle but you can find all the “fixings” for your picnic as well at RSM. All you need is a beautiful setting, some yummy food (yes, you can also get some goodies at the Market!) and good friends. Chicago and all the suburbs have wonderful spots to picnic, or go to Ravinia for one of the fabulous concerts, Harbor Country or neighboring Wisconsin for all their summer events…you can picnic every weekend through October.
Basically, the first thing you see when you arrive at the Randolph Street entrance to RSM is Mike’s Bikes. Mike is an encyclopedia on the history of Schwinn bicycles, by the way, the company was founded in Chicago in 1895. He only restores vintage Schwinn and each is totally unique and Mike wants to pair his bikes with the perfect person and lovingly takes the time to talk to each client and explains every detail of each bicycle. I have seen many a happy smile on the new owner’s faces when they leave with a treasure, either to relive their youth and/or form new memories for themselves or their families, it is wonderful to experience their pure joy!
Michael Mitchell has shared his passion with me and I now share it with you in his words.
I’ve shown you my needlepoint footstools in past posts, now let’s look at some of the pieces I have done in years gone by. I’m going to concentrate on the pillows I own (I have done a zillion more as gifts and commissions over the years) and I must admit I have an abundance of pillows….an obsession, probably! I’ve mentioned I prefer to work from charts and I think all but one I’m featuring today, which is tramme, are from charts. The piece above is a combination of several charts that I made into a charming “picture”..I love baskets, roses and bows….all work together here, the tassels were purchased, not hand fashioned and are silk, used to tie this small pillow to the back of a vintage chair. It along with a matching green vintage secretary were the first pieces I choose and purchased for my bedroom while in high school, needless to say, they have been with me forever. The chair now resides in my “library”. A good time to mention the May Randolph Street Market is Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5. It’s the first outside market of the season, and the classic Plumbers Hall continues to have three floors of treasures year round. I’ve found patchwork quilts, remnants of textiles and lots of needlework there over the years. If you look you will definitely find a textile that will interest you or a treasure or two or three or………
A close up of the basket (needs a good steaming…sorry!)
i started doing needlepoint while commuting from Evanston to Chicago for the first 12 years of working…I’ve sewn since I was very young with my Mother who was a superb seamstress, she particularly loved doing French smocking, Battenberg lace and both silk and wool embroidery embellishments on my clothes and my dolls clothes. When I was old enough she gave me a beautiful sterling silver and cloisonné thimble (where is it?????). Much to her chagrin, I couldn’t use it, I can’t stand hearing and feeling the metal needle on the metal thimble, pity!!! We made our drapery, slipcover furnpniture as well as doing upholstery, bed spreads, you name it we sewed it!!!! Mom finished all my needlework pieces, did most of the tassels, I did some, and silk ones were purchased. She was so good at it she started doing friends pieces and from word of mouth it turned into a small business for her, it was called “The Little Pillowmaker”. But is was more than pillows she finished most of my other work and the work of others…glasscases, belts, rugs, Christmas stockings, etc. complicated pieces such as golf club covers, slippers, etc. we took to our local needlepoint shop
Some of my collection resides on my built-in window seat that is covered in a pastel Asian pattern cotton toile. The four small pieces in front (from a collection thoughout my home) are made from fragments of vintage Aubusson carpets that I purchased, over the years, from a fabulous dealer from the UK who exhibited at the Chicago Antiques Show that will be at the Merchandise Mart this week, May 17-20, an always extraordinary show.
A set of three floral pieces my first assistant, Lucye, created for me to work. In return she received a long vest that I did in a multI-color flame stitch, for Christmas that year, I created the pattern and even covered the seams with stitches, it was held together with black silk frog closings. It was very boho (hippy in that era!) when I find a photo of her wearing it I’ll share it with you. Obviously I need to get out the steamer yet again, my apologies for the poor shot….its been a few days of gloom here. Here you can see some of the lily of the valley pieces i have done, I shared my lily of the valley rug in a previous post. All the fringe is hand done, by me!! Tedious but very rewarding. You can see a glimpse of the pastel Asian inspired toile. I use the window seat as an extra bed when I have an over night guest (the cushion is down filled and very comfortable, I sleep on it when company visits).
Here is a close-up of one of the tapestry pieces in front of one of my larger pillows, this one a French tramme piece from a kit I actually got on my first trip to London in the late ‘80’s. I enjoyed working in tramme, in which the pattern is worked in long yarn stitches on canvas rather than being painted and you cover the horizontal stitches with traditional tent stitches.
Another large piece that anchors the other pillows, I love to do borders and am mad for boxing pieces, doing endless plain background (especially all black backgrounds) not so much!
Back to my needlepoint beginnings, in addition to travel time I also had lots of time before fashion shows after I had set up the show to do busy work I read a lot, always have, and found that wasn’t going to work when I was with other people and we all wanted to chat. I could easy stitch (knitting makes me very uptight) so needlepoint it was.
I have a huge collection of needlepoint and other needlework books (I’ve done quite a bit of crewel as well, mostly as gifts) was and am particularly fond of those by Maggie Lane. I would presume they are out of print but if you can find them do add them to your library, the stories she tells of China as well as her extraordinarily exquisite work are worth the read even if you don’t do any needlework. The cover below is from her first volume. The pictures below the book cover are just some of the many, many pieces I did from her charts.
These are just a small selection showing you what I did, each of these as gifts for friends, some got many others one or two, all from graphed charts from the Maggie books. All, of course, done in colors to coordinate with the recipient ‘s individual decor. And I always asked if they would like a piece before beginning the process, I work quickly but don’t want to spend my time on something the recipient thinks is “homemade” and not “heartmade”, an Ivonism, by the way!!!! The photos above are from Pinterest credit unknown.One of the most ambitious of any of my work, other than the rug, was done for my first boss, Kay Walsh Dobson, for her Pompano Beach, Florida home. One of twenty, or more, pillows I did for her along with a set of six Chippendale chair slip seats and a backgammon board (yet another post) all in various shades of yellow (probably my least favorite color palette to work with!) and black and white. I would say this piece finished was approximately 30” wide x 24” deep plus the box border. If I never do another black background again…… I must admit the finished piece was spectacular! Again, when I locate photos of all her pieces I promise to share them with you.
As as you know I follow a million blogs and my interests are quite varied, I follow food sites, book bloggers, home and garden pieces and on and on. As luck would have it one blog I follow and look forward to, always so well done is The French Tangerine which had a perfect post, for me to share, this week. I quickly send an email and Jan Vrana, the creator of The French Tangerine, not only answered immediately but has given me permission to link you to her May 10 story on the Lauritzen Gardens and some of the most exquisite Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint pieces I’ve seen, they are always special but the way they have been finished they are even more gorgeous. Thank you so much Jan, for sharing your fabulous post with my readers, they can’t help but fall in love with The French Tangerine and follow you
Now, dear friends that you have been properly introduced, I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of my pillows. Have to go find that thimble and think about stitching something new, interested in a special piece…..let me know!!!!
TODAY’S POST IS UNDERWRITTEN BY AN ANONYMOUS SPONSOR
You know I love a great historical novel, probably my favorite genre, and here we have real history that reads like the plot of a novel. And if that isn’t reason enough to grab this fascinating tale then just look at the cover (in this case, you can definitely tell the book by its cover), putting on the Ritz or Ritzy come to mind, both in todays vernacular.
Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier
The innovations these genius’s brought to the hospitality industry set the standard, in the late 19th Century, that are followed by today’s Grand Hotels and fine restaurants world-wide. They weren’t afraid of doing whatever it took to give their esteemed clientele the best and newest of everything in food, service, accommodations, and, of course, the best staffs in each property. Ritz was known for only wanting the best and had no problem spending money to achieve his high standards often to the chagrin of his partners and shareholders. Think bathrooms in each guest room and suite, electricity throughout the properties, elevators, special meals for unaccompanied ladies to be in the hotels restaurants without male escorts and on and on.
I remember my first trip to London going to The Savoy for cocktails before the theater, I don’t remember what we saw that night, but do remember a feeling of nostalgia for a time long ago when I got out of the car and saw that amazing SAVOY sign….wow!
Cesar Ritz came to The Savoy in London at the request of the owner, Richard D’Oyly Carte (think Gilbert and Sullivan, that D’Oyly Carte!). He already had made a name for himself managing several properties on The Continent where he made each prosperous and unique. He turned The Savoy into THE place to go with the partnering of Auguste Escoffier, who had already established himself in the world of haute cuisine as an ingenious creator as well as his streamlined working ofvhiskitchens. Both gentlemen knew how to “work the room” and charmed their ever growing clientele, which included all of high society from around the world and, of course, had the blessing and attendance of the Prince of Wales, at the eleborate meals Escoffier invented and prepared in his perfectly orchestrated kitchen. All went beyond expectations until scandal breaks out (no spoilers from me!) and forces the men to Paris and The Ritz…..
The Ritz, Paris
Gabrielle Chanel in her apartment at The Ritz, Paris
I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book, the history of the hospitality and food industry and the men and women (their wives, who wore gowns from the Couture Houses of Charles Frederick Worth and Jacques Doucet, played a huge part in the story as do the celebrities of the day, Nellie Melba…think Peach Melba and Melba Toast, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde….all came to The Savoy). I not only learned so much but did so in a most entertaining way, Luke Barr has written a book (get it you will truly enjoy the story on so many levels) that I will refer to often and wish, yet again, that I could transport myself back into that creative time of the Belle Époque, of course with all the modern amenities we have now, in addition, of course, to those Ritz provided, elevators, bathrooms, individual service, exquisite food…..well maybe I don’t need to be that modern and can be extremely comfortable without today’s tech devices!!!!! And you………..
Two more for your library, they are going into mine.
One of my favorite Escoffier recipes, there are so many i couldn’t possibly mention them all including Melba toast…love making it from my French Brioche loaf, is Baked Alaska, which he called “eggs and ice” and served to great acclaim. I have always loved this photo from the original Betty Crocker (yes, even Betty Crocker bows at the Escoffier throne!) cookbook I gave my mother when it was first published (I still have the book and use it all the time, its spine is held together with masking tape!). I have never made it but isn’t it the most fabulous photo ever….the styling, even back then, is perfection. Maybe, just maybe this summer with homemade raspberry ice cream…..just saying….
It isn’t often that you meet people and instantly know you will be forever friends I had that wonderful occurrence when I met Jay and Deepa Lakhani Deepa Gurnaniat a reception at Neiman Marcus, Chicago, for, another new friend, Kobi Halperin , and his Erte inspired collection with embellishment by these extraordinary creators. At a fabulously delicious dinner at Margaux Brasserieorchestrated by our hostess, Shelley Rosen, Founder of Luxe Bloom, I was seated between the couple and I’m afraid I monopolized them for the entire evening, they are amazing. Here is their story.
I AM OBSESSED WITH YOUR PARTNERSHIP TELL ME HOW YOU COLLABORATE AND, OF COURSE, THE STORY OF HOW YOU MET AND MARRIED…IT IS A WONDERFULLY ROMANTIC STORY THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH MY READERS YOU CAN BOTH ANSWER PLEASE PUT YOUR INITIALS IN FRONT OF YOUR ANSWERS
Jay Lakhani: It is funny that Deepa and I didn’t meet until much later in our lives even though our families have known each other for generations – we have been family friends since our great grandparents. The younger kids lost touch with each other because we were not living in India. I met Deepa in New York while her sister and I were roommates in College. We hit it off instantly because we were both in fashion school at the time – she at Central Saint Martins, London and I in the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
Deepa Lakhani: We fell in love and decided to get married pretty soon after that. From the beginning we understood that we also wanted to merge our fashion lines together. We felt that it was possible because we were in sync creatively and on the same page about our design philosophy.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST JOBS
JL: I am a Jewelry Designer by profession, but also passionate about sales and marketing. My first job in the industry was in 2001 with Andin International, wholesale Jewelry manufacturers supplying to department stores and retailers in the United States. Here I received training in design as well as sales and marketing.
DL: You can say I have been a designer-entrepreneur from the get go. I worked as an assistant buyer for Browns in London for a short while and that gave me an insight into fashion retail and the everyday needs of a girl. I always wanted to start my own embroidery factory and I did that in India in 2002.
Some of my, Nena’s, favorite earrings, examples of Deepa’s creativity
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION
JL: We are both designers by education and occupation. At our company I handle all of sales, marketing and PR while Deepa handles all of logistics, accounting, and production. We only meet when we design.
Jay working one-on-one with one of their artisans in their factory in Mumbai, India
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
JL: As far as I can recall I have always had an interest in fashion, focused on clothing, silhouette and style. I would always diligently follow runway shows of my favorite designers and had a strong point of view since the beginning.
DL: I think we both always knew this is what we wanted to do. Fashion school is what helped me further discover my talent and gave me the confidence to pursue my love for design.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN
DL: When we launched on 5th Avenue in New York City at the store Henri Bendel in November 2006. We made it at the ‘open see’ that has about 500 designers showcasing, and only 15 out of those finally make it. It was our first store launch and things really took off from there.
Below photos from The Accessories Council Excellence Awards, August 2017
Jay and Deepa with New York team at the Awards dinner
At same dinner with Anthropologie buyers and Betsey Johnson and Eva Longoria
HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
JL: My parents are Jewelers by trade. I have always had a keen interest in fashion and an eye for Jewelry. We saw a need in the market for handmade products and the necessity of preserving traditional arts and crafts. That is true luxury to us. We feel strongly about this and that is why we started this initiative and have taken it on for years to come.
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
JL: Nothing but fashion for me.
DL: It was either fashion or medical school for me. My father understood my passion for design and nudged me in that direction.
Deepa’s April 2018 Birthday lunch
YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, LIST THE FOLLOWING,IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE…THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT
Book: Devil Wears Prada
Theatre: Kinky Boots
Music: Spiritual and meditational music, Buddha Bar
Local Restaurants: Mr. Chow and Bareburger in NYC, Pali Village Café and Bastian in Mumbai,
JL: I love to dance. I am a trained Bollywood dancer and used to teach classes in New York.
DL: I enjoy sketching and cooking in my free time. Both of us love yoga, traveling and watching movies together.
HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC DESCRIBE
JL: Our home can be described as minimal, modern, and our zen, cozy refuge at the end of a hectic day
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD AND BE SURE TO INCLUDE YOURSELF!) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE (10-12 GUESTS)
JL and DL: Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey, Anne Hathaway, Gautam Buddha, Dalai Lama, Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Erte, Beyonce & Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
JL: We would serve a full Indian spread because I love Indian food. A traditional Indian Thali would be so much fun. It would of course be organic, nutritious and mostly vegetarian because that’s how Deepa likes it.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST (HERE IS A CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN INDIA!)
JL: We are in love with Bali and could go there again and again. Greece is a place on our list that we haven’t been to yet. Hopefully Summer 2018!
DL: We also go to India often, especially to Mumbai and love it there. Otherwise the most beautiful, colorful side to India is in Rajasthan with its beautiful forts, luxuriouspalace hotels, rich textile heritage and fantastic food.
FAVORITE WORK OF ART
JL: Mona Lisa
DL: I love Leon Bakst and Erte’s portraits of Marchesa Luisa Casati
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED
JL: We would like to be remembered for our humanitarian contributions to society. We believe in giving back and building up people around us who are in need.
A FAVORITE, OR TWO, RECIPE
Both Deepa and I hail from the Sindhi community in India, and our favorite Sunday indulgence is Koki, a whole wheat, spiced pancake. You could eat that with some chilled yoghurt or mango pickle or some Dum Aloo (potato dish) famously from the region of Kashmir. I follow British-Indian chef and author Maunika Gowardhan @cookinacurry and these recipes are from her blog.
150gms whole wheat flour
1 medium red onion finely chopped
2 green chillies (or less if you prefer it mild)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp pomegranate powder
80gms coriander leaves finely chopped
1 tbsp softened butter
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
In a bowl mix the flour, chopped onions, chillies, cumin seeds, pomegranate powder and coriander leaves. Add the softened butter and salt. Mix well and add the water little at a time to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead well and divide into equal portions.
The koki should be still thick so roll the dough out to no more 8cm in diameter. Heat the pan. Add the koki to the warm pan. Cook for 5-7 seconds over medium heat and turn over to cook the underside. Add a tsp of oil on the top side and flip over again. Cook for a further minute on each side as it begins to change colour and has a few brown speckles on the bread. Keep warm wrapped in a cloth or foil while you make the rest. Serve warm with a pickle & some yoghurt or a curry.
Kashmiri Dum Aloo
60gms cashew nuts
18-20 small new potatoes peeled
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium white onion finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1” piece of ginger finely chopped
200gms greek yoghurt lightly whisked
1 ½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or mild paprika)
1 tsp fennel powder
½ tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp ground cardamom powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp crushed dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1 tbsp coriander leaves for garnish
Slivers of ginger for garnish
Soak the cashew nuts in warm water for 20 mins. Prick the new potatoes with a fork lightly (this helps them cook all the way through). Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok or kadhai. Add the potatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes until they turn crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper & set aside.
Whisk the yoghurt and mix in the chilli powder, fennel powder and cumin powder. Stir the spiced yoghurt and set aside.
Drain most of the water from the cashew nuts; blend the cashew nuts to a fine puree. Set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in the kadhai. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they begin to soften for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes as it cooks. Turn the heat to a low setting and add the spiced yoghurt. Stir well for a minute and add the cashew nut paste. Stir for 2-3 mins. Tip in the tomato puree and stir for a further 2 minutes.
As the curry starts to leave oil from the sides of the pan add the fried potatoes, water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 mins stirring ever so often until the potatoes have soaked in the flavours and cooked all the way through. Add the cardamom powder, crushed methi/fenugreek leaves if using, fresh coriander and ginger. Stir and serve warm.
BLOGS/ INSTAGRAM/ WEBSITES YOU FOLLOW
WWD, Business of Fashion, Vogue India, Man Repeller, Chiara Ferragni, Alessandro Michele, Priyanka Chopra, Deliciously Ella and many more
All photos courtesy of Jay and Deepa Lakhani.
A room in the Wrightsman Galleries at the Met, i have spend many, many hours here they are beyond perfection. The subject of the June 6th program. Photo from Pinterest credit unknown
Spring always brings one of Chicago’s most anticipated events the Alliance Francaise de Chicago’s Symposium on the Arts of France. I was fortunate to attend the first in the series of three last week. The lecture was bittersweet, it was to be presented by the incredible, Jean Goldman, who recently passed away. Jean had long been a major supporter of the Alliance in so very many, many ways and her knowledge was unparalleled, her presentations were always perfection, you learned something new each time…her expertise, humor and joie de vivre keep you riveted to her every word. I was honored to call her friend…we had many long lunches, four hours was not unheard of, at the charming Ikram Cafe, chatting about anything and everything. Fortunately, for the attendees of the symposium she had prepared her illustrated lecture and it was delivered, perfectly, I might add, by Lisa Wainwright, currently Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The title was ”Stately Mansions and the not quite so Stately Life Therein: A Peek Behind the Closed Doors: Pomp, Intrigue and Les Liaisons Dangereuses”. After the superb presentation, we had a delicious lunch from Jewell Events Catering, one would expect nothing less from the renowned caterer admired the always glorious blooms from Green. A perfect afternoon, the one element missing, Jean Goldman, but everyone felt her smiling at us.
You have a chance to attend the next two presentations by registering for the 11:30 presentations, which are in English, (the individual lecture tickets are $45.00, The Patron luncheons are sold-out well in advance), by visiting Alliance Francaise de Chicago
Be sure to be put on the list for the 2019 Symposium. While you are at it request to be put on the Alliance’s mailing and email list for programs, classes and all manner of year-round celebrations. It is worthwhile exploring all they have to offer. It is a wonderful organization.
I had read about this book on many of the book blogs I follow and was eager to put it on my TBR list. I hadn’t read Abir Mukherjee’s first book in the series, A Rising Man, but found it wasn’t necessary (I will, however, put it on my list), his main characters, our protagonist, Captain Sam Wyndham and his Sergeant ’Surrender-Not’ Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force are clearly drawn in this installment
From the flyleaf ”India, 1920, Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee….investigate the assassination of a Maharajah’s son…..As they desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules….” Why wouldn’t you want to read this book!! It certainly got me.
The murder of the heir takes place in Calcutta in front of Wyndham and Banerjee at the beginning of our story. We then follow them to the wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore (Sambalpur), the wealth is diamonds and coal. See the map of India below for the ”real” location of our story.
Here we learn of the Maharajah’s three wives, the middle wife, the mother of the two adult sons has died, the first a contemporary of the aging Maharajah and the third a young beauty with a young prince. The intrigue of Palace politics is explained when we meet members of the inner circle both Indian and English as well as the ”harem” guarded by eunuchs. We are taken into the world of opium, Indian religious traditions, and ceremonies. We go on glamorous trains (better than the Orient Express), attend formal dinner parties (everyone, of course, dresses for dinner, but then they dress for every occasion! Why can’t we still do that?!) we even learn how to hunt on top of elephants. The Raj is still in effect but times are changing and the power (read money) is the main focus of the time and the novel. Times are changing…wealth and influence are changing as well, while human nature and traditions remain the same.
An image of a Maharajah with rows and rows of diamonds and other precious stones. Iris….eat your heart out! Photo from Pinterest credit unknown.
Our story takes many twists and turns. We have a love interest (no sex here my friends, implied, perhaps!), a bit of violence and lots and lots of intrigue and information on a time I was eager to learn more about. I must admit I was taken by surprise by the reveal of the assassin (no spoilers here), you have to read almost to the very end to find out ”who did it”! I thoroughly enjoyed Mukherjee’s writing, his detail of the time was informational and makes me want to further explore this subject while I wait for the next adventures of Captain Wyndham and Sargeant Banerjee.
The author, Abir Mukherjee, photo by Nick Tucker.
Would I recommend the novel, absolutely and you know I always recommend patronizing your local Independent Bookseller.
Mukherjee recommends Ann Morrow’s HIGHNESS The Maharajahs of India for further research….on my list for sure.
I am recommending The Great Courses, A History of India, also on my list
A short post on this the first of May. By now you know my Lily of the Valley obsession….it doesn’t stop with objects, oh no it doesn’t…it continues to art, much of which I have shared with you, and for purposes for this report…..needlepoint, lots of needlepoint. More on that in a future nenasnotes. The above photo is a close up of the center of a small rug 2’ x 3’ that I designed and worked from a chart. I prefer working from charts rather than painted pieces, just my preference. I have done both, having created hundreds of pieces over the yesrs. This particular work was done in 1974 (it is signed and dated) and has been a wall hanging, a small area rug and now rests on the back of one of my loveseats. I think i have shown a glimpse in other photos of my home.
It is tradition to hang a May basket on your front door as well as your neighbors and other friends. I say let’s bring back that tradition….it is charming!!!! Happy May!