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Neglected Women Writers’ Month: Elizabeth Robins Pennell

Born in 1855 and raised in Philadelphia, Elizabeth Robins Pennell settled in London as an adult, and moved back to the States towards the end of the First World War.  She and her husband settled in New York City, and following his death, she moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, where she died in 1936.

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Sketch of Elizabeth Robins Pennell by her husband, Joseph

Elizabeth Robins Pennell led an exciting life, and has been described as ‘an adventurous, accomplished, self-assured, well-known columnist, biographer, cookbook collector, and art critic’.  She was a prolific author, her work spanning a wealth of genres, and also penned travelogues, lives of authors, and explorations into art, amongst others.  She was passionate about cycle tourism, and she and her husband acquired a tandem cycle, with which they rode to Canterbury to pay homage to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

“Banish the onion from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it.”

A full bibliography of her work, along with links to many of the works, can be found here.  (NB. Unfortunately, Wikipedia seemed to be the best source to link to; I can only apologise.)

Snippets:
– Images from the Library of Congress’ Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell collection can be viewed here.
Here, Cynthia D. Bertelsen writes of ‘The Long, Delicious Shelf Life of Elizabeth Robins Pennell.
– A bibliography of Elizabeth Robins Pennell’s cookbook collection can be found here.

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‘My Life in France’ by Julia Child

I go to France often. I love the country, the culture and the cuisine, and I also love to see how those from foreign shores adapt to the French way of life. I will read pretty much any book set in Paris, one of my favourite cities. I am particularly interested in non-fiction accounts of life in France. It comes with no surprise then, that I had been wanting to read My Life in France for quite some time. I was overjoyed when my parents got me the beautiful 100th birthday edition for my own birthday this year.

I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed with Julia Child’s memoir as I had heard a lot of hype about it, and I am thrilled to say that I absolutely adored it. In it, Child has created the most wonderful recipe, combining a travel book with a culinary memoir, and mixing handfuls of friends and love into its pages for good measure. In consequence, My Life in France is a real treat to read. I loved the informal style which Child adopts, and her descriptions are just beautiful. She describes France with such tenderness, such love.

The photographs scattered throughout, almost all of them taken by her husband Paul, are absolutely glorious, and are such a nice touch. Child’s memoir, with the addition of these pictures, is an incredibly sensory one, and it ranks amongst the best pieces of non-fiction which I have ever read. Julia Child was an absolutely marvellous woman, and I adored sharing her journey into Paris and out again. My Life in France is a book as rich and sumptuous as the dishes it mentions, and all foodies should have a copy on their bookshelves.