No ‘Writing Bit’ this week, because it’s a book review instead.
The Reading Bit
When I first started reading Isabel Ashdown’s Hurry Up And Wait, I thought it was going to be an enjoyably nostalgic look at teen culture in the mid eighties. And it was, but then things took a much darker turn and that’ s where the story really took off.
The main section of the novel is set over the course of the 1985/86 school year, and is framed by present day sections at the beginning and end. My own teens were a little before this, but the dynamics of teenage friendships were the same then and I suspect they aren’t too different now. Teenage girls are often fickle, their friendships coming and going like the tides. One minute, girls can be inseparable, intense, hanging on one another’s every word; the next minute they’re indifferent at best, spiteful and cruel at worst. This perennial truth is well observed and expertly portrayed in this novel.
Sarah is always slightly on the edge of a group of three, so she’s particularly vulnerable to the whims of Kate, the coolest of the three and very much the leader. When Kate decides to make Sarah suffer, she leads the third girl, Tina, in a campaign of taunting and bullying. And yet Sarah – an all-round nice, sensible girl – is still attracted to Kate as a friend, despite Kate’s cruelty and betrayal.
Hurry Up And Wait shows brilliantly how vital these unsatisfactory friendships seem at the time. For Sarah, whose mum died when she was tiny and whose dad is older and less cool than the other dads, her friendship with Kate is central, but her increasingly close connection with Kate and her family leads to an event that has a devastating effect on Sarah’s life.
This novel is a treasure trove of period detail and of authentic characters. Some, such as Sarah, her dad, and one or two of her friends, are thoroughly likeable; others, such as Kate , Dante, Jason, and the awful teacher Mrs Minor, range from the not-so-likeable to the distinctly unlikeable. But all are convincing. The novel starts in the present day with Sarah, aged almost 40, arriving for a school reunion. She then takes us on a journey through her memory as she relives that turbulent final school year before bringing us back to the present where she faces the truth of what happened all those years before.
I enjoyed Isabel Ashdown’s first novel, Glasshopper, but I enjoyed this even more. The style is so easy to read that before you know it, you’re two thirds of the way through the novel – I read the last third in one sitting! I’d say hurry up and read Hurry Up And Wait!
The Food Bit
Freezing out, isn’t it? When you’re cold right through and feel the need for some warming vegan comfort food (yes, is does exist), try soya mince with vegetables, garlic, red wine and herbs. This is a ‘one pot’ dish, so you’ll need a large pan.
For two people, you’ll need one onion, a couple of largish potatoes, a few carrots, and a handful of other veg – whatever you’ve got in the fridge, really. I made this the other night and used half a red and half a green pepper, some mushrooms and three baby sweetcorns that were left over from a stir-fry. But broccoli works well, too, and so do green beans. You’ll also need 50g of savoury soya mince, about two pints of vegetable stock, half a tin of chopped tomatoes, a heaped teaspoon of tomato puree, three cloves of garlic (crushed), some mixed herbs and a good slosh of red wine.
First, peel the potatoes and carrots and cut into chunks, then boil in half of the vegetable stock until almost cooked through. Make up the soya mince following the instructions on the pack but use some of the veg stock instead of water. (It’s usually ‘add 150ml water to 50g soya mince and leave for ten minutes’) Chop the onion and fry in olive oil until soft, then add garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add all other ingredients except the stock and tinned tomatoes fry gently for a few minutes. Add stock and tinned tomatoes and simmer until all the veg is cooked and the flavours are absorbed. Taste, then season as required with salt and freshly ground pepper. You can also add more stock if required – I usually serve this in bowls. You don’t really need anything else with it, but is there’s sauce to be mopped up at the end, crusty bread is good.
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