Tag Archives: Russia

Ken Follett – Edge of Eternity (2014)

EdgeOfEternitySo mixed regarding how I feel about this book. I liked it, but I liked it because I like the history behind it, not because I think Ken Follett is a good writer.

This is the third book in Follett’s trilogy and for me, after the first one, they kind of went downhill. The first book was great, the characters were somewhat original and the idea of tracing five different families through the First World War was compelling and done well. The second book was OK, but I think its harder to write about the Second World War without falling into the same tired clichés and character types.

I heard a rumour that Follett didn’t even want to write this book, and it really showed. He started off strong telling the story of a young Black lawyer on a Freedom Ride through the Southern United States, and his chapter detailing the events of JFK’s assassination was done really well, as you see how every character stationed in different areas around the world reacts to the news. He should have just ended there, but obviously couldn’t, needing to tie up everyone’s stories with the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991.

Following the JFK assassination the book becomes almost unbearable, the dialogue is so banal and so many of the events are just unbelievable. It makes me wonder if Follett himself has ever actually experienced anything! I’ve written before about how I don’t like his female characters as they all come off as very one-dimensional, and this book was no different. The female characters all serve the goals of the men, and none of them have their own interesting storylines.

Despite the fact that I did not love this book, for some reason I still cried during the epilogue when Follett describes the African American family, the family of the Freedom Rider protagonist, sitting around a TV watching was Barak Obama is sworn into office. That’s more about me being a suck though, than Follett’s writing, as overall, the book was not memorable.

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Recipe – Kiev-Style Raspberry Jam

I will just say this, it took me forever to get through. In Gilmore Girls, Dean complains to Rory about this book (teasingly) blaming her for wasting his time with it. I don’t really blame Dean at all. The book is long, dense and the names confused me more often than not. The characters are also not that likeable.

However it is easy to see why this book is widely regarded as the “best novel ever written.” It deals with important themes, especially those of fidelity, family, marriage and society. Anna is a tragic character and is a reflection of her time; after falling in love with another man and leaving her husband Anna loses everything else so dear to her, her son, her friends, and her social standing. Despite the fact that I found Anna unlikeable, I was still able to sympathize with her and see her as a woman trapped.

The book also depicts Russian high society prior to the Revolution. My favourite parts of the book were when we saw Kitty and Levin in their country estate. I loved the scene where while making jam, all the women involved had different opinions on how “properly” to make jam. Out of the whole book, I felt that this was the most relatable scene, mothers, grandmothers and daughter all with different opinions on the “proper” way to do something.

So I decided to try my hand at making a Russian, or Kiev-style, jam. Essentially the defining characteristic is that it is made without water. This is the method that Kitty introduces to her new mother-in-law who is skeptical.

Fresh Raspberries

Fresh Raspberries

On the terrace were assembled all the ladies of the party. They always liked sitting there after dinner, and that day they had work to do there too. Besides the sewing and knitting of baby-clothes, with which all of them were busy, that afternoon jam was being made on the terrace by a method new to Agafea Mihalovna, without the addition of water. Kitty had introduced this new method, which had been in use in her home. Agafea Mihalovna, to whom the task of jam-making had always been intrusted, considering that what had been done in the Levin household could not be amiss, had nevertheless put water with the strawberries, maintaining that the jam could not be made without it. She had been caught in the act, and was now making jam before everyone, and it was to be proved to her conclusively that jam could be very well made without water.” (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Part VI, Chapter II)

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Cover with sugar, lemon juice, and vodka and refrigerate for at least three hours

I don’t blame poor Agafea Mihalovna, I too was skeptical, but it turns out that jam can indeed be made without water. This method produces a jam that is much more like fruit preserves, as the structural integrity of the fruit is maintained.

Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved

Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved

2015-05-18 15.51.39The jam is perfect spread on a scone or roll of bread served with some good Russian tea. The Russia tea ceremony is quite intricate and involves a special brewing pot called a Samovar. Lacking in resources I settled for a cup of Four Red Fruit tea from Kusmi, a tea company originating from St. Petersburg.

Recipe
3 cups raspberries
2 ½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
¼ cup of vodka

  1. Place raspberries in a pot and cover with vodka, sugar, and lemon juice. Refrigerate overnight or for at least three hours
  2. Prior to cooking jam sterilize your jars either by boiling them or placing them in a 250-degree oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Place pot on stove and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. The raspberries with give off a heavy fragrance and the liquid in the pot will darken
  5. Simmer for 15-20 stirring the mixture occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and jar your jam
  7. Remember to place the full jars into a pot of boiling water in order to seal them properly.