By Bill Buford. (Alfred A. Knopf, 432 pages, $28.95.)
The chef’s hat on the cover and the subtitle reveal that the former New Yorker fiction editor’s book does not deal with grime, although there’s some of that, too. It’s about “Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking.”
There’s undoubtedly a family saga to be crafted from what turned out to be a multiyear French adventure, with young sons who returned to America unable to manage English-language schooling and a wife who somehow became a wine expert and raised those kids while Buford was spending 16-hour days in restaurant kitchens. But Buford focuses, instead, on food. Chefs who give him the cold shoulder when they’re not throwing things at him, a bread maker who literally bakes himself into an early grave and a pig who is about to be very graphically slaughtered are a few of Buford’s encounters in his witty, dishy and hungry-making memoir.
The Boy in the Field
By Margot Livesey. (Harper, 268 pages, $26.99.)
On a Monday afternoon in September 1999, Matthew, Zoe and Duncan Lang wait for their father after school. Hal Lang has told them he will pick them up. Their bus departs. He does not arrive. The teenage siblings decide to walk, thinking they will meet their father on the road. As they walk, Zoe sees a boy lying in a field. He appears to be asleep and wearing red socks, but soon they discover it is a young man who is bleeding.
And so “The Boy in the Field” begins. Told in alternating chapters from each sibling’s point of view, this novel is centered around a crime in a rural community near Oxford. It is anchored in the personalities of Matthew, Zoe and Duncan, as the millennium ends. The writing is tense and engaging, like a great BBC mystery. There is, of course, a perceptive detective. The Lang children are wonderfully drawn characters with humanity and depth. Fans of Kate Atkinson, Ali Smith or Penelope Lively will enjoy, as did I.
Maureen Millea Smith