French Women Don't Get Fat

French Women Don't Get Fat

French Women Don't Get Fat

Mireille Guiliano

Vintage, £7.99

French women do get fat. Obesity rose by one-third to 11.3 per cent among French women between 1997 and 2003. A scary 35 per cent of French women are either obese or overweight. Traditionally, French women ate from a varied menu of meat, seafood and veg and followed these rules: don't exercise, walk a lot, don't snack, don't eat standing up, eat small portions, drink lots of mineral water, refuse the cheese course and limit treats, such as pastries and baguettes. The ability to eat so well, while remaining slim, is known as the French Paradox. Author Guiliano, spokeswoman for Veuve Clicquot, has managed to package her own experience of this tight-rope lifestyle into a best-selling, scarcely veiled advertisement for champagne, which is all she drinks (apart from black coffee and several litres of water daily).


... Kate Holmquist

The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party 1916-1923

Michael Laffan

Cambridge University Press, £19.99

The success and decline of Sinn Féin - in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising until its disintegration during the Civil War - was a consequence of its ambiguous relationship with military nationalism. Sinn Féin was transformed by the circumstances created by the Rising. It subsumed, under Griffith, the many competing strands of separatist opinion in the aftermath of the Rising. When the imprisoned 1916 leaders returned, they "came into the fullness of their inheritance" and found a "united, efficient and energetic party" in place. But, paradoxically for a party that had seen its fortunes revived on the back of armed rebellion, Sinn Féin would never be able to overcome a distrust of politics held by many of the returning Volunteers. By 1923, with the gunman firmly in the ascendant, the party, as a movement representing mainstream nationalism, "died, quietly and almost unnoticed". A scholarly but very readable book .

... Tim Fanning

Herstory: Migration Stories of African Women in Ireland

Compiled by Olutoyin Pamela Akinjobi

AkiDWa, African Women's Network, €10

It says a lot about the changes in Irish society in recent years that a volume such as this could be contemplated, much less filled with the experiences of African women now living in Ireland. In all, the lives of 10 women are related here; some fled violence and conflict at home, while others moved for economic reasons. Based on interviews carried out by Akinjobi, these accounts are informative though incomplete. First names only are used, in some cases pseudonyms. The relenting insecurity of life in Africa comes through. Arguably the most graphic description here is Nina's account of her daughter's experience of forced female genital mutilation in Nigeria, but the interviews with women from Rwanda and Zimbabwe are also powerful. An interesting read for a new Ireland.

... Paul Cullen

Firestorm - The Bombing of Dresden, 1945

Edited by Paul Addison and Jeremy A Crang

Pimlico, £8.99

Analysing the planning, conduct and consequences surrounding the notorious carpet-bombing of Dresden on February 13th and 14th 1945, a symposium of scholars examine the bones of what was ostensibly an operation to assist Marshal Konev's Soviet forces by obstructing the flow of reinforcements to the Wehrmacht. Churchill, Stalin, the Americans, Bomber Harris and Nazi intransigence are scrutinised for their actions, which straddled the thin line between justifiable war and the murder of innocents, and annihilated a populace bereft of anti-aircraft guns, night-fighter defences and effective air-raid sheltering, on a two-day spree that left between 25,000 and 40,000 dead. The more interesting contributions include Sebastian Cox's The Dresden Raids: Why and How, which considers the operation's minutiae, and Crang's Victor Klemperer's Dresden, which celebrates how one Jewish citizen was saved.

... Paul O'Doherty

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage

Kate Kerrigan

Tivoli Press,

In a rush of lust and desperation, successful New York food writer Tressa marries her apartment building's superintendent, the gorgeous Dan, repenting the decision as soon as the honeymoon is over. Compared with the high ideal of her grandparents' apparently loving marriage, Tressa fears she and Dan are doomed. But her grandmother Bernadine's diaries show that the reality of her married life was far from perfect. Tressa associates the recipes contained in the diaries with a happy childhood and revives the dishes in the hope that they will help to ease her transition from hip singleton to dutiful wife. Kerrigan interweaves Tressa's search for the ingredients for a happy marriage with the creation of food that sustains and elevates us from the ordinary. A funny tale .

... Claire Looby

The Perfectionist

Rudolph Chelminski

Penguin, £7.99

Bernard Loiseau was a household name in France. He was deemed the greatest chef of his generation and his restaurant, La Cote d'Or, had three Michelin stars, the ultimate culinary achievement. Yet in February 2004, he committed suicide. Why? This is the mystery Chelminski attempts to uncover, bringing the reader on a fascinating journey through the uniquely pressurised environment of French gastronomy. He reveals it to be an arcane world where apprenticeships are akin to indenture and the rise to the top requires almost superhuman endurance, enormous personal sacrifice and extraordinary culinary talent and ability. Looming over all of this is the Michelin Guide, whose emissaries, a small brigade of inspectors, are invested with the power to bestow cooking immortality but who can also take it away.

... Ken Walshe