Thursday, 23 October 2014

Laurent Binet - 'HHhH' & Markus Zusak - 'The Book Thief'

I thought I'd mention a couple of WWII books I've read recently. They're both interesting in the point of view they take, which gives an intriguing twist to the stories. I also felt like they had a theme in common; that of the task of writing and the power of words.

Ever since going to Berlin I've been really interested in learning more about the Second World War, particularly due to my interests in psychology. I remembered seeing this book when it came out and picked it up after finishing some of my exams a while ago.

HHhH depicts the events surrounding Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of the high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 carried out by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two paratroopers from Czechoslovakia. The book explores the lives of the people involved and surrounding events, including Heydrich's role as part of the SS and the development of the assassination plan, from Britain to Prague. 

As well as giving an insight into these events to those unfamiliar with the specifics (such as myself), the book is also written in a style which sees the author switch between describing the history itself and his own journey to discovering this story, including his thoughts on trying to be faithful to the actual events that occurred. The observations on the actual process behind writing a book were fascinating to explore, particularly the difficulties of trying to writing a historical accurate scene. 

Overall, this is an entertaining account of the events and their circumstances, and it really got me thinking about the paratroopers actions in relation to current events. But I'd get a bit rambly if I went into all that, I think. 

The Book Thief, by comparison to HHhH, is fictional but uses the war as the backdrop for the story. The story is narrated by Death, and tells of a young German girl who goes to live with foster parents. Throughout she deals with the loss of her family, the struggle of learning to read, the development of a close relationship with her foster father, hiding a Jew in the family basement, along with the normal activities of a child: namely, trying to win at football with her best friend. 

She also steals books; these act as the initial challenges to conquer whilst learning to read, and become a way she can connect with those around her, especially when the war begins to hit its stride. 

I really enjoyed this book and the way it views the war through innocent eyes, alongside the other dramas of growing up and building relationships. Its sweet, sad and overall an enchanting read and I seriously recommend giving this book a go. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Minestrone Soup

The last of the warm air is trickling away to be replaced by a brisk chill; grey clouds are gathering to shower trees whose leaves are stripped away by quickening gusts of wind:dressing the pavements in varying shades of gold.

Yep, it's definitely Autumn now which means soup is in order. This is my favourite soup, full of Italian flavours and delicious vegetables, that can be a meal in itself or served with warm, soft bread oozing melting butter.

This soup cooks quite quickly, but is fine to slow cook over a longer duration if you want to bring out the flavours more. It works well with loads of different vegetables so have fun trying out your favourites. For meat eaters, a couple of sausages can also be grilled, chopped and thrown in to the pan as well. For the pasta, there's lots of different ones to try. I used small shells in this one, but my favourite are tiny pasta stars as in the photo below.


Packed with veg, pasta and lots of Italian flavours, this hearty soup is perfect for cold evenings. Serve with garlic bread and a sprinkling of grated parmesan or cheddar.

Cake Crumbs & Ink Blots: Minestrone
Serves 4-6


  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 reduced salt vegetable stock cube made up with 1 litre boiling water
  • 500g passata
  • 3 cups of vegetables - peas, pepper, carrot, courgette or whatever you fancy!
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning/basil/oregano
  • 1/2 cup small soup pasta


  1. Add oil, garlic and onion to large saucepan. Cover with lid and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. Add stock, passata and vegetables, bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft. It will seem quite watery at this stage but the pasta will thicken it.
  3. Add the parmesan, seasoning and pasta and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked through. Serve!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Goose Fair

Normally Goose Fair weekend signals the beginning of Autumn in Nottingham. The last few rays of warm sunshine that make up September are swept aside for the dark, crisp days that end quite suddenly.

But this didn't quite happen like that this year. Warm sunny days seem to want to hang on that little bit longer, and while I'm definitely not complaining, it was strange to not have to bundle up in gloves and scarves to make our way to the fair this year.

The atmosphere was still great though; no matter how old I get I think I'll always love the flashing lights on the rides against the night sky, the smells of burgers and candy floss and doughnuts, and the sounds of music and children on the rides.

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