Monthly Archives: January 2016

Helena Attlee, The Land where Lemons Grow

This is a book about the author’s travels in Italy in search of citrus fruit and its growers. The text is a mixture of botany, history and travel writing, with a sprinkling of recipes both historical and present-day (the former tend to be of the ‘don’t try this at home’ variety). We learn just how many different fruits are grown in Italy, how they are grown, their part in local economies (sadly not what it was in many cases) and about some particular varieties. The author travelled widely in Italy, though inevitably there is more about the south, including Sicily (where lemons played a part in the rise of the Mafia).

I notice that the author is a contributor to magazines, and some of the chapters read as if they may have started as magazine articles, which may explain a certain amount of repetition of information between chapters (for example, details of the three original varieties of citrus fruit). The author’s research has been thorough, though I was puzzled by her insistence that English people think only oranges can be made into marmalade; local shops here sell marmalade made from other fruit, and someone must be buying it!

I was rather sorry that there were no photographs to illustrate, for example, some of the weirdly shaped fruit described, or the layout of groves. But if you love Italy and/or citrus fruit, you will enjoy this.

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Andrzej Stachurski, This is Poland

This large-format book was a present from a Polish student and is essentially a coffee-table guide to the country. The chapters are entitled: Geography; Cities; Churches; Palaces, Castles and Manor Houses; and Nature. It was probably wise not to include one on the history of Poland, although the text of other chapters hints at it: ‘Expansion of [Warsaw] was disrupted by World War II when over 70% of the buildings were destroyed’. Well, it would be.

One of the longer chapters consists of descriptions of major cities and towns, with a couple of photographs of each, showing the best views. It would seem that Gdynia, for example, has little to commend it, but many other places have attractive buildings. And this leads to a drawback with the book. If one were about to visit Poland and wanted some idea of what was worth looking at in the area one was going to, it would be very difficult to locate the appropriate photographs. There is no index or map, and the places are arranged (as far as I can tell) in decreasing order of size. A similar observation applies to the chapter on churches (which includes other places of worship too) and the one on palaces and other secular buildings.

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