Author

Rebecca Foster

Rebecca Foster has 19 articles published.

An American transplant to England, Rebecca Foster is a former library assistant and full-time freelance writer, focusing on book reviewing. After a first degree in English and Religion, she earned an MA in Victorian Literature from the University of Leeds. She reviews books for a number of print and online publications in the US and UK.

Review: The Mad Feast is This Year’s Fun and Frantic Cookbook

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Matthew Gavin Frank’s previous book was about the discovery of the giant squid, and he has also written memoirs of working at a marijuana farm and an Italian vineyard. Given that unconventional publishing history and his background—he spent 20 years in the restaurant industry but is also a poet and creative writing teacher—it’s no surprise that his new book about America’s signature foods is no straightforward, one-genre affair. Instead, Frank describes The Mad Feast (Liveright; November 9, 2015) as a “spastic, lyrical anti-cookbook cookbook of sorts that also may be a fun and digressive revisionist take on U.S. history.” Indeed, it is the off-the-wall blend of memoir, travel, history and fiction that makes the book unique. This is the cookbook…

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Review: The Short Stories that Make Up The Best Small Fictions 2015

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Super-short stories—variously named flash fiction, haibun or iStories—have exploded in popularity. Where should newbies start? With Best Small Fictions 2015 (Queen’s Ferry Press, October 6), the inaugural volume of a new series edited by Tara L. Masih. From 105 finalists, guest editor Robert Olen Butler chose 55 winning stories, all under 1,000 words. Unsurprisingly, the stories vary wildly in subject matter, from 19th-century duels to a child of 1980s hip-hop who feels irrelevant as the millennium turns. The authors also range from established voices like novelist Bobbie Ann Mason and Kelly Cherry, former Poet Laureate of Virginia, to emerging writers who have novels or story collections forthcoming. Readers will be introduced to a wealth of fresh and existing talent. In…

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Review: Alexandra Kleeman’s Brilliant Debut “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine”

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Think of Alexandra Kleeman as an heir to Dave Eggers and Douglas Coupland, with a hefty dollop of Margaret Atwood thrown in. Her debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine (Harper Collins; August 25, 2015), is a full-on postmodern satire bursting with biting commentary on women’s body image, consumerism and conformity. Our narrator, known only as A, lives in a shared suburban apartment. She and her roommate, B, are physically similar and emotionally dependent, egging each other on to paranoia and anorexia. They eat nothing but popsicles and oranges. A’s boyfriend, C, has a penchant for watching porn and mansplaining. A obsesses over every aspect of her body – whether her eyesight, makeup, posture, sexuality or perpetual…

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BBC hit Poldark returns to capture American hearts

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Can a sexy British rogue who fought on the wrong side of the Revolutionary War recapture the hearts and minds of American viewers? Forty years after a television adaptation was first broadcast, a new version of the historical saga Poldark has arrived on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater. The remake aired in the UK in April–May and regularly attracted 5-7 million viewers, making it a hit on par with Downton Abbey and the 1995 miniseries Pride and Prejudice. Poldark is based on a series of 12 novels by Winston Graham written between 1945 and 2002. Set on the stunningly beautiful coast of Cornwall, the story opens in 1783 as Captain Ross Poldark returns from fighting against the rebels in the Revolutionary War.…

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Book Review: Circling the Sun with real-life adventurer Beryl Markham

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Fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife—her delicious first-person novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson—will be glad to hear that her new work of historical fiction, Circling the Sun (Ballantine Books, July 28th) is just as good, if not better. You might not think you have much interest in the life of early aviatrix Beryl Markham (1902–1986), but McLain may well prove you wrong. This is a remarkable, action-filled life story, and the terrific storytelling more than does it justice. A prologue set in September 1936 has our heroine setting off from the airfield in Abingdon, England, the first woman to achieve a solo east–west crossing of the Atlantic. The entire novel, then, is almost like an internal…

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4 Memoirs that separate mothering and smothering

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With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, there’s no better time to read about the often ambivalent relationships between mothers and daughters. There’s a growing shelf of autobiographies dwelling on the complexities of the mother-child bond. Below we’ve chosen four terrific memoirs that illuminate that fine line between mothering and smothering. The Year My Mother Came Back, by Alice Eve Cohen (2015) There’s gentle magic realism in this mother-daughter memoir. The year of the title has two meanings: first was the last year of Louise Cohen’s life, when she and Alice reached a détente in their tense relationship. But then, nearly three decades later, Louise kept “coming back” during the difficult year that forms the kernel of the memoir—a year…

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Not afraid of Virginia Woolf? 3 Novels to celebrate her birthday

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Happy birthday, Virginia Woolf! You turn 133 on January 25 (which is funny, because you don’t look a day over 125). How can you celebrate the timeless author’s big day? You can read some of her great works, of course. Or, for something a bit different, you can treat yourself to some novels that feature Woolf as a character. Here are some of our favorites: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar Parmar’s second novel brings the Bloomsbury group to vibrant life. Vanessa and Her Sister is Vanessa Bell’s imagined diary, incorporating letters and telegrams. In 1905, the four Stephen children have recently been orphaned. Vanessa, the eldest, strives to keep the family together in their London home while focusing…

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Lisa Lieberman captures 1950s nostalgia and noir in All the Wrong Places

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What is it about the 1950s that captures our imaginations? In her first mystery novel, All the Wrong Places (Five Star, March 2015), Lisa Lieberman, an expert on postwar European history, takes inspiration from both the good and the bad of the 1950s: classic cinema and Grace Kelly’s glamour on one hand, and postwar reconstruction and McCarthyism on another. England, June 1953: our narrator, 19-year-old actress Cara Walden, and her half-brother Gray fled Hollywood two years ago. Cara had just given up her baby boy for adoption, while Gray decided that a homosexual screenwriter with Communist leanings would be better off abroad, away from McCarthy’s blacklist. Here in perpetually rainy, foggy London, Cara’s career takes unexpected turns: she fills in…

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Bibliotherapy prescription for a new you

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No matter what your resolutions for 2015, books can help. The right book can amuse, teach, reassure, or even heal. The term “bibliotherapy,” from the Greek biblion (books) and therapeia (healing), was coined in 1916 by Unitarian minister Samuel McChord Crothers. Books were therapeutic tools in military hospitals during the two world wars, and clinical bibliotherapy is still popular in treating mental illness, often in combination with medical approaches. Libraries also support “creative bibliotherapy,” mining fiction and poetry for their healing capabilities. The School of Life, philosopher Alain de Botton’s brainchild, is a London hub for studying how to live. Classes, secular sermons, and a library of recommended reading tackle subjects like job satisfaction and creativity. The School also offers…

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Bottoms up to a new batch of historical cocktail gift books

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There’s a fresh batch of books out about the literary and historical connections of our favorite alcoholic beverages—just in time for Christmas gifts for the sophisticated drinker in your life. Cheers to the Chief For a whole new tour through the American presidents, try Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt by Mark Will-Weber. In 43 chronological chapters, Will-Weber offers what he calls “an entertaining and accurate portrait of presidents imbibing.” The Pilgrims brought beer to the New World with them, and at Jamestown rum and hard cider abounded. After all, in those days alcohol was often safer to drink than water. Some of the anecdotes here may be familiar, such as the Hayes office banning alcohol—his wife was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy”—and…

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Two nursemaids earn a starring role in this fall’s spin-offs of classic literature

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Want to rekindle interest in the classics? One strategy is to retell familiar stories for modern audiences. Gregory Maguire did so to good effect with his series set in Oz, beginning with Wicked, about the Wicked Witch of the West – later a Broadway hit. Literary offshoots are nothing new, though; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, playwright Tom Stoppard’s absurdist take on Hamlet, and Jean Rhys’s Jane Eyre prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, both came out in 1966. Since then, we’ve had retellings of everything from Great Expectations (Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs and Ronald Frame’s Havisham) to medieval chronicle Beowulf (John Gardner’s Grendel). A common strategy is to reimagine a well-known story from the perspective of a lesser character. For example,…

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New wives’ tales: ‘Significant others’ are filling bookstore shelves

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‘Significant others’ are filling the bookstore shelves. With subjects ranging from Dickens to the American presidents, a burgeoning literary subgenre investigates the influence women have had on famous men. Especially now, with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir, Hard Choices, topping the New York Times bestseller list, it’s high time the women had their say. Hail to the First Lady Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife (2008) is one of my very favorite novels. Laura Bush’s life might not sound like promising material, but this fictional autobiography is a pure delight. When shy librarian Alice falls for Charlie, heir to the Blackwell political dynasty, private tragedies from her past—and her disagreement with her husband’s policies—threaten to emerge. The well-drawn characters defy caricature, but it’s…

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Exploring San Francisco’s Fairyland with Alysia Abbott

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When Alysia Abbott’s mother died in a car accident, her father Steve took his 3-year-old daughter to San Francisco, where he could be out and proud as a poet and gay activist in the 1970s and ’80s. In her memoir, Fairyland (released in paperback on June 2nd, and recently named a 2014 Stonewall Honor Book), Alysia reflects on her unorthodox upbringing. “It’s a bad kind of life you’re giving Alysia, growing up around queers,” one of Steve’s boyfriends remarked. Yet Alysia strangely relished being “the only child among adults and the only girl among men.” There was something very special about the Abbotts’ relationship: “There were no models. For better and for worse, my father was making up the rules…

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Traveling the Tuscan countryside by armchair: My Italian reading list

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For a bibliophile, one of the challenges (and joys) of any vacation is deciding what reading material to take. Do you bring the most relevant books you can find—travel books about the area you’re visiting, novels set nearby, biographies of famous citizens? Or do you, almost perversely, read something that seems all wrong for the time and place? Despite a decade in the UK, my experience of Europe is woefully limited. My husband attending an ecology conference in Florence was a perfect excuse for some long-overdue Italian exploring. We started off with a whistle-stop tour of Tuscany, including a couple nights at a 200-year-old farmhouse, and then went on to Florence for a week. Here are some of the books…

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Happy 450th birthday, Will: recommended reading for Shakespeare Day 2014

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April 23 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. How to celebrate the greatest writer in the English language? My alma mater, Hood College, hosts an annual library book sale, complete with a birthday cake for the Bard. Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon hosts a literary festival, where The Bookshop Band will premiere songs inspired by his plays, and European airline EasyJet is sponsoring a campaign to have April 23 officially recognized as “Shakespeare Day” (UK residents are invited to sign their petition). To that end, EasyJet is featuring Shakespeare’s likeness on an Airbus 319 and commissioning a live performance of Romeo and Juliet by the Reduced Shakespeare Company on a flight to Verona. (Tweets welcome: #shakesonaplane to @easyjet.) Of course,…

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Do you remember who you are? Amnesia on the page

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“I don’t remember any of what I’m about to tell you.” That jolting line begins Su Meck’s 2014 memoir, I Forgot to Remember. Meck suffered a rare case of complete retrograde amnesia, known as “Hollywood amnesia” because it occurs more in movies than in real life. She has absolutely no memories between her birth in 1965 and May 22, 1988. On that day she was playing with her son in their kitchen when a ceiling fan fell on her head. Much of the book’s early section is reconstructed from hospital medical records. Having entered with partial paralysis, horrible headaches, and extremely limited vocabulary, Meck improved enough that doctors released her within three weeks, recording that her long-term memory “seems fairly…

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