The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and Porridge


“There is always an old woman ahead of you on a journey, and there is always an old woman behind you too, and they are not always the same, and may be fearful or kindly, dangerous or delightful, as the road shifts and you speed along it.” – ‘The Eldest Princess’

I love to receive books from others. Sometimes they understand instinctively what you might like to read. It is always a pleasure to be recommended or given a book because it is an opportunity to explore and a chance to learn about something unfamiliar. I received A. S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye – Five Fairy Stories through the post one spring day. Its arrival was unforeseen and made me euphoric for the rest of the week. It is a beautiful book, the kind that makes you want to read as slowly as possible to make the words last longer.

A. S. Byatt, the nom de plume of Antonia Susan Duffy, was born in Sheffield and educated at Cambridge, Bryn Mawr and Oxford. She writes evocative prose that is unassuming and to the point. Her stories are profound and exciting. My favourite in the collection was ‘The Story of the Eldest Princess’, a tale that is concerned with the struggles involved in being the first born child in a family and choosing how to live life independently of the responsibilities that might be heaped upon you if you are in that position. I loved all of the stories. Often I find I can be reluctant to reread books because I think of all the literature that still needs to be perused. However, I believe I will return to Byatt’s book frequently in future times because of its candid beauty.

I read The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye while in the process of training for a half-marathon. Needless to say I ate a lot of food during this period. I love porridge because it is one of the only breakfasts that fills me up. It is also incredibly versatile and can be prepared as either a sweet or savoury meal. One of my favourite ways to eat porridge (and I only do this occasionally for fear of becoming jaded) is to make it with milk and a pinch of salt on the hob and serve it with dark chocolate and a drizzle of maple syrup. It is a feast for the taste buds, being hot, slightly salty, bitter from the chocolate and spicily sweet because of the maple syrup. A great incentive for getting up in the morning.


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