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Surrey, United Kingdom

Monday, 19 October 2009


Feeling very cultural today, having booked two theatre trips... Firstly to see The Misanthrope, starring Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis, which I blogged about previously, and secondly Public Property, starring Nigel Harman (I know, I know, but he's a local lad, I'm just doing my bit to support my home town(ish)).

Can't wait!

A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders

Having finished Tomas in just over a week (pretty miraculous seeing as I felt no compulsion to pick it up) I am now back to reading something that I really want to read! This is a book I picked up in the amazing Oxfam bookshop just around the corner from where I work. Judith Flanders has an uncanny knack of writing books that I wish I had written - The Victorian House and Consuming Passions are both on my bookshelf. A Circle of Sisters is about, not surprisingly, four sisters, all of whom were wives or mothers of prominent Victorians/Edwardians. So not only should this book provide an interesting social history of two of my favourite periods of history, but also biographical anecdotes of Edward Burne-Jones, Stanley Baldwin, Rudyard Kipling and Edward Poynter. Flanders writing style is uncluttered and simple, as easy to read as fiction but without being simplistic. Brilliant!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer

Have been off sick today and yesterday and managing to occupy my time quite well. Spent yesterday catching up on Criminal Justice (BBC drama) which I missed last week. Harrowing, beautifully acted and certainly raised a number of questions in my mind about the nature of justice, the purpose of prisons and how exactly we are meant to deal with these kind of cases. A very brave and well executed drama - yet another justification of our licence fee.

Today, I started the day by reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a book I had heard a great deal about but didn't really have any inclination to read. It just didn't strike me as something I would enjoy reading. But, then it was recommended to me by a friend who had just finished reading it and really loved it. So, I thought I would give it a go. I did enjoy it, and I was really moved by some of the stories told by the islanders about their experiences of German occupation during WWII. The problem was that I found those parts of the story infinitely more interesting than any of the story about the narrator. I like the way the book was written and I found some of the letters amusing and all of the characters very well drawn and memorable. It's just that, overall, I think I would rather have read a solidly factual book about the experiences of people living in Guernsey during the occupation than enjoying the few glimpses of this fascinating, traumatic and inspirational story of how people cope and pull together when they are faced with true horror and their lives, and those of their loved ones, are threatened.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Up-coming theatre

Very, very excited to read that the Comedy Theatre will be staging The Misanthrope, starting in December. The headline star seems to be Keira Knightley, but for me it's all about Damian Lewis. I know I am slightly biased what with him being one of my favourite actors, but he really does have an amazing stage and screen presence. Maybe it's the ginger hair?

Let's just hope that getting tickets isn't too difficult...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Films to see

Have been reading about An Education which is showing at the BFI London Film Festival (starts next week). Unfortunately, I think the showings are all sold out, but the film opens in cinemas on 30 October.

It's about a young girl (Carey Mulligan), heading off to study at Oxford, who is seduced by an older man (Peter Saarsgard - one of those actors I always recognise but can never think what I have seen him in). I have just watched the trailer and it looks amazing - beautiful cinematography and an emotionally engaging story. To top it all, Emma Thompson also has a role...

I also like the look of Glorious 39, set on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff and starring Romola Garai, Julie Christie and David Tennant (to name but a few of the great names) this film ticks a large number of boxes for me!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Man Booker Prize 2009

I find myself taking more and more interest in the Man Booker prize as I get older. I don't know if it is my taste in books that is maturing, or if the longlist is dumbing down, but each year I seem to have heard of and plan to read more and more of the contenders.

This year's shortlist was:

The winner was Hilary Mantel, which by all accounts was quite a surprise to
those who express opinions and predict these type of things.

I have only read one Hilary Mantel novel - Beyond Black - and I really enjoyed it, but I don't remember feeling like I had read a literary masterpiece, so I am interested to know what is different about Wolf Hall. The story sounds fascinating, so the second it is out in paperback, I'll be there!

The Little Stranger is already on my wish list. I have read all Sarah Water's other novels and loved all of them. Her eye for historic detail and skill at creating period atmosphere is amazing. Not only that, she also has a terrific imagination and the ability to unravel a mystery in a compelling way.

New reading

After the usual indecision I have just started reading another Inspector Banks novel - The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson. The great thing about these books is that they are just so engaging and easy to read. I'm only a hundred or so pages in and yet again I am really impressed with the way Robinson creates such striking and memorable characters. The Yorkshire dialect dialogue is a little overplayed, but well done. And of course, the murder mystery is fascinating. It does seem that as I progress through the Inspector Banks novels that there is less and less of a continuing back story. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. It does mean that you could dip in or out of the novels at any stage without feeling that you are missing out, but I also feel that if you do choose to invest time in reading the whole series it would be more interesting to see Inspector Banks' personal story develop and grow. That said, maybe I am jumping ahead of myself and this is an element that shows itself in the later books.