‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont,’ by Elizabeth Taylor

Novel, 1971 That rare, and really wonderful thing; a novel with biting satire, an almost dismissive, disdainful humour, a great sense of place and sadness, and a big, big heart. the rather unpromising premise of the book is the arrival of the titular Mrs Palfrey at an old persons’ hotel – one step from a care home – on the Cromwell Road in London. Characters … Continue reading ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont,’ by Elizabeth Taylor

‘The Blindside,’ directed by John Lee Hancock

Movie, 2009 Movie based on a true story of a campaigning mother who adopts a down and out kid. Kid grows up, mentally and physically, and becomes a professional American footballer. With the rags to riches element, the big budget and the root in true life, the schmaltz gets turned up to a ferocious degree. There are moments where the film tries to do a … Continue reading ‘The Blindside,’ directed by John Lee Hancock

‘Property,’ by Valerie Martin

Novel, 2003 A compelling, well-written book, taking an interesting view of the slave trade and its effects on individuals. This is a book about the experiences of a sugar plantation’s mistress, trapped in a loveless marriage, and the relationship she has with the slaves, and particularly with Sarah, with whom her husband has an illegitimate child. This book is bold in taking this perspective, particularly … Continue reading ‘Property,’ by Valerie Martin

‘Wonder Wheel,’ directed by Woody Allen

Movie, 2017 A film which looks and initially sounds like a Woody Allen film, with a cosy and vibrantly colourful 1950s Coney Island, and a few narrative conventions lightly trampled. For Allen, however, this is pretty dark territory, as gangsters turn up to ruin the developing family saga, and all manner of references to drama, writing and tragedy are brought very much to the fore. … Continue reading ‘Wonder Wheel,’ directed by Woody Allen

‘The Stone Diaries,” by Carol Shields

Novel, 1993 Beautifully told story of Daisy Goodwill Flett, whose seemingly ordinary life is told through a narrative which moves around between different members of her family and uses other devices and points of view to build a picture, not only of Daisy, but also of the relationships with her family members and friends. There’s a real depth and warmth in this book, right from … Continue reading ‘The Stone Diaries,” by Carol Shields

‘The Unforgivable,’ directed by Nora Fingscheidt

Movie, 2021 Story of a convicted cop-killer released from prison and trying to track down her sister, who she’s not seem for twenty years. For much of the film, the mood is gritty and grim, though there are moments and scenes which lift the mood. The set piece at the film’s climax is especially well done, so that the viewer isn’t piled with too much … Continue reading ‘The Unforgivable,’ directed by Nora Fingscheidt

“The Hearing Trumpet,” by Leonora Carrington

Novel, 1974 A blast of a novel, which promises a little more than it delivers, perhaps, although there are flashes of crazy playfulness and sinister goings on along the way. It’s hard to follow what should be a pretty easy thread of a narrative; of an old woman being committed to an old persons’ home-cum-asylum, but there are a number of asides which hang heavily, … Continue reading “The Hearing Trumpet,” by Leonora Carrington

“Sixty Six,” directed by Paul Weiland

Movie, 2006 Story of a young man in 1966, looking forward to and particularly planning his bar mitzvah, against the backdrop of a dysfunctional family, and the unexpected success of England’s football team in the World Cup. While most modern films about the plucky underdog facing an uphill struggle tend to feel cloying and grotesque Sixty-Six  wins through; possibly through looking at a minority community, … Continue reading “Sixty Six,” directed by Paul Weiland

“Moxie,” directed by Amy Poehler

Movie, 2021 Enjoyable film about the political awakening of a gawky student, under the influence of her mother Saud student secretly sets up a Riot Girl inspired feminist movement at her high school. If some of the set-ups and character interactions feel just a little obvious and contrived, there is nonetheless a warmth in this film, which is looking at one cultural issue, also brings … Continue reading “Moxie,” directed by Amy Poehler

“The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox,” by Maggie O’Farrell

Novel, 2006 Story of two sisters, and principally, the titular Esme, whose life is grabbed away from her when she’s committed to a mental asylum in the 1930s. In a book whose narrative slips between the two sister’s and Esme’s niece’s points of view, the overlap and interplay of very different views of the same story can be a little confusing, especially early on, although … Continue reading “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox,” by Maggie O’Farrell