‘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 Voice of Merrill,” directed by John Gilling

Movie, 1952 Effective and well-paced mystery, with noir sentiments, if not stylings, and a love triangle which spins and dramatises the lives of the film’s main protagonists, after the murder of an acquaintance. Some great acting from Valerie Hobson and James Robertson Justice brings some tension along the way, so that even if some of the other acting and the settings are a little down … Continue reading “The Voice of Merrill,” directed by John Gilling

‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

Novel, 1943 Part charming, part disarming and quite chilling character study of a serial killer, whose modus operandi seems to be brute strength and the desire to be caught and brought to justice. The charm of the book is largely driven through the domestic feel and a London in the throes of the Second World War, and while the boarding houses and social clubs should … Continue reading ‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

‘Coroner’s Pidgin,’ by Margery Allingham

Novel, 1945 Crime mystery, set in the last knockings of World War Two, involving a tricky plot of art theft, kidnapping and a cast of fairly diverse and dastardly characters. London has a downbeat, authentic feel to it, with characters raising pigs and living in bombsites, so giving an example of how things are somewhat grim, but treated with a matter-of-fact humour. Albert Campion is … Continue reading ‘Coroner’s Pidgin,’ by Margery Allingham

“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

“A People’s History of London,” by John Rees and Lindsey German

Non-fiction, 2012 Very decent book looking, essentially, at protest movements based or operating in London. Some of the events are more well-known than others, although the streets upwards viewpoint, rather than a view looking down from the point of view of the power structure, will be unfamiliar to most. Occasionally, an edit or two may have helped things appear more objective, and inevitably, the more … Continue reading “A People’s History of London,” by John Rees and Lindsey German

“Call for the Dead,” by John Le Carré

Novel, 1961 The first George Smiley novel, setting the scene with some wonderful character building, domestic-based espionage and a generally downbeat atmosphere which feels both plausible and eerie. The familiarity with setting and the low key action both draw the reader in, and the lack of glamour – made explicit in the opening description of Smiley’s failed marriage – contrast with other tropes and examples … Continue reading “Call for the Dead,” by John Le Carré

‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

Movie, 2017 A film whose premise doesn’t promise much, but which in a charming, uncomplicated way, delivers. Yes, this is a film about class and mannered societal behaviour, whose nuances are hard to find and which could be accused of being a little patronising. The film also has a backs to the wall, stick up for the underdog and – very politely – stick it … Continue reading ‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

‘Asunder,’ by Chloe Aridjis

Novel, 2013 Story of a long-time gallery attendant, who exists on the edge of London’s creative and Bohemian sets, and whose routines are distorted, firstly by the death of a colleague, then by people from her past and present. Marie’s adventures and trips to an unidentified Northern city, then Paris, suggest a voyage of self-discovery and self-reflection, with the journey mapped out and related back … Continue reading ‘Asunder,’ by Chloe Aridjis

“Phantom Thread,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Movie, 2017 Curious, intense character and relationship study, in which a dressmaker struggles with his female relationships, while propelling his international fame and career in an upwards trajectory. A film all about setting and atmosphere, helped by some eccentric though skilful acting and a sympathetic, mournful soundtrack. The emerging story creeps up and almost throws the film towards the end – the fact that it … Continue reading “Phantom Thread,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson