Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2016

05ae5f6ba830562596949556577434f414f4141

This book jumps backwards and forwards in time, and chapters are alternately told from the memory of Mrs Threadgoode, an elderly lady in a nursing home who is reminiscing to Evelyn Crouch, a deeply unhappy housewife who attends the home to visit her mother-in-law and in the third person during the 1930s – 1960s, which is when the majority of the story itself takes place. There are also inserts from The Weems Weekly, an informal gossip paper from the town of Whistle Stop, and various other newspapers from places around Alabama.

As the story would suggest, the majority of the story revolves around the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was run by Imogen ‘Idgie’ Threadgoode, and her friend Ruth, and which became a communal point for many people in the little town of Whistle Stop.

Although the book features such themes as murder, racism and marital abuse, it does somehow manage to be light reading and even what I would describe as fluffy in some parts. That is in no way a criticism however; like Evelyn – who does get a few chapters devoted to her personally and her own ‘journey’ from depression – I enjoyed Mrs Threadgoode’s reminiscences and memories of a different time, when people trusted one another, and everybody knew everybody else’s business.

It’s definitely an undemanding read, filled with memorable characters – my favourite was Idgie, who was feisty, funny and fiercely devoted to those around her. Some of the racial epithets jarred a little, but for the main part they were reflecting attitudes of the time that the story was set in, so I could see why they were there, but it is still something that we are not as used to in more modern books.

Still though, if you are looking for a feel-good book to curl up on the sofa with and lose yourself in, you could do a lot worse than this. I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, by the same author, but I did like it a lot, and would certainly like to read more by Fannie Flagg.

Read Full Post »

2857c77b4d333d44be715dfb3c6a7a0940fd1a0a7ccd0cd678d3fb9ca62869bf

If ever there was a director who polarised audiences, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Some people love his gratuitous swearing and gore, while others detest it. I fall in the former camp – I’ve never seen a Tarantino film I didn’t like, and I think it’s because whatever you think of the visceral way he tell his stories, they are brilliant stories, which I always find myself getting drawn into.

This particular film is set just after the American Civil War. Racist attitudes are rife, crime is high, and life is tough out in the wild West where most of the characters come from. But don’t be fooled – after the opening scenes, showing the journey of some of the characters to Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they seek shelter from a particularly nasty blizzard, all of the action takes place in just one room. It’s a form of storytelling that I particularly enjoy…one location, shot in almost real time.

Anyway the story…the hateful eight of the title consist of John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known as the hangman who is bringing his latest quarry Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee) to the town of Red Rock. He is hoping to claim the $10,000 bounty which has been put on her head; After Daisy herself, there is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) a former Confederate Soldier who is bringing his own bounty to Red Rock for a reward, but unlike Daisy, the two men he captured are dead; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the racist new Sheriff of Red Rock, travelling there to start his new job on the right side of the law; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) a hangman at Red Rock, who informs Daisy that when she hangs for her crimes, he will be the man at the other end of the rope; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a loner cowboy who is heading to see his mother for Christmas; General Smiths (Bruce Dern) a older racist who has come to pay his respects to his long-lost-son; and Bob (Demian Bichir) a man who is in charge of Minnie’s Haberdashery in the owner’s absence. Trapped with them is O.B. (James Parks) who was driving the stagecoach which brought some of the characters to their refuge.

Before long, tensions rise between the characters, many of whom were on opposite sides in the Civil War, and then it becomes apparent that some of the people may be there for an ulterior motive.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot – I went in with a limited knowledge of the storyline and this helped my enjoyment massively. What I will say is that yes, the film is extremely violent and bloody – there’s a lot of swearing and offensive language as well, but it’s also incredibly well told, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. Standout performances for me were from Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and the always wonderful and criminally under-recognised Walton Goggins. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also fascinatingly revolting.

So…if you are squeamish or object to foul language, this may not be the film for you. But if you have previously enjoyed Tarantino, and like dark comedy, definitely give it a try. It’s almost three hours long, but doesn’t feel like it. I loved it and will certainly be watching this again in the future.

***********************************************************************

Year of release: 2015

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Birchi, James Parks

***********************************************************************

Read Full Post »

034914026x-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

This is a collection of 12 forgotten (except that several of them are actually available in print in other works) short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ve previously read just two full length books by Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby, which I loved; and Tender is the Night, which I struggled with, but which still contained some truly beautiful and evocative writing. I also read Flappers and Philosophers, which is another collection of his (better known) short stories, which I enjoyed immensely.

The writing in this collection of stories is just as beautiful as anything else I read by him, although obviously some stories resonate more than others, and some linger in the mind for longer.

From this collection, my favourites were Love in the Night; The Dance (although it does contain some out-dated and offensive language, but which was also Fitzgerald’s only murder mystery story);The Rubber Check, which made me sad for the protagonist; and Six of One. Happily for me, there weren’t any stories which I didn’t particularly enjoy.

If you have read and enjoyed anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the past, I would definitely recommend giving this collection a try.

Read Full Post »

0345524969-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Quite simply, this is a collection of short stories all inspired by Jane Austen. Some are set in Jane Austen’s time, some are set in the present day, some are set in a fantasy world. As can only be expected with such a collection, and with such a varying range of writing styles, some are far more enjoyable than others and preferences will probably differ from reader to reader.

My favourites were the ones with a touch of humour, and – surprisingly for me because I am a big Austen fan – I preferred the ones set in the present day.

My favourites were Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James (where Austen meets several of her characters who berate her for her treatment of them through her writing); ‘Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!’ by Janet Mullany (where several contemporary schoolgirls learn lessons about love and life through discovering Austen’s works), and ‘The Love Letter’ by Brenna Aubrey.

Most of the others were enjoyable enough if not particularly memorable for me, although there were a couple I unfortunately did not like at all – ‘Jane Austen’s Cat’ by Diana Birchall just seemed extremely silly, and ‘The Chase’ by Carrie Bebris, while obviously well researched (it is based on an incident in the Navy career of Austen’s brother Francis) also did not work for me. However as mentioned before, such opinions are of course completely subjective.

Overall, if you have an interest in Jane Austen or her characters, I’d recommend giving this book a try. And as it is a collection of stand-alone stories, it’s one you can easily dip in and out of.

Read Full Post »

1780744269-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Shakespeare and Me is a collection of essays by a variety of (mainly) writers, actors and directors, on what Shakespeare means to them and how he is still such a big part of modern culture. Throughout the essays, most of Shakespeare’s plays are mentioned, with many of the writers concentrating on just one.

As with all books featuring contributions by different people, some appealed more than others. My personal favourites were the three essays on Othello, and especially James Earl Jones’s ‘The Sun God’ (I was amused by the fact that he mentions actor Hugh Quarshie, and writes that he thinks Quarshie should play Othello – this essay was written prior to Quarshie’s performance as Othello at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre last year, which I was lucky enough to see). Eammon Walker – who himself played a fantastic Othello at the Globe Theatre – writes ‘Othello in Love’; and Barry John writes ‘Othello: A Play in Black and White’ which studied how the staging of a production of Othello started to draw parallels to the play itself.

I also enjoyed Re-revising Shakespeare by Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare and Four-Colour Magic by Conor McCreery (where he discusses turning Shakespeare and his characters into comic book stars), and Ralph Fiennes’s ‘The Question of Coriolanus’.

If you have any interest in Shakespeare, I recommend this book.

Read Full Post »

1509808094-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

In this non-fiction book, sports journalist Anna Kessel investigates the role and treatment of women in (mainly) competitive sport. I’m going to be honest and say that this was not entirely what I expected; the sub-title ‘How Sport Can Change Our Lives’ led me to think that this would be a study of how sport or exercise can make us feel good, give us confidence and improve our health and fitness. As someone who partakes in a lot of high intensity, but non-competitive exercise, this really appealed to me.

However, the book is actually a feminist study of how women have been treated in the world of competitive and professional sport throughout history and right up until the present day. Despite being not what I thought it was going to be, for the most part this was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I liked that it talked about how exercise in general for women is generally only promoted in popular media in terms of how it can improve our looks and our sex lives. (I was looking at the cover of a so-called health magazine aimed at women recently, and almost every headline was talking about how to get sexy legs, or washboard abs, how to have better sex etc – instead of focussing on the health benefits. This is something that I feel particularly strongly about.) It also talked about the issues that girls suffer in PE at school – if you are not naturally athletic for instance, you are generally written off from day one. At least this is how it has been for many young girls, although I am certain it is the same for boys too.

The book is very clearly well researched, with interviews with several sporting personalities or women working in sport, and Kessel underlines some of the discrimination that women are subject to in sport – it amazes me that in 2007, there was such a huge furore about a woman commentating on Match of the Day! What century are we living in for goodness sake?!

However, a lot of the book focussed on aspects that didn’t interest me so much – obviously this is a very subjective opinion, but I have zero interest in football, whether it is played by men or women, and so I did struggle to keep my attention for the parts of the book dedicated to the passion of football fans.

I also would have liked more about exercise in general, not necessarily competitive or professional sport, and an exploration about how we should be exercising for health and well-being, rather than to get the perfect beach body, would have been very interesting.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in sport and/or feminism. I liked Kessel’s engaging and conversational writing style and will keep an eye open for more work by her in the future.

 

 

Read Full Post »

shawshank_685x420px

Okay, confession time. I have never seen the film The Shawshank Redemption. That’s right, I’m the one. And maybe this is a good thing because when you see a play that has also been made into a film (although they were both adapted from different source material, in this case Stephen King’s novella ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’), it can be difficult not to compare. I’m reliably informed that this play is actually closer to the source material than the film is, but nonetheless both tell the same story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is imprisoned for the double murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is innocent but he still serves years in prison for the crime he didn’t commit, and during that time he becomes best friends with Ellis Boyd Redding – or ‘Red’ – who is also in prison for murdering his wife (although Red freely admits that he is guilty).

Despite his physical incarceration, Andy refuses to allow the cruel and corrupt prison staff or the more sadistic fellow prisoners to trap his mind or break his spirit, and his determination to remain true to himself and his values, slowly changes those around him. As Andy’s imprisonment goes on, he becomes involved in doing accounts for the prison warden and helping to shield corrupt financial practices from the authorities, but despite now having the protection of the staff, he is still determined to get his freedom.

The part of Andy Dufresne was played by Paul Nicholls, who was excellent in the role and perfectly conveyed the character’s sense of self-worth and strength of mind. However, the standout role was Red, played by Ben Onwukwe. Red is arguably the biggest character in the play, and certainly has the biggest speaking part, as he narrates the story of Andy’s life in prison and speaks directly to the audience. The rest of the cast were also excellent, including Jack Ellis as Warden Stammas.

Viewer discretion is advised – there is a lot of swearing and depictions of extreme violence, including rape, so this is definitely not a show for children. However, it is a beautifully told, well acted, moving tale of the strength of one man’s spirit. Highly recommended.

Read Full Post »