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This book takes place in Ireland from 1910-1925. Kitty Deverill is the Anglo-Irish youngest child of Bertie and Maud Deverill, and lives in the grand but cursed Deverill Castle. The daughter of the Deverill’s cook, Bridie is Kitty’s best friend despite the differences in their social statuses, and Kitty’s vivacious cousin Celia completes their social circle. The story encompasses the drive for Irish independence, which Kitty is a staunch advocate for, as well as complications in love when two of the girls have feelings for the same man (trying to keep this spoiler free). Pretty much ignored by her father and very much despised by her mother, Kitty is at least close to her grandmother Adeline. As she grows into an intelligent and fiercely independent young woman, the political and romantic situations manifest themselves in shocking and dangerous ways.

Kitty, Celia and Bridie find themselves inhabiting different parts of the world as their lives take them on unexpected journeys, but their hearts will always belong in Ireland and at Castle Deverill.

For anyone who isn’t aware, it’s worth knowing that this book is the first in a trilogy, so if you want a story with a definitive ending you won’t find it here. Personally speaking I’m not sure I enjoyed it enough to read the next book, although I would like to know what happens. I swung this way and that during the book – I really enjoyed some parts of it but other parts moved too slowly and didn’t hold my interest. The sweeping romance did not really capture my attention as I did not warm to either of the two people involved. The other problem was that none of the three main female characters were memorable enough for me to want to root for them. They were all either incredibly naive or very selfish – one of them in particular did a particularly horrible thing, which added little to the story and could easily have been left out.

The writing is fine if sometimes a little overly-sentimental, and although it was enough to hold my interest, it was never one of those books that you can’t wait to pick up. Then again this is not normally a genre I would go for, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Overall I would have to say that while I didn’t hate it, I certainly wouldn’t be in a rush to read anything else by this author.

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Mass (2021)

I genuinely think this might be one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever seen. Certainly it’s one of the very best acted, with a truly outstanding cast.

Some years after the worst kind of tragedy affects their lives, two couples meet up to discuss events, try and understand each other’s pain and finally be able to move forward. I knew what the tragedy was before I watched the film, but I think it would have been even more hard hitting if I hadn’t, so I’m not going to reveal that here, but the details do unfold through the film.

So, except for the very beginning and very end of the film, it’s just the four characters in one room, in real time. And each character is so vividly drawn that it’s impossible not to feel for each and every one of them. Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney all deserve to win every acting award going for this one. Isaacs (one of my very favourite actors; always brilliant and never more so than he is here) starts out as a polite and co-operative, wanting to be civil, whereas his wife Gail (Plimpton – incredible) doesn’t even really want to be there at the beginning of the meeting. Linda (Dowd) and Richard (Birney) are, respectively, eager to make amends and try and understand the other couple, and slightly repressed, worried about what might unfold.

Each character runs the whole gamut of emotions, and goodness I ran through them too. An hour and a half conversation between four characters might not sound like the sort of thing that everyone would enjoy but I was figuratively on the edge of my seat, and could not peel my eyes away from the screen. I also recommend keeping tissues handy for this film, as I was in tears several times throughout.

Since I watched this film a few days ago I have not been able to stop thinking about it. It’s the second film I have watched so far this year, and right now I cannot imagine that there will be a more emotional and hard hitting one. Kudos to each and every actor involved, to the writers and everybody else who worked on this. All I can say is please watch.

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I’m not really into violent films or action movies, although I do like some thrillers and I would class this more of a thriller than action. Definitely violent! I would probably have not bothered watching if it were not for the fact that Viggo Mortensen was in it – there are a few actors I will break out of my normal genres for, and he is one.

Mortensen is Tom Stall, a mild mannered cafe owner in small town America, happily married to Edie (Maria Bello) and with two children. One night two armed thugs come into the cafe with the intention of robbing the place and killing the staff and other customers. Tom single handedly fends them off and kills them, which leads to him being hailed a local hero and featuring in the press. Unfortunately, the following day two strange and intimidating men turn up at the cafe calling him Joey, and clearly think that he is someone else, and that they have a score to settle with him. For a while, we don’t know whether this is a case of mistaken identity or whether they are correct. We find out the truth but I won’t reveal it here in case of spoilers. Unfortunately this leads to further problems for Tom and his family and it is up to him to keep them all safe.

This a David Cronenberg film, so highly stylised and with explicit scenes of sex and violence – worth noting if this kind of scene disturbs you. I did enjoy it, and thought Mortensen and Bello were both excellent, with Ed Harris as one of the mystery men who turn up at his cafe after his heroics make Tom famous, both charismatic and menacing.

Overall, an enjoyable way to spend a few hours although you might want to have something a little light hearted to watch afterwards as a palate cleanser!

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I read this play in one sitting, which is not a difficult task, as it isn’t a long book. There are just four characters, and it takes place in real time – both of these points appealed to me.

George and Martha are a middle aged couple who live on a New England university campus. George is a history lecturer and Martha is the Dean’s daughter. Although they have been married for years, and seem like they would be lost without each other, they also despise each other and both take pleasure in taunting the other.

Things take a sinister turn – although you suspect not for the first time – when a young Biology lecturer named Nick, who is new to the university visits them after a party one night, bringing his naive wife Honey with him. Nick and Honey become drawn into the older couple’s private war, and become pawns in their game.

In the third act, a secret is revealed about George and Martha which goes some way towards explaining their antagonism towards each other (no spoilers here).

It’s a bleak read, and somewhat dated now. Still, I am glad I read it, and would recommend it, but I actually prefer the film version with excellent performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

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Chronic features Tim Roth as palliative care nurse David, who looks after terminally ill or severely disabled persons in their own home, having one patient at a time. It follows him through looking after three patients and it is clear that he cares very deeply about his work, and also about the people he nurses. The power here is not always in what is said, but in the silences and in the mundane and sometimes unpleasant tasks that he carries out, without complaint. Make no mistake, this film does not flinch from showing the realities of people nearing the end of life, or unable to look after themselves. In one scene for example, a patient soils herself due to medication, and David is showing carefully soaping her and cleaning her mess up afterwards. In another scene, he is washing a man who is unable to do it for himself; the patient is in the shower room, naked and entirely vulnerable. Indeed, so intimate and private are these moments that I almost felt voyeuristic, as though I was intruding on someone’s life, when I had no right to.

For the always wonderful (in my biased opinion!) Roth, this is possibly a career best performance. Despite his dedication to his vocation, David is not always entirely likeable. He lies easily to strangers – he untruthfully refers to one of his patients as his wife for example – and seemingly has no friends, apart from his patients while he was looking after them. His own history is drip fed to the viewer, which does make his behaviour more understandable.

For some people, this film will be hard to watch. I could feel the pain and helplessness of the characters, their lack of dignity, and the sense of futility for their families, which manifested itself in different ways. One niece asks David about her aunt, underscoring the fact that she didn’t get to know her aunt well when she was alive, and she is aware that David knew her better than her own family.

It’s a stunning film, with an ending that took my breath away. I’m giving no spoilers here because I believe it deserves to be viewed completely unspoiled, which is how I saw it. I liked the ending; other reviewers didn’t. Overall though, this film will stay with me for a long time, and I would highly recommend it.

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A made-for-TV rom-com, starring Stefanie Von Pfetten and (surprisingly) William Baldwin, as a divorced couple who reconnect as friends and decide to try and set each other up on dates. But – of course – fate has a different plan in mind for them. Utterly predictable, but not unpleasant for it. If this is a genre you enjoy and you don’t mind knowing how it will end practically as soon as it starts, this is quite an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. The film borrows fairly heavily from You’ve Got Mail – which in itself was a remake of The Shop Around The Corner – and it doesn’t have the star quality, or any kind of quality of those two films, but it does have a charm all of it’s own, and I quite enjoyed it on a lazy Friday night after a busy week.


Year of release: 2017

Director: David Winning

Writers: Neal H Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky

Main cast: William Baldwin, Stefanie Von Pfetten


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Changes to my posts

This blog originally started as a review site for the books I read, and over time expanded to include film and theatre reviews. As I far prefer to do book reviews than film or theatre, I am still going to post pictures from plays/films I watch but keep my actual reviews to a minimum – basically a brief synopsis, and my general thoughts on the acting, storyline etc. (This seems to make more sense to me as lately I have been watching lots of films and not reviewing any of them!) So be prepared for an onslaught of film posts as I play catch up on those I have missed posting about previously…

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As it is the season to be jolly (fa-la-la-la-laaaaa-la-la-la-la) I thought I would give this festive comedy a watch. It stars Matthew Broderick as Dr Steve Finch, an uptight but well-meaning family man, who organises Christmas like a military operation in his determination to make sure his children enjoy it. His more laid-back wife Kelly (Kristin Davis) bemusedly but loyally supports his efforts to manufacture new Christmas traditions and his need to control everything.

Trouble starts when new neighbours Buddy and Tia Hall (Danny DeVito and Kristin Chenoweth) and their twin teenage daughters Ashley and Emily (Kelly and Sabrina Aldridge) move into the house across the road. Buddy – in a somewhat ridiculous plot leap – decides to decorate his house with so many Christmas lights that it will be visible from space (literally not metaphorically!)

Naturally the repressed Dr Finch is not overkeen on this idea, nor on the idea of having the loudmouthed and uncouth Buddy as a neighbour, and his attempts to curb Buddy’s project cause a feud of epic proportions. Meanwhile their wives become great friends and are both exasperated at the childish behaviour of their respective husbands.

As I always do when I finish a film (or book or television show) I went to look at what other people thought of it and WOW! – the reviews for this film are pretty brutal! Suffice to say it probably won’t become a Christmas classic…and while it was a bit daft and not as heavy on the laughs as you might hope, it’s not that bad. I actually thought it was a passable way to spend an afternoon, although if you scratch below the surface of the plot it all falls apart pretty quickly. But there were a few moments that made me giggle, and even though I normally dislike seeing houses that are lit like…erm…a Christmas tree, I had to admit that Buddy’s display was nothing if not impressive.

I will say that I thought Matthew Broderick was perhaps miscast. Admittedly he was supposed to be the straight man to DeVito’s comedic character, but I think Broderick might have toppled over into dull, although I love Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth, and of course Danny DeVito is always good for a few laughs. If you don’t mind a bit of daftness, give it a go – you never know, you might enjoy it!


Year of release: 2006

Director: John Whitesell

Writers: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Don Rhymer

Main cast: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Alia Shawcat, Dylan Blue, Kelly Aldridge, Sabrina Aldridge


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It’s 1912, and the Torrington family are at their grand old house Sterne, for daughter Emerald’s 20th birthday. Once rich, but now on the verge of financial ruin, Emerald’s stepfather has gone to try and borrow money to save the property. Meanwhile, Emerald, her thoughtless brother Clovis, their manipulative mother Charlotte and eccentric youngest child Smudge are awaiting the arrival of their guests. But the evening is interrupted by a group of strangers who arrive at Sterne. They have been in a train accident and there is nowhere else for them to go while they await help from the railway company.

With little choice, the Torringtons invite the rag-tag group of victims into the house, but before long events take a strange turn and the family start to wonder if they have invited something more malevolent into their home. Over the course of an evening and a night, secrets are revealed, true colours are shown and everybody learns something about themselves and each other.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book. I definitely enjoyed it and it was a fairly quick read for me; however it started out as one thing and then took a different turn. If you asked me to put it into a particular genre, I would struggle – it is described as a dark comedy of manners (and it certainly was funny in parts – the descriptions made me giggle, often). However there was a more sinister undertone, and a definite sense that evil was never too far away from the Sterne house.

I felt that the characters were well described, if not all particularly likeable. My favourite characters were Smudge, and siblings Patience and Ernest. Most of the others featured somewhere on a scale of unpleasant to horrible.

I enjoy books that take place in a single location, and also books that take place in a short span of time, so for me this was ideal. I was never able to predict exactly what was going to happen next, although I did guess the twist at the end- that said, their were clues to the twist throughout the story.

Reviews for this book seem very mixed, and I can see why it would not appeal to people. It’s hard to get a hold of, and almost defies description. However, I liked it a lot – certainly enough for me to seek out other work by this author. I would recommend with caution.

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This movie is a an affectionate homage and occasional parody of those Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies from the 1960s – the most famous being Pillow Talk, which this film reminded me of.

Renee Zellweger is Barbara Novak, an author who has just released her book ‘Down With Love’ which is all about how women don’t really need men, and how they can be just as cavalier in their relationships as men are. This turns her into an overnight celebrity and she seizes the opportunity to publicly criticise Catcher Block (!) (Ewan McGregor), famous journalist and notorious ladies man.

Catcher is determined to exact revenge and sets out to make Barbara fall in love with him – she has never actually seen him so he assumes a fake identity and starts to romance her. Inevitably the deceit starts to unravel and revelation piles upon revelation…

I personally thought this was an absolute gem of a film, although it received only a lukewarm reception when it first came out. Zellweger and McGregor are perfectly cast in their parts and have terrific chemistry. The film is very colourful and playful throughout, perfectly recapturing the mood of those movies which it is playfully paying tribute to.

There are some terrific one-line zingers, and some unexpected twists, and at times I was genuinely laughing out loud. And Tony Randall – who co-starred in those Day/Hudson collaborations pops up here too! David Hyde Pierce plays the role that Randall tended to play in the original films, which is that of best friend/neurotic co-worker, and he is perfect for that part.

This is definitely one I will want to watch again and again.


Year of release: 2003

Director: Peyton Reed

Writers: Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake

Main cast: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce






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