Because I had Covid for two full weeks of January, this month has been an incredibly strange one where I have always felt like I am trying to catch up on normality!
Despite that, here are some of my cultural highlights from a moth dominated by illness.
THE TWYFORD CODE BY JANICE HALLETT
A review in The Guardian which mentioned that The Twyford Code contained a pitch-perfect pastiche of Enid Blyton’s work tempted me to give it a go and I’m really glad I did. The Twyford Code is ostensibly the story of an ex-con who is following clues in the works of Edith Twyford (an Enid Blyton-style writer) to try and solve the disappearance of his old school teacher. An exceptionally clever and well-structured book, The Twyford Code is so much more – an exploration of childhood trauma, life after a prison sentence and the inability to communicate – and just when you think you’ve got a handle on everything that’s going on, Hallett plays yet another winning card. Highly enjoyable.
WILFUL DISREGARD: A NOVEL ABOUT LOVE BY LENA ANDERSSON, TRANSLATED BY SARAH DEATH
Ester is a scholar and freelance writer who lives with her reliable boyfriend, and is happily ensconced in her intellectual life. Her life is thrown into disarray when she is asked to give a talk on renowned artist Hugo Rask, with whom she immediately develops a fascination. They meet after the talk and a relationship of sorts starts, one that is entirely defined by her hero-worship of Rask. They go for a few dinners and eventually sleep together, but Rask withdraws. The more he shows indifference to Ester, the more she pursues him to an often embarrassing degree.
Wilful Disregard reminded me a little of a smarter, more grown up Normal People as Ester, in a tortuous manner, pores over every text, email and encounter in the hope of finding her love reciprocated. This is a claustrophobic and focused novel, which never really leaves Ester’s head – aside from a chorus of friends who constantly advise Ester to forget about Rask – and it depicts the power imbalances of sexual relationships with a painful, and often hilarious clarity.
I read Wilful Disregard: A Novel about Love for Nordic FINDS hosted by Annabookbel.
sea of tranquillity by emily st. john mandel
I was VERY lucky to be leant a proof copy of Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel by a great friend who knows I’m a fan. I read Station Eleven over Christmas and am currently watching the TV adaptation (more on that in next month’s Miscellany) so I feel like I have been completely immersed in the Mandelverse this month!
I’ll say more about Sea of Tranquillity closer to publication date (April) but I really loved it and once I’d finished, I went back and browsed through the book again to pick up everything I had missed. Mandel is fast becoming my favourite contemporary writer.
No Time to Die
I’m not exactly what you would call a Bond fan, but in my weakened Covid-addled state, I agreed to watch this with the family. Maybe it was the Covid, but I really enjoyed this, despite my usual distaste for films that insist on being more than two hours long. It is a bit too long, but Rami Malek is a great villain, Ana De Armas almost steals the whole thing with her charming turn as an agent out on her first job and any film that includes Christoph Waltz, for no matter how brief a time, gets a thumbs up from me. I didn’t really buy this softer, more family-oriented Bond, but the ending proved that the franchise still has the ability to surprise.
Last Night in Soho
Last Night in Soho is a doppelganger horror-thriller about a fashion student called Eloise who is struggling with the recent death of her mother and finding solace in the music and fashion of the 1960s. When she moves to London and into a bedsit, where her landlady is played by the wonderful Diana Rigg, she finds herself transported every night back in time to 60s clubland, where she witnesses the downfall of a beautiful singer Sandie, who dreams big but ends up in a nightmare. As Eloise feels her identity merging with Sandie’s and is unable to escape these trips from the past, she needs to work out if what is happening is real, or if she is having a breakdown.
The message of Last Night in Soho isn’t exactly subtle – men are bad, especially pimps – but the film looks absolutely stunning and the recreation of the London of that time is astonishing. It features another great performance from Anya Taylor-Joy and the legend that is Terence Stamp, proves that charisma doesn’t dim with age.
Every Friday evening, I have the house to myself and indulge in ironing night, which involves a pile of ironing, a glass of wine and something mindless on the TV. My latest ironing show was The Tourist, featuring Jamie Dornan in the outback having a Memento moment. I don’t think Dornan is the greatest actor, but his laid-back, droll Northern Irish demeanour worked wonders in this hilarious, twisty-turny tale of a man who loses his memory after a car crash in Australia. While the majority of the Australian characters were played for laughs, Danielle McDonald was a revelation and the well-paced plot led to a powerful ending which bravely asked the audience to question everything that had gone before. Great fun, but I hope they don’t try and do a second season.
Again, thanks to Covid, I didn’t get round to posting my December Miscellany, which would have included my Top Ten Albums of 2021 post, which I compiled for No More Workhorse. You can check it out here and see if any of your favourites are included.
There is a lot of great music coming in 2022 and I am especially excited for the new album from Midlake. If their new single is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!