It’s hard to believe that this is my last Miscellany post of 2022, where has this year gone? Here are some of my cultural highlights from the last month.
The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran
I was a big fan of Gran’s last book Come Closer, a creepy little novella that packed a big punch so was very keen to read her follow-up The Book of the Most Precious Substance. Lily Albrecht is a former novelist turned rare book dealer, who is a carer for her ill husband. When a colleague asks for her help in finding an elusive 17th-century sex manual for a customer who is prepared to pay millions for it, Lily sees a way out of her current financial situation and finds herself drawn into a world of desire, desperation and international intrigue.
Despite feeling a little too long, Gran engagingly combines mystery, magic and antiquarian bookselling in a deeply atmospheric and enjoyable novel.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
I was drawn to Trust Exercise because of my background in theatre and the early part of the novel, detailing the lives of teenage students at a performing arts school, was very potent and recognisable. This singular novel then flips its narrative on the head, becoming something much darker and interesting, exploring ideas of narrative voice, veracity and the ownership of stories.
While the second half may not be quite as dynamic as what has come before, it asks the reader to question everything in the book so far, before building to an ambiguous but satisfying ending.
We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets, translated by Emma Rault
This short novel takes the form of a letter, written by a young woman, Kayleigh, to a lawyer who has asked her to join a legal action against her former employer. Kayleigh worked as a content moderator for the fictitious Hexa company, reviewing thousands of social media posts and deciding, through a complex set of criteria, what to remove and what to allow to remain.
As Kayleigh and her co-workers begin to internalize the horrors they witness each day, the line between the virtual and the physical world starts to blur. There are some interesting ideas in We Had to Remove This Post, particularly the unreliability of subjective interpretation, both in life and online, but I felt it was let down by a rather dull parallel narrative about Kayleigh’s love-life and some very clunky dialogue.
Triangle of Sadness
Triangle of Sadness may be the least subtle film I’ve seen all year but by God it was the most entertaining. Models and influencers Carl and Yaya are invited on a luxury cruise alongside a group of grotesque super-rich and a drunken captain, played with mischievous relish by Woody Harrelson. Everything is going well until one of the wealthy passengers insists all the staff take a swim, setting in motion a series of events that will flip everyone’s lives on their heads.
Director Ruben Östlund won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for this wickedly funny movie. The message – that power, beauty and money corrupts – is far from deep and the characters are paper-thin but I didn’t enjoy another film, or laugh as much all year. I would advise you to read as little as possible about the plot before watching and avoid if you don’t like to see people throwing up…
I am not the biggest fan of reality TV shows and I’m not even sure why we initially tuned into The Traitors, but it turned out to be the most utterly compulsive television. Basically a mash-up of Among Us, Murder in the Dark and Netflix’s The Mole, The Traitors saw a group of ordinary people holed up in a Scottish castle, with three traitors in their midst, killing off one contestant every night. Can the ‘faithfuls’ find the traitors before the end and stop them winning the prize money?
This show was a lot of fun and the Round Table scenes were absolute genius, drawing out everyone’s paranoia and anger. It probably won’t ever be as good again, particularly now a Celebrity version is in the works, but it was great fun.
The twins turned 12 on 23 December, so we thought it was time to let them see the Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time – Die Hard. Added bonus was that we watched it on Christmas Eve, the night on which the movie is set. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, Die Hard features a be-vested and bare-footed Bruce Willis saving his wife from a skyscraper filled with German terrorists led by the wonderfully dead-pan Alan Rickman.
I have such a soft spot for this daft movie, which probably has a lot to do with the presence of the wonderful Rickman, but the kids enjoyed it too. Plus, now that they’ve seen it, my favourite Christmas tree decoration makes a lot more sense to them!
A few weeks ago, the lovely gang at No More Workhorse asked me to compile my Top Ten Albums of the Year and it took little persuasion.
You can read about the albums I’ve most enjoyed here.
Alternatively, I keep a yearly playlist of my favourite tracks on Spotify and you can have a nosey at the music I loved during 2022…
Thanks to everyone for reading in 2022 and I hope you all have a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2023!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!