January Miscellany!

Well, the longest month ever is finally coming to an end and here are my cultural highlights from January!

The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake

Tess Morgan, a woman in her early-thirties, has been restoring Kilfenora House in Wicklow for several years in order to open it as a public attraction. This has been a chance for her to put her painful past behind her, and finally come to terms with the loss of her fiancé who was killed by a drunk driver. However, the week before grand opening, her dream turns into a nightmare when a devastating accident looks set to ruin her carefully laid plans. There are rumours that Kilfenora House is cursed, but this feels personal, and the situation becomes increasingly terrifying as people begin to die in a pattern that mirrors past events.

The novel is structured in sections, each a day of the week leading up to the opening of Kilfenora House and is told from several viewpoints which include Tess, her best friend Gen and Gen’s mother, Clarissa Westmacott, once a famous actress. Irish crime writer Sam Blake has fashioned a solid thriller with hints of Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier. She is strong on place and the house becomes a character in its own right, but the narrative structure is convoluted, the killer obvious and the inclusion of a psychic cat strains belief.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

I don’t usually read YA, but in an attempt to encourage my daughter Stella to read more, we decided to do a ‘buddy read’ this month and we both read the smash hit We Were Liars by E Lockhart. I quite enjoyed this tale of Cady Sinclair and her wealthy family and the mystery surrounding an accident that has left her with blinding migranes and a patchy memory. The book weaves fairy tales into the narrative, sometime over-egging the drama and Cady is a conflicting lead, often as annoying as she is sympathetic. The strength of the book lies in the pacing and the structure and the twist upon which the whole story rests was, for me, as surprising as it was satisfying. Stella also enjoyed the book, although she found the dual timeline a little hard to navigate at times, but she is now reading the prequel Family of Liars, so our first buddy read was a success.

They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey

“I can’t, at my age, still be becoming a person, can I?”

I was initially attracted to They’re Going to Love You thanks to Susan’s review at A Life in Books and by the fact that it features some of my favourite things in novels – the 80’s, New York and performing arts. Carlisle Martin is in her early 40s, scratching out an uncertain living as a choreographer in Los Angeles. when she receives a call comes from James, her father’s partner. James tells Carlisle that her father, Robert, does not have long to live. Carlisle has been estranged from both men for nearly 19 years, but is now compelled to return to the Bank Street apartment in Greenwich Village where she spent her formative years and confront the actions that led to the estrangement and to her own chaotic career. Howrey, herself once a professional ballerina, writes with insight and precision about the nature of dance, but is equally convincing when exploring the complexity and joy of family and sexual relations and the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world. Highly recommended.

This month I availed of three months of subscription to MUBI for £1 and so far, I’m getting my money’s worth!

Decision to Leave

I am a big fan of the films of Park Chan-wook and Decision to Leave didn’t disappoint. Hae-Joon, a seasoned detective, investigates the suspicious death of a man on a mountaintop. Soon, he begins to suspect Seo-rae, the deceased’s wife, of being the killer, but is also unsettled by his uneasy fascination with her.

Decision to Leave is a serpentine romantic thriller, in the vein of Hitchcock, which features a stunning performance from Tang Wei as the femme fatale who may, or may not be a killer. Park Chan-wook takes the tropes of film noir and fractures them, creating a destabilising world of mirror images, layers and strange camera angles. It’s a beautiful, thrilling and unique piece of cinema and I loved it.


France had an intriguing trailer but I found the film to be tonally confused. Part state-of-the-nation study and part celebrity satire it features a career-best performance from Lea Seydoux. She plays France de Meurs, a famous TV journalist whose career is stratospheric, but her home-life less satisfying. One day, while dropping her son to school, she knocks down a motorcycle delivery driver which triggers a chain of events that appear to lead to France’s downfall.

Seydeux is incredibly charismatic and watchable, but the film can’t seem to settle on what it wants to be – comedy or drama. A cataclysmic event happens in the final third, but even that feels inconsequential and has no discernible affect of the rest of the film. I found France to be a frustrating watch.


Limbo, unlike France, is a film which gets the tone just right. Syrian refugee Omar (a superb Amir El-Masry)is waiting to hear about his asylum status while currently lodged on a remote Scottish island with a random group of other young men. He carries his oud everywhere he goes but feels unable to play it, as the instrument has become both a comfort and a painful reminder of all he has left behind. He lives with a Freddie Mercury fan, attends classes on western etiquette and interview training and waits. There is nothing more he can do. Limbo perfectly balances the tragicomic aspects of Omar’s life, juxtaposing laugh out loud moments with the painful and devastating consequences of being separated from your family and your home. Each frame is perfectly shot, the beautifully bleak landscape existing as a striking backdrop to this most humane of dramas. I would be surprised if I see a better film this year.

I am a big fan of Waxahatchee, the vehicle for Alabama singer Kate Crutchfield, so was delighted to find out that she released an album late last year with singer Jess Williamson under the name of Plains. The album is full of laid back country/ folk tracks and I haven’t been able to stop playing this one all month.

Monthly Miscellany The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

16 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Ah I really enjoyed They’re Going To Love You and am hoping to go to a special showing of Decision to Leave at my local cinema soon which has a recorded Q&A with the director!


  2. I really enjoyed Decision to Leave, I’m glad you did too! Regarding France, Bruno Dumont has a reputation to want to shock the audience, I’m not comfortable with that part, but I’m still glad I watched it because I found the satire was quite accurate


    • Yes, and there was a certain scene (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about) that really did shock and I found quite hard to watch, but it didn’t add anything or seem to mean anything. I’m glad I watched it for Seydeux who was just amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Cathy! I was pleased to see you enjoyed We Were Liars! I read that a few years ago and thought it was very good. I occasionally pick out a YA book because many of them are excellent. My library co-worker/friend is a YA librarian and she always recommends good ones. Hope you are doing well! – Barb


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