Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

Finished 19:10:2016

Reading Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune led me to another book by the same writer - The Japanese Lover.  This covers topics such as Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, child sexual abuse, and love, marriage and homosexuality, all wrapped up in a compelling story, with strong characters.

Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende

Finished  07:10:16.

Eliza Sommers is found as a baby on the doorstep of a wealthy English brother and sister, and brought up by them in their fine house in Valparaiso, Chile, and traces her story as she grows up, and falls in love and is deserted by her lover who goes to California to make his fortune in the gold rush.
She follows in search of him, smuggled into the hold of a ship, with the help of a Chinese cook Tao Chi'en. 
In the end what she finds is her own way in life.
This is a book with some great characters, and I learned a lot about nineteenth century Valparaiso and San Francisco.

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé - Joanne Harris

Finished in Leeds, 14:10:2016

In Joanne Harris's latest novel about Vianne Rocher Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, she deals with some current issues such as Muslim fundamentalism, alongside the personal stories of some of the characters you'll have met before if you've read  Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes. Darker than the first of these, the ending is basically optimistic, in spite of two convenient, though perhaps essential deaths. Quite a page-turner.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Touching the Void - film

This is a film, made in 2003, about two mountaineers tackling the unclimbed west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.  Simon Yates was 25, and his companion Joe Simpson was 21.  They had no support team, other than a man with no interest in climbing who stayed in the tent with their equipment.

The ascent to the summit took three days of huge efforts, but they made it, and all they had to do now was descend - but most climbing accidents happen on the way down.   In this case it happened to Joe, who fell and broke his leg, very badly.  

How they coped with this and eventually made their separate ways back to the tent makes for a remarkably gripping film with terrific photography, based on interviews with the three people concerned.

Kevin MacDonald made the film and tells of the difficulties involved in it in this article.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Scottish Play with extra atmosphere

The wind has been strengthening all day, noticeable on the motorway drive, and more so as we picnic on the stately 'picnic slope' at  Tolethorpe Hall before the play.

We follow the sun, minor heliotropes, shifting our chairs, balancing our plates. We are not of those who dine on weighted down but flapping tablecloths.

"This evening's performance will begin in five minutes."

We take our seats and watch the branches dancing , and hear the leaves whooshing or soughing.  Better than a painted backcloth and a worthy background for the initial meeting of the weird sisters, and the general mood of the play.

Another thoroughly enjoyable production by the Stamford Shakespeare Company, with particularly strong performances in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd

Watched on the plane.
Lovely scenery, and gorgeous shots. I even noticed the very positive interaction with animals since I listened to a radio programme about Hardy and animals.
Of course my faves were Bathsheba and Gabriel Oakes. And I guess the attitudes were very much of the nineteenth century, when the book was written, and Bathsheba, in spite of being such a strong character, makes a big mistake when she seeks a man who can tame her.
My one niggle was that Sargeant Troy could have been more appealing before showing his darker side.
Yes, yes, he was on the rebound, thinking he'd been dumped by his fomer fiancée, Fanny Robin, but still, but still . . .
Though, of course, Bathsheba could have been pretty overwhelmed by the kiss if she had absolutely no experience.
And in the end it's comforting to see a film based on a Hardy novel which doesn't end in bleak tragedy like Tess of the D'Urebvilles, and Jude the Obscure.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Barber of Seville at Leeds

A nightmare journey with long delays, but we arrived with time to settle in to the hotel, then make our way into the Grand Arcade for a vegeburger at Roots and Shoots, where most other diners seemed to be heading for the opera too.

The show was magnificent, well-staged, acted and sung with verve and thoroughly entertaining - a pantomime with Rossini's music. The female lead, Rosina was played by a replacement, but you'd never have known. 

And on top of everything the hotel room was quiet and comfortable. 

Next morning we paid a brief visit to Dan and family, and then headed south along a rather quieter A1 than yesterday.