Monday, January 22, 2018

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford

We watched Feud, the TV series about the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, which was entertaining and also presented one of the basic problems both women faced as they aged - the lack of good roles for older women, and their general lack of power within Hollywood.
Joan Crawford was played by Jessica Lange and Bette Davis by Susan Sarandon. I knew little about either woman and had seen none of their films.

Since then we've watched All About Eve(1950), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) and Jezebel (1938). I'm impressed.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Back to the crime novels . . .

First of all a couple of books by Graeme Macrae Burnet.  Both The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau  and The Accident on the A35 are set in the small town of Saint-Louis in Alsace and they feature local police chief Georges Gorski - almost an anti-Maigret figure.
The atmosphere and vivid depiction of local places and people is reminiscent of Simenon's work. Not at all feminist - most of the women are objectified or background figures.
Both books are presented as translations from the French, adding an extra layer of playful mystification to the stories. There are mysteries and crimes to solve, but not always in the way the reader is led to expect.
I thoroughly enjoyed both, and will probably re-read them.

Then as a contrast I decided it was time to tackle something by Val McDermid, and as Splinter the Silence was on offer on Amazon, this was the one.
This is definitely feminist, not only in the fact that the chief police character is a woman, as is the genius cyber investigator, but also the nature of the crime. The victims are chosen because they are vocal about women's rights and won't be shut up. The perpetrator has an almost religious zeal to return women to their proper place - at home with the children.  The deaths are copycat versions of the suicides of famous female authors.  It's right up to date with internet trolls and cyber investigations too. I shall read more.

Monday, January 15, 2018

More books read in 2017, early 2018 (part 2)

After reading the two books of Sandi Toksvig's A Slice of the Moon, I decided to read Valentine Grey,  a book for adults set at the time of the Boer War. The main character is Valentine, a girl who was born in India, and spent her early years there with her father. Her mother died when she was a baby. When she was seven she was sent to English relatives who try to instil the correct attitudes for a wealthy lady. The only respite is her cousin Reggie, who entertains her and becomes a companion when he is home from boarding school.
A few years later Valentine takes Reggie's place as a volunteer in the army, and the parallel stories of her life in South Africa, and Reggie's life with his gay lover in London allow Toksvig to incorporate a great deal of factual social history, and history of the disastrous war.
Definitely a feminist book, and an entertaining read, even if horrifying in places.

Another book which touches on war and volunteering, is The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey. This tells the story of John Manners, 9th Dukes of Rutland and owner of Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, by exploring documents which were locked away for 60 years after his death in April 1940. Intriguingly all documents from three periods in his life had been destroyed: a period when his older brother Haddon, died aged 9; and two periods in the first world war.  The author's search for information about these periods forms the framework of the book. 
The mystery is perhaps overplayed and a bit of a let-down when it is partly revealed, but the social history and characters are fascinating.

Some of the books I read in 2017 (part 1.)


I have Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton (Great Lives) on Kindle, but it's a long book and I keep stalling. I am about 1/3 of the way through its 818 pages.

As an antidote, or for easier reading, I turned to L M Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, which I had read as a child, and found them thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing. The ones about her early years are unsurprisingly the best. 

Going on from there, i intend at some point to re-read Lousia May Alcott's Little Women,  after watching the TV adaptation over the Christmas period. A good story, if occasionally a little pious.

I read Laura Inglis's Little House on the Praire. Its a little dated, particularly in its complacent attitude to the Native American Indians, but another strong girl is the main character.

Another view of immigration into America is offered by Sandi Toksvig's children's books, A Slice of the Moon  and The End of the Sky. The main character is Slim, the daughter of an Irish family escaping from the potato famine and hoping to join an uncle's family in Oregon.  She's a real tomboy, unlike her older sister. The families tribulations during the long sea crossing and afterwards are vividly told and absorbing. The End of the Sky continues the story with lots of relatively unknown historical information (referenced, or Google check), such as the Choctaw Indians sending aid to the Irish during the potato famine. I loved both of these books.




Sunday, January 14, 2018

Simple list as a catch up on 2017

17 Jan 2017
Chiaroscuro Quartet at Stamford. Haydn, Berwald and Schubert's Death and the Maiden.

11 Jan 2017
Australian Impressionists at National Gallery.
Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, John Russell, Tom Roberts.

18 Feb 2017
Angela Hewitt at Stamford Arts Centre.

2 Mar 2017
Steve Bean Guitar at Normanton Church Rutland Water - least said soonest forgotten.

7 Mar 2017
Tartuffe , adapted by Roger McGough, performed by Shoestring at Stamford Theatre

6 May 2017
Patience, G&S, by English Touring Opera at Buxton Opera House.

23 April 2017
Queer British Art at the Tate Modern (with Anne)

12 July 2017
A Midsummer Night's Dream Stamford Shakespeare Company at Tolethorpe.

21 July 2017
Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse at Tolethorpe

03 August 2017
Munch exhibition at San Francisco MoMA

08 August 2017
Concert by Community Arts Youth Orchestra, Walnut Creek - Eilidh on cello.

August 2017
Two visits to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. and a visit to a jazz concert.

August 2017
Martin Luther King Centre for Peace?

August 2017
Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC.

29 September 2017
Leeds Grand Theatre, Opera North in L'enfant et les sortilèges  (Ravel)  and Trial by Jury (G&S)

20 October 2017
English Touring Opera in Dardanus by Rameau at Buxton Opera House.

21 November 2017
Laura Snowden on guitar at the Wigmore Hall

22 November 2017
Tove Jansson exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

23 November 2017
Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern

1 December 2017
Oana Catâlina Chitu with support. Romanian singer. Howard Assembly Room,  Leeds Grand Theatre.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood

09 December 2016 at Stamford.



Jacqui Dankworth is the daughter of Cleo Laine and John Dankworth.  Charlie Wood is her American husband and a terrific pianist. A thoroughly accomplished pair, and a highly enjoyable evening. I think "Autumn in New York" has become one of my favourites.

Sarah Connelly and Joseph Middleton at Leeds, Howard Assembly Rooms

If there were dreams to sell
Sarah Connelly, mezzo-soprano, and Joseph Middleton on piano.

Leeds,  Howard Assembly Rooms, Grand Theatre.

26 November 2016



A programme of songs. First there were four poems by Hans Christian Andersen set to music by Robert Schumann.  Next Ravel's Scheherazade, settings of Tristan Klingsor's poems inspired by the Arabian nights.

After the interval came English songs by John Ireland, from poems by Harold Monro, Thomas Hardy and Thomas Lovell Beddoes.  Then four songs by ivor Gurney, and lastly A charm of Lullabies by Benjamin Britten. Some unusual lullabies here.

All wonderfully performed by the two musicians.