Friday, 26 May 2017



I was too hot - too tired - not in the mood - I thought it sounded bonkers and couldn't remember why I wanted to go in the first place ... but I'd already got my ticket so I dutifully set out this evening to see An Octoroon inspired by Boucicault's play that caused a sensation in 1859 ...
And it turned out to be quite mad and absolutely hilarious and very clever. What a shame that the tiny Orange Tree Theatre was only one-third full (and quite a few left at the interval including the lady next to me who clearly didn't get it.)
The Guardian called it 'bizarrely brilliant' and they're right. I do hope they get a fuller house when the weather cools down.


You don't expect an audience of millennials for a Terence Rattigan play ... but last night the average age was about 87! Fine by me, actually ... it makes a pleasant change to be the youngest.
Set in the final months of the war, the play was last seen in London at its West End premiere in 1944 - when it originally starred the famous American theatrical couple, the Lunts, who had been bombed out of another West End run by a V-I rocket.
It's about a glamorous middle-class widow who's revelling in her new high society life - as the established mistress of a Canadian millionaire - until her lumpish teenage son returns from being evacuated.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, though the lumpish teenage son was a bit over-played for my seat in the front few rows of the stalls. I was so close to the action that I kept getting wafts of Eve Best's scent and wondered what she wearing. Reviews here and here.

Monday, 8 May 2017



Having spent yesterday with my head down in Lincoln in the Bardo - so brilliant, I've nearly finished it  I couldn't help seeing these Giacometti figures at Tate Modern as troubled spectres.
It's ages - a couple of years - since I've been in Tate Modern. I walk past and don't bother going in. I loathe it ... the totalitarian bulding, the banal thematic displays, the fact that you can go all the way up without even glimpsing any art. I enjoyed the exhibition but when I strolled through one of the displays on my way out, I thought what absolute *!!* this is.
But I did enjoy the exhibition. And because I hadn't been up there before I whizzed up to the (very chilly) viewing platform and thought how I'd hate to live in one of these £4.5million flats. What tidy people live there. Though I suppose if you can afford £4.5million to live in a goldfish bowl, you can afford someone to clear last night's coffee mugs and plump the cushions. I was rather hoping somebody might shuffle through in designer bunny slippers and their PJs - but it was lunchtime. If you can stop admiring other people's sofas, from the river-side there is a terrific view across London.

Sunday, 7 May 2017



I normally find over-hyped, post-modern, best-selling novels all too easy to resist and I carted this home from the library yesterday, balanced on a bag of shopping that I was already struggling to carry, more than half-convinced that I'd be carrying it back again only half-read ...
But the reviews have been so good and I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
This afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, supposed to be working - and I opened it, just for a peep. (It is so not a good idea to have a teetering TBR pile balanced on one's printer, if only because it makes printing so precarious.)
Anyway, I peeped and now I'm completely immersed. I think it's going to be very good. See you when I surface.

Friday, 5 May 2017



I spent yesterday afternoon buried in a deep, squishy armchair at Soho House (a bit too squishy, I needed four cushions to prop myself up) watching Woody Allen's Manhattan - the first time I've seen it in a cinema since 1979. Can it really be 38 years? I'd forgotten how beautiful it is - my favourite city - Gershwin - Mariel Hemingway's eyebrows ... even if they did have to bring their own park bench to the bridge. Ranked at number 76 of the 500 greatest movies ever made. (I'd place it higher. I've just checked out the list and Raiders of the Lost Ark was number 2 for heaven's sake!) It has just been re-released in cinemas. Don't think, "Oh, I've seen it before" ... it was even better than I remembered it.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Promise Movie Poster

I realised that I know almost nothing about the Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman empire, a massacre that Turkey refuses to acknowledge to this day. (No doubt that explains why The Promise was filmed in Spain, Portugal and Malta.) Despite pretty awful reviews, I went to see it last night; it's by the same Irish director who made Hotel Rwanda. To be honest, you'd have to be very generous to give this well-intentioned film more than 5/10. Wooden acting; Christian Bale was particularly bad. An unconvincing love triangle/romance tagged on for human interest as if the deaths of 1.5 million people weren't enough. (Look out for a bizarre cameo from Tom Hollander - could anybody look less like an Armenian clown ...  what on earth was all that about?)  And yet I'm glad I went. The film could have been better but it's a shocking episode of history that deserves not to be forgotten.

Thursday, 20 April 2017




It's always interesting to see new Persephone titles, but I can't see either of these two latest books becoming anybody's favourite. I remembered that I'd bought an old copy of Earth and High Heaven some time ago, stuck it on a pile where it got buried and never got around to reading it - so last week I dug it out. Published in 1944, it was the first Canadian book to reach number one on the NY Times best-seller list.
I got off to a good start but my interest in Erika Drake - daughter of a prosperous, WASP-y Montreal family - and her lover Marc Reiser, a Jewish lawyer, was soon flagging. (Not least because Gwethalyn Graham is so repetitive: if she makes a point once she drums it home again and again and as a reader, I began to feel a bit hectored - bad editing maybe, but it made me lose sympathy with her characters.) Erika and Marc meet at a party at her parents' home where her father cuts Marc dead as soon as he realises that he is Jewish. Trouble is, I couldn't help visualising them as illustrations from an old-fashioned women's magazine serial ... Defiant Love - Trembling Passion (but no sex, please, we're middle-class Canadians!) - the handsome hero who could have stepped out of a Mills&Boon romance and the tearful heroine in evening dress, knocking back martinis. Honestly, you couldn't meet a more irritating pair. Erika, in her late 20s, with a good job on a newspaper, has to meet her lover on street corners because seemingly it would kill her parents if she were to do the obvious thing and leave home ... I mean, this is the 1940s, not the 1840s! She's a drip, he's a prig and it doesn't help the novel that you can't help feeling that - in 20 years time - she's going to be worn out from treading on eggshells around a husband who will be quiveringly on the alert to take offence. (Even Marc's far more likeable brother tells him that he needs 'a swift kick in the pants.')
As for Erika's rather incestuous relationship with her possessive father - who treats her more like a wife - and the way her mother colludes with this ... eeuurggh. There's more going on here than kneejerk anti-Semitism and it's clear that her father is always going to have a problem with any man who lays hands on his daughter - never mind whether he's socially acceptable at the country club.
Oh, dear - poor Erika. Perhaps another dry martini and a 'prescription of stuff' to make her sleep ...



But at least I managed to finish Earth and High Heaven. Effi Briest is already a Penguin classic so I'm not sure I see the point of republishing it as a Persephone; unless perhaps a different translation makes it  more readable? I found the Penguin edition in the library, made it to p95 and I doubt that I'll ever care enough to finish it. The introduction compares Effi with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina ... but I'm afraid if a train came along now, I'd be tempted give this winsome child-bride a good shove.
One of the best tragic novels of the 19th century? Socially-ambitious Effi is married at 16 to a dull Prussian baron - my sympathies are entirely with the baron - and by p95, she's still behaving herself, though there's a caddish major whose intentions are clearly dishonourable. I don't feel there's going to be any surprises if I plod through to the end.