Written and directed by Krzystztof Kieslowski, this enigmatic mystery drama from 1991 is the story of two young women, Weronika in Poland and Véronique in France. Born on the same day, they look identical and share the same musical talent. Unaware of eachother’s existence they sense a spectral companion and believe they share an emotional bond with someone they don’t know but suspect is there.
The first part is based in Poland and we follow Weronika in Kraków and witness her beautiful singing. One day as she’s walking home she sees a group of girls, her own age getting onto a bus. One of them is taking photographs of everything she sees, randomly through the window. Weronika sees Véronique and we know that Véronique has her doppelganger on film. The first part finishes with the collapse and sudden death of Weronika during a musical recital and the story moves to Véronique in Paris. She feels an intense sense of loss and abruptly gives up singing, she doesn’t know why, just that she must, and she begins teaching music to young children.
Continue reading “A Film For February: The Double Life Of Véronique” →
‘Fanny Price was at this time just ten years old, and though there might not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least, nothing to disgust her relations. She was small of her age, with no glow of complexion, nor any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was sweet, and when she spoke, her countenance was pretty.’
The three Ward sisters have made very different marriages. Miss Maria Ward has married a baronet, Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, her older sister has married a clergyman the Rev. Mr. Norris and has taken the living offered to him at Mansfield Park and the youngest, Miss Francis Ward set out to rebel and married a Lieutenant in the Marines, with no connections, fortune or education. When he’s disabled from active service and spends their small income drinking and socialising Mrs Price realises that she can get rid of one of her nine children onto her rich sister. After much worry Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, egged on by Mrs Norris decide they can make room for Fanny, with their own four children Thomas and Edmund, Maria and Julia
When the Rev Norris dies, Mrs Norris moves to a small house on the estate and a new vicar arrives with his wife. In turn her step brother and sister, Henry and Mary Crawford arrive, like the glamorous Kuragins from War and Peace. Now Maria and Julia have Henry to flirt with and Edmund falls head over heels for Mary and as Tom seeks his pleasure elsewhere that just leaves Fanny. Quiet and contemplative, always at the beck and call of her aunts or with her nose in a book, Fanny never loses her meekness but she’s no pushover. She’s not afraid of being serious and doesn’t need the validation of popularity but she’s always present, she observes everything and knows that Mary Crawford needs an audience to believe she exists and Henry Crawford is nothing more than a rake.
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In 1934 when a young Allen Lane was working for his cousins publishing company The Bodley Head, he attended a conference on ‘The New Reading Public’. After a weekend in Devon with his friend Agatha Christie he was at Exeter St. David’s station waiting for a train to Paddington when he realised that the only books on sale were ‘shabby reprints of shoddy novels’. What was needed for the ‘new reading public’ were good quality paperbacks, in a size that could fit into your pocket and at a price everyone could afford.
He took the idea back to the office and ideas were rattled out around the table. He wanted to sell a brand, publishing in batches of 10 books, each with a recognisable cover and with a name that was easy to say and remember. To sell them where people gathered and for sixpence, the price of a packet of 10 cigarettes. Allen’s secretary, Joan Coles suggested a penguin and Edward Young, a junior in the editorial department designed the logo. After much wrangling Lane was able to buy the rights for paperback editions of his first 10 books and by using the offices and imprint of The Bodley Head, in 1935 the first batch of 10 Penguins was published.
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Emily Inglethorp is a wealthy women living with her much younger second husband at Styles Court, her large, isolated, manor house in Styles St.Mary. There are seven people living at Styles: Emily’s step-sons from her first husbands first marriage, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife Mary, Emily’s companion Evelyn and a young friend of the family Cynthia Murdoch. A group of people all with some connection to each other and all with their own assortment of secrets.
Arthur Hastings has been invalided from the Front and after a spell in a convalescent home has been given a months sick leave. Wondering what to do he runs into his old friend John Cavendish who invites him to spend his leave at Styles, with the family. The house and Emily, Hastings remembers well although he hasn’t been there for years. Tea is spread in the shade of a sycamore tree and Hastings tells them of his hope to be a detective after the war. Indeed, while in Belgium he came across a very famous detective ‘he quite inflamed me. . . He was a funny little man, a great dandy, but wonderfully clever.’ And then on a trip into Tadminster who should Hastings bump into when buying some stamps, but his old friend:
‘”Mon ami Hastings”!’ he cried. “It is indeed mon ami Hastings”!
“Poirot!” I exclaimed.’
With much gratitude, Poirot explains that through the charitable works of Mrs Inglethorp, he is one of a group of Belgium refugees who are living together in Tadminster. So the scene is set and everyone is quickly in place for a good dose of poisoning by strychnine.
Continue reading “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” →