Back to the Classics 2019

BTCC Berlin Books

Hosted by Karen@Books and Chocolate, this challenge always looks like fun, so this year I thought I would join in as it will also help me organise my reading a little.  All I need to do is read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. 19th Century Classic: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  2. 20th Century Classic, before 1969: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  3. Classic by a Women Author: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  4. Classic in Translation: If This is a Man by Primo Levi
  5. Classic Comic Novel: Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  6. Classic Tragic Novel: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  7. Very Long Classic (500+pages): Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  8. Classic Novella (less than 250 pages): Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
  9. Classic From the Americas: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  10. Classic From Africa, Asia or Oceania: Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
  11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
  12. Classic Play: To Be Decided (if I ever get there)

These are my ideas for the moment but any of them could change. My main worry is that there are too many long reads here and I’ll just never finish!

Bad Education

bad education3

The last film in my 2018 To Be Watched challenge is Bad Education, written and directed by Pedro Almodovar. Released in 2004 the film is set in the late ’70’s, a time when Almodovar was a key figure in the counter cultural movement La Movida Madrileña, that signalled the emergence of a new Spanish identity, free from Franco’s oppression.

An aspiring actor Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal), visits his old school friend Enrique (Fele Martinez), now a film producer, with a story he has written called ‘The Visit’. He asks Enrique to read it with a plan that he should play a leading character. ‘The visit’ is about their past in a Catholic boarding school.  The film is made and becomes a film within the film, but it also opens up layers of storytelling, about reality and impersonation, about rewriting the past, asking how much we edit our own stories in order to control them. The past and present leak into eachother, with Bernal playing different characters in different time frames and it becomes a thrilling mystery. Continue reading “Bad Education”

2019 TBR Pile Challenge


Happily RoofBeamReader has announced the TBR Pile Challenge for another year! The aim is to read 12 books that have been gathering dust over the next 12 months.



My list in no particular order:

  1. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  2. Heat Wave by Penelope Lively
  3. The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc
  4. The Beautiful summer by Cesare Pavese
  5. Death in Spring by Merce Rodoreda
  6. The Green Road by Anne Enright
  7. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  8. The Cherry Tree by Adrian Bell
  9. Silver Ley by Adrian Bell
  10. Young Anne by Dorothy Whipple
  11. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  12. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

And two alternates, just in case:

  1. The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook
  2. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers


All of these look like great reading to me. Gulliver’s Travels is a book I’ve always meant to read, but keep putting off and I really don’t understand why it’s taken me so long to get around to Birdsong!

Mulholland Drive

mulholland drive

I started watching this knowing nothing about it except that I liked David Lynch’s T.V. series Twin Peaks – big mistake! It all started well.   A brunette (Laura Harring) survives a car crash and stumbles through the night to an apartment, where she breaks in and takes a shower. Unable to remember who she is she sees a poster for a Rita Heyworth film and decides to call herself Rita.  A perfect blonde Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood and goes to the apartment which belongs to her aunt,  all Disney smiles and sweetness, she hardly wonders why there’s a strange women in her shower and starts to help Rita discover her identity. Thinking she might be Diane Selwyn, they track down an address for that name and find a corpse on the bed and a small box.  Betty, the hopeful actress gives an amazing audition for a film but the part goes to a women called Camilla Rhodes. The mysteries and curious characters (who is the cowboy?) are piling up but a constant feeling of menace and tension kept us on our seats. There comes an outing to Club Silencio where we’re told ‘nothing is as it seems’, and then a key was put into the blue box, the screen went black and we were swallowed up.

Now everyone has changed names.  Sweet Betty has become haunted, suicidal Diane, mulholland drive2Rita has become self-assured actress Camilla and all hopefulness has turned to despair. What is going on? What becomes clear(ish) is that we’ve been living with Betty’s fantasy – a vibrantly coloured world where she is a success as an actor and with the person she loves. Her reality of depression, jealousy and addiction in a film about innocence and corruption, love and loneliness, beauty and depravity is often seen as David Lynch’s perspective on the film industry.

Reams and reams have been written about the questions asked in Mulholland Drive and there seems to be as many answers.  It would have been useful to have had some of this information before I watched, so now I know what I’m getting myself into another viewing might make a lot more sense, although I don’t think the mystery will ever be solved.

Doctor Zhivago


This wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought I was going to read a sweeping love story set against a backdrop of snow.

Instead I found the history of Russia in the first half of the 20th century, world wars, revolution, civil war and the political terror of the 1930’s told through the eyes of a doctor and poet.

But it was the plain, almost dispassionate style that surprised me the most. Writing in 1957 Pasternak describes the civil war vividly, but without sentiment. A sense of catastrophe and upheaval is always present, the characters come thick and fast, which gives a sense of the chaos and disorder but somehow Yuri Zhivago is detached, as if he’s watching events through a window and never really taking part. Continue reading “Doctor Zhivago”

In The Mood For Love

in the mood for love

Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai in 2000, this gorgeously seductive film is set in Hong Kong in 1962. Two married couples move into apartments next door to each other on the same day. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) are often left alone and so build up a friendship before realising that their spouses are having an affair, out of this deception their own friendship grows.

In the crowded streets and cramped apartments, the camera lurks in doorways and slides around corners almost spying on them – going to get noodles has never been so glamorous! The colours are deep and murky with lots of shadows, coils of cigarette smoke and rain, rain, rain. A recurring cello theme follows them around and time is slowed down as they share an umbrella or brush passed each other capturing moments they would like to last forever.

The adulterous couple is never seen, sometimes we hear them in conversation but they are always off screen our empathy lies completely with Chow and Su.  As they spend more and more time together they grow closer but never anything more, “we will never be like them” says Su.  This unrequited love is teased in the soundtrack by Nat King Cole singing: ‘quizas, quizas, quizas’ Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps?

mood for love2

Classics Club Spin #19


At last I’m organised enough to join in with a spin! It was one of the things that first appealed to me about joining The Classics Club and yet it’s never happened – until now!

A numbered list of 20 titles from our original challenge list needs to be posted by Tuesday, 27th November when the spin will reveal which number we should read by January 31st 2019 – what a great way to start the new year.

This is my spin list:

  1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  3. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  4. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  6. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  8. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
  10. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  11. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  12. Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift
  13. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  15. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  16. The Outsider by Albert Camus
  17. If This is a Man by Primo Levi
  18. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
  19. Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac
  20. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern

Not all chunksters but hopefully all good reads.


Reading Finnegans Wake

finnegans wakeEaster 2017 and my reading chums and I finished Ulysses, we absolutely loved it and quickly read (and went to see) Hamlet to explore the father/son motif, read Dubliners so we could spend more time with the characters and went to Dublin to celebrate Bloomsday.  We read Portrait of the Artist to get more of Stephen Dedalus, we even went on a course and gave (very short) presentations on different aspects of the book.  We were in awe of his intelligence, his sparkling language – how could we get more Joyce?
Let’s read Finnegans Wake we said!

The first week, armed with Oxford Classic editions and our guide A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (Joseph Campbell) we had a really fun time annotating our copies with the chapter headings that Mr key to FWCampbell provided “to serve as a handrail for the reader groping (their) way along unfamiliar galleries'” and wondered how we were going to read it.

“It is a strange book, a compound of fable, symphony, and nightmare – a monstrous enigma beckoning imperiously from the shadowy pits of sleep.” (Joseph Campbell).  It’s a vast dream, crowded with characters where all time occurs simultaneously. A revolving stage of mythological heroes, remotest antiquity and popular culture. Continue reading “Reading Finnegans Wake”

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset

before series

Before Sunrise (1995) was directed by Richard Linklater and co-written with Kim Krizan.   American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train going to Vienna.  They start talking and before long, engrossed in conversation, realise they’ve arrived in Vienna and Jesse must leave to catch his flight back home the next day.  On a hunch he asks Celine to get off the train with him and spend the day in Vienna. She does, and there we have it. Two early twentysomethings  talking, while they explore Vienna, closely followed by a companionable camera. Continue reading “Before Sunrise and Before Sunset”

Farewell Leicester Square

farewell leicester sq

Quite by chance the book I read for my TBR challenge and the film I watched for my TBW challenge shared a subject – cinema. Farewell Leicester Square, written by Betty Miller in 1935 and Cinema Paradiso directed by Giuseppe Tornatore in 1988, are both about young boys growing up in the early days of cinema and desperate to be a part of it. They both leave their home towns, only to return years later, as successful directors, when they hear about the death of a loved one. So I thought they could share a post!

cinema paradiso 2 Continue reading “Farewell Leicester Square”