A Film For October: Vampyr

Based on Sheridan le Fanu’s short story collection In a Glass Darkly this 1932 horror flick was director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s first film with sound. Shot completely on location in France, a gorgeous washed out, soft focus gives the film a dreamlike quality that enhances the atmosphere and gives a wonderfully creepy quality.

Allan Gray is a dreamy wanderer who arrives at an inn and rents a room. While he sleeps an old man enters his locked room and leaves a package with a note saying ‘to be opened on my death’. Gray decides to go for a walk and takes the package with him. Shadows guide him towards a castle where he sees more shadows dancing on their own. He walks on to a manor house and looking through the window sees the old man who left the package. The old man is suddenly shot. The servants ask him into the house where Gisèle the old man’s daughter takes him to the library and tells him that her sister Léone is gravely ill. They see Léone walking outside and follow her where they find her unconscious on the ground with fresh bite wounds on her neck.

Continue reading “A Film For October: Vampyr”

The Lake District Murder

The Sussex Downs Murder is the BLCC listed on my 10 Books of Summer challenge, but the sea side bookshop I was in only had this one on its shelves, so I stayed with Meredith but on his home patch of Keswick in the Lake District and in 1935 while he’s still a lowly Inspector.

The setting is lovely and having read a couple of other Meredith mysteries it was interesting to see where he came from. The small towns are filled with amiable shop keepers, burly farmers and friendly bank managers and everybody, no matter how criminal carries a dinner basket. His son Tony is an eager to help seventeen year old and his wife worries over the amount of work he does. It’s all very domestic.

But trouble arrives from the south (!). There’s a particularly grizzly suicide in a garage on a lonely stretch of road, and as the investigation gets under way one puzzle just leads to another, and was it suicide after all or could it have been murder? There seems to be a shadier side to these normally quiet coastal towns. But Meredith, on his first solo investigation, puts the whodunit on hold and even the whydunit as he sets out to prove the howdunit.

Continue reading “The Lake District Murder”

Nightwood

nightwood2Written in 1936 I wanted to read this as a counterpoint to This Side of Paradise, one from the beginning of the Jazz age and one from the end. But it wasn’t quite that neat, the atmosphere of the jazz age is here but I think Nightwood is set in its own world and not trapped by any particular time. I found this a demanding and difficult read.

The plot is very slight.  Baron Felix Volkbein is married to Robin Vote they divorce and Robin falls in love with Nora Flood who eventually loses her to Jenny Petherbridge.  At the centre of these characters is the doctor, Matthew-Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante O’Connor. In Paris, they’re all strangers and misfits, knotted together by Robin and her effect on them.

Continue reading “Nightwood”

The Grapes Of Wrath

grapes of wrathFebruary was a hairy time for our family but always with me was The Grapes of Wrath which quite by chance turned out to be the perfect read because it could be read in snatches whenever I got the chance and because ultimately it’s about family and the human spirit. I bought a new copy but it now looks as dogeared as I felt!

Chronicling the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s, the Joad family, along with thousands of other tenant farmers are pushed out of their homes in Oklahoma when the land owners find that ‘one man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families’, and head to California where there’s always work and it never gets cold and you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange and live in a little white dream house. A hope that keeps them alive. Continue reading “The Grapes Of Wrath”

They Knew Mr Knight

THEYKNEWMRKNIGHTHRwsAt the end of January Jesse at Dwell in Possibility had a mini Persephone readathon and that was the perfect excuse for me to pick up the Dorothy Whipple at the end of my bed, lie on the sofa and have a cosy read.

The first hint that this might not be so cosy came with the title which felt a bit odd and had a slightly sinister ring to it. Who are ‘They’?, why is it in the past tense and is Mr. Knight a knight in shining armour or is he something shady? The second hint was inside the front cover when we’re given the helpful information to multiply all the amounts talked about by 50 so for £2000 read £100,000. Here was the middle class domestic world of Dorothy Whipple but with avarice at its centre and it was clear from the beginning that all was not going to go well. Continue reading “They Knew Mr Knight”

The Beautiful Summer

the beautiful summer
It’s summer in Turin in the 1930’s and 16 year old Ginia is ready for adventure. Parentless, she works in a dressmakers, loves to laugh and dance and lives with her older brother, taking care of him and their apartment.

But then she is befriended by Amelia an artists model, and over the summer becomes involved with her older bohemian set that includes Guido and love!

The cover blurb in my Penguin copy says that ‘It’s the start of a desperate love affair, charged with false hope and overwhelming passion’, which makes it all sound rather melodramatic; when the clever thing about The Beautiful Summer, is that within 100 pages of very little drama Cesare Pavese has us completely believing in the confusion Ginia is going through.

Continue reading “The Beautiful Summer”

The Code of the Woosters

woostersWhat ho Bertie!  That aged relation Aunt Dahlia needs Bertie to steal Sir Watkyn Bassett’s cow creamer, there’s a serious rift in the engagement between Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett and Stiffy Byng and the Reverend Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker have their own plans for Bertie, so with Jeeves at his side it’s off to Totleigh Towers, Totleigh-in-the-Wold, because you can’t let a pal down, it’s the code of the Woosters,

‘I braced myself with the old Wooster grit. Up came the chin, back went the shoulders’

Continue reading “The Code of the Woosters”

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”

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”

A Voice Through A Cloud

a voice through a cloud“I heard a voice through a great cloud of agony and sickness” so begins this unputdownable memoir of Denton Welch.  Born in 1915, he’s at art school in London when in 1935 he decides to cycle to his uncle’s vicarage in Surrey.  On the way he is hit by a car severely damaging his spine and kidneys. Written in 1948 this memoir recalls the accident and his convalescence.

When his world is reduced to his bed, visiting hours and hospital staff his observations of the daily routine are funny, tragic and acutely observed.  The brusque and efficient nurses are always ready with a “don’t be silly now” or “we don’t want to make a fuss” comment.  His bitterness towards them is told with searing honesty: “I longed to be able to get up, hit Scott, smash the chair to pieces and walk out forever; but I was helpless and in his hands – he could play with me as he liked. The thought was so bitter that it seemed to degrade me in my own eyes. My face stiffened into a dead mask.” Continue reading “A Voice Through A Cloud”