sprezzatura: (Default)
Livejournal is dead! Long live Dreamwidth! Hello.
sprezzatura: (Default)
I have never blogged about books before, but since I finished uni I have been reading a lot more for pleasure and I want to keep a better record of it. Mostly for my own benefit, I intend to make a monthly book post.

1. A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorehead

Engaging but predictably depressing account of a group of (mainly) French women whose involvement with the Resistance, however minor, cost them their freedom, and in many cases, their lives. Exploration of the idea that the strength of friendship amongst the group, even when some individuals appeared not to like one another very much, was the driving force that kept a significant, perhaps surprising number of them alive in prison and then concentration camps until the liberation. It was quite hard to keep track of who was who as I was reading, as a lot of the women had similar or the same names, so the short biographies at the end divided into those who were still alive at the time of publication, those who survived the war but have since died, and those who did not live to see freedom were particularly insightful and moving.

2. Jackdaws - Ken Follett

Rather implausible but thoroughly gripping tale of a highly experienced female SOE agent who, in the space of a week, recruits and trains an all-female (at least as far as outward appearances are concerned) team to be parachuted into Normandy to destroy a telephone exchange in time for D Day. The story of the German intelligence officer on her trail is interwoven with the main plot. This was pretty much a perfect piece of fiction as far as I was concerned: wartime espionage and sabotage in Occupied France, a badass heroine, an appealing love interest, well-drawn and likeable supporting characters, historical accuracy, action and humour. Excellent stuff.

3. Night Sky - Clare Francis

Still in Occupied France, a slower paced but highly detailed trio of stories which gradually become interwoven: A young English woman who goes to live with relatives in a remote Breton village to escape the shame of her illegitimate pregnancy, and becomes caught up in a Resistance escape line; an embittered and ruthless Paris pimp and black marketeer turned extremely effective Nazi collaborator, and a German Jewish scientist who is initially sent to a concentration camp but eventually ends up working for the Kriegsmarine developing radar. I found this a bit ploddy and predictable, there was an awful lot of background information that I didn't feel was necessary, but the detail was vivid enough to make me want to persist with it. I wasn't convinced by the ending, but I liked the heroine, Julie, and the message that ordinary people can do remarkable things in order to survive.

4. A Half Forgotten Song - Katherine Webb

In 1930s Dorset, an awkward teenager who has known only poverty and isolation is befriended by the sophisticated daughter of a famous artist, whose family stays in the village over three consecutive summers. She becomes the artist's muse, and what starts as an innocent adolescent crush becomes more sinister. Meanwhile, in the present day, a down-on-his-luck gallery owner comes to the area to research the artist and becomes entangled in intrigue of his own. I picked this up before Christmas and finally got round to reading it at the weekend, and found it hard to put down despite struggling to sympathise with or even like any of the main characters. A good story with some surprising twists and evocative descriptions of the locations, Dorset and Morocco.
sprezzatura: (Siouxsie)
The following question occurred to me this afternoon when I got a passage of dialogue from The King's Speech stuck in my head on a loop.

If you met a member of the royal family would you bow/curtsey/conform to other protocol such as not turning your back on the monarch? Can people be thrown in the Tower, or some modern equivalent, for not doing so?

I wouldn't describe myself as an abolitionist (I agree with Anne Robinson, who once said in an interview "I don't mind them being there, but don't expect me to take them seriously") but the idea of grovelling before other human beings based solely on a spurious birthright makes me very uncomfortable. It works the other way, too. A few years ago I had the good fortune to spend a night in an insanely posh hotel in Tokyo and I found the deference of the staff incredibly hard to deal with.

Some of you must have encountered royalty in a formal context, how did you handle it?
sprezzatura: (Creepy Doll)
I don't know why I have taken to spending so much time on Twitter recently as I've never really understood the point of it, but I have been lurking there a lot this week. For much of yesterday, one of the top trending topics was "horror sitcoms". In celebration of the fact that I have been waking up at regular intervals all night having thought of new ones, and because the fleeting nature of Twitter means it's hard to have a long term record, I'm bringing in to LJ.

There follows some of my best work. Please contribute!

  • Omen Behaving Badly
  • The Stephen King's IT Crowd
  • Only Ghouls and Hearses
  • May to Dismember

You get the idea, so do your worst, LJ!
sprezzatura: (Bad Things)
[Poll #1784647]

Good. Thank you. Now we can all get on with our day without any more Diana-ising, can't we?
sprezzatura: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]
Absolutely! I am not a credulous idiot, and the only reason either of those things would bother me would be if they attracted ghoulish tourists to disturb my peace.

Happy Good Friday, viewers. Enjoy the sunshine, if you have it, and don't hate it.
sprezzatura: (Default)
Let's see if I can stick with this one for more than three years, assuming I'm even still using LJ by then.

It's from a song, in case anyone cares.
sprezzatura: (Frozen Britain)
[Poll #1651167]

Ha, well my poll answer was wrong and so was the forecast because it's snowing again now. Woohoo!
sprezzatura: (Lady Diane)
In keeping with the austere mood, and to keep the connection to Lady Diane alive, perhaps Kate Middleclass could get her wedding dress from David Emmanuel's range of eveningwear at Bonmarche?
sprezzatura: (80s!)
  • Recent general election resulting in change of administration: check
  • Tory government impose dramatic and sweeping spending cuts resulting in job losses, demonstrations and riot: check
  • Fashion shops full of stiletto boots, batwing sweater dresses and leopard print: check
  • Boys* get this for their birthdays: check
  • High streets full of punks and people promoting The Socialist Worker: check
  • Crimpers gaining popularity on the Goth scene**: check
  • Announcement of Royal Wedding and national holiday: check

    Is this Gene Hunt's Cop Narnia or have we actually slid through a wormhole to thirty years in the past?

    *Ed, from my mum. I am dead of envy.
    **If WGW, which seemed to have rejected woolly hair extensions and dayglo trousers in favour of extra strength Elnett and black was anything to go by! Hoorah!
  • sprezzatura: (Redcoat Brandon)
    Having spent the weekend immersed in the Downton Abbey box set, Ed and I are total converts. We saw a trailer for it at the cinema just before it started and had every intention of watching it, but the adverts never mentioned a start date and by the time we realised it was on, the series was half over. People warned me that it was "a bit ITV" and "no Brideshead", but frankly, I think that is its strength. It reminded me of proper period dramas of yesteryear like By the Sword Divided or The House of Eliott, the former of which my dad used to describe dismissively as "seventeenth century Dallas", completely missing the point of its appeal. Even the venerable Maggie Smith commented in an interview on one of the DVD extras that one of the best things about it was that it was written for TV and not an adaptation, so it's not bound by a predefined ending and its starched collar-based soapiness could theoretically run forever. Hoorah! I can't wait for the next series.

    Mooching about on LJ in search of a userpic featuring the Dowager Countess being imperious about weekends, or something, I happened upon this which quotes [livejournal.com profile] medusa and reassures me that having a crush on Mr Bates is not, as I asked Ed last night, a bit weird. It also makes me think I should write things when I think of them because most of the first half of that article had been in my head since the summer, long before the gentle thud of Mr Bates' walking stick as he struggled up the stairs to present the stricken Anna with a plate of sarnies and some dodgy looking flowers had even been heard. The idea had come from a conversation with [livejournal.com profile] gnomentum and others on Facebook about why Bella Swan should have chosen Jacob Black over the sparkly vampire, but I was going to cite most of the same examples, with exception of the Clive Owen character who clearly doesn't belong on the list! The writer calls them "strong men humbled", I was going for the angle of the underdog, but the hard luck heroes do it for me every time. Can we think of any more?

    Other things we got up to at the weekend include a long, cold, muddy stomp around (and in Tia's case, in) Fewston Reservoir yesterday, and doing ALMOST ALL OF OUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING on Saturday! I even wrapped up everything we got for K's stocking and delivered it to my mother's for concealment. We still have a few bits and pieces to get but the worst is over and at this rate, I might even manage to send some cards out this year.

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