historical fictionScottish authorsSunday Salon

Snapshot: November 2014

Day 1 of November 2014 and it’s time to take a snapshot of what I’m reading, listening to and watching.


The ObservationsI started reading The Observations by Jane Harris today, a copy of which has lingered on my TBR for more than a year. It’s a very readable historical mystery novel set in a remote manor house in Scotland. Such a contrast to the book I just finished reading, Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie which opens on the day a bomb falls onto Nagasaki.  Hiroko Tanaka, a young factory worker survives the attack but will forever bear the scars on her back resembling birds in flight. We follow her subsequent history in India on the brink of partition to Pakistan and ultimately New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attack. It’s a well crafted novel about allegiance and estrangement, betrayal and atonement. I’d not heard of the author but liked the idea of the plot when I saw the book at a library sale.


Also purchased in the sale was an audio version of Rebecca’s Tale,  a 2001 novel by Sally Beauman which is a sequel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I have mixed feelings about the trend now to write prequels and sequels to successful novels by authors long since dead. Often it seems to me they are trying to cash in on a past success instead of coming up with their own ideas. But this novel was approved by the Daphne du Maurier estate so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a bit slow so far.


Since I am writing this while returning to the UK from China, my viewing options are limited to the options provided on the in-flight entertainment system. These have become so much better in recent years – remember the days when you had to crane your neck to see the tiny screen suspended from the ceiling and everyone had to watch the same film? Now most of the main carriers provide seat back systems with many options. Sadly, by the time I eliminated all the science fiction choices and the films which involve people chasing each other in cars or with machine guns, the options were rather limited. I ended up watching The Fault in Our Stars based on the novel of the same name by John Green ( a book I have not read).

I was prepared for this to be a weepy, given its subject matter of two teenagers who are fighting cancer. I’m not sure whether it is the effect of being at altitude but I find I get much more emotional when I’m watching a film during a flight. Luckily the lights were dimmed so no-one saw the resultant blotchy face.

It had some stellar performances from the actors playing the teenagers, particularly Shailene Diann Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster. I also enjoyed the cameo performance by Willem Dafoe as the jaundiced author Peter van Houten. The weakest performance of all was by Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother. She played this role exactly as she played the botanist in Jurassic Park, which is to say, badly.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

9 thoughts on “Snapshot: November 2014

  • I get all emo in flights too, Karen. Last year, I saw The Constant Gardener during a long-haul fight, and I had to go to the loo to get myself composed later.

  • A sequel to Rebecca intrigues me since as I recall the original story starts with the unnamed young wife looking back on their former lives at Manderley. I’ll be eager to learn what you think. So many of the Jane Austen knock-offs are dreadful. Laura Dern….must have connections. Not too talented, unfortunately. Good round-up! L.

    • Ive managed to avoid the Jane Austen ‘tributes’ – I’m afraid I would have ended up throwing the book at someone.

  • I always worry about sequels written by other people….Jean Rhys’s prequel to Jane Eyre–the Wide Sargossa Sea was excellent though.

    • Rhys managed to create a story that could stand on its own feet even if you didn’t really know Pride and Prejudice.

  • I am always a bit astonished that directors continue to cast Laura Dern in anything, since her performances always seem to me to be spectacularly uninspired and awful. There are much more proficient actors out there, and roles in TFioS were highly sought after. Surely they could have done better.

    • I’ve fortunately not seen her in anything else other than the two films I mentioned.

  • readerbuzz

    I was surprised Fault was a solid movie. So often movies-from-books disappoint.

    Here’s my Sunday Salon!

    • I hadn’t read the book so I wasn’t in any position to compare. But sometimes yes the film version is an injustice to the actual book. Disgrace for example wasn’t a particularly good film but the book by Coetzee is superb.


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