The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from society, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.

It’s the book that your mother loves. Or, like, the book the mothers love in movies about small, sleepy towns and antagonists that dream about a more exciting life but are told by those mothers that you shouldn’t want that because look what could happen. If someone would have told me that this book was written in the nineties, I would have believed it. It’s absolutely stale, and I don’t even mean this in a very negative way, but just because it feels like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times already. It’s comfortable, but never thrilling.

The Rules of Magic is the (“long awaited”) prequel to Practical Magic, which was a book before it was a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both are about a family of witches, The Rules is just a few decades earlier, so you get New York city of the sixties and seventies, which might be one of the things that make the story appealing. The Owens family is cursed to destroy those they love, so it’s moping about that, destroying (unwittingly) and avoiding anything remotely looking like love. Although it seems to only be about romantic love, else there wouldn’t have been a family at all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong about this book, it’s not just very exciting. I wasn’t eager to read on and stay up late, and it’s been a while since I had that with a book which might have made me more impatient.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman, Simon & Schuster 2017

Lady Bird

95 min.

Ik heb een wantrouwende inborst: als iets het allerbeste ooit is en zó herkenbaar, mag men mijn portie aan fikkie geven. Is er de mogelijkheid om de portie gratis tot mij te nemen …vooruit, ik ben Hollandser dan wantrouwende.

Ladybird posterEn zo keek ik Lady Bird, een film die zó herkenbaar zou zijn voor elke tiener (die in de jaren negentig was opgegroeid) en met verschillende prijzen werd beloond. Was het herkenbaar? Soms, de rest werd beïnvloed door de omgeving (Californië).

Wat de film vooral een klein beetje boven het maaiveld uit laat steken, is Saoirse Ronan. Goed in alles wat ze doet, en krijgt het nu dus ook weer voor elkaar om de kijker het haar te gunnen, d’r een tik te willen geven, maar vooral te zien hoe vast ze zit in pubertijd, zichzelf en haar omgeving.

Zo kabbelt het allemaal door, gelukkig ook eens zonder toevoegingen die sommige films noodzakelijk vinden om drama te creëren. Ronan mag spelen wat ze kan, en ook zonder herkenning is het een fijn filmpje.

Lady Bird, Entertainment 360 2017

 

All Our Wrong Todays

So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

If the main character wouldn’t have been female, this book wouldn’t have been published or written of as chick lit and get none of the acclaim this one had. And ‘acclaim’ here is the categories my CloudLibrary put it in, so maybe it’s only Canadian acclaim, but still.

Anyway. I picked All Our Wrongs Today because it was time travel with a bit of The Jetsons and environmentalism sprinkled all over it. What’s not to like about that?

Well, probably the fact that all that is merely a background for half of the book, because protagonist Tom just whines about his life, his family, his actions (and inactivity), his life, his family and how his original surroundings are so much better than where he’s now. Mixed through that the reader gets a few female characters that are clear points to hang the plot on: mother, ex(es), (unattainable) love of his life.

But wait, it’s not just the women in Tom’s life that are merely plot points!

And like that, the reader might start hoping for Tom to time travel into nothingness, rendering this entire disappointing story non-existing. Or at the very least with 80 percent less navel gazing.

All Our Wrongs Today, Elan Mastai, Penguin Random House 2017

Las Chicas del Cable

16 x 50 min.

Ik vind helemaal niets aan soaps. Het acteerwerk is te dik aangezet, er gebeurt veel te veel in één mensenleven, de muziek is ten aller tijden dramatisch (om nog maar eens te onderstrepen hoe erg het allemaal is), kom op met me.
Ik heb het Spaanstalige Las Chicas del Cable (telefoonmeisjes), zeker het tweede seizoen, Las_Chicas_Del_Cable_netflixals een gigantische python in één keer geïnhaleerd.

Groot voordeel van het taalverschil – mijn Spaans is lager dan middelbare-schoolniveau – is dat je niet full time kunt focussen op het acteerwerk; je bent tenslotte aan het meelezen. En als je niet meeleest, zijn er genoeg mooie mensen om naar te kijken, wat ook weer afleidt.

De serie draait om een groepje vrouwen in jaren twintig Madrid, en hun worstelingen met meer zelfstandigheid, ouderwetse ideeën, relaties, werk (vinden) en in het geval van het hoofdpersoon – een complete identiteit overeind houden. Zoals iedereen dat wel eens gebeurt. Geen idee hoe historisch correct het allemaal is, maar wel mooi, allemaal.

En vermakelijk, dus ook.

Las Chicas del Cable, Netflix 2017

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Why did Mindi want an arranged marriage?

And yes, the erotic stories are shared.  Just because of the title, I expected comedy, some coming of age and Learning Life’s Lessons, but I got much more. It’s a credit to Jaswal’s writing that I wasn’t disappointed by that, sooner the opposite.

Yes, there’s definitely comedy, and main character Nikki (Mindi’s sister) needs to discover what she wants to do in live and how she’ll do that without hurting her Punjabi family (and surroundings, in a way). This is definitely a story about the two lives immigrants/children of immigrants live, but it’s never just that. Nikki thinks she’s going to teach the widows Creative Writing, the widows prefer to share their creativity in another way.

Alongside that is a plot line that at first might feel tacked on. Missing girls, bitter feuds, really? But then it all starts to connect and this isn’t just a comedy any more, this is an all too realistic calling card to look at misogyny. Suddenly the tempo is picked up and the reader has to juggle several plot lines colliding.

But as mentioned before, Balli Kaur Jaswal does it well. Making this novel all-round entertaining and informing.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Harper Collins 2017

Exit West

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.

This is an author of which I like his stories, and usually his detached way of writing, yet find it hard to put into words what I precisely like about both things mentioned.

This time he manages to make the refugee story (people fleeing versus people accepting and or fighting their addition to their familiar surroundings) slightly magical and/yet apocalyptic. Because the main characters are refugees, but they manage to leave their country through a door, a black hole, that can appear behind any door. This means that people from all around the world appear all around the world without the lethal trips and troubles.

But after that, there’s still acceptance to fight for. The book is pretty evenly divided between before, during and after the migratory moves and changes. This way you don’t have to think about the ever after, Hamid provides.

In the end, it’s kind of a hopeful story with plenty of realism to make you feel better about the subject.

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton 2017

Sugar Money

I was tethering the cows out by the pond when a boy came into our pasture saying that Father Cléophas himself want to see me tout suite in the morgue.

And even based on true events, although I have to admit that the note from the editor(s) and shared background information took away from the story, for me anyway. I could have not read them, of course.

The story here is how two slaves on Martinique are sent to another island to bring back the slaves the French Fathers think they own while the island is English now. Sounds like nothing could go wrong, right? Nothing fishy at all at sending two slaves to silently invite slaves to move islands.

Lucien and his brother Emile are the ones that are tasked with this, and Lucien is the one telling the story of these few days. He does so in a mix of English, French and Creole, which works well with their surroundings and situation.

The only gripe I have with the story only being about this one event, is that as the reader you feel slightly dropped into someone’s lives and left behind when you (probably) only want to learn more. Maybe Jane Harris should have gone with a bit more creative freedom there. But what she writes, she writes appealingly.

Sugar Money, Jane Harris, Faber & Faber 2017