The Dressmaker

Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains to Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.

I completely understand why they turned this into a movie. Because The Dressmaker is not just a contained (small Australian village) story, it’s so full of detail that the visuals are already all there. Characters are clear cut, there’s an enticing plot of highs and lows and wardrobe can go all out because there’s nothing this dressmaker can’t make.

Tilly goes back to this small village of her birth, but even though she changed, the opinions on her and her mother didn’t. When discovering thus, she doesn’t accept it for the second time, but goes about it in a creative way.

That might make things sound like a thriller, but the back text calls it a shrewd comedy, and isn’t wrong in that. It’s a compact story as well; finding and watching the movie might take you longer. Is it still hot enough outside to call this a summer read?

The Dressmaker, Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove 2000


The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.

Smartest title encountered this year or too thought through? Because y’all, this book is about two young book writers following in love with each other! I think it’s cute, just as the story.

Tanner is a bisexual male teen that kind of goes back into the closet after his family moves to Utah, specifically a town with a Mormon majority. He’s not even out to his best friend, so how do you handle falling in love with the wonderful, beautiful, very Mormon TA?

It would have been easy to turn this into a pro or con story about religion and Mormons, but both authors stick close to the love story and darn, do they do it sweetly. Just like Tanner and Sebastian can’t seem to think about anything else, it’s sometimes a challenge to not discard the pages without them. Will they? Won’t they? In how many ways will organised religion ruin this?

Characters that aren’t these two sometimes get a bit the short end of the stick, but both secondary characters and surroundings make this a cute high school romance.

Autoboyography, Lauren Billings & Christina Hobbs, Simon & Schuster 2017


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Film legend and ’60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie’s to raise money for breast cancer research.

No-one is (very) likeable in this story. Not that that is a requirement for a story (in my opinion), nor that it means that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is less accessible and/or entertaining because of it. I’m just saying there isn’t much people to root for.

The stories are entertaining enough, old Hollywood glam with a woman who will do many things to get where she wants to go. Evelyn Hugo is the embodiment of self-made, and now, close to her death, she wants someone to write a biography of her. Journalist Monique doesn’t know why Evelyn picked her all of people to do so but don’t worry: you Will Find Out (dramatic soundtrack).

Per husband, Evelyn explains her life decisions and shares the saucy anecdotes freely. It’s a novel for those that like pretty things; romance and likeability is sacrificed for it. Is it too early to call this a proper beach read?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Simon & Schuster 2017

God’s Own Country

104 min.

Ik snap wel waarom het gebeurt, maar vind het vaak toch nogal makkelijk: de ene film de [bijvoeglijk naamwoord] [andere film] noemen. Vooral omdat dit schijnbaar vaker gebeurt bij kleinere projecten, want ik heb nog niet gelezen hoe Justice League een zwakkere X-Men is, bijvoorbeeld. God’s Own Country werd verschillende keren de Engelse Brokeback Mountain genoemd, maar mooi niet dus.

Gods Own CountryTen eerste zijn het tenslotte al geen cowboys, Georghe en Johnny. Johnny is de zoon van een chagrijnige boer in een chagrijnig klein dorp, en hij probeert alles buiten zichzelf te houden met heel veel alcohol. Georghe is een seizoensmedewerker uit RoemeniĆ«, en godsie wat is ‘ie goed met zijn handen (en lammetjes).

En dan is er het land, wat zo mooi is vastgelegd dat het soms bijna afleidt van deze twee gasten die Ć©indelijk hun eigen ruimte binnen het leven beginnen te bouwen. Het is allemaal zo lief, pijnlijk en diepe-zucht-opwekkend dat je er na met een licht hoofd achterblijft.

God’s Own Country, Met Film Production 2017

Other People

97 min.

Vaagjes kon ik me herinneren dat meerdere mensen op verschillende mensen deze film had aangeraden, alleen niet precies meer waarom. Maar er was een Siberische beer buiten, dit leek op een familie saga (het soort verhaal waar ik altijd een zwak voor heb) en ik had tijd te vullen dus ja hoor – geef maar.

Other People posterBeste mensen, blijkt de moeder van de familie dus dodelijk ziek te zijn. Hoofdpersoon doet zijn best om succesvol te zijn als schrijver, maar komt als lichte faalhaas terug naar huis om voor zijn familie te zorgen. Waar zijn vader nog steeds zijn homoseksualiteit niet heeft geaccepteerd en zijn zusjes niet echt weten hoe contact met hem te leggen. En moeder maar haar best doen om te doen alsof.

Alsnog is het niet alleen maar tranendal, waardoor de kleine pijntjes misschien juist vaker in de roos landen. Want wat doe je als je samen met je moeder begraven versus cremeren moet bespreken terwijl je net chocolade milkshakes hebt besteld bij de man die je op Tinder hebt gespot?

Bitterzoet noemen ze dat, geloof ik, maar ik nam er vooral van mee dat je blij moet zijn met de mensen die je hebt, voor je ze verliest. En verdorie, wat speelt Molly Shannon een vrouw die je niet wilt verliezen.

Other People, Park Pictures 2016

The Devourers

My part in this story began the winter before winters started getting warmer, on a full-moon night so bright you could see your own shadow on an unlit rooftop.

This isn’t an easy one to review. It came with the disappointment that you expected something completely different, and therefore need some time to adjust to what you’re getting, instead of entering the story completely from page one.

And The Devourers needs your attention. It’s a collection of histories and experiences, but unedited, not cleaned up and filtered for the reader. If you want these stories, dig through the dirt through them.

The Devourers are werewolves, shapeshifters, skin walkers, whatever which people or culture call them. They move through history and one of them invites a human to join him – through his stories. There’s no romance or heroic mythology, these are the stories our ancestors might have told each other at the fire, as a warning for the darkness.

Looking back after a week, I’d say I do think I’d recommend this. If you’re open for a different version of fantasy and mythology, with a lot of meat, blood and grit.

The Devourers, Indra Das, Penguin Random House 2015

Hot Milk

Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this, and I finished it two days ago. What’s the genre? How do I feel about it? Would I recommend it, and to whom? Well, at least it’s original (urgh, worst argument)!

Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and Rose. Sofia is the daughter taking care of her mother, who has strange symptoms no-one can diagnose in a successful way. Rose is the mother, the ball and chain of her adult daughter, suffering all kind of mental and physical aches. They end up in Spain for a specialist that might be their last chance.

Sounds pretty straight forward, but the story quickly goes of the rails in an almost fevered matter. The relationship between Rose and Sofia is far from healthy, but Sofia’s relationship with the world outside of Rose is unstable and confusing as well. Then there’s the specialist, whom seems to go for something between mad scientist and rich hermit. It feels a bit like an ugly, depraved version of magic realism, with the heat and discomfort sensible.

So …you could read it, if you don’t mind feeling annoyed and uncomfortable from time to time. It gets under the skin, I just can’t say if you’d like it there.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Penguin Books 2016