One morning at the beginning of 2019, when I was in my London flat, the telephone rang.Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of The Crown, Anne Glennconner, Hachette Books 2020
If you feel like you need more after watching all of The Crown in one go, are a fan of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ or just want to see how the aristocratic one percent lives – this is your book.
Because Lady in Waiting Anne Glennconner (she’s Princess Margaret’s friend and Lady in Waiting) doesn’t only come from that category – pretty much everyone she knows does. And those that don’t, are celebrities through music, art and film – the only thing missing is the aristocratic element. Those are also the only people that aren’t related to her or her husband in some way — because in England royalty and the level below that — everyone is.
Anne (I honestly don’t know if she should get a title) lives through a large part of the twentieth century and goes through almost the same amount of houses as she goes through years – on many continents. With her anxious, aggressive, loud husband she has five children who provide their own problems, while she has to be head of the household of several households and take care of Princess Margaret in every possible way as soon as she’s around. In a fictional story an editor would have told the author to start culling this huge amount of detail, story lines and disasters 100 pages in. But this is someone’s life.
Mostly it just shows that heritage, money and a network won’t prevent you from suffering trauma, while simultaneously making you see how much of a circus it all is. Honestly, if this is her truth; give me fiction.
The first time I wished for death – like, really wished its bony hand would tap me on the shoulder and say “this way”- two bags from Stanley’s Fruit and Vegetables sat shotgun in my car.Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, Christie Tate, Avid Reader Press 2020
I guess that mental health is a theme of mine now. With The Midnight Library, Crazy Ex Girlfriend and this one, you could call it a mental-health-trilogy. This one is the only non-fictional one of the three, although Rachel Bloom has admitted to her own issues with mental health inspiring CEG.
In Group, Christie has a collection of them. Issues with relationships, families, romance and food all lead to that first sentence. Therapy isn’t new to her either, but without effect, so why even try the worse option of group therapy?
As someone with little therapy-experience, some of the things her therapist put her through are wild. Some of her reactions to it are even wilder. Is this how (group) therapy works in the USA? There’s a strong truth-is-stranger-than-fiction vibe, but it also shows that when it comes to mental health that desperate measures are the only measures sometimes.
It’s sad and frustrating how stuck Christie is, and impressive how she turned her story into something appealing and entertaining. This isn’t a pamphlet for group therapy or a complaint about society’s ideas about adulthood, relationships and therapy. It’s the story of a group, and it’s a good one.
Sometimes it seems like your unconscious makes the decision for you. Or my Netflix-list just needs some sparkle. Either way, some recently watched films that aren’t particularly.. happy.
First of all, an Asian award-gatherer: the Taiwanese A Sun. In a family the younger son is a screw-up, the older son tries to pick up behind him, the father pulls away from every family member while the mother – pretty passively – despairs. How utter sadness can look beautiful in a solemn way.
Next there’s Jonas, or another edition to the Bury Your Gays trope. This French film could have been an adorable coming-of-age, slice of life story of a homosexual (or bisexual?) teen discovering his identity, but instead we get violence.
Okay, maybe something non-fiction? With The Edge of Democracy you soon wish it was fiction. How absolute power can destroy democracy while people dance in the streets because media and moguls told them that this is the right way. Brazil, I’m so sorry.
Well, at least this post is international: my last offer is Nigerian Prince. The set-up sounds a bit like a comedy: American teen is sent to Nigeria to become familiar with his origins while one of his cousins is a scam-artist that takes him under his wing.
But no. The lack of communication between the teen and his parents hurts; the reality of having to scam Americans and Europeans because there is no other way to make money if you’re not part of the corruption is depressing; the open ending might make you anger without anywhere to put it.
Pfew, I’m going back to The Bold Type now.
In April, millions of tiny flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma. Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI, David Grann, Doubleday 2016
With some books, it’s clear how it could be turned into a film or TV-series. Some seem to be written for that transition, this one doesn’t. And yet: guess which story is turned into a film.
This could be a deep-digging, terrifying and beautiful look at the wild west in the USA and the horrible treatment of native people; there’s so much happening that you might wonder how it could have all happened in just a couple of years. That also means that plenty of those details are going to be cut out: this film isn’t going to be six hours long, of course.
Because in the beginning it’s simple: Osage people are killed by white people because of their riches. Corruption and racism reign the small towns, including the law enforcement. How is crime solved when the victims are viewed as less than human? The murders are blatant, the villains are almost cartoon-y evil, and the incompetence is staggering.
It all makes for a very detailed western – the birth of the FBI is really the least interesting part of the entire story. It’s – besides the spotlight on corruption and racism – a demonstration of journalism and research: the author just kept on digging and flourished by other people’s needs to document their lives.
Truth is stranger than fiction, indeed.
I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn. Educated, Tara Westover, HarperCollins 2018
“Holy shit” might simultaneously be very fitting and entirely inappropriate for these memoirs from a woman that grows in Mormon surroundings with a family that seems to be a magnet for mental and physical disaster.
Tara’s father is sure that the End of Days is near, Iluminati are real and that the government is out to get you and brainwash you. The children are home-schooled and are expected to devote their entire lives to the family. Some of them do so easier than others, and not everyone has the mental health to do so.
Straighter put: there’s several not-diagnosed issues walking around and as everything is God’s will or a government-threat, there’s no room to change things. Even in cases of life or death.
Through a combination of circumstances and clear decisions; Tara starts to see things differently, starts to develop differently. Educated is the story of where it started, how it went and where it (for now) ended. It’s also a pamphlet for education, mental health care and a supportive society.
Only idiots aren’t afraid of flying.One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Koul, Doubleday 2017
I didn’t know about this woman’s existence before reading this collection of articles/slices of life. Possibly it was the title that caught my attention, and I always consciously try to read more by women of colour. Another thing I appreciated was how her view of India juxtaposed with the one mentioned in The Far Field. As someone who wants to visit India one day, it was nice to hear that it’s not an unsafe for white people pile of trash after all.
But I deter; this is about Scaachi Koul, not me. A Canadian woman with Indian parents and the body, hangups and cultural differences that come with it. She discusses these in a dry tone and also explains why: women have little room – women of colour even less to have any kind of emotion that isn’t desired.
In under 200 pages she shows both her life as that of an immigrant daughter, a brown woman in Canada, just another person growing up.
Some articles are very recognisable, some might make you cringe. As far as insights go: consider me further insighted.
Er was een vrouw, de dochter van Ketil Platneus, die Aud de Diepzinnige heette en koningin was geweest.Beschavingen, Laurent Binet, Meulenhoff 2020
Ik ben een grote fan van ‘wat-als’-verhalen, en Binet’s vorige was mij ook zeer positief blij gebleven, maar in dit geval leverden beiden niet wat ik verwachtte: een boek dat je niet opzij kunt leggen.
Deze keer gaat het om kolonisatie en dan vooral van Midden- en Zuid-Amerika. Wat als Europeanen dat niet was gelukt, en de Inka’s deze kant op waren gekomen? Een flinke ‘wat-als’, en op deze manier eens de bekende geschiedenis bekijken: prima ja graag.
Het eerste dat mij stoorde was de aanwezigheid van de auteur, die heb ik er nooit graag bij. Daarna zwalkte de toon soms naar geschiedenisdocent in plaats van roman; encyclopendieën lezen nu eenmaal minder lekker weg.
Tot slot, al is dit zeer persoonlijk, vind ik het jammer dat er maar een klein tijdbestek is ingezet. Hoe had dit impact op gouden eeuwen, de VOC, Noord-Amerika en andere continenten? Wanneer ging het mis, als het mis zou gaan?
Dit voelde vooral als een opzetje dat Michael Bay of Mel Gibson gaat gebruiken voor een verfilming in weinig meer dan naam zodat er veel bloed kan vloeien. Amalfi (Italië) zal ze vast verwelkomen voor mooie plaatjes.
You see, the giant Nanabijjou made a deal.Seven Fallen Feathers; Racism, death and hard truths in a Northern city, Tanya Talaga, Anansi Press 2017
I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a massive uprising worldwide because of all of the abuse indigenous people have been put through. Well, I do understand, but I don’t. No, this isn’t a light, happy read.
Seven Fallen Feathers are seven indigenous teenagers that are mauled, killed and spit out by a society that doesn’t have any room for them and doesn’t care about it either. This is Canada, but I’m sure it can be applied worldwide. Tanya Talaga gathers information about cases in the past decade that have been – one after another – just written off as accidents while plenty of signs point to the opposite. While doing that, she also shows life for indigenous people in Canada, their history and contemporary reality of endless racism and abuse and the government that is supposed to care be absolutely uncaring.
It’s an endless train wreck; after a while you just know not to expect better from police, society and government. The hand dealt is five fingers short and rotten thoroughly, but only excuses follow.
For someone who fell in love with the country, it’s an ugly eye-opener. But looking away leads to ignorance, and that’s never a good thing. Through all this, Talaga manages to show the beautiful sides, the strange and wonderful sides of the indigenous people. If only more would see.
Free Fall (Freier fall) “The German Brokeback Mountain“. Sweet, sometimes sexy, but sadly also straight from the Gay Drama Clichés Play Book – including biphobia.
Kedi a Turkish documentary about the special connection the city Istanbul (and its inhabitants) has with (street) cats. Prepare yourself for burly men softened up by kittens, beautiful shots and a whole other view on Turkey.
What will people say (Hva vil folk si) shows a Norwegian teen getting the short stick in the culture clash between I- and we-cultures. It’s sad and frustrating and completely carried by the main actor.
Our relationship was over before it began.
I’ve read another memoir. Maybe it reads easier when you don’t know the person writing it, or the recent ones just were written entertainingly and well. I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Michael Ausiello is an entertainment writer, and this story is about how his partner dies. With a title like this there’s little surprise to the ending of his story, but Ausiello manages to write it in such a way that you start to doubt that title – the man knows what works to keep your reader compelled, after all. So there’s chapters about the highs and lows of their relationship, the beginnings and (almost) break ups. He writes himself down while his partner is plucked from the heavens, even when he’s being quite terrible.
It’s a story very close to someone; and to recognise that these people are(/were) really alive makes it sometimes terribly uncomfortable. Should the reader be around of another round of bad news or self-doubt? Is it not too close, to follow someone’s mourning on this level?
Because Spoiler Alert is about love and loss and other four letter words, but also very much about Michael Ausiello.
Spoiler Alert: the Hero Dies; a memoir of love, loss and other four letter words, Michael Ausiello, Atria Books 2017