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 Gracekeepers

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.

Now this is what I call a fairy tale. Remember The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea? Like that, but a book. And maybe a bit more eerie on the side of gruesome, from time to time. And! It has a map that doesn’t just consist out of a large mass in the middle (fantasy pet peeve).

Maybe that’s because in this world, large parts of the planet are under water, only a few islands are left and parts of the human population just permanently live on ships, because there’s not enough land to go around. Some ships are churches, others are circuses, main character North was pretty much born in one, but things are threatening to chance her life on it.

Another character followed is a gracekeeper, some kind of undertaker with a bit of stranger habits than we’re used to. It all adds to the beautiful (and) strange atmosphere. Just wait until you meet the clowns.

The Gracekeepers is there for your mythological, pretty fantasy needs.

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan, Harvill Secker 2015

White Chrysanthemum

It is nearly dawn, and the semi-darkness casts strange shadows along the footpath.

Do you need to use trigger warnings when the trauma shown is part of history? White Chrysanthemum is about (Korean) comfort women, used in the Second World War. If you don’t know what that means, it means rape.

White Chrysanthemums are flowers of mourning (for the Koreans), so don’t expect a clean escape as a reader either. This is a story of one of the many, both of the side of those left behind and those taken.

And yet, or maybe because of that, Mary Lynn Bracht manages to show such an appealing, visually attractive and easily to envision world and surroundings. Maybe to show that through it all, the environment will continue existing. Maybe to show that no matter how ugly the actions of humans, the world will keep turning. Maybe the author is just really good in descriptions.

The stories of Emi and Hana are worth your time. Not just to learn, but maybe also in a way – to mourn. That they were far from the last female victims of war crimes, even if it was less than hundred years ago.

White Chrysanthemum, Mary Lynn Bracht, Chatto & Windus 2018

 

Gentlemen prefer blondes

A gentleman friend and I were dining at The Ritz last evening and he said that if I took a pencil and paper and put down all my thoughts it would make a book.

I didn’t know there was a book before there was a movie, but the title is such a solid part of entertainment (history) that when I saw the book in the library, I was sure it was related to the Marilyn Monroe’s movie. I was right.

I haven’t watched the movie (yet), but if it’s as much as cheeky fun as the book, I’ve cut my next movie night planned. The only thing you might have to get to used to is the grammar and spelling used. This is from another time after all, and Lorelei doesn’t sound like the kind of woman whom cares about language. So no, it’s not like there was never an editor involved. Heck, after a while it becomes almost as charming as Lorelei herself.

Anyway, we move through the USA and Europe in a time when two women could without a worry in the world, and plenty of men would rain gifts, money and attention on them, without (really) knowing them. Lorelei knows which one to play best, while Dorothy sometimes makes the silly mistake of getting a crush of them. London doesn’t do much to them, but Paris does, and French really isn’t that hard (is that the last time an American felt like that?)!

It’s a tiny ball of silly fun with a world so far away from our reality, that it might well be a fantasy novel.

Gentlemen prefer blondes, Anita Loos, Liveright 1925

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

The Hunting Ground

103 min.

Of hoe de invloed van geld zó leuk is. Weer een documentaire, weer met een onderwerp waar elk fatsoenlijk mens niet vrolijk van zal worden: aanranding en verkrachting op Amerikaanse schoolcampussen. En dan niet alleen dat, maar vooral ook de manier waarop deze scholen er (helemaal niet) mee omgaan. Tientallen jonge vrouwen durven het aan om te vertellen over hun situatie en hoe ze werden afgeserveerd. Omdat verkrachting op campus slecht voor het imago van de school zou zijn, omdat de verkrachter een sportster is, omdat ze geen nadruk willen leggen op hoe makkelijk studenten aan alcohol kunnen komen, omdat de studentenverenigingen een inkomstenbron zijn en dus niet afgestoot moeten worden.
the-hunting-ground-poster

De hoge heren en dames van de scholen zeggen het natuurlijk niet zo duidelijk voor de camera, want denk vooral aan dat imago en die inkomsten. Het is de strijdbaarheid van alle vrouwen die delen en meedenken om deze realiteit te veranderen dat je niet als een woedend, huilend brok vreten zit te kijken. Sommige vrouwen vertellen zonder enig zichtbare moeite dat ze verkracht zijn, anderen kunnen niet eens de interviewer aankijken. Dit is de schaamte die de autoriteiten zouden moeten voelen, maar bij hen gaat het vooral om de portemonnee.

The Hunting Ground is een afwisseling van talking heads van beide kanten, plus een actie die op een gegeven moment nation wide groeit. Die actie van verschillende vrouwen is ook de hoge noot waarmee de documentaire sluit en je – hopelijk – het idee geeft dat er een einde aan de tunnel is. Dat deze helaas van de kant van de jeugd en studenten af moet komen, in plaats van degenen waarvan wordt verwacht dat ze voor hen zorgen … dat is misschien wel grond voor een andere documentaire, en hopelijk motivatie om je nooit door passiviteit te laten tackelen. Kijk de documentaire ook vooral om het idee dat de aanvaller altijd een grote, enge man is te vernietigen. Wie weet kan het iemand helpen.

The Hunting Ground, Chain Camera Pictures 2015, Netflix

Who’s That Girl?

Life through a phone is a lie.
It always feels a bit like betrayal, when I call chick lit/romance smart because it so easily implies that all books in this genre are dumb, drab or both. I don’t like the term chick lit for starters anyway, why is it called ‘slice of life’ or ‘coming of age’ for men but for us again cut down to ‘chick’ and ‘lit’? I’ve never met a woman that called herself (unironically) chick. But this is a side note.
Who’s That Girl? has a premise that made groan a bit; the main character allows the groom to kiss her on his wedding day and she flees the absolute mayhem that follows. All that, and it needs almost 500 pages? Honestly, I can’t even remember why I took this book from the library, but I’m glad I did. Because Mhairi McFarlane shows oh so realistically how the victim is blamed, how bullying isn’t just something for (high) school and that it’s easy to outrace yourself and your needs without really noticing it. So Who’s That Girl? is definitely a coming of age, lessons learned book for the thirty-something woman.
Besides all that, it’s fun. It’s heartfelt, whatever Edie does and tries, especially when she starts adjusting to being back in Nottingham (having fled there), connecting with her family and neighbours (in a way), and finding satisfaction from work (ghostwriting the biography of an actor). She tries and she stumbles but it never looks like it happens For The Plot or as filler. Okay, of course there’s some stuff that will make you harumpf in (embarrassed) disbelief, but none of it feels quirky because it has to be quirky. Honestly, if this can happen when you’re half way into your thirties, I’m looking forward to it.
Who’s That Girl?, Mhairi McFarlane, Harper Collins 2016