Sunday 27 December 2020

First post for winter and last post for the year...

It’s hard to believe that this is the last post for this whirlwind of a year, and that it’s technically the first post of winter.  Most people, myself included, seem to think that winter starts around mid-November, when the final leaves have fallen from the branches and the colours outside are mainly browns and greys, but of course this is incorrect.  I love November weather, with the bare branches silhouetted against the grey sky and just a stray dry brown leaf or two scuttering across the sidewalk.  But we’ve had snow just in time for Christmas, and it’s a bit of a winter wonderland out there right now.  Thankfully, I’ve got a steaming cup of chai and a slice of homemade zucchini loaf to keep me warm as I write this week’s post.

I read two books last week.  The first was A Family Affair by Nadine Bismuth, translated by Russell Smith, a title I surely came across on a list of CBC’s Best Canadian Books of 2020.  It is the story of several families whose lives are connected either through their work, their spouses, or their children.  As you might guess from the title, affairs, and the myriad of problems that go with them, are the central theme of this book.  Magalie is a kitchen designer whose husband, Mathieu, is cheating on her with another lawyer from his firm, so she decides to cheat on him with a colleague of her own.  Her widowed mother becomes involved with a man whose police officer son, Guillaume, becomes fixated on her.  As you can imagine, these affairs and obsessions lead to a great many issues, and we are drawn along with the characters through the complexities of these relationships to a heart-wrenching yet inevitable conclusion.  As I was reading this, I was constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be in a stable, loving relationship.  I’m sure there are messy, complicated relationships happening everywhere all the time, but I don’t know anyone who is in this situation and so it was hard to relate to it or to see this as an accurate portrayal of marriage and family; I’m also sure that there are many readers who could relate to this story, so please don't take this as a criticism.  It was interesting and well-written enough to keep me reading to the very last page, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading domestic dramas, especially those set in Montreal.

The other book I read was completely different, but so very good!  Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little was such a treat to read, a real page-turner that was unputdownable.  Marissa Dahl is a film editor in need of work.  When she gets a call from her agent for an interview, she readily goes to the meeting, but she knows nothing about the film, just that it will be directed by a famous, successful director.  Despite her reluctance due to the vagueness of the assignment, she accepts the job and is taken to a small island off the coast of Delaware, where she is expected to spend her days in the editing room.  When she learns that this film is based on a real, as-yet-unsolved murder that took place on this very island decades earlier, she begins to feel even more uneasy, a feeling that only deepens as she learns of the many mishaps and accidents, and the exceptionally high staff turnover rate that plague the filming.  The more she learns, the more frightened she becomes, but who can she turn to for help?  Then another death occurs, and she must decide if she, along with her delightfully quirky young sidekicks, Grace and Suzy, is brave enough, or foolish enough, to try to discover the truth.  WOW, this book was awesome!  It was like being on the set of a Hitchcock film, or a 1950's noir film, but also like watching a 1990's thriller, only on the page instead of the big screen.  Marissa was one of the best unlikely heroines I’ve met in a long time, and I’m so glad I took those film studies classes at university, which allowed me to appreciate nearly all the film and director references (it's amazing what you can dredge up from your memory of classes taken in the late '80s!).  This is a perfect book for any cinephile or any lover of a good Hollywood thriller.  If you are looking for an easy read to help you pass the time during this lockdown, I would highly recommend this, but be prepared to set everything else aside in order to read “just one more chapter”...

That’s all for today.  My only plan is to go for a couple of walks in the snow and maybe finish the book I started yesterday, as it is short and I’m sure I can finish it this afternoon.  Stay safe, stay busy, and keep reading! Oh, and have a Happy New Year, however you decide to celebrate!

Bye for now…

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