My Mother and Other Strangers (PBS)
If you missed this little gem from last summer, it’s worth seeking out. Set in the village of Moybeg in Northern Ireland in 1943, it’s the story of a poor town invaded (not literally) by the presence of an American air base. At the time, Francis Coyne is a rather quiet, but very observant, boy of nine or ten. In voice-over, the adult Francis reflects on the events of the time and adds in what he only realized later.
His father is a farmer who also runs the local pub. His mother is both school teacher and shopkeeper. She deals in ration books and foodstuffs. Life in the village is simultaneously unsettled or enlivened by the presence of the airmen; which it is depends upon whether you are a kid who finds it exciting or an old-timer who hates having his life disrupted. Francis’ mother, Rose, is attracted to Capt. Dreyfuss from the base and he to her. He seems to offer the romance and poetry lacking in her marriage to Michael.
We’ve seen the first season, and given the way it ended, I feel sure there must be more to come. Very nicely done!
Alias Grace (Netflix)
I read Margaret Atwood’s historical novel of the same name when it was published and remembered being impressed by it. Atwood was involved in this TV adaptation and I’m finding it also well done and compelling. Grace, in prison for committing several murders, has been taken up as a cause by Dr. Jordan, a young doctor of the mind. She sits with daily interviews with him away from her cell and recounts her life before prison and the events leading up to the murders. He is a patient, yet persistent, questioner, but also dreams about her. She is seemingly demure, but with a very active, sharp mind, and attractive to boot. The pardon committee has taken up her case, and Dr. Jordan is being pressured to finish his evaluation quickly, something he is loath to do.
Broadchurch, Season 3 (Amazon)
Broadchurch remains one of the best crime series I’ve ever seen. Olivia Coleman and David Tennant as sparring detective partners, Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy, are excellent, but so are the supporting cast who play other members of the community, many we’ve come to know in previous seasons. I like Broadchurch’s s more deliberate pacing (compared to some American shows), and I’m finding the handling of the rape victim and how she fares realistic and compelling.
Murder on the Orient Express. Like most of my generation, I’ve seen the original 1934 film version of this Agatha Christie mystery as well as the more recent television series starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. This movie, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, is good, but not great. As one of my sisters noted, it’s slow to start out and then picks up a bit. Branagh has some of the exaggerated mannerisms and fussiness of other Poirots, but there is less humor or fizz in this version. It has a stellar cast (Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Cruz et al), and I had completely forgotten the ending so that was a surprise.
I currently have two books going. One is Richard Holmes’ Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, and the other is Unfinished Woman, a memoir by Lillian Hellman. Both are older works; Holmes’ book came out in 1985 and Hellman’s in 1969. Holmes recounts several journeys he made tracing the paths taken by historic figures whose biographies he will later write. Unfinished Woman is my pick for the January book group discussion here. I first read it several years after it was published, and it’s a different experience reading it so many years later. I am now older than Hellman was when she wrote it! My opinion of her ramblings keeps varying as I make progress. More to come on both titles.
Note: All photos ©JWFarrington (some rights reserved).