Thursday 4 July 2019

I was up on a stepladder at midnight - having enjoyed the BBC documentary about Edna O'Brien - trying to find my old Penguin copy of The Country Girls ... alas, it wasn't there. I'm a messy person but my books are in alphabetical order and this shouldn't happen! I felt a bit sad as I don't want any old copy of The Country Girls, I want the copy I read in 1978 (the next two volumes are named and dated in my still neat schoolgirlish hand!) with a surge of recognition ... recently escaped from the clutches of Irish nuns, I was waiting for Life to begin!
Hard to believe that Edna O'Brien is nearly 90.

After a gloomy French film - based on a gloomy story by Dostoevsky - at the ICA (grey, gloomy and life-sapping but a nice caff!) ... I rescued the morning with a visit to the best ice-cream shop in London where I perched on a pink stool that matched my strawberry and peppercorn sorbet and soaked up the lurid Cinecittà posters. And I was thrilled to see that they were selling (and using) this inspirational book by one of my heroines.

Yesterday afternoon it seemed like every American tourist in town had tickets for The Starry Messenger (that means there's a higher than usual chance of sitting behind the 7ft man who's as broad as he's tall - and sure enough I was!) The play was ... looo--oong.

Monday 1 July 2019

Not so sure about this one ... I plodded through to the end but it did feel unremittingly grim (and a bit boring and repetitive!). The premise is, what would have happened had Anne Frank survived the death camps and been reunited with her father and her diary? I'm not convinced that anybody has the right to take ownership of Anne's story ... let's leave her the truth of her own life and death, at least. She could conceivably still be living today.
The atmosphere of post-war Amsterdam was interesting, though - and the extraordinary fact that the Franks might well have been deported back to Germany.

I hadn't realised that Xinran was Mary Wesley's daughter-in-law and was inspired by Wesley's writing on women's love lives during the war to record the true stories of Chinese women across a turbulent century. I was completely riveted by The Good Women of China when I read it last year. The Promise begins with a story that must have been irresistible to any journalist (and Xinran used to host a groundbreaking radio show in China) ...  a husband's dying request - and this only happened in 2010, not in the dim and distant past - for his wife of more than 60 years to have a virginity test. The story of that marriage is heartbreaking - I was hooked from the first page - and Xinran then goes on to make contact with three younger generations of women from the same extended family. Perhaps it's not quite as good as The Good Women of China but that still means it's very good indeed.  I have some catching-up to do as I realise from the jacket notes that Xinran has written several more books;  the only other one I've read is Sky Burial, also highly recommended.