The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

Anthony collects items that people have lost, and stores them at home, labelling each one and sometimes using them as inspiration for his writing. In his will, he leaves all his possessions and his home to his housekeeper, Laura, who decides to try and reunite the lost items with their owners.

I bought this story before going on holiday as I wanted something light to read, and this was described as ‘feel good’. I enjoyed it initially but it quickly became very predictable, sickly sweet and there were just too many coincidences and clichés. The appearance (for want of a better word) of the ghost in the last few chapters was the final nail in the coffin for me.

Advertisements

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

The dying wizard Drum Billet passes on his powers to a baby, who he believes is an eighth son of an eighth son. However, it turns out that this baby is in fact female. As Eskarina grows up the town witch, Granny Weatherwax, tries to teach her how to use witch magic, but the power of wizards is different and so they decide to head to the Unseen University where they try and challenge the traditional misogynistic views of wizards.

This is the third novel in the Discworld series and it is full of typical Pratchett humour, from the obvious (Esk’s home town is called Bad Ass) to the more subtle wordplay. I’m enjoying working my way through the series and meeting new characters along the way.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

In the second instalment of the Kingsman films, almost all the members of the secret spy association are wiped out within the first 10 minutes, meaning that the remaining two members Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) have to head to the USA to meet their American counterparts, the Statesmen. They work together, along with the resurrected Harry (Colin Firth) to try and defeat Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the leader of a drugs cartel who lives in a recreation of 1950s America including a diner, bowling alley and cinema in Cambodia. She has poisoned her latest batch of drugs and will only release the antidote if the US President agrees to end the war on drugs.

As with the first film the action sequences are fantastic, fast paced and almost cartoon like. The highlight has to be the Elton John cameo which was absolutely hilarious, and I’m glad that Harry was brought back. The main weak points for me where the Glastonbury scenes (where Eggsy has to plant a tracking device inside someone) and the scenes with Princess Tilde. There wasn’t any chemistry between the actors and I thought Hanna Alström was a little wooden.

Overall this film was thoroughly enjoyable and a great sequel. I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as the first film, but I think that’s just because that was completely new and original. Fans of the original should definitely see the Golden Circle.

The Wipers Times – Cardiff New Theatre

The Wipers Times by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman is based on the incredible true story of a group of officers who found a printing press in the ruins of a bombed building in Ypres during the First World War. Captain Roberts (James Dutton) and Lieutenant Pearson (George Kemp) decided to staring printing a satirical newspaper for the troops called The Wipers Times, the name coming from the mispronunciation of ‘Ypres’ by British soldiers. It was hugely successful and managed to run for two years despite the horrors of the war and disapproval from higher ranks.

Inspired by the real newspaper (Ian Hislop joked in the post-show talk that 99% of the script was from the original papers!) the play is very funny, and includes songs in the style of music hall renditions, poems, adverts and sketches. A lot of the cast played several characters and were brilliant and full of energy. It is natural that a lot of literature about the war emphasises the terror, and rightly so, but as Hislop said after the performance The Wipers Times truly showed what soldiers thought and felt during the battles, as many of the war poems which are so well known today were actually written after the war.

The most important result of Hislop and Newman’s discovery of The Wipers Times must be that they managed to secure obituaries for Roberts and Pearson in The Times. However, this play is also a fantastic tribute to their creation, and is very uplifting.

The Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie

Colonel Protheroe is murdered in the vicarage, not long after the vicar Len Clement has expressed his dislike of the man. Protheroe was not a popular man in the village of St Mary Mead and the list of possible suspects seems long, but luckily an elderly observant woman by the name of Miss Marple is on the case.

This is the first Marple novel by Agatha Christie and it is typical of her type of story – lots of characters and plenty of red herrings. I enjoyed reading it very much and I didn’t work out who the murderer was. I was surprised that the story was narrated by the vicar but it worked well, and I liked the characterisations in general. However there seemed to be several similar gossipy old ladies and it was difficult to keep track of which one was which. However this was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more Agatha Christie in future.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

In 1930s Edinburgh, Miss Jean Brodie has chosen her six favourite girls in her class, the Brodie Set, and she chooses to give them what she believes is a more valuable education, in matters such as her personal love life, travels, art history and classical studies. Miss Brodie informs the girls regularly that she is in her prime, and tells them of her love triangle with Gordon Lowther, the singing teacher, and Teddy Lloyd who teaches art. As the girls grow older, Miss Brodie tries to live vicariously through them.

This novel is short and easy to read. There are several jumps in time but this doesn’t make the narrative confusing at all. It keeps the mystery in the story as we are told very early on that one of Brodie Set betrays Miss Brodie, but the culprit isn’t revealed until the end.

I enjoyed this novel very much, and liked the writing and the cleverly structured narrative.

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father decides to stop being a minister and leave the church due to religious doubts, Margaret Hale and her parents move to the north of England from Hampshire. Although she isn’t keen on her new industrial surroundings at first, Margaret learns of the local mill workers’ poverty and suffering, and develops a sense of social justice. When she tries to discuss the treatment of employees with the mill owner, John Thornton, a tempestuous relationship develops.

I enjoyed the characterisation in the novel, and particularly liked Margaret as a character. The matters of social justice that are raised would have been innovative at the time, but I felt the novel was too long and at times unfortunately a bit of a slog to read.

North by Northwest – Theatre Royal Bath

Based on the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, North by Northwest is a playful, clever and funny adaptation.

Roger Thornhill (Jonathan Watton), a successful advertising executive, is abducted by thugs who believe that he is a man called George Kaplan. What follows is a cat and mouse game which includes spies, and chases over Mount Rushmore and through corn fields by a plane.

What made this production so clever was the stage effects. On both sides of the stage there were tables with miniature models and a camera. Members of the company, fully visible to the audience, would move the models and the images were projected on the back of the stage. This was how the plane chase and Mount Rushmore were shown, and it was extremely clever and very funny.

I haven’t seen the original film so I cannot compare, but this was a thrilling and hugely enjoyable production with a charismatic leading actor. It deserves to transfer to the West End.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death – James Runcie

This novel is six short mystery stories starring Sidney Chambers, a young priest in the 1950s who helps his friend Geordie, a Police Inspector, to solve the crimes.

I enjoy the ITV Grantchester series set on the books and I was looking forward to reading the first novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. I like Sidney as a character. He is far from the stereotypical vicar, and he is depicted as a ‘normal’ human being who enjoys an occasional drink and likes jazz music. There was also a good mixture of mysteries, such as murder, theft and forgery. A great light read, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

The Addams Family – Wales Millennium Centre

Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love with a ‘normal’ human, Lucas (Oliver Ormson). When his parents come to meet the Addams family at their home, it leads to some secrets, transformations and humour.

This musical is good fun with some amusing moments, and it has a strong score by Andrew Lippa. I particularly liked ‘When you’re an Addams’, ‘Pulled’, ‘Just around the corner’ and ‘Crazier than you’. Cameron Blakely is fantastic as Gomez, and is without a doubt the strongest cast member. Carrie Hope Fletcher is the strongest singer, but personally I feel her voice is better than her acting. Samantha Womack was good as the deadpan Morticia and Les Dennis was likeable as Uncle Fester.

The storyline is a little weak, but it’s a very enjoyable show and perfect for a night of escapism.