Book review: The Master by Colm Tóibín

The MasterThe Master by Colm Tóibín
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My rating: 3.5 stars

This is the fictionalized story of Henry James life in the period of 1895 to 1899.

The author describes his turbulent family life, including the suicide of his father, the tragic and early death of his sister Alice, his cousin Minny Temple who suffered from tuberculosis.

Along the narrative, the author show the influence and/or friendship of some authors on Henry James during the referred period of time of this book: John Gray, Oscar Wilde among many others.

His strong friendship with Constance Fenimore Woolson – the great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper – played an important role in James’s females characters.

His relationship with Hendrik Christian Andersen is also described in this book.

Another interesting book on the same subject  is A Private Life Of Henry James – Two Women & His Art by Lyndall Gordon.

4* Nora Webster
3.5* The Master
TBR Brooklyn
TBR The Blackwater Lightship
TBR The Testament of Mary
TBR The Heather Blazing

Book review: Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal

Closely Watched TrainsClosely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From BBc Radio 4 -Drama:
It is 1945. For gauche young apprentice Milos Hrma, life at the sleepy railway station in Bohemia is full of complex preoccupations. There is the burden of dispatching German troop trains; the shocking scandal of Dispatcher Hubicka; and the vexing problem of his sexual performance. Classic comedy drama from a celebrated Czech writer.

Director/Producer Gary Brown

CLOSELY OBSERVED TRAINS, which became the award-winning Jiri Menzel film of the ‘Prague Spring’, is a classic of postwar literature, a small masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism which fully justifies Hrabal’s reputation.

Milos is played by John Bradley who is Samwell Tarley in ‘Game of Thrones’. This is John’s first radio play.

Book review: Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir by Michael Peppiatt

Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A MemoirFrancis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir by Michael Peppiatt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Book of the Week:
Adrian Scarborough reads Michael Peppiatt’s intimate and indiscreet account of his thirty-year friendship with the defining artist of our time.

Michael Peppiatt met Francis Bacon in June 1963 in Soho’s French House to request an interview for a student magazine. Bacon invited him to lunch, and over oysters and Chablis they began a friendship and a no-holds-barred conversation that would continue until Bacon’s death in 1992.

The Soho photographer, John Deakin, who introduced the young student to the famous artist, called Peppiatt ‘Bacon’s Boswell’. And for decades, Peppiatt accompanied Bacon on his nightly round of prodigious drinking from grand hotel to louche club to casino, witnessing all aspects of Bacon’s ‘gilded gutter life’, as well as meeting the likes of Lucian Freud, East End thugs, Andy Warhol and the Duke of Devonshire. He also frequently discussed painting with Bacon in his studio, where only the artist’s closest friends were ever admitted.

Despite the chaos Bacon created around him Peppiatt managed to record scores of their conversations ranging over every aspect of life and art, love and death. And here he shows Bacon close-up, grand and petty, tender and treacherous by turn, and often quite unlike the myth that has grown up around him.

Reader: Adrian Scarborough
Writer: Michael Peppiatt is an art historian, curator and writer. His 1996 biography of Francis Bacon was chosen as a ‘Book of the Year’ by the New York Times.
Abridger: Richard Hamilton
Producer: Justine Willett.

Episode 1:
The young ingenue Peppiatt is taken into Bacon’s circle.

Episode 2:
Peppiatt becomes Bacon’s Boswell, and there is mischief in Morocco.

Episode 3:
High and low-life in Paris.

Episode 4:
Death, guilt and inspiration.

Episode 5:
Peppiatt loses a ‘father’, and becomes a man.

Book review: A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

A Severed HeadA Severed Head by Iris Murdoch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – 15 Minute Drama:
When Martin Lynch-Gibbon’s wife runs off with her analyst and his best friend, Palmer Anderson, the three characters attempt to behave in a civilised manner; but there is the matter of Martin’s mistress and Palmer’s sister to contend with and undoubtedly the thin veneer of civilisation will crack in Murdoch’s witty and wise story.

Episode 2:
Martin’s wife may have left him for his friend and her analyst, Palmer Anderson, but they are determined that they should remain on civilised terms. But how does Martin now feel about his own mistress, Georgie, and why does Honor Klein, Palmer’s frightening sister, insist on passing judgement on Martin’s behaviour? Murdoch’s witty satire on analysis and amorality.

Episode 3:
Martin is forced to explain his adultery to his adulterous wife and her lover and finds his civilised front buckling in an unexpected fashion.

Episode 4:
As Martin finds himself evermore enthralled by the Goddess like qualities of Honor Klein he finds himself entering a world that seems almost mythological in its practices and would leave modern day society outraged.

Episode 5:
The merry-go round of partner swapping comes to a grinding halt but just who will end up with who?
There are shocks and surprises right up to the end of Murdoch’s blackly comic satire.

Book review: Iris Murdoch – Dream Girl by Robin Brooks

Iris Murdoch: Dream GirlIris Murdoch: Dream Girl by Robin Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Drama:
Helen McCrory stars as Iris Murdoch in a hallucinogenic trip through the novelist’s life, by Robin Brooks – part of the Iris Murdoch season on BBC Radio 4.

When Iris, lying asleep beside husband John, wakes in the middle of a midsummer night, she discovers that she is to be visited by three spirits, and is to be conducted on a journey through both her past and her writing.

But who are these spirits accompanying her? What do they have to show her about her past misdemeanours, and how art may be made from them? And what dread monster coils in the shadows, ready to strike?

Iris Murdoch’s spectacularly bad behaviour and her extraordinary rise as a famous and popular novelist through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, are the themes behind this inventive new comedy drama. Iris was a woman with an insatiable appetite for life, love and literature – her experiences and numerous love affairs with both sexes shaped her writing and fed into her novels.

The Iris Murdoch season on Radio 4 also includes dramatisations of two of her best novels – ‘The Sea, The Sea’ starring Jeremy Irons and ‘A Severed Head’ starring Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Sound Designer: Alisdair McGregor

Director/Producer: Fiona McAlpine
An Allegra production for BBC Radio 4.

Book review: The Darkness Of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain

The Darkness Of Wallis SimpsonThe Darkness Of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Afternoon Drama:
A play imagining the last days of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, the woman for whom King Edward VIII gave up the throne of England in 1936. Wallis is now 79 years old. Edward has been dead for fourteen years.

The play pivots upon a single dramatic conceit: that Wallis, now entering the darkness of approaching death, has forgotten every single thing about Edward. Her entire part in what an American journalist once called “the greatest story since the Resurrection” has completely gone from her mind. Other moments in her life she can vividly recall, but the world-shaking events at the heart of it are lost to her – apparently forever.

She lies bedridden in her house in Paris. A lawyer friend, Maitre Suzanne Blum has taken charge of her care. But, believing that Wallis has deliberately chosen to forget her “role in history”, Blum is determined to force her to remember this vital bit of the past, before she dies.

Original Music by David Chilton

Producer: Gordon House
A Goldhawk Essential production for BBC Radio 4.

4* Restoration
3* Trespass
5* The Colour
2* Music & Silence
2* Merivel: A Man of His Time
2* The End of Love
3* The American Lover
2* The Road Home
3* The Darkness Of Wallis Simpson
TR Sacred Country

Book review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

FRom BBC Radio 4 – Book at Bedtime:
In the literary event of the year Harper Lee’s explosive second novel has finally been published. Believed lost for decades after the publication of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, this book revisits much-loved characters, this time through adult eyes. This abridgement for Book at Bedtime brings a compelling and important release to Radio 4.

Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch travels from New York to Maycomb for her annual visit home. It’s always a relief to slip into the comfortable rhythms of the South; to spend time with her beloved father Atticus and rekindle her spiky relationship with Aunt Alexandra. But mid-50s Alabama is not the same place where young Scout spent idyllic summers with brother Jem, and the 26-year old will be betrayed and have her trust shattered before she is able to become her own woman.

Harper Lee is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, a book which has been studied, loved, wept over and revered by generations since its publication in 1960. She lives in Monroeville, Alabama.

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Written by Harper Lee

Abridged by Robin Brooks

Produced by Eilidh McCreadie.

Episode 1/10:
Jean Louise Finch is on the train south to Maycomb to visit her father Atticus.

Episode 2/10:
Back in Maycomb with her family, Jean Louise is both delighted and infuriated by them.

Episode 3/10:
Hank surprises Jean Louise with his future plans as the young couple get Maycomb taking.

Episode 4/10:
After two blissful days at home, Jean Louise’s world is about to be shattered.

Episode 5/10:
Reeling from her discovers, Jean Louise seeks comfort from one of her oldest friend.

Episode 6/10:
Shaker by her encounter with Calpurnia, Jean Louise has forgotten her aunt’s gathering.

Episode 7/10:
Jean Louise calls on her Uncle Jack in search of a sane voice in Maycomb.

Episode 8/10:
Looking for Atticus, Jean Louise is about to waylaid.

Episode 9/10:
Jean Louise reluctantly confronts Atticus about the Citizen’s Council.

Episode 10/10:
Heartbroken after her fighting with Atticus , Jean Louise packs for New York.