Monthly Archives: August 2010

Blackwood Farm


I have just finished reading Blackwood Farm, by Anne Rice (http://www.annerice.com/). Has any of you ever read her vampire books? I hadn’t until now. Funnily enough, I didn’t start with the first one in the series (“Interview with the Vampire“), but with the last-but-one (Blackwood Farm). The reason is that I wanted to read it in e-book format (on Amazon’s Kindle) and Blackwood Farm was available but not the first one in the series. Rice’s vampire novels are epics which take us into a world of their own. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. The writing is great. Rice is able to paint vivid, colourful pictures in her readers’ minds. The setting for Blackwood Farm is Louisiana, and after reading the book, I find I want to go there! Blackwood Farm tells the story of the Blackwood family, from the initial ancestor Manfred Blackwood and his first, beloved wife Virginia Lee, to Tarquin Blackwood (Quinn), the last one in the family, who also happens to be the narrator and the vampire. What I really liked is that there is very little blood drinking. It is in fact a subtle mix of supernatural characters (the vampires, the witches, the spirits and the ghosts) and totally ordinary citizens leading ordinary (or not always so ordinary) lives. You can’t help falling in love with the Blackwood family and its unusual fate, and in particular sweet Aunt Queen. The plot is solid and you find you have to turn the pages until all is revealed – and there is a lot to reveal, trust me. I found myself so drawn into the story that I have already purchased the sequel (and last one in the series), Blood Canticle.

Incidently Anne Rice has been in the media again recently. She is a fascinating character, who is not afraid to publicise her points of view on various things, and religion in particular. She was raised as a catholic, but left religion for years (She went through difficult times after losing a five-year old daughter to leukaemia, and recently losing her husband.) A decade ago, she decided to embrace Christianity again, and that’s when she left vampires for angels and other celestial beings. Now, it seems she’s backtracking from that. Here is what she recently wrote on Facebook: “Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

I am a big fan of religions (please note the “s” at the end of the word) and of personal beliefs, and have always shied away from churches and religious institutions, which far too often seem to be more interested in power and control than in doing and saying the right things. Rice’s son Christopher (a writer in his own right) is gay, and I can fully understand why Anne Rice can’t stand the recent attacks on gays and lesbians in the US (I’m 100% with her on that one). I’m not entirely sure why Rice felt the need to publicise her new love for Christianity in the first place, but I like her latest stance on the matter. In any case, it makes her an interesting character.

On another note, I am writing this post from London, which I will be leaving tomorrow for Paris and country France. As a consequence, you may not hear from me for a while. I will have no Internet connection! I am sure it’s going to feel weird, but what better way to disconnect? I am however taking lots of books with me, so I’ll have many reviews to post when I come back to the world of the living. Watch this space!

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Animal Kingdom


Another long flight, this time from Hong Kong to London (nearly thirteen hours), and the opportunity to read and read, and watch more movies. I saw Animal Kingdom, the debut feature from writer/director David Michod. I enjoyed the film and highly recommend it. “Welcome to the Melbourne underworld,” says the film’s website (http://www.animalkingdomthefilm.com.au/). Joshua Cody sees his mother OD and finds himself alone in the world. He calls upon his grandmother Janine (long estranged from her daughter), who welcomes him in her home…. Joshua’s nightmare has only just begun. His grandmother is the matriarch of a clan of thugs, who will drag the poor boy into their dark world. Joshua’s uncles are mad, scary, ruthless, and very dangerous. Joshua will play along until he finds himself unable to cope (I don’t want to spoil the movie here, but something terrible happens). He ends up in the middle of a battle between clans and the police, which turns bloody and more dangerous every day. I found the end of the movie (the last five minutes) terribly strong.

The underworld is not really my favourite topic, but its treatment is perfect. We live the lives of the Cody family, the dramas, the angst, the need to act – and then someone commits the irreparable, and we can only witness how the nightmare develops into something that no one can stop. The acting is superb. I loved Jacki Weaver in Grandma Cody, Ben Mendelsohn in Andrew Cody, and James Frecheville in Joshua. And of course, Guy Pearce (as in Memento, an amazing film, for those who have not seen it) as Nathan Leckie, a senior homicide detective. Make sure the sun is shining outside when you leave the cinema! Joke apart, Animal Kingdom is dark, powerful, and unsettling. It was the winner of the Sundance Film Festival 2010. Four stars.

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Breath


Breath, by Australian writer Tim Winton, won the 2009 Miles Franklin Award, and as usual, I found myself reading it a little later than most. It’s as if I was saving it for later, like a last piece of chocolate. That’s how I feel with Winton’s writing, beautiful, evocative, alive, never overdone. Breath tells the story of two thrill-seeking boys, Bruce and Loonie, in the early 1970s, whose attraction to water leads them astray. They meet a mysterious man named Sando, who will teach them to surf and search for extremes.  Soon the two boys become more and more reckless in their endeavours, even if Bruce (the narrator) feels something is not quite right and wonders where this is leading. Loonie and Bruce drift apart in the process. Sando’s presence becomes somewhat sinister, and when he and Loonie abandon Bruce to go surfing in Indonesia, the narrator starts a tortured relationship with Sando’s American wife, Eva. Eva carries ghosts from her past and drags Bruce into a dangerous downward spiral, from which, in a way, he will never recover.

I enjoyed the book. Winton’s writing is as exact and subtle as always, and the story, although sinister and scary, is just another tale of growing-up in a small country town and of looking for one’s purpose in life. In fact, Breath is a story about what it means to live in extremes, in short, to be alive. Beware though, the novel can be very dark and unsettling at times.

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