I was able to tear myself away from Netflix long enough to read a few books in the last fortnight. It was a struggle, people, and the results were mixed. I liked but did not love The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. The main character was not as captivating to me as she appeared to be to the other characters in the book, so the story (which effectively chronicles her life and romantic affairs) did not strike me as particularly interesting. I kept waiting for the real plot to show up, and was surprised and disappointed when I got to the end of the book and realized that there was no more. The whole thing seemed to be roman a clef based on Mitford’s own life and that of her various sisters (conveniently white-washed of Nazi affiliations), which makes it all the more puzzling that I didn’t enjoy the book more — I love reading about the Mitfords. For my money, forget The Pursuit of Love and go read The Sisters, a non-fiction biography of the family by Mary S. Lovell. Then, if you enjoy historical gossip, dig up The Viceroy’s Daughters by Anne de Courcy; it’s the story of another set of aristocratic sisters (the Curzons), who ended up being connected to the Mitfords through the indiscriminately philandering Tom Mosley (second husband of Diana Mitford, prototype for The Pursuit of Love’s protagonist).

Moving on, I really enjoyed Devil in the White City, a non-fiction account of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago and the criminal career of serial killer H.H. Holmes, who operated a “house of horrors” close to the exposition grounds during the same time period. I’m not going to lie: I liked the chapters dealing with Holmes more, because they read like an old timey episode of Criminal Minds (minus the hunky profilers). Which is not to say that the chapters dealing with the World Fair were not interesting; the book was basically two separate books in one, and I’m not sure that the juxtaposition always worked. I would have enjoyed reading each half separately. The writing is excellent, by the way.

Last but not least, I’ve started reading All the Light We Cannot See, and it is okay so far. I haven’t gotten into it as easily as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I’m waiting to see if it picks up soon.

Moving on to Netflix, I finished bingeing Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and then suffered severe withdrawals for a good week. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that the last season only had 8 episodes (not 13, as I was expecting) and, to be honest, I found the Phryne-Jack payoff at the end rather weak sauce. But … at least THEY BLOODY KISSED, FINALLY. I was starting to suspect that the show writers were actual sadists who enjoyed torturing the audience with all that exquisite unrequited sexual tension. With that said … and please bear with me as I digress completely from the ostensible post topic … the experience of watching the show made me think back on a question that used to preoccupy me a lot more back when I was a regular primetime TV watcher.

How does a writer best deal with unrequited sexual tension without mucking up the story and losing the audience? Watching the will-they-won’t-they dance is wonderful … up to a point. Viewers eventually reach their limit, at which point, the writers have to move the romantic plot forward somehow. In Phryne and Jack’s case, keeping them apart makes a lot of sense; much of what makes Phryne such an original and appealing character would also make her a poor candidate for conventional romantic tropes. You can argue that Jack is a feminist ally, but ultimately we have been led to expect his romantic expectations to be of a traditional kind; Phryne is a free spirit. Can they “get together” without either sacrificing some essential part of themselves? On the flip side, supposing that they do “get together” … then what? The same unrequited sexual tension won’t be there, by definition. There are plenty of examples of happy on-screen marriages, but they’re rarely the subject of screwball romantic mystery/comedies. There’s The Thin Man movies and … that’s all I got. I can only imagine that the tone of movies like that is difficult to get right; otherwise, I’m not sure why we don’t see more of them. Which brings me back to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT???

Ahem. Moving on.

After finishing that series, I tried to get back into Agatha Christie, only to discover that Netflix does not have the Miss Marple mysteries. More weak sauce. I watched a couple of episodes of Father Brown, but couldn’t get into it, although I do enjoy the GK Chesterton stories. Somehow, I ended up finding the British show Silk and got hooked on that instead. It’s about a barristers’ chambers (law office) in London. The show gives me job anxiety (even though I don’t work in criminal law) — I get exhausted and panicky just watching the characters go about their impossibly chaotic days — but it’s filled with eye candy so I can’t help myself. I’m talking Rupert Penry Jones (playing a cad miles apart from Frederick Wentworth), Tom Hughes (aka Prince Albert), and Natalie Dormer (better known as Margaery Tyrrell, now-deceased queen of the Seven Kingdoms). I’ve just finished the first season, though, so we’ll see how the next one fares.

If you have Netflix suggestions for me — preferably mystery or historical dramas, preferably featuring a healthy dose of eye candy — I’m all ears. I am considering North and South, if only because I know my friend A. is a huge Richard Armitage fan and I feel like I need to investigate what that’s all about.

I’ll wrap up this ungodly long post with a few articles. This one is a good resource for thrifters who love Anthropologie: all the Anthro labels, with handy visual guide.

This one is about a woman who wears the same outfit every day; note that the title is misleading insofar as she wears the same “uniform” everyday, but not the exact same pieces. You guys know I love my ‘core looks’ a lot, but I don’t think I could commit to only one for a week, much less a year. I can’t help but feel that people who are drawn to this idea of a super specific “uniform” are people who don’t care a lot about clothes. Otherwise, it would be like a concert pianist only ever playing one tune — why?

This one is about a mysterious green jacket that was found at a thrift store in Toronto and ended up being sold for $139,000 at an auction. It’s the thrifting equivalent of a Cinderella story.

Lastly, as a (tail end) Gen X-er, I have to admit that I quietly chuckled at this article about the war between Boomers and Millennials. With that said, I am generally not a fan of stereotyping large swaths of the population, so I’m firmly staying out of the “who’s better, who’s worse” generational debate.

Happy Easter / long weekend, everyone!

15 Comments on What I Read: Mixed Bag

  1. OMG, I can recommend “North and South” 100% – it started my Richard Armitage obsession as well. It’s sort of like a grittier version of “Pride & Prejudice” set during the Industrial Revolution.

    And speaking of “The Pursuit of Love”, I believe the adaptation for that and “Love in a Cold Climate” (combined into one mini series named “Love in a Cold Climate”) is also on Netflix. I didn’t particularly like it but it may be worth checking out if you’ve read the book.

  2. I tend to wear a dress or skirt everyday, so I can identify with the idea of a uniform. However, wearing same outfit each day sounds rather boring to me. She doesn’t even mix up her jewelry! I am glad that she’s happy with this and has so much extra time in her day, but this idea wouldn’t work for me.

  3. I don’t know if you like Scandi style or tv shows, but the tv series Dicte is pretty good. The stories are in sets of 2 episodes and feature a female crime reporter in Aarhus, Denmark.

  4. The Miss Marple mysteries are so difficult to find, especially the ones with Joan Hickson. I’ve been wanting to rewatch them for ages, but it seems the only way to do so is to buy them on dvd. And then I’d have to buy a dvd player, which really feels like an unnecessary thing to do at this point.

  5. I watch a lot of mysteries…a lot. It’s not on Netflix anymore, but if you get a chance, Foyle’s War is really good. It feels very Christie-esque. These were some we like/liked on Netflix: Midsomer Murders (is fun, often ridiculous); Shetland (I needed subtitles); Bletchley Circle; River (Stellan Skaarsgard is excellent); Hinterland; Wallander.; Happy Valley, Luther. We’re also into the foreign subtitled mysteries. Loved The Bridge and Trapped. **as I’m reading back the list, some of these are more thriller than mystery, but with a bit of mystery thrown in** It’s not really a mystery, but Occupied was really well done. It’s a show about what might happen if Norway decided to stop selling oil. Russian involvement and politics.

    • I feel like we are kindred spirits. Most of the stuff on your list is on my favs list too and I am going to check out what’s not already on my list. Did you watch/like Poldark?

      • No, I haven’t watched Poldark, but I’ve heard of it and have heard good things. I am definitely interested. I love “running into” TV kindred spirits.

  6. Seconding all of Joey’s suggestions for netflix. I also loved silk as well, and Vexed is also fun. Not sure if Poirot is still there but it love the episodes, and have some I re watch (great costumes!). Hinterland is well done as well, though very sad. I liked lovesick, which is a good comedy( give it time though, it gets more complex), and detectorists was great (hope it’s still on netflix)

    I agree with your review of The Pursuit of love; I liked it in parts, ( enough to read a sort of sequel), but your review is spot on…the plot just didn’t take off.

    I really enjoy your reviews, and gorgeous outfits here. I stumbled on your blog a while ago, and this is my first time commenting. Thank you for sharing all this!

  7. I’m a recent fan of “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, myself. Caught one last winter and look forward to any episode on PBS! Have you seen “Grantchester”? Gritty, great acting, and tension. James Norton and Robson Green…oh my Heavens!

  8. I loved North and South and yes, Foyle’s War, Bletchley Circle. This one’s not on Netflix but the Danish show Borgen is excellent (following the life of female prime minister). Also enjoyed The Devil in the White City and Larson’s other books. Lately you were looking for something to read, not too heavy but also smart and funny—I loved Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

  9. North and South is great – I agree with everyone else. I’d also recommend Call the Midwife. Set in the 1950s, 1960s, so not sure if that counts as historical, but explores lots of social issues of the time, and is set in London, which appeals to me because I’m an Anglophile.

  10. I enjoyed ‘North and South’– with Armitage and his mother as highlights for me. The soundtrack was beautiful as well. Not sure if you have Amazon Prime, but we have been enjoying ‘The Durrells in Corfu’; living in a similairly frigid climate to you, it is nice to daydream about leaving everything behind for a new life in Greece!

  11. I enjoyed the uniform article. Mostly the premise that someone realized she had a problem and got outside style help, because sometimes these stories can be so condescending. Here they at least reference the work and cost involved in finding her perfect silhouette. I do find her colour palette boring, her hairstyle distracting, and she could easily mix up that look with some wide pants or a dress. But for a Natural who prefers a more Classic vibe, I think they did a good job. It would be interesting to see what happens though when one of her items inevitably gets discontinued, would she be able style herself or would she have to hire someone to help her again?

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