Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of Things was all over the best of 2015 lists a few months ago, and I suspect it will pop up on many award lists this year, it has already made the Fiction Shortlist for the Indie Book Awards and the 2016 Stella Prize Longlist (Update- The Natural Way of Things won the Stella Prize). I was sorely tempted. And I really loved the cover. I became even more tempted. I bought a copy for a friend, and then I had to buy a copy for me too.  I'm glad I did, although it's certainly not my usual fare, rather far from it actually. 

It's a mystery of sorts. Two young women wake up in an unknown place in unknown clothes. It's obvious fairly quickly that things are not right. 

She got out of bed and felt gritty boards beneath her feet. There was the coarse unfamiliar fabric of a nightgown on her skin. Who had put this on her?

But it's not just these two young women, Yolanda and Verla, in this remote place in outback Australia, there are other women. It's hard to say more than that about the plot really, without giving too much away. 

It's a sparse, unappealing story in some ways- profane, violent, mean, it makes for very uncomfortable reading at times. And yet I didn't stop reading, I couldn't. I had been warned that some "old ladies" didn't like it at all, and didn't finish it. I can see how it isn't a book for everyone. Still it's a powerful story and well written. 

Clouds collect and steepen, build then collapse, silver empires rising and falling in the vast blue skies. 
Even within this most Australian of novels there are mentions of Paris that made my heart swoon. Verla has stood before The Lady and The Unicorn at Musée Cluny. I tried to do that in 2013, but it was visiting Japan at the time. As you read the cover design becomes even more intriguing. I think it's one of the most perfect book cover designs ever. Big call I know. 

This has been my first taste of Charlotte Wood, although I've been meaning to read her for several years. I saw her talk at a Melbourne Writer's Festival quite a few years ago now.  I'm glad I've finally had the opportunity to read her writing, and of course look forward to checking out her other books. 

Hear a fascinating RN interview with Charlotte Wood talking about The Natural Way of Things (there are however some specific discussion of plot points). And another RN podcast of Charlotte Wood talking about 5 works of art that helped inspire The Natural Way of Things, it's very fascinating, and explains the yellow bus.

Monday, 15 February 2016

The Bélier Family/ La Famille Bélier

I knew as soon as I saw the gushing ads for The Bélier Family before Christmas that I wanted to see it. Rather desperately. Sadly I missed it at Christmas time. Finally I did get to see it last week. France's hit film of 2015, and even the print ads made it look enchanting.

The Bélier Family live on a farm in Normandy. They run dairy cattle and make cheese, selling it at a stall at the local marché. Paula Bélier is 16, and is the only hearing member of her family. Her parents and younger brother are all profoundly deaf. Paula is their voice to the world, running the farm business and being their voice at the markets. Gradually she discovers her own voice and a love of singing. Paula's music teacher is obsessed with the songs of Michel Sardou, a new to me French icon, sadly a little middle of the road for my tastes.

The plot is possibly a little predictable overall, but it's a gentle, sweet feel good film, with plenty of laughs- not always an easy thing for a foreign language film to have humour bridge the language gap. There are some things that happen that are clearly wrong for a 16 year old girl, but that is a minor quibble. The Bélier Family is still is a rather charming French comedy. Louane Emera plays Paula Bélier, Louane was discovered on a series of The Voice in France in 2013, she certainly has a great voice.

The Belier Family has come under fire from the deaf community, about the use of non-deaf actors playing deaf characters (the parents are not deaf, the younger brother is). The signing is bad apparently. I do wonder how different that it is to using non-Australian actors for instance playing an Australian character. In that case the accent is usually so appalling as to be laughable.

The trailer gives too much away IMHO, so beware. But if you've already seen it, it's nice to reminisce.

Or maybe watch it with French subtitles (if you can't read them).

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog