Thursday, 15 September 2011

Dr Zhivago, 'You' by Briscoe, Conjuror's Bird

Just watched the DVD of Dr Zhivago with Keira Knightly and Hans Matheson (2002). In a moment of nostalgia, I’d meant to order Omar Sharif (left, with Julie Christie) so was a little disappointed he didn’t show up.  Anyway, despite my prejudices, I found this newer version good, well filmed, great scenery, interspersed with real footage of the Russian Revolution. However, neither the hero nor the heroine quite convinced me. Well, Lara did at first but she failed to age  – then, come to think of it, Keira must have been very young in 2002.  Sam Neill was excellent as the rich baddy Komarovsky, Lara’s seducer, with good British actors in the minor parts. (Amazon US gives the writers as Andrew Davies and Boris Pasternak, in that order).

Recent reading:
You by Joanna Briscoe.  (Am not entirely sure about these fashionable one-word titles, because, for a start, you have to remember the author’s name too when searching for the book.)   Anyway this author is strong on emotions and has a wonderful sense of place.  Her Devon is Hardyesque – a lush rural backwater. Part of the action takes place in the 1980s, not that long ago, and I found some of the happenings unlikely – more milkmaids in trouble rather than late 20th-Century misses.  The storyline is that in the past Cecilia had a schoolgirl crush on a teacher which got out of hand, but she still (in my view, unfairly) blames her mother for the consequences.  The schoolgirl crush is brilliantly described, as are the intimate scenes – the language is interesting and original throughout -  but eventually I felt I wanted to slap Cecilia, mired as she was in self-centred regret.  That didn’t spoil my enjoyment of a good if rather complicated story. Here’s what the Guardian thought.

The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies
Despite being the leading expert in his field, Fitz has never written the great book on extinct species that everyone was expecting. Suddenly, a figure from his past reappears in his life. The beautiful Gabby wants him to help find The Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, which vanished over 200 years ago from the collection of the naturalist Joseph Banks. Spurred on to join the quest by his beguiling lodger Katya, Fitz finds that the only way to solve the puzzle is to unravel the mystery of Banks's affair with Miss B – who has disappeared from history as effectively as the bird he is hunting.
An original novel, two parallel stories.  I enjoyed the story of Banks’s mysterious love affair perhaps more than the modern archive hunt.  An interesting read rather than a page turner.  If you google the Bird of Ulieta you can see what it looked like, a kind of brown blackbird. Here's a review.

3 comments:

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I did not even know there had been a modern version made of Dr Zhivago! The first author you mention I have not heard of, but think I will add the title to my wishlist. As for The Conjurers Bird I read this in 2007 and found it refreshingly different and enjoyed it much more than I initially expected to.

Debs Carr said...

I preferred the older version of the film too.

I haven't read either of these books, so thanks for posting about them.

JO said...

Oh Omar Sharif - hard to imagine anyone else in that role. (But maybe that says more about my drooling adolescence than anything else!)