“The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” – A Review

A week after reading it, I was still keeping this book on my bedside table, in a hopeless attempt to convince myself that I was still reading it. Wickedly humorous and wistful, this book for me was the literary equivalent to coming in from the wind and the rain and the dark into the golden, yolk-yellow warmth of home. I was so reluctant for it to end.

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Such Cover Love!

The story was a unique one, and reading the plot description I was both excited and nervous. I could see it, so easily, falling into all of the horrible YA traps and holes that so many promising novels fall into. I could already see a heroine who pretended she wasn’t beautiful, and jolting, smirky talk with badass boys with a soft side – all sorts of things that I’m ever so slightly sick to the death of in my teen fiction. But no. The fifth page in, I had this lovely excited twitching in my fingertips and flutter of the heart. This was not going to be one of those books.

The writing style is fantastic; it was made up of light, ava lavenderdreamlike prose and these beautiful and unexpected metaphors that it wasn’t too stuffed with. It didn’t sound like a book that was trying to be something, trying to be exquisite, trying to be moving. It was just… telling a story.

And what a story. Told over three generations of women of the same family, each doomed by love, it was a tale that wound its icy hand around my heart and hasn’t let it go since. Ava’s fable is the third to be told in the novel and knowing about her grandmother, and her mother and her history makes her story, almost the culmination of her family’s experience, all the more exquisite.

Leslye Walton is one of those rare breeds of authors that can reveal so much in so few well-placed words and it is perhaps due to this that in reading, I got such a strong sense of time and place. She captures the feeling of a moment or a setting and somehow, across a page of punctuation and letters, passes it on to the reader, leaving me with an urge to jump into a time machine all the way to 1920s New York. The characters too were created, vivid and fully formed with merely a few words or sentences. Instead of “jumping off the page” they hovered at my shoulders like Emilienne’s ghosts and followed me around all day, always at the back of my mind. Their interactions, talking to one another felt real and yet better than reality. The dialogue was perfect, beautifully crafted and lovely and the unspoken was even better. You get the impression that the writer really understands humans for the messy, frequently confused and spikey but every so often incredible creatures that I like to think we are.

ava lavender 2The care and love that Leslye Walton provoked in me for her characters was bewilderingly immense, and this made watching the series of heartbreaks that they were subjected to all the more devastating. Because it is true, what the title suggests, you do read of the sorrows of Ava, but also of her mother and her grandmother, and they’re all heart-wrenching. But interspersed with this, there are moments revealing the very best in humanity (looking at you, Gabe, and you lovely Connor). ava lavender 3Like one of Emmelienne’s pastries, it was the perfect mixture of ingredients – sad and happy, sweet and bitter – baked to bookish perfection.

Thinking that I could go home to read it was the best part of my day and I’m fairly certain that it will stay with me for a long time. I’m not going to embarrass everyone by claiming that it changed my life, but it certainly did make it just a little bit more enjoyable.

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You Will Never look at this Page in the Same Way AGAIN

Why? Because I’m changing my theme! I’m so fed up of not being able to have a menu to give a lovely “about me page” or what have you, so I’ve decided to change it. I’m going to delve deep into the tides of Html and programming and probably end up with more than a touch of the pixel-fever, symptoms including: confusion, frustration, staying in cat pyjamas all day. crying at the computer screen and comfort eating cheap, fake nutella to make myself feel better about not being able to do the internet.

Wish me luck!

So Many Opportunities…

It is getting to that time in my “school journey” that things are becoming serious. Suddenly we’ve got Career’s interviews and talks from veterinary surgeons, we’ve got teachers telling us that we need to dedicate as much time as possible to our school work, but must get a good work-play balance. We also have to exercise regularly and get a good 8+ hours sleep. Oh, and if you ever even want to think about going to University, you’re going to need a big long list of enriching activities that you do outside of school.

I’m so persistently, depressingly stressed about little things that probably don’t matter in the long run: the mark I get in an end of unit test, a piece of maths homework I’m struggling with. I feel like I don’t have any time to do the things I want to do, such as reading all the amazing books out there that I want to read, and yet I don’t feel that I actually do anything in the time that I do have.

And I’m starting to get worried about these “enriching activities”. I keep on reading about young people, my age, who have done… not amazing things, but good, interesting things. They’ve written articles for newspapers, write reviews for authors and go for work experience at the BBC. This is the sort of thing that I know I’d like to do. I’d like to do work experience at a vet surgery, I’d like to write an opinion piece that is published somewhere and read. I’d like to write something meaningful, worthwhile.

I want to be able to look back on these teenage years – the years that are supposedly the best of my life – and think, yes, I made the most of my youth and my lack of responsibilities. I was a well-rounded, functioning, human being. But I don’t know how to start, and thinking about finding out fills me with a deep void of stress because I just don’t know. 

And it’s not just me. Around me, I see my friend’s foreheads crease with worry as they desperately scroll through pages, researching our biology isa, I see people doing homework on the bus, realising that what they’re doing is not actually ideal, but unable to change their behaviour because it’s difficult and confusing and there just seems like there’s not enough time to fit in everything there should be in a life.

I want to be an extraordinary person. I want to leave school with more than just a personality-less list of subjects with corresponding grades. I want to leave with good memories, and experience. There are so many oppurtunities out there, but I can never work up the confidence, or the effort to go for them. I’m so scared that I’ll get shot down, so convinced that I want to be able to do it.

So here are my autumn resolutions:

  • If I want to do something, I’ll do it.
  • I will read
  • I will write
  • I will not stress about things I have no control over
  • I will not do things that are both not beneficial to me in any way, and not enjoyable.
  • If I have a problem, feel upset or unhappy, I will write it down, question myself about it, get to the bottom of it. If I can solve it, I will try to. If I cannot, I will try to accept it.
  • I will smile more, even when I am not happy inside
  • If there is an opportunity I’d love to have, I will try to get it.

And hopefully, oh so hopefully, I might be able to salvage something from these “oh-so-brilliant” years of my life

Disturbingly Good…

Guess who watched the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” on Wednesday? Um… me.
It was… not what I really expected, although I’m not entirely sure what I did expect. Throughout watching it at eleven in the morning, I was very worried that the postman would walk past and think that I was watching porn :-/

But I loved it! It was so weird and mental and hilarious! And Tim Curry has literally never looked more attractive than in high heels and fishnets. God, I can’t really believe I just said (wrote) that. Just love it!

These are my two favourite songs from it – enjoy!

Two New Heroines

Lately I’ve found myself two new people that I absolutely, unbelievably, heart-wrenchingly and painfully want to be. I admire them so much that it aches that I can never be so talented and brilliant. And who are these people? Well, to start…


Winona Ryder

Eternally ethereally beautiful and stylish, it is not this that makes me like her (although it is part of the reason that my never being able to be anything like her makes me sigh). She is not only a brilliant actor (I reject the term actress because it’s just a faff) but she appears in such cool films. Evidence? She was in the amazing dark comedy “Heathers”. The thing I love about her in this is that she’s not just the psychopath’s girlfriend and she doesn’t just collapse into a hole in floods of tears. Also, it’s just hilarious and, gosh darn it – she wears a monocle!  She was also in the surreal beetlejuice in which she plays a goth teenager…. very well too. She’s been in several

  independant movies (always good to support the arts) and in Edward Scissorhands, which is just such a cool film. Additionally, in her role in Girl Interrupted – a film that is mentally distressing to watch, in a good way? – she perfectly portrays the feeling of frustrated, confused, disaffected youth that so many people can relate to. I never realised that Angelina jolie could… act, until I saw that film. Also I loved the stripy jumpers.

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Carey Mulligan

My admiration for Carey Mulligan is like that which I feel for Judy Dench or Meryl Streep. She is such a good actor, conveying so much emotion in so little and gentle movements – the flicker of an eyelash, the quirk of an eyebrow. You get the feeling, watching Carey Mulligan that in order to act an emotion, she is genuinely feeling that emotion.

She’s played such a variety of roles in films with many different tones: the light, romantic “Pride and Prejudice”, in which she plays poor, neglected Kitty, the intelligent, thoughtful and charmable Jenny in the melancholy and moving “An Education”, feisty, proud and ever so slightly torn  Bathsheba in the visually stunning “Far from the Madding Crowd” to name but a few.

And there are so many more! She plays Sally Sparrow in one of the scariest (and best) Doctor Who episodes: The first angel one, of course! Just as a little side note, the other episodes with angels in them are incomparable. She was amazing as Kathy H in Never Let Me Go – which literally broke my heart and got me to read the book.
I love the way she interprets her lines, rather than just reading them as perhaps you might expect them to be read. I know that you could say that this is the director’s decision and influence, but (and I could just be imagining this) I feel like she brings a certain quality to every performance that I think kind of links them? I don’t know, but I’ve read that she’s very selective with the roles she plays – she only picks those that she feels some kind of connection or relation with, so perhaps this quality is her bringing a tiny bit of herself into the roles? Again, I don’t know, but I feel that it adds something very real and lovely to her work.

Plus I love the story of how she broke into an acting career, writing to Kenneth Branagh after seeing him in Henry V. His reply that if she felt that strongly about it, “she must be an actor”. Then, after talking to Julian Fellowes who gave a talk at her school, (and advised her to marry a banker and then think about acting), she was invited to a dinner Julian Fellowes and wife Emma were giving for aspiring young actors, after which she was pu tinto contact ith the person who would cast her in 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice”, her ‘big break’, as it were. A few year’s later, she was Jenny in “An Education”, for which she received an Oscar nomination, and her work has become even more interesting and complex from then on.

Now, she is described by David Hare as being “very quiet, very purposeful, and steely in the way she goes about a part” and says that as Nina in Chekhov’s Seagulls, it was “as if she wasn’t acting, but simply existing on the stage.”

She’s just so cool, and you get the feeling that she really loves acting and wants to do it so very well. She was so determined and focussed and… also I get the impression that she’s quite a nice person. And i like nice people, they’re the best. 🙂

Just as a side note, recently I went to see Suffragette, and that was amazing too by the way. Go see it!

And, and, and, she can sing. This is her doing just that it “Far From the Madding Crowd”

So yeah, that’s it. If there’s anyone out there that actually wants to comment, who are your heroines and why?

Au revoir for a while

Not that anyone actually reads this, (*self pities*) but this is goodbye for a while.

Pfft, I could SO be Julie Andrews if I wanted to
*inserts generic Austrian picture*

Pouquoi? You may ask, if you are pretentious like me and put French in at every chance you get. Or, you know, you’re French. Well, this is why: I’m off to Austria with the family. This is going to be a walking, mountainous kind of holiday, visiting castles and exploring the wilderness (and possibly singing about the state of life within the hills). Which should be interesting considering that I’m rather… ahem… unfit right now. Hopefully after a few weeks of walking I will be as fit as a fiddle and not so blindingly pale (I actually look a tiny bit blue-tinged in sunlight. It’s not pretty).

Can’t we come back when it’s winter and beautiful and there are no diggers?

I’m not entirely sure that I’m looking forward to it. For one, I don’t always get on so well with the Family, especially when it’s such a small number of us in a little room and no where to hide. I might end up spending a disproportionate amunt of my time in the loo, reading my book with the shower on just to get some space. And dinners are going to be awkward. I just hate those awkward silences that stretch between us, taught and tense like an elastic band pulled tight. Additionally, the place that we are going through is going through rennovations and building whilst we’re there. (???) So it’s very possibly that our ears will be plagued by the sound of drilling and that throughout our stay which should be, um, nice.

So for now, whilst I “relax”, I leave you with a song and the message that I will be back soooooon, to write more boring blog posts that no one cares about (*swims languidly in a swimming pool of self-pity indulgence*)

See you, F x

Bah bah bah bah bah

There’s something really quite strange about looking at your stats page and realising that someone, somehow, has stumbled upon your little piece of internet, your little corner in the cyberspace. Maybe they glanced at it and pressed the back button as quickly as possible. Maybe they read one post and forgot about it. Maybe they spent ages trawling through your past posts, the embarrassing, irksome and quite frankly self-gratifying first posts. It’s like they may have been perusing languidly through the pages of your mind and soul and then casually decided to go and look at Harry potter memes instead.  and you didn’t even have to leave this page; don’t say I’m not good to you

It’s ever odder when you see that they’re from somewhere far away. America, say, or switzerland or Hungary. And it hits you, suddenly, that thousands of miles away, someone has this little doorway into a part of your life. You’re connected, however weakly and unimportantly, by streams of text and html, by a glaring computer blue-haze glow and the sound of music. It’s like suddenly the world is small enough to fit into your hands, and that to be with someone miles and miles away takes merely moments. It’s quite special and it’s quite weird. It leaves you feeling quite vulnerable, on show. Like this little thing that you thought was just yours is suddenly cast to the wind, a glass bottle in the sea. Anyone could catch that paper from the breeze, anyone could find that glistening glass poking up from the sand.

And it’s not exactly like there are many, many people, lathering this space with comments and adoration. (If you feel like doing that, by all means go ahead) But perhaps somehow that makes it catch me more off guard, more surprised when that occasional, once every week or so (or more than a week, errk) someone somewhere stumbles into your brain-portal and trips into the vortex.

It’s kind of full of wonderment and fear. Fantastic that it’s possible, but crazy.

F x

Two Very Different Films that I watched (and loved)

Far From The Madding Crowd

This quite frankly beautiful adaptation of the book (that I was prompted by the film to go out and read) left me… breathless. It was so odd. Walking out of the cinema and through the darkened streets, that iridescent orange glow on the dew-speckled paving stones, I felt like I was floating. And all the while I had the sound, the lilting violins and frantic piano, the sound of the film washing over me like water, a cascading waterfall of music. Okay. That sounded pretentious.

But it was lovely, and it has given me a completely new appreciation and awe for the truly marvelous and incredibly talented Carey Mulligan. (I now very slightly want to be her, or have her be a family friend who I see at Christmas parties and hero-worship).

told you about the horses

The story is so devastating and… I don’t know why but the words bleached and whitewashed came into mind. I think perhaps because that’s how it leaves, walking down the street on a Tuesday night, like you’ve been stripped bare and scoured clean and pure and pushed back out into a strange, dark world that you can no longer quite understand doesn’t have sheep in it.

I think that Carey Mulligan did such a wonderful job of portraying Bathsheba, as sort of proud but vulnerable and above all young and filled with longing for excitement and love. It was filmed really beautifully as well, making me now want to just hike out into the English countryside and spend my days traipsing around the fields in sunrise and twilight and sleeping in between.

That Sunlight, though

It filled me with chills, to be honest, and it was so strange because… well such a lot happened and quite a lot of dramatic, and yet it washed over you so gently in the way that things do in life, really. You get hooked on one big dramatic event and then it passes and is almost forgotten, and it is only in looking back that you realise how very much there was. It was just so lovely!

But, then again, I’m a bit of a sucker for “Period Dramas”, women in long dresses and men with waistcoats riding on horses and any kind of singing (cough, Carey Mulligan).

 

Heathers

Okay, so this one is a bit of an “oldie” that probably everyone in the entire world will have heard of and watched except me, but I’m going to talk about it anyways. 

So it’s talked about as a dark comedy, and it is truly hilarious, but what I liked about it most was the fantastic Veronica Sawyer or just Winona Ryder in general. An amazing actor, she also seems to have great taste and judgement in choosing what films to become involved with, from Little Women (just so lovely), to Beetlejuice (she is the best goth-daughter ever) to Edward Scissor-hands (no words required) to Girl Interrupted. You can tell how dedicated she is to each and every part she takes on, and though she always does sort of play the intelligent, slightly different girl, all of her characters are very different and diverse, and she plays them all so well. I also really admire the way that she, like Meryl Streep, didn’t really get sucked into the playing the just a “Pretty Girl” parts. She plays interesting and usually funny roles and, despite being very beautiful (like Meryl Streep)  doesn’t make this one characteristic define all of her roles.

She’s just so darn cool.

And then moving on the JD, who would be so utterly and completely swoonworthy if he wasn’t such a maniac. Actually he’s still pretty swoonworthy despite this, let’s face it. A brilliant social commentator and with a quirky, dressed-in-black, screw-society kind of attitude which is just so goshdarn appealing, JD is the kind of person who comes out with “Chaos killed the dinosaurs, darling.” Just… swoon. If anyone ever said hello to me with a “Greetings and Salutations” I would probably split my face with grinning.

Okay, I just melted

Anyway, it’s a great film and it’s actually so unexpected. Added to this, it’s just so full of eighties style that it’s like being steeped like a teabag in someone else’s nostalgia – and I love it! But if you haven’t watched it, don’t go and watch the trailer, kay? Because it’s rubbish and it spoils like all of the story, which quite a lot of these eighties trailers seem to do. I don’t think they understood how to advertise films.

But Yeah. There are some films that were pretty good.

OH! And in other new, “My Mad Fat Diary” is starting on TV again pretty soon and I am buzzing 

 

I blame Mad Fat Diary for the annoyance I evoke upon my friends for repeatedly saying “I love the 90s, I wish I grew up in the 90s” Sorry for that… but it’s going to start again 🙂

I AM A ROCK!

I listened to this song last night and I love how its just captured every little introvert’s soul, barricading ourselves in our room, shielded with cynicism and trying desperately to convince ourselves that we are very happy alone, thankyouverymuchgoodsir.

Here’s to all the quiet ones! To the rocks and the islands and all the lonely teenagers living on the internet, let’s all be alone together 🙂

My Saturday Night…

So yesterday it was Saturday, a day in which the girls and boys don their glad rags and dress themselves divine. My sister was going out, my mother was going out, and I had the house to myself. So I did something that I haven’t done for a while. I sat down with a punnet of raspberries and a little DVD that I’ve loved since the age of about nine.Penelope title screen

And it’s called Penelope

This isn’t a film that seems to get very much recognition, its rating son rotten tomatoes average and the treatment of it as a bit of “filler” film, sweet fluff for nine year old girls. But, in my humble opinion, it is so, so much more than that.

Penelope on Bench
Penelope on a bench!

It’s about a girl who was born with a nose of a pig, due to a curse placed on her family by a vengeful witch. The only way to break the curse is to be loved by “one of her own kind”, which her mother interprets as being about blue bloods, or aristocrats. Penelope is prepared throughout her life to marry an aristocrat and thus break the curse, and be free of the nose.

You unlock that door, my child!
Penelope on other bench
Penelope on a bench again!

It’s a tale about identity, self-hatred, being trapped and breaking free (feel the cheese, guys).

The what I suppose you would call love interest is a disheveled, drawn, tired-eyed addicted (probably alocholic) gambler who is paid to get a picture of Penelope by a reporter. Penelope’s parents, particularly the mother, treat her with an affectionate kind of intelorance, teaching her to say “This is not my nose, this is my great-great grandfather’s nose and I’m not him and he’s not me, and I’m not me.”

Reece WITHERSPOOONAnd throughout there is sweet self-discovery, a light, quick-hearted humour and… you know,  James McAvoy. Plus a really great soundtrack including sigur Ros, Schuler Fisk, Devotchka and more besides.

Oh my giddy aunt, the McAvoy!
Oh my god the more McAvoy!
I like that tree, that is a niiice tree

The thing I really love about Penelope is its craft and creation. It seems to take place in a fantasy world, pretty much ours but with more magic and more flexibiltiy of time and geography. There are cameras that look like they belong to a Victorian steampunk novel, ’50s cars and telephones, private detectives and newspaper offices straight out of the thirties. There are casinos in what look like churches, a fun fair of blinking lighs, bubbles and magics, there are street fairs with flowers on the walls and punks with Mohawks owning patisseries. There are incredibly beautiful stately-home like buildings, warehouse apartments stylishly sprsely furnished, brightly coloured cute clothes of buttons and stripes, a city which could be either London or New York and so ends up being not quite either, there is Russel Brand owning a night-club and James McAvoy playing a piano, there are parks with massive trees, tiny pianos and indoor wooden swings, there are plants in glass containers and Reece Witherspoon on a vespa, there is a man with an eye-patch and a witch in sneakers, a wedding dress that I swear I’m one day going to base my own on and the best bedroom I have ever seen.

Penelope's room

It’s this lovely escapism made with beautiful props and set in a world that I just want to jump head-first into and a story that weaves its way around my heart. It’s a film I’ve watched time and time again and each time I get something just a tiny bit different from it. It’s just… magic. Pure and simple. I want to fill a bath with it and live in it, and just underneath it all there is this beautiful, beautiful message:

Penelope Message

Stephanie Says…

I don’t know for why but for some reason “Stephanie Says” always makes me feel like I’m on an Island…

I love how on all Lou reed and Velvet Underground you tube videos, there’s always a little message from at least two people saying rest in peace.

It’s just… nice, you know.

F x