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Friday 26 March 2021

Friday Favourites March 2021 Edition: Books, TV, Podcasts

Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon with magazine as she prepares to review TV, podcasts and books for the popular Friday Favourites monthly round-up

Welcome to the March edition of Friday Favourites, the monthly round-up of what I've been watching, listening to and reading. You may find yourself disagreeing with my views - there's nothing wrong with that. Let's start with books - I've powered through a few.


Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

An advert in The Times steered me to this one, a novel in the John Grisham-type genre where a court case is at the centre of the story.

Kamran is a privileged 17 year old at a boarding school he loves. His perfect life crumbles when, in the middle of the night and drunk after some mid summer revels, he finds another boy in bed with him. Was it rape?  The court has to decide which boy's version of the truth is the reality. Meanwhile Kamran's conservative, wealthy and emotionally closed off Muslim father is finding it hard to deal with what happened to his son and why Kamran didn't fight off his attacker.

I found the book a bit ploddy and there's repetition about "blood pounding in people's ears and their lips turning white from being pursed", but there is a good twist right at the end. 

Promising Young Women by Caroline O'Donoghue

A ringing endorsement from Marian Keyes was enough to get me downloading this. 

Jane is an adrift twenty-something by day, and a world-weary agony aunt by night. After an office party, she takes on another role: the Other Woman. As Jane's affair with her much older, married boss, takes off, she discovers that sex and power go hand-in-hand. Soon her friendships, her sanity and her life are put into jeopardy.

I quite often read books aimed at millennials because their chaotic life situations remind me of what it was like when I was in my 20s and 30s.  Sometimes I want to scream at Jane for drifting into a bad situation, but then I remember some of my dilemmas back then.  I enjoyed it although the hindsight and perspective that you have as an older reader perhaps gives you a disadvantage. And it's sobering to think that for women in the workplace, battling against male power plays and sexism, very little seems to have changed.

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

This was a fascinating book because it challenges our stereotypes. The story of the abduction of a child took a completely different turn than I expected.

We don't know the name of Mummy, a woman desperate for a child who steals a little girl, Tonya, when her mother's attention is elsewhere. Mummy lives in a nice neighbourhood and her shopping is delivered by Ocado. Tonya's background is nothing like this and Mummy finds she is not the sweet compliant child she expected.  Meanwhile there's another crime that Mummy is concealing, 

The focus on Kim, the mother of Tonya, makes the book compelling.  The media portray Kim as a "scummy mummy." She doesn't play the role of grieving mother in the way we expect, she is outspoken and sweary.  Both she and Mummy were abused as children so their lives have interesting parallels.

You Me and the Sea by Elizabeth Haynes

I've been a great admirer of Elizabeth Haynes since I read the hugely memorable, sinister and moving "Human Remains" - I didn't need the Marian Keyes endorsement  (my word she's in demand by publishers).

The setting is a spectacular windswept and deserted Scottish island, where Rachel has been sent to provide temporary cover looking after the small number of bird watchers who go there.  She has to share her accommodation with the other inhabitant, Fraser Sutherland,  a brooding loner who is not happy about sharing his lighthouse.  Both Rachel and Fraser are dealing with demons that have caused them to seek solitude. Homesick and out of her depth, Rachel is sure she’s made another huge mistake. But, as spring turns to summer, the wild beauty of the island begins to captivate her soul.

This was deeply engrossing and as always I enjoyed the writing and ability that Haynes has in conveying human frailty and suffering.

The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

This is a Richard and Judy book club read, and on the surface promised a lot but didn't quite deliver. Rose Gold's mother is leaving prison after her sentence for child neglect.  Her daughter Rose Gold haa been in and out of hospital most of her life with mysterious and debilitating illnesses. Yet Rose Gold is there to collect her mother, and allows her to live with her.  Has she forgiven Patty, or is she seeking revenge?

Which Podcasts Go Into The Is This Mutton Hall of Fame?

Against the Odds (Wondery)

This month was a bit of a lean spell for my podcast listening because I didn't have a "gripper" until the last few days, and was listening to my regulars without the feeling that I wanted to binge listen.

Fortunately Wondery came to the rescue with Against the Odds, a new series which examines thrilling stories of survival.  The first story covered, in four episodes, is the Thai Cave rescue of 2018.  The world was agog when 12 boys aged between 11 and 15, and their young football coach, got trapped in more than six miles of caves when the rains came early. 

The podcast skilfully tells the story of the rescue, where international experts and specialist cave divers from the UK, came to help, and a Thai Navy Seal lost his life. It's fascinating to hear how they finally rescued the boys, one at a time, each child sedated and referred to as a package so that the divers didn't make an emotional connection to them.  The chances of rescuing the boys successfully had been at just 20%.

Against the Odds goes into my Hall of Fame, where you can find many podcasts to listen to.

Consciously Coupling

In this new podcast much loved radio broadcaster Johnnie Walker and his wife Tiggy chat with other couples about their love and their lives.

I adore Johnnie so had high hopes for this, particularly with the first episode featuring Cockney Rebel singer Steve Harley and his wife Dorothy.  My mum will tell you that I played "Come Up and See Me (Make me Smile)"  25 times in a row as a teenager.  I also got last minute tickets to see Cockney Rebel at Plymouth ABC, and was less than impressed when they came on stage late.  I had to catch the last bus home so didn't see all of the set.  I've held that against Steve Harley ever since. 

The podcast wasn't quite up to the professional standard I was expecting. It was obviously done over Zoom, and sometimes the editing was a bit off.  It didn't sound like a natural chat.  I know that podcasts struggle to make money but I didn't like the gratuitous product placement, where Johnnie and Tiggy had to ask the couple what they thought of the product they'd been given to try.  

Sideways (BBC Radio 4)

I've always been fascinated by the off-beat or different ways of seeing the world.  In this weekly series author Matthew Syed explores ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently. In The Most Selfish People on Earth, he recounts how in the 60s a well-known anthropologist encountered a mountainous people in Uganda called the Ik, who were reeling from starvation and famine.  

He labelled them as brutal, uncaring and the most selfish people on earth, and even recommended they be dispersed so that the tribe would no longer exist.  Later thinking showed that Colin Turnbull's views were misinformed and incorrect:  new studies of the Ik showed they were responding to a terrible situation but, relieved of that, the beating heart of human kindness was at their core.

Another one for the Hall of Fame.

TV Viewing

Line of Duty: BBC and iPlayer 

I have to start with the long awaited return of Line of Duty, which to my mum and The Times, was disappointing.  All I will say is that the first episode is usually a little heavy going:  they have to set up the crime and start the reveal of the bent copper that AC12 will be pursuing. So give it a chance, I'm sure it will be gripping.

Family Business (Netflix)

If you're missing Call My Agent, this is for you.  It's a French comedy about a warring but loving family who turn their butchery business into a cannabis operation after hearing rumours the French government is going to legalise pot. Very funny. Stars Arlette from Call My Agent as well as renowned French actor Gérard Darmon. A second series is on the way. 

The Flight Attendant (Sky)

This American comedy-drama stars Kaley Cuoco as a carefree flight attendant who gets caught up in an FBI investigation after one of her passengers, with whom she enjoyed a brief rendezvous, is found dead.

I know a lot of people love it, and it's been described as saucy, sexy, twisted, clever and truly suspenseful. But it has three things going against it for me.  A ditsy blonde, a ghost  (the dead man turns up every now and then to chat to the flight attendant) and repeated flash backs. I find that I don't care enough about Cassandra to want to see it through to the end. 

Unforgotten  (ITV, ITV Hub, Netflix for seasons 1-3)

Unforgotten seems to have escaped my beady eye until the release of the new series on ITV, season 4. I don't know why because it's right up my street: the solving of cold cases.

I was able to pick it up perfectly well from the new series, although I probably should have started at the beginning.

DCI Cassie Stewart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) investigate an unsolved crime involving headless remains found in a London scrapyard – and worryingly, the suspects in the case were all once newly qualified police officers. 

It may not have the dramatic razzmatazz of Line of Duty, but this is solid, results-driven policing underpinned with human interest. Cassie’s petition to leave the force early and receive her full pension was effectively denied. With her father’s increasingly apparent health issues at the forefront of her mind, a bitter Cassie returns to her old stomping grounds, supported by Sunny.

The One (Netflix)

Our stop and start progress in watching this new series speaks volumes. I realised, writing this compilation, we had forgotten about it and not seen an episode for a few days. It's a shame because on paper the plot looks compelling.  Love — and lies — spiral when a DNA researcher helps discover a way to find the perfect partner, and creates a bold new matchmaking service.

The pace is quite slow - it could probably have had fewer episodes - and the characters don't seem all that engaging.

Let me know what you think about my verdicts, and if you have any recommendations of your own, in the comments.

Sharing this post with #NeverendingStyle at the Grey Brunette, Rena at Fine Whatever, #LinkUpOnTheEdge with Shelbee on the EdgeNot Dressed as Lamb, #FabulousFridays at Lucy Bertoldi #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings


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