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Friday 30 April 2021

Friday Favourites: Books, Podcasts, TV - April Edition

Is This Mutton writer Gail Hanlon walking in forest with headphones listening to a podcast

It's the last Friday of the month and time for my round-up of books, films, TV and podcasts. Which podcast will be added to the Is This Mutton Hall of Fame?


The Pupil by Ross Carne

The pupil in question is a trainee barrister, Natasha, assigned to shadow senior colleague Mel. Natasha is keen to learn Mel's personal and professional secrets, and starts to insinuate herself into Mel's life. A twisty thriller. 

Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly

I really wanted to love this: it's about the world of ballet and has had rave reviews. But I'm afraid I had to abandon it a few chapters in.  Initially I was hooked by the rivalries and fiefdoms of a traditional ballet company. The daughter of the company's owner is the leading ballerina, but her place as #1 is always under threat. Every chapter seemed to introduce new characters with complicated back stories, which I grew tired of.  Perhaps one to revisit on a summer holiday.

The Wreckage by Robin Morgan-Bentley

A thriller that was highly enjoyable but the loose ends remain a bit of a mystery.  A man suffering from anxiety and depression, who's also handsome and personable,  hits a man on the motorway.  He is desperate to find out what happened to the man and goes to the hospital in search of the victim. He inveigles his way into the life of the man's wife and son. There are some very unexpected twists, but at the end I was still scratching my head a little, which doesn't make for a satisfying conclusion.

Films and TV 

Mare of Easttown  (Sky Atlantic, Now)

A drama starring Kate Winslet, who has never been better.  She totally dominates and her acting is a masterclass. Mare (Winslet) is a detective sergeant, working in a small town in Delaware where everyone knows everyone else. The first episode was a little slow as it introduced us to the various characters. It culminated in a shock ending.  Mare has to investigate the death of a young woman, just a year after the mysterious disappearance of another woman which remains unsolved. Highly recommended.

Spiral  (BBC iPlayer, Hulu)

I'm late to the party with this sublime French police drama - a rich seam if you haven't discovered it with eight seasons! We're now in series 6.  The strength of the series lies in the characters: the three detectives whose cases we get gripped by, and their ally, the sometimes cold but effective "juge," Roban.  I wish we knew more about Roban, below.  In this series, he's had a brain biopsy and it's clear he isn't in contact with any family members. I'm worried about him! 

Made in Italy  (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu)

A film starring real-life father and son, Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson, with parallels to their own lives.  Neeson's wife, and Micheál's mother, actor Natasha Richardson, died in 2009 after sustaining a head injury while skiing. 

The film is about a bohemian artist (Neeson) who travels to the family's dilapidated holiday home in Italy to prepare it for sale to help his estranged son, who travels with him.  The artist is reluctant to talk about his late wife, and the house stirs old memories for the pair of them and anger in the son at his father's detachment. 

Unfortunately the film is very cliched with a slow pace. It lumbers towards the inevitable reconciliation.

Promising Young Woman 

We watched this before it picked up an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Emerald Fennell. I was disappointed to see that all the promotional images, except the one I've chosen, showed Carey Mulligan dressed provocatively in a nurse's uniform with a multi coloured wig. A little gratuitous, no?

Mulligan is a young woman, Cassandra,  whose promising legal career is cut short when she she is traumatized by a tragic event in her past and seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.I found the film a bit jerky and patchy. The scenes early on where Cassandra pretended to be drunk and got picked up by men who then attempted to have sex with her were overly long. The coffee bar was a technicolor and sugar filled nightmare which seemed deliberate to show the contrasts between sweetness and darkness.  But it had some good twists and gripped me to the end.

Podcast Round-Up

The Is This Mutton Podcast Hall of Fame:  Chosen for April.....

The Battersea Poltergeist  (BBC Radio 4)

In the late 1950s,  the UK was gripped by the real-life horror of "The Battersea Poltergeist."  Strange things were happening in an ordinary house in Battersea, London, and they seemed to centre around a 15 year old girl, Shirley. 

In this meticulously researched series, a combination of documentary and drama, we hear from experts both pro and against the idea of paranormal events, and we hear from Shirley herself, now aged 80. The conclusion of the experts is unexpected.  Utterly compelling.

Life Changing with Jane Garvey (BBC) 

Jane Garvey was until recently one of the main presenters of Woman's Hour.  She is an extremely gifted interviewer and broadcaster, and her skills are put to good use in this new podcast where she talks to people who have lived through extraordinary events. We discover how these moments have reshaped lives in the most unpredictable ways.

The first episode featured Grace Spence Green, who was left paralysed after a freak accident. She was hit by a falling man who had jumped from three floors above her in a shopping centre.  

Garvey doesn't avoid the tough questions but is always empathetic and involved.  Many podcasts feature interviewers who are celebrities, and their interviewing leaves a lot to be desired. They have a list of questions they stick to, and they don't listen properly. But you know that in Garvey's capable hands we will hear the full story. Spence Green bears no malice towards the man who injured her so badly: she doesn't need to forgive him because she never felt anger against him.  Extraordinary indeed. 

Against the Odds (Wondery)

I binge listened to "Kidnapped in the Desert," the true story of how aid worker Jessica Buchanan and a Danish colleague were kidnapped by Somali pirates and kept prisoner in the desert for 93 days. With time running out and Jessica close to death, President Obama authorised a rescue by SEAL Team 6.  This is such a well produced podcast.  I loved the first series, about the Thai Cave rescue.  It can make you gasp and cry, sometimes both at the same time.

I hope you enjoyed this month's round-up, and as always, I would love to get your recommendations in the comments.  I'm back on Tuesday with a look back at the month of April in Sentence a Day.

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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