Wednesday, 11 January 2023


I keep hearing people say how wonderful Netflix is. Certainly there’s never been so much to choose from. According to research, the number of adult scripted original series in 2021 was 559 across cable, broadcast TV, and streaming services and it grew again last year. Yet I struggle to get excited.

Emily in Paris cast: Meet the stunning new men of Emily in Paris season 2

But I liked Emily in Paris, more because I loved the Parisian scenes and attitudes. If they produce a series of sequels – Emily in Venice, Emily in Oxford, Emily in Symi, I’ll be there looking for my favourite restaurants.

My year started with two decisions. First,  not to have a “Drijan” (which sounds like an unpleasant ailment in the lower body). Dry Januaries account for a great deal of ill humour, in my experience, not least by those who waver; secondly, to become an avid reader again. 

In the past few years my enjoyment of and ability to really read and lose myself in a book has dried up. And I’m not alone. Others have told me they dip into books but can no longer lose themselves in reading. Others say they can’t read fiction any more. I sympathised although I did manage to read the latest Donna Leon just before Christmas. She describes the Venice I know and love with brilliant authenticity. The only other person to capture the feel and smell of the place with such certainty glories in the name Cees Nooteboon (The Lion, the City and the Water.)

Cees Nooteboom Takes a Wintry Ride Through Venice ‹ Literary Hub

This month I devoured a Christmas present in just a few days. It’s Ian McEwan’s latest and possibly his last novel. His last? Here’s what he says himself:

'My last novel? I feel as if I've said as much as I know'.

The book’s called Lessons. It was well reviewed by amongst others the Guardian:

McEwan takes aim at the post-war generation in this old-fashioned but generous and humane portrait of individual indecision against the backdrop of history.

Lessons: the new novel from the author of Atonement: McEwan,  Ian: 9781787333970: Books

At last a lengthy book into which I disappeared. It tracks through the life of Roland Baines, who’s almost but never quite a loser, from the 1950s through to today. OK, McEwan writes so well he could make a train timetable absorbing but the Guardian is right. The book is generous in spirit and lively in its view of history. It’s length is expressive of Roland’s own indecisions in life. It’s not just good. It’s a magnificent anthem to our world and observant of the political nostrums that never quite work. Nostrum? Good word. Seldom used. 

Chums by Simon Kuper review — the Oxford Tories who rule us | Culture | The  Sunday Times

Was the book really life changing? Possibly not but it’s rebooted my desire and ability to read which at my age is surprising. I thought I was doomed just to write blogs and drink many glasses of wine. Oh, and that’s another thing. As I read it I didn’t drink a drop. I didn’t want anything to impede the extraordinary effect the book was having.

Now I’m crashing through a lightweight book about the grip Oxford graduates have on British politics – Chums by Simon Kuper. By definition it’ll be fun. So far we learn Simon Stevens who used to run the NHS (I use the word “run” in its loosest sense) was adept at busking tutorials and getting by on minimal work. I’ll finish it by the end the day. I’ll then move on to Robert Harris’ latest, Act of Oblivion.

So, reading for me has once more become a passport to living in new worlds. I’ve even started eyeing up Daniel Deronda, regarded by many as George Eliot’s greatest work.

Reading again. What a great start to 2023.

Pile of Library Books – OPEN SHELF

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