While you were Sleeping

Ever fallen in love with someone you haven’t even talked to?

Ever spent the night talking to a man in a coma?

Loneliness and belonging are at the heart of While you were Sleeping which is probably one of the reasons it is such a quintessential Christmas movie. The other reason of course is that it is set in the Christmas season and showcases beautiful, thematically decorated city-scapes and home-interiors.

The protagonist Lucy Eleanor Moderatz isn’t anything in particular. Not particularly successful or accomplished or even very good-looking- she looks something like a cross between an orphan in the street (all that insistence on wearing her father’s oversized, ill-fitting winter coat) and a drowned rat (all those awful, skimpy woolen hats with her hair sticking out in a draggled way underneath it). The rest of the time she’s dressed a little like the furniture in the Calaghan’s living room- which by the way is a great hearkening back to Victorian decor and is also a pretty good setting for a very Victorian, very consumerist, over-stuffed Christmas. If you notice the wallpaper too (don’t get distracted by Jack sitting down next to the wall), it’s got little Dickensian men all over it, amusingly enough.

I catch the symbolic meaning of Lucy’s clothes now though: Lucy is an orphan.That is, although she only lost her father when she was already an adult, he was the only parent/family she knew. She holds on to him by still wearing his coat which is too big for her and visually intensifies her slightness and when you notice it, her alone-ness in the world. Jack Callaghan, the brother she wasn’t supposed to fall in love with, is the one who asks her about it in slightly different words- Oh, your coat’s too big for you-It was my dad’s…(sub-text:she’s entirely alone, the only coat she owns is a reminder of her dead father).

Roger Ebert points out how the Callaghans move as one unit. They do make a great ensemble. Key moments have them all chiming in like instruments in an orchestra. To the surgeon’s shrill, protesting squeak-You can’t come bursting into this unit–Ox’ s (Mr.Callaghan) voice booms in response —That’s my son! Following soon on that is Mrs. Callaghan’s wail –On Christmas Day! At the family dinner Lucy and Jack exchange understanding looks over the silverware as the family play their parts in full strength —These mashed potatoes are so creamy …so very mashed —that’s Mrs. Callaghan providing a chorus that weaves in and out– I didn’t say Ricky Ricardo was Cuban–Well then what did you say? I said Ricky Ricardo was tall— Saul and Midge gently squabbling in the foreground, what could they be? The ting ting ting of the triangle? Saul again, this time bringing in the heavier beat Argentina has great beef…beef and Natzis.

They’re great, really. All of them.

When Lucy and Jack are off away together long enough to fall in love the whole city is lit up just for them. There’s no one else in the streets and Chicago is empty except for lovers (there’s another pair sucking face under a lamp post, just as Jack and Lucy pass by). They walk home in the snow and into a piece of comedy as they slip on the ice near her building- sweetly trying to hold each other up but ending in a sprawl on the pavement with Jack Callaghan ripping the back pocket right off his jeans and walking home under Lucy’s amused but very taken gaze.

If you’re looking for morals, this movie will seem to cater to Hollywood’s most obvious rule: Prince Charming is the hands-on carpenter brother in denim, wearing old, brown, creased boots, not the high-flying lawyer brother with classic good looks, double breasted suits, and iffy morals. If you put obvious morals aside though, you can absorb so much more than just sentiment and truism. 

Finally, on setting and colour. I love Lucy’s apartment. It’s all solid, earthy, rooted, browns and occasional dainty creams and suits her to a T. Jack looks great in it. Peter would never fit in-his minimalist, white, glass and metal digs is alright for him and Ashley Bartlett-Bacon (I will never get over that name) but Lucy looks out of place the minute she walks in. At the family dinner Saul and Ox are in conservative greys, Midge a sparkly gadfly of a older lady and a subversive, dainty grandmother is in grey-green and the “kids” Jack, Lucy and of course the kid-sister Mary all match in soothing, muted, olive greens.

My favourite lines and favourite scene in this movie is when Jack is talking to his unconscious brother:

´Member in like, uh, fifth or sixth grade,

              l was starting to get really good at poker, and, uh,

              goin´ home with lots of lunch money?

              l got to know the principal´s office really well.

              He always used to say to me,

              ´´How come you can´t be more like your brother Peter?´´

              Well, you know what? l was all right with that.

              l had no problems with that because l was proud of you.

              And l was never envious of anything that you had.

              Until now.

              l´ll cut the deck. High card gets Lucy.

 

The wide, still, vulnerable look in Bill Pullman’s eyes catches me up each time. It amps up into an intensity of expectation for the next line–High card gets Lucy–. He switches into a sweetly, comic look of mischief as he pretends to take this joke quite seriously. When he loses immediately, the dramatic tension is released and not willing to be satisfied with his luck (or lack of it), he decides to go through the mundanity of effort, the last line in this scene is —Okay we’ll go best out of three.

The light plays on Jack’s face all through this scene and it just strengthens the sense that he is baring his soul and confessing his secrets. He can’t hide from us in this scene, it’s a coming to terms with his feelings.

So much to look at and so much to engage with, but people still negate romantic comedies, more for their genre than for the quality of the individual movie. I realize that this type of movie may not re-write the rules of perception and that its strength is that it plays to type, but I can’t help enjoying it.

Update: Re-watching this and (while women don’t need to be good-looking) she is pretty, (the character Lucy not Sandra Bullock) when she gets rid of those hats. But it just emphasizes my point that the style is very Little Orphan Girl in the Big World wearing hand-me-downs and cast-off clothes. At one point- walking home with Jack- she has a cloth bag over her shoulder-she isn’t very far off from an archaic visual of a teenage runaway- setting off with her possessions in a handkerchief.

I keep having to add updates to this post, because I keep remembering lines and scenes that I’d like to hold and hug like a tangible thing. Almost every scene seems to simply make this movie. Joe Junior is fat and also owns clothes that are too small to fit (Lucy totally judges him. Why? All her stuff is too big to fit.) and has an unsophisticated mind and voice (playing to type much?), but even he stops being so commonplace, and it comes out of the blue I could move in here he says huskily, I bet you Papa’d knock 50 bucks of the rent most pathetically (sub-text: If I paid you, would you live with me? For a price would you love me?). Ahh, I’m butter in the hands of a skillful actor. Or maybe I just really like an Aristotlian catharsis.

Okay, really finally, Peter out of his coma is hilarious. I never noticed that he was getting married in a blazer draped over his hospital pajamas. Or that he involuntarily uses Lucy’s full name to propose to her, presumably because he remembers it from when she was talking to him when he was unconscious which is a great nod back to the beginning of the movie. The entire proposal is a masterpiece of comedy through the high tone of Peter’s proposal and his fuzzy grasp of what is actually going on. We notice immediately that it’s really more about Peter than it is about Lucy. He’s still so self-centered he doesn’t notice that even when he thinks he’s proposing to someone else he’s still just thinking about himself. But she can’t be swept away by the shallow romance (a high-cultural reference like”La Rue du Faubourg, Saint Honore” doesn’t mean anything to Lucy personally, and proposals should at the very least be relevant to the person proposed to). Humour is in the reception of the proposal by the suggestible people in the room -Peter’s ward mate helps him along with explaining the proposal to Lucy and the duty-nurse faints because she can’t take the drama anymore.

Peter:  You know what? Facing death makes a man evaluate his life.

        And l´ve been thinkin´ about mine, and l haven´t liked what l´ve seen.

        l´ve seen a man who has courtside tickets to the Bulls,

         a, a lucrative investment portfolio,

         an apartment on La Rue du Faubourg, Saint Honore.

   Lucy:       Where?

Ward Mate: Paris. Peter: But l´ve also seen a man who has no one to trust. No one to want to have a son with. You were there when l needed someone the most. You gave me a second chance at life. Took a coma to wake me up. My family loves ya. l might as well love you. Lucy Eleanor Moderatz, will you marry me?

The Age of Adaline

Serena van der Woodsen plays Adaline Bowman in this charmi- oh sorry, that’s Blake Lively funneling Serena van der Woodsen charm into a perfect snowstorm. Each delicately formed flake lands on your cheek and you wish it could stay there forever in all its fragile perfection. The Age of Adaline was recommended to me a year ago.I finally finished watching it today, it did not take me year of course to get through the whole movie, but watching it twenty minutes at a time is a very pleasant, lulling activity. This is mainly due to Blake Lively’s easy, soft, purring voice. She always sounds as if she speaks through angel wings, in honey dipped vibrations. At least that’s how she sounds in Gossip Girl and in this movie.

The year is 1937 and the city is San Francisco. Adaline Bowman has been living a life untouched by the big events of the world, the events of her life dictated only by the gentle, inner thrumming of her personal rhythm. The entire movie functions under these terms, it is entirely dependent on Blake Lively’s ability to conjure up a vibrant yet mutedly impactful personality. We’re inside a gloriously controlled world where everything is done just so. There are no strings here though, just a conducter’s baton. When the odd (actually the only) crass (and therefore alien) remark is made, (Ellis her boyfriend has to live out at least one cliched moment when he says that women wouldn’t do well on answering Trivial Pursuit questions on boxing), Adaline’s lips gently purse as she looks him over and she voices a full,soft,disapproving “hmmm” and then proceeds to lambast everyone else at the game. Well, what’s the point of a movie if you can’t dictate the terms?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before she meets Ellis in the present day, Adaline is a widow in 1937 with a little girl. She is involved in a freak accident that prevents her from aging. Years pass and stopped on a minor traffic violation, news apparently reaches the Man that Adaline is no longer ageing. The Man being who they are, accost her late one rainy night, bundle her into a car and seem to be trying to fly her off to an undisclosed location with nary a care about her civil rights. On the run ever since this day, Adaline has given up hope of a real life until the day she meets Ellis. The story is developed really well through flashbacks and well-worn narratorial tactics take us back to the moment that started the story to end it as well.

Possibly because it employs high cultural motifs to good effect, the movie is pleasant to watch. But it doesn’t seem enough to dismiss it in this way without admitting that storytelling, acting,direction and cinematography made this an accomplished  and enjoyable movie.

 

Teenwolf<The Vampire Diaries

How on earth can anybody watch TeenWolf? Episode 1 Season 1 is the stupidest televised script that I have ever seen. Tyler Posey’s pretty hair is simply not enough.

There are woods and a wolf and somebody gets eaten. Another girl is in danger (but then she’s safe, I think the wolves are good) and the prosthetics are laughable. I’m yawning already. This should have been a bed-time story. It’s dull, masculinist, coming of age myth-making all over again. And I’m so bored. G’night.

Elder Millenial-Iliza Shlesinger

It’s quite disheartening that Trevor Noah, at 34, makes a mild joke about how he’ll have kids, “one day, when [he] grows up” and the audience chuckles indulgently , while Ileza Shlesinger, at 35, makes an entire routine about how she’s aging and feels gross underneath her makeup,lashes, and clothes. Both of these jokes,I am sure, are entirely truthful and reflective of each comic’s experience and socially built-up expectations.

I was a little wary of Shlesinger’s jokes, because although I thought she was very funny–class-spunk-smarts-pizzaz! Style-delivery-timing…she does voices! And bird calls! I didn’t like how her jokes depended on the further entrenchment of gender stereotypes. She’s an articulate and sophisticated funnywoman (how ironic, WordPress accepts “funnyman” without a red underscore), but a brief nod to alterity is not enough, especially if it’s only to preempt criticism by presenting what you do as a deliberate and knowledgeable artistic choice. Awareness is of no use if it does not radically change how you live in the world.

Still, in the end I liked her a lot as a comic because besides the perfect execution of her routine, she’s extremely authentic in the presentation of her perspective and experience, and I like that.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

A movie that is practically synonymous with Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffanys  provides beautiful images for your eyes to feast on- sparkling stones in shop-windows try to match Hepburn’s own giant, marble-sized, thickly-lashed green eyes (the stones have a disadvantage-they can’t match the expression in her eyes). Lovely early-morning city-streets, stone stairs and tall buildings form the background for her frame (that looks as if it were carved in one movement out of a monolith) and the beautiful, pronounced angles of her face. Doesn’t Audrey Hepburn look just like marble sculpture brought to life?

The movie unfortunately has to depend on the idea of the emotionally uncontrolled eternal woman-child who can add two and two, but larger numbers confuse her. Isn’t that adorable? Also Audrey relies on that breathy-voiced style of acting in the old movies that I’ve never managed to find very credible, although women who made it their own voice were very charming and very impressive. Life seems to be lived on a higher register for such a character than for everyone else. You’re a heroine with a capital “H”. Imagine doing that sort of thing in more plain-spoken times! What we have is the cast of Girls and Lena Dunham! I do remember reading something about how …people thought that if you could suffer like Ingrid Bergman did in Gaslight then it was okay, to be unhappy in a romantic, high-toned way was the thing.

This a movie which won’t be too exasperating in its portrayal of Holly Golightly’s feyness, because she was ‘married’ at 14 to a middle-aged man, whom people keep calling her husband, until she says with the air of one who understands her responsibilities, that the ‘marriage’ was annulled. When a character is caught in such a cat’s cradle of societal norms and expectations, you really can’t quibble over how most women would realise that taking money from a famous drug-dealer may eventually end your dubious marriage prospects to a pompous Brazilian politician. Obviously, these are the sober thoughts of a more fortunately circumstanced person. Why are female protagonists always like that, though? The Shopaholic girl in the books is just as moronic, and we have to accept her mental vacuum as being representative of- get ready for it- niceness. All the nice people I ever met were also more than nominally intelligent. Just saying.

Speaking of her fey, precious, eccentricity:

oh cat BaT

How did they get the cat to refrain from biting her after she chucked him out in the rain? He’d only just found a dry box before she snatched him up and began squashing him like that. Maybe it was a double?

BaT Cat

According to someone on the internet:

“Orangey the Cat is the only cat in history that has won the Patsy Award twice. For those who do not know, the Patsy award is the animal kingdom’s equal of an Oscar. The Patsy Award is awarded by the American Humane Association”

http://www.everythingaudrey.com/breakfast-at-tiffanys-cat-orangey-cat/

Just talent then.

Mickey Rooney’s racist portrayal of the Japanese neighbor has been making people uncomfortable enough for a while now, so I won’t dwell on it. It was the reason I went rather off this movie for a while, before memories of Audrey’s eyes, and the actors’ expert modulations, and the Moonriver soundtrack reeled me back in. Patricia Neal was just wonderful as the wealthy woman who ‘kept’ Paul Varjak (played by a delightful looking George Peppard).  My favourite Audrey moment has always been the “How do I look?” scene, after fastening on one earring, large marble-like eyes framed by a enormous black hat. It’s as ineradicable from my mind as a song stuck in my head.

how do I look
Like you re-invented meaning.  That’s why you’re iconic.

 

Something’s Gotta Give-the fuller review

This is a movie that goes well with french toast. The characters keep eating sweet things, Diane Keaton’s character Erica loves Paris, pancakes were prepped. Eggs are in her house, so I start feeling peckish and wonder what can be done with the ones in mine 😀 . Honestly, just starting this review made me start thinking of all the sweet things I’d like to eat while writing this.

french toast
I like mine with lots of honey.

 

Well, so the movie. Erica Barry is a successful, divorced, 50 something playwright. She has one adult daughter (Marin), a lovely beach house where the main action is set, and slightly younger sister (Zoe) who teaches Women’s Studies at an appropriately educated sounding university and “was in the Israeli army.” Marin invites Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) to the beach house and just when they’re about to have sex, Harry amusingly enough has a heart-attack. Well, it was funny in the movie. His relationship with Marin is toast, and having to admit to his doctor in front of her that he used viagra that night is just the cream cheese frosting on top of it. We move on from what might have been (predictable and controlling and negative) to a new relationship that emerges between the hapless Erica and Harry,  as he needs to recover in her home and can’t travel back to the city. She doesn’t “enjoy playing nurse to [his] bad-boy patient” and she doesn’t really. Instead, while chatting with him between times she goes out with the 36 year old doctor played by Keanu Reeves. #womensrights #weshouldallgooutwithkeanureeves #feminism

Keanu Reeves
Does the french toast look as good as Keanu? (I think it’s equal.) Also shout out to how he handles his role. He is just one long, evenly played, beautiful note all through out. 

 

Their relationship develops as Harry shows us unsuspected depth to his character and Erica discovers that charming is charming. Unfortunately, Harry Sanborn still plays to the old rules, and as per usual he dumps Erica after sleeping with her.  (It’s like he didn’t watch the new movies.) Of course, the dumping was with her permission which makes it worse. She doesn’t want to rock the boat so badly, that when he says he isn’t “good at monogamy” she just nods along, without wondering what she wanted. Which means – she falls for it too, right? Like the 30 year olds she was castigating.

ERICA

          You just like to travel light? Oh,
          please, what the hell does that mean?

                    HARRY

          Now see a thirty year old gets that.

                    ERICA

          You mean falls for that.

                    HARRY

          I mean, accepts it.

                    ERICA

          If that's what you want... a non
          threatening woman, who won't get your
          number, you get to run the show...

From there on Erica starts to own the story. She thinks she’s fine, runs into Harry out on the town with someone unrealistically (for him) good looking  and has an absolute melt down, which forces Harry to deal with her feelings over how she was treated, instead of conveniently brushing them aside. The first few times I saw this movie years ago, I didn’t understand why when she tells Harry that she “just wished it had lasted longer” and he responds “me too”, she says “that is a terrible thing to say.” And then I got it this time. If you pour your heart out to someone you deserve more than polite rejoinders. Erica then rushes off to the beach house to recuperate by writing her new play, and she makes it about Harry.

 

Nicholson’s muted indignation on receiving a literary-dramatic cutting down is chokingly funny.

KN9
Obfuscation

There are many lovely moments in this scene my own favourites are:

KN10
You tell ’im, Diane.

KN11
I loved her hissy-eyed, cobra-strike face here as she spat out that line.

It ends beautifully.

 

Watch it with some french toast on your plate. It ends happily once Harry realises all his flaws.

Something’s Gotta Give

Watching Something’s Gotta Give and re-realising what a lovable movie it is. It’s filled with such gems of sharp written dialogue, and I love watching the drama play out through the dynamics between Keaton and Nicholson. I especially love watching Keaton’s emotions gently bring every line and muscle in her face into play- it’s like watching the theatre in her mobile countenance. Her face, and also that well-modulated voice (she can’t seem to scream even when at the end of her tether. I think it was deliberate to bring such a poised and likable persona to this role of 50 something single woman who *gasp* begins to date again), well her acting together with Jack Nicholson’s gently gravelly, gently ironic voicing of his lines is perfect. Speaking of Nicholson he finds that sweet spot where a 63 year old man can date 30 years old and younger women and not come across as a desperate creep. He is either charmingly kind and solicitous or plain adorable.

Jack N
Falling off the bed when when snooping around Erica’s (Keaton) room when she returns from her date with a 36 year old doctor (Keanu Reeves 😀 ). How did his glasses spring into the air in an amusingly complementary movement like that?

I’ve got so many screen grabs of the more amusing dialogues, but maybe another post, there were just so many.

 

Spanglish Redux

“Deborah Clasky: Mother, I need to say something to you…You were an alcoholic and wildly promiscuous woman during my formative years so I’m in this fix because of you

Evelyn Wright: You have a solid point dear, but just now the lessons of my life are coming in handy for you.”

Nearly everyone in Spanglish, even almost everyone with screen-time, has a backstory or at least a richly detailed, clearly delineated personality. The equations between the cast are finely modulated, through action and reaction etched into their faces (Evelyn Wright in the scene quoted above) or through the dialogue that prompts a fresh unlooked for response from the character such as this soft-spoken response from Adam Sandler’s John Clasky when talking to his daughter, Bernice:

Bernice Clasky (reading the review of her father’s restaurant aloud): Eating at this perfect, smaller, passionate restaurant inspires one’s own abandonment of caution. To wit…John Clasky is the best chef in the United States.

John Clasky: Look how great you read it.

The whole group seems to be thoroughly sympatico (that was a dialogue reference) with each other. A review I read somewhere took issue with the movie’s dependence on stereotypical characters (drunken mother-in-law, I think it said, and maybe problematic wife, attractive housekeeper?). On the other hand Roger Ebert seemed taken aback by the range of Tea Leoni’s Deborah, though Deborah seemed eminently understandable to me. Her emotions flare-up to delight and spiral downwards into self-absorption and personal misery that crushes every unfortunate in her vicinity, but especially her daughter and her husband. Inappropriate remarks tumble out her mouth every time she talks, and  she waits with a disarming vulnerability for a crushing put-down, because she’s aware of all the words,

John  Clasky: I think that’s a little…

Deborah Clasky: What? Insensitive? Elitist? Narcissistic? Irresponsible? Perverse? Dizzy? What?…

Open-handed and direct, she remains incapable of shifting her own perspective the slightest bit, paralyzed (one can only assume) by her own feelings and thereby unable to accommodate someone else’s. At one point she congratulates Flor (played by Paz Vega) on her daughter’s appearance, and tells her she could make a fortune at surrogate pregnancy. A joke between similarly situated people, but I was wondering if it could be casually flipped out like that to someone not as mainstream as one was oneself.

I did wonder if the movie set out to contrast two visions of womanhood, through Deborah and Flor’s characters. Each seemed to be beauty worked to the highest possible pitch from two different cultures. The movie does explicitly call out the contrast in the lines (and juxtaposed scenes of Flor and Deborah) about how “dieting, exercising American women” suppress desire for style and become afraid of “all that is good in life” including motherhood. With a lack of self-critique the movie personifies motherhood through the curvaceous Flor, economically vulnerable since her divorce, and now working as a housekeeper. Fortunately, Deborah Clasky’s character does not remain a catch-all for all that is bad in life. She is “infuriated” when John Clasky squeezes her breast to get her to stop talking (perhaps constantly and wrong-headedly, but also sincerely and expressively). Her angst, which if you ask me, is the angst of the contemporary woman terrified that accommodation might mean losing out,giving in or not existing on her own terms, unsure of herself because she has set herself a new, unperformed script to play. It’s hard to do what hasn’t been done before. If she has a chip on her shoulder it’s because it was placed there.

The movie swings more in favour of self-possessed and principled Flor, than the uncertain and destructive wreck that Deborah becomes, and so maybe it seems that women must choose between diametrically opposed paths. But fortunately it is also about other things. Communication is a key theme in a movie about family dynamics and employer-employee relations when the help can’t speak the language. Flor is always certain of herself, but as she experiences challenges she wasn’t expecting she remains sure-footed and even learns how to speak in a new language and take care of herself in a new culture. Three of the adults in the film, John, Deborah, and Flor are concerned with elaborately fine-tuning their communication. Deborah remains the most insistently reliant on vocabulary, expecting words to give new life to a relationship, yet Sandler’s and Paz Vega’s characters achieve the fullest comprehension, despite “communicating in apologies” and not having a large number of mutually understood words between them.

Spanglish packs in a great deal of perspective into two hours. It is a warm and credible look at cultural values, relationships and communication.

 

The Freedom Maze

The Freedom Maze is a book that can be re-read. I’d first read this book in 2012 and may have read it since, but on pulling it off my shelves again, it still reads beautifully.Mind you, this is a book that will make you uncomfortable. It talks about race-relations, but you will find that it can be used to talk about any kind of servitude- any form of bullying and harassment that masks itself as justice and the maintenance of an orderly society.

It made me think about the bullying that some kinds of people exercise their authority to practice with impunity, but it also made me think about class-gaps and the treatment of the informal labour industry (in countries everywhere e.g. US, Philippines, Thailand) specifically, house help in India.

The book’s protagonist is 13 year Sophie Martineau a passive, bookish, unhappy teen who leads an unchallenged and uninteresting life with her controlling, unsympathetic mother. It is set in 1960s Louisiana just after desegregation. Sophie is sent back to the decaying family home to live with her aunt for the summer.

Unhappy about her life and anxious about the future, she makes a wish for a different life, and is promptly sent back in time to her family home as it was in the year 1860 before the Civil War led to making slavery illegal.

Sophie’s adventures are not at all like the blithe, contextless brand of fantasy that children’s novels like E.Nesbit’s Five Children And It or Chronicles of Narnia narrate. In their review of the book, Kirkus Reviews also mentions Time Garden as a literary referent- a novel where a group of white children go back in time and free slaves. Instead, Sophie herself is taken to be a slave (because she has a tan from being outdoors) and is put to work on her family plantation.

She experiences the complete physical vulnerability of the slaves quite practically when she gets whipped for reading a book or has a pair of shears flung at her. These experiences wring a new moral independence out of Sophie’s nature, she starts seeing herself as one of the slaves and forgets her origins in the 20th century.

Sophie’s developing moral judgement evolves from her own existence as a slave. As such she is not merely a sympathetic, invulnerable outsider developed out of a patronising and blind world-view, but a concrete imagining of what slavery is.

The book is detailed, sensitive, and gripping. Delia Sherman makes use of African- Caribbean myth to underpin the fantasy element of the plot, and the voices of the characters are poignant and unforgettable. When Sophie is pulled back out of the past we are with her in that moment, still wondering about the fate of the characters who have been left behind. She returns to the present with a better understanding of her ancestors and the world she is living in.

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