Rebecca Starford, Editor
My pick for this month is the BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy, Parade’s End. The four related novels (that’s what a tetralogy is – don’t worry, I didn’t know either) were published between 1924 and 1928. Set mainly in England and on the Western Front, the story revolves around Christopher Tietjens, the ‘last Tory’. From a wealthy family, Christopher – with an eye for stats – joins a government bureau. He marries Sylvia, a flamboyant yet cruel socialite who seems intent on ruining him, and is obliged to send his beloved son away with relatives when Sylvia has a dalliance overseas. Before long, Christopher meets Valentine Wannop, a feisty suffragette with a trendy bob to match, and the pair begin a passionate friendship.
My interest in Parade’s End was piqued when I learned that Tom Stoppard had written the screenplay, and that the series boasted a cast including Benedict Cumberbatch; Rebecca Hall; Rupert Everett; an Australian girl called Adelaide Clemens, who is the splitting image of Carey Mulligan; and (swoon) Miranda Richardson. I downloaded the first episode last night; the series was recently screened in the UK. I suspect the ABC broadcast will come hot on its heels.
Parade’s End is a quirky and at times confusing story – it would be useful, I think, to have some knowledge of the literary antecedent. Rebecca Hall’s Sylvia is utterly unlikeable, while Cumberbatch is endearing in a wrinkled, stuffy sort of way – he is, nonetheless, a wonderful actor. I was left feeling a little cold at the end of the first episode but I will persist – and recommend anyone with a taste for period dramas to check this one out.
Estelle Tang, Online Editor
When Nora Ephron passed away earlier this year, the tributes came thick and fast. I was surprised to learn that, in addition to her significant achievements as a filmmaker and screenwriter, she was also an essayist and humorist. I’ve had a big year of reading books by funny women, such as Mindy Kaling, Sloane Crosley, Sarah Silverman and Marieke Hardy, and Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck didn’t disappoint. The essays trot along at a New York clip, covering topics from her old apartment to Bill Clinton, and her cookbook heroes. But her main focus here is keeping up appearances – or, rather, one’s appearance – and the title essay is a giggle-worthy lament on the ageing of necks. It’s witty, vervy, full of Ephron aphorisms (Ephronisms?) like ‘You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.’ Airy and sarky and delightful. Vale Nora.