“The story of Langford Grove School is a period piece. It is the story of the remarkable headmistress and sole proprietor, Elizabeth Curtis. Whether it was gin and scallops for lunch with Frank Auerbach; a fireside chat with David Wynne; Sir Thomas Beecham holding up his orchestra until Curty took her seat; driving Vanessa Bell’s daughter Angelica to Blakeney Point; encouraging early orienteering on Bodmin Moor; caring for and educating Basque children escaping Franco’s cruelty; deciding at the drop of a hat that all lessons one particular term should be learnt in French; or following the Wartime exploits of her Naval Officer son, on whom Ian Fleming was said to have based some James Bond characteristics – this was “Curty”. Curty was a progressive educationalist who wanted the very best in artistic experiences in beautiful surroundings for the sixty or so pupils in her care at Langford Grove,” from the Preface by Lucinda Curtis, grand-daughter of “Curty”
A century ago, being an educated and intelligent woman meant learning a European language, singing, dancing and music. Women who wanted to go to university were referred to as “blue stockings” (from the group of women who in the 1750s held “conversations” to which they invited men of letters and members of the aristocracy with literary interests.) Continue reading Review | The Story of Langford Grove School 1923-62 | Blue Horizon Press
Antony Thomas was making documentary films at a time in film and TV when leading producers and executives were backed by their organizations, could stand by their principles and get films made. Three very different commissioners – Charles Denton, Sheila Nevins and Tony Essex – gave him a free rein to make defining, bold films. They were not dominated by the obsession with ratings and chasing “subscriber loyalty”, or hampered by lawyers making risk-averse decisions to protect the brand, as is the case for factual entertainment today.
Continue reading Review | In the Line of Fire: Memories of a Documentary Filmmaker, Antony Thomas | Unicorn Publishing
The daughter of immigrants, Bel Olid is a prizewinning writer, translator and teacher of literature and creative writing. The President of the European Council of Associations of Literary Translators, and President of the Association of Writers in Catalan, she is well known and well respected in Europe for her activism in defense of women and children.
“Those fleeing war are always better received than those trying to escape poverty, especially if the poverty is in a black skin, as if poverty isn’t a bomb that will end up killing you.” (page 14) Continue reading Review | Wilder Winds, Bel Olid | Fum d’Estampa Press
Ahead of the first two live podcast recordings of the 15-part weekly #BridgingTheDivide series going out on Thursday 30 July, here is a guest review of the featured book, Mazel Tov, to give a taste of what you’ll hear and experience. Tune in on Thursday at 5 and 6 p.m. to hear author J S Margot and publisher Adam Freudenheim talk about their experiences.
Towards the end of this marvellous memoir the narrator writes “If I occasionally had the temerity even briefly to think I could penetrate the millefeuille of Jewish culture, I was soon disabused of this idea.” The book is full of various cultural millefeulles that require penetrating – ironic considering that patisserie is the one gastronomic art that the Belgians do not excel in.
Mazel Tov is the story of an extraordinary friendship – in fact several extraordinary friendships that marked the twenties of the author J.S.Margot. At first sight it is the story of a young Flemish woman at university in Antwerp who teaches the four children of an Orthodox Jewish family to earn a bit of extra money. It is also the story of her first great love for an Iranian political refugee. In both cases she is exposed to a culture and religion that is not her own. She also begins to realise that she is on the receiving end of a certain amount of paranoia and suspicion from both her employers and her boyfriend. Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Mazel Tov, J.S. Margot | Pushkin Press
“As far as Jamal could tell, only two things were wrong: a dirty yellow vapour was streaming from the canister and everyone in the compound was dead. The smoke that made Jamal cough and choke in his hut was partly from the contents of the canister and partly from Auntie Sheema, who had fallen onto the cooking fire.” [page5]
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a terrorist!
Jamal lives in West Africa. His hut is set apart, away from the family compound, because of something that makes him twitch, something that may or may not be in his head, which may be evidence of black magic. “After his mum died and his grandfather left, taking all the palm wine from his uncle’s store, everyone told Jamal that he was unlucky.” The fact that he is “marked by spirits” is what saves the boy when terrorists attack the village, since he is overlooked. Continue reading Review | The Ghosts & Jamal, Bridget Blankley | Book of the Week