My Brilliant Friend (by Elena Ferrante)

February 13, 2018 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Children of Naples

In a ragged post-war Neapolitan suburb, families send their children to school under sufferance. But two young pupils –  pointlessly enough, girls – exhibit well above-average intellectual ability.  But which one of the pair is the brilliant friend?  Studious, pragmatic Elena, or the mercurial, nihilistic Lila? The girls’ time and place is particularly dangerous.  “Our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection.  With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life.” But then again, it is an all-too familiar child’s world of not quite-real, misunderstood…

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The Teacher (dir. Jan Hrebejk)

December 7, 2017 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Jan Hřebejk, written by Petr Jarchovský) (2016) Maria Drazdechova, a middle school teacher in Bratislava, requires each class of new students to tell her what their parents do. Czechoslovakia is under Soviet rule in the early eighties, and Maria has connections. Based on a real schoolteacher in the life of screenwriter Petr Jarchovský (an old school pal of the director), Maria proceeds, without secrecy or scruples, to require her pupils’ parents to do whatever she asks of them – including housework, hairdressing, smuggling and the provision of sexual favours. The children of parents who refuse to comply with her demands are marked down, bullied and excluded from favourite activities – in…

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The Good Terrorist

February 3, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |


(Doris Lessing) Once a vice is renounced, a delusion pricked, one looks back at it with second sight.  It took the 1956 Hungarian massacre, in which Soviets deployed tanks against civilians, to budge Doris Lessing to resign from the British Communist Party.  Fierce and radical, she could not resist casting some light on the leftish radicals of a new era – Thatcher’s Britain. It is to her credit that we are engaged by the story of the dreariest, most self-centred, whiniest, galactically feckless soft cell in the history of modern terrorism.  Their ‘earth mother’, Alice Mellings, a thirty-something going on…

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

November 17, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Martin Ritt) (1965) Agent Alec Leamas returns from Berlin, defeated and discouraged, and Control gives him a project: go back and set up his adversary for a big fall.  So far, so good, but nothing is what it seems in grand espionage… Great, grey, grim, cold war nasty. Dick Burton, et al, play for keeps with nary a hint of glamour.

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Power Without Glory

(by Frank Hardy) Never mind that Hardy was an unreconstructed Commo; this is a great, great-big book, a scandalous roman-a-clef based on a Collingwood Mafioso, John Wren and his rise (and rise).  Blessed with no literary touches but a lot of narrative drive, the book has become, in its unpretentious way, a landmark of Australian literature.  Hardy had to overcome a myriad hurdles to get his work published and only then did his troubles really begin, in the form of various reprisals, including an almost ruinous trial for criminal libel.

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