The Young Bride by Alessandro Baricco

I read Silk a couple of years ago, and to this day it remains the best book I’ve ever read. In fact, it was so good, I couldn’t finish another book for months. But I realised … and I’m doing it again: this isn’t about Silk, this is about another piece from Alessandro Baricco’s multi-room writing studio.

I’m not sure how the Young Bride escaped my radar for so long, but when I found it, it was a day of joy. It’s an odd story; a dense, literary tale about a young woman who comes to live with a family of wealthy textile merchants. She has been promised to the Son of the family’s patriarch, but on her arrival she discovers the Son has travelled to England to study manufacturing. No one is sure when he will return, so she decides to wait for him, slowly becoming indoctrinated into the strange domestic and sexual rituals of the Family. After a time though, it becomes clear that the Son is no longer in England; he left the country to travel further, and has not been heard from since. The Bride, now bewitched by the Family, and weaving an intricate web of desire of her own, must face the possibility that the Son may never return.

Yes, it’s Alessandro Baricco, so you know it’s going to be a great book, though that doesn’t mean you’re going to like everything about it. I mean, I like a good poetic read as much as the next would-be writer, but sometimes I found the prose a little dense, to the point that it sometimes got in the way of the story, and that’s a shame because it really is a great story. The characters are perfectly flawed, the setting is immaculately crafted and the pace, while measured, is pretty much what a book like this needs. But occasionally, very occasionally, the story gets lost in the poetry.

But aside from that, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that doesn’t builds to a gentle but satisfying end.

Seven out of ten

Dracula (the BBC’s 2020 take)

Well, having being pretty unimpressed with the extraordinarily dull and desperate War of the Worlds, and falling asleep (twice!) during the new year’s episode of Doctor Who, I wasn’t expecting too much from Dracula. I mean, it’s a well-worn story and given their recent form, I wasn’t sure the BBC was going to do it justice.

Turns out I was wrong. This was the most polished piece of dramatic writing I’ve seen from the BBC since Killing Eve, and I suspect there’s a good reason for that.

But before we start on the writing, let’s talk about the genius leads: Claes Bang and Dolly Wells.

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War of the Worlds should have been better

Just finished watching the BBC’s new adaptation of the HG Wells classic, and I have to say I was left a little bit cold. When I heard that it was shot in just three parts, I was worried. Three parts didn’t sound like enough, but on the other other hand, I’ve seen two movie adaptations that managed to do a half decent job (Mmm. Just realised that I never reviewed the Tom Cruise outing) with less time to play with, so thinking about it, three parts, an hour each, should’ve been plenty.

When you’ve got only a few hours to tell a story of global devastation, then the best tack is to focus on a small group of people and see how the destruction of everything around them makes the stronger or breaks them apart. This worked very well for Tom Cruise, it didn’t work that well for the BBC. I think the main problem was that the group of people they chose to focus on just wasn’t that interesting.

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