Category Archives: Reviews

Essex Serpent

I’d give Essex Serpent a bunch of stars.  Good book.  Possible spoilers to follow.

Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry, is set in coastal Essex, England, at the turn of the 20th century.   Cora Seaborne is recently widowed, after suffering years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her deceased husband.  She travels to a rural area in the company of her son (who is clearly on the autism spectrum, although this was not recognized at the time in which the novel is set) and her companion Martha, an ardent working class socialist.  Her intention is to study and discover fossils and other natural curiosities.  They fetch up in Aldwinter, a small town in the grip of hysteria over a possible Loch Ness style monster.  Cora develops a relationship with William Ransome, the local preacher, who is married with children.  William’s pretty wife, Stella, is dying of TB throughout the book and does not begrudge William and Cora their relationship.  A plot ensues and people interact.  In the end, there is no magical monster.

Okay, that’s the plot.  Here are a few thoughts:

A scary serpent/creature/whatever is generally assumed to be a phallic symbols of sexuality.  However, this guy seemed more likely to symbolise the darkness in all of us, or the darkness of superstition.

The relationship between Cora and William can be seen as an awakening after their respective periods of arrested development.  During her marriage, Cora was subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.  Simply put, femininity and female sexuality did her no favors. She reacts by trying to start over, adopting the non-sexual clothing and curiosity of a child.  William had a happy but very traditional marriage. Neither of them had had the experience of having a pal of the opposite sex.

Do you think they will be together after Stella dies?

The minor charachters are very well drawn – the old beggar, the red-haired fisherman’s daughter, the wealthy couple.

I wonder why the author had Cora’s son be on the autism spectrum?  Was it to have a character whose observations and questions were divorced from social mores?


Mystery of the day – why did I binge watch both seasons of Bordertown on Netflix?

Bordertown is a police drama set in Lappeenranta, Finland, near the Russian border. It features the customary staples of such shows: brilliant but quirky detective, earnest young detective learning from him, pretty young women in peril, possible perp introduced 7 minutes into the show who turns out not to be the bad guy, medical examiner quipping about corpses killed in grotesquely creative ways.

But Bordertown also has its own unique flaws! For example –

The worst dubbing ever. One can forgive the fact that the dubbed in voices don’t match the actors’ mouths because the actors were speaking Finnish. But the dubbing also doesn’t match the captioning, and sometimes the difference is significant – the dubbed voice says “Go to hell you bastard” while the caption says “I think you should leave now.” ALSO, the dubbed voices of the main characters have the odd wooden affect of an embarrassed 6th grader forced to read from Shakespeare.

Moreover, the quirky detective has a special personal “method” of solving crimes using a “memory palace.” His secret method consists of putting lines of duct tape on the floor, appearing to play Twister with himself by moving his hands or feet into sections of the tape, and then grimacing while he tries to remember clues.

One more uniquely bad thing – Bordertown presents Russia and the Russian people with the same nuanced sensitivity as that employed by Trump when discussing Mexicans. In this show the Russians are always more violent, crude, venal, and untrustworthy than the Finns. Who knew that Russians were the (I can’t think of a substitute for N-word) of Finland?

So why did I watch it? I dunno. The acting seemed good – if only they had just had captions and skipped the dubbing.

Finland is pretty in the 15 minutes of summer – there wasn’t a single scene in which it was cold or snowy.

Oh, and I absolutely loved the names of Finnish children – Lumi, Onni, Esa, Joona, Reko.

The relationship between the FSB agent and her daughter was good, and well acted.

Bottom line us probably that knitting TV only has to be good enough to stave off boredom during the wrong side rows.

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