Weekend in brief: went to the V&A’s Ballgowns exhibition – it wasn’t that great, but the refurb on the main fashion galleries that are free to view is fantastic and much more entertaining than the dull pay-to-view exhibition that has used a range of boring dresses to tell a state the obvious story about how eveningwear has changed from the 50’s to now. Very uninspired. Don’t waste your money. Walked through Chelsea and marvelled at the beautiful red brick Victorian architecture and sent hatred through the walls of every gorgeous house that I will never be able to afford to live in. Had a delicious lunch at The Surprise pub down a backstreet off the King’s Road. Watched The Five Year Engagement. The best thing about it was the shots of San Francisco. I’m going there next summer. Made orange shortbread. Delicious. Use this recipe, add a dash of vanilla and about a quarter of an orange worth of orange peel and you’ve created culinary magic. Add clotted cream and raspberries and you’ve just made your own day. Bought this lovely book. Cried at this film on TV. Wished I could afford to wear Chanel. All in all, had a great time.

Whilst at the cinema I saw the trailer for Anna Karenina. Inwardly I groaned at yet another seminal literary heroine being butchered by the simpering pout of Keira Knightley, but in general it looks like it will be an inventive and visually sumptuous film and I’m looking forward to watching it when it comes out in September. I read Anna Karenina while languishing on the sofa during the miserable British summer of my 16th year; it swept me away and triggered my love affair with all things Russian. However, ten years (TEN YEARS!! How am I this old?!) have erased my memory of the plot, and as such I am going to re-read it this summer. If anyone would like to join in, please do. It will be lovely to have some company.

Finally, I woke this morning to read the horrendously sad news that the marvellous Nora Ephron has left this world, no more to delight us with her sharply intelligent, endearingly wise and fantastically witty writing. Her delicious (and my favourite) film You’ve Got Mail was what made me fall in love with New York; its almost poetical portrayal of a city at once majestic and domestic captured my heart in a way no other foreign city ever has. Subsequently, reading Nora’s essays about the city she loved with a passion convinced me that it was a place I needed to one day call home. So, in a way, she wrote the plot of my dreams. Her work has long inspired and delighted me; she has been a true role model, demonstrating that you can be intelligent and ambitious while still being unfailingly optimistic, whimsical and romantic in your approach to life. By all accounts she was a warm, generous, infectiously joyful woman, who was never afraid to try something new and saw the positive in every situation. Her loss is a great one; her presence here a gift that will keep on giving through the words she leaves behind. Thank you, Nora. Rest in peace.

One of my favourite quotes is a Nora Ephron – “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” Definitely words to live by.



  1. Ballgowns was such a disappointment, wasn’t it? I was really looking forward to it but agree, not worth the price to get in.
    Can’t abide Keira Knightley – get terribly distracted by spotting the worst camera angles on her crocodile jaw – but I just know I’ll end up seeing the film. Also loved the book when I was about 16 which is a lot more than 10 years ago for me! I must read it again. I say that every year!

    1. Yes it was. I will say no names but I know the curators and one of them in particular spends more time hobnobbing with her fashion industry mates and skulking around the museum in her designer clothes than actually doing any curatorial work, and it shows. Total lack of imagination and innovation, and there are better gowns in the collection that they could have shown. It all just felt a bit pointless. A real shame!

      Her jaw is a little distracting, isn’t it? I do think she has a very lovely face though. She is the spitting image of my brother’s girlfriend, as it happens, so I can’t really criticise her looks!

  2. Coco before Chanel is one of the best films no-one has seen. I also read AK when I was 16, hated it, and have never quite had the courage to have another go. Maybe now is the time to finally be shamed into doing so, if you are looking for co-readers….

    1. I quite agree – I loved it. I hope they will do a sequel. I want to see Coco in her heyday!

      Take courage, Jon! We will go forth into the confusing world of Tolstoy together. I think it’s quite key to pick the right translation as well – if you get a turgid one then it makes it even harder to wade your way through. Go to a bookshop and try different ones. A lot of people think the Pevear and Volokhonsky is the best (the latest one, used by Penguin Classics), and it certainly has a more modern and easy to read style than the older ones. However, I like to use the Maude translation as it’s contemporary with Tolstoy and makes me feel more like I’m getting an authentic experience.

      1. I would like to butt in and ask if I may join in with the Karenina reread? I have tried so many times to get stuck into it and can never get past the chapter where Levin’s farming techniques are described in detail. Maybe having co-readers will give me the kick up the bottom that I really need. And plus I want to read it so I can snipe at how Keira ruined the part when the film comes out…
        victoria x

  3. I made it half-way through AK about 10 years ago and was bored by Anna though I adore just about all of Tolstoy’s shorter works, even his religious writings. Am finally reading War and Peace which I am enthralled by … Pierre has rapidly become one of my favorite characters in all of literature. I know I’ll give Anna a second chance though. but probably not this summer.

    Taking this opportunity to say thanks as well for the post on Romantic Moderns — my copy arrived last week and I’m thrilled to have it in the house.

    Finally — because I always read but rarely post here or anywhere –I’ll take this opportunity to add my congrats and best wishes on the move to teaching. I think you will be wonderful at it.

    1. Bored by Anna?! Surely not! I must admit I was rather underwhelmed by War and Peace, which I read after AK, but I found AK’s story so tragic and wonderful that it really did sweep me away. I need to re-read War and Peace too, but I won’t give myself too much to do in one summer!

      You are welcome – I’m so pleased you’ve ordered your own copy! I hope you’ll get as much pleasure from it as I did.

      Oh thank you – that is so lovely of you to say. I am starting to feel very nervous so I really appreciate that today! 🙂

    1. Didn’t she? When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie & Julia….all marvellous, life affirming masterpieces. I adore them all. I shall have to watch one of them this weekend in tribute.

  4. I had no idea Anna Karenina was being made into a movie, I just started reading it for the first time last week because I felt it is referenced so much I had better read it!

  5. I love these posts as much as your review ones. Yes to wearing Chanel, delicious sounding shortbread & I look forward to reading your Anna K thoughts. Warmth bought it for a Valentine’s gift when we’d been dating a month or so. Hope this week is good for you.

    1. Thanks Rachel! Goodness me, what a romantic! Does Warmth have a third brother who’ll take me?! Hope you’re enjoying the last few weeks before summer holidays! 🙂

  6. I was heartbroken to read of Nora Ephron’s death as well and I love, love, love that quote you included. Here’s to you Ms. Ephron!
    I would love to join you for an Anna Karenina read. I read about 250 pages of it in the spring and got so overwhelmed that I stopped. Knowing the film is coming out soon and that others will be reading it will help me to pick it up again.

    1. I felt so sad about it yesterday, Anbolyn, and today too. I don’t know why. I feel like a real treasure has gone.
      Fantastic! I’ll be glad to have you along. We can get through it together!

  7. I love, love, love ‘You’ve Got Mail’. So much so that I can even put up with Tom Hanks and his whining voice. It is the movie I turn to every time I need a pick me up. It has to be the most beautiful bookshop ever and Meg Ryan is adorable. I also read Anna Karenina a long time ago but remember loving it. I’d also like to wear Chanel but considering I have babies depositing their breakfast and everything else on my clothes all the time I think it would be so much worse if they were Chanel! A going out outfit would be nice though! I just read Nella Last’s War and found it very moving and enjoyable.

    1. ME TOO – I know every line and adore it with a passion. It is my favourite, favourite film. I don’t care what anyone says! I want to BE Kathleen Kelly.
      I’d wear Chanel if I could afford to. But I would just get it destroyed too, as I am dreadful for spilling things on myself and don’t look after anything (as my mum says). I suppose if you can afford Chanel, you can afford dry cleaning, though!
      I really want to read that, Lisa – I must get around to it. Everyone always says how wonderful it is!

  8. Hi Rachel. Would love to read Anna Karenina along with you! I’m afraid I need a little encouragement to read any Russian authors. Keep us posted!

    1. Hi Rebecca! Those doorstops are daunting, I completely understand! I will let you know when I am starting, don’t worry -it will be lovely to have you reading along! 🙂

  9. I just did a post on all of the classic lit adaptations coming out this year, including “Anna Karenina”, “Les Mis” and “The Great Gatsby”. I’m dreading the first two because of the casting but I will go see them. I plan on reading the books first though. My prediction is that the films will be visually stunning but may very well fail to deliver on story and character.

    I always felt “You’ve Got Mail” was a rather sad remake of “The Shop Around the Corner” which I love. The original had Jimmy while the remake, excluding “In the Good Old Summertime” musical remake, focused on email rather than books although I do love Ephron’s other works.

    1. Yes, the Oscar noms are going to be filled with literary adaptations this year! I’m not sure about the casting either but they do all look like they will be fantastic regardless. I haven’t read Gatsby in years and have never tackled Les Mis…maybe I should add them to the list along with AK!

      Really?! I must say I have never seen The Shop Around the Corner. I think You’ve Got Mail is just the sweetest, loveliest film ever. I always cry at the end and have a magnificent time throughout, curling my toes with glee and getting anxious in case things don’t work out, even though I know they will. It’s just like reading Pride and Prejudice!

  10. Great photo 🙂 I’m actually in the middle of reading Anna Karenina right now, it would be lovely to hear your thoughts on it!

    I’m thinking of doing a Nora Ephron movie marathon. Maybe do a bit of baking beforehand and then have a cozy and cheerful night in 😉

    1. Thanks Lucy! Well, what a coincidence! I’ll be delighted to hear your thoughts when you have finished!

      I definitely think you should – a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman!

  11. I saw the AK trailer and thought it looked very good. I have no problem with Keira — she is much better than many people seem to think. I also saw the ballgowns and agree entirely — what a waste of money.

    1. I think she has definitely got better over the years, Harriet – but she is still not of the calibre I would expect of someone who gets cast in so many meaty leading roles! Glad you agree – I think it’s terrible that they’re charging so much to see so little!

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