It's been a busy couple of weeks and so I'm a little late posting my November favourites, but here are a few of the things I enjoyed last month.
1. The Lobster
I wanted to catch The Lobster, the absurd, dystopian film from Yorgos Lanthimos, at the London Film Festival but couldn't get tickets. The reviews were mixed when the film was released and so I wasn't going to bother going to see it, but then I got tickets to a free screening and figured it was worth a punt. I'm really glad I did. The story centres around a near-future world where it is illegal for adults to be single. If your relationship ends, you go to The Hotel (run by a character played by the ever-excellent Olivia Colman) and have 45 days to find a suitable partner or you will be turned into the animal of your choice. Love, however, is less important than 'suitability', which seems to be defined by a shared interest or 'flaw', such as propensity for nose bleeds.
The lobster is the animal chosen by Colin Farrell's David, who enters the hotel at the start of the film after his wife leave him. The result is a combination of Sartre's Les Jeux Sont Faits and Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, with a hefty dose of absurdism. It is thought-provoking and funny in both sense of the word, and Farrell and Rachel Weisz are both great.
2. Curators Coffee Gallery
Since I visited Curators Coffee's Oxford Circus location last year, I've been a convert. The café is a beautifully designed haven, just a few minutes' walk from the Oxford Street crowds. The coffee is excellent and there are often innovative coffee-based drinks on the menu. I stopped by last month for a Chemex, a cookie and a chillax. The staff are very friendly and it's a great place to hang out.
3. The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
I enjoyed, but didn't love, Alex Marwood's first novel, The Wicked Girls, but was intrigued by the blurb for her forthcoming novel, The Darkest Secret and it is a real page-turner; I stayed up way too late one night last week, powering through the twists to get to the end. In the summer of 2004, a three-year-old girl goes missing while her identical twin sister sleeps and her father, Sean, celebrates his fiftieth birthday with his wife and closest friends. Twelve years later, one of Sean's daughters from his first marriage — 27-year-old Mila — deals with another family tragedy and tries to understand what really happened back in 2004.
The novel alternates between Mila's first-person, present-day narrative and third-person perspectives from the guests at Sean's birthday party: his probably soon-to-be-ex second wife, Claire; his lawyer best friend Robert, Robert's wife Maria, a PR guru, and his teenage daughter who has a serious case of the Lolitas; an alcoholic MP and his bland wife; and Sean's possible new love interest — the interior designer for his property company — and her partner, a fun-loving doctor who has brought his own box of medical tricks.
None of the characters are especially likeable but Sean and his family make for compelling reading as we gradually begin to understand what really happened that weekend — and what has happened to Mila and her family since then. Marwood's writing is bold and edgy, and she conveys the voices of the different characters very effectively. I saw the final twist coming fairly early on, but that didn't make getting there any less enjoyable. The Darkest Secret is sometimes shocking and often dark, but always entertaining.
Disclaimer: The Darkest Secret will be published in the UK on 7 January 2016. I received a pre-release copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
I usually try to pass through Covent Garden as swiftly as possible but there is now a new reason to linger in the form of Swedish import kikki.K, a shop that has an Instagram-ready collection of stationery, organisation goods and homewares in pretty pastel shades. If HAY, Kate Spade and Muji had a baby, kikki.K wouldn't be far off. My inner cynic wants to hate it (some of the 'inspiration journals' are too twee by far) but I'm a sucker for this kind of thing and it's the perfect place to find stocking fillers and gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people. I particularly like this travel wallet, this diary and this desk clock. The London store is at 5-6 James Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8BH.
5. The Bridge
I've sung the praises of this Swedish–Danish collaboration before, but the third series has just started to air in the UK. BBC Four is airing two episodes every Saturday night — the first four are still available on iPlayer. Nordic noirs are ten-a-penny these days, but The Bridge is really excellent, elevated by Sofia Helin's strong performance as Saga Norén, the brilliant but complex Swedish detective at its centre. There is a significant character change for the third series, which I won't mention in case you haven't yet seen the first two series. I was worried that this would make for a weaker show, but so far, series three has been just as good, as Saga struggles to deal with present relationships and her past while a new string of murders breaks out. Great Saturday-night viewing.