Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Inseparable: the Titanic of Chernobyl stories

Hello, commies!
If you enjoy the recent HBO miniseries Chernobyl but were overwhelmed by the amount of science jargon, there is a lesser known Russian language 4 episode miniseries from 2013 called Inseparable (original title is "Fireflies"). This particular project offers a more balanced mix of science, politics and human drama. There is an actual central love story that will make you think of the one in Titanic. A privileged girl and an underprivileged boy fall in love against the backdrop of a major disaster. Hm.... Sounds familiar? Allie is a straight A student who comes from a family of doctors and army officers. Paul, a young soldier, is an orphan who was raised in an orphanage. I must point out, for a ward of the state, Paul is impressively articulate, temperate and well-mannered, while Allie comes across as impulsive and entitled at times. Under normal circumstances these two probably would not have even met. The world's greatest nuclear disaster erases their socioeconomic differences. They find themselves alone in the abandoned city of Pripyat, caught in a dream world that is incredibly surreal, creepy, lyrical and humorous at the same time. Tragedy and dirty humor go hand in hand.  

It's not really fair to compare the two projects, but there are definite benefits to watching a Chernobyl show made by ethnic Slavs. As much as I appreciated the research behind the HBO series, you just can't find those broad Slavic faces in English and Scottish pubs. If you happen to be a native Russian speaker, you will catch yourself smiling at the linguistic nuances and the references. 

What I loved about Inseparable was that the writers do not pull any punches. No sugar coating, no silver lining, no last minute rescues, no miraculous cures. The fatalistic misanthrope in me is very pleased.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Poppet Nicole: a paranormal romance for woman-haters

Greetings, commies!

It is no question that I am a bit of a misanthrope and a traitor to my own sex, so reading a romance novel with utterly repugnant female characters feeds my soul the fuel it needs to spout ashes ;-) Maggie Tideswell, a South African romance writer, provides that fuel. There's nothing like selfish, predatory women falling into their own traps. Poppet Nicole is the second book in her Moragh saga.

She'll never finish falling in love, but she has priorities no one understand.
Nicole’s story continues in Poppet Nicole. Will she get her revenge for the abominable way Joshua, her fiancĂ© of four years, treated her when he brought home a stranger he introduced as his wife? 
Even though she’d admit it to no one, Nicole knows she made a hash of things. She should have married Joshua when she had the chance, but instead, she’d gone and fallen pregnant by another man. And then her father disinherited her, leaving everything she’d been brought up to expect to own one day, to Joshua, with the instruction to marry Nicole within a month. As he isn't really married to Holly, nothing is standing in his way.
Without warning, Ned, the father of her unborn child, comes back into her life to complicate everything. Him, she wants with a passion, but first, she has to reclaim her inheritance. Joshua has no choice but to marry her as her father instructed. Then she’d divorce him and claim half of everything he owns. As an independently rich woman, she'll let Ned sweep her off her feet.
Just how far is Nicole prepared to go to get her own way? Will Ned stand by while she tries to ruin another man’s life?

My thoughts:
Heads up: I am not a reader of romance of any sort, so to me, picking up a romance novel is like a vegan going to a steak house, so I am reviewing this work as an outsider. I surmise the author was raised on the works of Daphne du Maurier and the Bronte sisters. Her contemporary romances have a strong Gothic vibe. I did not read the first novel in the series, so reading the brief summary helped gain a better of understanding of the characters. In "Poppet Nicole" the title character reminds me of Catherine Earnshaw from "Wuthering Heights". Entitled, selfish, with a strong sense of victimhood, she is not your typical vanilla romance heroine. She is eager to take but gives very little in return and refuses to accept the consequences for her actions. It is very hard to sympathize with her or relate to her, but nobody said that the main female character has to be likable. 

To an average American reader, the author's language might sound a bit too proper and formal. It's important to understand that South Africa is a very stratified country, and the way people behave and talk is linked to their ethnicity and social class.