The Men I Didn’t Marry (2007) by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnurnberger
After being summarily dumped by her husband of 21 years, Hallie first falls into a depression. Then she decides to get back in touch with four former boyfriends to see what she missed when she chose the one who turned out to be a womanizer and a cheat. Although filled with typical chick-lit cliches, the novel moves quickly through Hallie’s soul-searching. It’s your basic beach read, but fun for a quick look at a story about a woman who successfully navigates through a separation and emerges whole. 3/5 Stars
The Lion in Winter (1968) starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole
When Terri suggested that I add The Lion in Winter to my English costume drama queue, I put it in the back of my mind, but didn’t rush out to get it from the library, as I had seen it before in an earlier life. Then one day I just felt like some Hepburn/O’Toole melodrama — and oh, was I rewarded! Telling a highly fictionalized version of a 12th century Christmas season when Henry II and his imprisoned queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, get together to decide which of their three sons will succeed Henry as the next king of England (That’s the Cliff Notes version). Apparently they were the poster children for the ultimate dysfunctional family, since they plot and scheme against each other for two hours. And did I mention that Henry II had a live-in mistress that he wanted to marry? In a tie with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl, Katherine Hepburn received her third Best Actor in a Leading Role award. Although she was fabulous, I had forgotten that this movie had all that 61-year-old Hepburn shakin’ goin’ on — loved her, but it was distracting. A reviewer on Amazon recommends reading Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine as a companion piece to this movie, and I will do that. 4/5 Stars for eating up the scenery.
Innocent (2011) by Scott Turow
I’ve been waiting patiently for Melinda to give me this book because I absolutely loved Turow’s first book about Rusty Sabich, Presumed Innocent. In Innocent (the sequel), Rusty is again accused of a murder which the reader is pretty sure he didn’t commit. I love how Scott Turow once again creates a complex and nuanced new plot with visits from old friends Tommy Molto and Sandy Stern and new characters in Rusty’s grown son Nathan and eager young lawyer Anna. Told in a flashback/flashforward narrative style with changes in perspective, Turows also fleshes out Rusty’s wife Barbara and what happened to their marriage after his trial for murder in Presumed. I do think you’d like Innocent better if you also read Presumed Innocent, but there’s enough restatement to live without it — or you could watch the movie. Just to remind myself how wonderful Presumed Innocent was and to refresh my memory, I got the movie from the library and watched it. It was as good as I remembered with Harrison Ford managing to convince us that his bumbling treatment of the murder case proved his innocence.
My only problem with Turow’s portrayal of Rusty Sabich in Innocent is that he should have learned something about the law and about human nature in the twenty years since Presumed Innocent, but he still seems silly and self-destructive. Just for that I give it 4.5/5 Stars.
Like Water for Chocolate (1995) by Laura Esquivel
I went to a presentation at the library about great food scenes in movies, and Like Water for Chocolate (1992) was a recommended movie. I had read the book years ago, but didn’t remember much about it, so I got both the book and the movie out of the library. Now I know why I didn’t remember it — I hated the female character and the sexist cultural traps in which the author puts her. Apparently I’m in the minority, because the book is highly rated and the movie won a whole bunch of international awards. Each chapter begins with a recipe, and the movie uses food-based mysticism to drive the plot. As a debut novel, Like Water for Chocolate was intriguing but not my favorite of the week. 2/5 Stars