Tuesday, November 30

Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman: protagonists of the perfect detective novel, thanks to their latest plot twist | Undoing

For some peculiar reason, and let’s call it the spirit of 2020, I really enjoy watching the rich suffer, at least on TV. It’s an increasingly popular and flamboyant genre, and its leanings for real estate pornography mask a serious sadism when it comes to inflicting trauma on the unspeakably wealthy. You came for the views of the coastline, you stayed to watch these people’s lives unravel into murder, betrayal, and those gigantic glasses of wine that wealthy women drink to prove they can be beautiful, but also have problems.

Undoing was the inescapable television, the Bodyguard 2020, water cooler drama in a year without water cooler. It starred Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, both now Good Telly titans, and it sailed to a climax last week, finally revealing who the novel was made fun of after weeks of teasing. I’m about to discuss the novel, so if you’re late, don’t read on. But the reveal that he was the most obvious culprit seems to have infuriated a surprising number of viewers, who felt cheated by the fact that he could have cut episodes two through five and essentially brought us to the same place.

In my house, it was the second time that the phrase “It is not supposed to be a documentary” was uttered in recent viewing history, by me, angrily, after The crown elicited an equally unimpressed response. (By the way, last week George Clooney revealed that he had never argued with his wife, Amal, which made me think they hadn’t tried to look Undoing end together.) Yes, it was implausible and exaggerated, but paraphrasing that great philosopher Russell croweDidn’t you entertain yourself? We’re so used to being led down the garden path and then surprised by a reveal involving someone who hadn’t been near the garden in the first place, that having a thriller deliver what it suggested at first was, in a way, a own plot twist.

If viewers were shocked that the liar, manipulative, cheating narcissist was able to lie, manipulate, and cheat in order to return to his wife’s affection, having repeatedly struck his lover on the head with a hammer, and my only complaint was which I’m not sure.I needed to see that in all its gory details, so it looks like they manipulated us too, and that’s a job well done.

Also, each week, the opening credits contained the words “Based on the novel You should have known by Jean Hanff Korelitz ”. That’s trolling to the next level, hidden in plain sight all the time.

Drake: I love the album, buy the scent

Drake: let there be light. Photograph: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images

Pop star merchandise is getting more and more avant-garde, with no gigs to sell T-shirts at, I guess getting creative is the order of the day, but the big diva cookie trend was an unexpected curve.

Mariah Carey’s Mariah Cookies will be arriving in the US soon, while Lady Gaga has revealed a line of pink and green Oreos, themed around it Chromatic album. Drake, however, has opted for the traditional candle route, joining Gwyneth Paltrow in the candle business that is supposed to smell like the celebrity who has named them after her.

While Paltrow was ultraspecific with This candle smells like my vagina Y This candle smells like my orgasm, Drake has released a line of five candles, with names like Sweeter Tings, Williamsburg Sleepover and my favorite, Carby Musk. This apparently smells of musk, amber, cashmere, suede and velvet, “like Drake himself.”

I think it’s named after perfumer Michael Carby, rather than whatever chippie Friday night scent it might conjure up as well, though it’s surely only a matter of time before someone makes a scented candle out of that.

Maggie O’Farrell: Her Plague Diary Helped Us Escape This

Maggie O'Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell: a modern classic. Photograph: Martina Bocchio / Awakening / Alamy Stock Photo

Maggie O’Farrell’s beautiful and unforgettable novel Hamnet It has been declared Waterstones Book of the Year, an award voted for by the chain’s booksellers; she also won this year’s women’s award in September and rightly so. It already has the sense of a classic. “2020 has been a strange and challenging year for all of us – what better time to listen to other people’s narratives and lose ourselves in a book,” O’Farrell said after his latest victory.

I know people who have been reading readers this year with insatiable new appetites for stories and fiction, just as I know people who have not been able to focus on books at all. Both are understandable responses to this strange and challenging year. Above all, I found myself in the former category, aiming for novels at a surprising rate.

Hamnet is set in the 16th century and is about Shakespeare’s son, who contracts the plague during a pandemic, so while it provides escapism, his fear of contagion and quarantine moments also make it oddly timely. I read it over the summer, just as I moved to Stratford-upon-Avon, where much of it takes place. I’ve spent the last few months walking around Anne Hathaway’s cabin and Shakespeare’s birthplace and through parts of the city that were once the villages that O’Farrell makes his characters walk through in the book.

Present-day Stratford emerged from the confinement in level 3 restrictions, having been at level 1 a month ago. There is not much more to do than stroll through emblematic places, get lost in the stories.

• Rebecca Nicholson is a columnist for Observer


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