(This review comes to you courtesy of word-slinger Bru... )
So Kensal Review was back where it all started, at Ace’s base. We’d gone full circle. This was the First Anniversary Gathering of the Kensal Review. To mark the occasion, and totally in keeping with the understatedly classy, inventive girl that she is, Ac lavished upon us a meal as rare as it was sublime: a divine creamy fish broth with a salad ‘dessert’ exquisitely sweetened with pomegranate seeds. This was our eleventh review, and looking back over the year, every one has had a distinct life of it’s own. And last night’s life was imitating the arts that we were reviewing…
Just as Maggie pined for Denis in ‘Iron Lady’, I hallucinated that our very own, absent, Ian ‘Every night’ McIlwain was actually present. There he was, fleetingly, his ghostly image lying on floor cushions amongst us, head thrown back, mouth agape. And there he was again, a faint outline at the French windows behind a pall of smoke. I swear I heard a ghostly murmur of ‘post-modern… contextualise… feminist…” But then again, the Pinot was quite pokey.
‘Beaches’ Booth was missing and missed too. Rumour had it she’d skipped the country “to write a travel piece” when she realised that her film suggestion had collectively used up nearly a day’s-worth of fellow reviewers’ lives - time that they would never get back. As in ‘Sense of an Ending’ we all peered back in time to the last review, and wondered what exactly she meant by putting it forward.
And in the same way Barnes’ book was heavily laden with damaged characters, so was our group last night. While Ian lay gurgling in his iron lung in Mortlake, our number were harbouring ailments as diverse and disconcerting as cold turkey, acute pregnancy, tax-induced bankruptcy and double-ended dysentery. Add to these unfortunate factors that it’s the post-Christmas slump period, it’s mid Jan - the bills are in, but not the pay - and yesterday would have been labelled by the media as the KR Blue Wednesday. What would really cheer us up? I know! Let’s review two stories about despair and death.
The consensus regarding Iron Lady was: missed opportunity, Maggie was let off the hook. Our harshest critics thought it was history irresponsibly re-written and justice miscarried. One reviewer is even keeping her kids away from it.
Yes, it was an insightful study of a once powerful old dragon longing for her deceased (but probably perfectly preserved in whisky) husband. And one or two thought that in this sense it was a compelling film. Most thought Streep did brilliantly. But today a panting messenger arrived with a beautifully handwritten note from Maccers: he disliked her and it.
Many of us couldn’t bear it simply because of the bloody great elephant in the sitting room. A tyrannical elephant at that. Who worshipped capitalism so dementedly that she sold off the UK family silver; a despotic elephant who said that you’re a loser if you get the bus, and a homophobic elephant who stated she didn’t trust men with beards. With that view alone, if she tried to get elected in East London today, she’d be fucked.
All-in-all, making a first-ever major Thatcher flick that focussed on her and Denis’s relationship, with only passing reference to her traumatising acts that scarred two generations, was a bit like making a film about Fred and Rose West’s enduring love for each other without mentioning the cellar.
But anyway, on a brighter note! Actually, I’m only kidding. We’re going darker first…
Relative to ‘Sense of an Ending’, Iron Lady was a romcom, but Barnes’ book was awesome in its blackness. Everyone agreed it was beautifully written. And it went without saying (literally, so I’m making an assumption) that Barnes/the book deserved the Booker Prize. Some thought the big story twist was unnecessary. One reviewer, ahem, wasn’t troubled by the twist at all because he missed it completely. Failure to spot the apparently obvious seductress may be yet another reason why is he’s still single.
Some noted that Barnes’ observation of teenage behaviour and language was uncanny. Others remarked that he draws his characters so powerfully with so few lines that even in such a thin book they live with incredible intensity. I particularly enjoyed his gallows humour, and the rhythm, timing and lightness of his sentences.
Like the book, our review discussion was short compared to previous ones. But that gave us all the more time to go off piste, onto subjects as diverse as whether everyone is a bit gay; dodgy accountants; and how to avoid a nightmare nanny.
Guys, what an incredible first year for our precious Kensal Review. THANK YOU Ac for starting it and all your hard work running it. I doubt I only speak for myself when I say it has ACTUALLY made my life better. Over and above the enriching eleven books, seven films, three exhibitions and play; ten loving friendships have been created and cemented. Awwww.
What a gorgeous, and can I just say, fascinating bunch you all are. Hell, as we heard last night alone: Mary went on a mid-80’s Swap Shop to ask Thatch a question in person. And Milly not only delivered two bottles of fine single malt whisky to Maggie and Denis at a ‘90’s book launch, she also noted that they drank the lot yet could still, at the end of the evening, descend a vast spiral staircase under the gaze of the throng, and you wouldn’t think they’d touched a drop. A bit like us lot when we leave a review.