Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Thursday, February 21, 2008


More domestic problems - drains and the dishwasher this time and I've been tearing my hair because of all the disruption.

But we've been going out a lot to compensate. The daughters all got together with us to celebrate Rhiannon's birthday at a Lebanese restaurant in Oxford and on the Sunday afternoon we went with Bex to Burford Priory Snowdrop Day, which is always wonderful and finishes with tea and home-made cake by a log fire.

Troubadour is rumbling on - I had to excommunicate someone this week! And the publicity material comes thick and fast for City of Secrets; thank goodness for the colour printer I bought last year.

I went with another writer friend to hear Sarah Dunant talking about her books at a Writers in Oxford meeting.She talked about adoring reading historical novels as a child and teenager and then reading History at Cambridge. In her earlier phase she thought that you could always enter the mind of people who lived even centuries ago, because of our shared humanity. But lately she has come to doubt this: something to ponder on.

We saw the Kenneth Branagh film of As You Like It, which was very intelligently acted. Incongruously set in 19th century Japan, which added nothing to the play apart from some attractive background and a sumo wrestling match. The best Jacques I've ever seen turned out to be Kevin Kline!

A few days later we were back to see The Seventh Seal by the late Ingmar Bergman which was a HUGE disappointment. The initial image of the returning Crusader Knight playing chess with Death is so good that no-one remembers it has no plot worth speaking of and no story to live up to the image. Its simply incoherent.

Not so Neil Gaiman's Stardust, the third film we saw in less than a week. This is as good as, say, Willow, and a very good evening's entertainment. I hadn't read the book and didn't have very high expectations but found it charming, funny, and with a cracking good fairy-tale story. A magic snowdrop protects the hero from spells.

We heard a London Sinfonietta concert of Boulez and Messaien which was lovely and jangly. I couldn't follow the Boulez as well as Stevie but I always feel at home with Messaien and always have from the first piece of his I ever heard.

I read an astonishing first novel by Diane Setterfield called The Thirteenth Tale and Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. A minor character from Cloud Atlas pops up rather incongruously in the middle but I enjoyed it.

I saw three more magnificent fresco cycles at my lectures - the Cione brothers and Bonaiuto in Santa Maria Novella and the st Martion cycle in the Montefiore Chapel in Assisi by Simaone Martini - which features in The Falconer's Knot.


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