MINDS OF WINTER (riverrun) is easily the most enjoyable novel I’ve read this year in terms of narrative imagination – the story, which is rooted in the disappearance of the Franklin expedition, which was trying to find the Northwest Passage, in 1845. A veritable Russian doll of a narrative structure takes us to South and North Poles and quite a few places in between, it revels in its deliciously old-fashioned approach to storytelling: O’Loughlin has his tongue firmly stuffed into his cheek when he has one character complain to Jack London that the author’s baroque style has passed its sell-by date:
“It’s a new century, you know; that gothic, sort of supernatural thing, is going out of style. Everything is very plain and modern now.”Undeterred, O’Loughlin presses on with tales of adventure and derring-do, of spies and outlaws and epic treks to the Poles, of naval voyages that would do Patrick O’Brian proud, all of it detailed in crunchy, evocative prose, such as when the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen finds himself poised on the cusp of a life-changing decision:
It was a warm autumn evening in Madeira, the sun gleaming on the harbour and the breeze soft in the trees. He could stay here forever, dissolved in this air. But some tiny flaw in the fabric of the universe, some original sin in space and time, determined that he was doomed to exist, to be one thing or another.MINDS OF WINTER will be published on August 25th. If bravura storytelling is your thing, you won’t go far wrong here …
Where to Invade Next (12A) is the latest documentary from Michael Moore, the iconoclastic filmmaker who delights in pointing up America’s failings. The idea behind this film is that Moore himself is a one-man ‘army’, invading various countries – most of them European – in order to steal their best ideas and take them back to the United States to cure its ills. The irascible Moore is in good form here, pretending to be horrified at the very notion of paid vacations and maternity leave, free college education, a 36-hour working week, the decriminalisation of illegal drugs and women taking charge of the political system, all of which makes Europe sound like a veritable utopia (i.e., one many Europeans may not recognise). It’s a Europe viewed through rose-tinted lenses, of course, and Moore does make the point that he is in the business of picking flowers, not weeds, on his travels, but the presenter has an engaging talent for making serious points while employing his trademark blend of chutzpah and black comedy. As always with Moore, the film isn’t so much a balanced documentary as it is a polemic, a gentle broadside on behalf of the liberal agenda. His breezy, irreverent Everyman style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but Moore should be cherished as a unique filmmaker, as provocative as he is entertaining. ****The other movies reviewed this week in the Irish Examiner are Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss and Mother’s Day, starring Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts.