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What's got my attention this week

Want some ideas for things to read, watch and listen to this bank holiday weekend? Look no further...

Andi MacDowell and Helen Mirren setting the red carpet on fire at Cannes 🔥🔥🔥

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The problem with gynaecology? (Opens in a new window)It's that women's pain is normalised.
• Meet Ellen Willmott, the bad-girl of gardening (Opens in a new window)...
• A double-whammy from brilliant Kerry Hudson this week: why the shame of childhood poverty (Opens in a new window) never leaves you and on being queer and proud – and married to a man (Opens in a new window).
• The surprising power of watching the sunrise (Opens in a new window).
• Aviva's Amanda Blanc on sexism at the shareholders' meeting (Opens in a new window): you prepare for everything, you don't prepare for comments like that.
• Why is every cookbook now also a memoir (Opens in a new window)?
• Monica Lewinsky on the TikTok trial (Opens in a new window) of Amber Heard.
• I know many of you are interested in making friends in midlife (Opens in a new window), so this one's for you...
• The 97-year-old Brooklynite who housed illegal abortions (Opens in a new window) in the 1960s.
• What Joseph Han learnt from the Korean tradition of memorialising ancestors (Opens in a new window).
Love this interview with Louisa Young: on turning to song (Opens in a new window) after 60 and the death of her fiancé.
The "hermettes" of New York (Opens in a new window).
Salad cream is better than mayonnaise (Opens in a new window). Discuss!


I haven't read anything new this week (well, nothing that's out yet) so I thought I'd throwback to this gorgeous family saga, which has just come out in paperback. The Country of Others (Opens in a new window)is the first volume in Leila (Lullaby) Slimani's trilogy loosely based on her own family's history. Here it is 1944 and Mathilde (Slimani's grandmother-ish) has left her family home in France after falling hard for a Moroccan soldier. But as a farmer's wife in rural Morocco she finds herself isolated by sex, race and religion. Whilst this is a hefty, satisfying doorstop, it still bears all the hallmarks of Slimani's spare, take-no-prisoners style, expertly translated from the French by Sam Taylor. I interviewed Slimani about this book at Cheltenham Literature Festival last October where she was wry about her grandmother's reaction to having her sex life broadcast to all her neighbours in the Moroccan village where she still lives. In the next volume, due this Autumn, Slimani turns her attention to both Morocco and her mother's struggle for independence.
• I've just noticed that the movie of Lullaby is on BBC4 at 9pm on Saturday night, if you're a saddo with no social life, like me.


Borgen 4: Power and Glory, Netflix
Possibly the most beloved of all scandi-drama (especially if you prefer your subtitled Saturday nights without corpses), Borgen is back – and so is Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen). Only now she's Foreign Minister, embroiled in a dispute over the discovery of oil in Greenland. That's Borgen for you, ever eerily prescient. Unbelievably it's ten years since we last saw Birgitte, now a single mum, albeit with both children now left home. As ever Birgitte is utterly believably, flawed like, y'know, a regular woman and dealing with hot flushes by drying the resulting sweat patches with a hand-dryer in the loo. 

• I often prefer listening to non-fiction to reading it, particularly memoir and true crime – like an extended podcast, without the ads (although obviously I'm not about to start dissing podcast ads! Glass houses...). I've recently finished Being Lolita by Alisson Wood (Opens in a new window) and The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman (Opens in a new window). Both are rooted in Nabokov's "classic" but where the former is a memoir and coming of age story that recall's Wood's teenage experience of being groomed by a teacher to believe theirs is a love story on a par with the Nabokov story, Weinman's is a forensic investigation into the little-told story behind Lolita: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

On The Shift podcast this week...
...body- and sex-positive Instagrammer Natalie Lee (aka @stylemesunday) talks about finding the confidence to end her 20+ year relationship at 40 and the realisation that if she wanted her children to grow up free of sexual shame she needed to deal with her own first. So began a fascinating journey of learning self-love, acquiring some self-esteem, sacking off all those old ideas about what made a body beautiful and discovering that hetrosexuality wasn't the only option. 

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Topic Friday round up