[EN] The Pilots wife - The film

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Director: Robert Markowitz
Genre: Drama
Release date: 14 April 2002
Based on: The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve
Starring: Christine Lahti, Campbell Scott, Alison Pill
Running time: 89 minutes


* 'Here in the narrow passage and the pitiless north, perpetual Betrayals, relentless resultless fighting.' *

The Pilot’s wife is a drama film directed by Robert Markowitz and starring Christine Lahti, Campbell Scott and Alison Cambell . It was released in 2002 and is based on the book of the same name by Anita Shreve. Kathryn’s world collapses when she is woken up in the middle of a night by an airline official who tells her that her pilot husband has died in a plane crash. However, the worst is still to come; as the police assume he has committed suicide and killed all of the passengers on board, she decides to conduct her own investigation in order to find the truth... A truth she could never have imagined!
Christine Lahti’s performance as Kathryn Lyons is outstanding. From deep sorrow to strong resolution, we follow her steps towards an uncertain future and grim discovery. There is no real need for words; her body language alone shows her emotions as she tries to discover the truth. Her relationship to her daughter Mattie (Alison Campbell) is only briefly illustrated, but gives the spectators food for thought.
The chronology is one of the main strength of the film. Frequent flashbacks are mixed to the present plot, adding suspense and energy to the story. These memories of the past last a few seconds to several minutes – according to how important for our understanding they are – and give us a fragmented portrait of Jake. The contrast between the characters’ memories and the reality is clear and each of Kathryn’s discoveries about her husband’s secrets raises anew the same question: how well can you know a person?
The Pilot’s wife’s filming style successfully goes with the action: from the music to the short scenes inserted in the chronology in order to help us understand the ending, every aspect works together so as to captivate the audience. The – wonderful – setting plays here an important role; we start the story in Kathryn’s cosy home, a safe and familiar environment. As the tension builds up, we go further and further: to her grandmother’s house, to London and then, finally, to Ireland.
The resolution of the mystery is quite expected, as Kathryn has been assembling clues from the beginning. Still, a part of surprise remains as she discovers the truth about her husband’s death. This explanation is however quick and not necessarily easy to understand for spectators who lack knowledge of the context.
It nonetheless remains a thrilling film in which we are submerged in family secrets and drama. Behind the mystery which stands at the forefront, subtle questions about love, family and relationships are raised... So, do you think you really know the people you share your life with?

Director Robert Markowitz produced a film whose plot is extremely true to the novel it is based on. For those who have read the book, there are thus no real surprises. However, the general impression of the film is quite different from the one created by the reading. First of all, as is the case in most adaptations, there are fewer details. While Anita Shreve focuses mostly on the relationships between the different characters – Kathryn with her daughter, with Jake, with Robert, with her grandmother – the storyline of the film is only told through Kathryn’s perspective. There are, of course, several scenes in which she interacts with other people, but they lack the depth of a real relationship. On the other hand, the action seems much quicker and livelier. It is then the mystery which is at the forefront rather than the characters’ psychology. 
This change of focus causes a few other variations, mostly in the chronology of the plot. We do not get a full description of Kathryn’s feelings and of her coping with Jake’s death and secrets. We just share the experience with her and see everything through her eyes, while the other characters – Robert, Mattie and Julia – remain in the background. The flashbacks about the past are present, but not as relevant as in the original story. Therefore, the whole past-present rhythm changes, because these brief memories give the plot some dynamic. 
An important difference is the end, which remains completely open. It actually follows the same process as the rest of the plot: the spectators are told just enough in order to understand, the rest is left to their own imagination. Many questions are not answered, many details remain unclear, but I found this end somehow more convincing than that of the novel... Maybe because it is much more realistic! 
From a mostly psychological novel, Robert Markowitz made an enthralling mystery, which probably was a wise choice given the change of medium used to share the story. Although the plot remains unchanged, thus with less details, we obtain a completely different image of the characters, an image which is much more open to interpretation than in the novel. In my opinion, a very successful adaptation!

Review of Anita Shreve's novel The Pilot's Wife 

[EN] The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve

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Title: The Pilot's Wife
Author: Anita Shreve
Publisher: Abacus
Release date: 1999
Pages: 293

*And then she knew. It was in the way he said her name, the fact that he knew her name at all. It was in his eyes, a wary flicker. The quick breath he took.*

A pilot's wife is taught to be prepared for the late-night knock at the door. But when Kathryn Lyons receives word that a plane flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland, she confronts the unfathomable - one startling revelation at a time. Soon drawn into a maelstrom of publicity fueled by rumors that Jack led a secret life, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost.Her search propels this taut, impassioned novel as it movingly explores the question. How well can we ever really know another person?

*But how do you ever know that you know a person?*

The pilot’s wife was my first Anita Shreve novel … and definitely not the last one. What kind of book it is? To be honest, it is hard to define it: a mix of drama, suspense, love and emotions is the best description I can think of.
When Kathryn Lyons is woken up in the middle of the night to be told that her husband died in a plane crash, her life is turned upside down. Especially when she learns by the media that he might have committed suicide and killed all of the passengers and staff present on board with him. With the help of Robert Hart, from the company, she decides to prove everybody that they are wrong and to find out who her husband really was, whatever it will cost her… And as the story unfolds, she realises that she did not actually know him at all.
Anita Shreve’s novel is moving and its organisation successfully organised: one chapter out of two tells about the present and explains how Kathryn deals with the situation. The other chapters tell about the past and recount moments of her life with her husband Jack, from their marriage to the last time she saw him. As a consequence, the reader feels involved in Kathryn’s thoughts and discovers her memories little by little, as they come back to her mind. At the same time, and without the reader noticing it, the author prepares the spectacular end which is about to come. It is only towards the very end, after tension built up in the last chapters, that we fully understand the connection between all the anecdotes – although a basic general knowledge is required to catch all the details.
The psychological aspect of the loss of someone dear and the rebuilding of one’s life after such a disaster is deeply explored, and subtly mixed with Kathryn’s investigation. The relationships between the characters are very interesting, in particular the ones Kathryn has with her daughter, Mattie and with Robert Hart. A fundamental question about relationships is thoroughly explored: how well can we know someone?
There is no definite answer to that question, but several clues are given to the reader to make his own interpretation of the events and of the characters’ future. The pilot’s wife is a very good novel although the story is rather sad. There is the physical disaster – the crash – of course, but several other aspects are explored as well: the psychological disaster caused by the loss of someone dearly loved, the disaster that Kathryn discovers little by little which caused by lies and secrets, the disaster caused by the betrayal of someone important…
It is extremely interesting to see how Kathryn and Mattie go through that ordeal and reach each step of grief. However, the evolution of Jack is interesting as well, as in most books dead characters do not really change. The memories and Kathryn’s investigation depict a character which changes nearly as quickly as you turn the pages. And in these moments of deep sorrow, the light of love never disappears.
I would recommend this book to anybody who likes psychological novels, family secrets and mysteries. Although some of the scenes are heart-rending, the story is great and extremely well told, with the right words and the right amount of emotion.

Thank you Florian for lending me the book

The pilot's wife has been adapted into a film. 
See my film review and comparison with the book here.

[EN] Way of the peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman

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Title: Way of the peaceful Warrior
Author: Dan Millman
Publisher: H.J. Kramer
Release date: 1980
Pages: 215

*There are no ordinary moments*

Despite his success, college student and worl-champion athlete Dan Millman is haunted by a feeling that something is missing from his life. Awakened one night by dark dreams, he wanders into an all-night gas station. There he meets an old man named Socrates, and his world is changed forever. Guided by this eccentric old warrior and drawn to an elusive young woman named Joy, Dan begins a spiritual odyssey into realms of light and shadow, romance and mystery. His journey leads him toward a final confrontation that will deliver or destroy him.

‘A book that changes life’, states the cover… Partly novel, partly autobiography, partly self-help guide, partly philosophical book, Way of the peaceful warrior contains a range of details that can actually be life changing for anybody. 
Dan Millman inspired himself from his own story to write young athlete Dan’s story and discovery of the world: Despite his successful career as a gymnast and his easy college life, Dan has the feeling that something is not quite right in his life. One night, as he cannot go to sleep, he meets a strange old man he names Socrates. Guided by this warrior, he begins a spiritual odyssey that will change his life forever. 
I did not know what to expect when I first opened the book. To be honest, I had bought it because of the author and the background: gymnastics. Knowing that Dan Millman was an athlete and being a gymnast myself, I thought this book could only be of interest to me. I was right, but not in the way I had expected. As I said before, gymnastics is merely the background, and clearly not the main theme of the novel. The scenes in which Dan performs at a contest or in the training hall, however, are full of details and accurately described. The knowledge of the author on the subject shows subtly, which I really enjoyed. The choice of gymnastics is not innocent. Dan Millman was part of the trampoline team, so he knows about it, but this is probably not the only reason for his choice. Gymnastics is a sport in which you have to be able to imaging yourself doing your routine, and so your state of mind is extremely important, which is ideal for that kind of book. In each scene where characters perform gymnastics exercises, their thoughts are always accurately described and we can then understand the link between sport and everyday life. 
The lessons Socrates teaches Dan are put in a simple and understandable way. Most readers willing to use them in their daily life will probably be able to do so without difficulty. Given the simplicity of the words and the lessons themselves, anybody can be interested in this unusual story. More experienced readers will not be disappointed either, as there is an abundance of philosophical references and details that are not needed for comprehension but definitely add to the depth of the thinking. You will discover something new every time you reread a passage. Dan’s thoughts and actions are always fully described, whereas Socrates’ remain mysterious. Who is he really? Another character that will play an important role in the story is Joy, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who will help Dan on his journey. I will not say more about her in order not to spoil the story. 
Overall, I liked the book, although some passages were a little too philosophical for me, especially at the beginning. The writing style, however, was rather easy to read and agreeable. I am glad that the story covers Dan’s life on such a long period, even if I found the end (book three) a little disappointing because it was quick and lacked details, especially about his journey round the world… which means I will have to read the next book soon to find out what happens there. 
The relationships between the characters are interesting as well. Of course, Socrates and Dan are the most important ones, but as Dan’s learning skills improve and as he takes in the lessons Socrates teaches him, we can see how his relationships to other people evolve as well. I found the end satisfying because it is open for interpretation. Did the whole story really take place? Or only some of it? And how can various mysterious events be explained? I let you read the book and decide for yourself! 
Way of the peaceful warrior is a great book that is worth reading if you are interested in philosophy. People who want action and mere description of an athlete’s life may not find what they are looking for in this novel. However, even if you are not used to that kind of reading – as was the case for me – have a try, you might be quite surprised.

[EN] No more dying then - Ruth Rendell

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Title: No more dying then
Author: Ruth Rendell
Publisher: Arrow Books
Release date: 1976
Pages: 276 

*John Lawrence is safe and well with me. He is happy playing with my rabbits on the farm. To show you this is not a hoax, I am enclosing a lock of his hair.*

On a stormy February afternoon, little Stella Rivers disappeared - and was never seen again. There were no clues, no demands and no traces. And there was nowhere else for Wexford and his team to look. All that remained was the cold fear and awful dread that touched everyone in Kingsmarkham.
Just months later, another child vanishes - five-year-old John Lawrence. Wexford and Inspector Burden are launched into another investigation and, all too quickly, chilling similarities to the Stella Rivers case emerge.
Then the letters begin. Horrifying, evil, threatening letters of a madman. And suddenly Wexford is fighting against time to find the missing boy, before he meets the same fate as poor Stella...

No more dying then starts in a simple way: a five-year old boy simply vanishes while he is playing outside. This is an ordinary beginning for such a book. However, what first seems to be a straightforward disappearance soon turns out to be far more complicated than expected. The inhabitants of Kingsmarkham are inevitably reminded of Stella Rivers' case, which took place only a few months before. Although there is no proof that there is a link between these two cases, Inspector Wexford has to examine every possibility.
The story is extremely well organised. Everything starts with John Lawrence's disappearance but the reader is then led to discover Stella's case little by little. The investigation is clearly the main interest of the story but the characters have an important role as well. So we also get to know the disappeared children's parents and Inspector Burden's family.
Ruth Rendell cleverly alternates suspense, moving scenes and moments of expectation all through the story. Going from John’s case to Stella’s, we discover how their parents react to their disappearance. The relationships between the characters are well developed and we have two completely different reactions to compare: Mrs Lawrence refuses to let go of her hope to see her son alive again, while Stella’s parents decided that life went on, even without her.
Inspector Burden’s life is unveiled little by little. As he is one of the most experimented investigators in Wexford’s team, he has an important role in the story but the scenes of his family life are extremely moving as well. Ruth Rendell uses him to show how difficult it may be for a policeman to set the limit between his job and his private life.
The reader can explore the relations between the police and the media, especially in the scenes with reporter Harry Wild. Wexford’s team needs to work in collaboration with various people to solve the mystery: the people living in Kingsmarkham, the press, and even disreputable individuals. The author guides us through a sea of faces and characters. We are never lost in it though, because we are just given the right amount of information to know who is who without being confused by too many details.
By meeting so many different characters, we do not only follow the police’s investigations. We discover everybody’s hypotheses, which give us different clues to solve the mystery… still, the suspense is kept all the way through the book and the end is unexpected.
No more dying then is a great book to read for those who want a little more than just a thrilling detective story.

Adrian McKinty (1) Alexander Key (1) Alexander Maksik (1) Alexis Hayden (1) Amanda Kyle Williams (1) Ambre Dubois (2) Amélie Nothomb (1) Ange Godart (1) Angélique Ferreira (1) Anita Shreve (1) Ann Patchett (1) Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon (1) Arnaldur Indridason (1) Aurélien Molas (1) Bernard Lenteric (1) Carol Higgins Clark (1) Céline Gierts (1) Chloé Bourdon (1) Christian Bindner (1) Dan Brown (1) Dan Millman (1) Danielle Steel (1) Delphine de Vigan (1) Domnica Radulescu (1) Donna Leon (1) Emily Brontë (1) Emylia Hall (1) Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt (1) Erik Larson (1) Franck Thilliez (1) Fred Vargas (2) Gerbrand Bakker (1) Hallgrímur Helgason (1) Henning Mankell (2) Henri Beaudout (1) Henri Lœvenbruck (1) Ian McEwan (1) Inti Salas Rossenbach (1) J.K. Rowling (2) Jack Thorne (1) Jacques Côté (1) Jean-Charles Hue (2) Jenny Sigot Müller (1) Jo Nesbø (1) Jodi Picoult (1) Joël Vernet (1) John Brandon (1) John Tiffany (1) John Wyndham (1) José-René Mora (1) Julia Bell (1) Julien Blanc-Gras (1) Jussi Adler-Olsen (1) Kari Kinard Pratt (1) Kate Atkinson (1) Kent Johnson Olsen (1) L.F. Falconer (1) Laura Gardner (1) Laura Kasischke (1) Lawrence W. Gold (1) Lewis Carroll (2) Lionel Camy (1) M.L. Stedman (1) Malcolm MacKay (1) Marian Izaguirre (1) Marie Laberge (1) Marina Lewycka (1) Markus Zusak (1) Mary Higgins Clark (1) Mary Hoffman (6) Mathieu Dombre (1) Matthias Rouage (1) Michael Morpurgo (3) Michel Bussi (2) Mikkel Birkegaard (1) Misha Defonseca (1) Monica Kristensen (1) Natacha Catel (1) Pablo Mehler (1) Penny Hancock (1) Peter May (1) Philippe H. Besancenet (1) Pierre Thiry (1) Rachid Santaki (1) Rawia Arroum (1) Raymonde Malengreau (1) Rhonda Byrne (1) Riikka Pulkkinen (1) Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) (3) Rodrigo Rey Rosa (1) Rosamund Lupton (1) Ruta Sepetys (1) Ruth Rendell (1) Sandrine Collette (2) Sarah Latham (illustrator) (1) Sarah Singleton (2) Sheri Speede (1) Sofi Oksanen (1) Stef Penney (1) Susanne Mischke (1) Tatiana de Rosnay (5) Victoria Hislop (1) Viveca Sten (1) William Morris (1) Yasmina Khadra (1)

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