Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for You, Me and the Movies, by Fiona Collins – the perfect read for all film buffs!
When we first meet Arden Hall, she is living a shell of her former existence, having had most of her life, relationships and sense of self chipped away at through an abusive ten year marriage. When, by chance, she stumbles across an old flame, Mac, who is in the hospital recovering from a car accident, memories of her old life begin to flood back. Back in the day, Mac Bartley-Thomas was a film professor at Warwick university and to his students was the classic enigmatic heart throb – like something right out of a film. He catches Arden’s eye right away when she starts university, and they begin a dramatic, tempestuous and all consuming affair.
This book has a quirky structure, which drew me in right away. Unable to speak after being badly injured in the accident, Mac can only utter brief phrases, which turn out to be references to films that Arden and Mac watched together during their whirlwind romance all those years ago. Each new reference to one of the ten films from ‘The List’ of films they watched leads to a flashback chapter – as Arden revives memories long forgotten. These are classic gems of films: The Birds, Bonnie and Clyde, An Officer and a Gentleman to name just a few – to be honest I was left feeling the huge gap in my film knowledge (too many years with my nose in a book). While it didn’t necessarily hinder my enjoyment of the book that I didn’t know and love these films (as I now believe I should), I did get the impression that film buffs would get even more out of these nostalgic cinematic glimpses than I could.
After each film they watch, Mac and Arden analyse it and in particular discuss their thoughts on each film’s portrayal of women, as Mac is collating this list for a ‘Women in Hollywood’ film course. I found myself asking the same question about the book itself, that Mac asks Arden about the films: “What does it say about women?” I found that, as was Arden and Mac’s conclusion about many of the films, I didn’t have a clear answer here – which I loved. Arden is an independent, feisty young woman who knows what she wants, but she’s also damaged and quite vulnerable. The power dynamics of their relationship are really interesting to see unfold.
It also seemed hugely significant to me that in the ‘current’ timeline, Mac is unable to speak (other than the brief phrases that jog Arden’s memories). This not only provides the structure for the book, but it also meant we hear the story from Arden’s perspective. Other themes that are explored in the book, such as gaslighting, family relationships and how the past influences the present further complicate any simplistic categorisation of Arden or this book.
More than anything, though, this is a book calling out to all film buffs – who I think would get a huge amount of enjoyment from the backdrop of the classic films, and Mac and Arden’s discussions of them. It’s certainly made me want to watch them – I for one will be working my way through ‘The List’!
You, Me and The Movies is out now in ebook and will be published in paperback on 22nd August 2019. Look out for the other stops on the blog tour over the next couple of days!
Many thanks to Antonia Whitton at Transworld Publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for the ecopy.