But hey, it's 2017, and I'm learning to move past these gender stereotypes. But I still wasn't sure about the Doctor becoming female. Gradually the show began to hint that such a thing was not just possible, but inevitable -- a line of dialogue here and there, the regeneration of the Master into Missy. I won't say I warmed to the idea, but I was prepared for it.
But as soon as the announcement was made that the luminous Jodie Whittaker was to take the role, I was in. She's wonderful, amazing, an incredible actor. She was fabulous in Broadchurch, and I can't wait to see what she'll bring to the Doctor. Yes, it's a big shake-up, but this is Doctor Who! It's always been about challenging expectations, expanding horizons, questioning assumptions. That's the whole point of the show!
She's here, and I can't believe I ever doubted her.
In Sarah Ayoub's Hate is Such a Strong Word, the perspective is that of seventeen year old Sophie, eldest daughter of a strict Lebanese-Australian family, who attends a Lebanese Catholic school and chafes against the expectations of her community while still feeling strongly bound to it. I liked that Sophie wasn't a total rebel. She didn't want to break free completely or reject her culture, she just wanted a little more freedom to move, to express herself and enjoy the normal social life of a teenage girl in Sydney, and this ambivalence felt realistic to me. And I must admit I was slightly shocked that Sophie's father was so strict, certainly much stricter than I've ever been with my fifteen year old daughter!
Naturally, there is a crossed-wires romance, between outsider Sophie and outsider "half-Aussie" dreamboat Shehadie (who seemed to feel annoyingly entitled to lecture Sophie on her behaviour, despite being allegedly more enlightened than his peers). Maybe this is the true value of books like these: to show that, whatever their cultural background, most teenagers are essentially the same?
I really enjoyed the setting of this book; I've long thought there should be more children's and YA books about the links between Australia and PNG (cough... New Guinea Moon... cough). The idyllic island setting, the use of Tok Pisin words sprinkled through the text, and the exploration of ancestral beliefs, gave this novel a distinctive atmosphere.
Though Izzy is fourteen, this feels like a book for younger readers, probably Grades 5 and 6. The diving scenes didn't appeal to me, because I'm scared of caves and drowning, so exploring underwater caverns seems like a nightmare to me! But I can see the subject capturing young imaginations, and the eerie deep-sea world almost doesn't need the addition of magic to be weird and spooky. I also enjoyed the poetic interludes from the viewpoint of the shark.
I have a terrible weakness for the Mitford sisters. My gateway drug was the 1980 television series of Love in a Cold Climate, which together with Brideshead Revisited and Chariots of Fire at around the same time, had an indelible and unfortunate effect on my adolescent aesthetic and left me with a permanent guilty affection for English poshness. (Actually, you could probably throw in All Creatures Great and Small, which was less posh, but also set in the 1930s.)
From Nancy Mitford's novels, on which the series was based, I progressed to memoirs and biographies of the family, to their voluminous letters. (I still haven't forgiven the theft of my two collections of Nancy's letters... was it you, Colin Batrouney??) My favourite sisters were Nancy, with her heart-breaking unrequited love for Gaston Palewski, and Jessica, the Communist who ran away to America and became a civil rights activist. The fascist sympathisers Unity and Diana appalled me; Pam and Deborah were fairly neutral.
This memoir by Deborah Devonshire, the last of the sisters, was published in 2010, a few years before her death. The first few chapters, dealing with her youth, are delightful; the rest of the book deals with the restoration of her husband's ancestral home, Chatsworth, and her experiences as a diplomat's wife in the 1950s and 60s.
Deborah was unashamedly conservative and doesn't hesitate to say so -- she protested in favour of fox-hunting, disapproved of reforms to the House of Lords, couldn't bear Jessica's 'communist' friends etcetera. I must admit (do admit!) that I found the book less enjoyable as it went along. The antics of aristocratic young girls in the 1930s are jolly good fun, but shoots and balls and hanging out with the Prince of Wales and the Queen Mother feel slightly uneasy as we creep into the twenty-first century. Wait For Me! provides a window into a very different, very privileged world, and it's not a comfortable view.
The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a collection of twelve short stories, one for each incarnation of the Doctor, each one set at Christmas. Disappointingly, though several stories were set away from Earth, all the Earth stories featured a northern hemisphere festive season -- no Australian summer Christmases here! The stories were variable in quality, but several were excellent, especially the contributions from Jacqueline Rayner. There was also a colour illustration for each story, each by a different artist -- these were less successful, to my mind.
But this was a lovely gift, perfect light reading for the holidays. It's my own fault that I delayed reading it until the mid-year break... at least the weather has been more or less appropriate!