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Column: Dark, cold days a good time to snuggle up with a book or catch a show

What shows or books will you be enjoying this holiday season?
Tracy Sherlock crop
Tracy Sherlock writes about education, parenting and social issues in her columns at the Richmond News.

There’s no better time of year than the darkest days of winter, heading into the holiday season, to put your feet up and relax with some entertainment. I’ve been doing a bit of that lately and I thought I would share some of my discoveries with you.

First of all, there’s a great journalism movie in theatres right now. She Said is the story of the two New York Times reporters who reported on Harvey Weinstein’s offenses against women in Hollywood. It’s a first-class depiction of the rigours of journalism and the valour it takes to report on powerful people. Journalism and journalists have been under attack in recent years and I want to promote a film that shows the real deal. Plus, it’s great entertainment.

The movie Tar stars the brilliant Cate Blanchett as a famous orchestra conductor, a career rarely filled by women. Lydia Tar may be a conducting virtuoso, but as a person, she’s flawed. This movie is an intriguing character study, which flips stereotypical power structures on their head. Blanchett is fantastic, as usual, and the story itself is memorable, if a bit mysterious.

There are several other movies I’m looking forward to, but have yet to see, such as The FabelmansThe Banshees of InisherinElvis, or Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.  

Some people may not be ready to venture out to a theatre, given the triple-demic of flu, RSV and COVID-19. Not to worry: there is an abundance of fine entertainment on TV. One quirky show I really enjoyed on HBO is White Lotus. I’ve only seen season one so far, but it was definitely a good time. If you need a laugh, White Lotus will sort you out.

For Royal watchers, there’s season five of The Crown, a fictionalized show about the royals. The first season began with the Queen’s marriage in 1947. Season five has brought viewers up to the 1990s and the thick of Charles and Diana’s troubled marriage.

For those who prefer documentaries about the royals, Netflix also has the new Harry & Meghan show on Netflix, giving viewers an inside look at why the couple decided to give up royal duties and move to America.

If you’re looking for more action, check out Yellowstone. It stars Kevin Costner as the head of a (very) wealthy ranching family in Montana. The series is violent, but it’s also got a hell of a plot and several enigmatic characters that will hook you right in. I haven’t seen the fifth season yet, but the first four were excellent.

And then there are books — my favourite form of entertainment. The winter holidays are a great time to catch up with your favourite series, and Ian Rankin’s Rebus is back in fine form in A Heart Full of Headstones. The retired detective has got himself in hot water, causing his usual trouble all in the name of solving a crime.

Alas, the world lost Inspector Banks this year, when Canadian author Peter Robinson died in October. However, there will be one last Inspector Banks book, coming out next June, called Final Account. I’m looking forward to that one.

I particularly enjoyed Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng. It’s a dystopian novel, along the lines of 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale, but set in the present day in the United States, in a reality just slightly twisted from the one we’re living through. This is her third novel and I highly recommend you read the first two as well as Our Missing Hearts.

Another great read is Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, who has written 11 books, many of them memoirs. I first discovered her writing a few years ago when I read Inheritance, her story of finding out via a DNA test that her father wasn’t actually her biological father. I gobbled that up and read several of her other books. This is the first novel of hers I’ve read and it is fantastic – a story much bigger and deeper than its storyline.

Even though we’ve now passed the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice, there is still plenty of winter left to hunker down, enjoy some quiet time and catch up on some juicy movies, TV and books.

Tracy Sherlock is a freelance journalist who writes about education and social issues. Read her blog or email her [email protected]