On my radar: Maggie O’Farrell’s cultural highlights | Culture
The author Maggie O’Farrell was born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, in 1972 and grew up in Wales and Scotland. She worked as a journalist before turning her hand to writing novels – her first, After You’d Gonewon the Betty Trask prize in 2001. Her bestselling eighth novel, Hamnetwon several awards including the Women’s prize in 2020. Her latest novel, The Marriage Portrait (Tinder Press), set in Renaissance Florence, is out now. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband, the novelist William Sutcliffe, and their three children.
Mrs March by Virginia Feito
This book is a thriller with a difference. Feito, who grew up in Madrid and Paris, does an incredible job with an unreliable narrator. Mrs March is convinced that her husband has committed a murder, but gradually you realise that her perception of the world is very skewed. It’s absolutely brilliant and astonishingly assured for a debut novel. It reminds me a bit of Patricia Highsmith, which is a very big accolade. I picked it up almost by accident (it’s got a fabulous cover) and I’ve been pushing it on loads of people ever since.
Room, King’s theatre, Edinburgh
The thing I loved most at the Edinburgh festival this year was Room by the Swiss artist James Thiérrée. It’s quite hard to pinpoint but I think it’s about the trials of putting together a piece of art. It sounds very self-referential, but it’s an astonishing spectacle. Thiérrée is a mesmeric mime artist and his cast are incredible dancers and musicians. Throughout the performance I kept thinking he reminded me of somebody. When I got back home, I looked him up – it turns out he’s the grandson of Charlie Chaplin.
3. Visual Art
Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Barbara Hepworth is one of my favourite artists and her exhibition in Edinburgh (until 2 October) was incredible. It was wonderful to see so many pieces displayed together – all the sculptures and a lot of her drawings, which I’d never really seen before in the flesh. There’s also a film of the opera The Midsummer Marriage by Michael Tippett that she designed the costumes for – again, I had no idea. And there’s an awful lot of letters, diaries and notes. It’s a beautiful exhibition and really comprehensive.
Until 20 October, then at Tate St Ives
Tune-Yards at Summerhall, Edinburgh
During the festival I also saw Tune-Yards at the Summerhall, touring their 2021 album Sketchy. Merrill Garbus is a powerhouse vocalist with an incredible voice. It’s just her, a bassist and a drummer, but you think it’s a huge band, because she layers her music [with prerecorded sounds]. I’ve loved their stuff for years, but seeing them live was incredible. And it was wonderful to see the festival back again, to see Edinburgh full again, with all the venues open and all the leaflets being handed out – it was just a joy.
Bad Sisters (Apple TV+)
I’ve only seen the first two episodes of Sharon Horgan’s new show, but it’s great so far – very tense and exciting, with a fantastic cast. It’s about five sisters, one of whom is married to a very controlling, violent man. It starts off with the evil husband’s funeral and nobody’s that upset, and there are also two insurance men who are trying to prove that he didn’t die of natural causes, so that they don’t have to pay out. It’s beautifully directed and very slick – and blackly funny too.
This is a very good restaurant on George Street in Edinburgh. We took my son there in July, just after he left school and finished all his exams, and we had the most incredible meal. It’s Levant-inspired cuisine, so we had really good falafel, hummus and baba ganoush. You order lots of different things for the table and share, with pitta bread and pomegranate and mint. We had delicious rose-flavoured ice cream for dessert. It’s really fantastic food. I can’t wait to go back.
Pittenweem arts festival in Fife
This small visual arts festival in Fife, which I went to in August, is like no other. Pittenweem is a tiny fishing village just over the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh and for one week the whole village turns into a gallery. People open up their front rooms and show all kinds of work – painting, sculpture, ceramics. It’s just fantastic. One highlight for me was a ceramicist I’d never heard of called Leonie Siri MacMillan – she has made a series of ceramics around an Inuit myth about a young woman who transforms herself into a whale.