Two detailed reviews and a plea.

I started watching Vienna Blood, a series of three 90 minute films by BBC, not sure what to expect. (I gave it 5 stars.)

At first, I was doubtful about the concept. But the sets and the acting won me over and I watched all three. By the end, I was totally hooked.

That’s where the plea in the title of this post comes in. BBC are waiting till they see what kind of reception the series gets before they commission a second series… And I need more! So please, please, if you have access to BBC iPlayer, download and watch, or pretend to watch! All three films are available for 11 months.

Think Sherlock Holmes (the original, not the modern Sherlock), think The Third Man, think Freud, think foreshadowing of serious antisemitism in Austria. Put all that into criminal investigations that can be quite leisurely because of the 90 minute format. Add the fact that the stories, from the Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis, are adapted for television by Steve Thompson, the screenwriter responsible for Sherlock (the modern one).

The cases are fascinating, with a wonderful period flavour, Vienna is lovingly portrayed, and the chemistry between the two detectives, Oskar (police) and Max (neurologist) is intense and full of both angst and humour. We also get intriguing details about the family and love life of both men, and about the police force and the hospital where Max works.

The programmes give the viewer plenty of crime (some of it very gruesome), plenty of banter, plenty of romance. It also leaves this viewer quite desperate to know what happens next in the lives of this pair of detectives, as well, of course, as what cases they will find themselves investigating next. Why BBC felt it should only show it on a Monday rather than at the weekend for higher viewing figures, I can’t imagine. They clearly spent a lot on the production, and everyone concerned deserves a second season. I believe there are more books, but even if those are exhausted, I think Max and Oskar would be a satisfying addition to our ongoing detective genre.

And now for something completely different…

The Greater Freedom by Alya Mooro (I gave this 3 stars)

This is one of those worthy books. By about half way through you know pretty well what the author has to say and just wish they would hurry up saying it. Mooro has written a book that delves into various aspects of modern feminism. She admits that many of the problems she identifies are shared by women world-wide. She then goes on to make a ‘special’ case for the suffering of Arab women. I wasn’t altogether convinced by her arguments about this but can see what she’s getting at. (She ignores, for example, the experience of Afghan women.)

I would have liked more statistics and more in-text references to her sources. I am not sure that the polls she conducted via Instagram are anything other than anecdotal. I should also perhaps say that whilst I do have numerous Muslim friends, I don’t know many Arabs. I had Arab students in the past but don’t think they would be able to speak for today’s Arab women.

Mooro does mention the restrictions imposed on women in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) but seems to be saying that most restrictions are cultural and are self-imposed as a result of social censure. This is interesting, but again, not perhaps deeply enough researched and is something many writers have already discussed.

However, I was actually shocked by the amount of freedom she enjoyed as a teenager. Far, far more than I experienced as a British teenager (in a UK Christian household) in the fifties, and quite a lot more than my daughter had in Britain in the eighties. It’s possible that today’s teenagers all have the kind of social life Mooro describes herself and her friends as having in both London and Cairo but I honestly think their behaviour/lifestyle is limited to those capital cities and perhaps to the liberal middle classes to which the author so obviously belongs.

I got bored. I skimmed, towards the end. I don’t think the writer gives us any completely new insights, and I didn’t altogether agree with all her conclusions. However, for someone who knows very little about the lives of Muslim women (and men for that matter) this might be quite an interesting read and an ‘easy’ introduction to the issues.

2 thoughts on “Two detailed reviews and a plea.

  1. I read the Liebermann novels a while ago and really enjoyed them so was wary of the adaptation, however, they have done a good job capturing the spirit and atmosphere of the books, and the central performances are excellent so I, too, hope they make more. I am a little sad they haven’t shown how Max & Oskar like to spend musical evenings together, the policeman singing to the young doctor’s accompaniment. And there hasn’t been enough cake.

  2. Cake would be good… So would musical evenings! I haven’t come across the books but am glad the adaptation was faithful. Now we just have to hope enough people discovered the series to encourage the BBC to commission more! The writer, director and actors all deserve that.

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