Golden Globe Awards 2012

It was a triumphant night for British talent at last night’s Golden Globes.

Click here for photos from the ceremony and the red carpet

British recipients of the Golden Globe awards included Kate Winslet, Idris Elba and period drama Downton Abbey.

An emotional Kate Winslet picked up an award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for her role in Mildred Pierce. She told the audience: "I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for giving this award to me and for putting me in a category with such incredible heavyweights whom I feel honoured to stand alongside."

Discussing the show's win at last year's Emmy Awards, the New Statesman's Ryan Gilbey questioned whether all the best directors are heading to TV:

Not too long ago, this would have looked like a knock-out cast list for a mid-budget, grown-up Hollywood movie: Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Macdonald, Steve Buscemi, James Woods, Guy Pearce, Michael Pitt, Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, Minnie Driver... Now, it represents a cursory roll-call of US television.

ITV period drama Downton Abbey about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants was named best television miniseries, proving the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic. The show's creator, Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes, who accepted the award at the Beverly Hills ceremony said: "The whole Downton Abbey adventure has been an extraordinary one, like spotting a promising child and waking up to find they won the Olympics."

However, Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman opined:

How is it that this much-hyped series has turned out to be such a disappointment? I was determined to love it and, after struggling to feel even remotely involved during part one, I decided to keep my doubts to myself. Perhaps it would pick up. Yes, I felt patronised by the explanatory dialogue. Yes, the soundtrack was intrusive. Yes, virtually every costume-drama cliché one can think of had been concertinaed into a little over an hour's worth of television... Yet, now that I've seen part two, I'm already thoroughly sick of the bitchy servants and couldn't care less who inherits Lord Grantham's pile. If they turned Downton into timeshare flats, I'm not sure I would be exactly sad. Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his script for Gosford Park, another big-house-in-changing-times drama, is obsessed by social class and I think Downton Abbey is a victim of that fixation: the series has no light and shade because its only preoccupation is where anyone stands in the house's hierarchy. As a result, everything else - plot, character - has been bleached out...

This is status-quo television, uncomplicated and undemanding, with backstories that are easily tied up between ad breaks."

British star Idris Elba collected a best actor award for his role in BBC crime series Luther at the ceremony, which was hosted for the third time by British comedian Ricky Gervais.

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Drama without sensation: A Separation is an unsettling novel of distances

In Katie Kitamura’s novel, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort.

In a 2013 interview with Guernica, the online magazine, the novelist Katie Kitamura discussed how publishing’s “deeply patronising attitude” towards female readers results in overtly feminine book covers, featuring, for instance, women in bathing suits. “That’s not the kind of book cover that makes me want to buy a book,” she said.

The cover of Kitamura’s latest novel, A Separation, does, surprisingly, feature a woman in a bathing suit. But there is something quietly unsettling about this picture: the woman, who has her back to us, is awkwardly cropped out of frame from the elbows up, and she is sitting at the edge of an oddly shaped pool. Most of the cover is solid turquoise – a bright wash of negative space.

Kitamura’s unnamed narrator is a poised literary translator. As the novel opens in London, we learn that she is married to Christopher (a charming, haphazard non-author) but, in secret, they have been living separately for the past six months. When she receives a telephone call from Christopher’s mother, Isabella, informing her that he has seemingly gone missing in Greece, she doesn’t let on about her disintegrating marriage but boards a plane to look for him.

Much of the rest of the novel takes place in Greece: at a “very pleasant” hotel, in “perfect weather”, the pool “heated to a very comfortable temperature”. The area has recently experienced a string of devastating fires, leaving patches of scorched earth. The location has an almost eerie surface stillness that jars with the mystery at its heart. In this way, Kitamura (an art critic as well as novelist) creates a setting somehow reminiscent of David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, Christopher’s sudden disappearance leaving behind no visible ripples.

The narrator, too, has a glassy composure at odds with the tumultuous events. On deciding to end her marriage formally, she shows neither despair nor relief, but anxiety about the etiquette. “I assumed – I had no prior experience to go on – that asking for a divorce was always discomfiting,” she says with typical understatement, “but I could not believe it was always this awkward.” Of her feelings for her new partner, Yvan, she notes that they seem more like “administration rather than passion”, and then offers a moderated gloss of Hamlet, “You cannot say you did it out of love, since at your age romantic passions have grown weak, and the heart obeys reason.

Her emotional separation from the trauma of her circumstances allows the narrator to examine the facts of her husband’s disappearance. She knows Christopher was unfaithful and she immediately identifies the hotel receptionist as the object of his attentions. We never see the narrator professionally translating, but the novel is concerned with her attempts to read the deeper meanings behind the remarks and behaviour of those around her. She finds it easy to imagine unseen contexts to conversations: an argument between Christopher’s parents, an embrace between her taxi driver and the hotel receptionist. As she writes, “Imagination, after all, costs nothing.”

Her propensity for projection is such that some things remain lost in translation. Even the most minute interactions can be misread. When Christopher’s mother comments that the two women’s love for her son connects them, “she was looking over my shoulder, as if watching someone approach . . . she was staring at nothing”. The novel occupies this imaginative negative space: the gap between what people think and how they appear.

Ultimately, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort. How long will she allow others to read her as the concerned, loving wife? Should she admit she wants to find Christopher in order to request that they separate officially? As her search continues she notes, “There was a small but definite wedge pushing between the person I was and the person I was purporting to be.”

There is a suspenseful and menacing tone to Kitamura’s prose that might trick a reader into thinking, at first, they are in the territory of thrillers such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Both these novels, like A Separation, have narrators who defy readers’ attempts to fathom their emotional depths and to deal with questions of how well you know anyone – even your own partner. But this is a work free of sensation, or even resolution. As the narrator notes, in the shock of an event it is natural to look for a more dramatic narrative. “But in the end,” she says, “this is only chasing shadows. The real culpability is not to be found in the dark or with a stranger, but in ourselves.”

A Separation by Katie Kitamura is published by Clerkenwell Press (231pp, £12.99)

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution