By Deborah Goodrich Royce
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
My name is Deborah Goodrich Royce and I am a writer. Like most women, I’ve lived multiple lives. In my first career, I was an actress, and in my second career, I was a story editor at Miramax Films. You can even throw in cinema operator since my husband and I restored and continue to run the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT. The through-line in all the lives I have lived and hats I have worn is the power of story. I could not live without books, movies, and really good television series. For me, I understand and appreciate (and in times like these, can cope with!) the real world better because I read books and watch films. Truth is so much easier to swallow with a good dusting of fiction!
Here are some of my picks for quarantine reading and watching:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
On the heels of the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov, an unrepentant aristocrat, is sentenced to live out his days under house-arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. It is only because he is a poet whose work has captured the hearts of the nation that he is spared a death sentence and given lifetime confinement instead. What better or more romantic setting could you have while you are in quarantine at home than to pass your time with the Count?
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
True confession: The Pursuit of Love is my comfort book, something I return to every few years, especially in times of stress. This book soothes and transports me to the world of the madcap Radlett family in the English countryside in the lead-up to and during WWII. Mitford paints a portrait of a family—equal parts eccentric and romantic— and finds the pitch perfect balance between laugh-out-loud hilarity and deep pathos. The Radletts and a few stragglers end up sequestered in their massive house during the worst days of World War II. I think your self-isolation will be made better by spending time in theirs.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” is my all-time favorite first line of any book! A nameless and insecure young woman spontaneously marries Max de Winter, an older man she meets on the French Riviera. He spirits her off to Manderley, his remote house on the Cornish coast. Complete with a sternly forbidding housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, and the haunting presence of Max’s deceased wife, Rebecca, the house is fraught with terrors for our heroine. Great edge-of-your seat quarantine reading!
Victoria and The Crown
These are both television series that you can stream. I find that it is comforting and inspiring to look at fictionalized versions of people who led big lives with big problems but handled them with grace and dignity and a good dose of stiff upper lip. In the middle of this great pandemic, it helps to see that we are not the first to face difficult circumstances. Nor will we be the last.
Les Parapluies de Charbourg and Lala Land
The first film, Les Parapluies de Charbourg, made in 1965 by Jacques Demy, starring Catherine Deneuve, is one-hundred-percent sung. Not one word spoken. Trust me on this, you will love it. It is one of the most wrenchingly romantic films ever made and I have seen it make grown men cry. The sets and costumes are drenched in technicolor glory, the music is some of the best you’ll ever hear (you will know the songs as soon as you hear them), and you will believe in love again, even if you know it won’t always turn out as we had hoped. The second film, Lala Land, made in 2016 by Damien Chazelle and starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is the beloved and devoted child of the first. These movies are about love—love of art, love of a great city like Los Angeles, love of music, and romantic love—they will fill your heart with love and—yes—loss. But, as we all now know too well, you can’t have one without the other.
I wish you great reading and great viewing, filled with inspiration, comfort, and a healthy dose of escape that enables you to tackle this life with renewed strength and purpose.