BBC Historical Drama: Part 3

Part 3 - Charles Dickens

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of two Martin Chuzzlewits, Lady Deadlock, Thomas Gradgrind, and Noddy Boffin.

Martin Chuzzlewit described as an “opulent narrative feast” is the story of two Martin Chuzzlewits, one a elderly wealthy gentleman that despises his scheming relatives that hope to win his fortune, the other; his grandson, a well-meaning egoistic youth that has fallen in love with his Grandfather’s ward.

Bleak House is said to be one of Dickens best adaptations, following the life of Lady Deadlock, a faithful and dutiful wife whose secret is about to be discovered which leads to blackmail, murder, and a tragic death.

Thomas Gradgrind, father of Louisa and Tom, teaches them to live with reason and practicality instead of emotion and imagination, which in turn makes Louisa cold and distant yet yearn for love and Tom a drunk and a gambler. Will Thomas realize that what he preaches to his children may eventually lead them to their downfall? This is the story of Hard Times.

Our Mutual Friend is a dark and involved yet romantic portrayal of how lives are affected and transformed after the heir to a large garbage made fortune drowns.

AADL also owns several miniseries based off of better known works of Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, Old Curiosity Shop, and of course A Tale of Two Cities.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is one Dickens series we have on DVD that was not made by BBC.

A few Dickens novels turned miniseries that we do not have on DVD, but do have in print are: Pickwick Papers, Dombey and Son and Barnaby Rudge

If you’ve missed previous parts of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 2

Part 2 – George Eliot

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Daniel Deronda, Dr. Tertius Lydgate, Adam Bede, Silas Marner and Maggie Tulliver. The following five programs are based off of works from George Eliot. George Eliot is in fact Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under a male pen name so that her work would be taken seriously.

Daniel Deronda is a film concerned with two strong-willed young people whose self-determination is under attack by legal constraints on their rights to an inheritance, the noble yet illegitimate Daniel and also the fiery vivacious Gwendolyn.

Middlemarch is the widely acclaimed mini-series featuring a talented and engaging cast. When an idealistic gentleman, Dr. Tertius Lydgate moves to Middlemarch with the expectation of running a charity hospital, he is surprised to find that not all of the town supports his modern medical practices.
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By all accounts, Adam Bede is a very headstrong man with a very black and white view of the world, like a fair percentage of men of that period. Once he learns that the beautiful farm girl Hetty is undeniably attached to his wealthy friend Arthur, he believes their relationship is based on falsehood and begins to plot to gain the Hetty’s affections for himself.

Silas Marner is perhaps Eliot’s best known work and is the story of a man who is wrongly accused of theft in a very religious community and is forced to move elsewhere. Marner (played beautifully by Ben Kingsley), closes himself off to society until he takes in a baby girl and starts to raise her as his own.

The Mill on the Floss tells the tale of Maggie Tulliver and her up-tight ambitious brother Tom and their cousin Lucy, who is more often than not, the peacemaker between the two. When she becomes older, Maggie’s interest in her neighbor Phillip Wakem is unwelcome according to her brother, who is enemies with a Phillip’s relative.

If you’ve missed part one of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find it here: Part 1.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 1

Part 1 – Anthony Trollope and Elizabeth Gaskell

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Louis and his wife, Emily Trevelyan, Augustus Melmotte and Margaret Hale.

He Knew He was Right is an adaptation of an Anthony Trollope novel that follows the breakdown of a marriage of a newly married young couple, due to the husband’s jealousy and insecurity.

The Way We Live Now is a Trollope narrative that centers on Augustus Melmotte, an Austrian Jewish financier and his attempts to become a proper English Gentleman, among various subplots and subterfuge.

The library also has a copy of Anthony Trollope’s The Barchester Chronicles. A lawsuit aimed at church reform forces a decent clergyman into a moral crisis. Alan Rickman co-stars in this seven episode series.

The miniseries Wives & Daughters boasts misguided stepmothers, romantic betrayals, and secret marriages to keep you entertained and is based off of written works by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Cranford, which was adapted from a Gaskell novel, stars two of Britain’s paramount actresses, Judi Dench, and Imelda Staunton. In this film, the women of Cranford deal with the changing events that come with “progression.”

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South is by far my favorite BBC Miniseries. It follows the life of Margaret Hale, a middle class woman who is forced to move to a working class city when her father leaves his post at the church for lack of religious conviction. Having grown up in the country and also living in high society London with her wealthier aunt and cousin, “the North” represents a new challenge for Margaret. Around them are class struggles between the workers and mill owners and ideological struggles between the industrial North and the agrarian South. In Milton, Margaret clashes with her father’s new friend Mr. Thornton, when she sees him treat one of his mill workers harshly. Romantic entanglement follows.

April's Book to Film

city of your final destinationcity of your final destination

Peter Cameron's 2002 novel The City of Your Final Destination** has been adapted by award-winning screenwriter and novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala into the latest James Ivory film (official website).

"Witty, intelligent, engrossing", the novel (and the film) centers on Omar Razaghi, an Iranian-born graduate student whose financial aid for a fellowship is contingent on writing an authorized biography of the deceased Latin American author Jules Gund. Shortly into the first semester of the fellowship, Gund's estate unexpectedly denies Omar authorization which prompted his travel to Uruguay in order to petition the executors to change their minds. The executors are a delightfully odd lot, each self-possessed and deeply flawed. And it is among them that Omar finds both true love and a new home.

Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, and Charlotte Gainsbourg star. Opening this weekend in select cities. (See the New York Times review).

** = Starred reviews

Teen vampires...before Twilight?

It's hard to believe, but the incredibly popular vampire "genre" for teens existed before Twilight.

Authors such as L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, Meredith Ann Pierce, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Annette Curtis Klause, and Mary Downing Hahn created vast literature for teens on the subject of vampires before the year 2000. While it is easy to find a score of vampire fiction written today for teens, it is very interesting to take a look back, before the apparent influence of Stephenie Meyer.

That is not to say that these authors haven't gained from the success of Twilight. L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries series turned to television last year, and her Night World series was recently re-released. Annette Curtis Klause had one of her books made into a movie in 2007.

One of the more inspirational of these authors would be Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She was first published--in novel form--in 1999 at the tender age of 14. She is still going strong today, too!

So, if you're looking for some good teen vampire fiction, as I know we all must be, take a look at some of their works. I'm not necessarily saying they're better than Twilight, but I might be saying that you can certainly see some eerie similarities.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #206 : Let's meet the girls

Inspired by a real event, Heide Durrow's first novel, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky * won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.

As this measured and sorrowful tale unfolds, the girl – Rachel has come to live with her grandmother in a mostly black community of Portland, Oregon. Light-skinned and blue-eyed (thanks to her Danish mother), Rachel is the only survivor of a family tragedy – her mother having thrown her children off a roof, jumped to her death. We watch as Rachel, smart, disciplined, and self-possessed, endures her grief and confronts her identity as a biracial woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Meanwhile in Chicago, young Jamie, a witness to the rooftop incident, re-lives the horrific event in his mind constantly while enduring even worse fate in the hands of his prostitute mother.

As the child of an African American father and a Danish mother, Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative "family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self”. It succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age tale and relevant social commentary. (Check out the author's amazing family album) .

In Ali Shaw’s charming debut The Girl with Glass Feet, young Ida Maclaird returns to remote St. Hauda’s Land because she is strangely, and slowly turning to glass. There she meets Midas Crook, a lonely islander who prefers to see the world through his camera lens. As Ida and Midas search for the mysterious scientist who might hold the cure to Ida's affliction, they stumble onto mysteries from the past that further bind them together.

Inventive and richly visual, a fable of young lovers on a quest, Girl combines magic realism and the conventions of a romance. Enchanting, melancholic yet whimsical. Totally captivating. Shortlisted for the 2009 Costa First Novel Award and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

Ali Shaw is a graduated of Lancaster University and has since worked as a bookseller and at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #204

This spring, a pair of debut novelists from the Midwest offer fictional biographies of two beloved 19th century literary figures, and breathe romance into their lonely lives.

In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Kelly O'Connor McNees draws on biographical information to imagine a young Louisa at Walpole N.H. in the summer of 1855, where she finds that her growing affection (which she tried to deny) for charming (and wealthy) Joseph Singer is eagerly returned. Their romance is cut short by the announcement of Joseph’s engagement to an heiress. Family tragedies, disappointment and a desire for independence take Louisa back to Boston where eventually her literary career blossoms.

Kelly O’Connor McNees is born and raised in Michigan. She now calls Chicago home. A most apropos quote from her website beautifully evokes her heroine's lament:

“Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns.”
~ Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)

Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael captures the emotional life of Charlotte Bronte during the last decade of her life, and shortly after the publication of Jane Eyre. Remaining lonely in spite of her literary celebrity, Charlotte Bronte endures unrequited love, first for her French professor and later for her publisher, while caring for her aging father. When his brash curate, Arthur Bell Nichols, reveals his long-time secret love for her, Charlotte must decide between a marriage lacking the passion displayed in her novels or a single life.

“Gael makes a valiant attempt to blend fact with fiction as she transports readers to 19th-century England”, capturing the passions, hopes, dreams, and sorrows of literature’s most famous sisters. The author was raised in the Midwest. She has lived abroad for more than fifteen years, primarily in Paris, where she worked as a screenwriter. She now makes her home in Florence, Italy.

For further reading, may we suggest:

Louisa May Alcott : the woman behind Little Women by journalist Harriet Reisen - an account of the life of LMA in context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. (Reisen also wrote the script for the PBS documentary on Alcott).

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler, - a beautifully imagined tale of the Bronte sisters and the writing of Jane Eyre.

Intriguingly Factual Reads on the Hot- and Blue-Blooded

These are not your high school history teacher's textbooks.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics, and its male consort Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, are both written by a namesake descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Herman.

In these two luscious books, Herman outlines the auspicious--and more often ominous--adulteries of European royalty, from the middle ages up until the modern Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

As you might expect, they cover many subjects not often touched by history teachers. But, probably for that reason, they are entertaining while still being factually correct. Perhaps a guilty pleasure to read, you will nevertheless be assured that they are not simply fabricated for your enjoyment.

The two books offer intriguing insight into the act of adultery among nobility--its origins and outcomes--with a pinch of feminism and a heaping spoonful of wit. Herman explains not only political and social risings among the mistresses and lovers of kings and queens, but also the fashions and foods inspired by them. They cover nearly all of Europe, from Britain and France to the cold reaches of Russia, and they span from five to nine decades.

She also offers a book on a papal puppetry by a woman, called Mistress Of The Vatican: the True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini, the Secret Female Pope, which Publisher's Weekly called "a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading."

If you're looking for a painstakingly-researched read that delves into social and political history, but don't want to be reading yourself to sleep, take a look at these.

Looking for a Christmas Read?

In previous years, I've suggested popular fiction for holiday reads. This year I have decided to concentrate on two of my favorite genres: Romance and Mystery.

Recently, I buried myself in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series. The final book in this 5 part series is Wallflower Christmas. Once Lillian Bowman and the other Wallflowers are settled with beaus, it's time to find her elder brother Rafe a wife. If romance, action, mystery, and the supernatural meets your interest, try Kerrelyn Sparks' All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire part of the Love at Stake Series. If short stories are your thing try this Christmas compilation: Wish List with stories by Lisa Kleypas, Lynsay Sands, Claudia Dain, and Lisa Cach.

For good Christmas mystery reads try Deck the Halls and it's sequel He Sees You When Your Sleeping co-written by bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. Regan Reilly, Carol Higgins Clark's dynamic young sleuth, meets Alvirah Meehan, Mary Higgins Clark's famous lottery-winning amateur detective, and both embark on a desperate search for Regan's kidnapped father and then reassemble in the sequel to help a family reunite during the holidays. Additionally, there is the short story collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe with tales by talented authors such as Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn.

For more suggestions of Romance, Mystery, as well as other Fiction Christmas reads, Check out: http://www.overbooked.org/booklists/subjects/themes/christmas.html

Gorgeous Korean Manhwa Trilogy


Manhwa is the general term for for comics and print cartoons in Korea. If you're looking for a lushly drawn, and accessible graphic novel to try for the first time, or if you're a seasoned reader looking for something new be sure to try the "Color" trilogy by Dong Hwa Kim. The trilogy starts with The Color of Water and chronicles the lives of a single mother and her daughter in rural Korea in a moving and evocative look at love as seen through the eyes of one feeling it for the first time and another who longs to savor it once more. The story continues with The Color of Earth and concludes with The Color of Heaven. Beautiful illustrations, mother and daughter bonding and romance will capture your heart. The trilogy is published by First Second the premier publishing house for quality, literate graphic novels.

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