Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There's Just Something About...

I was reading an article the other day from Kritik Magazine entitled "Beating Darcy Down." Basically, the article discusses the seeming obsession that many women have with Austen's works and Mr. Darcy in particular. I'm not here to discuss the article itself (much as I would like to), or even Austen in particular, but that article got me to thinking; what is it about certain literary characters that makes us love them? Is it because of the things they do or say? Is it because we see them through the eyes of other characters? Is it because we identify with them in their struggles? Or is it simply the character of the character? I think that it is a combination of things that make certain characters stand out in our minds.

We've all got our favorite heroes, villains and secondary characters. I have so many that I won't even begin to list them. So my question to you is, who are some of your favorites and why do you like them? Are there any that you despise? Why? Are there any cases where you like the book overall, yet none of the characters seem to stand out? Let me know, I'm extremely curious! :-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre: My Boy Jack

I have never been one to cry over movies. The only ones that have ever brought me anywhere close to tears are Where the Red Fern Grows, The Great Escape, and Masterpiece's The Lost Prince. Now added to the ranks is My Boy Jack, which is probably one of the mot powerful Masterpiece works that I have ever seen.

My Boy Jack gives us a glimpse into the life of the beloved author and poet Rudyard Kipling. Most of us know this man simply as the creator of The Jungle Books and The Just So Stories, but Kipling was also a classic Victorian/Edwardian man whose patriotic fervor and belief in the British Empire ran strong. He is eager for his young son, John (a.k.a. Jack) to enter the military, especially after World War I begins, and Jack's desire to fight is no less strong, if not quite as confident. Jack is routinely turned down by various branches due to his extreme nearsightedness, but Kipling has every confidence in his son's abilities, and finally uses his fame and popularity to get Jack into the Irish Guards. So begins a long and emotional journey, not only for Jack, but for the entire Kipling family.

Daniel Radcliffe, as Jack, masterfully portrays a young man who has the desire to fight for his country, yet lacks the confidence that his father has in him. By the time Jack heads to France, he is the commander of a company and has not only gained confidence in himself, but has also learned to instill it in others, proving that Kipling's confidence in his son was not misplaced. Radcliffe does a wonderful job, and if this is any evidence, he will have no trouble leaving his "Harry Potter" image behind.

David Haig not only played Kipling in both this film and the play version, he wrote also the script for both. His interest in Kipling began when he was told how much he resembled the famous author (and indeed, the resemblance is uncanny as is Daniel Radcliffe's to Jack). Haig plays Kipling as a huge ball of energy, whether he is racing to Buckingham Palace in his Rolls-Royce (being timed by King George V), giving thundering patriotic speeches, or telling stories to children. It is indeed the times when he is telling stories that we catch a glimpse of the Kipling of our imagination. My favorite scenes are when he and his wife Carrie are laying in bed and he looks over and says "Would you like a story?". But by the end of the movie, that energy is waning under the pressure of Kipling's grief and guilt, and one gets the sense that like the rest of England, the sparkle and hope of Kipling's Victorian mindset is gone. Though he is still a strong patriot and is proud of his son's heroic sacrifice, he wonders just how much of that sacrifice was really necessary and how much of it was his fault.

The relationship between Kipling and Jack is also beautifully portrayed (though I am sure there was a bit of artistic license taken). Jack is eager to fight, but it isn't entirely because he shares his fathers ideals. Like most 17 year old boys, he is desperate to get out of his parents house and from under his father's rather overbearing parenting. Kipling is rather opinionated and does not shy from giving his son advice, even when it is unwanted. He almost seems to see getting Jack into the service as a father/son project, like building a kite or repairing a car. But when the time comes for Jack to sail for France, they are both ready for him to go. In a hauntingly beautiful scene Jack and Kipling are walking to the car as Jack prepares to leave. Somewhere between the house and the car, Jack assumes Kipling's gait and cadence, and you realize that these two are not as different as they once seemed.

Kim Catrall and Carey Mulligan round out the cast as Caroline and Elsie Kipling. Though both of them strongly oppose Jack's fighting, they soon throw themselves into the war effort. Once it is discovered that Jack is missing, Carrie shows as much energy as her husband as she tirelessly searches for any clues that might help her find her son.

My Boy Jack is a story, not just about the Kiplings, but about every family that has been touched by war. It is a glimpse into the lives of the countless young men who have left their homes and families to serve their countries, never to return. Perhaps this is what makes it such a powerful film; it is a true story.
Note: This film contains some language and a couple disturbing war scenes.

My Boy Jack
by Rudyard Kipling

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Birthday To:

William Shakespeare
April 23, 1564

"How well he's read, to reason against reading!"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Birthday To:

Charlotte Bronte
April 21, 1816
"I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre: A Room with a View

Remember how back in January, I said that the new Persuasion adaptation was the worst Masterpiece Theatre program that I had ever seen? No more, it has been dethroned by A Room with a View. Now I will grant you that the book itself has some fundamental flaws, especially in the Christian sense, but Andrew Davies manages not only to mix in themes that are not really there, but even to add plot twists that change the overall feel of the story.

  • The cast. Overall, I found the cast to be fairly good. Elaine Cassidy keeps Lucy from seeming too naive while Rafe Spall adds some determination to George's love for her. The rest of the cast also managed to keep the basic feel for each character.
  • The locations. The Italian scenery was lovely, if not quite as breathtaking as one might expect, and Surrey seemed a lush and peaceful hideaway.
  • Kept the basic plot of the book, despite a few glaring exceptions.


  • A few not so great themes that were either not in the book or were extremely subtle were suddenly brought to the forefront.
  • Clocking in at under 90 minutes, this thing felt way too rushed (even more so than Persuasion). Many characters like the Miss Allens, Mr. Eager and Miss Lavish are not given enough script or time to really develop. It was a shame to see such great actors as Timothy West not given enough screen time.
  • Andrew Davies seems to have confused romance with bare skin.
  • The ending. Davies based the ending of this adaptation on a postscript written by E. M. Forester nearly 50 years after the book was written, and he even kind of screwed that up. Instead of the sweet, satisfying and happy ending from the book, we are left with one that is depressing and mysterious. (I really don't think that Forester envisioned Lucy falling for the Italian cab driver)

In the end, I was really disappointed with this adaptation. Though it certainly had a lot of potential (good actors, nice scenery, decent story) it ended up leaving me rather bored and wishing that I had gone to bed. Put simply, I was not impressed.

Note: There is another version of this story that was done back in the mid-'80s. I have not personally seen it, but it is considered very good by many, and was nominated for many awards.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved . . . "

-from The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Show Goes On

"The Complete Jane Austen" series may have come to a close, but the Masterpiece Classic season is not over yet. If you missed any of the Austen series (or if you simply want to seem them again), you can purchase them at and other online video stores, or you can rent them through Here's a preview of what to expect from the rest of this season.

A Room with a View

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Based on the novel by E. M. Forester and adapted by Andrew Davies, this adaptation stars Elaine Cassidy as Lucy Honeychurch and father and son actors Timothy and Rafe Spall as the Emersons. Also stars Timothy West, Mark Williams and Sophie Thompson (sister of Emma).

My Boy Jack

Sunday, April 20, 2008

This film tells the story of famed British author Rudyard Kipling and his son Jack. It's 1915 and World War I is raging in Europe. Kipling is determined that Jack, just 17 years old, will serve at the front, despite his crippling nearsightedness, and using his fame and influence, he soon obtains a commission for the boy. But when Jack goes missing in action, Kipling and his family begin a desperate search that will span many years and miles. Stars David Haig as Kipling, Daniel Radcliffe as Jack, Kim Cattrall as Caroline Kipling and Carey Mulligan as Elise Kipling.


May 4, 11 & 18, 2008

Adapted from four of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell's works (Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, Mr. Harrison's Confessions and The Last Generation in England), Cranford relates the story of a small town in Cheshire, a town that is dominated by women and settled in a traditional way of life. But the railroad is about to come through, bringing with it many modern ways and ideas, much to the alarm of some of its inhabitants. Stars many of Britain's finest actors and actresses including Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Eileen Atkins and Greg Wise.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility has always held a special place in my heart. It was not only the first Austen novel that I ever read, but it (the '95 version) was also the first Austen adaptation that I ever saw. I was, therefore, rather skeptical when I sat down to watch the final installment in Masterpiece Theatre's rather lukewarm "The Complete Jane Austen" series. I really didn't think that they would be able to come anywhere close to the wonderful Emma Thompson adaption. I stand corrected. Bravo to Masterpiece Theatre for ending this series on a high note. While it is by no means perfect, it certainly makes a wonderful companion to the '95 version.

  • Hattie Morahan as Elinor. While I still love Emma Thompson, she always seemed a little too old to be playing the role of a 20 year old. Hattie brings youth back to the part and hits the nail on the head. BRAVO!
  • Dan Stevens as Edward Ferras. Much, much, much better than Hugh Grant. A reserved, calm yet charming young man instead of an awkward, confused guy. I also liked that it showed Edward's resilience in the face of his mother's anger.
  • David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Alan Rickman's portrayal of this wonderful character. But not only is David younger, he also brings a more earthy feel to the character. I also liked how his relationship with Marianne was developed. Sure, the horse and hawk references were a little off, but I loved the "Come and find me when you are ready" line. *SIGH*
  • Elinor drinking Marianne's wine. Classic!
  • Anne Steele. LOL! What an idiot :-)
  • The dark and romantic tone of the film. It was a wonderful contrast to the bright and cheerful '95 version and probably a bit more realistic.


  • Charity Wakefield as Marianne. Whatever. I just could never feel any sympathy for her. She didn't seem to bring forth the same overwhelming passion that Kate Winslet did. The only thing that I liked was that she at least seemed to respect Col. Brandon in the beginning.
  • Dominic Cooper as Willoughby. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. This guy was not likable at all. What on earth did Marianne see in him? Even an idiot could see that Col. Brandon was the superior man. Greg Wise was charming and genuine. Dominic was sinister right from the beginning.
  • The Middletons & Mrs. Jennings. They were pretty bland if you ask me. In the '95 version they were comic relief. I think that they were supposed to be so in this version to, but they aren't.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Palmer. I WANT HUGH LAURIE!!! Enough said.
  • Lucy Steele. You never got the sense that she was the conniving gold-digger that she was supposed to be. You also couldn't quite figure out her relationship with Robert.
  • The first minute and a half. Completely unnecessary.

The 2 adaptations of this great story complement each other beautifully. I just might have to add the 2008 version to my collection. By the way, has anyone ever noticed that only Jane Austen fans have multiple versions of the exact same story?

Note: Since "The Complete Jane Austen" has now officially come to an end, I thought that I would rank the adaptations from my least favorite to my favorite.

#7. Persuasion- Though I love the story, this adaptation was just too rushed. Not to mention that ending.

#6 Mansfield Park- Loved Blake Ritson, but this was just a bare bones adaptation. It was okay, but it could have been done much better.

#5 Miss Austen Regrets- Thought provoking and wonderful acting. See my thoughts here.

#4 Northanger Abbey- Very good, even if Andrew Davies did spice it up a bit too much.

#3 Emma- Solid acting and storytelling, just needed a bit more humor and length.

#2 Sense and Sensibility- I loved it. A must see version of a classic story.

#1 Pride and Prejudice- If you don't see any other Austen adaption, see this one!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Books That Bore Us

It's something that happens to every reader. You start a book with mile-high expectations, perhaps because it has been recommended by a friend or because it is considered one of the "Great Books", and you throw yourself into the story, expecting to be entertained, delighted and satisfied. And then it happens. Slowly, chapter by chapter, you begin to realize that maybe this book isn't quite what you thought it was going to be. You begin to lose interest first in the characters, and then in the plot itself. Finally, you give up and either place the book back on the shelf or return it to the library. You then move on to the next one, hoping that it will give you more satisfaction.
There many reasons why people stop reading books. Sometimes, they find things in there that greatly offend them. Sometimes, they find that they no longer have the time to read. But most of the time it is mainly because, well, the book is boring. There are plenty of books that I have started and stopped for all of the above reasons.
  • Moby Dick: This is one that I started because it's considered a "Great Book". I was trying to kick myself out of 19th century Britain, so I thought I would try to read this American classic. It's actually fairly easy reading, with extremely short chapters, but about halfway through it I lost all interest.
  • Gulliver's Travels: This is one that I have started many times and I can't seem to ever get past the first chapter. I'll be honest, it just plain confuses me.
  • The Grapes of Wrath: I started reading this when I was about 16, and ended up stopping because the language got to me after awhile. I have considered picking it up again as I have gotten older.
  • Master and Commander: I wanted to read this one because I love the movie, but I found the book to be kind of boring. The language was beginning to be a problem, plus, unless you are familiar with a lot of seafaring terminology (which I am not) it can get pretty confusing.

There is nothing wrong with putting down a book, for whatever reason. The beauty of reading is that you can always put it down and then come back to it either days, months or years later. Re-reading is also a good idea. Books that you considered boring when you first read them might be better after you have changed and matured as a reader and as a person. Plus, some books( like The Three Musketeers and The Brothers Karamazov) have to be finished to be fully appreciated.

So, what books have you put down lately? Are there any that you found to be better the second time around? Are there any that you thought were boring until you finished it? Sound off if you like!