Tag Archives: film adaptations

Movie Review: Vanity Fair

Okay, so I finished Thackeray’s Vanity Fair today. It was delicious, although, even more so than with Middlemarch, having to read it so quickly wasn’t exactly a good thing. But I’m already looking eagerly towards the probably-happening-very-soon reread!

Now, I wasn’t going to watch the movie until I’d written my paper (i.e. sometime in April), but after reading the book I came to the conclusion that there’s just so much into it that the movie has to be vastly different.

Actually, it wasn’t. I found it surprisingly faithful to the book, though naturally it takes some liberties with characterisation and offers interpretations of things Thackeray only alludes to. My main qualm was that they were trying to make Becky (Reese Witherspoon) look nice personality-wise, and frankly, I don’t think she’s that at all. Other characters I liked – amazing Romola Garai as Amelia, Geraldine McEwan as Lady Southdown, Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Bareacres… Just splendid. And Douglas Hodge was absolutely spot on as Mr Pitt Crawley! He had me in stitches, he did!

You will notice that list didn’t include any of the leading men in the movie. Well. That’s because one of the things that make this movie so attractive to me is the gods-damned uniforms. Uniforms everywhere! And the three leading men – Jonathan Rhys Meyers as George Osborne, Rhys Ifans as William Dobbin, and James Purefoy as Rawdon Crawley – know how to carry them. But they do more than look nice. Rhys Meyers does haughty like I’ve seen no one else do it. Ifans is so in love it broke my poor heart on several occasions. And Purefoy managed to make Rawdon so well rounded that I even began to like the character. Only thing I wish is that someone would teach Mr Purefoy to ride, as his skills in the noble sport made him look embarrassing rather than dashing.

There are some little details that bugged me. Some costumes didn’t exactly look Regency. A general off-ness in some scenes. But most of all, Lady Richmond’s ball. The movie places it on June 17th 1815. However, said ball was held on June 15th, just on the brink of Waterloo. (You can find this famous ball on Wikipedia, if you want to read contemporary descriptions or glance at the guest list.)

I can only recommend the movie. It’s slightly on the long side with 139 minutes, but it’s captivating and very pleasing to the eye. Hard to say how it works without having read the book, but I’d say it’s not hard to follow.

Although I do warmly recommend the book as well.

Vanity Fair (2004)

Director: Mira Nair

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Romola Garai, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Rhys Ifans, James Purefoy, Gabriel Byrne

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Books in May

May was warm and nice, although it has also seemed long. It was also very busy, hence the astounding amount of romance – easy and quick to read. Let’s get to business, then.

Mary Balogh: Seducing An Angel

He is to be wealthy, wellborn, and want her more than he wants any other woman. Those are the conditions that must be met by the man Cassandra Belmont will choose as her lover. Marriage is out of the question for the scandalous widow who must now barter her beauty in order to survive. With seduction in mind, she sets her sights on Stephen Huxtable, the irresistibly attractive Earl of Merton and London’s most eligible bachelor. But a single night of passion alters all the rules. Cassandra, whose reputation is already in tatters, is now in danger of losing the one thing she vowed never to give. And Stephen won’t rest until Cassandra has surrendered everything – not as his mistress, but as his lover and his wife.

(Back cover of the Dell 2009 paperback edition)

Yes, the month kicked off with a romance again. Seducing An Angel is the fourth part in the Huxtable quartet – well, quintet, as there is one more book to go – and I found it delightfully different from the pervious three. The most glaring difference is the fact that the story does not start with a marriage, but with a seduction. The progress is nice and smooth, although I had some scruples with Cassandra’s stubbornness when it came to distrusting men. It’s logical, of course, since she has been betrayed by every single man in her life, but there is some sort of imbalance here that bothers me: on the one hand it’s hard to see how anyone could ever distrust Stephen, and on the other hand everything in my head is saying she should just keep away from men and keep living with her formers employees – who, by the way, are a factor that make the story so enjoyable. The former governess Alice and the cook/maid Mary both get their own stories, and no lose threads are left hanging for Cassandra’s small family. All the Huxtables are wonderfully kept in character throughout the series, as are their husbands and other recurring characters. The only one who remains mysterious now is their cousin Constantine, who will be the hero of the last book of the series.

There are some things in the language and etiquette that I would very much like to check. What peeves me most is the ball etiquette (yes, I did a class talk on it, so there was Research), and I’m fairly convinced unmarried siblings don’t dance with each other. (Cf. Austen’s Emma – “…You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”) Not sure how that changes upon marriage, but it rings wrong to have siblings dancing. Ever. Because it’s the frickin’ marriage mart.

Please pardon the rant. Regency is important to me.

Published: Dell 2009

Pages: 388

Paul Torday: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Why does Dr Alfred Jones feel as though something is missing in his life? He has many reasons to be content. His job as a fisheries scientist is satisfactory, and he has just celebrated his twentieth wedding anniversary.

When he is asked to help create a salmon river in the highlands of the Yemen, Fred rejects the idea as absurd. But the proposal catches the eye of several senior British politicians. And so Fred finds himself forced to figure out how to fly ten thousand salmon to a desert country – and persuade them to swim there…

As he embarks on an extraordinary journey of faith the diffident Dr Jones will discover a sense of belief and a capacity for love that surprise himself and all who know him.

(Back cover of the Phoenix 2007 paperback edition)

I would never have picked this book up had there not been a movie based on it coming out. It’s also more than likely that I would not have had any interest in said movie if Ewan McGregor didn’t star in it. In general, there are a couple of things on the back cover that usually put me off: a person not happy with his pedestrian life, and the phrase extraordinary journey of faith, of which the first two are enough for me to make a face and put the book down.

That would have been a mistake. For a book that is concentrated on fishing it is very entertaining. Torday doesn’t bore the reader with infodumps, and even if you’re not familiar with fish or the Arabic culture it really doesn’t matter. There is a small glossary at the end where you can check most of the terminology. (My absolute favourite, the one I giggled over several times, was “salmonid”, particularly in the phrase “migratory salmonids”. I don’t know how funny that is to a fisheries specialist or even a native English speaker, but I think it sounds hilarious. Salmonids.)

A thing one might want to know before picking this book up is that it is not just straightforward prose. The story is told through several kinds of text, like entries from Dr. Jones’s journal, Miss Chetwode-Talbot’s correspondence with her fiancé, memos inside the NCFE, and – I kid you not – intercepted Al-Qaeda e-mail traffic. Don’t be daunted! Torday really pulls it off well, and there’s no fear of confusion once you learn who is who and who does what and so on. I was thoroughly pleased with this book, much to my own surprise. Not the read of the year, but a good piece of literary fiction. I’d heard it was very funny, but I wouldn’t say it was all that funny, although when you learn more about Dr. Jones in the beginning you can’t help but feel that he is a silly old dear and have to smile at the poor man. It gets slightly deeper towards the end, but not enough to be ridiculously soul-searching.

I’m getting rambly. In short: it is well worth a read. And a nice book for summer, too, methinks. What with all the fish and desert and stuff.

I went to see the movie (premiered in Finland May 25th) and it’s WAY different. Very funny and very sweet, too, but the ending was not as good as in the book. I was supposed to write a review, but that never happened… But I recommend it. Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt both do a wonderful job!

Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2007

Pages: 317 (Phoenix Paperback 2007 edition – this one also has reading group notes and discussion topics)

Loretta Chase: Lord Perfect

Ideal
The heir to the Earl of Hargate, Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne, is the perfect aristocrat. Tall, dark, and handsome, he is known for his impeccable manners and good breeding. Benedict knows all the rules and has no trouble following them—until she enters his life.

Infamous
Bathsheba Wingate belongs to the rotten branch of the DeLucey family: a notorious lot of liars, frauds, and swindlers. Small wonder her husband’s high-born family disowned him. Now widowed, she’s determined to give her daughter a stable life and a proper upbringing. Nothing and no one will disrupt Bathsheba’s plans—until he enters her life…

Scandalous
Then Bathsheba’s hoyden daughter lures Benedict’s precocious nephew into a quest for a legendary treasure. To recover the would-be knights errant, Benedict and Bathsheba must embark on a rescue mission that puts them in dangerous, intimate proximity—a situation virtually guaranteed to end in mayhem—even scandal!—if anyone else were involved. But Benedict is in perfect control of events. Perfect control, despite his mad desire to break all the rules. Perfect control. Really.

(lorettachase.com)

Like usual, I can’t seem to start a series from the beginning. Fortunately, that is not necessary with Regency Romances, and even though this is the third instalment of the Carsington Brothers series it was easy to get into it.

Chase is good. Really good. Anyone who reads historical literature knows how horrid it is when one can’t trust the author to know what they are talking about. With Chase, this is not a problem. I have no idea whether she really knows her details – although she has said in an interview she loves doing research, a relieving comment, that – but the reader can feel secure and concentrate on the book itself instead of details. Her writing is witty and fun, and as bored as I am of this attraction-even-before-introduction thing I’m fond of the characters.

However, the story feels a little flat, and the only thing really driving it are the characters. My notes also accuse the book of corny sex.

Published: Berkeley Sensation 2006

Pages: 280 (I’m terribly sorry, I messed up and didn’t check which edition I had…)

Mary Balogh: Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride

Dark Angel

Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men – or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

Lord Carew’s Bride

Love has not been kind to Samantha Newman, but friendship has. When her emotions are rubbed raw by the reappearance in her life of a villain who had broken her heart some years before, she turns with gratitude to the kindly Hartley Wade, with whom she had developed a warm friendship when she mistook him for a gardener during a visit to the country. She accepts his proposal, expecting a quiet, safe, undemanding marriage. She does not know that Hartley is the Marquess of Carew and that he loves her passionately–and believes she returns his feelings.

(Back cover of Dell omnibus edition 2010/marybalogh.com)

I really enjoyed both of these books. They are so dramatic I could barely stop reading. They are not completely believable when it comes to historical details, but that doesn’t seem to be necessary in the modern historical romance. Balogh has a way of writing compelling prose, however, and to a romance junkie I would say these two are a must. The heroes are lovable, although Thornhill is a mite conventional and I find myself partial to the crippled, insecure and oh-so-deeply-in-love Lord Carew. Of the heroines I prefer Jennifer from Dark Angel: she is more determined than her cousin Samantha, the heroine of Lord Carew’s Bride. If you’re looking for a little light summer reading, these are the books to take to the beach with you – or this book, rather, as they have recently published as an omnibus edition and I doubt they are unavailable separately.

Published: Signer Regency 1995

Pages: 308/285

So that’s it for May. I’m slightly disappointed in myself, having read so slowly and little, but let’s face it: May is the end of school, and that means a whole lot of work you technically could have done or at least started weeks earlier but never do. Let’s hope there’s more time in June, despite work! (I’ve just found out that the ice cream stall I’ll be working will be located less than ten minutes from my house. Yay!)

Currently reading:

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Happy summer everyone! Hope the weather’s good wherever you are, although I guess on the southern hemisphere that’s at the moment less likely than on the northern.

EDIT:// I have been so very careless with this update. I apologise. Here are the books I got this month – you can see a clear trend. 😛 The other are from the Bookdepository, but The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet is from my usual bookstore.

Leave a comment

Filed under Monthly

Books in February

Okay, so this month I’ll be doing things a little differently. Since I have absolutely no talent in summarising books I have thus far avoided it, but I don’t think that is the way to go in the end. So from now on, I will find a short summary to attach to the book (source will naturally be indicated), and then just go on as I have before.

Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South

A friend told me several years ago that I should watch the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and back then I decided I would for once read the classic before seeing it. This promise got fulfilled during the first week of February, and boy, am I glad I did it!

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

(GoodReads)

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Gaskell’s language is very easy to fall into, and the story – originally published as a newspaper serial – rolls on very nicely. Gaskell is not as clever as Jane Austen, refined like her friend Charlotte Brontë, or teller of a complicated story like Charles Dickens, but her prose is a pleasure, and Mr Thornton has now risen to one of my favourite classic gentlemen. I’m looking forward to seeing the adaptation!

First published: 1854-1855

Pages: 403 (Wordsworth Editions 2002)

Julia Quinn: What Happens In London

It seems I cannot keep away from Julia Quinn’s books. This time I found myself reading What Happens in London, the second book in the Bevelstoke series (third one being the Quinn I read previously – I’m not very good at this, am I?).

When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancée, she doesn’t believe it for a second, but still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure?  So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits… and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security.  He’s not a spy, but he’s had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious.  But just when he decides that she’s nothing more than a nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself…

(http://www.juliaquinn.com)

The book was merely entertaining. The characters were nothing special, the plot was nothing special, and the humour I’ve previously found redeeming in her work was largely missing. Once again, a rather serious subplot was dealt without much care and the author largely depending on the reader, leaving me to wonder whether the traumatized little brother was necessary at all. The “villain” could have been more consistent in character, and I actually found his bodyguard Vladimir more interesting. The language is, as usual, off, and I still have a hard time trusting Quinn’s background research. However, the book is good for a day’s entertainment, so in that capacity it is more or less worth picking up.

Published: 2009

Pages: 328 (Avon Books 2009)

Jane Austen: Persuasion

After Quinn I was in need of some good and reliable Austen. Persuasion is one of my favourites, perhaps because it is rather different from her other works:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

(Goodreads)

This book is so subtle it is an absolute thrill to read. Little gestures, words, expressions mean so much, and feelings that once were return gradually. There is little else I can say about the book without spoiling the ending, but be prepared: this book includes the most beautiful letter I have ever read!

First published: 1818 (posthumous)

Pages: 230 (Penguin 1975)

Georgette Heyer: The Spanish Bride

Shot-proof, fever-proof and a veteran campaigner at the age of twenty-five, Brigade-Major Harry Smith is reputed to be the luckiest man in Lord Wellington’s army. But at the siege of Badajos, his friends foretell the ruin of his career. For when Harry meets the defenceless Juana, a fiery passion consumes him. Under the banner of honour and with the selfsame ardour he so frequently displays in battle, he dives headlong into marriage. In his beautiful child-bride, he finds a kindred spirit, and a temper to match. But for Juana, a long year of war must follow…

(back cover of the Arrow Books edition 2005)

The Spanish Bride was not exactly the romance I thought I was going to get, although the romance bits are just as sweet as Heyer always makes them. Most of the time, however, is devoted to the war. The army marches from city to city in Spain – I found that the book might do with a map – and waits for action. The battles are scarce, but they are not the interesting thing anyway. The characters have been real: in the foreword Heyer mentions several autobiographies she read while doing research, and the authors of those are met. I feel like I understand Lord Wellington’s character, and seeing as how scrupulous a researcher Heyer is, I am not doubting her vision.

The only thing I felt a little queasy about was the age difference between husband and wife. Harry is twenty-five when they marry, Juana only fourteen. To a modern reader this looks suspicious, but we must remember it was not exactly out of the ordinary in the day. Juana is also very mature, so one does not keep thinking of her age but instead her admirable spirit.

In short, as a history lesson this book is excellent, especially if you, like me, learn better from fiction than pure facts.

Published: William Heinemann 1940

Pages: 422 (Arrow Books 2005)

John le Carré: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley’s chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

(Goodreads)

I actually picked this book up simply because the movie was coming out here, and I decided I wanted to read the story first. I don’t usually read crime fiction, but this one left a pleasant impression of the genre. Even though I’m not good with history past the 19th century and the details of the Cold War are hazy, it did not hinder the reading. More difficulty I found in adjusting to le Carré’s rather lengthy and complicated style, but as usual, once one gets used to the rhythm it gets easier, and once all the characters are familiar the story really picks up. I would advise little breaks during the reading, to allow the different stories of the past and their details to sink in – and sometimes, if concentration has faltered at some point, it is necessary to go back a paragraph or two.

I think it likely I will read the other two books in this Karla trilogy, but the need to do so is not very pressing. Nevertheless, Tinker Tailor is a compelling read – although not the extent where I would keep glancing around me on the street, trying to spot legmen watching me. (I did keep my eye on the car with Czech license plates, though.)

Published: Random House (US) / Hodder & Stoughton (UK) 1974

Pages: 422 (Sceptre 2011)

George Orwell: Animal Farm

Animal Farm is the most famous by far of all twentieth-century political allegories. Its account of a group of barnyard animals who revolt against their vicious human master, only to submit to a tyranny erected by their own kind, can fairly be said to have become a universal drama. Orwell is one of the very few modern satirists comparable to Jonathan Swift in power, artistry, and moral authority; in animal farm his spare prose and the logic of his dark comedy brilliantly highlight his stark message.

Taking as his starting point the betrayed promise of the Russian Revolution, Orwell lays out a vision that, in its bitter wisdom, gives us the clearest understanding we possess of the possible consequences of our social and political acts.

(Goodreads)

Animal Farm happened to be on the shelf when I visited one of my regular libraries, and since I’ve long intended to read it, this was a good opportunity. And I liked it. A lot. Even though the story is familiar – from general knowledge of either literature or history – it is an engaging story. The parallels to the Soviet Union are clear as day, in all their unpleasantness. This is a rather neat novella, with a very clear outline. Those who have experience in the field of political satire might find it too easy, but a dabbler like me will enjoy the clarity. There are also some elements that are developed further in 1984, published only four years later.

Published: Secker and Warburg 1945

Pages: 95 (Penguin 1989)

Patricia Briggs: Moon Called

Since werewolves are my favourite paranormal creatures, I wanted to give the Mercy Thompson series a go.

Werewolves can be dangerous if you get in their way, but they’ll leave you alone if you are careful. They are very good at hiding their natures from the human population, but I’m not human. I know them when I meet them, and they know me, too.

Mercy Thompson’s sexy next-door neighbor is a werewolf.

She’s tinkering with a VW bus at her mechanic shop that happens to belong to a vampire.

But then, Mercy Thompson is not exactly normal herself … and her connection to the world of things that go bump in the night is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

(Goodreads)

As an urban fantasy novel, I suppose this one is a good one. The problem is, I’m increasingly feeling like this is not my genre – the first person narrative, the American cities, the weapons, the TV-series-like quality are not for me. Not that I wasn’t entertained by this book, quite the opposite! Briggs’s heroine Mercy is an independent, non-conventional woman, and the werewolf system she introduces is logical and believable. There is a lot of action and not a dull moment. However, I did not like her relationships to males (maybe excepting Zee), and, as much as I regret to say it, I’m finding I can barely stand vampires any longer. Of course, this is not Briggs’s fault in the least.

So if you like werewolves, urban settings, and fast-paced action, read it. I might eventually continue this series (currently six books long), but only if I want something light and quick to read.

Published: January 2006

Pages: 288 (Ace Books mass market paperback 2006

So this is what February was like. I also bought a few books from the Arkadia International Bookshop:

  • Baroness Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Jane Austen: Lady Susan/the Watsons/Sanditon
  • John le Carré: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

My order of Anne Rice’s Wolf Gift got cancelled, and I now need to wait for it some more, but I’m hopefully getting my hands on it next month. I’ve also ordered some other books, but more about those when they arrive.

Newsflash! I’m participating the Lies of Locke Lamora read-along in March! If you have a blog, and wish to take part for whatever reason, this (among others) is where you can express your interest: http://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/announcing-the-lies-of-locke-lamora-read-along/

I don’t know how long into March participating is possible, but thought I would mention it. This also means I will be posting more often than usual this coming month – you’ll be seeing a lot of fangirl talk.

Leave a comment

Filed under Monthly

Movie Adaptations: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tomas Alfredson’s film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (adapted from the Cold War spy novel of John le Carré’s of the same name) was released in Finland last Friday. I happened to have a day off, and so went to see the film that has been praised by just about every critic.

I was not impressed.

There is a lot of good to be said, despite what I personally felt about the film. The screenwriter has had a lot of work to do, since the plot in the book is quite complex, and has succeeded in simplifying the plot. Although I enjoy a complicated movie, if this one had been any more so I would have been entirely lost. The actors all do a wonderful job, nothing I can complain about. The settings are – I believe – extremely accurate, very bleak and shabby. The director said in an interview that he starts with the details, and Ciarán Hinds (Roy Bland) actually advised him to fill the ashtrays to the brim. Like in books, details such as these, even if you don’t notice them while watching, make you feel safe in the hands of the makers.

I don’t know whether the experience suffered from mine having read the book before or not. On the other hand, I doubt I would have understood a thing that was going on or known who the characters were, but on the other I now knew who the mole was. Perhaps the solution would have been to read two thirds of the novel and then see the ending?

I would have liked to see it get the Oscar for the script, but some things are just not meant to be. It may not be my new favourite film, but it keeps you with it and does not feel like it lasts the two hours it does.

For an adaptation, decent.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch

Two Academy Awards nominations (Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Adapted Screenplay)

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies