"If she consents to let us take care of her , we will never let her stoop to request anything from him, even for his child"
This summer I made up my mind to read some Victorian novels I’ve always heard or read about. I’m particularly interested in the age of Queen Victoria and love the fiction of those years. I read and reviewed SHIRLEY by Charlotte Bronte (HERE) not long ago and now I’ve just finished my second book, RUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell.
When RUTH was published in 1853, Mrs Gaskell was sure it would be too disturbing for the Victorian readers, it would be surely condemned as “unfit subject for fiction”. Instead her bravery and mastery were rewarded by the favourable, thoughtful and often lengthy notices her second novel received. She had already published MARY BARTON in 1848 describing the appalling living conditions of factory workers and their families in Manchester. RUTH, instead, is about a fallen woman, seduced and abandoned with child. The challenge issued by Elizabeth Gaskell was not in introducing such a woman as a character in one of her novels but in placing her not at the margins (where many such women appeared in Victorian fiction) but rather at the centre of the story, since Ruth Hilton is, in fact, the heroine of this novel.
The Victorian frame of mind was characterised by extreme prudery and strict morals and the fate of the so-called “fallen” women was being rejected, living as outcasts with their children, being very often forced to get a living from prostitution. What Gaskell tries to convey is sympathy with a conventionally unsympathetic character and situation. She dared defy the stiff perbenism of her middle-class readers writing a tale based on the real-life events experienced by a young unmarried mother whose cause she had personally taken up.
RUTH tells the story of a girl of respectable parentage, now orphaned and apprenticed to a dressmaker, who is seduced by a young squire, Henry Bellingham. When Bellingham abandons her in the Welsh village where she and her lover have been living, Ruth, pregnant and despairing, is rescued from attempted suicide by a dissenting minister, Mr Benson. He and his sister, Faith, subsequently take Ruth into their home in the northern English parish of Eccleston where Mr Benson serves, passing her off as Mrs Denbigh, a relative and widow. Under the shelter and tutelage of the Benson family home, Ruth enjoys a respectable existence for many years, bringing up her son, Leonard, and acting as daily governess to the children of Mr Benson's foremost parishioner, Mr Bradshaw. Ruth's identity and history are exposed however when, by unlucky coincidence, Bellingham (now Mr Donne) is returned as Member of Parliament for Eccleston. Following her own, and the Bensons' disgrace, Ruth devotes herself to caring for the victims of a typhus epidemic in the town and is finally acknowledged as a very generous kind creature.

The cruelty of Victorian morality's hypocritical "double standard" is depicted by Gaskell in several episodes and characters in this novel:

· Sally, the Bensons’ faithful servant, immediately understands Ruth’s real situation but accepts silently the fact that her beloved master has brought her into their home. Anyhow, she decides to punish the girl cutting all her beautiful locks and proposing her to wear a widow’s cap (p.121)
· Miss Faith Benson’s suffered acceptance of Ruth and her illeggitimate child must be worked on by her brother, Mr Banson, who seems Mrs Gaskell’s spokesman in more than one moment (pp. 100 -101)
· Mr Bradshaw’s harsh words express all his contempt – and that of the majority of the Victorian middle-classes - as soon as he discovers that the kind angelic woman, Mrs Denbigh aka Ruth, whom he trusted and appreciated so much as his own daughters’ governess, had had her child out of marriage .(pp.277-279)

These are just few examples of the attempt of the authoress to oppose the prevailing cruel hypocrytical outlook on the problem. Her opinion comes out in several pages and it is evidently pervaded by her strong sincere Christian faith.

Other beautiful classic novels proposing tragic stories of fallen women, also published in the Victorian Age, are THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850) and TESS OF THE D’URBEVILLES by Thomas Hardy (1891).








In these days I’ve read about - and I’m actually having - a different “perspective” on life. I’ve been reading Italo Calvino’s “Six Memos for the Next Millenium” . It is a book based on a series of lectures written by the Italian writer for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, but never delivered as he died before leaving Italy. The lectures were originally written in Italian and translated by Patrick Creagh. The lectures were to be given in the fall of 1985, and Memos was published in 1988. The memos are lectures on the values of literature which Calvino felt were important for the coming millennium. At the time of his death Calvino had finished all but the last lecture:
· Lightness
· Quickness
· Exactitude
· Visibility
· Multiplicity
All that is known of the sixth lecture is that it was to be on consistency.
I particularly liked the first Memo, LIGHTNESS. It’s a wonderful lesson about literature and life. He suggests lightness as a new way to interpret life. Quoting , among many other poets and writers, Paul Valéry, ``One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather'' (p. 16), Calvino hopes to convey the right idea of lightness, which is something different from frivolity: “I hope to have shown that there is such a thing as a lightness of thoughtfulness, just as we all know that there is a lightness of frivolity. In fact, thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy”. (p. 10)
According to Calvino, thanks to lightness we might be able to fly up and see things from a different perspective. Especially when life is hard, problematic, troubled. He proposes a quest for lightness as a reaction to a burdening life.
To make his bigger point , he resuscitates an obscure Kafka story about a magical bucket:
the fuller [the bucket in Kafka's ``Der Kübelreiter''] is, the less it will be able to fly. Thus, astride our bucket, we shall face the new millennium, without hoping to find any more in it than what we ourselves are able to bring to it”.
This conception of lightness reminds me much of “my special philosophy”, again taken from one of Calvino’s complex stunning works, “The Invisible Cities”: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno,are not inferno, then make them endure,give them space”.

Now, as I said in my introduction, I actually have a different perspective on life these days, since if I look out of my window I can’t see THIS any longer

but THIS...

Got it! I’m at the seaside, in a beautiful island in the Tyrrhenian sea: Ischia. My sight is experiencing a feast of new light and colours , lots of blue and green nuances, bougainville everywhere. I’m reading a lot, relaxing alot and eating a lot! I have some problems with the Net, unfortunately, so I haven’t been able to and I won’t be blogging so much. I’ll try to do my best both at enjoying my holidays and at trying to get in touch with all of you.



I mean, I won't miss these three good movies - at least I imagine and hope they really are good - which are going to be released at the end of this summer or at the beginning of next autumn. They are all set in the past and this is something I've always been charmed by. Good stories set in the past... period movies.

1. BRIGHT STAR - Release date 18th September 2009

I've already written about this movie not long ago. It was one among the films taking part in this year Cannes Festival directed by Jane Campion. Do you remember her? She's the director from New Zealand who won the Palme D’Or in 1993 with her wonderful THE PIANO. As I heard about it, I promised myself this film will be part of my DVD collection as soon as it will be released (with YOUNG VICTORIA, another costume film released this year, which I’m eagerly waiting to see).The movie tells the story of the tragic romance between JOHN KEATS, one othe English Romantic poets of the second generation, and Fanny Brawne. Keats has now become one of the most popular poets in the English language, but in his life, though he managed to publish his works, he wasn't either famous or rich.Keats, played by Ben Whishaw, met Fanny, Abbie Cornish in the movie, at his friend Charles Brown’s house in 1818 and soon fell in love with her. She was 18 and he was 23. He had already lost his mother for tuberculosis and his brother Tom would soon follow her, just when John himself started showing the first symptoms of the terrible desease.




2. The second movie is AN EDUCATION - Release Date 9th October 2009

Starring Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper (John Willoughby in BBC Sense and Sensibility 2008! ), Rosamund Pike and Emma Thompson, it is set in the post-war, pre-Beatles London suburbs and tells of a bright schoolgirl torn between studying for a place at Oxford and the more exciting alternative offered to her by a charismatic older man.

It was presented at Berlin Film Festival 2009 and the script is signed by NICK HORNBY. Do you know him? Have you ever read any of his hilarious contemporary very-British novels? I have and did enjoy at least three of his works: ABOUT A BOY, HOW TO BE GOOD and A LONG WAY DOWN.



3. The third movie is AMELIA - Release Date: October 23rd, 2009

Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Virginia Madsen, the story focuses on the relationship between famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her husband George Putnam.

If you want to know more about the brave Amelia and her mysterious disappearance you can find lots of information at this site dedicated to her.

To anticipate the joy of watching the return of Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor on screen have a look at the official trailer.

Amelia Earhart at WIKIPEDIA



Had Jane Austen lived to complete "Sanditon," it would undoubtedly be as famous and treasured as her other novels. But unfinished at her death, the masterpiece has remained mysterious and overlooked. Now, author Juliette Shapiro has completed "Sanditon" in a vivid style recognizable to any Austen fan. This is what this edition of SANDITON by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro, (Ulysses Press, 2009) announces in its back cover. This is the first book I decided to read for the EVERYTHING AUSTEN CHALLENGE.

I made up my mind to read Jane’s fragment of Sanditon (12 chapters) first in the original version I’ve got in my edition of her MINOR WORKS (including also LADY SUSAN and THE WATSONS). Then I went on reading what Sanditon has become in J. Shapiro’s hands and imagination.
You all probably know that Jane was seriously ill when she wrote the opening chapters of Sanditon; she had less than six months to live. It is thus remarkable that the book is so fresh, innovative, and original. In her last completed novel, Persuasion, Austen had depicted how men of merit and small means could rise to affluence and position by means of service in the British navy. Sanditon builds on this theme, depicting the commercial development of a small watering place and the social confusion of its society (one character is a mulatto heiress from the West Indies, Miss Lambe).

Before writing about my impressions of this edition of Austen’s last achievement, I’ll try to give you some more information taken from my precious Deirdre La Faye , JANE AUSTEN – The World of her Novels, pp. 298 -307.
It was intended to be a long wickedly comical tale concerning a group of seaside residents, some hopeful, some foolish, some cunning, but all interested in making money by developing their little local fishing village into a smart holiday resort. These twelve chapters introduce a long list of characters, abd end with the first indication of some kind of intrigue between two of them, but after the date of March 18 at the top of the last page, the rest of it is blank .
The protagonist is Charlotte, a tall and very pleasing young woman of two and twenty, the eldest of the daughters at home, who travels to Sanditon with Mr Parker, who had happened to be involved in a carriage accident just near her house and had stopped there as a guest with his wife waiting to recover . Jane Austen does not , in this fragment, give any description of Charlotte Heywood’s appearance, but in real life she knew a Charlotte Williams, daughter of one of the Hampshire clergy and wrote to Cassandra in 1813: “I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. – I will compliment her, by naming a Heroine after her.” So perhaps Charlotte Heywood shares large dark eyes as well as a Christian name with the intelligent Miss Williams of Hampshire.

The male hero seems to be in Jane’s intentions, Sidney Parker, Mr Parker’s younger brother, who only makes a brief appearance very near the end of the fragment. He is evidently the odd one out in this amiable foolish family, as he is “very good-looking, with decided air of Ease and Fashion, and a lively countenance”.
At Sanditon Charlotte presently meets the brisk, formidable and rather vulgar Lady Denham, who has climbed socially and gained riches from two childless marriages and is now keeping a tight hold on her purse strings; this is greatly to the disappointment of young Sir Edward Denham, who cannot be as extravagant as he feels a baronet is entitled to be - he can only drive a gig instead of a curricle - and of his discontented sister, Esther. By her first marriage Lady Denham has acquired the large and handsome Sanditon House, where she lives with a poor and beauriful cousin, Clara Brereton , as her companion. When Charlotte and Mrs Parker walk up the long drive through the grounds to call at Sanditon House, Charlotte sees through the fence and trees that Clara and Sir Edward are having what is obviously a private conversation...and this is where the fragment ends.

Several attempts have been made in recent years to complete the story, but none with any great success, as there is really no indication how Jane Austen intended to develop the plot. Charlotte Heywood is evidently the heroine and Sidney Parker is introduced in terms which show him as the hero; Sir Eward will be a foolish and probably incompetent sort of villain, who will undoubtedly fail to seduce the astute Clara Brereton; but what with the several visitors to Sanditon who have been introduced by name and are waiting in the background, as well as the Parker family themselves, there is such a large cast of characters to be manipulated that the possibilities remain endless.


There are some aspects of the book that I would have changed.

Firstly I don’t like what Shapiro makes of Jane’s male protagonist, the hero of SANDITON, Sidney Parker. For instance, in Shapiro’s completion, Charlotte overhears Sidney revealing to his elder brother, Mr Parker, his intention to propose to her to give Sanditon an exciting event to talk about! Moreover, after his dashing entrance in Jane’s chapter 12, he is always laughing and telling silly shallow things in the following ones by Shapiro! What Kind of Austen’s hero is he? A Mr Elton? A Mr Collins? Rather improbable.
Secondly, I wish there had been more conversations between Charlotte and Sidney before … well … Their relationship is too rushed. Rather unacceptable.
Third disturbing element: there is an embarassing incident between two minor characters . Sir Edward Denham - the silly scoundrel of the story - apparently tries to attack sweet Clara Brereton, Lady Denham’s ward. Charlotte finds the poor girl on the ground in the garden without her collar. The scene is absolutely hilarious but it does not sound very Austenish to me. Such a direct reference to sexual harassment is rather improbable. I don’t remember any similar scene in her other novels. Too risqué!

Did I like anything in the book apart from Jane's infinite mastery at depicting new characters in a few lines which convinced me she could have written her most witty masterpiece - after Emma - if she had had the opportunity to live just a bit longer? YES! The painting in the front cover: THE SOUVENIR by Jean-Honoré Fragonard!









I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)

As I told you before, after a sitting marathon what I longed most was going for long walks. It has been terribly hot, unfortunately, in the last days so long walks were not recommended. Anyhow, yesterday I couldn't resist my sister's invitation to join her to a wanderful cool (in every sense) place she had gone to with her husband last Sunday. I had always heard about this splendid pond near my house but never went. I thought it was too dangerous to get there but I've just discovered it isn't . I have already shown and described my favourite walk some posts ago (HERE) and this spot is on the same route, near the monasteries, only you don't follow the main road at a certain crossroads ... Now, I absolutely want to share with you the incredible excursion my sister and I went for. It is just 3 minutes by car from my house, then ... into the wild. My eyes are still full of the green and the blue we were astonished by yesterday afternoon.

The amazing pond - St Benedict's pond it is called - we finally got to walking about half an hour after leaving the car, is formed by the river Aniene which comes out in a sudden sprinkling fall from a crevice in the mountain. Impressive. We sat there silent, watching and listening to the roaring of the water ... the voice of Nature, the sound of life. It was not hot at all, we needed a jumper and ... we were glad to be there. Glad to be alive.


I didn't know how to start this letter and now I don't know how to end it...

This afternoon my husband and I were working on our first videoclip. A home - made video clip resulted from an idea of mine and his ability with this kind of cutting and pasting software. Let's start from my idea: I wanted to unite images from the movie SYLVIA (2003) - have a look at my previos post LIFE WAS TOO SMALL TO CONTAIN HER - with Richard Armitage's reading of Ted Hughes's letters. Then have a look at the clip and ... it is the result of my husband's skills.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were two of the greatest poets of the 20th century. They were married but their relationship was never easy. They split up and, after writing her best poems, Sylvia killed herself. She was only 30. Ted Hughes wrote to Sylvia's mother after some time from her suicide. Can you imagine his sense of guilt? How difficult could it be to write such a letter? It's extremely moving. Get ready to shiver...

Related posts & sites
My Utube Channel
Life was too small to contain her
The Ted Hughes Letters read by Richard Armitage



You expected bread, and you have got a stone; break your teeth on it, and don't shriek...you will have learned the great lesson how to endure without a sob.'

It took me quite a long time to finish this novel by Charlotte Bronte and it is not because I didn’t like it. I started it in a moment of frantic work and ended up reading only few pages a day , at night, when I was completely exhausted. So I went through the first 100 pages in … two months … but I’ve finished reading the other 442 in the last few days. While reading a book, I suffer from what I call “professional distortion”, I mean, I cannot simply enjoy the reading getting involved in the story. I tend to be always catching glimpses of other texts, finding links and connections, I need to underline the best passages and to add personal notes here and there, I search for more information about the author/ess as well as about the historical context in the setting. I know, I can be quite pedantic sometimes! Why do I have to be so complicated? Don’t worry, I do enjoy the stories I read, when it happens they are good. Enough with useless chatting, let’s start working on SHIRLEY .

What do you think of a story in which the two heroines seem to like the same man, the hero of the novel? And what if they are best friends and he proposes to the wealthier of the two girls to solve his financial problems but loves the other one? What do you expect from such premises? I found it extremely enjoyable.


Shirley is Charlotte Bronte's only historical novel and her most topical one. Written at a time of social unrest, it is set during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when economic hardship led to riots in the woollen district of Yorkshire. A mill-owner, Robert Moore, is determined to introduce new machinery despite fierce opposition from his workers; he ignores their suffering, and puts his own life at risk. Robert sees marriage to the wealthy Shirley Keeldar as the solution to his difficulties, but he loves his cousin Caroline. She suffers misery and frustration, and Shirley has her own ideas about the man she will choose to marry. The friendship between the two women, and the contrast between their situations, is at the heart of this compelling novel, which is suffused with Bronte's deep yearning for an earlier time. (For a more detailed plot click HERE)

SHIRLEY was Charlotte second published novel after the success of JANE EYRE. When she began it, she was one of four siblings, she finished it as the only survivor sister and that influenced her writing much, of course.
SHIRLEY is not her best book, I mean, it is less compulsively readable than JANE EYRE. It is, anyway, the one in which she expresses more of her character: her conviction that women might be as well qualified as men to practise a profession (which sets her apart from most of her own contemporaries); her contempt for the market of marriage; her experience as a governess; her longing for a better past.


Now the negative part of my review.

I’ve always considered Charlotte Bronte very brave since, when she wrote JANE EYRE, she completely disappointed and scandalized her "perbenistic" Victorian middle-class audience, creating a heroine who dared too much, who was greatlly independent and strong-willed, but, above all, who was totally different from the Victorian ideal woman, “the angel of the hearth”.
In SHIRLEY, however, she is not as brave as in her first novel , though her reader finds several pages in defence of the woman question and against the market of marriage. An example:
“Look at the numerous families of girls in the neighbourhood: the Armitages, the Birtwhistles, the Sykes. The brothers of these girls are every one in business or in professions; they have something to do: their sisters have no earthly employment, but household work and sewing; no earthly pleasure, but an unprofitable visiting; and no hope, in all their life to come, of anything better. This stagnant state of things makes them decline in health: they are never well; and their minds and views shrink to wondrous narrowness.(…) They scheme, they plot, they dress to esnare husbands. (…) Could men live so themselves?”(p. 329)

Why am I saying that Charlotte Bronte was not very brave, then?

Her dealing with the woman question and the factory workers’ suffering is quite corageous in the social context of the Victorian Age but Charlotte, with SHIRLEY, drew back instead of daring more respect to what she had done in JANE EYRE: her good intentions are undermined by her acceptance of divisions of class, sex and race as natural and eternal. Her first and only historical novel deals with the Luddite riots (1811-12), the working-classes’ violent attacks against the introduction of machinery in factories. However, her effort to link the unfair suffering of workers to that of women is problematic from the start: she avoids representing the suffering of workers as fully as she depicts that of women. Then the novel’s middle-class women are as complicitous in the oppression of the workers as they are in “the regeneration of the interesting coloured population of the globe”. She fails to make the direct connection between the women’s right to be heard and that of the workers.

Moreover, in the scenes in which Robert Moore, the mill-owner male-protagonist of SHIRLEY faces the crowd of furious workers both the heroines and the narrator side with the hero.
So, I must admit, though reluctantly, that Charlotte Bronte was not as brave as her dear friend and first biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, who was writing and published her MARY BARTON in the same years (Shirley 1849 – Mary Barton 1848) or would again bravely advocate for better living and working conditions for factory-workers in her NORTH AND SOUTH (1855).

I liked SHIRLEY but was a bit disappointed by one of my favourite writers. I am sure it mustn’t have been easy to write against public opinion at that time, especially as a woman, but her analysis of the claims of working men concludes in a mystification: there aren’t enough factory jobs, yet there’s no way to provide them so long as machines are more efficient labourers than humans, or to reconcile the mill-owner’s (just) demand for increased productivity and profit with the (just) demand of his workers for steady occupation and income.
Elizabeth Gaskel, instead, lived in Manchester, the big industrial city in the north of England, as the wife of reverend Gaskell, and well knew the reality she describes through her writing. She sympathised with workers in their struggle to improve their living conditions; what she never approved of in the working class was the choice of violence as a fighting strategy. She absolutely rejected violence and arrogance both in the employers and in their employees. She invited them to face each other in an open, honest, man-to-man relationship based on dialogue. She was attacked by her friends enterpreuners who published in their newspapers harsh criticism against her MARY BARTON since they felt offended by the portrayal Gaskell did of their selfishness and inhumanity. But she went on writing RUTH (inspired by a “fallen woman” who became a prostitute she really met) or NORTH AND SOUTH ( where Margaret, the protagonist, and the narrator mostly side with the workers) .



We usually call “black sheep” those who don’t conform, who distinguish themselves for their creating infinite troubles or finding themselves always in trouble. The story I want to tell about this evening is set in a home for “black sheep”, that is to say, difficult teens.
Sylvie lives for her job at this centre, she tries to be helpful and positive and is always the first in and the last to leave at night. When one of those boys arrives at the reception at night, she refuses to let him in, and he becomes aggressive and abusive. Liz freezes and her colleague Kellie steps in and takes over. Sylvie is left terrified and badly shaken and when everyone begins to doubt her side of the story, she starts doubting herself. She can’t cope with her panic fits when she is alone in her house and she can’t go on working. That boy has spoilt her peaceful routine and ruined her life. She’s terrified of being alone at home, of going out, of meeting young people in the street...
This is briefly the plot of the fifth episode in the BBC series MOVING ON I’ve recently seen on DVD and have been reviewing in previous postings. I just wanted to finish what I started and with this episode, titled THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, I can say I’ve completed my task. I loved all the 5 episodes, they are simply shooted and focused on the psychological insight of the characters, then they deal with contemporary issues and you can imagine those stories might be happening to your neighbour this moment. My favourite ones are THE RAIN HAS STOPPED, BULLY AND DROWNING NOT WAVING, that is to say, the first 3 episodes. But I didn’t mind the other 2.

For further information visit the official BBC site. HERE.
If you live in the UK you can watch this episode HERE.

Now, guess what? I am officially ON HOLIDAY from today till 24th August!
Incredible, this morning no alarm – clock at 6.30, a quiet looong breakfast –time, no hurrying to school to find parking space and to be on time ...... the never-ending sitting marathon has finished! This exam session has been the longest , most tiring, in my teaching career but it had also positive records: all my students passed (last year two failed and I was very sad); I learnt lots of new things (not joking, true!) ; I had more than one moving moment; I was proud of all my students and particularly appreciated the efforts of some them. I think among this year’s students, there are very motivated, willful, clever, sensitive young people who will do their best at university and in general in their lives. Most of these “rare pearls” are girls. Yes, girls more than boys, whom I felt lucky to have as my pupils, they are absolutely special and they are ... several... not a majority actually, yes, a minority... but they are in this world and this world is better thanks to them.


THROUGH THE CENTURIES : The Second World War in my childhood memories and in a beautiful movie

Tonight I'm going to start my Period Drama Challenge. It has been proposed by Alex, Ana T. and Ana O. in their charming blog: LIGHTS, CAMERA ...HISTORY! I've subscribed for two categories:


2. VICTORIAN MIST (4 items).

On the whole, I'll have to review 8 costume movies or dramas I haven't seen yet in a year's time. I want to work on stuff I haven't seen nor reviewed yet, so that it can be a REALchallenge. I 've decided to begin with the first category and I'm going to post about movies telling a story set in the 20th, 19th, 18th and 17th centuries as in a journey back in time . Some days ago I was reading a post in Marianna's blog, one of my blogmates, and she was writing about a book she read and a film adaptation she saw . Suddenly I remembered I owned that DVD but I had never seen it. It had been one of my online bargains, paid half -price: CHARLOTTE GRAY (2001) starring Cate Blanchett, Rupert Penry-Jones, Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup. Director Gillian Armstrong. Based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks ( the finale of the book is quite different, though).


My interest in the Second World War time comes from my childhood experiences. Mind, I’m not that old! I'd better to explain ...

Falling asleep hearing the nightmarish sound of the terrifying booted march of German Nazi soldiers inside your pillow is not plausible if you are an 8/9- year-old little girl living in the 70s. But that happened to me almost every night. No princes nor princesses, no elves nor fairies, neither wizards, in my grandfather’s evening tales to us ; only real life, HIS real life. Well, it was me who asked him to tell me and my sister about his exciting adventures during the war and he willingly accepted. It was this way that my fascination for that period started…I learnt about his experiences in Africa where his younger brother died, his being caught and brought to India by the English, his return to Italy where he found his first son (my uncle) who feared him since he didn’t know him ( the poor little boy was only some months when hisfather had left), the Nazi occupation after the Armistice, the bombing of his native town by the American allies who wanted to force the Germans to leave, his attempts to protect his family ( now he also had two daughters, my mother and my aunt). Lessons of life, lessons of History I’ll never forget. So…whenever I see a movie set in that time I think of HIM, my first History teacher, my dear grandfather - who brouhgt me up with my grandmother since my parents worked 15 hours a day – of HIM who loved me dearly and now watches me from up there. It happened with this movie too. With “Charlotte Gray”.


In 1942, a young Scots woman, Charlotte Gray, travels to London to take a job. On the train she talks to a man sharing her compartment, and he - who works for one of the British secret service agencies at the time - gives her his card. Despite the war, social life in London is in full swing and the attractive, intelligent girl soon meets up with an airman, Peter Gregory. The temporary nature of life at the time is symbolised in their quickly lived relationship: she loses her virginity and also her heart to him. The intensity of the romance is heightened when Gregory is sent on a mission over France and news comes back to Charlotte that he didn't return and listed as missing in action.

Charlotte spent much of her childhood in France and speaks the language fluently - a talent that the secret service wishes to exploit in its effort to support the French Resistance. Charlotte decides to throw in her job and joins a Special Operations Executive (SOE)* training course. Once it has schooled her in methods of interrogation, dyed her hair a mousy brown and replaced her fillings, Charlotte is parachuted into France to complete a specified mission. But instead of doing her job and heading home, she sets out to find Gregory's whereabouts.
She assists at a parachute drop but then settles down as housekeeper to an ageing man, father of her main resistance contact, Julian. Over time she comes to understand him in a way she never had understood her own father. Both the old man and Charlotte's father fought in the First World War and bear lasting physical and psychological scars. She also helps to conceal two Jewish children, André and Jacob, after their parents are arrested and deported, and as 1942 progresses we learn about the steadily growing oppression of the Jews in France with complicity by the Vichy French government. Julian’s father is interviewed about his Jewish ancestry, and when he stays silent, his son denounces him in order to save the two little boys hidden in their house. The old man is then packed off with the two jewish boys André and Jacob to the prison camp/transfer station in Drancy where Charlotte manages to get them a moving message: a reassuring fake letter for the two boys saying that their parents are alive and will go and rescue them, they had to behave properly and eat well, meanwhile. The children and the old man, instead, will be shuttled like cattle to their deaths at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Although Charlotte has faith that Peter Gregory is still alive, she cannot trace him , so in 1943 goes back to London. Here, she will soon discover her hope has come true: Peter is alive. But their meeting is strange, she can’t feel for him any longer . Her life in France has changed her and she can’t go back to what she was like before. She has left her heart in France and must go back there: Julian is waiting for her, he has always loved her.




All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

Shakespeare thought that real life, the world we live in, is like a stage and all of us are actors playing one or more roles. If this were true, we all should feel at home in a theatre or feel like going there as often as we can. As for myself, I absolutely love going to the theatre, though it is not easy nor cheap. I live 72 km from Rome and the nearest theatres are just there.

Luckily, I've seen two plays this year, both -let's say - for professional reasons. I worked on two of Shakespeare's plays with my students and, after the class work, I took them to see OTHELLO and HAMLET staged in Rome (I posted something about the two experiences on LEARN ON LINE and on FLY HIGH). I love live performances greatly: when actors play there, in front of you, and you too are there sitting in silence and in the dark, it is as if magic happens... a story takes shape, emotions flows from the stage to the audience and vice versa , and you feel you are part of that whole. It is magic.

In my last trip to London, one of the most exciting sites I visited was Shakespeare's GLOBE THEATRE. I was there for the first time and I was so thrilled! (read about my visit HERE) . One of the things I'd like most is to see a show staged there next time I am in London. But, maybe, I'll have to be satisfied with a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre in Rome this summer. The 2009 Season proposes interesting plays for the next months. Let's see what I can do.

The fact with theatre is that it is quite expensive and, especially, young people are losing the opportunity of going and living the exciting adventure of a live show. My students go ( well, come, with me) at least twice a year but bus plus theatre tickets (reduced for students) are 22/25 euros each time. In this period of crisis it is not so little money. Now, here we are at "A NIGHT LESS ORDINARY". What is it ? A bid to encourage young people to visit theatres. Half a million tickets were given by this Arts Council England's scheme to get more under 26-year-olds to watch live stage shows. Rupert Penry-Jones ( Spooks, Persuasion, White Chapel) was one of the actors involved in promoting the scheme. (WATCH THE VIDEO HERE). When will something like that happen in Italy too? I hope very soon. Now I have to leave you but ... I'll leave you in good company: the famous touching staging of ROMEO & JULIET ... from... SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.







The most interesting oral exam I've listened to in these days was this morning. A girl, one of my students, talked about "OVERCOMING LIMITS". It was a very interesting and original work presented with beautiful power point slides. It had links with all the Literatures she studies as well as History, Philosophy and Art. It just lasted 10 minutes but ... it was so involving. Maybe it was also because the girl was so anxious and completely concerned in what she was talking about. When she came to Art, she didn't talk about the Impressionists, Van Gogh, Munch, Picasso or any other of the painters she had studied. She introduced us in the world of Simona Atzori, a painter and a dancer who has to cope with life without her arms. It was touching and the paintings she showed to us were so beautiful! Simona is an effective example of how a person has to fight but can finally succeeds in overcoming his/her own limits, how a human being can turn "borders to bridges", can take strength from his/her own weaknesses.


Simona Atzori is an Italian artist and dancer who was born in Milan. She was born without arms, and uses her feet to draw, write and perform all other daily activities.
Attempts were made to fit Simona with prosthetic arms at an early age, but she very quickly rejected them. She has said that she found the prosthetics extremely heavy and impractical, and it was much easier to use her own feet to perform tasks.
She started painting at the age of 4 and her talent was soon noticed by the artist, Mario Barzon, who encouraged and supported her. In 1983, she was awarded a scholarship from the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World. A defining moment in her early career was an audience with Pope John Paul II, at which she presented him with a portrait of the Holy Father.
Simona also started to dance at the age of 6. Despite some initial opposition from teachers who felt that it was not appropriate, her own determination and the strong support of her mother enabled her to succeed in a discipline normally associated with the fully able-bodied.
In 1996 she commenced her studies at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her course in Visual Arts enabled her to combine the two passions of her life, and she graduated with honors in 2001.
In recent years, Simona has been associated with the Pescara Dance Festival, and has endowed this event with the Atzori Award, given to dancers and choreographers. She continues to perform and exhibit her work all over the world.
On March 10, 2006, Simona performed a dance routine during the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Turin.


Listening to this touching real story, I remembered that I still have to complete posting my reviews of BBC Moving On episodes and that one of the two missing ones was DRESSED TO IMPRESS which deals just with a case of... diversity.
The touch paper is lit when a 17 year old boy's secret love of dressing in women's clothes is discovered and a turn of events ignites a ticking time bomb that threatens to destroy his parent's marriage and his family forever. He can't talk about his diversity to his parents, especially to his father. It is another very well written story, coping with a delicate serious problem but with a light comedy touch. HERE'S A CLIP WITH MY BEST WISHES FOR A VERY GOOD WEEKEND TO ALL OF YOU, MY FRIENDS!







Not long ago I was thinking and posting about "baddies". Do you remember? I started like this:

"WHERE DO BADDIES COME FROM? I’ve always been convinced that those we consider bullies, evil beings, even criminals were not born like that. If they do not suffer from a psychic pathology then they must be the product of a lack of love or the result of a wrong system : family, society, education". (IF YOU WANT TO READ THE REST CLICK HERE)
A fortunate coincidence brought evidence to my very simple theory. In MOVING ON episodes I've recently seen there are two examples of people made bad by their social background, their education or their family environment. I'm not a fatalist, I do believe in human beings' free will but I'm also sure we hypocritically and too easily judge other individuals without ever asking for the reasons of their actions. Extenuating circumstances is the legal term for that, isn't it?
Let's start from the first touching story I want to tell you about: Episode 2 , "BULLY"


Being a teacher I know much about this terrible phenomenon which can turn fragile kids' lives into hell. Have you heard about "bullycide" ? Sometimes to put an end to the tortures and vexations they must bear the poor victims of bullying kill themselves. Where do, instead, those aggressive young creatures, the bullies, come from?

Marc Pye, who wrote the script for this TV drama, tries to tell us that can happen next door and to very ordinary families ...

Ken is a husband and father who wants the best for his family. He works hard at the local factory and does well at his job. Ken is disappointed that his son Andrew, a sweet naive boy, isn't more like him and encourages him to be tougher, but he doesn't realise that his actions may very well destroy his family.

Les is Ken's work colleague. Ken and Les are good friends but their relationship becomes strained after they take a family holiday together. Les sees Andrew (the sweet naive boy) badly hurt his son, Ryan, so he becomes angry and threatens him... A series of fast dramatic turns takes place till Andrew disappears and Les is suspected of being involved in that.

Andrew was not a bully at first, he loved birdwatching and playing games with his mates but his father's education in order to toughen him up and his silly mates calling him "gordo chico" = fat boy turned him into a bully.

Just have a look at this clip ... It is not fiction ... Bullying is part of our kids' life ... We must watch on them, be very careful and do not leave them alone.

The second story I'm going to write about tonight is "DROWNING NOT WAVING" , episode 3 in the series, starring Christine Tremarco and Richard Armitage.

Ellie is indebted, she's forced to sell her house at a reduced price to face her debts.(Rather contemporary drama, again, isn't it?)

John Mulligan is an enigma, not particularly bright at school and from a fairly deprived background. A childhood lived with holes in his kecks and on an estate where the kids rubbed shoulders with the druggies.

But when he comes back into Ellie’s life, he’s a successful property developer, with designer clothes and a flash car. When he arrives on Ellie's door-step, disarmingly charming, suited and booted, and armed with a swift, irresistible solution to Ellie's financial troubles, he is almost too good to be true. John and Ellie had a childhood love affair, of which he has a vivid, accurate memory. He woos Ellie once more, that school fling rekindled into a potentially rosy future.
But there is something too perfect about this new John. He is apparently flawless and his social elevation appears to have cost him little effort, but John has perfected his skills and leaves nothing to chance. He is brilliant, effortless and confident.
Ellie is completely charmed by this knight in his shining armour just arrived to rescue her but... Has "Mulli the bully" - good kisser, though - really changed?

If Ellie had seen BBC Robin Hood she wouldn't have trusted him! Jokes apart, John Mulligan tries to advocate his cause to a very disappointed Ellie come to visit him to understand why he did what he did... IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A LOOK AT THIS CLIP, MIND, THERE ARE SPOILERS, OF COURSE! But I wouldn't miss Richard's brilliant performance.


The book blog Vulpes Libris have announced that they'll be publishing an interview with Richard Armitage on Wednesday 9th July. It's part of their occasional series "In Conversation with...", in which interviewees are asked about their reading habits. Richard talks not only about what he reads but also about how he reads, as well as how he prepares a character. There's much else besides, including his thoughts on the fate of Guy of Gisborne, and some hints about his future work. THANKS TO ANNETTE AT http://www.richardarmitageonline.com/ for these good news!



Well, if you know me just a bit, you can understand I couldn't resist. I've read about this challenge in several of my favourite blogs and I must join it! For instance, I read about in ENCHANTED BY JOSEPHINE and AUSTENPROSE. Everything started from STEPHANIE'S WRITTEN WORD and lots of Austenettes have promptly "enlisted".

What is this challenge in detail?

The Everything Austen Challenge will run for six months (July 1, 2009 – January 1, 2010)! All you need to do is pick out what six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge.


To be read

  • Sanditon - J. Austen unfinished work completed by Juliette Shapiro

  • The Works of Jane Austen: Minor Works

  • Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Comparative watching of ...
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995 and 2008)

  • Mansfield Park (1999 and 2007)

  • Emma (1972, 1996 film version and ITV1996 series )

I'll post once a month about the items in my list. In July I'm starting reading SANDITON. It'll be fun. I'm sure of that.

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library" . Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811



Not my case, though! Examination work at this time of the year and with this hot weather can be rather exhausting. It seems I’m always sitting there, uninterruptedly, and doing the same boring stuff , day after day, while the others are enjoying their summer holidays. I know it is not correct and I try to do my best for my students’ sake. They’re there trembling nervously in front of all of us – and I’m there feeeling imprisoned and dreaming to be on a sunny beach… It happens also that, once I am at home, I don’t feel like doing anything: housework, reading or simply concentrating on very easy tasks (just like my teenage students all the year round!). So , for example, I’m reading a very good book but it is going on so slowly and I need to hold on tightly to my desire to know … but … pointlessly, I often have to close it ‘cause my mind refuses to go on working… I NEED SOME PROPER REST.

Now, after the “lamentation premise,” – I know it was a bit boring but ,please, let me do it , my friends –let’s get to the real pointof my writing .
I’ve recently got (last Friday, 26th June and had been released only on the 22nd – Amazon can be amazingly rapid) a new acquisition for my DVD collection: BBC MOVING ON series. I was so glad, I really needed something new to watch. It took me an entire week to watch the whole series and , here I am, ready to write about it .The five 45 minute dramas were commissioned by the BBC for its daytime schedule, and were shown each day over the course of one week in May. Each drama stands alone, but they all concern characters moving on in their lives. They deal with contemporary issues that range from the property slump to transvestism. I had read very positive reviews on line and …ehm… of course … I’ve already told you … I’ll risk to be repetitive … but I can’t avoid it … I really appreciate Richard Armitage’s … acting skills and, yes, he is in one of the episodes (the third, Drowning not Waving) . Of course that was the first episode I watched (not only once) but it is not the one I’m writing about today. I’ll start from “The rain has stopped” , which I also greatly enjoyed .
First some reflections:
  • Children can be tremendously selfish and unrewarding to their parents

  • Prejudices, especially racial prejudices, are profoundly natural in a human being but definitely irrational in a civilized human being.
These ideas are at the basis of the plot of the first TV drama of the series: “THE RAIN HAS STOPPED” .
Liz is used to being at the beck and call of her family; she regularly babysits for her daughter, and her son seems to think she is his personal cash machine. She doesn't realise how unhappy she is until she meets Damar on holiday and falls in love. When he proposes she says yes, but isn't prepared for the reaction from her family when she returns with her new love: Damar, a retired Nepalese soldier. All they want is to hold on to the bit of sunshine that they've found . Unacceptable to her grown-up children : they do not accept the fact that another man, that other man, could live in their dead father’s house. They are not at all interested in their mother’s happiness, they suppose her duty is to die alone and live the rest of her days mourning their father.
Parallel to Liz’s tragic dilemma, Damar’s terrible disillusionment takes place: he was a soldier in Nepal, one of the British ex-colonies, and his father, too, had fought, being a soldier in the Imperial police. And now how does the great country he expected to be grateful to him and his father thank him? There’s no place, no job, no respect for the poor man.
I do not want to tell you too much because “The Rain Has Stopped” is actually worth watching . I hope you have the chance to do it. I think BBC was really brave to offer their audience such good, well written , contemporary drama. That’s usually soap time and you don’t certainly expect you have to think or reflect on anything.

At the end of this moving story, I needed to re-read one of my best-loved poems and now I’d like you to read it, too . It can be linked to Liz and Damar’s love story, but it can be also interpreted in many other ways (like any poem or literary text).

The time will come when,

with elation you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

I couldn’t find any clip from this episode so, if you want, you can have a look at this beautiful trailer with the five stories. I know, I’ve already used it in another of my posts, but… it is really well made.

Shelia Hancock is incredibly touching in her playing Liz. She is one of Britain’s best known actresses. She has appeared in numerous roles in television, film and the theatre.
Television appearances include Bleak House. Her stage roles include The Cherry Orchard, The Duchess Of Malfi and The Critic, all at the National Theatre. She is also about to open in the new musical version of The Sister Act.

Till next episode then. Now I have to wish you a wonderful evening and go to bed. I have to be ready for a hard working examination Satur- day! Hugs. MG