This is my last entry for the section Through the centuries in the Period Drama Challenge. Now I have to start thinking what to post for the second section, VICTORIAN MIST. I've got lots of DVDs set in the Victorian Age. I just have to choose... that's not easy though.

GUNPOWDER, TREASON AND PLOT is one of the latest addition to my DVD collection. It is a two – part miniseries broadcast by BBC in 2004 and now available on dvd.
It is loosely based upon the lives of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and her son James I. I usually love teaching about this period in British History, not only because it is the historical background of Shakespeare's latest years.

The writer Jimmy McGovern (same author as recent BBC series MOVING ON) tells the story behind the Gunpowder Plot in two parts, each centred on one of the monarchs.
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon and filmed in Romania with a key Scottish crew, the first film dramatizes the relationship between Mary, Queen of Scots, played by French actress Clémence Poésy, and her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell played by Kevin McKidd. Scottish actor Robert Carlyle stars as James I in the second part of the series, which concentrates on the Gunpowder Plot (1605), planned by Guy Fawkes, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in order to rid the nation of a Protestant monarch to be replaced by a Catholic. Despite the rampant insincerity to historical accuracy this is enjoyable, well acted and well written. Clemence Poesy as Mary Queen of Scots is particularly good, and it is her story, making up the first half of dvd, that is the best. Kevin McKidd is the other remarkable protagonist as the Earl of Bothwell you won’t resist his rough lust! Though the second part is less emotionally involving, Robert Carlyle as James I is convincingly nauseous. He really is believeable as the creepy, unpleasant king.
I loved this. Although, to be fair, I loved the first part more than the second. I'm more interested in Mary than in James. If you can overlook the annoying historical inaccuracy and appreciate it as well acted, well written drama then you can get much fun from this dvd.

You’ll find lots of information about this historical drama HERE.

Now have a look at this clip with two exciting moments in the conflictual passionate relationship between Mary, the Queen, and Bothwell, one of her faithful chancellors.




These days I’ve been reading an Italian book that has recently won an important prize here in our country, “Il Premio Strega”. It is a melancholic, but beautiful, short novel by Tiziano Scarpa, STABAT MATER. It is set in Venice at the end of the 17th century but it really seems not to have time or space . Unfortunately, if you are not Italian or can’t read Italian, you must wait for a translation which has been planned but not yet done.

Now, I’d suggest to you to start the music in the player here below and, only after doing that, read my short review.

You’ll understand why. Hope you'll enjoy it.

It’s night, the orphanage is plunged in silence, darkness and sleep. All the girls sleep, apart form one, Cecilia, 16 years old. During the day she plays the violin in the church, behind the impenetrable thick grating which gate the believers out of her life , impeding them even to see the girl's face. At night she feels lost in her deep solitude, gets up and secretly gets to her hidden place where she writes to the most intimate but at the same farthest person in her life: the mother who abandoned her in that asylum, the Ospedale della Pietà di Venezia.
Music is to her a routinely habit as many others, a dull repetitions of sounds. But Cecilia feels and writes: “The world wants us to be silent”. In her lyrical and philosophical nocturnal reflections she has also another addressee, her own Death, who appears to her as a black-snike haired woman she doesn’t fear at all.
But one day things start slightly and slowly changing: a young music teacher and composer arrives to substitute old Don Giulio. He is a young priest, with a big nose and copper hair. His name is Antonio. Antonio Vivaldi.
Thanks to her complex stormy relationship with music, Cecilia will find her way with an unexpected choice of rebellion, freedom and self-determination.
Good story, isn't it? And very well written, too.
I’m stunned at the writer’s ability in feeling such distant (to him) desperate loneliness and conveying it to us with so much strength and sympathy.
I particularly liked these lines among others: ( my translation from Italian ) “Since I was born I’ve had to do what I’m told in here, so all the things which counts to my heart, I must be able to put them in the small spaces left, in the small empty cavities left by chance”. This is writing to her: completely alone at night, on pieces of papers already written shrivelled and thrown away by the nuns or the girls ... in the small white spaces left... to a mother always dreamt about and never really experienced.

Related posts & sites




“Today’s women are no less desirous of love, and marrying for love, than they were in your time. But they, like so many women before them, simply fear it is an unattainable goal. And thus they settle for what fleeting plasures they can find, creating an endless cycle of pleasure, despair, ad infinitum. Human nature is the same today as it was in your time. The only difference between today’s world and your world is that people have more choices now than they did then.” ( RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, p.265)

This Everything Austen Challenge has revealed a very pleasant and enriching experience to me. I must again thank Stephanie ( at STEPHANIE’S WRITTEN WORD) for this great adventure! Two days ago we were just discussing here on my blog the topic of dating and courting today respect to Jane Austen’s time and the discussion was brought about by Laurie Viera Rigler (HERE) , author of the book I’ve just finished as my third task for the challenge: RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.
This is my first Austen-based book, never read one before, only the original novels by Jane. So I’m not an expert of the genre. RUDE AWAKENINGS is the sequel of Laurie’s first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, which I didn’ t read. What was this first experience like? Great pure amusement which reminded me the same kind of hilarious reaction I had after skeptically approaching LOST IN AUSTEN when the DVD got to me last September (or was it October?). I mean, I studied Jane Austen’s novels at university after reading some of them (only P & P and S & S) in my adolescence and that brought me to read them ( and every other novel ) professionally, because of my job (teaching literature). This is why I was rather skeptical toward Austen based fiction or adaptations. So, in order to read this novel for the challenge, I had to go back to the time I use to read just for fun day and night and leave apart the “professional tools”. Anyway, I was truly involved in the narration of the story, since Laurie knows Austen quite well and it is a pleasure to recognize that background while smiling at the entertaining series of misunderstandings, blunders, weird situations her time – travelling protagonist, JANE MANSFIELD, finds herself involved in . Jane wakes suddenly up in 2009 in Los Angeles but she is an English girl living in 1813, fondly in love with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. She is completely misplaced and shocked, her body even is a stranger’s one: she looks at herself in the mirror and sees a nice blondie everybody calls Courtney Stone!
Reading this novel I thought of LOST IN AUSTEN many times. There are many analogies between the stories, though I think CONFESSIONS has got more : In CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, a twenty-first-century Austen fan Courtney Stone awakens one morning in 1813 England as a gentleman’s daughter, Jane Mansfield—with comic and romantic consequences. In RUDE AWAKENINGS as I told you, Jane, the gentleman’s daughter from 1813 England, finds herself occupying the body of Courtney in the urban madness of twenty-first-century L.A. Since in LOST IN AUSTEN an Austen fan, Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper in the photo on the left) swaps her life with Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist of her favourite novel…I think it is obvious that I was always drawing comparisons while reading.

Have you seen LOST IN AUSTEN? It’s such fun!

I know many academic would turn up their noses at this kind of readings or TV series but I am convinced that reading as well as studying literature must be a pleasure. This is my philosophy even when I teach Austen or Dickens or Shakespeare to my students: they must contrast and compare those stories to their own experience and amuse themselves as much as they can. Not always an easy task, mine!

Warning you that there are huge spoilers in this clips, I invite you to see my favourite scenes from LOST IN AUSTEN. Are you ready?



WARNING:Mmm…I’ve tried to resist but I couldn’t! So those of you who are not interested, or can’t understand or even disapprove my “one weakness”, or worse consider me “sole out”- “fixated” - “off my head”, please... DON’T GO ON READING!
What's the matter with me? Nothing. I’m wonderfully OK! Only, I’ve been reading about STRIKE BACK and wanted to share. What about fixation and craziness, then?

"Ay… There’s the rub!"
(W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene i) ...
RICHARD ARMITAGE’ s present project!
Yes, I know. "Here she goes again!" But... I just wanted to share what I know with those of you who are interested. He’s now in South Africa on the set of a new 6-part TV series due for broadcast on Sky1 and Sky1HD in spring 2010.
Many of Richard’s fans were eagerly waiting for his return in a costume drama but it seems 2010 will be a year in uniform for him. Military uniform. In fact, he will be shooting CHARLIE  next July  and in it he will be an allied British soldier fighting in Italy during WWII ; then, this STRIKE BACK is also a military story based on CHRIS RYAN's best seller. A former SAS soldier turned novelist, Chris Ryan was also the co-creator and technical consultant for ULTIMATE FORCE, one of Richard Armitage's early TV series. The TV series of Strike Back is based on his 2007 novel and is written by Jed Mercurio, whose previous work includes Cardiac Arrest and Bodies. Ryan is an advisor on the series.

So after being ...

-  sweet, loyal, caring, shy JOHN STANDRING in SPARKHOUSE

·broody, charming, unforgettable JOHN THORNTON in NORTH AND SOUTH

handsome, brilliant, effortless, confident – but unfortunately mischievous- JOHN MULLIGAN in MOVING ON

Richard will be JOHN PORTER in this new series!

THIS IS BRIEFLY THE PLOT. Two soldiers: one a celebrated military hero and the other a broken veteran living in the gutters of London. Their paths last crossed nearly twenty years ago. Now, amidst a hostage crisis in the Middle East, their lives are about to collide again. And the Strike Back is about to begin. John Porter ( Richard Armitage ) was involved in a hostage raid in Lebanon in 1989. The raid went disastrously wrong; several Regiment men died. John spared the life of a Lebanese fighter and blames himself for the deaths. Struggling to come to terms with the past, John has hit the bottle and is sleeping rough.Colonel Peregrine Collinson was involved in the same raid. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, it was Peregrine's fault that the mission went wrong. He was awarded a Military Cross and is heralded as a military hero for something he didn't do.After the disastrous raid, the lives of the two men couldn't have been further apart. Until now. A hostage crisis in the Middle East draws the enemies back together again. Who will be the hero this time?


Richard Armitage as John Porter

Andrew Lincoln as Hugh Collinson

Jodhi May as Layla Thompson

Orla Brady as Katie Dartmouth

Dhafer L’Abidine
as Hakim Al Neseri

Fenar Mohammed Ali
as Hassad

Nicola Stephenson as Diane Porter
 (John's wife)

Laura Greenwood as Alexandra
(John's  daughter)

Toby Stephens (only episodes 5/6)
as Arlington

David Harewood  as Tshuma
(only episodes 3/4)


Sex and the Austen Girl (& a BIG giveaway)

You know I've joined this great Austenish adventure, the Everything Austen Challenge, and at the moment I'm completing my third task, that is reading my first modern fiction inspired to the world of Jane's novels: RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT by LAURIE VIERA RIGLER.
Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word has given us this wonderful occasion to blog to a purpose, revive our love for Jane and improve and enrich our knowledge. And today she's done even more: she's posted something written by Laurie Viera Rigler, thet is she in person is Stephanie's guest today! Now, if you comment her extremely interesting contribute about "Sex and the Austen Girl", you can take part in a big giveaway : you might win two novels by this brilliant writer and Janeite! You simply have to answer a question in your comment:

"Have you ever wondered how our dating rules and rituals today might look to someone from Jane Austen’s England? Are we better off now, or would we be better off back then?

Click here, read the interesting post, comment, and ...GOOD LUCK!

P.S.This is my comment on Stepahnie's blog, this is what I answered Laurie's question:

"Guess what! I 've just stopped reading "Rude Awakenings" - which is my third task for the challenge - to see if there were something interesting in my blog roll and ... here I am commenting this wonderful post! Thank you Stephanie for giving us all these great opportunities. Your Everything Austen Challenge is becoming more and more fun everyday! Now... My answer to Laurie's question: I think our modern straightahead way of approaching each other, get acquainted, have a free sexual relationship has stolen much from our emotional life more than adding much. No magic, little romance, no delayed gratification so ... quick disillusionment and boredom!
That's all! I'll go and post about it on my blog!"

Do you agree with me? Was it better at Jane Austen's time? Is it better now?



JENNY KERR, one of my American blogger mates and one of the nicest people I've met on line, has awarded my FLY HIGH! as Best Loved Blog. She has got a nice family blog THE KERR FAMILY and , since we met on line, we've discovered we really share much: we love period drama, reading classics, blogging and RICHARD ARMITAGE. She is a very talented young woman, a great sewer, a hardworking housewife and I particularly love her vlogs!

(Jenny & Hubby)

She's been so kind to award me and I'm proud to show you the Award Image she created. Lovely, isn't it?

Thank you Jenny!



This is the second home-made video I uploaded on my utube channel. It is a real family product: I planned, designed and chose the scenes to put in the clip and my husband was my very precious and personal software expert. We spent a few evenings watching, cutting and pasting scenes of BBC Robin Hood from all the 3 series with the beginning of the audiobook THE WITCHFINDERS, read by Richard Armitage. I even dreamt of Guy of Gisborne at night due to the overexposure or overdose. Wasn't my husband jelous? If he was or is, he doesn't give any exterior sign of that! So, this is the final result. Not perfect, but a good one for beginners, I think.
And since today it's Richard Armitage's birthday it is meant as a small humble gift, if not to him, to all his admirers (he hates the word fans).


Related posts on this blog

GUY OF GISBORNE: "I lived in shame but ..."

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend


This summer holidays 2009 have been the occasion to read some Victorian novels I had only read about but never actually read through. I’m very happy of my decision . I’ve recently read SHIRLEY by Charlotte Bronte, RUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell, AGNES GREY and THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by Anne Bronte. Even though I’ve read and studied plenty about and from the Victorian Era, my to–be- read list is still very long. Unfortunately, I’m going back to school next week and , from then on, I will have to read a lot of students’ papers and texts for the preparation of my classes and will be left very little time to read for pleasure.
I’ve just finished THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL and I can honestly say it is the one I loved most among the four novels mentioned above. Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three Bronte sisters, tragically fated to die early in life before her writing talents could be as widely appreciated as her older sisters', was in many ways the most daring of the three, exploring themes and characters that shocked readers in her day, but which seem presciently current to our present-day sensibilities. Anne is not and was not as popular as her sisters – their JANE EYRE and WUTHERING HEIGHTS have become evergreen classics - but she was a great talent too. In AGNES GREY and , especially, in THE TENANT she creates unconventional heroines, conveys strong anticonformist ideas, draws involving plots, entertains and makes the reader aware of unpleasant realities, too often hidden because uncomfortable to the Victorian “perbenist” middle class.

Helen Huntingdon, the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, is a very determined, warm, passionate, brave young woman –far from the prude she is often characterized as - who refuses to be a silent victim and decides to leave her brutish, drunkard husband - thought to be based on Anne's brother, Branwell; she is not only flouting convention but even going against the laws of the land. Fleeing with her small son, she decides to lead an independent existence in a desolate, isolated countryside mansion in Yorkshire earning a living with her paintings. She pretends to be a young widow – do you remember Gaskell’s RUTH? – and surrounds herself with secrecy. But she soon finds herself the victim of local slander.

This novel written in the 1840s is of a startling modernity in its bold treatment of the issue of women’s equality and dignity and is unforgettable in its intensity, sincerity and psychological depth. I’m not exaggerating. Helen, her decadent husband and their complicated relationship are dealt with an extraordinary psychological insight. Helen can be considered a forerunner of Ibsen's Nora in the Doll's House and Anne is very like Jane Austen in her sensitive and acute characterization.

The narrative structure of the novel is also quite interesting. It is as if you have two novels in one. At the beginning the story opens in an epistolary form and is narrated from Gilbert Markham’s point of view. The young generous Yorkshire yeoman is almost immediately fascinated by the mysterious strong-willed young widow Helen Graham and writes letters to his dear friend and brother-in-law, Halford. He tells him about how, little by little, he and Helen became attached and discovered their affinity and affection. But everybody seems sure of Helen’s scandalous past and present secret, so he starts doubting her being a widow too. Now there’s a complete change in the setting and form. Gilbert starts reading Helen’s personal journal, which she had given him as a sign of utter trust, in order to reveal him everything in detail about her mysterious past. Now the narrator is Helen and we know - from her point of view – about the disappointing unfortunate experience of her wrecked marriage. She is not a widow, then, but Mrs Hundington, this is why she is not free to return Gilbert’s love! And little Arthur, her son, is not an illeggitimate child as rumours suppose.
My review of the book stops here in order to avoid spoilers, if you haven’t already read THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.


After finishing the book I decided to watch the 1996 two-part adaptation I have in my DVD collection. I hadn’t wanted to see it before reading the novel. It has been waiting only for a few months though, not so long. There are ,of course, many cuts in the film version and several differences from the book . It is anyway an honest TV movie with impressive settings and very good actors. Tara Fitzgerald as Helen, Toby Stephens (Mr Rochester in BBC 2006 Jane Eyre) as Gilbert Markham and Rupert Graves as Arthur Hundington give very convincing performances. This miniseries has a beautiful and sylvan visual flair that highlights the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire countryside, helping to paint a picture of these people made physicaly sturdy and perhaps emotionally hard by their surroundings.
For those of you who never have enough of period drama and go on with repeated viewings of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or Sense and Sensibility, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL will provide good entertainment with a distinctly different flavour that might make “little sister Anne” a new favourite.



As I told you, I'm moving back from a century to the previous one in my PERIOD DRAMA CHALLENGE. I started with a WWII movie CHARLOTTE GRAY (20th century), then I saw and reviewed THE BUCCANEERS set at the end of the 19th century and here we are in the 18th century England.

I saw this DVD this morning and found it terribly sad. It couldn’t have been different…set in the 18th century, the story of Georgiana Spencer Duchess of Devonshire, could but be a tragic example of the life of an intelligent, accomplished, cultured, lively woman in a male-ruled world : no freedom, no love, no self-determination.

She has to marry a man she barely knows at 17. Her mother signs a contract with the Duke of Devonshire which establishes that Georgiana will give him a male heir in exchange for a great patrimony.

Georgiana will be humiliated for being able to give birth only to daughters and will have to bear his husband’s lover under her roof, at her table, in her life.

She will bravely ask her husband for the same right, that is, to openly love the man she loves, Charles Grey.

Of course , in the end, she will have to give up her dreams. The strict social rules of the time will be respected and she will continue living a successful worldly life as the Duchess of Devonshire.

No freedom, no love, no self-determination. Are success and wealth worth all that?

Good performances - Keyra Knightley , Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling

Wonderful locations and costumes.


The movie is based on Amanda Foreman's bestseller book


Have a look here



My second task in the PERIOD DRAMA CHALLENGE has been completed. I watched the BBC 1995 mini-series THE BUCCANEERS. I’m still working on the category THROUGH THE CENTURIES and I’m going to go back in time month after month. I started with CHARLOTTE GRAY, a movie set in the 20th century, during WWII, so this time I'll take you back to the 19th century: 1873.

I think that to be brief and direct I may just say that watching this mini-series was a delight. But this is not enough for a proper review, isn’t it? However, you must believe me. It is an amazing costume drama. THE BUCCANEERS is the last novel written by Edith Wharton. It was unfinished at the time of her death in 1937, and published in that form in 1938. After careful study of the synopsis and notes, Wharton scholar Marion Mainwaring finished the novel, which was published by Viking Press in 1993. Independently, the same year the BBC hired screenwriter Maggie Wadey to adapt and finish the novel for a television serial adaptation, which was produced by the BBC and American PBS broadcaster WGBH, and As a result the novel has two different endings.
The story opens in Newport , R.I., in the U.S.A. in 1873 and focuses on the life experiences and love affairs of four daughters of new money: Virginia and Annabell (Nan) St. George and their friends Lizzy and Conchita. After the arrival of a British governess who has to take care of the St. George girls, Laura Testvalley, their lives get in touch with British aristocracy, their old-styled stiff manners and narrow – minded way of thinking. One of them, Conchita, gets engaged with Lord Richard who will take her to his home in England but soon gets tired of her when he discovers she is not as rich as he believed. All the girls move to England on a sort of formation journey with their governess...they are going to invade England, as the English invaded their native country long ago: they are the new Buccaneers.
The story follows the buccaneers' rocky lives through marriage, pregnancy, affairs and divorce, focusing particularly on the fate of the youngest, most idealistic girl, Nan St. George, and her governess and mentor, Laura Testvalley. The young women struggle with modernity and tradition, conformity and rebellion. And how do they end up?
Once in England, the American girls begin to conquer the British bachelors. Lizzy sets up the engagement between Virginia St. George and Lord Seadown - much to the chagrin of his passionate mistress Idina Hatton. But Lord Seadown is only intersted in Virginia’s money and she will discover the disappointing terrible reality as soon as they got married. Julius, the Duke of Trevenick, proposes to a confused and love-torn Nan St. George. In fact, she loves Guy Thwarte but he must leave the country for two years to make his fortune and, though in love with her, can’t promise her nothing: “He wants to make his fortune not to marry one”. Lizzie Elmsworth marries the rising MP Hector Robinson. Conchita receives more and disturbing news from her roaming husband, Lord Richard who deserts and neglects her.
My favourite characters are, of course, Nan (Carla Gugino) and Guy (Greg Wise). Their love story is really involving and Nan’s character is so passionate, brave, strong-willed and anti-conformist that you can’t remain indifferent. She accepts the marriage proposal of Julius, Duke of Trevenick and becomes a duchess when she is only eighteen. She has to endure appalling disillusion: no fairy-tales but boredom and dissatisfaction at Trevenick. She will be even raped by her childish selfish husband, will lose her baby, will be forced to accept her golden prison. In the end, however, she will have the courage to pursue freedom and love creating a scandal.

The best moment in the series is when Nan and Guy run away together from a party leaving all their acquaintances speechless and astonished. To comment this scene I'll use Laura's, Nan's governess, words :
"When I saw Nan and Guy run away together I needed to scream out loud. I don't know if it was envy or fear. But it was like... it was like to see them take a leap into space."