Ready to join the gift giving fun? Great!

Since Christmas is near I’ve already started! I signed up for the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap as you can see from my side bar. Do you want to know more about it?

The holiday swap is a way for book bloggers to connect and celebrate the holiday spirit by sharing gifts. It’s done secret Santa style; all of the participants are randomly assigned a blogger to send a gift to, and these assignments are kept secret until the gift has been delivered. So no one knows who their gift is coming from!

The swap was started two years ago, in the winter of 2007, by Ana.

Since the deadline for international expeditions is  November 30th, I’ve prepared my little parcel and sent it just today. I can’t say where it is bound but I can reveal what I’ve chosen to send to my secret Blogger mate.

1. Several typically Italian bookmarks ( I love and collect them)

2. A brochure in several languages of my ancient little town

3. Two best –sellers (paperbacks) I loved reading; gently used, as asked by the organizers

I hope she  (Yes, it is a she!) will like the gifts! Now I’ll start waiting for mine. I’m so curious to know what and who from my gift will be!



The Picture of Dorian Gray was aesthete Oscar Wilde’s only novel, although he wrote a number of poems and children’s stories before it was published in 1890 (in Lippincott’s Magazine). Like much of his work and life, the Gothic novel Dorian Gray was controversial. In his preface to the book he famously wrote that, "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all". The novel is a brilliant portrait of vanity and depravity tinged with sadness. The picture of the title is a splendid work painted by Basil Hallward of the orphaned boy Dorian Gray who is the heir to a great fortune. Lord Henry and Hallward discuss the boy and the remarkable painting. Dorian in front of his own portrait sees his beauty for the first time and  declares he would give his soul if he were always to be young and the painting instead would grow old. As the story pans out, Dorian leaves his fiancĂ©e - the actress Sibyl Vane - because through a single bad performance he claims that she has ‘killed’ his love. She kills herself with poison and Dorian is unaffected. So begins the tale of the boy’s descent into low society in London while still giving dinners and musicals for high society. He is inspired by two things: the book Lord Henry sends him that seems to predict his own life in dissecting every virtue and every sin from the past; and secondly the picture of himself which grows steadily older and more vicious looking compared to his own mirror image which remains young. Fanatical about the portrait, he is driven to murder and deception. As others are drawn into this web of evil Dorian himself longs to return to innocence but his method is horrific and tragic.


So, at last, I succeded in watching this movie! It was not that easy. For example, we had to drive for 72 km, to Rome, to see it. Then, after queueing for quite a bit, (did all those people really want to see that film?) we were said there was only a seat left and we were TWO (my husband and I!). We drove to another cinema fearing it was too late, and , finally, we managed to find  two comfortable seats. First of all, I didn't expect such crowded theatres. Usually when I go to the cinema to see period movies I'm interested in , I comfortably sit among very few people. Moreover, among that  noisy (too noisy)  crowd, there were many teenagers... I really don't know if it  happens also in other parts of the world but Italian young people can be rather wild mannered in public places. Briefly, they thought they were at the stadium watching a match: they commented loudly, they shout at the actors on the screen, they clapped and ... laughed were there was nothing to laugh at!
Apart from all the unpleasant happenings before and during the film , I was rather interested and not at all bored while watching ... I was so busy discovering the (SO MANY!) differences between the novel and the movie! I 'm not going to  list them:  they are numerous, so numerous,  I'd rather say: are they sure they read the same novel I read before writing the script?
I know they needed to add blood, sex, action , creepy devices,  to get the modern watcher involved but there should be a limit! The story has been completely transformed, even its key ideas.
Did I like the movie? Not so much. Would I have liked it if I hadn't known the book so well? Neither. Not the sort of movie I'd drive to Rome and bear a crowd of noisy teenagers!

Do you want me to find at least one thing to save? I'll give you two: Colin Firth and Dorian's ... clothes!



I had already planned to post about  "thunders and lightenings" on this Friday but I must admit that I didn't expect it would be ... my mood ! I won't bother you with my complaining about useless school afternoon meetings, bosses and colleagues and I'll instead go straight to the point. Which is ...

How is it possible that a very kind Northern British gentleman, usually so self-controlled and polite, turns out so  incredibly nervous, aggressive and even furious?

He must be an actor ...  a very good one ... an amazingly talented actor: Richard Armitage!

Furious John Thornton

Furious Guy of Gisborne

Furious Lucas North

Excellent performances. Richard Armitage gives his best in these scenes (not that I don't like him in others!). And , listening or watching to his interviews, then seeing him like this , makes everything even more astonishing:  he actually transforms himself into the character , he becomes another person. The miracle of acting!
Have you ever noticed this "magic" watching  the effect of passing from Richard  - quietly chatting on the sofa, quite shy as he looks -  to wild angry Guy? If you haven't - but I doubt that - or you don't remember,  just  click on the link  below  and you'll understand...

I can't wait to see tonight's episode 5 of Spooks new series. It won't be possible to beat episode 4 since the rollercoaster of emotions was stunning ... or will it ? Never say never.

You'll find RA PHOTO FRIDAY also at Mulubinba's blog and at Day Seventeen
Then before watching ep. 5 , have a look at a very good review of SPOOKS 0804 at




Mystery stories are not my cup of tea but when it comes to classic fiction, well, it’s different. I love Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray as well as Agatha Christies’s Poirot or Miss Marple.

I have always read about THE MOONSTONE as the first detective story in English Literature (or in literature in general?) but never actually read the novel. Due to my constant lack of free time and to the thickness of this book I decided ( I perfectly know it is not the same!) to buy the DVD, since I heard two of my favourite Brits where in it: GREG WISE and KEELEY HAWES. I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all . Though I found it rather unbelievable in more than one points. Mysteries are mysteries and often their explanation is not at all convincing… I usually prefer when they aren’t completely solved or unveiled; when you,  reader  or watcher, are asked to contribute your own hypothesis with your own fantasy.

Now… to the point.

This mini-series was aired in 1996 on BBC1 then also in the US for Masterpiece Classics in 1997.

The adaptation stars a remarkable cast of actors and is a faithful adaptation of Wilkie Collins' mystery (1868) in which the disappearance of a cursed diamond sets the background for an absorbing detective story. The Moonstone was originally serialized in Charles Dickens' magazine All the Year Round. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are considered Wilkie Collins' best novels. Besides creating many of the characteristics of detective novels, The Moonstone also represented Collins' social opinions by his treatment of the Indians and the servants in the novel. Collins adapted The Moonstone for the stage during 1877, but the production was performed only two months.

(Spoilers of course!)

Rachel has just inherited a very precious stone from her uncle and she wears it to her 18th birthday party, but that night it disappears from her room. Suspicion falls on three Indian jugglers who have been near the house; on Rosanna Spearman, a maidservant who begins to act oddly and who then drowns herself in a local quicksand; and on Rachel herself, who also behaves suspiciously and is suddenly furious with Franklin Blake, to whom she has previously appeared to be attracted, when he directs attempts to find it. Despite the efforts of Sergeant Cuff, a renowned detective, the house party ends with the mystery unsolved, and the protagonists disperse.

A year passes by and there are hints that the diamond was removed from the house and may be in a London bank vault, having been pledged as surety to an unscrupulous moneylender. Rachel's mother dies, increasing her grief and isolation, and she rejects a marriage proposal from her cousin Godfrey Ablewhite, a philanthropist who was also present at the birthday dinner.

Finally Franklin Blake returns from travelling abroad and determines to solve the mystery with the help of his faithful butler, Mr Gabriel Betteredge. He first discovers – reading a letter she had left to him before killing herself - that Rosanna Spearman's behaviour was due to her having fallen in love with him. She had found evidence (a paint smear on his nightclothes) that convinced her that he was the thief and concealed it in order to save him, confusing the trail of evidence and throwing suspicion on herself. In despair at her inability to make him acknowledge her despite all she had done for him, she committed suicide, after hiding the smeared gown and the letter.

Now believing that Rachel suspects him of the theft , Franklin plans a meeting to confront her. To his astonishment she tells him she actually saw HIM steal the diamond and has been protecting his reputation at the cost of her own even though she believes him to be a thief and a hypocrite. Now thoroughly bewildered, he continues his investigations and learns that he was secretly given laudanum during the night of the party (it was given to him by the doctor Mr. Candy who wanted revenge on Franklin for criticizing medicine and who wanted to sleep more easily due to quitting smoking); it appears that this, in addition to his anxiety about Rachel and the diamond and other nervous irritations, caused him to take the diamond in a narcotic trance, in order to move it in a safe place. A re-enactment of the evening's events confirms this, but how the stone ended up in a London bank remains a mystery only solved a year after the birthday party when the stone is redeemed.

How did the stone end up in a London bank? Who took it after Franklin first stole it? Let’s try to leave something to be discovered, in case you want to read the book or watch the TV- movie.

Of course, in the end , the mystery IS solved , Rachel marries Franklin, the Moonstone is restored to the place where it should be, in the forehead of the Indian idol from where Rachel’s uncle had stolen it.



Ben Whirshaw won 2009 International Emmy Award as Best Actor  for his role in BBC CRIMINAL JUSTICE. It was indeed a superb performance,  so touching, compelling! Take a look at this CLIP.
I can't wait to see him as John Keats in BRIGHT STAR.

Among the other British nominees, SPOOKS, which, unfortunately, didn't win as BEST SERIES. It was beaten by the Danish Drama THE PROTECTORS. Here are all the nominees  and the beautiful trailer BBC prepared to present SPOOKS to the American Internationa Event . SPOOKS TRAILER.
Come on, guys! It is time SPOOKS has its own reward. It's such a stunning series! See? Lucas is furious!




It's an important day in my blogolife: I just started blogging on 23rd November 2008. Exactly one year ago, I opened an account on Splinder and started posting materials for my eldest students (they are all university students now!) in order to help them cope with the study of English literature. Have you ever had a look at LEARNONLINE? It has always more visitors than FLY HIGH! at the end of the day but my two blogs are not in a competition. Then, I never find comments on LEARNONLINE, while on FLY HIGH! we have interesting discussions, sometimes,  don't we?
My first posts there were about Jane Austen and her novels (predictable?). They were  rather "primitive", I was an absolute beginner! If you want to get an idea, click HERE, HERE and HERE.


What a better way to celebrate an anniversary than receiving a gift? That is what happened to me this morning: checking my e-mail before going to school, I found a message from JANE GS at READING, WRITING, WORKING & PLAYING which said that I had won her book INTIMATIONS OF AUSTEN in her giveaway. I was and am so glad! I do want to read this collection of short stories based on Austen's novels and to receive it from the writer herself ... What an honour! You can read reviews of this book at
2. Gofita's Pages
3.  Lit and Life
4.  First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice
5.  Austenblog
I can't wait to get it and read it. You'll be the first to know, of course!

This time it is in Italian and it is about school. I love how this writer and teacher, Marco Lodoli, tells stories about his experience at school. He can make all of us aware and ashame of the declining  situation of our Education System but at the same time his stories and anecdotes can be so motivational! Like him, I'm sure young people can be our hope for a better present and future and we must work hard in order to communicate with them, learning to listen to them ... But we teachers are so little used to listening! We are always speaking!
Well, I just started this book at lunchtime, while waiting for my son's coming out of school in the car. It opens with Lodoli's memories of his being a pupil at primary school in the 60s ... I was moved to tears at page 3 already! It seemed as if I had written those memories 'cause I  lived the same experiences and felt the same emotions - though it was in the 70s . He is just few years older than me.
It sounds a beautiful book, indeed.


If you loved BBC CRANFORD, you'll find a nice gift under your Christmas tree ... CLICK HERE



"Big man as he was, he trembled at the idea of what he had to say..."

Today there has been a merry gathering of ladies coming from various parts of the world in London organized by members of  C19 . They celebrated BBC 2004 NORTH & SOUTH's  fifth birthday. It was  in fact first aired  in November 2004. Since I couldn't join them there, I thought I could take part in the celebration dedicating  my Saturday Night Classic Reading to

re-reading and re-watching Gaskell's NORTH AND SOUTH

 This novel is one of my favourite ever and its BBC adaptation is one my best-loved costume dramas. So if you have time, I've prepared this long multimedia posting ...Tomorrow is Sunday, isn't it?

When Margaret Hale arrives in Milton - in the industrial northern district of England - she is so disappointed by the bleak, smoky, noisy, grey atmosphere of the place. Her father has left the Church and decided to uproot his family from Helstone , in the beautiful countryside of the South of England. Margaret is greatly prejudiced against the people from the North and their rather direct, almost wild manners. So she starts idealizing the South.
Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe)Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe)
Mr Bell, one of Mr Hale’s former university mates, suggested them to settle in Milton where he owns a cotton mill run by his tenant, Mr John Thornton. Mr Thornton helps the Hales to find accomodation and becomes Mr Hale’s friend and pupil. He is handsome and smart, self-confident and successful in his job, greatly appreciated in Milton both as an entepreneur and a magistrate.

Margaret instead doesn’t like him at all , she doesn’t hide  her dislike of him and often argues with him when he comes round as one of Mr Hale’s private pupils. He represents everything Margaret despises in the North, especially now that she has started making new acquaintances among the working people and sympathising with their struggle against their masters. She makes friends to the Higgins, Bessy who suffers from an illness caused by her past  work  in a cotton mill, and her father, Nicholas, a strong-willed worker and one of the leaders of the Union.

Mr Thornton is attracted by Margaret’s beauty and by her firmness; her strong personality and her cold detached manners soon win him. She, perhaps, reminds him his mother to whom he has been deeply attached since his father committed suicide in a moment of financial difficulty. Young Thornton, then, had to work hard to pay back his father’s debts and to provide for his mother and sister. He is a self – made man and he is proud of his accession in society.
 But, unfortunately, he is not a gentleman in Margaret’s eyes and she continues siding with the workers. Until one day some of them  organize a riot against Mr Thornton. The workers  have been on strike for about a month to protest against their lowered wages. All the mills in Milton have stopped their activities, the workers’ families are starving, when they heard that Mr Thornton has brought in black – leg workers from Ireland. Their rage  mounts and they are ready to attack the unfortunate Irish hidden at Marlborough Mill.   Margaret is, by chance, visiting the Thorntons just on that day and she finds herself involved.
She prompts Thornton to face the  furious crowd and to defend the poor Irish workers from their violence:
“ Mr Thornton, go down this instant, if you are not a coward. Go down and face them like a man. Save the poor strangers, whom you have decoyed here. Speak to your workmen as if they were human beings. Speak to them kindly. Don’t let the soldiers come in and cut down poor creatures who are driven mad
(E. Gaskell, North and South, chap. XXII, vol.I).

 But when she realizes she has put him in terrible danger, since some of the boys and men in the crowd have wooden clogs in their hands and  are ready to throw them at him, she puts her arms around Thornton  and makes her body a shield between him and their rage. She takes a blow on her forehead and faints, before the soldiers arrive the workers retreat and run away.

Her action  is completely misinterpreted  by John Thornton who proposes to Margaret the next morning. The girl is even offended by his proposal and rejects him firmly, expressing all her contempt: “Your way of speaking shocks me. It is blasphemous. I cannot help it … but your whole manner offends me . … You seem to fancy that my conduct of yesterday …was a personal act between you and me; and that you may come and thank me for it, instead of perceiving, as a gentleman would … that any woman, worthy of the name of woman, would come forward to shield... a man in danger from the violence of numbers”(E. Gaskell, North and South, chap. XXIV, vol. I)


Margaret has got a brother,Frederick, a navy officer who lives in  forced exile since he led a mutiny against a violent unfair captain. He can be hanged as a traitor if caught. Since Mrs Hale’s delicate health and her “low spirits”, have brought her to serious illness, Margaret has written to him, and he risks his life in order to see their dying mother once again. He secretly arrives and as secretly leaves the house at night before the funeral .But he and Margaret are seen that night by Mr Thornton   at the station while departing.  Thornton thinks they are lovers and doubts  Margaret’s honourability since she is out alone with a man at night. Moreover, an old acquaintance of the family recognizes Frederick, the two men fights, young Hale succeeds in leaving Milton safe but … the next morning the man, named Leonard is found dead in the street and. even worse, someone witnessed the whole scene the previous night and told the police.
 A police inspector visits Margaret and asks her if the night of Leonard’s death she was out with a young man, because someone- one of the porters at the station - watched a beautiful young lady with a handsome young man , the same person  saw the  two men fighting  and would swear the lady was Margaret, he is sure. She denies as convincingly as she can: she has to protect her brother. The inpector leaves saying  that the case will be followed by Milton magistrate, John Thornton.
Mr Thornton, though doubting Margaret’s morality and truthfulness, decides there will be no further enquiry due to lack of evidence. Thornton wants to spare his friend, Mr Hale, from any involvement in the case: he has just lost his wife and is so depressed! But he, of course, wants also  to save Margaret from shame. The girl’s reaction is confused and troubled:
Mr Thornton had seen her close to Outwood station on the fatal Thursday night, and had been told of her denial that she was there. She stood as a liar in his eyes.…Oh, had anyone such just a cause to feel contempt for her? Mr Thornton, above all people, on whom she had looked down from her imaginary heights till now! She suddenly found herself at his feet, and was strangely distressed at her fall.”(E. Gaskell, North and South, vol.II , chap. X)
Margaret’s troubles have not ended, unfortunately. Her father ,too , dies. She is completely alone and has no reason to stay in Milton. Now she has started changing her attitude towards the north and its inhabitants, especially Mr Thornton, she has to leave. She is going to move to London with her aunt, Mrs Shaw, her cousin Edith and her husband Captain Lennox. She also discovers that Mr Bell, her father’s friend who owns Marlborough Mill , wishes  to make her his heiress: she will inherit his patrimony when he dies.
Mr Bell suddenly dies and Margaret becomes rich just when , Mr Thornton, now her tenant, is in great financial difficulties and has to leave his position at Marlborough Mill. When Margaret hears about Thornton’s disgraced situation decides to help him…She meets him in London … she has a business proposition for him : she receives very little interest for the money she has in the bank. She offers him a great sum  he can dispose of to run  Marlborough Mill. He will run the mill for her , she is sure he will give her a much higher interest.
It is the start of a different relationship between them….

 The TV version reflects Gaskell's atmospheres and characterizations but it has taken its liberties from the book, for instance ... the final scene... Margaret and John meet again at a train station, halfway between  Helstone and Milton. It is a really effective, romantic, moving finale but totally different from the ending pages of the novel which take place in Margaret's cousin's house in London. The protagonists  in the book hug in the sitting-room, hidden from indiscreet looks. Instead, quite unbelievable for mid-19th century Victorian England, in the movie the two ...  well ... have a look at this CLIP ....




Would you rather meet this gorgeous athletic GUY along a  path in the woods,  offering you a big hug and a warm smile, while you are going for a long solitary  walk ...

.... or  this dark  handsome  bloke asking for a lift, while you are  driving to work at crazy prime time?

If I can choose ... BOTH. ;-)

Now ... let's go back to reality and seriousness. Let's regain our composure.

Since Friday is  SPOOKS 8 day on BBC3 digital channel, let's say something about this much awaited episode 4... It has been  announced as the best so far and it is focused on LUCAS NORTH. His dramatic past is back to haunt him! It seems there will be a very close meeting between CIA and MI5... under the duvet ! I can't wait but , unfortunately, I'll have to! My "little fairy" ( Merryweather ) is on holiday  ( she really deserves a great one!) and can't help me tonight with her magic. So, if you can, enjoy shirtless Lucas and his tattoos, his "fights under the duvet", his haunting memories from the Russian years for me too!  Don't be too worried about the torture scenes, it's just a flashback! 
Great tension, suspence and ... action. Take a look at the pictures below.



"Fate will find a way".
"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant"
"Many women long for what eludes them, and like not what is offered them".
Ancient Latin wisdom to start this review of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER  by Michelle Moran. Just because Selene, Cleopatra's daughter, finds herself sitting  at the same table as Horace or Virgil once she is taken to Rome by Octavian. But let's try to give this post a certain order.


You start leafing through the first pages and you immediately find yourself full immersed in a nightmare: you follow  the events through Selene's eyes, while she is just  losing her family, her roots, her habits, her country, her freedom at 12.
You live the tragic terrorizing  events narrated, knowing that you can stop, just closing your book, but Cleopatra and her young children couldn't: no awakening for them, it was reality; no escape, they were doomed. Their husband/father, Mark Antony had been defeated at Actium by Octavian, their country invaded, Alexandria conquered and their Palace surrounded. Paralized by fear, they wait for their Fate. Selene and Alexander, the 12-year-old twins, and the youngest son Ptolemy, only 7, have to bear both their parents' suicides and then to be  taken to Rome as captives.  The story opens on these shocking crucial moments in Princess Selene's life. She herself, in first person,  tells us about what will happen later on ...
Ptolemy won't survive the long voyage to Rome. Once there, she and her brother Alexander, will endure sufference and lack of freedom but will also experience friendship, love, loyalty, bravery and they'll grow up.

In Rome they live as guarded guests at Octavia's house - Octavian's sister, the woman their father put aside to marry their mother, Cleopatra. They expect her revenge, they find her generosity and understanding, instead. They live and study with Marcellus (Octavia's son, Octavian's nephew and heir); Julia (Octavian's daughter) and Tiberius (Octavian's second wife's, Livia's, son). The group of kids are educated by Magister Verrius, live their first crushes and love experiences, witness terrible unjustices and horrible punishments ( infants rejected and thrown away as rubbish, trials with bought partial juries, hundreds of slaves condemned to death because their master was found dead, crucifixions,  battles of wild animals against gladiators or simple slaves in the circus among others), are excited at the mysterious Red Eagle's fight to free the slaves ( a fascinating Robin Hood-like hero advocating freedom for the humblest), take part in luxurious parties, dream, enjoy themselves . They also suffer from jealousy, fear, passion, disillusionment or suspicion but little by little they grow up, protected and watched by Octavian's most loyal men, General Agrippa and the African Prince,  Juba. The latter, like Alexander and Selene had his parents killed, his kingdom conquered, his freedom stolen by Octavian but , instead of fighting to get his rights back, he has become one of Rome's most influential men, one Octavian can always count on. Selene doesn't like him very much just for this reason: he has not only accepted his fate, he has renounced to fight , he has stooped and now serves the man who has destroyed his life. Selene, instead, will fight for her freedom, she wants to escape, she wants to go back  to Egypt. Will her dreams come true? Will Marcellus, she secretly loves, realize she is the princess he should marry and not Julia? Will Octavian force her and her brother to marry against their will or will he kill them, once they become of age?

I particularly liked to revisit  life in ancient Rome - something I learnt about translating the classic Latin writers many years ago when I was at school - through Michelle Moran's spirited, vivacious style. I was immediately caught in the novel which has revealed a real page-turner. I even neglected sleep to get to finish it: last night I turned the lights off at 1.15 because I wanted to discover who the mysterious Red Eagle was and what Selene's destiny would be! I must admit I didn't expect to like this book so much and, to be even more honest, I must confess that I am deeply struck, amazed, at my positive reaction. It was time since I last  read something so interesting and exciting at the same time. If you like historical fiction, you must get this book and read it, you won't regret it. I'm absolutely glad I did it and definitely proud of my copy of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER because it is an autographed one. Michelle Moran herself signed it for me as I showed ( off?  ;-) )  in this blogpost HERE.