Jane Greensmith and I bumped into each other reading and commenting the same blogs. Little by little I discovered she was such an active woman (writer, reader, great reviewer, blogger, traveller) and I started liking her more and more. Then I was so lucky as to win her “Intimations of Jane Austen”, her collection of 9 lovely short stories, in a giveaway on her blog Reading, Writing, Working, Playing and now I definitely admire her.

 This is an occasion for all of you to meet her,  but also to win a free copy of her INTIMATIONS OF JANE AUSTEN (my review HERE) .
 Read the interview below, leave a comment, add your e-mail address and stay tuned. Winner will be announced on 7th February.

1. So Jane, welcome on Fly High! I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation. Please, tell us something about yourself .
I’m a native of Colorado, though a first-generation American. My dad is from England, though he spent several years as a teenager in Australia, and my mother is from Montreal. They met during WWII when my dad was stationed in Canada, and they married and she lived with his family in Birmingham during the remainder of the war. They’re both primarily self-educated, and our house was always filled with books, classical music, including opera, and art prints. For most of my childhood and teenage years, we didn’t have a TV in the house, so I spent a lot of time reading.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last year, and we have three teenaged kids—my older daughter is a senior in high school and my younger daughter and son are twins.
When I turned 50 in 2008, I added a Milestones page to my website that provides more info about me and some photos of Jane through the ages!

2. Do you remember – because I actually don’t –how or where we met on line?
When I first started my blog I was reading and writing on Elizabeth Gaskell almost exclusively and I had set up a Google alert that would point me to blogs that mentioned Gaskell. I found Fly High in this way as a result of a search that found one of your blogs on North and South with the marvelous Richard Armitage. I have really enjoyed getting to know you from both your blogs.

3. Thank you!  Marvelous Richard, indeed! And now let's pull ourselves together, please, and go on.  When did you started writing?
I wrote a lot in college because I was an English major, and I’ve written a lot in my career in public relations and marketing, but I didn’t start writing fiction until 1999 when I discovered the Austen fanfiction site The Derbyshire Writers Guild. I started reading some of the stories and in no time at all started writing them as well. It was and is a very nurturing environment, where fellow writers post encouraging comments on each other’s stories and I was amazed to find out how many incredibly nice, smart, and interesting Janeites there are out there. I wrote Austen fanfic regularly for about five years, and then found I simply didn’t have time to write fiction, work full time, and be a good parent and wife so my fiction writing is on hold right now...but I’ve got a lot of stories brewing!

4. How did you come to write an Austen inspired collection of stories?
Every one of my stories first appeared on The Derbyshire Writers Guild (or DWG as it is affectionately known) and the Bits of Ivory board (aka BOI) on The Republic of Pemberley site. Most fanfic tends to be very long stories, but I found that I was much better at writing short stories and so most of what I produced was in that genre. I started reading Austen at about age 13 and have been rereading the novels, reading about Austen, and discussing her works for well over 30 years. I found that writing a short story, “The Last Baby,” from Mrs. Bennet’s perspective was a more effective way for me to “defend” her as a character than arguing about her plight in a lit-crit paper. Likewise, I’ve also always thought the Lady Russell was more right in her advice to young Anne Eliot than most people acknowledge, which led me to write “The Three Sisters.” Each of my stories reflects a point that I want to make about an Austen character—I believe in truth in story-telling and my stories illustrate an aspect of an Austen story that has touched me deeply.

Fans of my stories encouraged me to produce a collection of them, but I knew that I would never get a publisher interested in them. Even though Austen Inc. is a major industry these days, I know enough about the publishing industry to know that it is almost impossible to get a collection of short stories published so I decided to self-publish the book and I have not regretted the decision. I have done all the marketing for the book myself, and I find it immensely gratifying when I can find readers for my stories.

Because I have no illusions that this set of stories will enable me to quit my day job as PR manager for a high-tech company and become a full-time writer, I decided to leave all my stories on my website (http://www.janegs.com/) and most of them are still at DWG and BOI as well. I want people to read my stories, and if they want them in a collection, I figure the price of my book is about the same as they would spend on the ink and paper to print them out from the Internet, but it’s their choice.

5. What about you and blogging?
I adore blogging! After I decided that I simply didn’t have time to write fiction, I knew that I didn’t want to give up writing daily nor did I want to lose the bookish community that I find so enriching, energizing, and gratifying to be part of. I have made friends with fellow bloggers from all over the world and have learned about books, movies, perspectives, foods, customs, ideas, and dreams from them.
I love to write about the books I’m reading and I try to provide a unique perspective or dig for what makes a book or movie work or not work for me. I also love to write about my travels, my garden, and anything else that I find interesting and worth sharing.

6. You and reading? Your favourite authors and books?
Jane Austen is, of course, top of the heap, but I have read all of her works so many times that I limit myself to one Austen a year. I love reading the classics, especially Victorian literature—it was an absolute treat to discover Elizabeth Gaskell and spend a year reading about her and all her works—and George Eliot is fantastic as well. I often say that Austen is my favorite author, but Middlemarch is my favorite book. I love Shakespeare and read/watch/attend the plays whenever possible, historical fiction (especially Edward Rutherford and Diana Gabaldon), biographies (Jenny Uglow, Peter Ackroyd and Claire Tomalin are my favorite biographers), and a lot of non-fiction as well. I am particularly interested in how science and technology developed and affected society and humanity.

A couple of years ago I got really interested in the ancient world and fell in love with Robert Harris’s books Pompeii and Imperium. I enjoy mystery series a lot too. I recently discovered Ian Rankin from a fellow blogger and enjoyed the first in his Inspector Rebus series. I also like Donna Leon, Nevada Barr, and Julia Spencer-Fleming. I’ve tried Romance but find I don’t like it much, except I read about one Georgette Heyer a year and some would argue that Gabaldon belongs in Romance and not Historical Fiction, so there are exceptions to every rule. I read some best-sellers but not usually until they’ve been out for awhile. I read some Austen paraliterature if it gets good reviews—I really liked Murder at Longbourn, Jane Austen in Boca, and The Jane Austen Bookclub, but hated The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet and found Lady Vernon and Her Daughter dull. I think Pamela Aidan’s trilogy Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman is the definitive Darcy story, and Susan Kaye’s two-parter Frederick Wentworth, Captain to be the definitive Wentworth story. I also love Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace two-parter about Elizabeth Eliot. All three authors are Internet friends that I met when I first starting writing my short stories, and they are creme de la creme when it comes to Austen paraliterature.

7. Do you like period or costume drama? What about your favourite one, if you’ve got any?

I love period dramas, both adaptations as well as bio pics. Apart from the Colin Firth P&P, the Amanda Root Persuasion, and both the Emma Thompson and Hattie Morahan S&S, North and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford, and A Room with a View are my favorites. I loved going to period dramas as a kid and still love Mary, Queen of Scots, Anne of the Thousand Days, and Nicholas and Alexandra. I collect Shakespeare movies as well as Austen ones, and am eagerly awaiting Bright Star and Young Victoria.

I also like to study the Civil War and consider the movie Gettysburg, which is based on Michael Shaara’s fabulous novel Killer Angels, to be superb. I fell in love with westerns as a kid and will always love High Noon, Big Country, How the West was Won, and Centennial (the TV series), among countless others.

8. What is the best and the worst thing which has happened to you since you’ve become a writer?
Writing fanfic led to writing non-fanfic stories, and I had one of them (“The Last Chance Texaco”) accepted for inclusion in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers short story anthology, Dry Spell. That and having Intimations of Austen discovered by bloggers are definitely the high points for me.
The worst was having to face the fact that I couldn’t be a good parent if I continued to try to write fiction while my kids were teenagers. I realized that I couldn’t keep on telling them that I was too busy to listen to them, talk to them, go to movies with them, go shopping with them, cook with them, help them with homework, and encourage them. They are young for such a short amount of time and I know that my hiatus from writing is only for the short term, but it was hard to put my writing on the shelf just when I was starting to feel that I was making significant strides. Now, I am content to know that I am “filling the creative well” by reading, watching movies, and just living, and that when they are out of the house and in college and working, I will have plenty of time for writing.

9. Are you working on a new writing project?
My blog is my writing right now, although I have a couple of modern-day versions of Gaskell's ghost stories that I am playing with a bit.

10. You’ve also gone on interesting trips recently. You’ve posted about your journey to Haworth and other interesting places in England  and I know you’ve just visited The Austen Exhibition at the Morgan Library in NY. What about you and travelling?

Most of the travel I do is for my job—I take several trips a year to Florida, the Boston area, and the NYC area, but I dream of having the time and funds to travel more. I want to visit Italy so much that I started learning Italian two years ago. Last year, my older daughter and I visited Ireland and the UK for two weeks and had a spectacularly good time. My kids love NYC and we are planning another spring break trip there this year. My husband and I also love California and are not above begging my sister-in-law to stay with the kids so that we can have an occasional weekend in LA. I enjoy literary pilgrimages, and loved visiting Haworth (the Yorkshire village that the Brontes lived in) and Stratford last summer. I still haven’t made it to Chawton, Austen’s last home, but I will...I know I will.

11. You told us about blogging, writing, reading, period drama or films, travelling … Is there anything else you want to tell us about? Any other hobby or interest?
I enjoy gardening a lot and wish I had the time to do more of it. I am a strong proponent of the Slow Food movement, and I believe in eating locally as much as possible, cooking from scratch, and composting. I consider Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Joan Dye Gussow’s book The Organic Life to have changed my life. My mother always had a garden, and my husband and I always had a garden, but these books gave me practical advice on how to live more simply and closer to the earth. My husband and I grow everything we need for pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, apple sauce, and apple pie filling, and the summer is spent growing, canning, pickling, and learning to preserve more and more of our own food.
In one of my few novel length works, Ruffling Feathers, I wrote about an all-white flower garden that reflects the moonlight. The year before I wrote that story, I grew an all-white flower garden and loved so much to meditate on the world sitting amongst the flowers on a summer’s night.

I love the mountains of Colorado deeply—I love to travel but I really can’t imagine living for any period of ime without my mountains. The wind in the trees, the view from the top, the craggy outposts of granite, the rosy hues of winter sunrise, these are the things that make me who I am...that and what I read. It all goes into what I write.

I want to thank you, Maria, for inviting me to share some things about myself in this forum. I really feel blessed to have found so many kindred spirits in the blogosphere and my life is richer from knowing you and sharing opinions with you on movies, books, art, music, and life. You put such thought and care into your blog and I always come away happy that I carved out time from my day to read what you have to say.

God bless you, Jane! It is JUST the same for me. Thanks for being my guest. And since you've been studying Italian  in the last two years: Grazie mille e a presto!


Today it has been  the big day! First meeting of My Jane Austen Book Club! At 5 p.m, in my hometown public library,  SENSE AND SENSIBILITY scheduled.
Cake and tea, too!



It is Friday, RA Friday on Fly High. I’ve been racking my brains on what I might post today for days. Not a clue. Nothing new on the RA front, just like last week… Heyer’s Venetia Audiobook and Sky 1 Strike Back series both out in April are our nearest dates with him and his work. In addition, I haven’t had any time to watch or listen to any of his works I haven’t seen or listened to yet – there are still several! I’ve had an awful fortnight at work and it hasn’t finished yet.

But, YES! Work! That’s a clue. I’ve told you in one of my recent posts that I’m working on … Guy of Gisborne these days! This is what I can write about! I know you’ve read and seen plenty about him but this will be MY post about Guy of Gisborne. Actually, I wrote also something about RH series 3 when it was on BBC 1 last spring (  HERE and HERE ) and I even  made a clip,  GUY AND THE WITCHFINDER , with the incipit of The Witchfinders Audiobook. You can also find the first three parts of a series, Guy's Journey in Robin Hood Three,  on my Utube Page.

Now, Sir Guy of Gisborne is Richard Armitage’s second most popular character among his fans – following John Thornton - North and South, of course. I’m not working on his Gisborne at school, obviously, but on the original one, that is a minor character in the medieval ballads of Robin Hood and the outlaws. Just this morning I read , translated and commented part of “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne” in one of my classes. It is a very long poem so we are not reading it all, only excerpts. It was fun anyway, especially while reading the lines in which Little John and Robin quarrel after meeting Guy:

Stand you still, master," quoth Litle John,

"Under this trusty tree,

And I will goe to yond wight yeoman,

To know his meaning trulye."

"A, John, by me thou setts noe store,

And thats a farley thinge;

How offt send I my men beffore,

And tarry myselfe behinde?

"It is noe cunning a knave to ken,

And a man but heare him speake;

And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,

John, I wold thy head breake."

They had just seen a stranger (Guy ) looking quite dangerous and bizzarre …

There were the ware of wight yeoman,

His body leaned to a tree.

A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,

Had beene many a mans bane,

And he was cladd in his capull-hyde,

Topp, and tayle, and mayne.

After their discussion, John marches off infuriated but he is promptly captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and tied to a tree to be later hung while Robin approaches Guy of Gisborne, the stranger wearing a bizarre horsehide robe. Guy is a bounty hunter or a hired killer seeking Robin Hood. They have a shooting contest, and Robin wins.

Later Robin identifies himself, and the two fight. Robin trips over a root and Guy stabs him, but Robin thrusts his sword and kills Guy. Somehow (not specified), Robin must know Little John was captured. For he dons the horsehide, cuts off Guy's head, sticks it on his bow, and slashes the face so it's unrecognizable. He then blows Guy's horn to signal victory to the Sheriff. Disguised as Guy, and carrying "Robin Hood's" head, Robin goes to rescue Little John. He brushes past the Sheriff as if to kill John, but cuts him loose. John then takes a bow and shoots the Sheriff through the heart.

So, just a quick unfortunate appearance in the original story ! Not a great presence at all. But Guy has made many appearances in written and filmed variants of the Robin Hood legends so far. Guy's only constant is his appearing as a villain. For instance ,
-in Howard Pyle's novel ,  Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, he is a rude, coarse outlaw, known for his cruelty and murders;
-in the 1938 Errol Flynn film The Adventures of Robin Hood, he is a suave nobleman, Prince John's chief supporter, and a much more prominent adversary than the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is a bumbling fool. Indeed, Prince John proposes Gisbourne to Maid Marian, a royal ward in this variant, as a husband; he often appears as a rival to Robin for Maid Marian's affections. In the Flynn film, Robin engages him in a spectacular duel to the death, one of the most famous swordfights in American film.

The role of Guy of Gisbourne has been played by such actors as Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938), Tom Baker (The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood, 1984), Robert Addie (in the British television series Robin of Sherwood, 1984-6) and Michael Wincott (in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

In the 1990s CBBC comedy series Maid Marian and her Merry Men, Guy of Gisbourne, played by Ramsay Gilderdale, is the nephew of Prince John, and is portrayed as an overgrown foolish mother's boy.

Since 2006,  in the latest BBC Robin Hood, Guy has had Richard Armitage’s handsome look and piercing blue eyes. Fascinatingly clad in black leather, he is the Sheriff of Nottingham's second-in-command. While Robin was away fighting in the crusades, Guy managed his estate, and eventually takes it over when Robin is outlawed. Moreover... he becomes part of a thrilling love triangle: Robin/Guy/Marian.

Guy and Marian in series 1 BBC 2007

Guy and Marian in RH series 2 BBC 2008

Guy in RH series 3 BBC 2009

The character guide on the official BBC website describes Gisborne as follows:

Vain, brutal, ambitious, loyal, athletic, single-minded, boastful, frustrated, Gisborne is a selfish bully. As the Sheriff's right hand man, Gisborne is capable of overwhelming cruelty in his ruthless pursuit for heritage and position. Yet beyond this drive for recognition was the one hope for redemption: Marian

 About his Guy Richard Armitage said :

In order to sustain the character of Guy you have to find conflict within him... He's constantly pulled between good and evil, between who he really wants to be and who he actually is. He could have been a good man, but he is forever dragged down by his fatal flaw – that he wants glory at all costs. I think that internal conflict works very well, because, after all, all the best drama is fuelled by conflict ...

This is how a minor literary figure became a widely popular antagonist. His success is Richard’s success. A fascinating broody baddie who “...came along and stole the show” ... from the protagonist himself.

Poor Robin/Jonas!

Amazing Guy/Richard!

Related posts and sites

Frances Tempest  about BBC Robin's and Guy's costumes

All the Guys of Gisborne in filmography

BBC Page for Guy of Gisborne

Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne - The Ballad
Richard Armitage BBC America Interview about Robin Hood



Among my favourite British contemporary writers, Ian McEwan. I discovered him when I started teaching English Literature to High School students (I taught language and grammar to secondary shool younger students before) and my first approach to his work was his  BLACK DOGS. Then, I went on  reading ENDURING LOVE and SATURDAY but my absolute favourite among his novels is ATONEMENT (2001).

I love McEwan's ability at creating convincing narrating voices. In ATONEMENT he did a really excellent job with his Briony, one of the most complex characters I’ve ever met in literature. Well, this novel IS a complex one. It works on several levels: it is an account of class and society in pre-war England and it deals with growing – up. The second half contains detailed descriptions of the British evacuation from France in 1940 ( based on the author’s scrupulous research) and of the training of wartime nurses. You know I love WWII –set novels or films, don’t you? I sometimes chooses some pages from its  second part to read to my students. However,  the most fascinating aspect in ATONEMENT is the exploration of the problem of knowing other minds and the role of imagining, narrating and story-telling. The story of Briony is the story of a writer and of her efforts to understand reality and escape isolation. A terrible story, sad, tragic but … involving and compelling. Just the type of story I'm fond of.

You didn’t read the novel nor saw the 2007 movie based on it – starring Keira Knightley , James McAvoy and Romola Garai – and you are not totally following my rambling?

Here’s  the plot. Mind you,  I can’t avoid spoilers,  so … You’re warned!

It starts as a classic family saga set in a British country house in 1935. Briony Tallis is 12 years old and wants to become a writer. Her first experiment is a play she starts rehearsing with her cousins in order to perform it in front of friends and family there in their house.

Briony has a vivid imagination which, unfortunately, twists and deforms plain reality. The key episode in this frist part of the novel is in fact narrated from different points of view and Briony’s is the most “dangerous” and less real of them all.

It is an odd incident she witnesses from her bedroom window, it regards her elder sister Cecilia who takes off her dress and steps into a fountain in the presence of Robbie Turner, the son of a family servant. Robbie has been educated at Cambridge under Mr Tallis’s patronage. He and Cecilia are in love but Briony misinterprets what she sees and suspects that Robbie is forcing her sister into doing obscene things .Has Briony got a crush on Robbie? Maybe. When a young girl, her cousin, is raped in their garden at night, Briony accuses Robbie of the act, out of revenge and perhaps jealousy. Robbie is imprisoned and expelled from the family’s estate. Cecilia , who believes in his innocence, breaks with her family.

The second part of the novel takes part in Normandy in May 1940. Robbie is a soldier after his prison sentence. The only thing that keeps him alive is his hope to be united with Cecilia again. She has become a nurse meanwhile. Briony, instead, has realized that she made a mstake and is tormented by remorse. She also works as a nurse in a wartime hospital in London, where the hard labour is a form of atonement for her.

In the third section we are in 1999, aging Briony is now a successful writer who has just discovered she suffers from progressive vascular dementia. Her ability to remember and grasp reality will soon desert her. But she is in peace because she has just finished writing her latest version of Robbie and Cecilia’s story. Her atonement seems complete… but we learn what really happened to the two unfortunate lovers , unexpectedly,  in the end. The novel Briony has published has a happy ending … McEwan’s Atonement hasn’t and it leaves the reader stunned and deeply touched. Brilliant device. I loved it!

The images are taken from the successful 2007 adaptation of the novel. A good film. But you should read the novel first.



On Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27th, I'd like to share an Italian poem and a movie by an Italian director with you .Both are linked to the theme of the day.
 A harsh disquieting poem, inspired by the Hebrew prayer shema,  which introduces the book SE QUESTO E' UN UOMO, (If this is a man) by Primo Levi.
Primo Levi was a Jewish-Italian chemist who became a committed writer . He had an urgent need to tell about his surviving  the atrocities he had had  to bear  as a prisoner in one of the most infamous concentration camps :  If This Is a Man - published in the U.S. as Survival in Auschwitz - is his account of the year he spent there , in Nazi-occupied Poland. He could never recover from his sense of guilt and decided to put an end to his haunted years committing suicide in 1987. SE QUESTO E' UN UOMO  has been described as one of the most important works of the twentieth century.

In the poem opening the novel,   Levi invites the reader to make a judgement. He alludes to the treatment of people as untermensch (German for sub-human) and subsequently examines the degree to which it was possible for a prisoner in Auschwitz to retain his or her humanity. The poem explains the title and sets a main theme of the book:  humanity in the midst of inhumanity. The last part of the poem, beginning "meditate" explains Levi's purpose in having written it: to record what happened so that successive generations may be able to ponder (a more literal translation of meditare) the significance of the events which he lived through.
Here are the lines. In Italian the words are harsher, much more bitter. It is not my translation, I found it online. It is a powerful shriek of sorrow and anger.

Voi che vivete sicuri You who live safe

Nelle vostre tiepide case In your warm houses,

voi che trovate tornando a sera You who find warm food

Il cibo caldo e visi amici And friendly faces when you return home.

Considerate se questo è un uomo Consider if this is a man

Che lavora nel fango Who works in mud,

Che non conosce pace Who knows no peace,

Che lotta per mezzo pane Who fights for a crust of bread,

Che muore per un sì o per un no. Who dies by a yes or a no.

Considerate se questa è una donna Consider if this is a woman

Senza capelli e senza nome Without hair, without name,

Senza più forza di ricordare Without the strength to remember,

Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,

Come una rana d'inverno. Like a frog in winter.

Meditate che questo è stato Never forget that this has happened.

Vi comando queste parole. Remember these words.

Scolpitele nel vostro cuore Engrave them in your hearts,

Stando in casa andando per via When at home or in the street,

Coricandovi alzandovi When lying down, when getting up.

Ripetetele ai vostri figli. Repeat them to your children.

O vi si sfaccia la casa Or may your houses be destroyed,

La malattia vi impedisca May illness strike you down,

I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi May your offspring turn their faces from you.

(Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo, 1947 )

And now the movie. A touching, romantic story taking place in two different and distant crucial historical moments in Prague: WWII and the Spring of 1968. This 2000 Italian film with an excellent international cast is directed by Ricky Tognazzi and is loosely based on Paolo Maurensing's novel Canone Inverso(1996).
Canone inverso- Making Love stars Hans Matheson (Doctor Zhivago, The Tudors, Sherlock Holmes 2009) as Jeno Varga, Gabriel Byrne as a mysterious violinist, Peter Vaughan as Old Baron Blau, Melanie Thierry as Sophie Levi, Nia Roberts as Costanza. I saw it several years ago, on its release, but it has remained one of my favourite WWII movies somehow linked to the Holocaust.

Costanza is drinking a beer in a Prague pub, a summer night in 1968, when a violinist enters and starts playing a "canone inverso" for her. It is not by chance... he is looking for her and she remembers that music. That violin, the music and the man have a story that might concern her. It is the love story between Jeno Varga - a poor jewish boy living in Prague before and during WWII - and the music, between Jeno Varga and Sophie Levi. It is also the story of the deep friendship between David and Jeno . Music and Love the most powerful bonds that could resist the passing of time. It is a beautiful film with brilliant actors, a great script and Ennio Moricone’s music. I've found  this clip on Ututbe. It is in English but it contains major spoilers, so if you want to look for this movie and watch it entirely, it is better to skip it. If,  instead, you want to see it, get ready, it is the moment when Costanza understands who the violinist is … who she is … where she comes from.




Not long ago, writing about one of my favourite novels by Dickens, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, I said that it had one of the saddest ending I had ever read in one his works. Dickens usually rewards the good and punishes the wicked. Well, I wasn’t right. I hadn’t read his THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP (1841). Someone more important than me, who read it at the time of its publication , reacted even worse than me: the Irish leader Daniel O'Connell burst into tears at the finale, and threw the book out of the window of the train in which he was travelling.
Actually, I haven’t read this novel yet. As usual I had to study about it when preparing my university exams ages ago, but, so far I’ve only seen one of the latest TV adaptations, BBC 2007 The Old Curiosity Shop. I did it yesterday . Though it changes a bit respect to the original plot, it is a good-quality Tv drama depicting a gloomy foggy Victorian London, with good locations, good performances and a good narrative pace.

THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in his weekly serial Master Humphrey's Clock, which lasted from 1840 to 1841. The Old Curiosity Shop was printed as a separate book in 1841.

The story

Poor little Nell Trent ( Sophie Vavasseur) is a sweet thing, an orphan. At 13, she is the soul of innocence,  naive , generous and good hearted as she keeps house for her grandfather ( Derek Jakobi) in dangerous dark London of 1839. A ray of sunshine on the bleak and dirty streets.

Her older brother, Fred ( Brian Dick) , who mistakenly thinks she will inherit a fortune accumulated by their miserly granny, already plans to marry her off to his friend, Richard Swiveller (Geoff Breton).

But he is wrong: white-haired Grandpa is a compulsive gambler who stays out all night, leaving Nell sleeping in the living quarters above his curiosity shop, while he regularly loses the money he has borrowed from Daniel Quilp (Toby Jones) . Eventually, the mean wicked Mr Quilp decides he wants his money back and plans to get a younger beautiful wife - though he already has one – blackmailing Nell’s Grandpa: he will give him as much money as he wants if Nell will be a maid-servant in his house. Got it?

When Mr Quilp takes possession of the Old Curiosity Shop , Nell convinces her grandad to leave and they become beggars.... adventures and misadventures await them, while Mr Quilp wants them back ...at any cost.

Dickens's characters
Among Dickens’s devilish villains, Mr Quilp is the slimiest, the most insidious and devious I remember: a malicious, grotesquely deformed, hunchbacked dwarf moneylender.His helpers are as insidious as he is: Mr Samson Brass (Adam Godley ) and his sister Sally (Gina McKee) are obsequious and malicious, greedy and selfish (they reminded me of Uriah Heep).

As always in Dickens’s great novels the evil characters are incredibly wicked and the good ones are incredibly good.The first may sometimes seem grotesque caricatures of demons and the latter naive unaware creatures in a world too complicated and hostile (Oliver Twist, Pipp, Little Dorrit, young David Copperfield, for example)

Among the good characters in The Old Curiosity Shop there’s Kit, Christopher 'Kit' Nubbles, (George MacKay) Nell's only friend and servant. His dedication to his family earns him the respect of many characters, and the resentment of Quilp. He is framed for robbery, but is later released and joins the party travelling to rescue Nell.

As always in Dickens, a mystery must be solved:
who is the mysterious 'single gentleman' who is looking for news of Nell and her grandfather when they have just disappeared? The 'single gentleman' and Kit go after them unsuccessfully, and encounter Quilp, who is also hunting for the runaways. In the book he is Nell’s grandfather’s younger brother, in the TV movie  Mr Codlin (Martin Freeman)  is Nell’s father who comes back wealthy and changed after many years spent abroad.

So,  I want to add this DVD to the list of beautiful adaptations of Dickens's novels I've seen so far:
Polanski 's Oliver Twist (2005), BBC David Copperfield  (1999), BBC Bleak House (2005), BBC Little Dorrit (2008) , Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Our Mutual Friend (1998). For some of them I posted reviews on Fly High.
Now I've got BBC Oliver Twist (2007) and Great Expectations (1999) on my TBW list. Do you know of any other adaptation of Dickens worth seeing?




Sunday morning
In bed, sipping hot cappuccino served by hubby, checking mail. I suddenly remember I was doing something last night. Something I had to interrupt due to exhaustion. My head bent and my eyes didn't want to stay open on  ...what I was scribbling (typing) while watching some  TV. I  automatically turned everything off - laptop, TV and the lights- and off to the dream world! What was I writing? Here you are.

 Among the many things I love and make me happy there's music, many kinds of music: from classical to pop, from opera to dance music. I sang for many years of my life (studied singing privately and was part of a choir touring all over the world) but then I had to stop ( young children+ work) and never went back doing it. Something I really love too is watching people dancing, I envy good dancers and also skaters, especially ice-skaters, who live the music through their body.
Figure skating is one of the few sports I follow and music shows with dancing performances are among the rare things that can draw my attention on Tv. I hardly ever watch it,  really seldom.
I'm watching some tonight, I'm having a look at the Italian version of "Strictly come dancing" ( Ballando con le stelle) : wonderful live music, great costumes and very good dancers.

As for skating, I've just heard that, at Tallinn, Estonia, Italy's Carolina Kostner won her third women's title at the European figure skating championships . Carolina Kostner, the 22-year-old 2007 and 2008 champion, was gold ahead of defending champion Laura Lepistö of Finland with Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia taking bronze after the free skating final. With this she is officially qualified for the Olympic team though she had finished second at the nationals.
Today, skating to Bach's Air and Vivaldi's Violin Concerto, she got back the title she lost last year to Lepisto. I admire this slim, apparently frail, young woman: she knows how to rise up and start over again  after falling. She never surrenders.

These are just two - among many other -  of the little joys I've learnt to appreciate in life: they are ordinary things which can really  make me happy and relaxed (too relaxed last night!)
Now since I'm writing about this, I'll add other eight little joys  in order to fulfil my tasks for the Happy 101 Award I received from Avalon:

family gatherings, a good period movie, reading a a good book, going for long walks in beautiful natural settings, going to London, having spare time to spend as I want, summer at the seaside, watching my favourite actor in one of his performances (see? I haven't forgot!)
May I add some extra-ones?
having breakfast in bed, being on holidays, having dinner out, travelling abroad, meeting my best friends and spend some good time with them, meeting interesting new people, giving good marks to my students, receiving hugs from my sons and my husband as well as comments on my blog... lots of others... but I'll stop here.

These are the seven blogs I'd like to award with the Happy 101 Award I've recently received

1. Torch under the blanket books
2. TakeMeAway
3. Sotto i fiori di lillà
4. Reviewrama
5. Orgullo y prejuicio
6. A reader's random ramblings...
7. Laura's Reviews

The awarded bloggers should choose other seven blogs and pass it on as well as list 10 things which make them happy.

And now the Humane Blog Award which I'd like to pass on to

1. RichardArmitageFanBlog
2. Reading, writing, Working, Playing
3. November's Autumn
4. My cozy book nook
5. Mrs ThorntonDarcy's Blog
6. Stop me if you heard this one before
7. An RA viewer's perspective from 33°0'S of the equator

I really hope they'll be as happy as I am at receiving these little signs of appreciation. If they don't want to pass them along, never mind, it's just a game to link and meet people on line. It's been a pleasure to me to award all of them and it is a great pleasure to read their blogs!




First of all as promised today Friday 22nd January I have to announce the winner of a free copy of North and South 2004 offered by M. Gray on occasion of my interview to her last week. Random.org helped me to pick one out of the messages we got these days     ( 1. Luciana   2. (skipping M. Gray, of course) Meredith  3.David J. West   4.Travis and Cummies   5.Avalon    6.Krista   7. Catherine Denton 8.Erica etc.... etc. ... as far as Luthien 84)
and the winner is …

MEREDITH from Austenesque Reviews !!!
who said This is such a lovely idea, Maria! I enjoyed the interview very much. I love the author's motivation for writing! Sometimes the book I am reading is so good that I cannot wait to come home from work and get back to it!
I would love to be entered in the giveaway, I have actually never seen or read "North and South" but I have heard wonderful things about it! Thank you for the great opportunity!”

Dear Meredith, congratulations! You should send me your e-mail address, please. M. Gray will then contact you in order to arrange the expedition of the DVD. But, mind you, Meredith. Health warning! Have you ever heard of the Thornton effect ? Let us know about your health conditions after watching North and South. We’ll be VERY sympathetic!

Announcing the winner of N&S Dvd  has been perfect to start my RA Friday Post, hasn’t it?
YES! Here we are again. It’s Friday and I know some of you have been peeping around to see if they might find something new about RA. Unfortunately, it seems nothing new has come about recently.

Apart from ...

a.  his taking part as a guest at an event held recently in London by Sky to showcase their programming for 2010 and an official photo taken on that occasion with his colleague, Shelley Conn  (Danni in Strike Back).

b. the rumours about a probable axing (?) killing off (?) ( why do they use such macabre verbs?!?) of Spooks after series 9. If you are interested in the “SPOOKS 10 or not SPOOKS 10 question” here are the two articles mentioning the two different hypothesis: HERE & HERE. I prefer to wait and see.

Meanwhile, what can a good patient sensible RA supporter like me do? Patiently wait for real news and new works , watching whatever she hasn’t seen so far or also re-watching her favourite works with Richard.
I have had little time I must admit, but I’ve recently seen the episode of George Gently broadcast in April 2007 , in which Richard plays Ricky Deeming, the leader of a Geordie biker gang called the Durham Defenders, and chief suspect in the murder of two fellow bikers.

This episode is based on Alan Hunter's 1961 novel, Gently Go Man, one of a series of George Gently novels. It was updated slightly from the book - it was set in 1964, at the start of the social and sexual revolution that changed the lives of Britain's youth forever. The heart of the drama was the relationship between the older, respected George Gently ( Martin Shaw ), and the young, enthusiastic John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) who was in danger of being corrupted.

George Gently is a Scotland Yard inspector, a 'good' policeman working in an atmosphere of police corruption. One of the gangsters he pursues, Joe Webster (Phil Davis), murdered Gently's wife, Isabella, in revenge.Then, Gently learns of the murder of a young biker in Northumberland, Billy Lister (Christian Cooke). Gently suspects that Webster may be involved in the murder, and insists on being given the case.

In Northumbland, Detective Sergeant Bacchus is convinced that the prime suspect for Billy Lister's murder is Ricky Deeming (Richard Armitage), the charismatic leader of the Defenders biker gang to which Johnny belonged. But Gently isn't so sure…

Everything about it seems perfectly normal, just seems normal. Gently will deal with corruption, drugs, and homosexuality investigating on this case. Anyhow, he is in advance of his time in his attitude to it whereas Bacchus is more typical in his dislike of it.
Richard’s Ricky Deeming is an intriguing character, admired and respected by the members of his biker gang, a man who looks down on "mediocre people" who lead "banal lives". Although his sexuality is never made clear, he's thought by some of the characters to be gay, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. This puts him in danger from homophobic gangster Joe Webster as the drama builds to its climax.

Now two are the things I didn't like so much in this TV drama.

1. Too little Ricky Deeming (yes, I know, obvious, he's not the protagonist)

2. Ricky Deeming a homosexual? I  can't believe it.  I'm not homophobic. Not at all. But if they want me to believe it , they have to re-shoot the drama substituting the actor  playing that role. (Don't even think of doing that! Just a paradoxical suggestion but ... did I get to the point?)

This is what I've recently seen for the first time, that I had never watched before. What I have lately  been re-watching is ...

John Mulligan!  (RA's character in Drowning not Waving, ep. 3, Moving on, series 2009) .
My review HERE
 I just sympathize with poor Ellie. I would have made the same mistakes ... and even more!

and www.richardarmitagenet.com for to their precious archives!