Jane in June ends today. It's now time to discover who won the giveaways that ran all the month through.  
Check my post announcing the winners at My JA Book Club!



What if your hero becomes the villain and your heroine the antagonist? What if one of your best loved stories becomes the account of the unfortunate and unjust destiny of the character you’ve always considered the obstacle to your heroine’s happiness?
You are asked to make a great effort and sympathize with the nemesis. Great effort that I tried to make while reading Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, the story of Bertha Mason (here Antoinette Cosway) , Mr Rochester’s first wife.
At first, I found it hard to be emotionally involved in the story. I read through the first part of the novel with a sensation of forced detachment. My will forced me not to get involved in young Antoinette's  first – person fragmentary tale of her childhood and adolescence. I felt as if I couldn’t stand recognizing her as a real woman with her own hopes, fears, and desires and  no longer as a cliché or a lunatic who had trapped my hero in an unwanted marriage.

Antoinette's story begins when she is a young girl in early nineteenth- century Jamaica. The white daughter of ex-slave owners, she lives on a run-down plantation called Coulibri Estate. Five years have passed since her father, Mr. Cosway, reportedly drunk himself to death, his finances in ruins after the passage of the Emancipation Act of 1833, which freed black slaves and led to the demise of many white slave owners. Throughout Antoinette's childhood, hostility flares between the crumbling white aristocracy and the impoverished servants they employ.

She is an extremely lonely young girl, her mother is not a loving presence and finally becomes mad. Antoinette's only companion, Tia, the daughter of a servant, turns against her unexpectedly and cruelly. Pierre , her brother dies for the consequences of a fire in which the girl herself is injured. She is sent to a convent to be educated by nuns where neither her aunt nor Mr Mason visit her – if not sporadically and , in the end, to announce her he wants to introduce her to some English acquaintances of him ...

Everything was extremely dramatic, even tragic but I couldn’t feel any sympathy.

Part II is narrated Antoinette's husband, an Englishman who remains nameless but is clearly Bronte’s Mr Rochester. After a wedding ceremony in Spanish Town, he and Antoinette honeymoon on one of the Windward Islands, at an estate that once belonged to Antoinette's mother. He begins to have misgivings about the marriage as they approach a town ominously called Massacre. He knows little of his new wife, having agreed to marry her days beforeonly because Richard Mason, her step-brother, offered him £30,000 if he proposed. Desperate for money, he agreed to the marriage.
When the couple arrives at Granbois, Antoinette's inherited estate, the man feels increasingly uncomfortable around the servants and his strange young wife. Hostility grows between the man and Christophine, Antoinette's surrogate mother and a servant who wields great power in the house. The man soon receives a menacing letter from Daniel Cosway, one of old Cosway's illegitimate children. Venomous in tone, letter warns of Antoinette's depravity, saying that she comes from a family of derelicts and has madness in her blood. After reading this letter, the man begins to detect signs of Antoinette's insanity.
Antoinette, sensing that her husband hates her, asks Christophine for a magic love potion. Christophine grudgingly agrees. That night, when the man confronts Antoinette about her past, they argue passionately. He awakes the next morning believing he has been poisoned, and he later sleeps with the servant girl, Amelie, who helps him recover. Sitting in the next room, Antoinette hears everything.
The next morning, Antoinette leaves for Christophine's. When she returns, she seems to be totally mad. Drunk and raving, she pleads with the man to stop calling her "Bertha," a name he has given her without explanation. Antoinette then bites her husband's arm, drawing blood. After she collapses and falls in bed, Christophine rails at him for his cruelty. That night, he decides to leave Jamaica with Antoinette.

I started feeling more and more involved and,  recognizing Mr Rochester’s brooding , moody, stubborn character I couldn’t really accept what I was reading . I was amazed, disturbed, uneasy as if I were discovering a betrayal to my own self. My Mr Rochester couldn’t have been like that...but everything sounded so verosimile and plausible! If only he wasn’t so cruel, incredibly cruel.

Antoinette narrates Part Three from England, where she is locked away in her husband's house, guarded by a servant, Grace Poole. A hidden captive, Antoinette has no sense of time or place; she does not even believe she is in England when Grace tells her so. Violent and frenzied, Antoinette draws a knife on her stepbrother, Richard Mason, when he visits her. Later she has no memory of the incident. Antoinette has a recurring dream about taking Grace's keys and exploring the house's downstairs quarters. In this dream, she lights candles and sets the house ablaze. One night, she wakes from this dream and feels she must act on it. The novel ends with Antoinette holding a candle and walking down from her prison... : “Now I know why I was brought here and what I have to do”, she thinks.

Wide Sargasso Sea is usually taught as a postmodern and postcolonial response to Jane Eyre and I also chose to read it for this aspect. But what I was most interested in was the theme of identity, a very modern one and little Brontean.

“I often wonder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at all”, says Antoinette (p. 63) Her descent into madness and eventual death (although we know about the latter from Jane Eyre and is not shown here ) can be seen as her spirit being crushed by the oppressive male world around her as her husband removes her identity. Her name, Antoinette Cosway, a symbol of her selfhood, is gradually taken from her: when her mother remarries she becomes Antoinette Mason, when she herself marries she becomes Antoinette Rochester and finally her husband insists on calling her Bertha.

The characters of Jane Eyre and Antoinette have been depicted as very different , actually opposed, by Charlotte Bronte. But I had to recognize their similarity while reading Rhys’s story. They are both independent, vivacious, imaginative young women with troubled childhoods, educated in religious establishments and looked down on by the upper classes — and, of course, they both marry Mr Rochester. However, Antoinette is more rebellious than Jane and less balanced, possibly because she has had to live through even more distressing circumstances. She displays a deep vein of morbidity verging on a death wish . Maybe she is not conforted by faith in her troubled life . In fact , in contrast with Jane's overt Christianity, Antoinette holds a cynical viewpoint of both God and religion in general and, maybe, this makes the greatest difference between them.
(The images in this post are taken from BBC Wide Sargasso Sea  2006 
 and BBC Jane Eyre 2006)

This was my sixth and last tasks for the All About The Brontes Challenge. Many thanks to Laura's Reviews blog who hosted this great event.  You can find links to my previous tasks on the right sidebar.



You’re mad , bonkers, off your head.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

To be honest, I’ve always hated this fairy-tale as a child, I found it particularly scaring. As a grown-up person,  I discovered why, while studying Lewis Carroll at uni: it was no fairy-tale at all. Anyhow, I’ve never come to terms with this story, never come to like it so much. I still find  it rather disquieting, disturbing and nightmarish.

I can’t say the same for the latest Disney’s 3D adaptation of Carrolls's texts (the movie is based both on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass) . It may sound less original than Carroll’s experimental prose but I  found it lovely. I bought the DVD with a weekly magazine at the news-stand a couple of weeks ago but only saw it yesterday. It was such a good dreamy fairy – tale,  romantic and poetic. I enjoyed watching it.

Alice is now nineteen years old and accidentally returns to Underland (misheard by Alice and believed to be called Wonderland), a place she visited thirteen years previously. She is told that she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen who terrorizes Underland's inhabitants... (for a more detailed plot read HERE)
The director, Tim Burton said the original Wonderland story was "always about a girl wandering around from one weird character to another and he never felt a connection emotionally, so he wanted to make it feel more like a story than a series of events". And I must thank him because he succeeded in making me like a story I had always experienced as illogic, unpleasant and absurd. Even when I had to cope with the many intrpretations academic criticism had put forward for this text, I couldn’t find them very interesting: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been interpreted as mere fantasy, as a dream vision guided by free association, or nonsense literature. Several underlying motifs of psychological nature have often been suggested, like prenatal memories, rebirth, and re-entry into the womb. But I couldn't find any appeal in all that.

Watching this new film on DVD instead has only been an emotionally delightful experience: it was a very coloured, involving, simple fairy – tale with good and evil characters, funny and dramatic events, romantic and scary moments.

The stellar cast was stunning. I loved Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter and Mia Wasikowska as Alice, but also Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, as the good and wicked queens respectively. Wise blue Caterpillar sounded even wiser - though still rather cryptic - thanks to Alan Rickman's voice. I finally  liked Crispin Glover as Ilosovic Stayne, the Knave of Hearts , a dark fascinating knight, who insistently reminded me of someone ...

Stayne, the Knave of Hearts

Guy, the Knight of our Hearts

I'll leave you with my favourite scene: simple, poetic, touching, sad ...

Hatter: You could stay

Alice: What an idea. A crazy, mad, wonderful idea. But I can’t. There are questions I have to answer, things I have to do. Be back again before you know it.

Hatter: You won’t remember me

Alice: Of course I will. How could I forget? Hatter, why is a raven like a writing desk?

Hatter: I haven’t the slightest idea. Fairfarren , Alice.

Fairfarren you all!



Becky lives and works in Utah but,  whenever she's on holidays,  she stays in Hawaii with her mother. She is a teacher of English literature, like me. She also loves reading, period movies and blogging  just like me. I couldn't resist from asking her to be one of My Blogger Buddies guests. Meet her.

 Let’s start with something about yourself and your life. And, please, don’t forget to tell us  what spending one's own holidays in such a wonderful exotic place like Hawaii is
During the school year, I actually live in Utah (on the mainland), but during the summer and Christmas, I stay in Hawaii with my mother. My mother lives in a small town on the island of Oahu, which is a beautiful place for a tired school teacher to escape to! I grew up in Idaho, very much a western farm girl, but was a weirdo (according to my dad and many in his family) because I liked to read so much. I went on to college and grad school, and would have kept going, but realized that I enjoyed teaching high school. When I’m not teaching, I like to read, cook, travel, and now blog!

We actually live in so different distant countries! But we share much, don’t we? What about teaching ? And teaching English literature? Do you like it or would you rather do something else?
Yes, we do share a lot. Teachers share a language that is universal! I think fatigue being the top of that list. (Ha, ha!) I really love teaching English, especially now that I get a chance to really dive into literature with my AP Literature students (AP stands for Advanced Placement), and I’m really looking forward to teaching a Popular Fiction class in the fall. To be honest, I had intended to go on and get my PhD in English, Cultural Studies, but only because I’m so crazy about what we read and study. I think that I’m well suited for high school though, and might reconsider the PhD somewhere down the road, but just not now.

What are best and worst moments in your (our) job?
My best moment was last year when I heard my students had a 74% pass rate on the AP exam. Becuase we had such a poor pass rate at my school, as low as 30%, I had taken on a huge challenge when I accepted to teach the AP Literature classes. I really just wanted the students to have confidence that they could pass, and a good track record is one big way of doing that. With one really good year under my belt, I have high hopes that this year that just concluded will have a great pass rate as well. We’ll see in July!

As for the worst moment? That’s tough. I can’t think of a truly “worst” as being one moment, but can say that during my first year of teaching, I had a burly young man cheat on a vocabulary quiz one time. When he saw that he got a zero because he cheated, he stood up in front of the class and said, “F--- you, Ms. R! F--- you.” The students in the class swung around to look at me with mouths wide open. In my characteristic, sarcastic nature, I simply shuddered and went, “No thank you. Ick.” The class immediately started saying things like, “Oh, snap!” “Dude, you got burned,” etc. He just looked at me confused, so I said, “See. You need to understand what words mean so you don’t make stupid mistakes like that one again. I guess you might just need English?” Now, I didn’t do it to be popular with them, but I did want to diffuse the tension immediately, and downplay what was happening so I could calm him down, and get back to business. The burly boy went down to the office, later apologized to me, and I seemed to have him and my other students with me from that point on. I’m not saying my response was textbook, by any means, but it was honest and in the moment.

You are an avid reader and you often reflect on reading on your blog. What kind of reader are you and what’s reading to you?
I think I’m such an eclectic reader! Although I love ethnic literature and contemporary fiction, I am usually so frazzled that I just want a fast, fun, and engaging escape read. I get bored VERY easily, so am not really one to sit down and read a book in one sitting. I love to read at night, or while soaking in a hot bath (which I absolutely can not do in Hawaii...so I substitute the bath with a beach).

Have you read something recently, you would warmly recommend?
Actually, I really loved Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. I read it over Christmas, and I’m still thinking about it! I also have to say, that as a Jane Austen fan, I really love Sharon Lathan’s Pride and Prejudice novels. I’m not always so thrilled with Austen knock offs, but fell in love with the romantic, honest, adult relationship portrayed. Everyone has their own opinion on the Jane Austen reprisal, and some are better than others, but I love the voice and style of Lathan’s books.

Which is, instead , among your past reads the one you most love re-leafing through from time to time?
Oh, I love rereading! In fact, I just wrote a post on this very thing. I have a group of books I’ll reread every year, or skim through. I recently reread A Hopeless Romantic, Gone With the Wind, scenes from God of Small Things, and of course, the Harry Potter novels, which I’m reading right now.

On my TBR list right now, I have Catching Fire (the second in the Hunger Games trilogy), more in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, The Dead Tossed Waves (follow up to The Forest of Hands and Teeth), the final book in the Luxe series, and the Harry Potter novels. As you can see, most of what I have to read are books I couldn’t fit in during the school year!

We mentioned your blog and blogging is what made us meet. When and why did you start and what did it change in your real life?
I stated One Literature Nut as a place for a couple of friends and I to read and discuss books that would help me prepare to take the GRE Subject Test in English. When I realized I liked teaching high school, I kept posting, sharing books with friends who wanted suggestions, and soon found a community of book bloggers in Utah that really helped me realize that what I was doing was writing a book blog. How was I to know? It sounds silly, but I was oblivious of readers, reviewing for publishers, etc.

As for changing in my real life, am I bad if I say it hasn’t much? I was constantly asked for book recommendations, and I still get those questions but have a place to lead people to for ideas. In a more realisitc sense, in my real life my blog allowed me to read and discuss books that I wouldn’t at school. I share the books I read with my students, but the blog allows me to talk about them.

 What are the pros and cons of blogging according to you?

The pros are the community of great people you meet, as well as their suggestions. I love that friendship, and I’ve come to trust the taste of so many, such as yourself!

I have to say that the cons come from getting too “involved” in everything. That sounds the opposite of what you would say to someone, but it’s been my experience that the more you care about other bloggers popularity, giveaways, etc., the more you move away from what you really wanted to do in your blog in the first place.

From your experience, what do you think the good recipe for a good blogger should be?
Wow. I don’t even know if I’m qualified to answer this! Honestly, the best bloggers are those who love what they are writing about, and have something uniquely their own that shines through on their blog. That unique thing could simply be their writing style and voice, their genre choices, or their creativity in pulling the community together. I love the blogs where the writer comes shining through and I feel like I know what they like and care about.

Apart from reading , teaching and blogging we also share a certain interest for period films. Have you got any very special ones? What’s on your TBS list, instead?

Well North and South is top of my list! I also love all the Jane Austen films, with a special love for Pride and Prejudice, followed very closely by Persuasion. I loved the newest film, Young Victoria, and the newest Tess of the D’Urbervilles put out by the BBC. One last bunch of films I could watch a million times, crazy enough, are the house series put out by BBC and PBS. If you haven’t seen Manor House or Regency House Party, then you really must. Yes, they are reality television programs, but they are so fascinating to watch.

Let’s play at … dreaming! If you might live anywhere else in the world, where would you like to be? And if you had the chance to choose another job, what would you do instead of teaching?
This is SO easy! I would live in Greece, preferably on a Greek island (Santorini or Rhodes would be delightful). I’ve yet to visit Italy though, so I might want to hold off on the final judgment on that though, right?
As for another job, that is hard. I think that being a professional book reviewer/critic would be great. You would still get to read great books, and also publish reviews in print journalism. I’d also like to try out being a college English professor. I’m not sure it’s the type of job that you just “try out” though!

 Before we say goodbye and go back to our summer duties, Becky, is there any question you would like to ask our readers? Any discussion you’d like to propose to commenters?
Well, as you can see, I’m a bit of a wordy girl. How much does a long review or blog post detract from a person reading them? I don’t know that I can change my style, and I really respect the other bloggers who also write fairly chunky posts, and find their posts thoughtful and provoking, but I am curious to know other people’s opinions on this. Do you steer away from reading long posts?

I usually read a post, long or short as it is, if I'm interested in its subject matter, if I'm intrigued by its title or by the pictures in it. So, I'm not steered away from reading long ones.  Thanks, Becky,  for being my guest. Enjoy your holidays and your summer reads. Till very soon on my or your blog!



N.B. Do you remember when I told you I become rather schizofrenic when dealing with the subject "Richard Armitage"? The black/red colours of the text stand for the two "mes"  arguing!

Welcome to RA Friday! 
Not many,  but some news peeped in the Net this week! And  I was just thinking...

What can one do,  while idly and eagerly waiting for news?

News - i.e. RA's performance on stage  (where? when?) ; RA's new Georgette Heyer audiobook (how long do we have still to wait?);  RA's latest interview about Spooks (September? August? Earlier?) ; RA's coming to Italy to present Strike Back at RomeFictionFestival (impossible is nothing!) ; Lucas's ultimate betrayal in Spooks 9 (no, please, Lucas, nooooo)

What can one do,  meanwhile? Just sit and wait and long for time passing by as quickly as possible? No. That's too boring and we RA's girls (of any age) are more talented and resourceful than that. We blog , create vids, read about him, read texts he's probably going to perform in, discuss in forums, on twitter, on FB, write FF, collect pictures of him, photoshop old photos, write fan letters, make friends among us, spread the love for our man lending our DVDs or CDs here and there, watch and re-watch his performances, go on playing  music clips dedicated to him on Utube, and so on. 

What did I personally  do since my last RA Friday?

(How wordy you are, MG! Just say: this week I'm going to tell you about what I've been listening and watching!)

Not so many RA focused activities unfortunately,  since I've been rather busy with school examinations and all the rest ( how boring you are!!! ) but ... well... I spent some (some?!?) time listening to this interview about and this excerpt from The Convenient Marriage audiobook.
I found the interview so interesting! I would listen to RA speaking about his job for hours and  never have enough. He knows how to involve his interlocutors in an intriguing conversation.

(Don't  believe her, Richard! She would just stare at you in adoration,  understanding more or less nothing of what you would be saying!!!)

What else did I do , then? To better reflect on our very interesting, charming speaker's points about the use of the voice in acting , about music related to his job,  about how interesting recording an audiobook may be ( bla, bla, bla... interesting an audiobook be-comes if it is RA to tell you about it, or if it 's  his the voice in it) ,  I decided to transcribe his words. It's not so immediate, nor that simple,  for my foreign ears but , I don't know how, when Richard speaks I get the impression I understand his English more than other native speakers' English (maybe you've got used to his sounds thanks to your daily training?)

This is my transcript. I hope I got everything right. Isn't anything  he says here extremely thorough?

(If you want you can listen to the interview here while reading below)
"Doing an audiobook compared to filming on something like Spooks is quite a contrast, which is exactly the reason I like to do it, because particularly in the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of action stuff so I’m using probably my body more than I do my voice and…. When you’re working on screen, you actually strip out a lot of dialogue so that you can play with the body and the expressions and in an action film the lack of words is sometimes stronger than the actual addition of words. So, this is very different for me and, actually, sitting very still and trying to convey a story with just the voice is a really exciting challenge and a challenge which I possibly do not always succeed at.
Because, the tool is the word so every action, every physical creation is crafted with the word. It makes it much more of a challenge, whereas I think on film, because the camera does the work, the lighting does the work, the facial expression does the work. The word is probably less revered , as is in an audiobook. The challenge to me is to try and bring some of the audio world into what I’m doing on screen so that those words can be as sharp and useful when you can see a face as much as when you can only hear the voice. That’s the paradox, I suppose.
Doing an audiobook for me is exactly where I get myself a little vocal workout, as I haven’t been on stage for a few years. It’s essential for me to remind myself what words do and when you don’t have the essential line that you desperately need, it doesn’t always work on film so , coming to this I find myself bathing in rich superb vocabulary that had been forgotten for me and reminding myself that four words that all mean the same but actually they feel different in the mouth and there is one of them that is the essential word and a writer like Georgette Heyer understands that and uses her words really beautifully.
Music is really important to me and I play…played two instruments, I played the flute and the cello. I think music hits a certain different part of the body and I think it’s to do with the vibration of sound, it just has an effect on your body so I use music a lot with acting. I almost create a soundtrack to anything I’m doing. But also even in the reading of a book like this, sitting down to read, there’s almost an imaginary soundtrack happening in your head , and I don’t know if that’s a result of seeing this kind of work dramatized or whether is something that just happens naturally to us as human beings. But I do think there’s a resonance in music which is also the same in words and actually you can see the progression of the spoken word to the sung word is fascinating because as the character becomes more animated so the vibration in their speech grows and eventually you go into song. It was something we explored quite a lot when I was training as an actor and I find it’s very useful for characterizing voices because you almost have to sing certain voices. I mean, particularly, in this book I think Horatia has a certain musical vibration in her voice so, it’s all working in the same way.
In recent years, I suppose, we’ve grown very used to digital music and we’ve forgotten what is like to go a live event. And, actually you do have to keep reminding yourself that when you hear Beethoven on your Ipod it’s just not the same as going to a live venue and hearing it with the vibration because most places are acoustically built and it’s made of wood and it’s very natural. It has an immense effect on your emotions. And actually I think it’s the same with text, when you go to a play and you hear a voice speaking Shakespeare, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it on screen, it’s just different when it’s live, it has much more impact on you."

  Did you get the vibration? (I bet you did too, MG! It was not live, but you did!)  There are some nuances in his voice and certain intonations in his way of speaking  which ... (but , why don't you finish your sentences? You don't dare say what you were thinking about?!? )  ... well ... see previous posting about RA's voice . 

Last week I re-watched Ultimate Force to compare SAS Ian/Richard to SAS John/Richard and I'm still haunted by the experience that awful  damn  freezer scene! I hate Henno and all his mates!)
This week I decided I might watch Richard in the few things with him I haven't seen yet. Since my spare time was very little,  I just managed to watch In Divine Proportion ( 90 min.), one of  the episodes in  the Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2005) in which RA is Philip Turner. It was his first TV appearance after North and South.
Not bad.  I noticed again how much Richard (our gorgeous man) has improved  his look recently and greatly appreciated his performance, every minute of it. I've even summed - up the about 20 min. of his presence in a clip.

 In "In Divine Proportion" Richard Armitage plays Philip Turner,  a fascinating country gentleman, bankrupt and haunted by his past, who aspires to nothing and gets on stuck in the little Suffolk village he was born in. 

Philip was having an affair with Samantha Walthew -  a married woman who had just bought his family's manor house to start a restaurant and whom he had known since they were children -  when she was  found murdered just outside her house. Philip was the last person to see her alive ...
To fully appreciate Richard's subtle  performing art  in the few scenes he has in this episode,  you should re-watch them after you've got to the end and understood everything:  everything Philip hides in his past and is trying to hide from the police and even to himself.  Stunning. As always,  he conveys so much in few, quick, rather  imperceptible (not to our eyes!) gestures, facial epressions, nuances of the voice. If you've got some spare time while waiting for news,  if you  do not remember Richard/Philip in Lynley Mysteries or if you  have never seen this episode, take a look at my  clip below (but you are warned... major spoilers!!!)


Till next week,  then . Take care and enjoy your weekend.
Hugs & a new (the latest!) RA pic

...  from MG (and from me!)



Me & Book Groups - A complex quest for an idillic relationship
I’ve been engaged in a group reading of Jane Austen’s major works in the last six-months, as many of you already know, I guess. I was not the one who had the idea , I was invited as a JA’s lover to lead and moderate the club. The activity was suggested by one of the lady-librarians in the public library  and had to be Jane Austen focused. Each month one of her major novels. I liked the idea so much when she contacted me that I immediately accepted. The ups and downs of our group are told in my journal of the meetings on My Jane Austen Book Club. The fact is that book groups have started haunting me, well, more precisely I’ve become a little obsessed. You thought I was a bit fixated with Richard Armitage? Incorrect. Not only with him. I have many interests, few obsessions and one weakness. For instance, I’m often  surfing the Net to know more about book clubs so that I can read about  reading groups, I’m interested in other bloggers’ ideas and impressions about "group reading". I also re-watch The Jane Austen Book Club from time to time (lovely comedy!) 
While surfing the Net for some reasons of the said, I discovered the existence of  this Brit TV series , shown on Channel 4 between 2001-03,  and I was so curious to see it! So curious that I  did it. Just the first series , though. Might this  help me to improve my own group?

Channel 4 The Book Group - Sex, Drug, Football  ... what about books?

Quirky comedy, six episodes and rather  unknown-but-good actors and actresses (at least to me!) this series is set in Scotland, Glasgow, and turns around a group of completely different people who gather together in a Book Group: the earnest wheelchair-user Kenny;  uptight  depressive mother-haunted American Claire who starts the group to meet new people;  football fetishist  gay Rab;  eccentric , intellectual but perpetual student , and drug-addicted Barney; frustrated wife of a Scottish footballer, Janice; and finally definitely shallow Fist (Dutch) and Dirka (Swedish) both married to footballers and really bored by their lives.

At the time of the airing the two series of The Book Group  proved to be a favourite with critics. They also regularly drew a respectable audience of more than 2 million viewers . What was my reaction? At first ... disorientation, since these people  meet to discuss a book but actually never succeed in discussing it properly, since most of the action is not based on books, since I expected something totally different . However, after that first moment of astonishment, I started liking it because it was...it was... quirk , as I said, and so different from any other series I had seen so far. I started liking the absurd situations narrated and just enjoying the odd twists reserved to the audience. The ill-assorted mix of people and their interaction was just amusing and entertaining but it also stimulated  my my emotional involvement , my sympathy  for that  unlucky bunch of mates.

In fact, essentially it's a look at several unhappy characters, they're all unhappy, or insecure, or sexually frustrated in some way, and the combined misery of all the members of this 'book group' all seem to clash in every meeting they have. The first series all dealt with each one's attempts to hit onto each other one; Claire was in love with Barney, Kenny in love with Claire, Dirka & Fist both in love with Kenny... Don't worry, it is not only that,  it is also a good character study and fun-poking at some of the most depressing and heart-breaking human emotions. It's black comedy, it makes you laugh even though there's nothing funny about it.
I've found this clip of one of the most entertaining scenes in Ututbe. The writer of the book they have decided to read this month is hidden and listening to their absurd discussion about his own novel ( he's got an affair with Janice, one of the group, the one who is holding the meeting in her luxurious home) . He can't bear the fact that they got everything wrong and ... Just have a look if you've got some time!

You can get the DVD at a very low price and have some fun if you feel like . The series is fresh and original, with black humour, very witty writing and a sense of the absurd intermixed. It's well worth a look! So distant from my period /costume film standard? You're right . So what? I myself find myself so ... unforeseeable at times!



Sir Guy of Gisborne is a fierce , brooding knight. He is both feared and scorned by those under his command. But under his harsh exterior is a lonely soul, haunted by his many sins ...
Cassia is a peasant with a gift for healing... and a secret longing for the feared lord Gisborne. When fate thrusts him into her hands, she quickly learns that he lives up to his dark reputation. But she also discovers there is more to him than meets the eye...

These are the protagonists of THE TEMPEST , A GUY OF GISBORNE STORY , a novel I asked the author herself to introduce to you not long ago. Sarah Pawley, pen-name Charlotte Hawkins. Do you remember my interview with her ? And there was also a double giveaway of the book on that occasion. I received it directly from Sarah, it arrived last Friday by mail and I couldn't resist reading it at the weekend since I was fascinating by the idea of  a story in which the unfortunate fate of Gisborne had been changed. After watching BBC Robin Hood for 3 series and Richard Armitage's stunning performance as  evil black leather-cad Guy, it is impossible not to recognize him in this story. Sarah said she was partly inspired by Richard's Gisborne while writing her story but I must disagree: her hero is totally and utterly the Sir Guy we so well know with  his smirks and frownings, his evil glares and his looks of contempt.

Just read this brief excerpt: "His arms were crossed, his broad shoulders hunched. His head was lowered, causing the unruly waves of his dark hair to fall forward, almost covering his eyes. Except for the red and gold coat of arms etched upon his surcoat, he was dressed entirely in black. His long legs took up great strides as he moved back and forth, giving him the likeness of a prowling panther. Impatience was written in every line of his face and figure..."
Does that remind you of ... anyone? I couldn't avoid thinking of Gisborne, waiting  for the same bride, Lady Marian. Well,  yes, also at the beginning of "The Tempest" Gisborne is going to marry Marian and is waiting for her at the altar. But  apparently and at first,   the story  goes on like in the series while in the following pages the mocked man's initial disappointment  becomes furious anger, Marian is imprisoned for her betrayal and things start turning out to be very different after a while. Very different from the story we know, I mean.

Fan Fiction is a trend I've  only lately discovered thanks to friends and  blogofriends . It's quite an interesting, fascinating world, made of infinite variables. It is, first of all ,  great fun. It makes the fictional characters you love - from films, TV series and books - go on living in other stories, beyond  the words "the end", beyond the last word in the last printed page. And when in these sequels or  spin-off stories you find your heroes and heroines get what they deserved , but coudln't have in the original tale, well , you feel very  satisfied,  at last.
This is what happens to Gisborne here: he got his redemption thanks to a woman's love, he discovers what being loved means and how being appreciated and not feared makes you feel happy.
I particularly like the first half of the novel, where Guy keeps his bold,  cheeky , quite ill-tempered self that causes amusing skirmishes between him and Cassia. Quite amusing,  until everything becomes  different: a passionate love story.

Warning. The adult content juxtaposed to the mind  projection of  a certain familiar T(all) D(ark) H(andsome) bloke can make  female readers become very, very naughty and start dreaming very, very naughty things.
May serious literature teachers like stuff like this? After reading huge quantities of Austen, Victorian literature, commited writers and the like? Yes, they can find them delightfully sinful! Ehm... let's go back to seriousness.

Serious enough?

Let's have a look at the heroine now. She's proud, stubborn, strong-willed, brave and extremely beautiful of course. And she loves Gisborne devoutedly, even before she actually meets him (Have you ever loved at a distance? ) She's loyal to him and manages his aggressiveness without being scared of him . She can see beyond his rough surface, directly to his wounded haunted soul longing for love. They are just a perfect match. Too perfect to be true? They are , in fact, romantic fictional characters created to help readers dream, escape, amuse themselves.
From perfection,  we come to the flaws...

  • Some scenes - and unfortunately even the language used in them - sound rather repetitive

  • Too many happy twists make the story fairy-tale-like

  • The pace in  the second half of the novel is too slow (I'd have shortened it if I had found it difficult to prolong and sustain the"tempest" of emotions which characterizes the first chapters )

  • The characters (especially the 2 protagonists)  in the final part of the story become unbelievably good, positive, generous and sound rather flat (according to E.M. Forster's definition of characters as round/flat)
Guy's relationship with the sheriff (here, Wiliam Briwere) is based on strong dependence, awe and subjection . Cassia's bond to her father (Robert De Warren) is based on love, loyalty and obedience. But when they meet and hit it off with each other,  they are ready to forget and break any other tie in their lives forever... What will happen to the happy couple after the last word printed on the last page of this novel?

There's already an answer since Sarah has recently posted the first pages of her new novel, REBEL MINE ,  which is a sequel to THE TEMPEST, on her blog ( HERE) . A promising beginning, full of tenderness and joy. What is going to spoil that perfect idillic family picture? I'm eagerly waiting to know.


Check Sarah's blog, From the Quill Tip, there's a giveaway ending on July 6th. Leave your comment there + your e-mail address. You have a double chance to win a copy of The Tempest.  You'll get it directly from the author with a very personal dedication.




1995 or 2007? Amanda Root or Sally Hawkins? Ciaràn Hinds or Rupert Penry-Jones?

Which one in each pair do you prefer?

I honestly refuse to choose 'cause I liked them all -  though in a different way.

Read my post on My Jane Austen Book Club for the Jane in June event.



Villette was the only one I hadn’t read yet among Charlotte Bronte’s novels. I’m glad I’ve done it because it really completes my vision of her work. I quite liked it, more than Shirley and the Professor, but less than Jane Eyre. It is a complex, fascinating novel.
As Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College, states in her introduction to my edition of Villete (Wordsworth Classics, 1993) , it is really two novels. One encountered on first reading (false starts, ambiguous endings, double names and identities, gothic excitements and Dickensian coincidences, some romance and undoubted pain) and the other one recognizable only at a second reading.
Kate Millet in her Sexual Politics considered this novel even  too subversive to be popular.



Lucy Snowe, a young Englishwoman of the educated class, narrates the story of her life—in a particularly partisan and sometimes unreliable manner. She is left destitute after the death of her mysterious family and, after briefly being a nurse-companion, takes herself off on a blind, daring trip to the Continent. She goes to the kingdom of Labassecour (perhaps modeled on Belgium) and, through a series of very fortunate occurrences, manages to land herself a job and a place to live on her first night in the town of Villette. She becomes a nursery governess to the three daughters of the proprietress of a large school for girls. During her time as the bonne d'enfants, she impresses her employer, Madame Beck, with her modesty and excellent English. She is elevated to the position of English teacher, though she has no qualifications for it and has a poor command of the French language spoken in Villette. Lucy, however, comes to excel at teaching and to love it.

Dr. John Graham Bretton, a friend of Lucy’s in her childhood, also happens to be working in Villette. Their paths cross, but he does not recognize her. During this time Lucy and a student at Madame Beck's, Ginevra Fanshawe, become friends, and Lucy learns of Ginevra's secret suitors. One of them is Dr. John, for whom Lucy has also formed an attachment. Ginevra is fickle and selfish, and Lucy cannot understand how Ginevra could prefer another (the Count De Hamal) to her adored Dr. John. Meanwhile, the imperious and difficult M. Paul, a professor of literature, is paying Lucy attention, but chiefly to admonish her and instruct her about what he considers proper conduct for a young lady.

Two more friends from Lucy's childhood, Paulina Home and her father, now live in Villette. Mr. Home has inherited a title and a fortune, and he and his daughter live in fine style. Paulina (Polly), who is younger than both Dr. John and Lucy, stayed with the Brettons when a young child and formed an interestingly adult attachment to Dr. John. Dr. John, who was enamored of Polly's flighty cousin Ginevra, now transfers his affections to the seventeen-year-old.

During this time Lucy is visited by a spectral nun, said to the be the shade of a sister buried alive in the garden when Madame Beck's school was a convent. Lucy learns that M. Paul, with whom she has had several battles but has formed a friendship, was engaged to be married twenty years ago to a woman named Justine Marie. Because of debts and the unforeseen death of M. Paul's father, the two were unable to marry, and she died very young in a convent. M. Paul supports Justine's family in a house with a priest named Pere Silas. Lucy also learns that M. Paul lives quietly in two rooms at a nearby boys' college, keeping no servants.

Lucy and M. Paul become very good friends, and he calls her his sister. At one moment, however, Lucy thinks that perhaps M. Paul feels more strongly for her. He tries to convert her to Catholicism, but Lucy is a truly faithful believer in the Protestant faith of her upbringing, and becoming a Catholic for her is not possible. Though the two finally come to some agreement on the relative worth of their faiths, it is clear that Lucy's Protestantism will keep her from ever being M. Paul's wife. Pere Silas and Madame Beck counsel M. Paul that marriage to Lucy is an impossibility, and M. Paul decides he must go to Guadalupe to take care of some business interests of Madame Malravens.

Dr. John and Polly fall in love. They exchange letters, hoping to become engaged. M. de Bassompierre is against letting his daughter go, but he eventually relents. The couple marry and are happy, having many healthy children. Ginevra, formerly loved by Dr. John, is now jealous and dislikes her cousin Polly.

M. Paul and Lucy fall in love, but she is not a Catholic, and the decision has already been made for him to leave. Before he goes he is very mysterious and does not see Lucy until the night before his departure. He has procured a house for her to set up a new school so that she may be independent and wait for him to return from Guadalupe. They exchange pledges of love, and M. Paul leaves.

Ginevra has been seeing the Count De Hamal secretly. He has been visiting her at the school dressed as the spectral nun. On the night Ginevra elopes with the Count, it is revealed to Lucy that the ghostly visitation was nothing other than Count De Hamal in disguise. Lucy is relieved that she has never seen a ghost.

Lucy leaves the school and prospers at her own school while she waits for M. Paul's return. She receives an unexpected legacy from an old friend, with which she turns her day school into a boarding school. The ending of the novel is ambiguous, but it is implied that M. Paul dies in a shipwreck on his way home. Lucy lives out her life alone, at least comforted by the memory of love.


Lucy Snowe is a great enigma. One of the most complex and undefinable female characters of my many literary reads. Like in Jane Eyre, one of her main features is solitude, loneliness. But this is easy to recognize.

"I kept up well till I had partaken of some refreshment, warmed myself by the fire, and was fairly shut into my own room; but as I sat down by the bed and rested my head and arms on the pillow, a terrible oppression overcame me. All at once my position rose on me like a ghost. Anomalous, desolate, almost blank of hope, it stood. What was I doing here alone in great London? What should I do on the morrow? What prospects had I in life? What friends had I on earth? Where did I come? Whither should I go? What should I do?"

More difficult is to draw a definite portrayal of her . She is shadowy, so not easy to be perceived distinctively. So shadowy that her rname is only revealed in chapter 11. She herself as a narrator doesn’t easily find a way to tell us about what she really likes, thinks, wants. Who is she actually? It seems she doesn't mind to be seen as M. Paul Emanuel sees her, but she also likes being discreet as a shadow in Dr Bretton’s eyes .

“What contradictory attributes of character we sometimes find ascribed to us, according to the eye with which we are viewed! Madame Beck esteemed me learned and blue; Miss Fanshawe, caustic, ironic and cynical; Mr Home, a model teacher, the essence of the sedate and discreet: somewhat conventional perhaps, too strict, limited and scrupulous, but still the pink and pattern of governees- correctness; whilst another person, Professor Paul Emanuel, to wit, never lost an opportunityof intimating his opinion that mine was rather a fiery and rash nature – adventurous, indocile, and audacious. I smiled at them all. If any one knew me it was little Paulina Mary.”

She’s even rather unreliable as a narrator. She disguises feelings, facts and hides people’s real identities . She only unveils the truth when she decides it is time in the story. But she is painfully honest to herself and to the others as a character in the same story.
Surely she’s strong – willed, independent and passionate.Though, somewhere on line , I’ve read a review which considered her cold and unsentimental - hence her surname , Snowe. Instead , I think she is capable of conceiling and dominate her feelings which, anyway, are there deeply rooted inside her. I can’t see her as detached,  if not apparently. She’s capable of great sufference , on the contrary, and can be very sympathetic with those she likes and loves. She can also dislike and despise, but never hate.

She dearly love John Graham Bretton and is loyal, grateful and affectionate to awkward , brooding M. Emanuel. She likes Mrs Bretton, her god-mother, and M. Home,  Paulina’s father. She needs to be loved and appreciated, she longs for it, but she seems not to care, she seems to prefer to remain in the shadow.

Lucy's interior battle , most of the time, is between wanting to remain in shadow and wanting to be lit up in brilliance. Before Mme Beck's fete, the girls of the pensionat at which she is an English maitresse assemble to be coiffed, dressed and arrayed. Lucy is swept up in their activities and reflects:
"In beholding this diaphanous and snowy mass, I well remember feeling myself to be a mere shadowy spot on a field of light; the courage was not in me to put on a transparent white dress: something thin I must wear - the weather and rooms being too hot to give substantial fabrics sufferance, so I had sought through a dozen shops till I lit upon a crape-like material of purple-gray - the colour, in short, of dun mist, lying on a moor in bloom. My tailleuse had kindly made it as well as she could: because, as she judiciously observed, it was 'si triste - si peu voyant', care in the fashion was the more imperative: it was well she took this view of the matter, for I had no flower, no jewel to relieve it: and, what was more, I had no natural rose of complexion.We become oblivious of these deficiencies in the uniform routine of daily drudgery, but they will force upon us their unwelcome blank on those bright occasions when beauty should shine.
However, in this same gown of shadow, I felt at home and at ease; an advantage I should not have enjoyed in anything more brilliant or striking.

Shadows will haunt Lucy throughtout this story. She is comfortable in her "gown of shadow" , comfortable so long as it is of her own choice. She refuses to become Paulina's , Miss de Bassompiere’s,  companion maid.

“I was no bright lady's shadow - not Miss de Bassompierre's. Overcast enough it was my nature often to be; of a subdued habit I was: but the dimness and depression must both be voluntary - such as kept me docile at my desk, in the midst of my now well-accustomed pupils in Madame Beck's first classe; or alone, at my own bedside, in her dormitory, or in the alley and seat which were called mine, in her garden: my qualifications were not convertible, nor adaptable; they could not be made the foil of any gem, the adjunct of any beauty, the appendage of any greatness in Christendom”

However,  a shadowy nature imposed is repugnant to her . When Graham, the golden idol of her heart, calls her an "inoffensive shadow," she remarks:

I smiled; but I also hushed a groan. Oh! - I just wished he would let me alone - cease allusion to me. These epithets - these attributes I put from me. His 'quiet Lucy Snowe,' his 'inoffensive shadow,' I gave him back; not with scorn, but with extreme weariness: theirs was the coldness and the pressure of lead: let him whelm me with no such weight.

When she is forced to come out of shadow wearing a less misty colour, a horrifyingly pink dress. Upon going to a concert with Graham and his mother, she ‘s almost terrified:

"I thought I should not: I thought no human force should avail to put me into it. A pink dress! I knew it not. It knew not me. I had not proved it.

Without any force at all, I found myself led and influenced by another's will, unconsulted, unpersuaded, quietly over-ruled. In short, the pink dress went on, softened by some drapery of black lace. I was pronounced to be en grande ténue, and requested to look in the glass. I did so with some fear and trembling; with more fear and trembling, I turned away. Seven o'clock struck; Dr. Bretton was come; my godmother and I went down. She was clad in brown velvet; as I walked in her shadow, how I envied her those folds of grave, dark majesty!"

As I wrote in another of my posts for the All About The Brontes Challenge, Gothic Brontes,  gothic elements are recurrent in the three sister's novels from Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights, from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to Villette (though I didn't mention Villette because I hadn't read it yet).

For example, on the night of Miss Marchmont's death, Lucy takes a storm as a portent of that event. Lucy philosophizes that the unsettled weather, coupled with news of catastrophic events in distant places, often predicts calamity at home. This Shakespearean or classical view of weather borders on ideas of the supernatural, implying that the weather and planet-wide events either predict or affect individual human activities. Storms and weather reflect the action of the book in many instances: Lucy's collapse in the Basse-Ville is in a terrible rainstorm, the coldness of the snowstorm outside enters Lucy's heart when she first beholds the growing closeness between Polly and Dr. John, and so on.
In Chapter XII, instead , an allusion to an old ghost story prefaces a gaze at the moon, a violent storm, and an important meeting between Dr. John and Lucy. The ghostly visitations of a nun  (though in the end we know their cause) in the attic and garden are meant to show Lucy's own inner fears as well as her ability to face down, bravely, what could send others into hysteria. While Brontë never crosses into the truly preternatural or magical realm (by never asserting that anything supernatural is true), it is clear that Lucy believes that these events are pertinent to the course of human affairs. These supernatural references often serve as metaphors for something unsaid but tacitly acknowledged, like Lucy's buried life or Miss Marchmont's fury at God.


There are so many things more  I might have said about this read but I think my posting is already too long . Such a complex, fascinating novel deserves a second and even a third reading in time as well as other reflections and thoughts.

I want to conlude my analysis sharing with you a quote from the interesting introduction to my edition.
Dr Minogue says:
“Villette will continue to disturb and subvert., not only through its revolutionary examination of female identity, but in its representation of the shifting nature of human identity, its hiddenness, the final unknowableness of one human being to another. That it is able at the same time to make the reader feel the deepest sympathy both for those who float easily on life’s surface and for those who struggle bravely with life’s painis C. Bronte’s consummate achievement.”


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