Hello, everybody! Happy Halloween Sunday! Here I am to announce the names of the two lucky winners who will get a free copy of this awesome historical novel, THE WEDDING SHROUD by Australian author Elisabeth Storrs. Have you read my interview?

Here's briefly the plot of the novel:

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs. Leaving behind a righteous society, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a mystical, hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as a chance to persuade the Gods to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies. Exploring themes of destiny versus self-determination and tolerance versus prejudice, The Wedding Shroud is a novel that vividly captures a historical time and place while shining a light on the lives of women of the ancient world.

Here we go now with the names you are waiting for... the first copy goes to a whole family...

 carol ann, emily elisaBeth and rebecca catherine olivia

and the second one to ...

 Teddy Rose 

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!!! And thanks a lot to Elisabeth Storrs for her kindness and generous giveaway.



I'd give him a Bafta! What about you?
I saw this week’s episode at my friend’s house on Tuesday evening. It was a special occasion but I was so anxious that I missed a lot  of what was said. I  had to re-watch it for a second time at home, on  my computer and with headphones on not to miss one word and I realized I really had missed much! Richard Armitage was impeccable in each frame.  Well done,  Richard! I bit all my nails but it was worth it. This is not what I wanted for Lucas but … such a gripping episode! After seeing it for the second time I wrote down some of my thoughts. I’m not back  home yet and didn’t have the possibility  to read other comments  or reviews so, maybe, you’ve already read similar things somewhere else. Anyway, I warn you. These are just my impressions in no special order , not on every detail in the episode and, mind you, there are several spoilers!!! So if you want to avoid them, just avoid reading.

That is a spiteful look! He's ready to kill him ...
“Either he is too good or he is paranoid”, American Mr Beecher says of Lucas .  "Maybe both" , Harry . None of them, actually. He is just and simply desperate. “He is in trouble”, Ruth says. And Ruth,  as usual, is right. Lucas /John is definitely  in trouble.
In the first scene his look is a mixture of desperation and sorrow (see the first picture above) His voice, whispered and broken, is perfect to convey helplessness. This is how Richard opens this episode . An unforgettable,  touching opening scene. As we are carried away into the whirlpool of emotions,  Lucas becomes more and more crossed: Vaughn has been using his love for Maya to hit him, to blackmail him.
“This was between you and me. Why are you doing this to me?”
“You can’t blackmail someone whose life has no value”, he answers.
This is something terrible to say, but it must be terribly true: Lucas/John would have risked his own life to oppose Vaughn . It would have been useless to blackmail him. But now it’s different, he is totally in Vaughn’s  power because of Maya. He wants nothing to happen to Maya. He will do anything, ANYTHING, to protect her.
Surprise, surprise! Look who's back!
 Richard’s expressions , his use of every single facial feature and of his incredible voice, are awesome, excellent, brilliant. 

Music? Sometimes you just stop hearing it ...

As you can see, I’m first of all trying to convince myself that what is going to happen to “our” Lucas doesn’t matter. My attempt is to rationalize my anxiety  and disappointment. I’m honest I won’t be calm and relaxed while watching the next two episodes for what I’ve seen and heard  I’m sure I’ll be sitting on the edge of the chair and nail biting all the time. Just as it happened while watching this episode However,  I decided that from now on I’ll let the story, the plot, to carry me completely away. I want to fully enjoy the emotions the whole cast,, but especially Richard, are going to give us .They are all at their best and this season has been  terrific so far!
With a blond girl, in a wood but ... nothing romantic

Back to this week's adventures. Danielle Ortiz. I pitied her, poor girl. Her chit chat was amusing, she is smart and sensitive and immediately feels something is wrong with the James Bond who should protect her. She doesn’t trust him at all. And she’s right.  But the sequence of scenes with Lucas and Danielle together are important to have a glimpse at John fragile humanity. He is not a cold killer, this is what we can perceive. Once he is given the order to kill an unarmed civilian he does whatever is in his power to disobey the order.
But when he understands that girl alive and what she has discovered about him will be too dangerous to him , he calls for an ambulance  after turning off the mobile and wait for her to die, whispering sweet consoling words in her ear and taking her in his arms. OMG, what a thrilling scene!

Thrilling and touching
 In the sequence Lucas/Danielle, there’s also a quotation of the Hobbit. Danielle says to Lucas: “So what’s your big secret, James (she goes on calling him James – Bond - till things turn very badly for her, then she calls him Lucas) . Or shall I just tell your bosses about our pit-stop here at Hobbit country?”

Better to start thinking about future gratifications: The Hobbit will be a great occasion to enjoy of Richard's huge talent. Meanwhile, the next two episodes of Spooks will be both suffering and excitement for all of us. Little space for hope but we can bet on a cliffhanger.
Have you seen the trailer of 0907? I can’t stop thinking about Harry’s words  and Lucas/John's desperation in those few minutes: “Betrayal is a cancer. Let it eat your soul, not mine”. Are you sure Harry?

Have a great weekend, friends! Monday is not far... ready for whatever  is expecting us and,  especially, Lucas / John? Cheers! MG



If you,  like me,  have always loved Mr Rochester, maybe you won't love this book. But , to be honest, I  must say this is such a well written novel that its author must be forgiven. In "La Bambinaia Francese", Bianca Pitzorno has turned Rochester, my Mr Rochester , into a horrible, wicked,  unbearable character. Better to tell you the whole truth: in this story he is a racist, a class system supporter,  a misogynist as well as a grumpy, violent man with no hope for redemption.
But, though suffering for my Mr Rochester, I must also add that being very good, very well written,   this novel should be translated into English so that the many fans of Charlotte Bronte's  "Jane Eyre" might have the possibility to evaluate this original outlook on their favourite hero and heroine. 
The Plot
The story takes place in Paris in 1832 On a winter evening Sophie, 9 years old, knocks at Céline Verens’s dooor. Céline is the étoile at Paris opera house. The little girl wants to deliver the shirts her mother sewed in the humble attic they lived in at Montmartre. It’s the beginning of a close friendship between the dancer and the poor orphan . Through the years Sophie becomes the favourite pupil of an old enlighted noble man who survived the French Revolution and the following disillusionment  of the Empire and the Restoration.
In the school run by this man, who is curiously called Citizen Marquis Sophie the most extravagant and miscellaneous group of pupils, but her favourite one is Haitian Toussaint, a little black slave given to her benefactress  Céline by her lover , an English  gentleman , Eduard  Rochester.
 Together, Toussaint (Tussì)  and  Sophie grow up  and learn the importance of education, knowledge, reading and writing as well as  the respect for the others , all of them, whatever is their origin, race and class. Together they face every kind of dangerous adventure, first in France then in England, to save their  protector from their persecutors and  and little Adéle, her daughter, from the disquieting mysteries of Thornfield Hall. 

The latest Jane Eyre: Mia Wasikowska

A book full of books

Bianca Pitzorno wrote that this novel was the result of her personal reflections of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847) that she read and loved when she was 15. She said she wished to re-write it from a different point of view since she noticed some incongruences, though she considered it a real masterpiece : the proud, obstinate, independent little girl Jane, after fighting to survive at Lowood School , becomes a cold, detached governess to little Adèle. Then she didn't like theprotrait of little Adéle as  frivolous and shallow .

But this is a book full of ... books.  To prepare to the task of writing her "La bambinaia francese",  she read and researched a lot. Her main sources were all Charlotte Bronte's works, especially Jane Eyre and Villette. But also The Great Sargasso Sea.
In this novel you'll also find a bit of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Mary Wollstonecraft's ideals on women's rights and , her dauther's (Mary Shelley) original Gothic novel, Frankenstein. Ms Pitzorno also declares she freely  borrowed characters from Dickens's Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities. 
And then , many essays from Rousseau and about slavery, on children's educaton in 19th century. 
I'm afraid many of you won't be able to read this book.  We'd need a publisher interested in a good translation! It has only been published in Italian! 



Elisabeth Storrs has long had a passion for the history, myths and legends of the ancient world.
She graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts Law, majoring in English and having studied Classics. She lives with her husband and two sons in Sydney and over the years has worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer, senior manager and company secretary. At present she runs a consultancy business advising companies on corporate governance.
Elisabeth's first novel, The Wedding Shroud, is set in early Rome and Etruria, and was researched and written over a period of ten years.It was released last September by Murdock Books in Australia and New Zealand She is currently writing the sequel which will be released by Pier 9 / Murdoch Books in 2012. 

Read my interview with Elisabeth Storrs and leave your comment and e-mail address. Two of you will have the chance to win this beautiful historical novel. The giveaway is open worldwide and will end next Sunday 30th October.

Welcome and thank you, Elisabeth. My first question is influenced by my  living very near  the  area of Italy you’ve chosen as your setting, ... how comes that an Australian authoress writes a novel set in Ancient  Etruria in the 5th century BC?
First of all I want to thank you for asking me to be a guest on your blog considering I don’t write historical fiction set in Regency or Victorian times (although I enjoy reading it very much.) As for being an Australian writer with a book set in early Italy, I think ancient Rome captures the imagination of so many people all over the world. I studied classics at school and university and fell in love with classical literature and ancient history. Over ten years ago I discovered the world of Etruria and became an immediate Etruscophile. 

Did you study a lot or did you travel a lot to prepare yourself to write the historical background of your story?
I would love to say that I spent years travelling through Tuscany and Lazio to research Etruscan history. Instead I spent over ten years studying Etruria and early Rome through ancient and modern sources. The great thing was that when I finally was able to travel to Italy I found that the beautiful landscape around the site of the ancient Etruscan city of Veii (where part of the book is set) was exactly as I’d imagined. It was a moment of deep happiness for me.

 The ancient war between Rome and Veii is ancient history very little known to many Italians too. What was there in that decadent Etruscan world that fascinated you?
The Wedding Shroud is set in the late C5th BC when Athens was a leading light for its democracy, philosophy, literature and art, and where the nascent Republican Rome was still scrapping with its Latin neighbours for supremacy in Italy. In that time women were possessions of men. In Athens they were cloistered into women’s quarters, and in Rome they were second class citizens restricted to household duties. Roman women rarely dined with their men and could be killed with impunity by the husbands and fathers for adultery or for drinking wine. When they died, they were placed in a man’s tomb, and were not commemorated.
And with that in mind, I discovered a photograph of a C6thBC sarcophagus of a life size man and woman reclining on their bed in a tender embrace. I was blown away! I had to know who these people were and what kind of society would depict both a man and a woman in such a sensuous pose.
The answer led me to the Etruscans, a race that had lived in Italy from before archaic times and were situated in the area we now know as Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria but whose influence spread from the Po Valley in the north and down to Campania in the south. It also had trading interests that extended across the Mediterranean from France to northern Africa.
The Etruscans were as enlightened as the Athenians but there was one major difference – they afforded independence, education and sexual freedom to women, and as a result, were considered wicked and corrupt by the rest of the ancient world.
I wanted to write about these amazing people who had long been the enemy of Rome. And that’s when I discovered the little known story of the war between Rome and Etruscan Veii. These cities were located only twelve miles apart across the Tiber, and it intrigued me that just by crossing a strip of water you could move from what was the equivalent of the Dark Ages into something similar to the Renaissance. So I created Caecilia, a young Roman girl who is married to an Etruscan man from Veii to seal a truce. And she travels to Veii and is tempted by all the freedoms I’ve mentioned while also discovering a mystical religion that gives her the chance to delay her destiny.

Caecilia, the protagonist of your book, shares the destiny of many a woman in ancient times. She’s married to a man she doesn’t love, well, she doesn’t even know. Even worse , a man from an opposing world, completely different from hers.  What kind of heroine is she? How does she cope with her difficult married life?
Caecilia travels from an austere, intolerant and self righteous culture into a hedonistic society that slowly seduces her with pleasure and independence while forcing her to grapple with conflicting moralities, especially when she discovers there are darker aspects to her husband and his people.  At first Caecilia is very resistant to change and keeps comparing the Etruscans unfavorably to Romans, but as she discovers the freedoms that are offered her, she slowly comes to the realization that life isn’t as black and white as she thought and that Roman religion may not be the only way to worship the gods. She is a very strong character who has to overcome the constant fear of being held a hostage to war. In doing she learns there is a difference between merely enduring and adapting in order to survive – and even to thrive.

 Is your novel just an adventurous tale in an ancient exotic setting or do you analyze any theme in particular?
The Wedding Shroud explores themes of sexuality in the ancient world, tolerance vs prejudice, destiny vs self determination and also examines the different lives of women who lived in ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. 

  You are a solicitor, a lawyer. At present you run  a consultancy business advising companies on corporate governance. How did you cope with writing being so fully engaged with another demanding profession?
I started writing twenty years ago when I first had my two sons. I wrote another novel that didn’t get published, and then started writing The Wedding Shroud. It took me four years to write the first version, and then, after numerous rejections I set about rewriting it with a different voice, style and altered plot. Six years later it was accepted for publication after many, many edits. I knew I had to be disciplined if I wanted to finish the book. The way I achieved this was by always setting a time, date and place in my diary to write. I started off writing 2 - 4 hours a week by hiring young local kids to babysit my kids. As my boys grew older, I was able to fit more time to write into my week. Juggling a career, family (and a neurotic dog) is always a challenge but writing is my passion. It is my way of escaping the stresses of the everyday world and so I always make sure I keep the appointment in my diary. I guess it’s a case of ‘from little things big things grow.’

 Is your The Wedding Shroud going to be translated ? An Italian version would be interesting.
I’d love my novel to be translated into Italian! I would need to find an Italian publisher though. I think it would be amazing to have my story read by the people who live in a place I’ve imagined for such a long time.

 What kind of reader are you? What kind of books do you like reading?
I am quite ecletic in my reading, but of course I love historical fiction about any era such as those written currently by Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant and Phillipa Gregory. I particularly liked Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia (that’s why I was so excited when she agreed to endorse my book!) I also think Margaret Atwood is fantastic. Another favourite novelist of mine is DH Lawrence. (He was a mad Etruscophile too.) My all time idol, though, is Mary Renault who wrote novels set in Classical Greece. Her book, Fire from Heaven, was one of the ‘lost’ 1970 Mann Booker Prize novels.

 Are you working on another novel at the moment?
Yes, I’m very excited that my publisher, Murdoch Books, has asked me to write the sequel to The Wedding Shroud. I’m already onto chapter 5. I have to increase my work rate though. The book is planned to be released in early 2012 - so I don’t have ten years to write this one!

 If you could time travel, what historical period and where would you like to live? Would you set your next novel in that era?
That’s an interesting question. I’d like to return to classical times (C5th – C4th BC) but whenever I think of whether I’d like to go back to that period I’m always conscious that it would be hard to live as a woman there because of the lack of equality.  So I guess I’d be happy to be a ‘time tourist’ but not actually live in ancient times. Of course Etruria, Rome and Troy would be the first places on my itinerary – and will also be the settings for any other books I write. As for living in Tuscany or Lazio now – well let me just check if my passport is up to date…. 

We understand that you are fond of history and ancient times, but what’s your relationship with the Net, technology, the mass –media? Do you think the Internet , especially, can help a writer or more distract him/her from her activity?
I’ve always found the internet incredibly useful as a research tool provided I remember that I need to double check most of the information I read. I’ve only just discovered Facebook and Twitter and can’t believe how the world opens up to you by using them. I find it incredible that you contacted me in Australia all the way from Italy just because of a mutual love of historical fiction. I already have a website  and hope to start up my own blog soon. I was also very excited to create a book trailer about the novel which is on youtube and vimeo. One of my friends even composed special ‘Etruscan’ flute music to accompany it. All this social media can be a bit distracting though. It’s very ‘more-ish’!
If you’ve had a look at my blog/s before accepting being interviewed by me, you must have noticed what my main interests  are. Let’s see we share any of them...
                        Classic Literature?
Jane Eyre has to be one of my all time favourite novels, and of course I love Jane Austen (that’s why I followed you in the first place.) Funnily enough I’m also a fan of CS Forester and the ‘Hornblower’ series – it depicts Napoleonic times so vividly (although it is a little light on romance!)

Period Drama?
In Australia, period dramas are called ‘bonnet’ dramas by the less enlightened among us. A lot of these series are screened on Sunday nights here and the three males in my house know that this time is sacrosanct! Little Dorrit was aired recently. And Lost in Austen. Loved them!

2.       Art  ?
I am particularly fond of Japanese wood block prints as well as paintings by Vermeer and Renoir. The series Desperate Romantics also piqued my interest in the Pre Raphaelites. Of course, and sorry to be boring, my great love is Etruscan art which shows the fantastic world of these people in flamboyant murals depicting lovers, dancers, flutists, banquets, Dionysian revels as well as terrible scenes of demons, monsters and bloodshed. Their art shows their love of legends, beauty and mysticism and is a rich vein of inspiration for me. My book trailer shows examples of it  view it on utube or on my website.
 Richard Armitage ?
 Having read your blog, I have to admit that I was one of those middle aged women who fell for Richard Armitage when I first saw him in North and South. And as for Spooks, I might sound callous but Adam Carter’s startling exit was forgotten as soon as I saw Lucas North. 

 Now, thanking you for being my kind  guest , I invite you to convince our readers to buy / read your novel, The Wedding Shroud, with  less than 50 words.
The Wedding Shroud will take you on a journey to a mystical, decadent world of pleasures and dark secrets as you read how the young Caecilia is tempted to forsake Rome by her husband and the Etruscan people while two enemy cities stand poised on the brink of war.

You live in Australia. What is the best way for people living elsewhere to buy your book?
You can buy The Wedding Shroud online at retailers such as www.booktopia.com.au, www.dymocks.com.au, www.fishpond.com.auwww.qbd.com.au or any other Australian online booksellers you can google up. 

Thanks a lot, Elisabeth. I wish you and your novel great success!
Now, readers and friends,  it's your turn. Leave your comments or questions  and don't forget to add your e-mail address. Two of you will win a copy of THE WEDDING SHROUD! The giveaway is open worldwide and will end next Sunday October 31st.


Thanks to Maria Beatrice Panico for the nice interview she granted me. I wish her good luck with her writing and everything else in her life. As promised, here is  the name of the winner of  the English version of her first novel, DEAR ISABEL. The winner is  ...



In a few hours a new interview and a new giveaway ... a DOUBLE GIVEAWAY ... stay tuned!!!



I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few hours. Why do I have to be so involved in someone else’s life and  career? Mine are already so full of tasks and goals and troubles! Then, Lucas North is only a fictional character! But I felt sorry for Richard Armitage. He asked for a spectacular, unforgettable exit from Spooks! That's not fair ...  I can’t be cold and  detached. Not a bit.

 Yesterday  ( reading THIS )  I was like : “Gosh! I had got it right! I so wanted to be wrong… but, no, that’s what is going to happen. However, there is still some hope, maybe I am wrong. In Spooks nothing is actually what it seems. Let’s wait on, it can’tbe so foreseeable… but this BBC plot leaves no space for hope. He will leave. No series 10 for Richard! But , please, don’ let him go as a traitor. I ‘d love Lucas to leave the show with a chance for redemption. Not as a vile traitor, I beg you”.

Then today I got the good news and I feel almost… in  bliss. RA won’t be on set for Spooks 10 in February because at that time he will be on an international set for Warner Bros.  I’m so happy for Richard! I’m so sure he is very proud and gratified of being one of the main characters in this great production for the big screen . It is the adaptation of one of his  favourite books as a boy, THE HOBBIT by Tolkien. He will  play Thorin Oakenshield,   leader of the Company of Dwarves which sets off to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a thieving dragon.  The first of 2 instalments will be released in December 2012. 

To be honest,  I ‘m  glad for him but not for me. I don’t like this kind of movies or books at all. But  since I've started, I’ll go on widening my horizons, don’t worry! After reading and watching stuff like STRIKE BACK, nobody will stop me!

Of Richard Armitage  Peter Jackson (director of the previous adaptations of Tolkien's cult novels) says : 

"Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield. We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle Earth is in such good hands." To discover the names of the other dwarves read THIS ARTICLE on line.

Wow! I ‘m so happy. Richard deserved more and here we go! I’m just puzzled by a fact … how can our gorgeous giant be turned into the leader of the Dwarves? LOL ! Funny,  indeed.
Well. this means I’ll have to start reading Tolkien. My sons and students have always asked me … why don’t you … ? Because I was waiting for such an occasion: Richard Armitage in a film based on one of Tolkien’s novels. It’ll be a hard task, I’m sure. This is so NOT my cup of tea! My students will be happy, though … and my sons will tease me. Gosh!  They’ve already started. They don’t know about The Hobbit yet. But husband and sons have bet I’ll go to the cinema to see Captain America. I told them I won’t. But they are sure they’ll win the bet.  O my goodness! How do they know me so well?
Let’s stop here. I’m so happy today,  I do not want to spoil my mood with their jokes.

Now back to  Spooks 9.  Episode 0905 was great, wasn’t it? I liked it , at least I enjoyed it much more than episode 4. It was awesome, brilliant, perfect till the last awful minute. How can  such a self- controlled, smart man change so much and become silly, boysh  and nonsensical when Maya is around? Do they want to tell us he is so much in love he gets to tototally  lose control? I’m sorry, it doesn’t work. Unbelievable and exaggerated. I’m romantic and I believe love can do magic  but … this just doesn’t work, thank you.
I wasn’t surprised by that final scene. Having read one of Laila Rouass’s interviews with hints to her being the partner of two handsome actors in Spooks 9, it was too easy to guess. I know,  I should avoid spoilers. But I’ve already explained I don ‘t mind spoilers at all.
This is also why yesterday I read the plot of 0908, that is this series final episode. And the result was ... I was rather sad last night, as I wrote at the beginning of this post. 

The circle is closed. My RA Friday post ends here.
Happy weekend to you all. Till next Friday. MG



I was reading an article from The New York Times, "Shimmering Reflections of Monet Are Revisited" by Michael Kimmelman and since it is a brilliant review, I wanted to share it with you. I don't remember if I have ever told you how much I've always loved Monet, Renoir and all the Impressionists. If I hadn't, I have just done it. My first avatar on blogspot was one of my favourite paintings ever. I always go and admire it each time I'm in London and can visit the National Gallery. Here it is above.
I was saying about this excellent review of the huge exhibition of Monet's works at the Grand Palais in Paris , 22 September 2010 - 24 January 2011.

I just agree with every word in this article and started dreaming of being there in Paris in order to be able to admire the 160 paintings showed at the Grand Palais.
" The exhibition is ravishing - Kimmelman states - Monet the populist decorator of candle-in Chianti-bottle bistros and collegedormitories is modernism's prettiest painter, but not an especially heavy weight thinker or troublemaker.
This show helps restore something of hisoriginal status. More than just familiar Impressionists, he comes across as a painter of strange and elusive probity, of memory and reflection, as an artist seeking not just to simulate sun, rain and snow, but states of mind as well. In part he did this by returning again and again to certain sites and motifs, often completing pictures in his studio, based on what he remembered.
Monet churned out 2,000 works, but his best paintings thwart the problem of their own endless reproduction by being , well, irreproducible. You just can grasp the bejeweled, darkling purple and pink light emanating from his moody reveries of Venice except by standing before them. They are views steeped in a kind of exquisite sadness.
The article goes on with remarkable thoughts about Monet's uniqueness:
"What makes these pictures look so modern is mostly the aspiration to render the intangible - to make millions of material facts immaterial and unshackle them from time. Giverny was both his Eden and object lesson. There, Monet could see the daily transcience of things saved from oblivion only by memory and by art".
Monet at the Grand Palais - Paris

Monet showed us "places that already existed in our imagination", as Marcel Proust said, "as if waiting to be discovered and that now bid for our affection" .
I'm sure there are those among you who are waiting for ... their favourite Claude Monet (see picture on the left). No, I know, it's not a painting. That's young Claude Monet,  as he is in the eyes of those who saw BBC The Impressionists 2006 . If you , like me,  appreciated Richard Armitage's interpretation of the painter's difficult years in the 1870s, when horrified Parisians perceived his art as "leprous", you'll have already recognized him...If instead you haven't but you love Monet and the Impressionists you should see this 3-part series. It's another  great costume drama by BBC.
P.S. Is there anybody there giggling and thinking my love for Monet only came after my interest for handsome British actor, Richard Armitage? I can assure you my love for Monet and his art dates back to my school years,  while my interest for Richard Armitage only came later and lately. So , no need to giggle out there! That's just  fortuitous ... just like  my love for Mrs Gaskell's novels and his being Mr Thornton. I swear it!
Back to Kimmelman's review  and Monet exhibition in Paris ,  I wanted to add : what about a trip to Paris before January 24th 2011? I'm ready! I'd love to be in Paris with Monet! (No double meaning ... meant!) ;-)



Lucy Punch and Toby Stephens in Vexed

 Comedy or mystery ? Both. More comedy than mystery. However,  since I desperately  needed some light stuff,  a lucky escape to cheer up… VEXED was just perfect. There’s no point pretending it’s massively original, but it is incredibly well-done ( Written by Howard Overman - creator of hit E4 series Misfits - and brought to life by Psychoville director Matt Lipsey) . Toby Stephens is brilliant in his role. He’s  Jack, insensitive, lazy, incompetent detective who  screws up everything  but  always lands on his feet. And he’s made me laugh out loud more than once in these 3 episodes! Actually, both the leads are great: Lucy Punch is irresistible in her unfortunate marriage-on-a-crisis and incredibly good at managing Jack’s unstable mood and unacceptable incompetence. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this series will be back for a second series: figures and reviews were not that good. 

I found it lovely, instead, bizarre and well done. It was cheeky, irreverent, puerile, sometimes inappropriate but, since it is not easy to make me  laugh out loud  it was successful to me!  And I simply  can’t understand why reviews were so negative. There are so many awful programmes on our state and private channels! You can’t even imagine. That’s why I stopped watching  Italian TV apart from very rare occasions . When there is something I may like, I record it and watch it avoinding the unbearable quantity of ads they interrupt the show with.
Ok. I think it is clear I liked the 3 episodes of VEXED. The 2nd one is  the best.  Toby/MrRochester/Prince John was terrific as Jack. Just have a look at him in this series! Wonderfully bad as a detective but so hilarious!

Ep. 1
Jack and Kate, bright, fun, attractive police detectives, have very different approaches to the job and life in general. In fact they disagree on everything. The hunt for a killer targeting single women proves both good and bad for their own love lives, career paths and their relationship with each other.
Ep. 2
Unconventional police detectives Jack and Kate find themselves entering the world of therapy when a depressed banker being treated at a private rehabilitation clinic is targeted by a hit-man.
Conflict is inevitable as Jack's attitude towards therapy is predictably dismissive, while Kate's struggle to save her marriage gives her a very different perspective.
The high profile kidnap of a girl band member puts an uncomfortable spotlight on unconventional police detectives Jack and Kate, resulting in an embarrassing ransom situation and mounting tensions.
Meanwhile, Kate's husband Dan wants to start over by moving back to Bristol, and Jack obsesses over the possibility that he might be a 'one ball'(LOL).

That’s all. I must warn you: this series and its protagonists are weird and absurd. So it is possible to get to extremely opposed reactions: either you love them or you simply hate them. I found it so entertaining I couldn’t help watching the whole thing.  I laughed and thought : Silly, shallow man! Stupid woman! But I couldn’t stop watching and laughing and watching …
Back to work. I have to prepare this year’s didactic plans for my 5 class groups. Thanks BBC2, Toby and Lucy for making me laugh. It was good therapy. Unfortunately … fun’s over now!



I'm sure most of you agree with me: the Net is a treasurable place for interesting acquaintances. It has got its pros and cons, of course, but ,so far , I can say I've just enjoyed lots of pros. Meeting talented, active, interesting people has enriched me so much! It is like being part of  what once was called  literary circle, usually in rich private homes. This online one is boundless and  opened to the whole world and  you can host, be guest, meet,  discuss and learn. Today I'm glad to introduce you one of my latest acquaintances, Maria Beatrice Panico , with whom I share my love for the English language and Mrs Gaskell's works among other things. We don't live far, we are both Italian ,but we only got in touch thanks to my blog. She's published a short novel she wrote both in Italian, as Cara Isabel, and in English, as Dear Isabel. I've read it, liked it and decided to ask her some questions. Here's our chat in English(! ) but we are both Italian ( ! ). 
Maria Beatrice has even granted you the chance to get a free copy of her book in English if you leave your comment and e-mail address after reading . The winner will be announced next Sunday, October 24. The giveaway is open worldwide.

   First of all, tell us something about yourself, Maria Beatrice
First of all let me thank you, Maria Grazia, for this wonderful opportunity. I’m so happy to speak with you and with the followers of your blog about my first novel. In the everyday life I’m a neurologist and a researcher in neuroscience, meaning that I work both with patients and animal models of human diseases.
          How comes that a doctor and a researcher starts writing novels?
     Writing is such a part of me that I cannot remember when I started writing. I have always been writing something since I was a child: my journal, poems, short stories, even a little novel. I often say that I was born with a book in one hand and a pen in the other!
         Rebecca, the protagonist of your book is a very  sensitive contemporary woman. Does she resemble you anyway?
There’s something in Rebecca that reminds me of myself. But she’s also her own self. She’s beautiful and she speaks several languages and has travelled a lot. Well, let’s say that she takes after some of my dreams, too.
 She writes letters to her friend, Isabel.  We don’t know much about her but she is Rebecca’s dearest friend. What is this mysterious character like? I mean, what should an ideal friend be like in your mind?
You see, when I wrote the first letter I was actually thinking about one of my closest friend. She lives quite far from Rome (where I live) , and we’re always missing each other and struggling to find a way to meet. Then, things began to change. I heard Rebecca’s voice and she started writing through myself. But Isabel is just the friend I have in my heart. Isabel is the true friend, the one we can tell everything, the one who cares so much for us to tell us the truth, the one we can always rely upon.
Letter writing... has it got sense in our times?
5.      Though she lives in our time, Rebecca writes letters and uses rather old-stylished language.Why? What are the reasons of your choice?
At first Rebecca is a suffering creature. Her heart is broken and she finds herself a stranger in this world where most people are rude, superficial and ignorant. She is a delicate, sensitive, passionate human being and she writes accordingly. Therefore, this elegant, old-stylished language is the language of her soul.
6.      Your male protagonist (André)  is incredibly romantic. He reminds 19th century heroes with his polite manners, elegance and gentle attitude. Is he inspired to anyone in particular?
 I’m in love with 19th century. I love the literature, the music, the art. I wanted Andrè to be a dream coming true, to be a ray of light in Rebecca’s life. So, yes, he’s the heroes of our favourite readings.

(Ugo Foscolo 1778 - 1827)
 What are your favourite writers?  The ones who most influenced you and your writing? 
How hard to name only some and not all the authors of the books I’ve read so far. But let’s say that I adore Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Tolstoj, Dante Alighieri, Giacomo Leopardi, Ugo Foscolo and Shakespeare and...oh how much time do we have??? For example, I have recently discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and David Nicholls. 

  What kind of reader are you? What are your favourite genres?  I read everything from poetry to history, from science to novels. The fact is that no matter how busy I am, I need to read everyday! It’s a sort of addiction, but as a doctor I’m not worried about it in the least!

David Nicholls

David Nicholls in Rome, September 2010. Maria Beatrice was there!
9.      Your novel was also published in English as Dear Isabel. Did you translated it yourself? How and where did you learn English?
I wrote it in Italian as Cara Isabel; then, I asked a professional translator, Mollie Wilson, to help me with the translation because, although I love English, I’m not a mother tongue and the novel required a high-level English language. I’ve been learning English since I was a child and I love this language. English is the language of the scientific community and the language of many of my beloved authors.
10  Now, present your book to our readers in less than 50 words.
Dear Isabel is the story of the return to life and hope of a beautiful person; it is the telling of what friendship and love can do in our lives. Moreover, it is my humble tribute to the magical powers of writing itself. 
Maria Beatrice in the mirror. Getting ready for ... success?
  Are you working on a new project these days? 
I’m working on many projects, but let’s say that there is one character who is really urging me to tell her story. Her name is Manon. Again a woman, but so different than Rebecca! I have other drafts, too. I’m always full of ideas and images and sensations. The only problem with me is finding enough time for writing.
12  What would you like to achieve as a writer?
I used to write for my eyes only. When I decided to publish something, this was my only wish: how I wish my words could help people to relax, to dream, to think, to express their own feelings in a clear voice. This is still my goal.
 Thank you, Maria Beatrice! Good luck, "in bocca al lupo!"  for your future projects and great success to your Dear Isabel! 

 Now it's your turn, readers and friends, to contribute your "words" to our pleasant chat, leave your e-mail address and have the chance to win Maria Beatrice Panico's book. Giveaway ends October 24th. Dear Isabel can be bought online at Amazon  or lulu.com  It can also be downloaded at a very cheap price from lulu.com 



Episode 4 has arisen great perplexity in my poor mind, that of a regular watcher and old Spooks fan: I'm totally confused, a bit disorientated and utterly disappointed.  Maybe it is because my favourite character is Lucas North.

1. Master of ... naivety?
Can anybody enter a secret agent's house? I don't think so. Only if this agent is  Lucas North in series 9, victim of un...scrupolous writers. You can enter his house, leave a photo to blackmail him and go away meeting no one and no trouble. He was too busy to lock windows and doors.

 2. Master of ... alphas?
Giving directions and orders to his  alpha 1 and 2 ( teacher's pets Dimitri and Beth)  from Thames House, he sounds really cool, a tough section chief. Then he decides to enter the  Chinese Embassy at night, risking his own and Dimitri's lives to generically search the archive. What for? What are they exactly looking for? Finally, to cover their asset, Lucas decides to  pretend to be a burglar ??? But, maybe, my foreign ear didn't get all the necessary details. 

3. Master of ... psychology?
He suggests to Beth to trust her instinct with Kai, the Chinese asset she's trying to turn. What about he himself with Vaughn? Where has his instinct gone in this case? It doesn't work at all! He says he won't help him, never, for no reason , then? I loved his humanity, his frailty alone in that park (Hyde Park) , his nervous body expressing his helpless rage. Afterwards, instead, I hated his coldness in front of that big computer, his calm in surrendering to compromise and betrayal.

4. Master of ... visual memory?
Just a look at his colleague typing his user ID and password on a keyboard and he's ready to use them. Doesn't he know his mates are very smart and will uncover his treason? Does he really think he's been smarter? Ruth is out there when he comes out of  that room ... she has a suspicious look. Already got it? This Lucas /John must be desperate, very naive or big - headed to act like that! What is sure is that this character was unrecognizable in episode 4.

5. Master of  ... the made-fool-by-old-friends?
Vaughn  must know John very well  , hence he easily manages to manipulate him. He knows he has used a fall guy to cover his tracks for taking the Albany file. Vaughn tells him he could have taken a risk and talked his way out of it 'cause Harry Pearce would have believed him. Better to be safe than sorry, best to ruin someone else's life.
Lucas/John is in Vaughn's power, even more now he's passed him the file.

 6. Master of ... foolish lines ?
Is the man running toward Doctor Lahan through the hospital corridors shouting "Maya!" , the same cool agent we've been watching in the last series of Spooks? Unbelievable! Forgive me Lucas (Richard) but  this John is just the shadow of you. Have you heard his silly lines? Does he really believe he has fixed things? He has just ruined everything! And has he actually done what he did to do ... anything (his words) with Maya? "I don't want to waste another moment"  ?!? Is this Spooks or a soap? 

7. Master of  ... deception?
Well , Lucas was cool in the last scene holding and  aiming his gun, giving orders. But soon after, when the result of his deception comes out and Ruth announces Stephen Owen, 22-year-old  section G, has been arrested and will serve for long ... I was chilled by his "A traitor is a traitor". Yes, Lucas/John, you are just right: a traitor IS a traitor. 

As I wrote since the first hints at Lucas's "ultimate betrayal"  (HERE),  I'm quite angry with Spooks writers! They are destroying a character before making him leave from the series! Something similar happened with Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood 3. The nature of the character was rather distorted before he was finally killed. I hate incongruity and incoherence.
 However, I hope it is not that foreseeable. I want to be surprised. I want to be contradicted by positive twists in the next episodes. 

I know I've been quite negative this time after being so enthusiastic after the first episodes but I couldn't help it. I just can't bear what they are doing to my favourite character in my favourite series! It doesn't make sense!
Anyway, I want to leave you with a smile. Do you remember I'm away from home being my house invaded by painters and builders? (they are not so many!) Dear friends, this is the latest arrival, my favourite painter man, a new helper who was sent to me by a darling blogger mate. She made my day when I was down and rather depressed. Can you imagine having a gorgeous painter like this working in your house? You'd rather wish work never ends!!! 

LOL! This is too funny!
Thank you, darling friend.
As usual thanks to www.richardarmitagenet.com for all their precious caps
Have a great weekend you all !!! MG