Worlds of Ink and Shadow: A Novel of the Brontës Book Review

Among the many anecdotes and suggestions about writing, one of the most common is “write what you know”.

In the case of Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, they knew a world of fantasy and drama that was far from the dreary, isolated Yorkshire town they called home. Raised by their widower parson father who some might have referred to during their lifetimes as eccentric, the young Miss Bronte’s and their brother Branwell developed a keen imagination and a heightened reality narrative style that the would become the backbone of the novels that the girls would write as adults.

Lena Coakley’s new book,  Worlds of Ink and Shadow: A Novel of the Brontës, takes the reader back into the teenage years and the juvenalia that would later become the classic novels Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall. Wrapped in the fantasy worlds that the Brontes created as children, their characters within these worlds come to life and interact with their creators. 

As a reader and a writer, to know where other writers have started is always fascinating, especially when it comes to the writers like the Brontes, who have become giants in the world of literature.

But, this book is not all peaches and cream. The beginning is a little slow for my taste. While Ms. Coakley has certainly done her research, a reader who is not familiar with the Brontes might not finish the book. A little too steep in Bronte mythology and juvenalia, the book is strictly for Bronte fans.

Do I recommend it? I would say yes, but I adore their books. Otherwise, I would stay away.


The Red Tent DVD Review

For most of human history, the stories of women have either been written out of our collective memories or they have been simplified into a much shorter narrative that often lacks the colors and the nuance of the full story.

In the Bible, the story of Dinah, the only daughter of the Patriarch Jacob and his first wife, Leah is only known by the fact that she was raped by Shechem. Nothing else is said about her.

In the last twenty years or so, modern writers have looked to the Bible and the often maligned or marginalized women as the protagonists for new stories where these women have been fleshed out and celebrated as full human beings.  One of the earliest novels in this genre was The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant.

Two years ago, the book became a TV movie. The cast included Rebecca Ferguson as Dinah, Iain Glen as Jacob and Minnie Drive as Leah.

I read the book many years ago and re-read it just before it hit the small screen. Among the books within this genre, it is one of the best.  I expected and hoped that the TV movie would do justice to the novel and to Dinah, a woman whose life story has been lost to history for thousands of years.  The Red Tent is not the first and will certainly not the be last book dramatized for the screen where the plot and/or the characters were altered.

As much as I love the book, I felt that the adaptation was lacking. Anita Diamant, as a writer is able to grab the reader and not let go until the final page. The plot was a little slow until the second half, when the story finally gathered steam.

Do I recommend it? Let me put it this way. If you intend on watching the television adaptation, read the book first. Then watch the movie. I personally prefer the book, but someone else may prefer the movie.


Donald Trump Meets Game Of Thrones

Last year, when Donald Trump announced that he was joining the race for the 2016 Presidential Election, many of us might have taken it as a joke or another publicity stunt.

Fast forward to today and it is no longer a joke. I don’t know who I am voting for, but I do know that I would be very nervous for the future of this country if we referred to him as Mr. President.

Some very smart person has taken clips from Trump’s speeches and added him into Game Of Thrones. It illustrates why this man is not the right person to lead this country.

Happy Saturday.

Flashback Friday-Matilda (1996)

There are some classic children’s books that never get old, no matter how old you get.

One of these books is Road Dahl’s Matilda.

Matilda is a little girl growing up in difficult circumstances. Her parents despise her and the principal of her school, Miss Trunchbull takes a personal dislike to the little girl. But the help of a little magic and Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, our heroine may get her happy ending.

In 1996, the  book was transferred to the big screen. Starring  in the movie was Mara Wilson in the title role, IRL couple Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman as the despicable Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull and Embeth Davidtz as Miss Honey.

This film is fun. Adhering to the plot of the novel, there is wonderful whimsical what if quality in both the book and novel that keeps endearing it to new generations of kids.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday-70’s TV Girl Power-Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

In the 1970’s television began to reflect the changes in American society. One of these changes was the role of women and how it was thankfully evolving into a true partnership with the male sex.

Entering the world of comics in 1941, Wonder Woman has been part of the cultural lexicon for 70+ years.

In 1975, the comic was turned into an iconic television program starring Lynda Carter as the secret Amazon princess and Lyle Waggoner as Colonel Steve Trevor Jr., the military man who Wonder Woman rescues.

I was not around in 1975, but I can imagine the impact it had on young girls at the time. The 2nd wave of feminism was at it’s peak, Wonder Woman reflected the new woman and the possibilities beyond the roles traditionally assigned to women.

Do I recommend it? Yes.


Throwback Thursday-American Gangster (2007)

There is something about crime and criminals that seems fascinating to an audience. It’s as if the audience is living vicariously and getting the high of doing something they know is wrong via the character on-screen.

In the 1960’s & 1970’s, New York City drug kingpin Frank Lucas, revolutionized the drug trade by cutting out the  middleman and finding unique ways of smuggling his products into the country while avoiding the law.

In 2007, a film was made about Frank Lucas. Named American Gangster, it starred Denzel Washington as the notorious drug kingpin and Russell Crowe as Richie Roberts, the cop who is trying to bring Frank Lucas to justice.

This movie is an old-fashioned police vs. criminal story with riveting characters and a tense plot that keeps the audience on their toes. Director Ridley Scott anchors the film with the two main characters, each believing his cause to be the right cause. While American Gangster has the standard good vs. evil, both Frank and Richie are complex enough to step out of the mold and be the screen versions of the real men that breaks the standard mold of good vs. evil.

Do I recommend it? Yes, without hesitation.


Throwback Thursday-My Best Friends Wedding (1997)

Love is complicated. It is not all sunshine and roses and happily ever after. Especially when the one you’re in love with is marrying someone else.

In 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) have been BFFs forever. Julianne is also in love with Michael, but she has yet to reveal those feelings.

Then Michael introduces Julianne to his fiance, Kimberly (Cameron Diaz). Julianne is determined to break up the wedding, but it is not easy being that she is now in the wedding party.

Will Julianne’s plan work and will she tell Michael how she feels or will he forever be the one that got away?

Let’s put it out there. It’s a 90’s rom-com. But among the genre and the era, it stands out. There is a charm to this movie that perpetuates it’s popularity. It has going for it a cast known for movies within the genre.

Do I recommend it? Why not?

John Oliver On Abortion Rights….Absolute Perfection

I could go on and on about why abortion must be legal in this country, but I will let John Oliver do it. Well, because he is John Oliver and he is brilliant.

Downton Abbey Series 6, Episode 7 Recap: Mary the B*****, Thomas Attempts Suicide & Mrs. Patmore Has A Scandal On Her Hands

As usual, this recap contains spoilers, read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode.

In honor of beginning and endings (and the final episode airing on March 6th), I’m going to try a new format for my recap. Here I go.

After 6 seasons and countless fights, Mary get’s what is coming to her. Fueled by her own fears that a potential marriage to Henry Talbot will have the same results of her first marriage, Mary is in rare form, biting and sniping at the people around her. No more so, than at Edith who announces her engagement to Bertie, who is no longer an ordinary land agent, but Lord Hexum. Should Edith marry Bertie, she would outrank the rest of her family.

As anyone who has siblings can attest, no one knows you better than your brother or sister. Especially when it comes to pushing buttons. If any pair of siblings can push each other’s buttons, it’s Edith and Mary.  That leads to Mary outing Marigold as her niece and Bertie walking away, naturally feeling hurt. Not that I blame him.

I could talk about the fight between the surviving Crawley sisters, but it’s so much more fun to watch.

After they both calm down and Mary is finally gotten through by Tom and her grandmother, Edith returns in time for her sister’s wedding to Henry. While these sisters will never truly be lovey dovey with each other, they understand that one day, their world will change and everyone around them will be just a memory.

Downstairs had its own set of drama.

After being beaten down emotionally one too many times by Carson and feeling disheartened by his lack of progress in finding new employment, Thomas attempts to take his own life. But he is saved in the nick of time by Baxter, who despite the abuse that Thomas heaped upon her in the past, has become his champion. She’s a better woman than many of us would be in that situation.

After Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast was revealed as the love nest of the not so Mr. and Mrs., a minor scandal erupts. The only way to make the scandal go away, is a visit from the Crawley’s to return respectability and propriety to Mrs. P. and her future as an entrepreneur.

Thankfully, the entire episode was not all drama. Molesley’s teaching career seems to going well and all is quiet on the pregnancy front with Anna and Bates.

Did anyone else laugh as loud as I did when Spratt was revealed as the writer of the advise column by “Miss Cassandra Jones”? Bravo, Julian Fellows, for giving us a moment of true comedy in all of the super heavy drama.

My favorite scenes in this episode, belong to Isobel. The first scene is between her and Lord Merton, who seems honestly surprised about the invitation to his son’s wedding. My other favorite scene was between Mary and Isobel at Matthew’s grave. Feeling super remorseful for her actions, Mary is surprised by Isobel at the cemetery. The two women have a moment together and that is all Mary needs to move on with her life.

Next Sunday is another Alistair Bruce special and then after that, the final episode begins.

I think I had better start stocking up on the Kleenex now.

The Last Survivor

The last survivor of Treblinka passed away on Friday.

Samuel Willenberg died at the age of 93.

A member of the “organizing committee”, Mr. Willenberg was part of the revolt by the prisoners in Treblinka.

It’s been 71 years since the end of World War II. The number of survivors still living is dwindling fast.

We are the last generation to hear the testimony of the survivors in person.

When we speak of the Holocaust, we say Never Again.

There are many in this world who question why we continue to speak of the Holocaust.

The reason we continue to say Never Again and repeat the testimony of the survivors is that I hope that one day, the phrase Never Again is unnecessary.

But the world we live in and history of our species is littered with stories of hatred, destruction and murder based on the external factors that were used as an excuse to kill innocent human beings en masse 71 years ago.

RIP Mr. Willenberg, may you be reunited with those who you lost all of those years ago.

May your memory be a blessing not just to those who knew you personally, but to the rest of us rely on you and your generation to remind us of the best and word of humanity.

Never Again.

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