Category Archives: Books

Character Review: Catherine Linton

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Whether or not they are aware of it, parents will sometimes pass on their emotional scars to their children. The question is, if and when the child becomes aware that their parents emotional scar has become their scar, do they find a way to heal or let the scar remain open?

Catherine Linton is the living embodiment of emotional scars that are passed from one generation to the next. Her mother, also Catherine Linton (née Earnshaw), died soon after the birth of her daughter, torn between her husband and her soulmate/adopted brother, Heathcliff.  Raised by her indulgent father and Nelly, her late mother’s housekeeper, Catherine is protected from the world.

Then Heathcliff enters Catherine’s life and the emotional scars from the previous generation are brought into the light. Still resenting the loss of his true love to Edgar Linton, Heathcliff (who is also Catherine’s uncle), kidnaps the girl, knowing full well that she is her father’s heir. Catherine is forced to marry her cousin, Linton and watch Heathcliff take Thruthcross Grange as his own after the death of her father.

Soon Catherine becomes a widow herself. Her only consolation is Nelly, who is once more the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights and her other cousin, Hareton Earnshaw. Abused and imprisoned by Heathcliff, Catherine is no shrinking violet. She is her mother’s child and uses every ounce of her energy to hold onto her dignity and self respect. In the end, it is Catherine and Hareton who will walk away from the tragedy that is Wuthering Heights, finally healing the scars of the previous generation.

 

To sum it up: Scars can heal, if we let them. Or we can let them fester. Catherine chooses to let the scars heal. In doing so, the ghosts of the past are finally able to rest and Catherine and Hareton are able to walk off into the sunset together. As writers, we have a choice on how to end our stories. More important than the choice of ending, it has to feel right for the narrative and the characters. In choosing her own version of a happy ending for her novel, Emily Bronte is able to successfully end her narrative with a closing feels natural. If the ending of war is peace, than the ending of Wuthering Heights is as it ought to be.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood Book Review

A good writer has the ability to create narratives and characters that transcend the original format in which they were introduced to audiences. Jane Austen, is obviously one of those writers as her stories have been adapted time again over the last 200 years.

The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood, by Paula Byrne, traces the influences of Georgian era theater on Austen’s novels, the history of the numerous adaptations and why Austen continues to be an inspiration to modern-day filmmakers and screenwriters.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I appreciated the research that Ms. Byrne put into the book, especially the theatrical narratives and characters that were popular in Austen’s Day. I just wish the book was less like a college textbook and more engaging. While I forced myself to finish the book, it was difficult at times to keep reading.

Do I recommend it? No.

 

 

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Bingley’s Teas

There are two kinds of tea in this world. There is the ordinary bland, factory made tea that can be purchased at any deli or grocery store. Then there is the tea that from the moment you open the bag to the last drop going down your throat wraps you in tea heaven.

This is Bingley’s Teas.

Named for Charles Bingley from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this delicious, loose tea made with a variety of ingredients offers a delectable range of teas to choose from. Opening a bag of Bingley’s Teas is akin to being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day. Whether it is a black tea to help you get up in the morning or a green tea to sooth the nerves after a long day of work,  this tea is far and away one the best tea brands I’ve ever had.

And of course, their Jane Austen tea line is sheer perfection. My personal favorite is Lizzie Bennet’s Wit.

If you must buy tea, I absolutely recommend Bingley’s Teas. It will forever change the way you drink and appreciate tea.

 

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Terrible Virtue: A Novel Book Review

When we put those we admire on a pedestal, we sometimes forget that the person on the pedestal is a human being with the same faults as any other human being.

Margaret Sanger did not intentionally start out life as a first wave feminist and the originator of Planned Parenthood. Her life and the causes that dominated her life is chronicled in the novel Terrible Virtue: A Novel. Written by Ellen Feldman, the novel starts during Margaret’s early years. She is one of 13 children. Her mother dies young, after years of living through the endless cycle of having a children, working tirelessly to care for her family before having another child.

As an adult, Margaret marries and has three children of her own. She is drawn to the cause of abortion and women’s reproductive health. In spite of the laws at the time, Margaret (who is living in New York City) reaches out to the lower class and immigrant women who desperately need her services. While she is doing this, there are many who are fighting to see her jailed and her ability to help the women in need stopped indefinitely. Adding to the drama, Margaret is feeling the heat at home. Her marriage is falling apart and her children are starting to feel like they are second best.

 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I really enjoyed it because not only did the writer perfectly show Margaret Sanger as human being (not just a heroine on a pedestal), but also because the same issues that existed in her time sadly still exist in ours.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, New York City

Victoria and Abdul Movie Review

We sometimes forget that legends are human too. We may not think of them that way, but sometimes we have to move past the legend to see the real human being underneath.

Queen Victoria is one of those legends.

The new movie, Victoria and Abdul, takes place at the end of her reign and life. She is celebrating her Golden Jubilee. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a young man from India chosen to celebrate the Queen’s 50th year on the throne by presenting with a gift from her Indian subjects. It’s supposed to be a one shot trip.  But the Queen is taken by the intelligent and entertaining young man. Abdul not only teaches her about his world and his life, but he becomes a favorite. This, naturally does not go over well with Victoria’s son and heir, Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and her household. The question is, will this unusual friendship last and how far will those around Victoria go to remove Abdul from her life?

This movie is based on a book, entitled Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, by Shrabani Basu. I have not read the book, my review is strictly based on the movie. The cast is nothing but stellar. My favorite performance came from Eddie Izzard. While he started his career as a performer in comedy, he clearly has the chops to play a serious or dramatic part. I would not be surprised if a few nominations came his way during award season. His Bertie is a man who has been chomping at the bit to sit on the throne and is not happy that this Indian man is placing one more obstacle in the way of getting to the throne.

That being said, the movie was disappointing. It was disappointing because there were moments in the narrative that felt like endings, but they weren’t. By the time the credits rolled, it was a relief that it was over.

Do I recommend it? I would love to say yes, but I have to say maybe.

Victoria and Abdul is presently in theaters. 

 

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Filed under Books, History, Movie Review, Movies

Character Review: Linton Heathcliff

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Some characters are unfortunately fated to die young. As much as the writer or the audience would like see the character live into their golden years,  for some it is not simply meant to be.

In Wuthering Heights, this is the fate of Linton Heathcliff. The son of Isabella Linton and Heathcliff, the reader meets Linton as a young man. Hidden in London by his mother, Linton only returns to Thrushcross Grange (the Linton family estate) after his mother’s death. At first, Linton is safe with his uncle Edgar Linton and his cousin, Catherine. Then Heathcliff hears that his boy is back in the neighborhood and demands that Edgar hand over the boy.

Linton is a sickly young man who sometime comes off as spoiled. He is forced to marry his cousin Catherine by his father and dies soon after. The last victim of the emotional turmoil that stretches over the entire narrative, his death marks a turning point that will finally heal the wounds that have remained open for two generations.

To sum it up: As sad as the death of a character can be, it can also represent change and new opportunities. While Linton’s death is indeed sad, it also closes the door on the past and paves the way for Hareton and Catherine to start a new life elsewhere. As writers, we have to remember that death is more than the physical being dying. It can be representative of change, new opportunities and the closing of the door of what was.

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Book Review

Before Trevor Noah succeeded Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, he was a biracial child growing up in  apartheid era South Africa.

Last year, he published a memoir of his very unique childhood entitled Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Noah’s father, a white man of Swiss/German descent, was in his son’s life as much as the white father of a biracial child could be back then. His black mother, whose ancestry in South Africa went back generations, was his main parent. Loving, but strict (and perhaps a bit intense), she raised her son with a firm, but free-spirited hand. In the book, Noah talks about what it was like to grow in South Africa when the country was divided by very firm and enforceable social, racial and economic borders.

What I really loved about this book is that unlike other celebrity memoirs, it felt authentic. There was nothing forced or fake about his stories. It was as if he was sitting in front of me and we were having a conversation about his childhood. I also loved that there is a universal quality to this book when it comes to childhood, growing up and how our perceptions of us, our world and our parents change as we get older.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

 

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The Making of Jane Austen Book Review

There are more than enough books, both fiction and non fiction about Jane Austen and her work to fill up multiple libraries. The question is, which book stands out from the pack and which book remain on the shelves?

Devoney Looser recently published her newest book, The Making Of Jane Austen.

When Jane Austen died in 1817, her genius as a writer, satirist and observer of the human experience had yet to be fully appreciated. Writing about the artists, dramatists, activists and academics who spread the word of Jane Austen over the years, Dr. Looser expands upon the legend of her subject and explains how Austen has become this giant of literature and pop culture that we know her to be today.

I loved this book. Dr. Looser was also one of the keynote speaker at this past weekend’s 2017 JASNA AGM, but to me, that is the cherry on top. She writes in a way that speaks to both the newbie Janeite and the Janeite who is thoroughly entangled in everything that is Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Thoughts On The 2017 JASNA AGM

Imagine if you will, an academic conference, but with a twist. Add in a dedicated fandom with lots of goodies to bring home (and a good amount of attendees playing dress up) and you have the 2017 JASNA AGM.

Held in Huntington Beach, California, the title of this year’s conference was Intimations of Immortality. We remembered Jane on the 200th anniversary of her passing as we celebrated her life, her books and her legacy.

The AGM is more than my vacation. This year it was a chance to visit California, spend time with my friends and celebrate anything and everything relating to Jane Austen. It is a chance to thoroughly geek out and know that the people you are with understand why you geek out. It was a chance to dress up, dance and spend three days thoroughly immersed in Jane.

While I enjoyed the AGM (as I do everytime), it was the company (and the heavenly beach in Southern California) that always makes an AGM worth it.

Next year, Janeites  (as we are commonly known) will congregate for our next AGM in Kansas City where we will be celebrating Persuasion and hopefully not fangirling over Amanda Root (Anne Elliot in the 1995 Persuasion).

I hope to see you all there.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil Book Review

One of my favorite phrases from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

During World War II, while most non Jews either turned their backs on their Jewish friends and neighbors or openly collaborated with the Nazis, a few brave souls dared to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors. They knew that if they were caught, the punishment for not just the individual, but his or her entire family was execution.  But they still put their lives and the lives of their families on the line.

Writer Yvette Manessis Corporon was raised on her Greek grandmother’s stories of saving the lives of a Jewish tailor and his children during the war. But she didn’t know much beyond the story, until she started doing some research.  Her research and her experience while doing this research led to the memoir, Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil. While in the midst of fleshing out her grandmother’s story and trying to locate the living relations of the family whose lives were saved by her grandmother, Ms. Corporon was hit by a personal tragedy. In Overland Park, Kansas in April of 2014, three people were killed by a Neo-Nazi outside of a JCC. While none of the victims were Jewish, two of the victims, a young boy and his grandfather were cousins on her husband’s side of the family.

The thing that strikes me about this book is that it reminds me of the choices that we have in life. We can either waste our time and energy and hate someone because they are different or we can accept someone for who they are and move on with our lives.  The author’s grandmother could have easily said no to saving her neighbors, after all, she still had to take care of her own family. But she said yes and in doing so, became a faint light in the darkness of World War II and The Holocaust.

I absolutely recommend it.

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