Category Archives: Life

Pride and Prejudice Character Review: Georgiana Darcy

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

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 Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

If we are lucky during our childhood, we have parents and other relations who love us and want to shield us from the dark and sometimes murky reality of the outside world. But we all have to grow up eventually and face that dark and murky reality.

In Pride and Prejudice, the harsh facts of the adult world and how heartbreaking it can be are represented in Georgiana Darcy. Georgiana is Mr. Darcy’s younger sister by little more than decade. In the care of her brother and her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, since her father’s passing, Georgiana is growing up sheltered from the world. Over-protected not only because she is 15, but also because of the large inheritance that will be hers one day,  Georgiana knows little of the real world.

Then George Wickham comes back into her life. Her brother’s childhood friend (the snake that he is), pretends to have fallen in love with her and almost convinces her to elope. But they are discovered before the wedding vows are spoken and Mr. Wickham’s true motives are revealed. In the words of a certain rapper who will not be named because I have a particular disregard for him “he ain’t nothing but a gold digger”.

Georgiana’s broken heart must be soothed by her brother. While she is still young yet and has (hopefully) plenty of time to find a husband who will love and respect her, this first heartbreak has left a mark on her psyche that will always be a part of her.

To sum it up: growing up is hard. There are grey areas in life and people who are not what they seem to be. The character of Georgiana represents an innocence and a stage in life when we are beginning to grow beyond the comfortable confines of childhood. Georgiana’s story is one that in our way, we can relate to. A good writer creates not only recognizable characters, but recognizable narratives.  If the writer is able to create that recognizable narrative, it is one more hook that sinks itself into the audience’s conscious and keeps hold until the story is done. Like a recognizable character, a story without a recognizable narrative, the audience or reader is likely to not care and move on. If the audience or reader does not care, then the writer has not done their job.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Life, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

The Kommandant’s Girl Book Review

When faced with decisions of life and death, we make choices that in retrospect seem questionable, but in the moment, feel like it is only thing we can do.

In Pam Jenoff’s 2007 novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, 19-year-old Emma Bau is reveling in the glow of being a newlywed. Not even a month after she marries her husband, Jacob, Germany invades Poland. Jacob has no choice but to disappear and Emma joins her parents in the quickly overcrowding Jewish ghetto. Smuggled out of the ghetto and into the home of her husband’s Catholic aunt, Emma is now Anna Lipowski, a Polish orphan.

Adding to the danger, Anna/Emma is hired as an assistant of Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official. While she is working for the Kommandant, Anna/Emma uses her status to help the resistance. But while she is doing this, she is potentially compromising her life, the lives of her loved ones and her marriage vows.

This book left me with wanting more. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My favorite thing about the book was the character of the Kommandant. On one hand, he was responsible for the death of an untold number of innocents. But on the other hand, his affection for Anna/Emma was humanized him and if only temporarily removed the mask of the monster.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Difficult Women Book Review

For an untold number of centuries, women have been portrayed as one note 2-D characters. We were either the virgin or the slut. The power/money hungry woman or the innocent. There was little to no in-between.

In Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, through the character of Anne Elliot, Jane speaks of this one-sided view of women.

“I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

Thankfully, things have started to change for the better in recent years. Respected writer Roxanne Gay’s new book, Difficult Women, is about difficult women and how complicated we truly are. In this anthology of short stories, she writes about everyday women deal with in their own complex way. Love, sex, relationships, jobs, etc. Not one of her female characters is a 2D cardboard cutout of a character. Each has her own unique sets of traits that makes her difficult, complex and thoroughly human.

I very much appreciated this book. Even in 2017, it is still hard to find female characters that are not confined to either a stereotype or forced into a character trope that has been seen one too many times. I appreciated this book not just because of the vast array of stories and characters, but because I enjoyed reading it.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, Jane Austen, Life, Persuasion, Writing

The Awkward Age: A Novel Book

Life, as we know it to be, is never simple. Whether we are a teenager, middle-aged or in the twilight of our lives, life will always be complicated.

In The Awkward Age: A Novel The Awkward Age: A Novel by Francesca Segal, Julia and James have found love again in the UK and are happily co-habituating in Julia’s house. Julia is a widow with a teenager daughter, Gwen. James is a divorced American ex-pat with two children. His daughter, Saskia lives in America with her mother while his son, Nathan lives with his father. Neither Gwen or Nathan are happy with the new family arrangement. When the relationship between Gwen and Nathan takes a dramatic turn that no one saw coming, the repercussions of this unforeseen shift may just be the thing that set all of them on a path that changes their lives.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it because the characters felt real. A good book has to make the reader believe that the character are real human beings, not fictional creations. While some writers are not able to make the characters feel real, Ms. Segal does an excellent job of humanizing the characters. I could feel the new love of James and Julia, the teenage antagonizing of their children and the change in their relationships as a pseudo family when the twist in the narrative occurs.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Pride And Prejudice Character Review: Charlotte Lucas

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

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 Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Sometimes, life deals us a hand of cards that we would not choose for ourselves, if we had that choice. In cases like this, we have two choices, play the hand we are dealt or fight it bitterly and be miserable.

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend is Charlotte Lucas. While Charlotte’s family is rising in status, she does not have the luck of her family. She has neither beauty, a witty personality or a large fortune to use as bait for potential husbands. She is also unmarried at the age of 27, which means according to the era she lived in, she was set for life to be the maiden aunt who took care of everyone else because she had neither a husband or a child of her own to care for.

After Elizabeth turns down Mr. Collins’s proposal, he goes straight to Charlotte, who accepts him.  Elizabeth is horrified, but Charlotte knows that Mr. Collins is the best man she could get as a husband.

Through a modern lens Charlotte’s choice seems hasty and foolish. But we cannot look at her choices through 2017 lens, we must look at her choices through the lens of the Georgian era.

In Emma, Austen makes light of the hardship that single women endure.

It is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman with a very narrow income must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman of good fortune is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else. (p. 93)

Unlike Emma Woodhouse, Charlotte’s options are far more limited. She can either marry Mr. Collins for income and a comfortable home or forever be the old maid in her family. Given the options that are before her, marrying Mr. Collins, as ridiculous as he seems, makes a lot of sense.  Charlotte plays the hand that life has dealt her.  Prince Charming, Mr. Collins is not (and certainly never will be). But he is a respectable man with a solid income and home to offer Charlotte, which is certainly better than living with her parents for the rest of her days.

To sum it up: Sometimes in life, and on the page, we are dealt a certain hand of cards. How we deal with that hand defines us. In creating the character of Charlotte Lucas, Austen not only makes the most obvious feminist statement, but she also comments on the choices we make based upon our circumstances and why we make those choices. As writers,  we have to explain to the audience why our characters are making the choices they are making. If the character’s motives are fuzzy to the writer, they will also be fuzzy to the reader. Charlotte’s motives for her choices are clear and by making that clear, that is the only way to hook the reader so they will come back for more.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emma, Feminism, Jane Austen, Life, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Failure Is Merely A Part Of Life

I hate to say it, but we all fail once in a while. Whether is because of poor judgement, lack of knowledge or another reason, we all fail at least once.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is on a website entitled Problogger. Run by Darren Rowse, a successful blogger who has found a way to earn a living as a blogger, he talks about anything and everything that has to do with blogging.

This week’s podcast was about how to overcome failure in six steps. The thing that struck me about not only the subject of the podcast, but the suggestions laid out, is that the steps don’t just apply to bloggers and blogging. They can be used by anyone for any aspect of their life.

Failure is hard. It’s depressing, it’s ego bruising and not a fun experience to say the least. But we all go through it and the old adage is true. What doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger.

One of the most comforting thing I’ve heard about failure came from Oprah Winfrey. A failure is merely a course correction. Of course it’s difficult, but sometimes it is necessary.

I highly recommend this particular episode to all of my readers and Problogger in general to anyone who has a blog or is considering starting a blog. The experience will be well worth it.

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Prince Harry & Mental Illness

Mental illness, like any disease is immune to class, race, income or even level of fame.

Recently, Prince Harry opened up about the years of emotional numbness he went through after the death of his mother in the summer of 1997.

As much as I would like to say that his experience dealing mental illness is trivial compared to someone who has lived with it their entire life, I can’t. Mental illness is mental illness is mental illness. Whether it is due to the loss of parent that has not been emotionally dealt with or someone who has diagnosed depression and is being treated, neither is more important than the other.

What is important, is that his celebrity has opened the door just a little and started a conversation. We need to have this conversation and if this conversation starts with Prince Harry, I am happy to continue it.

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Throwback Thursday- 1980’s TV Miniseries Edition-Queenie (1987)

When we have dreams, we sometimes have to make choices to see those dreams become reality. The question is, what happens when we make those choices and what are the consequences of the choices, especially when we deny who we are?

In the 1987 TV miniseries Queenie, Queenie Thompson (Mia Sara) is the biracial daughter of a White man and a Indian woman who upon first glance, no one would think is half Indian. Dreaming of Hollywood and celebrity, she changes her name to Dawn Avalon and becomes a star. But while she is reaching the peak of Hollywood stardom, she is denying who and what she is.

Granted, this is 1987 television miniseries. But what I like about it is that is speaks to all of us in the dual quest for reaching for our goals why hanging to our authentic selves.

I recommend it.

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Filed under History, Life, Movies, Television, TV Review

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Review

When we are children, we think that by the time we reach middle age, we will have everything figured out. Then we grow up and learn that some of us never figure everything out.

In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Vanya (Jim Incorvaia) and Sonia (Sheree Joseph) are a middle-aged brother and sister duo. Sonia is forever going on and on about the fact that she was adopted. Their lazy lifestyle is financed by their sister Masha (Heidi Hecker), a movie star whose career and love life both taking a hit. Reeling from a 5th divorce, Masha returns home with a much younger Spike (Brian Shaw), a himbo who thinks with his lower appendage more than he thinks with his brain. Planning on selling the house, Masha receives protests from Sonia, Vanya and Cassandra (Asami Tsuzuki), the cleaning woman who speaks in a weird prophetic language. The final character in this mix is Nina (Kelly Schmidt), a young woman who is visiting relatives next door who wants to be an actress and fawns over Masha.

I must state two disclaimers before I go further. The first is that I did not see the Broadway production (which is the video above), I saw a local community theater production. The second is that I’m not really familiar with Anton Chekhov, whose work is heavily referenced in this play. Many of the references were well over my head. My problem with this play is that the first act does not really go anywhere narrative wise. By the time narrative becomes more interesting in the second act, I found that I did not care about these characters or their story.

Do I recommend it? No.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is playing at the The Merrick Theater & Center For Performing Arts until March 19th, 2017. The Merrick Theater & Center For Performing Arts is located at 2222 Hewlett Ave in Merrick, NY.

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Filed under Broadway Play Review, Life

Flashback Friday-Sideways (2004)

The prevailing theory on life is that by the time we reach a certain age, we should have our sh*t together. That is not always the case.

In the 2004 movie, Sideways, nearly middle aged Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) are long time friends. Shortly before Jack walks down the aisle, Miles is taking his friend on a men only getaway to California’s wine country. They plan to drink good wine, eat good food and hit a few rounds of golf. Nothing more. But like the saying goes: “mortals plan, g-d laughs”.

A serial philanderer, Jack hooks up with Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Miles starts hanging out with Stephanie’s friend Maya (Virginia Madsen). There are sparks between Miles and Maya, but Miles is unsure about moving forward with a potential relationship, still shaken up by his divorce. Neither Maya or Stephanie know that Jack is soon to be a married man.

What I loved about this movie is that it is for grownups. It has 3D characters who are just as normal, fallible and human as anyone walking down the street. I loved that Jack is an a**hole and Miles’s social anxiety gives him a flaw that makes him feel real to the audience.

I also appreciate that Miles is a writer who is trying desperately to find a publisher for his book, but is continually being turned down.

I recommend it.

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