Tag Archives: England

Throwback Thursday: Howards End (1992)

The appeal of adapting a beloved novel for the stage or the screen is never easy. It has to be as true as possible to the original text. However, there may be the necessity of some changes, which may not or may not please those who love the story in its original form.

The 1992 film, Howards End, is based on the book by E.M. Forster. It is the story of three different families from three different social strata in early 20th century England. The Wilcox family is firmly entombed within the upper class. The Schlagels are middle class and believe in helping others who are not so fortunate. The Basts are at the bottom of the barrel and doing their best to survive. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter, it is a story of class, breaking boundaries, and getting to know someone beyond where they are in the social hierarchy.

This movie is amazing. Not only is this BPD adaption loyal to the book, but it is well written, well acted, and thoroughly engaging. It immediately hooks the audience, taking them on a ride that is unexpected and not forgotten anytime soon.

Do I reccommend it? Yes.

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The War of the Worlds Review

Every genre has its founding work and author. In science fiction, that seminal work is The War of the Worlds and the author is H.G. Wells. His story of alien invasion has both thrilled and scared audiences for generations.

One of the most recent adaptions was released in 2019. Starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall, and Robert Carlyle, this version takes place in Edwardian era England. George (Spall) and Amy (Tomlinson) are living happily in un-wedded bliss. Shunned by most of the people around them because he is still married to someone else, their spent much of their time with Ogilvy (Carlyle). Ogilvy is a scientist whose methods and reputation are considered to be questionable by the establishment. George and Amy’s bliss is interrupted by an alien invasion from Mars. Now it is a question of survival, not just for them, but the future of the human race.

I truly enjoyed this three part miniseries. It was suspenseful, riveting, and extremely engaging. I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t speak to what changes have been made. But I can say with certainty that if this is one of the definitive adaptations (with the most famous being the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles), it has piqued my curiosity about the original text.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Rose Code Book Review

War is not always fought in the battlefield. For every soldier with a weapon in their hand, someone is working equally hard behind the scenes to ensure victory.

The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn, was published in March. In England in 1940, as World War II is about to explode, three women join the war effort. Accepting jobs as code breakers at Blectchley Park, they are responsible for cracking the codes that have been intercepted from Germany.

Osla is the debutant who wants to be known for more than her status in society. She is also dating Prince Philip, who was still a few years away from marrying the future Queen Elizabeth. Mab climbed her way out of her poverty driven childhood in the East End of London. While she works furiously to save lives, she is looking for a husband to give her the life she did not have when she was young. Some might say that Beth is shy, but those who know her will say that she is incredibly intelligent and eager to see what the world has to offer. The war brings these women together before tearing them apart.

Seven years later, the country has united under happier events: the royal wedding. Osla, Beth, and Mab have not spoken to each other since the end of the war. When two of them receive an encrypted letter, the unspoken lie comes to the surface and they must work together to catch a traitor.

I loved this book. It is one of the best that I have read this year. The story is a thrilling rollercoaster of friendship, the sacrifices that war demands, and three women whose lives are turned upside down. It was half spy novel and half coming of age narrative with an undercurrent of early 20th century feminism that is sometimes forgotten.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Much Ado About You Book Review

When life throws us a curveball, we generally have two choices. The first is to curl in a ball and let the grief take over. The second is to take a chance and try something entirely new.

Samantha Young‘s novel, Much Ado About You, was published at the beggining of the year. Chicago area thirty-something Evangeline “Evie” Starling has had it. After working for the same company for a decade, the promotion she has been hoping and praying for is given to someone else. Then the guy she has been seeing stands her up. Needing a change, she replies to an advertisement for an opportunity to temporarily run a bookstore in a small town in the northern English county of Northumberland. The package also comes with an apartment above the store. Entitled Much Ado About Books ( a play on the Shakesperean play Much Ado About Nothing), this lifelong fan of the bard leaves the US for a much-needed break.

What she finds is a new career opportunity, new friends, and an attraction to  Roane Robson, a local farmer who seems equally interested in her. But Evie is not looking for romance and tries to resist, knowing that giving in will result in another broken heart. But the more she tries to ignore the feeling, the more it grows until she finally has no choice but to give in.

What I appreciated about this book was the diversity of some of the characters and the subtle nods to some of Shakespeare‘s most famous and beloved plays. But ultamitely, the narrative is nothing more than a few notches above a Hallmark Channel movie. I have nothing against these films, but they are just a little too simple and predictable for me. The problem I have is mainly with Roane. He is a little too perfect. I needed him to be just a little more human and less cut from a generic romance novel.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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The Spanish Princess Review

In the fairy tales we were told as children, the stories always ended in a happily ever after. The prince and princess walked into the sunset with nothing but a bright and easy future ahead of them. The reality of that life is far more complicated than childhood tale could create.

The 2019 television series, The Spanish Princess, told the story of Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope). History tell us that she was the first wife Henry VIII (Ruairi O’Connor). Often seen as an embittered older woman who loses her husband to Anne Boleyn (Alice Nokes), her story has been marginalized in favor of her younger replacement.

The series starts when the teenage princess travels to England to marry. Arthur Tudor, the Prince of Wales (August Imrie). Their marriage was suppose to cement the relationship between England and Spain and create a figurative wall against the power of the French. But Arthur died young, leaving Catherine not only a widow, but childless. Without the heir to the English throne growing inside of her, her fate is unknown.

The solution to the problem is for Catherine to marry Henry. But the question of her virginity looms over their relationship. It is a concern that hovers over the rest of their years together, even after the birth of their daughter (and only surviving child), the future Mary I of England.

The program introduces the audience first to the young girl who has been trained from birth to be a future queen. She then becomes the woman who leads the country when her husband goes off to war and finally, a Queen who realizes that both the man and the crown she loves and will soon be slipping from her fingers.

I have never read the books, so I cannot comment on what changes may have been made between the page and the screen. Either way, the program is fantastic. This world is brought to life with all of the colors and complexities that only a well done BPD (British Period Drama) can bring to audiences. Supported by a fantastic cast, this show is one that is worthy of our television viewing time.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Spanish Princess is available for streaming on Hulu.

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Their Finest Movie Review

Sometimes, in the unfortunate destruction and death that war inevitably brings, new opportunities arise for some groups have been previously marginalized.

In the new film, Their Finest, (based on the book Their Finest Hour And A Half by Lissa Evans) Catrin Cole (Gemma Arteron) is a copywriter who is hired to write women’s dialogue for propaganda films in World War II era England. As The Blitz continues on, she joins an unlikely team of filmmakers that includes aging actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin).

I wanted to like this movie, as I wanted to like the book. Unfortunately, I could not get very far into the book and as much as I wanted to like the movie, I found it to be merely eh. Even with the qualities of good writing, good acting, a story about writing and feminism, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Their Finest is presently in theaters.

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She Wolves And The Warrior Queens Book Reviews

Women, we have been told, are supposed to be meek, mild and subservient to the men in their lives. But what happens when a woman becomes a ruler in her own right?

Elizabeth I Of England was not the first woman to lead the English people. But she is one of the most well known queens, especially of her period. Helen Castor’s 2012 book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth tells the stories of the Queens Of England who ruled before Elizabeth ascended to the throne. The profiles include Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou.

I liked this book. Each of these women were brought to life in full color. They had different reasons for ruling. Some were the children of aristocrats and royalty, others married into the title and a third were women who led England until their underage sons and heirs to the throne were of an age to rule. My only criticism of this book is that the chapters about Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor seem a bit rushed, but other than that, I recommend this book.

In 1990, Antonia Fraser published The Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations in War. The women whom she writes about come from different time periods and different parts of the globe. She starts the book with Boudicca and moving forward through time, the book ends with three modern female leaders: Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret ThatcherI liked this book. It is a history book that is not meant to be simply written and read for academic purposes. It is immensely readable.  I especially recommend this book for young women who are looking for female role models who have stepped into positions of power.

I recommend both.

 

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