When Patrick Bronte died in 1861, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family. Outliving his wife and all six of his children, his legacy would have faded into history if not for the extraordinary books of his three youngest daughters.
Though history tells us that Patrick died without any descendants, author Catherine Lowell asks what if someone living today could claim otherwise. In her 2016 book, The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha Whipple is an American woman raised in Boston who can make this kind of statement. Raised by her late unconventional father after her parent’s divorce, many believe that she has access to a treasure trove of previously unseen materials created by her ancestors. But Samantha has no knowledge of these artifacts and believes them to be fiction. When she enrolls at Oxford University, clues begin to confirm that what Samantha believes to myth is fact. Working with a handsome professor who she gets along with like oil and water, the mystery of her birthright starts to reveal itself.
I loved the first half of the book. There are plenty of Easter eggs to please the most ardent of Bronte fans. I will warn that the reader should go into the novel with at least some knowledge of their life and work. Otherwise many of the details of the plot will go over their heads. The problem is the second half. The unraveling of the truth is not as exciting as it could be. Neither is “romance” between Samantha and her professor. The sisters are known for heart pounding, blood pumping sexuality (Charlotte and Emily to be specific. Anne‘s novels are not as highly charged in that manner). There is no chemistry between the characters, nor do I believe that in their happily ever after.
From an early age, of the most common fairy tales are told is the story of the marriage between a prince and a commoner. But as perfect and straight forward as these narratives are, they are a just a tad boring.
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan was published in 2016. Rebecca “Bex” Porter has always had an adventurous streak. Transferring to Oxford University to finish her degree, she is met at the door by Nick, one of her new housemates. What starts off as a friendship turns into love. But Nick is not just any guy. He is Prince Nicholas, heir to the British throne.
It is not easy dating a future King of England, given the fame and the responsibilities Nick has on his shoulders. It quickly becomes apparent that Bex will have to make a choice about her life and her future. To say that the decision is not easy is an understatement.
Loosely based on The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge‘s early years as a couple, I found this book to be charming, romantic, and delicious. Both Bex and Nick are drawn in a way that they are fully fleshed out characters, instead of the 2D Hallmark movie leads they could have been.
Stephen Hawking lived through extraordinary circumstances. In the early 1960’s, he was a young Phd candidate studying at Oxford University with a bright future. Diagnosed with ALS in his early 20’s, he was given 2 years to live. Instead he wrote several books on physics and became famous for his research.
The Theory Of Everything follows Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) life from his years at Oxford before the diagnosis. The film follows Stephen and his then wife Jane (Felicity Jones) through his years of struggling with the disease and then ends with his success as respected and world renowned physicist.
This movie is fantastic. If I were a betting woman, would bet that this movie is a surefire nominee come awards season. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones have fantastic chemistry. Redmayne is completely believable as Hawking. His mannerisms, the way he contorts his body is breathtaking. Jones as Stephen’s loving, but overworked wife is subtle, nuanced and powerful on screen.
I absolutely recommend this movie, especially to those of us who are down on our luck. Stephen Hawking proves that any obstacle can be overcome with heart, humor and most of all, hope.
The Amazons are part of the ancient myths that comes down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to the myth, they were a tribe of warrior women who cut off one breast so they would not be impeded as they shot their arrows.
Diana Morgan is an academic from Oxford University in England, her specialty is the Amazons. Ms. Fortier brings the reader into three different time periods: present day and Diana’s childhood with a grandmother who is either suffering from mental illness or reliving a past life as an Amazon. The third time period is ancient North Africa, where Myrina and Lilli’s mother has just been killed. They make their way to temple of the Moon Goddess. When Greek pirates raid the temple and kidnap several of Myrina’s sisters, she embarks on a quest to rescue them, not knowing that they will be part of the Trojan War.
A mysterious and wealthy benefactor offers to fund Diana’s research about the Amazons. Finding a buried tomb, Diana discovers that Myrina was once the Queen Of The Amazons. Her journey takes her through the Middle East and Europe. Traveling with Diana is Nick Barran, a man whose name and loyalties seem to be questionable. Adding to the quest to discover who Myrina is and what her story was, she is confronted by those who do not want to her to continue on her journey.
The book is long, nearly 600 pages long. It’s not a bad book, but the meat of the book is in the final third of the story. In trying to mingle academic fact, myth and fiction, the book is almost too long. I could have done without some of the traveling. Would I recommend this book? Maybe, if I was going on a long trip and needed a book to keep me occupied.