Sunday, May 31, 2009

My unsuccessful review of Villette

"I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading 'Villette' ... There is something preternatural about its power."

So quoth George Eliot! And I can't help but agree with her statement. I recently finished reading Charlotte Bronte's Villette. It is an immensely powerful book - moving, depressing, intensely emotional but never sentimental. It's definitely one of those books that I think will improve on a second or third reading. Right now, though, I'm not game to read it all over again. Reading Villette is quite an exhausting experience - it's hard work reading it! There were many, many passages that I had to read several times before I "got it". 

Villette is partly based upon Charlotte Bronte's own experience as a student, then teacher, in Brussels. The narrator, Lucy Snowe, is a young woman who suffers crushing grief - after losing all of her family, she is left completely alone, and has to make her own way in the world. Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, she ends up travelling to Villette (Brussels), and getting a position as an English teacher at a school for girls.

You know what - I'm sitting here, trying to write a post about this book, but I find I can't. It is simply too powerful and too complex a book for me to be able to organise my thoughts on it at this point. Instead, let me simply recommend that you read it. Then talk to me about it! Maybe I'll be able to draw out more of my ideas on the book via discussion.

Make you sure you buy the Penguin Classics edition - don't make the same mistake that I did! If you're fluent in French, you might manage, but otherwise, get the Penguin edition.

It's not a book for the faint of heart. It's a book that will challenge you, inspire you, move you, and ultimately take your breath away. 

And the ending! Oh my! I don't want to spoil it for you. But you must tell what you thought of the end after you've finished it.

Current Mood: Intimidated
(Intimidated by trying to write a review of Villette!!!)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Update. . .

I've been sick! Would you believe it, the the very night after we moved back to our house after the flood scare, 5 of my siblings were all sick with a 24 hour stomach bug! I came down with it a couple of days later, on Monday. I was only actually sick on Monday night, but I've been feeling a bit tired and drained all week as I recover. Sorry I haven't been posting much, or replying to comments. It's been a pretty hectic week, as you may well imagine. Things are just starting to get back to normal around here. :-)

PS: Bethany Hudson from The Apple Cider Mill has had her baby! It's a boy, and his name is James Kingsley Hudson. Please, head over to Bethany's blog and pass on your congratulations!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Little Princess 1986 ON DVD!!!

Oh my goodness, I am so excited!!! My favourite adaptation of one of my favourite books is FINALLY available on DVD! It was released just this month. I am buying it ASAP! This is the only movie/tv version that follows the book. The 1995 version changes the characters, the setting (from Victorian London to WWI America) - it even changes the plot. The Shirley Temple version isn't much better. If you like Frances Hodgeson Burnett's book, you have to see this adaptation! 

I watched A Little Princess 1986 on Youtube earlier this year - at the time, I bemoaned the fact that it was only available second-hand on VHS. I had no idea then that it would released on DVD just a couple of months later. :-D

Click here to buy from Amazon, here to watch it on Youtube, or here to read my full review of A Little Princess 1986.

Current Mood: Excited

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flooding forecast

Scratch yesterday's post! Could you all please pray that the levy wall will hold and we won't get inundated by floodwaters. There is a chance of major flooding being forecast now.

Update: the floodwaters didn't reach the wall! We're back home safe and sound after staying overnight at a relative's house. There are showers forecast, but no flooding rains.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rainy days. . .

It's been raining almost non-stop here for a couple of days, and there's rain forecast for the next few days. There's been flooding in some areas, though so far none where we are. We've been doing a lot of indoor things. . . baking, reading, playing with lego, watching North and South ( ;-) ), playing with baby, who is now 14 months old. . . babies are very entertaining. I can't imagine how boring it would be living in a house without one.

Any ideas for other rainy-day things to do?

Current Mood: Cold

Getting used to a sometimes un-beautiful world

I live in a medium-sized town in regional New South Wales, Australia. In some ways it's quite a lovely town - many of the streets are lined with trees, there are quite a few graceful old buildings around town (well, "old" by Australian standards. . . ). And yet, like any other town, there are areas that are relatively bare and ugly. As we drive or walk along some of these streets, I often wish that it was in my power to beautify the surrounding neighbourhood. - Planting trees everywhere to cover up the run-down old fibro houses, filling the place with lush green growth. Digging up the patchy brown lawns and planting vegetable gardens, giving the whole area an aura of life and productivity. 

Then I fall back to earth.

Fast-forward a few weeks: we'll drive past the same houses. Same bare, brown "gardens" that don't deserve the word. Same fibro houses, desperately wanting a good paint job. And I get so frustrated!

I do love beauty and beautiful things, and when I see the same old uninspiring neighbourhood or landscape again and again, it really gets me down! I just want to do something about it! Do something to make the world a more beautiful place.

It reminds me of a time - I would have been about 12 - when I was reading an article in an old National Geographic. It was about Mexico City, and its problems with pollution and overcrowding. I felt a very strong urge to rebuild all of Mexico City. Sure, if I had a few trillion dollars to spare, that might be a nice little project for me to work on.

Anyways. Have any of you ever felt that way? Or is it just me?

Note: The photo isn't a picture of any house in our neighbourhood - it's just a random pic I got off the internet. ;-)

Current Mood: Thoughtful

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crying and kissing

Last night I was lying awake in bed, when I suddenly got it into my head to see if I could cry - I mean just cry, with no provocation or reason. I discovered that it is in fact quite easy to simulate 'heartbroken' sobbing - but try as I might, I couldn't squeeze out a proper tear, though I fancy I did manage to get my nose and eyes quite red and puffy. Perhaps, next time, if I keep practising, I'll be able to produce the obligatory salty drop or two.

Ah, the things that you dream up whilst lying awake, when it's well past your bed-time. . . 

Do you know, when I was little, I always assumed that actors in movies had to use some sort of teargas or something to make their eyes water for crying scenes. It wasn't until I was older when I realised that, no, those are real tears - they really are crying, or pretending to.

Also, for kissing scenes, I thought that movie-makers would have to use special effects to make it look like a couple were kissing, when in fact they weren't. Because of course, you couldn't kiss someone unless you were married to that person! or so I believed. :-) Sometime, years later, I finally figured out that there were no special effects or computer tricks involved. I suppose my first thought would have been "Ewww!". . . 

By the way - last night, after my fake crying episode, when I finally got to sleep, I dreamt that a friend of mine had died, and I was at their funeral. No kidding!


Current Mood: Dorky

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New books!!!

I always get sooo excited when a new book/s arrive in the mail!! In the past couple of weeks, I've added 5 beautiful Penguin Classics books to my growing collection - first Wuthering Heights (which I have already read but wanted to re-read) and Northanger Abbey from Fishpond (I actually already had a copy of NA, but you can never have too many editions of a Jane Austen book. . . ); then Little Women from a lady in France via BookMooch; then today Fanny Burney's Evelina and Charlotte Bronte's Villette!

I've already read the first half of Villette, but you have to understand that "Villette" is in fact Brussels. - hence a lot of the dialogue is actually in French, and I don't know one word of French. In the end, it just got to be too much - I was missing out on whole chunks of dialogue. Not good. So I stopped reading it and ordered a copy of the Penguin edition, which includes translations of all the French phrases! Whew! So now I can resume reading Villette (it's a brilliant book, by the way - possibly even better than Jane Eyre. I can't wait to finish it!).

I also recently got a beautiful art book about Rembrandt from someone in Denmark. . . BookMooch again! And I'm expecting a Stephen Lawhead book to arrive, though goodness knows when I'll get time to read it. . . :P

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Urban knitting (or crocheting)

Have a look at this! What an adorable idea! "The world's most inoffensive form of graffiti" - I like that! :-D 

Click here and here for loads more pictures. I think just covering poles and lamp posts in knitting is kind of. . . I don't know. . . but I love the little flowers and mushrooms. 

Current Mood: Creative

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You know those days when. . .

Autumn Leaves, by Sir John Everett Millais

. . . you seem to be busy all the time, but you don't really feel like you're getting a lot done? These last couple of days have been like that for me. Hence the temporary drought in blog posts hereabouts. Hopefully blogging will be back to normal later this week. I'm not a very organised person (*big understatement*) but I don't like having my routine disrupted. If we're busy in the morning, it means that I'm not able to get much schoolwork done (I usually try to get schoolwork done in the morning. . . ) and my whole day just seems out of whack from then on. . . guitar lessons this morning, homeschool meeting in the park yesterday morning. . .  

Sorry, I'll stop whinging now. I hope you're all having a lovely day! :-)


Current Mood: Moody

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Love's Abiding Joy

Love's Abiding Joy, the fourth movie in the Love Comes Softly series, will be on Channel 7 tomorrow (May 7th) from 12pm to 2pm for any Australian readers who might want to watch it. Sorry this is such late notice! I meant to do a blog post about this ages ago, but then I forgot all about it. :-( I'll be watching it! I've only seen the first three movies in the series so far. . . 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thoughts on re-reading P&P for the 2137th time

I've just finished reading Pride and Prejudice (again). I generally read it once or twice a year. It's one of those rare books that one can read over and over and over again, without ever tiring of it. (Well, I certainly never tire of it.) I gain something new, some fresh insight into some aspect of the novel, upon every re-read. Here are a couple of the things that struck me as I was reading it again over the past couple of days:

*I sometimes lost patience with Elizabeth. She is such a delighful heroine, it is very hard to be irritated by her. But this time, as I was reading, I tried as much as possible to see things from Darcy's perspective, rather than Elizabeth's. I couldn't help being a little frustrated with her when she misjudges and abuses Darcy.

*I realised just how "light and bright and sparkling" P&P really is. A couple of months ago, I re-read Sense and Sensibility. The atmosphere of S&S is, by comparison to P&P, almost dark and depressing - claustrophobic would be a good way to describe it, as Elinor and Marianne endure months of agony, and, eventually, heartbreak. Austen's wit is at its sharpest in S&S, but much of the irony comes from the speech and behaviour of very unpleasant personalities. The overall feel of Pride and Prejudice is much lighter and brighter.

*I was once again confirmed in my opinion that P&P 05 is, if not the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, certainly my favourite adaptation. I've recently watched both the 1995 and 2005 version again - which is actually what inspired me to re-read the book. Matthew MacFadyen is Fitzwilliam Darcy - for me, at least. - As I read, it was his voice coming off the page.

*With each re-read of Pride and Prejudice, I grow to like Darcy more and more. :-) I must join in the chorus of millions of females voices from all over the world - "Why can't there be more men like Mr. Darcy today!!" 

BTW - instead of reading my Penguin Classics copy of P&P, I borrowed a different edition from the library - it's an illustrated Dorling Kindersley edition, recently published. I found it to be quite good - it had many double-page spreads interspersed through the text, dealing with various aspects of Regency life, as well as footnotes explaining various words and phrases not in common use today.

Current Mood: Giggly

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beautiful costumes!

Thanks to Wendy from the Tudophiles forums for letting me know about this site!

Aren't these gowns beautiful?? You could pretend you were a fairytale princess, or a beautiful girl in a Pre-Raphaelite painting, or an elfin maiden of Middle-earth. . .

Go to the website for many more stunning dresses.

All pictures are from the Dark Angel website.

PS: I've added a new playlist to my sidebar. Have a listen!

Current Mood: Happy

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pride and Prejudice poll!

Please vote! :-)

My top 10 literary heroines

Finally, my long-promised follow-up to my "Top 10 Heroes" post. This time it's 15, not 10. My list of heroines seemed to balloon to 15 before I knew it, and could easily have extended to 20.



#1: Fanny Price from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

I can identify more keenly with Fanny than any other Austen heroine. In fact, we're so alike, that when I was reading Mansfield Park I could easily imagine that I was Fanny, if that makes any sense. I'm never going to be an Elizabeth Bennet - I'm far too shy and stupid - but I've always felt a special kinship with Fanny. Sorry, I know that sounds cheesy, but I can't describe it any other way! Unfortunately, there hasn't yet been a really good on-screen Fanny. At least Sylvestra La Touzel's Fanny bears some resemblance to the Fanny of the book, which is more than can be said for Frances O'Connor's or Billie Piper's performances. 

#2: Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Arguably one of literature's most delightful heroines. Intelligent, witty, and very pretty. . . Lizzy would make a wonderful friend. She isn't perfect, but her humanity only adds to her charm. (Ugh! Why does that last sentence sound so trite and prosy?) Keira Knightley isn't necessarily my favourite Lizzy, but in my opinion she looks more like Elizabeth than any of the other on-screen Lizzies, which is why she's in the photo here.

#3: Anne Shirley from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series 

You could say that Anne is the Montgomery equivalent of Austen's Elizabeth Bennet. I've read many, many, L.M. Montgomery books, and I love all of her heroines, but I think it's safe to say that Anne is Montgomery's most perenially popular young heroine. Red-headed Anne is romantic, sweet, hot-tempered, and has an almost limitless imagination. A true "kindred spirit". 

#4: Anne Elliot from Jane Austen's Persuasion

The heroine of my favourite Jane Austen novel - Persuasion. Anne Elliot is Austen's most mature heroine - at the ripe old age of 27, she is 6 years older than any of Austen's other heroines. Anne's personality and appearance is very much in line with the tone of the novel Persuasion - subtle, understated, but with an enduring inner beauty that blooms as the story develops.

#5: Molly Gibson from Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters

Dear, sweet Molly Gibson! How could anyone not love her? :-) Molly is a beautiful person inside and out. She also has a mind of her own, and is never afraid to voice her opinions. Fortunately for him, Roger Hamley came to his senses and realised what an amazing person she was/is before it was too late.

#6: Elinor Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

One of the nicest big sisters in literature. Sensible, level-headed and caring, Elinor would be a wonderful sister or friend. I can identify with Elinor on a number of levels - particularly her protective, big-sisterly instincts towards Marianne. I often feel exactly the same way about my own little sisters. Emma Thompson's performance as Elinor is, I feel, the strongest - but Hattie Morahan looks more like Elinor.

#7: Marianne Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

Both of the two elder Dashwood sisters are here. It was impossible for me to separate them on this list. They pretty much tie for no. 6. I thought that Kate Winslet captured fairly well the sweetness and free-spiritedness of Marianne's character.

#8: Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South

One of the strongest, most memorable heroines of Victorian literature. Margaret isn't afraid of flaying Victorian conventions, befriending millworkers in 1850s Manchester, and frequently clashing with mill owner Mr. Thornton. Daniela Denby-Ashe was pretty good as Margaret, though it is the Margaret Hale of Elizabeth Gaskell's book that will forever endure in my imagination.

#9: Amy Dorrit from Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit

The heroine of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit. Claire Foy's luminous performance as Amy Dorrit in the BBC's recent adaptation was wonderful. Her scenes with Matthew MacFadyen (Mr. Darcy in P&P 2005) were excellent. Technically I probably shouldn't include Amy here, because I haven't read Little Dorrit - I've only seen the tv series. Still, if the Amy of the book is anything like the Amy of the series, she deserves to be on this list.

#10: Edith Adelon from Louisa May Alcott's The Inheritance

As is sometimes the case with Alcott, Edith does come across as a little bit too perfect in the book, but Cari Shayne's Edith in the 1997 adaptation is very sweet and very likeable.

#11: Catherine Morland from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

The young, naive, and somewhat gullible heroine of Jane Austen's charming Northanger Abbey. It's difficult not to like Catherine, even though she may not be the wisest, most mature Austen heroine.

#12: Lucy Pevensie from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series

Lucy's innocent, childlike faith and wonder is one of the most inspiring elements of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Georgie Henley was only 8 years old when the first Narnia movie was filmed, but she did an awesome job, stealing the show as little Lucy Pevensie.

#13: Josephine March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women series

The heroine of Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel - bookworm, tomboy, and author, Jo. Strictly speaking, Jo is one of four heroines from Little Women - but she is the most human of the four March sisters, and the character with whom the reader usually identifies the most.

#14: Eowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

One of the very few major female characters in The Lord of the Rings. Eowyn's spirit and courage was one of my favourite aspects of LOTR when I first read the books. And I adored the romance between Eowyn and Faramir. :-) Miranda Otto's Eowyn isn't quite how I imagined Eowyn to be, but it was still a strong performance.

#15: Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

I feel bad about having Jane Eyre way down at no. 15! Just bear in mind that this list isn't necessarily in any particular order - Jane is last, but not least! Jane Eyre is a passionate, yet outwardly restrained young woman. The book Jane Eyre is an amazing read - the story of a friendless orphan's search for love, family, and fulfillment. Zelah Clarke's (Jane Eyre 1983) and Ruth Wilson's (JE 2006) portrayals of Jane were both very good.

Current Mood: Busy