Murder in the Prince Regent's library? Oh the cheek of Barron's ironic humor is nonpareil. It was great fun to be sleuthing in post-Waterloo London wiMurder in the Prince Regent's library? Oh the cheek of Barron's ironic humor is nonpareil. It was great fun to be sleuthing in post-Waterloo London with Jane Austen and her friend Raphael West, who we were introduced to in the previous mystery, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas. They make a great detective team, with romantic possibilities. Fast paced, emotionally gripping and historically entrenched, Waterloo Map is Barron's finest novel to date in this very popular series.. ...more
Those who enjoyed the movie Out of Africa, based on the memoirs of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), will be enthralled by this lush, and surprisingly taugThose who enjoyed the movie Out of Africa, based on the memoirs of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), will be enthralled by this lush, and surprisingly taught historical fiction of Beryl Markham's years in Kenya. The physical descriptions were wondrous and the prose delightful, but readers might have a hard time connecting to the heroine, who rebels against convention and herself continually. The historical research was quite amazing, revealing a very vivid picture of Africa during the 1910-30's. Her many doomed marriages and romances might leave you as empty emotionally as she was, however, her spirit and spunk soared high above the emotional losses, financial hardship and moral choices she made. ...more
A beautifully researched and written historical fiction novel focusing on actress Loretta Young and her 1935 love affair with actor Clark Gable duringA beautifully researched and written historical fiction novel focusing on actress Loretta Young and her 1935 love affair with actor Clark Gable during the filming of the movie Call of the Wild. Trigiani's take on the famous "secret" affair (Gable was married at the time) and their child will be an eye opener for some.
Based on facts and including many Hollywood names from the Golden Age of film, readers will be swept up in the era and the lives of many of the famous and fabulous. The love of the subject and the detail of characterization is evident on every page. I found Trigiani's channeling of Gable's "voice" through the novel especially gratifying, but found the plot at times slow and ponderous, burdened by a devotion by the author to tell the Young/Gable story in such detail. If I have one niggling complaint, it is with the pacing.
Some readers will be aware of the new information about the actual events regarding the couple's sexual relationship that came out after this book was put to bed with its publisher. While this could have changed Trigiani's decision to write this book at all, I am glad that she did not re-write it or pull it all together.
Regardless, this is a fictionalization of the most famous love affair that could never be more than that, and their secret love child that grew up never knowing, beyond gossip, who her father was.
The final season of the wildly popular television series 'Downton Abbey' is drawing near. To prep yourself for the further drama of the Crawley familyThe final season of the wildly popular television series 'Downton Abbey' is drawing near. To prep yourself for the further drama of the Crawley family and their servants, fellow Downtonites can revisit the fabulous plots, locations and characters by reading the final companion volume to the series, 'Downton Abbey – A Celebration', by Jessica Fellowes. This is her fourth large and lavish book spotlighting the phenomenally popular, award winning television series. And, it truly lives up to its title—a jubilant fête worthy of her uncle Julian Fellowes’ vision of portraying the changes in the British aristocracy through the Crawley family and their servants from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 to the Jazz Age of 1925.
The cover boasts “Companion to All Six Seasons” which could be a bane or boon to the reader depending on if they abhor spoilers or not. They are a middlin’ amount. Much less than you would find in a Google search on the subject or happen across on Twitter—and no information on the finale episode which will air in the UK on Christmas day and in the US in March, 2106. Notwithstanding the distractions, we are cleverly guided through Downton Abbey – A Celebration by visiting the rooms of the abbey arranged by sections and chapters. Beginning upstairs through the Great Hall, drawing room, dining room, library and family bedrooms to “Behind the Green Baize Curtain” downstairs to the Servants Hall, the kitchen and servants attic where they sleep. This physical approach of touring the rooms seems very fitting; each described and placed in historical and social context while we revisit key scenes played out there with the characters. Who could forget the Dowager Countess Grantham asking “What is a weekend?” in the dining room during season one, Matthew Crawley proposing to Lady Mary on the steps of the entrance in season two or when Anna is arrested in the Servants Hall and taken to jail in season five? Each, a riveting moment in the drama that bonds us to the characters and the home in which they live.
Moving outside of the great manor house the book also encompasses the entire Downton estate including the grounds, farm, cottages, Dower House and the village to “Beyond the Boundaries” to London, Yorkshire and Scotland—covering many (if not all) locations visited by the Crawley family and their friends during the series. Filled with hundreds of full-color photographs, several cast interviews, pertinent quotes from the screenplay and an introduction by the Great Man himself, Julian Fellowes, readers will find the helpful episode guide an invaluable aid to refresh their memories on the who, what, when and where, and help them win at Downton Abbey Trivial Pursuit when it is created. And, you know it will be.
Ms. Fellowes’ writing is fluid and engaging. With so many facts to convey, nonfiction writing can be a challenge. You can feel her passion for the subject with the detail and energy that she brings to the text.
“On rare occasions, others have been lent the rooms for their own privacy, too. Fortunately, only Mrs. Hughes knows there’s a grating in the wall that means any conversation in here can be eavesdropped on – something that she found came in handy when Vera Bates arrived to threaten her husband. Mrs. Hughes offered the room for them to talk in – and through the grating she heard Vera tell Bates she will go to the papers with the story about the Turk* dying in Lady Mary’s bed, and that Anna will feature in the story as the woman who helped to move the corpse.” (128) in the section on Mrs. Hughes’s Sitting Room
*The Turk mentioned in this quote is Kemal Pamuk, a handsome Turkish diplomat who expired in Lady Mary Crawley’s bed, requiring Countess Grantham, Lady Mary and Anna the maid (Bates’ girlfriend) to carry the body in secrecy back to his room. Any true Downtonite knows that Mrs. Hughes would never permit anyone on the staff, or upstairs, to be Pamuked by anyone, so Vera is toast!
Filled with sumptuous images and photographs, Downton Abbey – A Celebration is a comprehensive, beautifully designed edition perfect for holiday gift giving to history buffs, period drama and Downton Abbey fans. WARNING! Be sure to buy two copies, or you will never gift it away....more
Will we ever be able to explain the phenomenon that is the television series Downton Abbey? Watched by millions and showered with awards, I find the rWill we ever be able to explain the phenomenon that is the television series Downton Abbey? Watched by millions and showered with awards, I find the reason for its success as elusive to pinpoint as Jane Austen’s lasting appeal. It means so much to so many. In two hundred years time will people be watching and reading about this period drama as passionately as we do Austen’s novels?
Quite possibly so. Their common link is the witty writing. Clever bon mots and cheeky retorts never go out of fashion. They make us smile, laugh-out-loud and reflect upon what makes us tick as humans. They are a window into our souls.
The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes is a collection of those fabulous zingers that make this series so “light, bright and sparkling” to Austen fans and the bazillion other viewers around the world. Creator and writer Julian Fellowes must love Austen as much as this Janeite. He certainly recognizes how her prose can sing with humor and social reproof using the same technique in his own dialogue. Whenever anyone complains about anything I am tempted to use a little Lady Catherine, oops, Lady Violet on them…
“Don’t be defeatist dear. It is very middle class.”—Dowager Countess Grantham
This slim volume of witty and wise one liners has been compiled by Jessica Fellowes. Being the niece of the creator does give you the inside scoop. However, Jessica is a tour-de-force all on her own. Author, journalist, and public speaker, Fellowes is formerly a celebrity interviewer at the Mail on Sunday and deputy editor of Country Life magazine. Readers familiar with her work will know that she has also written four lavish coffee-table books on the series: The World of Downton Abbey (2011), The Chronicles of Downton Abbey (2012), A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey (2014) and recently Downton Abbey: A Celebration (2015). She opens this beautifully designed book with an insightful introduction offering a “cocktail of an answer” as to way the series works so well. The book is structured into five chapters: Life; Love and Family; Work; Play; and Downton Abbey. Not only does it contain many (if not all) of my favorite quotes from characters ranging from the dry Mrs. Patmore to haughty Lady Mary Crawley, it includes full-color photos from the production.
“After four Seasons, one is less a debutante than a survivor.”—Lady Rosamund
My number one choice this season as a stocking stuffer for my Downtonite friends, The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey will help you remember why we love this series so much and prime you for the final season (sob) which premieres in the US on MASTERPIECE Classic on Sunday, January 3, 2016.
“Daisy? What’s happened? I said you could go for a drink of water, not a trip up the Nile.”—Mrs. Patmore
At first glance, it is easy to see why some modern readers might overlook Ross Poldark, the primogenial novel in Winston Graham’s The Novels of CornwaAt first glance, it is easy to see why some modern readers might overlook Ross Poldark, the primogenial novel in Winston Graham’s The Novels of Cornwall family saga. Originally published in 1945, most seventy-year-old books are now long forgotten. Its main character is a man—when to appeal to its primary audience most historical fiction is carried by a female protagonist. The setting can be off putting too. It begins in 1783, a difficult and depressing time in English history after the loss of the American Colonies, when social, political and economic upheaval crippled the country. Fueled, by angst, obsession and regret, it is about as far removed from the refined country drawing rooms, witty repartee and genteel romance found in Jane Austen novels as it could be.
Despite these questionable first impressions, this novel and its eponymous hero have “legs.” It has never gone out of print and continues to build a fan base, mostly generated from the 1975 – 1977 landmark television adaptation, Poldark, starring Robin Ellis. And now after forty years the BBC and PBS have joined forces again for a reboot of this very popular classic starring Aidan Turner as the swashbuckling hero. With so much clout behind it, who could not be tempted to see what the original novel was all about?
Set in Cornwall, Royal Army officer Captain Ross Poldark returns home a scarred and weary soldier from fighting in the American Revolutionary War. It is a disheartening homecoming. His father Joshua has recently died, his sweetheart Elizabeth Chynoweth is engaged to his cousin Francis Poldark and his inheritance, the family residence, farmland and tin mines lie totally derelict. There does not appear to be any reason for him to stay.
The local economy does not fare much better. The tin and copper mines owned by the landed gentry are in serious decline while nouveau riche banker George Warleggan prospers by extending credit, foreclosing and building a financial empire on the hard work of others. Bonded to the land, his tenants and the hope that Elizabeth will return to him, the temptation to leave and take the easy road is not even a serious option for this Poldark. With the help of two of his father’s idle servants, Jud and Prudie Paynter and a street urchin turned kitchen maid Demelza Carne, Ross fights to rebuild his pride and his family fortune.
“Looking east, upon Hendrawna Beach, the sea was very clam today: a smokey grey with here and there patches of violet and living, moving green. The waves were shadows, snakes under a quilt, creeping in almost unseen until they emerged in milky ripple at the waters edge.” (p. 33)
Surprisingly, we are immediately drawn in by author Winston Graham’s opening chapters. His writing is succinct, lyrical and hypnotic. He throws so much adversity in our hero’s path that we cannot help but root for the underdog. We learn early on that Ross Poldark is not your typical landed gentry. He may have left for the war a young ensign with a dubious reputation, but he returned two years later a seasoned captain—a mature leader of men tempered by British injustice and influenced by the ideals of liberty and equality by the American patriots. Deeply committed to helping the local villagers, his proletariat views are not welcomed by his own class. In his mind, what is right to be done cannot be done soon enough regardless of the consequences. He abhors aristocrats and their privileged way of life—delighting in thumbing his nose at them in scandalous ways.
About half-way into the novel we realize that Captain Ross Poldark could be an iconic romantic hero to rival Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester and John Thornton. He’s handsome. He’s rebellious. He’s broody. He’s the dark Poldark; the one with the youthful reputation as a wastrel, gamester and smuggler clutching at his left shoulder. He drinks and thinks way too much, and his cousin Verity, the only family member to visit him, is deeply concerned for his welfare.
Ross reaches a low point in his life at the wedding of his beloved Elizabeth to his cousin Francis. “All of the time at the back of his mind had been the half conviction that somehow the wedding would not be. It was as hard to believe as if someone had told him he was going to die.” (p. 44) During the wedding banquet at his uncle’s estate, Trenwith, while a cock fight is underway in the dining room for the amusement of the guests, Ross seeks out an encounter with Elizabeth who attempts to explain her decision to not follow through with their youthful promises to each other.
“There is no time to explain everything; perhaps I couldn’t explain it if there were. But I do want you to try to forgive me for any unhappiness I may have caused you.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” said Ross. “There was no formal undertaking.” (p. 48)
This conversation, and their choices of how to deal with the situation, foreshadows their continued, tormented relationship—her fickle nature and need to please her family and society, and his poker-faced indignation against adversity. Each of these personality foibles are the backbone of this story; while there are many other characters and subplots churning throughout the novel, it all comes back to Elizabeth’s decision to marry another man and Ross’s obsession to possess her.
Author Winston Graham’s writing is superb. Fast faced, descriptive and engaging, his style is a clever blending of both literary and commercial fiction. He particularly excels at multi-character scenes where the action and dialogue joyfully skips about a room. The Truro Assembly Room ball is one of our favorites. In the course of one chapter we are introduced to Cornwall’s polished society bathed in candlelight and decked out in elegant frocks and swaggering finery. Here we witness polite conversation and scurrilous gossip, flirtations and put-downs; meet a scheming mother with five unwed daughters, a handsome captain courting an on-the-shelf spinster and our hero Ross, scandalously dancing more than two times with a young, ambitious debutante, then fleeing the scene in anguish upon the arrival of Elizabeth and Francis. “Elizabeth’s beauty struck him afresh. The fact that another man should be in full enjoyment of her was like the torture of damnation.” (p. 64) Sullen and brooding, he arrives at a local tavern to drown his sorrows in brandy and the local light skirt.
This scene is as close as we get to anything remotely resembling a Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel. Refined society is not where Ross Poldark chooses to spend his time, nor does Winston Graham. This story is about money, or the lack of it, the shifting fortunes and social standing of the ruling classes, and the emotional forces that drive men to achieve success and the women that they desire. Along the way we learn a lot about late eighteenth-century copper and tin mining in Cornwall while swash and buckling through fist fights, riots, prison breaks, duels, poaching and pillaging. After all, this is a man’s story and we certainly see life through Ross Poldark’s manly eyes. When he rescues thirteen-year-old street urchin Demelza, and her mongrel dog Garrick at the Redruth Fair from a gang of bullies, we begin to see that there might be a softer side. Nobly, he feeds her and offers her a ride home to her father.
“They reached a break in the track. Ahead lay the way to Illugan; the right fork would bring him to skirt St. Ann’s whence he could join the usual lane to Swale.” (p. 75)
Before they part, he generously offers her a job as his kitchen maid. She gladly accepts, if only to get out of the thrashing that awaits her at home. Unknowingly, he has reached an important juncture in his life and it will never be the same after this point. Society is scandalized by his altruistic actions, thinking he has taken her for carnal reasons, but he holds firm and pays her greedy father her annual wages. She brings life to his lonely home with her youthful energy, humor and dedication to him. It will redeem his embittered soul.
When after three years of service her father wants his daughter back, and commands her to return, Demelza must comply. Heartbroken, she is certain that Nampara is her home now and that she cannot leave Ross. She loves him, even though he has never shown her anything but the respect that a master owes their servant. Desperate to stay, her first attempt at coquetry is a painful failure. Ross is angered and confused. “He felt like someone who had adopted a tiger cub without knowing what it would grow into.” (p. 215) Concerned by her flirtations he angrily tells her,
“You know what people say of you, Demelza?”
She shook her head. “What?”
“If you act like this, what they say of you will become true.”
She looked at him, candidly this time, without coquetry and without fear. “I live only for you, Ross.” (p. 217)
If you read one historical fiction novel this year, let it be Ross Poldark. Adventurous, addictive and wholly romantic, history buffs will applaud Graham’s meticulous research, Jane Austen fans will delight in the witty repartee and humor, and romance readers will swoon over the discovery of an iconic romantic hero truly worthy of wearing the mantle.