The Black Moth, though actually a minor character throughout much of the plot, ends up stealing the show. He is oh so evil, yet oh so intriguing. He fThe Black Moth, though actually a minor character throughout much of the plot, ends up stealing the show. He is oh so evil, yet oh so intriguing. He fairly drips with an aura of mystery whenever on the scene--which is never expected, but always premeditated. Some diss this book as Heyer's first and flawed attempt at a historical romance novel, written when she was 19. Don't be so fast to overlook it and go on to her more recommended novels. If you'll be reading her other Alastair series books (These Old Shades, Devil's Cub....), it is requisite to read this first. Though the names are changed, the characters are the same and the plot references carry through the books chronologically. Having read These Old Shades, my opinion is that TOS is a superior book in many respects, but I enjoyed The Black Moth character better in this first book over the latter where he's more old fogey-ish than villain....more
I loved Lady Susan, the character! I think a good actress could do wonders with this role in an adaptation. Since I've read all Austen's novels, it waI loved Lady Susan, the character! I think a good actress could do wonders with this role in an adaptation. Since I've read all Austen's novels, it was nice to read something new. While short, this novella is satisfying--I think it could have been expanded into a full length novel if Austen had had the time and desire to do so. I'm curious about this new novel out, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter--I may have to check that out.
Only slightly unsatisfying was the end, which seemed wrapped up all too nicely in the final chapter. SPOILER: It wasn't quite believable to me--after reading the whole story that is basically centered on Lady Susan making endless trouble for everyone--that she would give in and marry Sir James herself. Reginald I found to be very sweet but pretty spineless considering he was completely taken in by Lady Susan for the majority of the book....more
It is the 12th century in the city of Worcester. At the Nunnery of the White Ladies, old lay-sister Mary Antony performs her daily ritual. As the nunsIt is the 12th century in the city of Worcester. At the Nunnery of the White Ladies, old lay-sister Mary Antony performs her daily ritual. As the nuns return from Vespers through the underground passage into the cloisters, she counts them in her unique way--dropping one pea for each nun from her hand into a bag. Today the count is different. Today the nuns pass, all the peas drop into the bag, and then one more nun passes by.
Who is this intruder? Could Mary Antony's senses be failing her? Or is it the ghost of Sister Agatha who, years before, was accidentally locked into the underground passageway and suffered an untimely death?
The White Ladies of Worcester is another winner from Florence Barclay, author of The Rosary. As in the Rosary, Barclay pulls you into the action of the novel straight away. The rest of the story revolves around the Prioress of the nunnery who, in her youth, was deserted by her betrothed. The depth of her anguish sends her to the nunnery, and she eventually rises to the top of the ranks. Later events unfold to make the Prioress question the vows she took, while others try to sway her decisions with their own interests in mind.
Barclay invents some wonderful, developed characters here. Our hero, the knight Hugh d'Argent, is strong and burley--a guy you wouldn't want to mess with. But he's easily the most sensitive guy in the novel. Unlike Fanny Burney whose heroes should be slapped for being so whiny, Hugh feels strongly but stoically, which makes one love him all the better.
As I made my casting recommendations for the Rosary, I also have some in mind for The While Ladies.
The Prioress: Cate Blanchett would make a lovely Prioress. She must be beautiful, but understated enough for a nunnery. She must have long, flowing, blonde hair. She also must have a temper and be strong in her resolve.
Hugh d'Argent: Oh how I wanted to cast Richard Armitage as Garth Dalmain in the Rosary! But that just wouldn't work out, James McAvoy fits Garth much better. However, Armitage would fit the Knight to perfection: dark and handsome, has that melting stare, and looks great in armor.
The Bishop: I had a hard time picturing the Bishop for the majority of the novel, probably because he's a hard character to make out. Is he good, is he bad, is he neither? Towards the end it finally came to me: Jeremy Irons would meld this ambiguity of character wonderfully.
Mary Antony: This is my favorite character in the book, and I imagine would also be the most fun to enact. She's quite old, and she's got an attitude. Someone like Sophia from the Golden Girls (Estelle Getty) would be great, however it appears she is no longer with us....more
I've never read an Austen sequel before, and I have to say I loved this one. It was light and entertaining, yet also suspenseful--Ann Radcliffe wouldI've never read an Austen sequel before, and I have to say I loved this one. It was light and entertaining, yet also suspenseful--Ann Radcliffe would be proud. Emily Snyder definitely got the right tone and characterization for Austen's creations, Catherine and Henry Tilney. Northanger Abby is one of my favorites, so it was quite nice to see these two characters alive and well again (well, for the most part…)....more
What a long book, but Kingsley's excellent sense of humor makes the dry parts bearable. She's at her best when writing in travel journal style. Can yoWhat a long book, but Kingsley's excellent sense of humor makes the dry parts bearable. She's at her best when writing in travel journal style. Can you believe this woman went alone, in 1893, to remote areas in West Africa crawling with cannibal tribes? Some areas had never been visited by a white man, much less a white woman. Her views on African problems and issues at the time are very sensible and logical to the modern reader; she never falls into the trap of basing her opinions on prejudice. This is evidenced by the fact that she esteems the most feared cannibal tribe, the Fans, as her preferred hosts and traveling companions.
The rest of the book that is not travel narrative is her thoughts and research on Africa and its "fetishes", which is what seems to be her word for the religious and traditional customs of the natives. This fetish talk is interesting in some parts, especially when she is talking about her favorites, the Fans. But it gets tedious toward the end. In the Preface she notes that this book was originally published in a much longer version that had since been cut down substantially. She probably should have cut more. Also, it would have made more sense to put some of the meatier chapters on fetish toward the beginning to give the reader a suitable introduction to her interests and the tribes with which she comes in contact.
As a historical piece, this book is a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the history of West Africa, particularly at this period of encroaching European influence. As a travel book, it is amazing for the fact that this woman did what she did. I have read a little history on Mary Kingsley and found that she was initially driven to West Africa with not only curiosity but also suicidal tendencies. Several members of her family had just died, and she felt little sympathy with the conservative, late Victorian English society that surrounded her. So she fled abroad, knowing full well that over 70% of white men who went to West Africa succumbed to fever or other maladies. Turns out that West Africa treated her well, and she went on to travel for several more years. She eventually succumbed to typhoid in South Africa in 1900....more
What a find! I'm so glad I found this book. It is truly engrossing from the first pages. And as deeply moving as any Bronte or Austen work. The firstWhat a find! I'm so glad I found this book. It is truly engrossing from the first pages. And as deeply moving as any Bronte or Austen work. The first half of the book is so perfectly written and edited that I could see the scenes enacted in my head as if watching a movie--for some reason I pictured James McAvoy as the hero. She lags somewhat in the second half, but the urge to know what happens speeds you along. Please read this one--it's such a beautiful book. Now I'm off to read another Florence Barclay book, and it looks to be as good as this one!...more
In the 1920s the Radium Dial Company opened a factory in Illinois producing luminous paint made from radium. This paint was used to paint clock faces,In the 1920s the Radium Dial Company opened a factory in Illinois producing luminous paint made from radium. This paint was used to paint clock faces, safety signs, even watches for soldiers-anything that needed to glow in the dark. The primarily female workers at this factory and a similar one in New Jersey were told that the paint was harmless and were even encouraged to lick their paint brushes to sharpen them. This ingestion of the radioactive paint led to severe health problems and sometimes death of many of the workers. Five of them, known in the media as the Radium Girls, sued their former employer and won, thereby establishing several legal precedents in the U.S. regarding individual worker rights and labor safety standards.
Radium Halos is a fictional story based on these true events. The narrator is Helen Waterman, a 65-year-old mental patient who worked at the Radium Dial factory when she was 16. While the subject matter is intense, the tone of the novel is surprisingly light. Thanks is due to Helen who adds humor through her naive and bluntly honest outlook. Her periodic flashbacks introduce the people who have moved in and out of her life in the past 50 years. Author Shelley Stout excels in making these characters feel real, never sacrificing detail in favor of stereotypes. We feel for the characters as Helen does: we are irritated with nagging niece Pearl but understand why she's that way; we feel affection for young friend Adrienne but are anxious about some choices she's made; we defer to big sister Violet's decisions but secretly wonder if she's right after all.
Ideally for me, a novel will impart new knowledge and introduce characters I can quietly observe for a few days while reading and who stay with me for many more after that. Radium Halos does both. I've been introduced to some important history that I knew nothing about, and I've met a variety of colorful and interesting characters who will no doubt stay with me for quite a while....more
As usual, Eliot's perfect prose is matched with a good (but long) story. As usual, Eliot expands on a multitude of characters in a small English farmiAs usual, Eliot's perfect prose is matched with a good (but long) story. As usual, Eliot expands on a multitude of characters in a small English farming community. As usual, it takes her until about halfway through before things get interesting. But if you stick with it, you are well rewarded.
Adam Bede is not as well constructed as Middlemarch, nor as perfectly concise as my personal favorite, Silas Marner. It does have several things going for it though. One is Adam Bede himself. I cast Rufus Sewell to play him in my mental reenactment. Sewell was the perfect Ladislaw in the 1994 adaptation of Middlemarch, and would do just as well in the character of Adam Bede (though he is now too old for the part).
Now that I have read several Eliot novels, I am noticing a pattern in young, vibrant, minutely flawed but innately good male characters: Ladislaw, Bede, Daniel Deronda to name a few. Could these characters be based on someone in Eliot's real life? No doubt she used people from the farm community where she grew up as the basis for many of her characters. The characters are just too numerous and colorful to have come purely from imagination.
One of my favorite characters was the outspoken Mrs Poyser. The character you are supposed to love but hate, for me, was Dinah. Could this woman be any meeker? She is supposed to be strong-willed, but I just found her stubborn and, frankly, stupid. And what happened to Seth Bede? Here is a character dying for some more screen time. Things don't go his way, but he's always smiling contentedly, happy with the lot given him. I don't believe that.
As I said, some great things here, but definitely flawed. Of course flawed Eliot is like flawed Shakespeare, but that's another discussion....more