Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Books Read in 2008

I have lots of things to talk about when I come back but in the meanwhile, here's my list of books read in 2008. This is the first year I've kept a list.

00 means it's a re-read. In all fairness, I've decided not to count the books I've already read.


1. Pride and Prejudice : le roman de Jane Austen et le film de Joe Wright - Laurent Bury
2. Family Roundabout - Richmal Crompton
3. Le Blé en herbe - Colette
4. Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild
5. The Making of a Marchioness - Frances Hodgson Burnett
6. Tea With Mr Rochester - Frances Towers
7. The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Antonia Fraser
8. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
9. Angel - Elizabeth Taylor
10. Mr Darcy's Diary - Amanda Grange
11. A l'Ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs - Marcel Proust
12. A Room With a View - E.M. Forster
13. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
14. Possession - A.S. Byatt
15. The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin - Kate Chopin
16. The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
17. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
18. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde - R.L. Stevenson
19. King Richard III - William Shakespeare
20. The Home-Maker - Dorothy Canfield Fisher


21. Cranford Omnibus - Elizabeth Gaskell
22. Diary of a Nobody - George and Weedon Grossmith
23. Jane Austen : The World of Her Novels - Deirdre le Faye
24. The Closed Door and Other Stories - Dorothy Whipple
25. Friday's Child - Georgette Heyer
26. Middlemarch - George Eliot
27. The Diary of a Provincial Lady - E.M. Delafield
28. The Provincial Lady Goes Further - E.M. Delafield
29. Excellent Women - Barbara Pym
30. The Provincial Lady in America - E.M. Delafield


31. The Provincial Lady in Wartime - E.M. Delafield
32. Mariana - Monica Dickens
33. Jane and the Man of the Cloth - Stephanie Barron
34. Hostages to Fortune - Elizabeth Cambridge


35. Jane and the Wandering Eye - Stephanie Barron
36. Howards End - E.M. Forster
37. Consequences - E.M. Delafield
38. Saplings - Noel Streatfeild


39. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
40. Mistress of the Revolution - Catherine Delors
41. Good Evening, Mrs Craven - Mollie Panter-Downes
42. Elizabeth and Her German Garden - Elizabeth von Arnim
43. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Winifred Watson
44. The Return of the Soldier - Rebecca West
45. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
46. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
47. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
48. Someone at a Distance - Dorothy Whipple


49. Hons and Rebels - Jessica Mitford
50. Jane Austen - Carol Shields
51. Mrs Darcy's Dilemma - Diana Birchall
52. A Lost Lady - Willa Cather
53. Blaming - Elizabeth Taylor
54. The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann
55. Every Eye - Isobel English
56. The Young Pretenders - Edith Henrietta Fowler
57. Frost in May - Antonia White


58. Contes de la Bécasse - Guy de Maupassant
59. Love and Louis XIV - Antonia Fraser
60. Decca : The Letters of Jessica Mitford - Peter Sussman (edited by)
61. The Dud Avocado - Elaine Dundy
62. The Far Cry - Emma Smith
63. Le Côté de Guermantes - Marcel Proust
64. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories - Angela Carter
65. Evelina - Frances Burney
66. Celia Johnson - Kate Fleming
67. Kate : The Woman Who Was Hepburn - William J. Mann
68. The Passion of New Eve - Angela Carter


69. The Old Man and Me - Elaine Dundy
70. Union Street - Pat Barker
71. All Passion Spent - Vita Sackville-West
72. Virginia Woolf - Hermione Lee
73. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin
74. Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan LeFanu
75. A Series of Unfortunate Events : The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket
76. A Series of Unfortunate Events : The Reptile Room - Lemony Snicket
77. A Series of Unfortunate Events : The Wide Window - Lemony Snicket
78. Tipping the Velvet- Sarah Waters
79. Dusty Answer - Rosamond Lehmann
80. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont - Elizabeth Taylor
81. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
82. Where Angels Fear to Tread - E.M. Forster
83. Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
84. The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald
85. The Gate of Angels - Penelope Fitzgerald
86. The Clocks - Agatha Christie
87. His Dark Materials : The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman


88. His Dark Materials : The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
89. His Dark Materials : The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
90. Curtain Up - Noel Streatfeild
91. Wintle's Wonders - Noel Streatfeild
92. Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman
93. Sally Lockhart : The Tiger in the Well - Philip Pullman
94. Sodome et Gomorrhe - Marcel Proust
95. Captain Wentworth's Diary - Amanda Grange
00. Persuasion - Jane Austen


00. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
96. The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton
97. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
00. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
98. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
99. A House and Its Head - Ivy Compton-Burnett
100. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift


101. A Very Great Profession : The Woman's Novel 1914-1939 - Nicola Beauman
102. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
103. The Feminine Middlebrow Novel : 1920s to 1950s - Nicola Humble
104. City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
105. City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
106. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
107. The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton


108. King Lear - William Shakespeare
109. The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling
110. Vanity Fair - William M. Thackeray
111. The Tempest - William Shakespeare
112. La Prédiction de Nadia - Marie Desplechin
113. Baby-Sitter Blues - Marie-Aude Murail
114. Le Trésor de mon Père - Marie-Aude Murail
115. L'Orpheline dans l'Arbre - Susie Morgenstern
116. Quatre Soeurs : Enid - Malika Ferdjoukh
117. Le Jeu du Chat et de la Souris - Setona Mizushiro
118. Quatre Soeurs : Hortense - Malika Ferdjoukh
119. Provincial Daughter - R.M. Dashwood
120. Good Behaviour- Molly Keane
121. Our Spoons Came from Woolworths - Barbara Comyns
122. Miss Charity - Marie-Aude Murail
123. The Bread and Butter Stories - Mary Norton

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Well, that wasn't planned at all but I have to say it : Wonderfalls is genius. Bryan Fuller is one of the most creative people on television and he needs to do MORE. I've just finished watching the first and only season (the show was cancelled after the fourth episode but the entire first season and therefore series - 13 episodes - was released on DVD) and I'm in awe. I thought nothing could possibly be as good as his Dead Like Me but I was wrong. I won't compare the two because they're both excellent. Let me just say that Wonderfalls is a funny, smart, engrossing dramedy focuses on "Jaye Tyler, a recent Brown University graduate with a philosophy degree, who holds a dead-end job as a sales clerk at a Niagara Falls gift shop. Jaye is the reluctant participant in conversations with various animal figurines — a wax lion, brass monkey, stuffed bear, and mounted fish, among others — which direct her via oblique instructions to help people in need." Now if this premise doesn't give you the butterflies like it did to me, I don't know what will. The heroine is a strong, witty, sarcastic young woman (oh come on if you know Dead Like Me you know what I'm talking about) brilliantly portrayed by Caroline Dhavernas. The show is quirky, geeky and funny like nothing else. The casting is impeccable, we've got Jaye, a GREAT layered heroine who hears animals talking to her and by listening to them, changes people's lives for the best (she resents doing it and thinks she's crazy, which she probably is anyway) :

Who'll fall for handsome Eric (Tyron Leitso), a bartender who's just left his cheating wife :

We've got Jaye's brother, Aaron (Lee Pace) who's slightly disturbed. He studies religion and will have quite a good storyline as well :

Here's the whole cast. Everybody's so committed to this wonderful, hilarious show that makes so many references to comics, SF, fantasy you're likely to laugh at a scene during it but also way after the fact. It's a total wonder Tracie Thoms, who plays Jaye's best friend Mahandra doesn't have more work. She's irresistible. In fact and while I'm at it, it's a wonder this show got cancelled. My guess is Bryan's too intelligent for the average viewer.
Of course, like everything that's great, this show is endlessly quotable :

Gretchen to Jaye : Did you end up over-educated and unemployable like you said in the yearbook?
Darrin: Sweetheart, when was the last time you had an orgasm?
Sharon: That sound you hear is stunned silence.
Jaye: Well, just look at them. They all work really hard everyday and they're dissatisfied. I mean, I can be dissatisfied without hardly working at all.
Mahandra: And what happens if you repress something?
Jaye: It goes away?
Mahandra: It comes back - all crazy and pissed off.
Dr. Ron: Are you an atheist?
Aaron: As a theologian, I feel it’s irresponsible to define myself in those terms. But yeah.
Dr. Ron: A theologian who doesn’t believe in God?
Aaron: There’s more of us than you think.
Jaye: I was just rude to a customer. I can’t be Employee of the Month.
Alec: You don’t have a choice. Peggy said I can’t get it anymore now that I’m management. The honor comes with a certificate and a parking space on the first level of the structure.
Jaye: I park on the street.
Alec: And the afternoon off.
Jaye: I humbly accept.

Well, I'm not going to quote the whole show but hopefully you get the picture ! Now I'm off to watch Pushing Daisies by you've guessed whom, Bryan Fuller. I heart him so much. Go watch Wonderfalls on YouTube, it's a real treat. I'm taking a passage from my favourite review on IMDb :

"What is so fresh and invigorating about "Wonderfalls" is that it plays like a catalog of things that everyone (and common sense) says that you aren't supposed to even try in a TV show - only done extremely well. Plot points feature an exorcism (which I lambasted in Fox's disaster "The Pitts"), psychotic female stalkers, lengthy film homages and an on-paper unlikable, increasingly morally ambiguous heroine. Even gutsier, the tone and visual style fluctuates with each episode as the show plays with different genres. The episode themes vary from a non-linear crime & mystery, a psycho thriller, a "Scooby Doo" caper, a classic romantic comedy and a high school drama. The shows are paced brilliantly, filling the hour full and throwing one creative twist after another at the audience ever few minutes. The show is giddy over itself, eager to get to the next wacky twist. If nothing else, "Wonderfalls" certainly takes the prize as the most unpredictable show in memory."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Not goodbye, more like a see you later

I'm taking an Internet break to focus on studying for my January midterms. Plus, I really need to stay away from the Internet for a while to try and fight the addiction. I leave you with the gorgeous/talented/funny/great Mary-Louise Parker. If you want to make me really happy, buy/borrow/steal/watch the miniseries Angels in America and then buy the DVD. And then spread the love. And build Tony Kushner a statue. And one for Emma Thompson. And one for Meryl Streep. And one for Al Pacino. And one for Mary-Louise. And one for Ben Shenkman. And one for Justin Kirk. And one for Jeffrey Wight. And one for Patrick Wilson.

You can obviously watch Mary-Louise in Weeds (I need to catch up by the way, I'm so behind on everything) but also in Fried Green Tomatoes, which is also a good movie in itself, based on Fannie Flagg's book. Warning : you'll fall in love with Thomas Newman's score. Unfortunately, it's out of print. Now if you don't want to be as miserable as I am checking Amazon and eBay every day to see if you can find a copy at an affordable price, do NOT fall in love with the score.

"Janel Moloney just told me she would pay me $1,000 if I thanked my newborn son for making my boobs look so good in this dress." — Golden Globe acceptance speech (2004)

The "ridiculously talented" (MLP's words, could be mine) Janel Moloney (please please watch The West Wing)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Looking Forward To - Cinema, TV, Music

If you thought I was waiting for too many books, wait till you see this list !


Earlier this year was released the new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited and I haven't seen it yet. I've already expressed my indifference towards the book and I stand by it, but any Emma Thompson movie is worth watching in my opinion. The script was written by Andrew Davies and it also stars Hayley Atwell who in my opinion is very talented (in The Line of Beauty and the first two Sally Lockhart adaptations) she didn't make a sensible choice with ITV's Mansfield Park broadcast in 2007, though, but her acting was good even in that). And obviously, even if apparently we see her for two seconds, my very dear Felicity Jones plays Cordelia Flyte. The stills are quite gorgeous. Anything to revisit Waugh whom I may have failed to understand.

From left to right : Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), Julia Flyte (Hayley Atwell) and Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw)

It would be an understatement to say that I'm eagerly waiting for Revolutionary Road and The Reader. Kate Winslet is one of my favourite actresses and any new movie with her is worth watching. There are some that I like more than the others but in the end, she always is Oscar-worthy (wink, wink, Academy Awards people!). I'm happy Sam Mendes is directing it. American Beauty does have the same resonance about suburban life. I'm glad to see her starring in Revolutionary Road which is an excellent book that says intelligent things about suburban middle-class I think. I absolutely need to read more by Richard Yates.

I've already talked about Coraline here and the adaptation looks more and more gorgeous as the stills come in. I desperately want to read Stardust before seeing the movie, by the way.

I don't remember for how long The Lovely Bones has been in production. I got interested in seeing this the minute I heard about it - I read the book when it was published and I really couldn't see how anyone could make a good movie out of it, it's such a graceful book that has little to no action in it and the settings were too original for cinema to say the least. But when I saw that Saoirse Ronan had been cast as Susie Salmon (this girl got a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for her amazing performance as Briony in the excellent Atonement, a shame that Romola Garai was forgotten) and Peter Jackson was going to direct the adaptation, I stopped worrying. It's now scheduled for December 2009. I say take your time as long as it's good in the end.

Some other movies I'm waiting for because of the cast, really, and sometimes also because I loved the book. An Education has a screenplay by Nick Hornby (have never read him as I don't know where to begin, should look into this soon) and stars the charming and talented Carey Mulligan as the main protagonist. She was excellent in Bleak House, in Northanger Abbey and in My Boy Jack. I can't wait to see her again ! She will be reunited with her Pride and Prejudice costar Rosamund Pike, and will be in the good company of Emma Thomspon, Sally Hawkins and Olivia Williams, all actresses I love.

Stephen Frears will be directing an intriguing adaptation, that of Chéri by Colette. The movie will star my very dear Felicity Jones in a minor role, but also Michelle Pfeiffer in a major part (she'll play Léa de Lonval) and Rupert Friend as Chéri. Rupert didn't really convince me as Wickham in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice but we'll see. Here's a picture of Felicity :

I love Oscar Wilde. I've just read a book (I'll talk about it in a separate entry) that featured him prominently as a character and I want to read everything I can by him. I have fond memories of Dorian Gray and I'm thrilled that it'll get an adaptation. Ben Barnes looks perfect for the part although I've never seen him act. Rachel Hurd-Wood as Sybil is a sensible choice, this actress is so talented, I still can't get over her performance as Wendy in the magical 2003 adaptation of Peter Pan. Emilia Fox is also starring in this and I love seeing her on screen. Bizarre choice of a poster, makes it look like gothic horror or urban fantasy.

On February 17 will be released a straight-to-DVD movie of Dead Like Me, one of my favourite TV shows. Now I wish they could do that for Gilmore Girls ! Now the suspense is all about Laura Harris' involvement in this. She played Daisy Adair in the original series and every fan wants her back. The problem is that another actress was cast (I still don't know why, it doesn't look like Laura Harris was playing anybody else at the time). We even saw a trailer with the new actress but now that the movie is done and wrapped, Laura Harris is listed as Daisy. Weird. Let's not get our hopes up, it would cost a fortune to reshoot everything. Still, would be great especially since Rube isn't coming back.


I've already talked about Casualty 1909 here so I'm not going to repeat myself. Another thing I'm looking forward to is the new season of Ashes to Ashes, but also the Cranford special we were promised (and let's hope that the gifted Heidi Thomas will be writing it as well).
Will I be waiting for the new season of Mad Men (the only show I watched this year)? Probably not. Although who knows, really... I need to catch up on some other shows so I may not have the time.


I know next to nothing about future albums so this won't be long. According to Wikipedia, every Beatles album will be remastered and rereleased next year : "All albums by the Beatles (including Past Masters, Volume One and Past Masters, Volume Two) will be released newly remastered sometime in 2009 on CD. The 2009 remasters will replace the infamously poor quality 1987 remasters." So I know where my money will go !
I leave you with a few songs taken from the Harry Potter scores and a Peter Pan fanvid (2003 movie adaptation). I'm not a fan of the music but I think it works really well with the clips. Plus, I love Tugger29's work. I must admit I'm not a fan of the play Peter Pan and Wendy either, but I'll make an exception today and pretend I'm happy with it and don't have any personal issues.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oysters, Tipping the Velvet, Persephone Books, Gilmore Girls

My mother went to the farmer's market today and bought me some oysters. She said they were cheaper this year (ironically) so she bought me a few more than usual. I enjoy oysters very much, squeeze lemon juice on them and leave just enough salt water for it to taste great but not quite like the sea, the sea is here but more like an aftertaste. I've always enjoyed seafood and shellfish in particular. I had fresh pineapple for dessert and a blueberry yoghurt. Of course, the oysters reminded me of Tipping the Velvet (because the main protagonist, Nan, works in her parents' oyster house. If you haven't read the book yet, do yourself a favour and go buy it), one of the best books I've read this year. I was inspired to go reread some of my favourite passages and had to refrain from rereading the whole book !

Sarah Waters

When she came back home, mum handed me 4 parcels : three Persephones and a copy of Sabriel I had ordered off Amazon. I didn't expect to receive them so soon ! Sabriel will be my first read of 2009, it's a plan. Since the pound dropped significantly compared to the euro, I treated myself to three shiny Persephone books :

Round About a Pound a Week is a nonfiction book. I bought it quite simply because of its summary :
In 1909 a group of women, all of them members of the feminist, left-wing Fabian Women's Group, would regularly leave their comfortable homes in Kensington and Hampstead and call on forty-two families in Lambeth in order to interview them about their everyday life. They wrote down their findings and in 1912 these were written up as a twenty-page Fabian Tract which Maud Pember Reeves (1865-1953) and her co-author Charlotte Wilson decided to turn into the more snappily titled Round about a Pound a Week. The sixteen chapters, covering such topics as Housing, Thrift, Food and Mothers’ Days, resulted in a book of stunning interest and originality which has never really been rivalled in the nearly 100 years since first publication in 1913.
I didn't need more to get interested ! By the way, I haven't found any book about the Fabian Society, what a shame. I find it surprising. I'm still looking, though.

The Fortnight in September just sounded like a comfort read. I like the idea of going on holiday in the middle of September, thus beating the tourist rush.
The story was a simple one: a small suburban family on their annual fortnight’s holiday at Bognor: man and wife, a grown-up daughter working for a dressmaker, a son just started in a London office, and a younger boy still at school. It was a day-by-day account of their holiday from their last evening at home until the day they packed their bags for their return; how they came out of their shabby boarding house every morning and went down to the sea; how the father found hope for the future in his brief freedom from his humdrum work; how the children found romance and adventure; how the mother, scared of the sea, tried to make the others think she was enjoying it.

The Priory I bought because I loved Dorothy Whipple's short stories so much this year. I wasn't very convinced by Someone at a Distance and I hope The Priory will be a better novel. Some authors really shine in short stories, though, she might just be one of them.
The Priory is the kind of book I really enjoy,' wrote Salley Vickers in the Spectator, 'funny, acutely observed, written in clear, melodious but unostentatious prose, it deserves renewed recognition as a minor classic. Whipple is not quite Jane Austen class but she understands as well as Austen the enormous effects of apparently minor social adjustments…Christine is a true heroine: vulnerable, valient, appealing, and the portrait of her selfless maternal preoccupation, done without sentiment and utterly credible, is one of the best I have ever come across. The final triumph of love over adversity is described with a benevolent panache which left me feeling heartened about human nature... A delightful, well-written and clever book.

At the end of December, I always feel the need to go back to my roots. The Gilmore Girls are my roots, so I had lunch watching one of my favourite episodes, A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving. Lane/Dave is my favourite couple, although of course Rory/Jess really comes first in my heart but only Season6!Jess (such a missed opportunity here) so it's not fair to Dave who's an excellent man throughout. In this episode, Dave kisses Lane and The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie plays in the background. I couldn't find a good screencap of the kiss because it happens by night and the picture is really too dark, so I decided to use a later picture. This time, they're already a couple and Dave has been given a hard time by Lane's mother., but he still loves Lane. Adam Brody, I really really love you. You were the only reason the OC was my guilty pleasure. Come back !

I leave you with Rachel Portman's score composed for the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby starring Charlie Hunnam as Nicholas, Anne Hathaway as Madeline Bray and Romola Garai as Kate Nickleby. I have never seen the adaptation but I've read good reviews. - it was nominated for a Golden Globe. At least I can say for sure that the score is flawless.


Alexis Bledel Picspam

Alexis Bledel Picspam

And by the way... Not that I like the book or anything but seriously. Not that I would have wanted them to be involved in this travesty of a story either. Not that I even care. But still.

Henry Cavill/Alexis Bledel/Steven Strait
Edward Cullen/Isabella Swan/Jacob Black

'nuff said.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Looking Forward To - Books

There are quite a few books I'm looking forward to in 2009.


5th : The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is released in paperback. I've heard great things about this book and it's been difficult to resist the hype. The hardback edition was released in October, it seems to me that books come out in paperback about a year after but I guess we're lucky ! A few places included it in their lists of best fiction of 2008.

Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She has to be; she's representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting.

22nd : Graceling by Kristin Cashore is released in paperback. Again, I've ever excellent things about it on YA forums (if you're looking for a good YA forum, I strongly recommend the one on LibraryThing). I heard it was a book Tamora Pierce fans would really like. I've never read Tamora Pierce but I WILL in 2009 so I want to read this one too. Isn't the cover sexy ?

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punnishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behavior of the seven kings - after all, the Middluns is only one of the seven kingdoms, and each of them is ruled its own king with his own personal agenda for power. When the Council hears that the King of Liend's father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates . . . and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to safety? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one eyed king . . .


5th : The Bolter by Frances Osborne is released in paperback. It's a biography of the woman who inspired Nancy Mitford when she wrote The Pursuit of Love. The subtitle is The Bolter: Idina Sackville - The Woman Who Scandalised 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Infamous Seductress. I'm very interested in the 20s and this sounds like a biography I'd like. Great reviews on Amazon from different newspapers and magazines, but I like this customer's review in particular :

I cannot help thinking that Idina "The Bolter" was not very interesting as a person. Her actions often seem so mindless, ill-thought through or simply horrible - like leaving her two young children behind to run off with some chap. Also, she doesn't really come through as a proper person, the occasional soundbites ("Simply heaven, darling") are hardly the sort of stuff to make her real and complex. But despite all that, I still enjoyed the book very much. It provides a unique insight into an era where people were totally and utterly different from today. Their daring, their irresponsibility, their disregard for their own well-being often leaves one gasping. I think Frances Osborne managed to paint a vivid picture of an era, even though the main character, Idina, remains opaque. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

28th : I've realised just how carefully Neil Gaiman planned his releases of The Graveyard Book : the hardcover edition was released on Oct. 31 and the paperback on February 28th. Playing with superstition, well done, Neil ! This is perhaps the book I want the most. It's got amazing reviews and I've been wanting to read Neil Gaiman for so long !

Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place-he's the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians' time as well as their timely ghostly teachings-like the ability to Fade. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren't really one thing or the other. This chilling tale is Neil Gaiman's first full-length novel for middle-grade readers since the internationally bestselling and universally acclaimed Coraline. Like Coraline, this book is sure to enchant and surprise young readers as well as Neil Gaiman's legion of adult fans.


Sometime in March : The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is released in paperback with an attractive cover (because it was released before but I don't like the cover). Won the National Book Award, recommended by everyone. Plus, I've been wanting to read him for the longest time.

Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure.

19th : Other People's Daughters by Ruth Brandon is released in paperback. I've been wanting to get this book ever since it was released in hardback. It really sounds like something I would enjoy as I've always been interested in women's history.

If a nineteenth century lady had neither a husband to support her nor money of her own, almost her only recourse was to live in someone else's household and educate their children - in particular, their daughters. Marooned within the confines of other people's lives, neither servants nor family members, governesses occupied an uncomfortable social limbo. And being poor and insignificant, their papers were mostly lost. But a few journals and letters have come down to us, giving a vivid record of what it was to be a lone professional woman at a time when such a creature officially did not exist.

24th : City of Glass by Cassandra Clare is released. I will NOT buy this one as I've already said on this blog that I was very disappointed with the series and thought it was full of clichés. However, I'll be looking for a summary of the plot (including the ending) on the Internet to see what happens in the book, nonetheless. Tamora Pierce wrote the blurb. Oh dear. DO NOT GIVE IN, SIBYLLE ! Have you seen the cover ? My favourite is still the one for Ashes, though, but I admit the model for Bones is really handsome (at least his chest is).


2nd : Both The Gentle Art of Domesticity and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket are released in paperback. I'm still not sure about these two as they sound more like books I'd like to look at rather than read, if you know what I mean. The first one is basically a book of pretty pictures when the second one is a cookery book. I don't think I'll have much use of either one but we'll see. Also, quite appropriately, The Wonderful Weekend Book : Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures by Elspeth Thompson is also released in paperback the same day. Sounds sweet although much of what is described I seem to already know : "From watching the sunset and the stars, making marmalade and writing proper letters to borrowing a dog, going to dance classes and using the internet creatively, she reminds us of the fun and satisfaction to be had from creative, social and relaxing pursuits." I must admit the covers are really really gorgeous. I'm not sure at all about these three. Well, moving on.

2nd : Same date but I had to make a special entry for (at least for me) one of the most anticipated books of 2009. Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons is being reprinted by Virago. Wooooohooooo ! I absolutely love Cold Comfort Farm and I've been waiting for more of her books for ages. It doesn't have a cover yet so I can't tempt you with that but doesn't the summary make it sound just as crazy as Farm ?

Life is not quite a fairytale for poor Viola. Left penniless, the young widow is forced to live with her late husband's family in a joyless old house. There's Mr Wither, a tyrannical old miser, Mrs Wither, who thinks Viola is just a common shop girl, and two unlovely sisters-in-law, one of whom is in love with the chauffeur. Only the prospect of the charity ball can raise Viola's spirits ? especially as Victor Spring, the local prince charming, will be there. But Victor's intentions towards our Cinderella are, in short, not quite honourable ...

7th : Two books by Elaine Showalter are released that day. One of them is a reprint, it's a new edition of her groundbreaking A Literature of Their Own : British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing. The second one is a new book, the American counterpart of Own, A Jury of her Peers : American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx.

19th : The World that was Ours by Hilda Bernstein is released as a Persephone Classic and therefore in a cheaper edition. I sort of collect Persephone books. It sounds most interesting :

This has survived as a South African classic not just because it's beautifully written,' wrote Anthony Sampson in the Spectator, 'but because it conveys the combination of ordinariness and danger which is implicit in any totalitarian state.' The World that was Ours is about the events leading up to the 1964 Rivonia Trial when Hilda Bernstein's husband was acquitted but Mandela and the 'men of Rivonia' received life sentences. 'This passionately political memoir,' observed The Times, 'is vibrant with the dilemmas of everyday family life, quick-witted dialogue, fast-paced adventure and novelistic detail.' Yet the political background is not dwelt on: it is simply taken for granted that civilised South Africans fought apartheid and the uncivilised propped it up. The main strength of the book is as an outstanding personal memoir; in this respect it bears comparison with autobiographies by Nadezhda Mandelstam and Christabel Bielenberg. 'It reads like a thriller page after page... The loveliest of Hilda Bernstein's works about the ugliest of her times' said Albie Sachs in the Independent.


1st : The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is released in paperback. It looks like I'm the only one left who hasn't read the book ! It sounds really charming and I've only read good reviews. Reminds me that I need to read 84 Charing Cross Road...

The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers.

1st : The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith is released in paperback. I read The Far Cry by this author earlier this year, which wasn't spectacular but good enough. Although it's definitely not a priority, I still want to read this book because of the good reviews :

'I've rarely come across a more gripping childhood memoir' Diana Athill 'Such a delicate mixture of understanding and condemnation, and a lot of it funny it's the sort of memoir that will be an antidote to the current misery ones - that rare thing, a "nice" book.' Margaret Forster 'How honest she is, and what a loving memoir this is of an ominous decade.' Jane Gardam 'I identified very closely with her memories, being about the same age, and having spent my childhood in very much the same circumstances. I was filled with admiration for her honesty and her total recall. I am sure the book will do very well for you.' Rosamunde Pilcher

1st : The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James is released. I still have to read The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by this author (which I won in a contest, ironically, but apparently it got lost in the mail as I've never received it) before deciding if I want to buy that one. I've never been a fan of Charlotte so we'll see. This one's a maybe as well.

4th : Much more interesting (to me) is the release in June of A Mercy by Toni Morrison, in paperback. I've been a fan of this author for five years and a new book by her never fails to amaze me. She has a gift for questioning what's right and wrong and her characters are extremely layered. Love her.

Abandonment, betrayal and loss are the somber themes of this latest exploration of America's morally compromised history from Morrison (Love, 2003, etc.).All the characters she sets down in the colonial landscape circa 1690 are bereft, none more evidently so than Florens, 16-year-old slave of Jacob Vaark and his wife Rebekka. Eight years earlier, Anglo-Dutch farmer and trader Jacob reluctantly took Florens in settlement of a debt from a Maryland landowner. Her own mother offered her - so as not to be traded with Florens' infant brother, the girl thinks. (The searing final monologue reveals it was not so simple.) Florens joined a household of misfits somewhere in the North. Jacob was a poor orphan who came to America to make a new start; Rebekka's parents essentially sold her to him to spare themselves her upkeep. The couple has shared love, but also sadness; all four of their offspring died in childhood. They take in others similarly devastated. Lina, raped by a "Europe," has been cast out by her Native American tribe. Mixed-race Sorrow survived a shipwreck only to be made pregnant by her rescuer, who handed her over to Jacob. Willard and Scully are indentured servants, farmed out to labor for Jacob by their contract holders, who keep fraudulently extending their time. Only the free African blacksmith who helps Jacob construct his fancy new house - and who catches Florens' love-starved eye - seems whole and self-sufficient, though he eventually falls prey to Florens' raging fear of abandonment. Morrison's point, made in a variety of often-melodramatic plot developments, is that America was founded on the involuntary servitude of blacks and whites, that the colonies are rife with people who belong nowhere else and anxiously strive to find something to hold onto in the New World. Gorgeous language and powerful understanding of the darkest regions in the human heart compensate for the slightly schematic nature of the characters and the plot.Better seen as a lengthy prose poem than a novel, this allusive, elusive little gem adds its own shadowy luster to the Nobel laureate's shimmering body of work.

4th : The same day is released another book by a favourite author I've already talked about here, Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. It doesn't have a cover yet, but the summary is excellent and let's face it, I'd buy any cookery book if she was the one writing it.

After her award-winning trilogy of Victorian novels, Sarah Waters turned to the 1940s and wrote THE NIGHT WATCH, a tender and tragic novel set against the backdrop of wartime Britain. Shortlisted for both the Orange and the Man Booker, it went straight to number one in the bestseller chart. In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his. Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.


25th : The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is released in paperback. I started with YA and I'm closing this list with YA. Great review by the New York Times (no, I don't choose my YA books totally randomly based on a few teens' recommendations) :

It would be a mistake to underestimate this novel — or its protagonist…[Frankie] will challenge girls’ images of themselves, who they are in relation to boys and why…The novel holds out the hope that a girl like Frankie — who has above all an unwillingness to settle —could grow up to change the world. “The Disreputable History” not only delivers the line, but somehow makes you believe it is true. –The New York Times

Sometime next year (I don't have dates yet) will be released For the King, Catherine Delors' new novel. Her Mistress of the Revolution was among my favourite reads of 2008 : strong heroine, great prose and plot and made me fall in love with a historical novel for the first time. Also, I think Paper Towns by John Green will be released in paperback next year. I have so much to buy that I don't feel like reading the expensive hardback edition of the book just yet but the hype is hard to resist. Luckily I have An Abundance of Katherines by the same author if I can't wait anymore. I hope that Jill Roe's biography of Miles Franklin will be released in paperback in 2009 as well. Her Brilliant Career is one of the best books I've ever read. Also hoping for Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman to be released in a less expensive edition so that I can buy it as soon as I'm done with reading as much Gaiman as I can find. Besides, What I Saw and How I Lied has been recommended to me many times and I'm just waiting for a bank account-friendly edition. It's a YA novel that won the National Book Award. Finally, on January 22nd will be released a new edition of Humprey Carpenter's (perhaps better known for his Tolkien biography) Brideshead Generation (subtitled "Evelyn Waugh and his friends", whoever they are). Waugh interests me although I couldn't understand Brideshead Revisited when I read it. Perhaps the biography will make me want to go back to it and to his other books.

Can't wait for 2009 !

Monday, December 22, 2008

Man's Castle, The Line of Beauty

Bill (Spencer Tracy) and Trina (Loreeta Young)

Can Borzage make any movie that doesn't take my breath away ? Time stopped when I was watching Man's Castle. I love Borzage, he always does such romantic movies that could have been sirupy directed by anyone else but they become so true, real and heartbreaking thanks to his direction. His main theme is always love that can transcend poverty and day-to-day reality- love takes the place of religion in Borzage's movies. I have yet to meet someone who can depict very trivial aspects of life that become part of a beautiful, fairy-tale relationship that embraces this triviality for what it is - intimacy- , and reverses the challenging aspects this triviality and routine might contain.

I'll race you ! / Where to ? / To the moon

Man's Castle is no exception : some parts of it are the very opposite of romantic (the wedding scene, ironically). I love Frank Borzage's constant challenging of what should be. At the beginning of the movie, Trina (has Loreeta Young ever made such a good movie afterwards?), who's homeless and hasn't eaten a meal in two days, is asked by Bill (played by Spencer Tracy, I was very pleasantly surprised, he plays a man who doesn't want to commit and sees marriage and relationships in general as traps) whether she has ever considered suicide or prostitution. Katie, in Obscure Classics' Man's Castle podcast, is quite right I think when she says that when Trina explains that she couldn't bring herself to do it, Borzages suggests that Trina faces life as it is instead of running away from it like Bill does. He is a coward (and Trina says the word at some point) when she's the real strength of the couple.
I've got to say I was impressed with Bill's speech in the restaurant at the beginning of the movie : it rings so true even today, he says something along the lines of "there's gold in the bank and yet 12 millions people are unemployed and this girl goes through life without a meal".

You need to watch Man's Castle and you've got no excuse now that it's on YouTube. Once you're done, breathe, and then go read everything Obscure Classics has to say about it (which is quite a lot) and listen to the podcast. Some Loreeta pictures to lure you in :

And now for something completely different! This week end I watched The Line of Beauty - a BBC miniseries based on a book that won the Man's Booker Prize in 2004 - that was broadcast in 2006. I really like the summary on Wikipedia, even though it gives away much of the plot :

Set in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1980s, the story surrounds the post-Oxford life of the protagonist, Nick Guest. As the novel begins, Nick moves into the household of the Fedden family, comprising his friend, crush, and fellow Oxford graduate Toby; Toby's eccentric sister Catherine; their wealthy and aristocratic mother, Rachel; and their Thatcher-obsessed father, Gerald, a newly-elected MP for the Conservative Party. Nick has his first romance with a black council worker, Leo, but a later relationship with Wani, the son of a rich Lebanese businessman, illuminates the ruthlessness of 1980s Thatcherite Britain. The book explores the tension between Nick's intimate relationship with the Feddens, in whose parties and holidays he participates, and the realities of his sexuality and gay life, which the Feddens accept only to the extent of never mentioning it. It explores themes of hypocrisy, homosexuality, madness and wealth, with the emerging AIDS crisis forming a backdrop to the book's conclusion.

From left to right : Toby Fedden Oliver Coleman (Oliver Coleman), Nick Guest Dan Stevens (Dan Stevens ), Wani Ouradi Alex Windham (Alex Windham)

I really liked it. The miniseries is very slow but from what I hear this pace is taken directly from the book. At first, I heard about it because Andrew Davies had written the script (does it come as a surprise to anyone?) and he's done excellent stuff - Bleak House, Northanger Abbey and A Room With a View are amongst my favourite adaptations - and also because of Dan Steven (who's really handsome). Let me tell you, that's probably Stevens' best role. I'm so happy for him he gets to do such different things (from The Line of Beauty to Sense and Sensibility). I thought the miniseries was so real in its depiction of Thatcherite years and life seen through the eyes of a Tory family. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of this conservative life Nick takes advantage of, and Nick's personal journey outside of the house. This period of time appears completely contradictory, as I'm sure it was.
One of the best moments of the series is when everybody is eating dinner in silence, then all of a sudden the mother tells Catherine, her daughter and Nick's best friend, that her godfather died. Somebody asks what he died of and the mother answers "pneumonia". Silence follows and there are some close-ups of the men in the room who realise he died of AIDS. Then Catherine bursts into tears and screams at the top of her lungs "Oh for God's sake, he had AIDS ! The least we can do is admit it !". The parents are shocked at the word but don't say anything. Typical, I'd say. In a few seconds, Andrew Davies' script and Saul Dibb's direction shows the hypocrisy of a conservative Britain.
Nick's character was layered and beautifully portrayed. I like that nobody - absolutely nobody - is entirely likeable in this miniseries. I couldn't understand Nick's attraction to this world of idleness and hypocrisy (and Wani - one of his lovers- is part of this world because he never speaks his feelings) no more could I understand Catherine's betrayal at the end of it. It makes a challenging story because you're in a way excluded from it in that even though you're shown why the characters act the way they do, you still don't understand it, and yet, I think it was part of the story to feel excluded.
I've heard at least twenty times that the book was MUCH better so at least I know what I'll buy next. Most of the criticism I've heard about it comes from people who loved the book but found the miniseries shallow. Well, I didn't find it shallow in the least, it's this constant distanciation from the viewer that makes it seem so but every word, every shot was meaningful and contained so much that I can't wait to get into this story again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Best Reads of 2008

Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) from Gilmore Girls 1x12 Double Date

As of December 21, I've read 122 books. Here are my favourites, from January to December :

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

A l'Ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs by Marcel Proust

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

The Closed Door and Other Stories by Dorothy Whipple

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild

Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann

Decca : The Letters of Jessica Mitford

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Quatre Soeurs : Enid by Malika Ferdjoukh

Miss Charity by Marie-Aude Murail

2008 has been the best year of my life so far in terms of books. I've discovered so many favourite authors this year and if I had read new Jane Austen, Dodie Smith or Toni Morrison books in 2008, if I had discovered Atonement by Ian McEwan, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Hours by Michael Cunningham this year, I could have just given you this list and say "that's who I am", because these are the only six favourites missing from this list. Life-changing books throughout, inspiring and rewarding reads from beginning to end. Bring on 2009 to see if I can make it even better !