Don't let Stephenie Meyer's recommendation scare you off it. It's really good storytelling and it deserves all the praise it got (and it got quite a lot).
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Don't let Stephenie Meyer's recommendation scare you off it. It's really good storytelling and it deserves all the praise it got (and it got quite a lot).
Friday, January 30, 2009
CJ: 25 years ago, half of all 18 to 24 year-olds voted. Today it's 25%. 18 to 24 year-olds represent 33% of the population but only account for 7% of the voters. Think government isn't about you? How many of you have student loans to pay? How many have credit-card debt? How many want clean air and clean water and civil liberties? How many want jobs? How many want kids? How many want their kids to go to good schools and walk on safe streets? Decisions are made by those who show up! You gotta rock the vote!
I watched the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park and have to agree with the rest of the world : it's a rather entertaining movie but bears little ressemblance to the original source material. In fact, I liked it not because it's a faithful adaptation (the director didn't just use the novel but also Jane's letters and other writings, so Fanny has a lot of Jane in her (she writes) but because it's a pretty good commentary of the book. There's one much debated line in Mansfield Park that explains that Sir Thomas Bertram owns a plantation in Antigua and Fanny at some point asks about slavery. Rozema, the director, chose to show just how much Mansfield Park the estate was financed by slavery - the result is certainly food for thought and quite well-spotted. It's more an adaptation of the subtext of Mansfield Park, really.
There is a pretty good article in The Guardian entitled "Science fiction: the genre that dare not speak its name". It's about something we've always known I think : some books that are clearly science fiction are not labelled as such and manage to be classified "general fiction" or worse "literary fiction" or "literature" when they owe so much to the genre. Genre fiction has always had this problem. Up until last year, I didn't read "genre fiction" at all, I was solidly on the side of general fiction with its absence of labels. Or so I thought. One of my favourite writers was J.K. Rowling who so far has only written fantasy, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a solid work of fantasy as well. Angela Carter whom I discovered last year, has written fantasy (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories) and science fiction (The Passion of New Eve) which I loved, yet you won't find Angela Carter in the science fiction section of the bookshop. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials was one of my favourite reads last year and it's a grand work of fantasy. I don't like genres at all, they're not very useful. I started a long post about what my thoughts on the topic but it got out of hand and I'll probably never post it. I dropped any sort of tag system on my LibraryThing (except the decade or century of publication which means nothing for the likes of Georgette Heyer for example, who cares if she wrote in the 50s there's not one single thing pertaining to the 50s in her books) due to my frustration with labels.
It's completely unrelated but, as much as I know you've already seen it ten times, I can't help but post the cover to a new book coming out in April :
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Warren Haggerty who is the chief editor of the New York Evening Star. He keeps on delaying his marriage with Gladys because of problems his newspapers must face. When it is filed a 5 million dollars claim by Connie Allenbury for having printed she is a marriage-breaker, he organizes the unconsummated marriage of Gladys and the don Juan Bill Chandler. The goal is to catch Connie alone with a married man...
The dialog is excellent and two scenes are among my all-time favourites (the fishing scene and the proposal scene). Amazing performances. Love Crazy is just WILD :
Steve and Susan Ireland are about to celebrate their 4th wedding anniversary by re-enacting their first date. When Susan's meddling mother interrupts and injures herself. Steve is left to take care of her and when he meets an old flame in the elevator--Susan's mother takes the opportunity to break-up their marriage. She convinces Susan that Steve is cheating on her-Susan files for divorce. Steve has one solution to save his marriage...Pretend he is insane.
William Powell cross-dressing, an excellent elevator scene, some of the funniest lines I've ever heard and my dear Myrna brightening the corner where she is. The cast of supporting characters was excellent too (the mother-in-law especially). That was so good! I've also watched Borzage's Little Man, What Now? (1934) :
A young couple struggling against poverty must keep their marriage a secret in order for the husband to keep his job, as his boss's daughter has a thing for him.
It was pure Borzage and it was a delight to see Margaret Sullavan on the screen, she's so effortlessly talented. In all of Borzage's movies, people are rich because they're in love, money's got nothing to do with it. It's utopia at its best. Naturally, I also watched The Thin Man (1934) which shows great potential coming from Loy and Powell who are both excellent, but less mystery, more Nick/Nora and more witty lines, a little silly supporting music and a more carefree and risqué attitude like in Libeled Lady would have made me happier. I think their pairing works best in fast-paced romantic comedies. I'll watch the rest of the Thin Man movies, though, because I love them.
I also watched some more contemporary movies for example Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) , a teen romance.Watched this for Kat Dennings and Michael Cera as I have a crush on both of them, and for obvious reasons I've just explained (yes, the title of the book it's adapted from is a reference to the couple of The Thin Man). It was okay, had a good atmosphere but some scenes were gross and it was pretty shallow. Without a very unnecessary subplot (one of their friends is drunk and is missing in New York, so they spend the night trying to find her, and while drunk she does some pretty disturbing things) it could have been a feel-good movie, mostly because of the leads who really look like they're having fun. I loved the idea of falling in love via mixtapes (i.e. the other person's taste in music), it was very sweet. Finally, I managed to watch Dead Like Me : Life After Death (2009). It felt great seeing the cast again (although with no real Daisy and no Rube it doesn't feel the same). The plot was so-so (Reggie's storyline was terrible - she falls for a boy who already has a superpolar girlfriend and the boy has an accident, so was Cameron's), the best part was George's. Yet, continuity mistakes (how come nothing "from above" happens to them? The reapers messed everything up) but almost the same feel as the series, although it wasn't as philosophical and deep, which I terribly missed. You can tell it's not Bryan Fuller, it was too conventional.
Now to the wondrous world of books. Bibliovore made a very useful post about the ALA Youth Media Awards that award the best children's and YA books. It's a huge list, and I want to read many books on it. Congratulations to Neil Gaiman who is so far, along with Terry Pratchett, my favourite new (to me) author this year and who won the prestigious Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book (which I still have to buy and read, hurry up Sibylle). Sir (!) Pratchett won a Printz Honor for Nation (same goes, I'm behind on everything) so my congratulations to him also! By the way, I bought two books that seem to be very popular right now, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Graceling by Kristin Cashore (who's got a pretty good blog). If last year somebody had told me that I would buy and read so much fantasy and YA this year, I wouldn't have believed it. Who knew I'd be talking about Discworld, Shadow, dystopias and seven kingdoms? But then who knew I could love some (not all) rock, also? Life sure is full of surprises!
I finished an excellent biography of Georgiana Cavendish (née Spencer) that was truly inspiring. Amanda Foreman's Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is a absorbing book about a wonderful woman. In her introduction, Foreman makes sure we know that even though Georgiana's life was incredible, she was not ahead of her times, she was very much a woman of her times. It's hard to believe. Georgiana was a great unacknowledged politician who was passionate about Whig politics which she defended on the street, working hard to get the votes of everybody who could cast his. She knew she was right to want the power of the king to be at least counterbalanced by a legislative power. Georgiana realised at the end of her life that the next challenge would be to have women equal to men in the public sphere, knowing that she was "a politician without a vote" as Foreman puts it. The duchess set the tone in fashion and she was an exceptionally loyal friend and loved more than she was loved, and never by halves. She wrote what sounds like a truly surprising book coming from a Duchess, The Sylph in which an innocent country girl learns to live the life of a fashionable person but not without its many trials with the help of a cruel man who is violent to her and all women whom he meets. The girl is ultimately saved and marries properly. Georgiana's real problem was with money. She was constantly in debt and none of her friends could trust her enough to lend her any money. It seemed to me reading the biography that she wasn't entirely conscious of what money really meant. Although she knew the amount of money she didn't have, it didn't seem to have any significance to her, they were just numbers.
I personally loved reading about the many famous people Georgiana was friends with, for example she was a close friend of Marie-Antoinette and the Comtesse de Polignac - I read Antonia Fraser's excellent and comprehensive biography of Marie-Antoinette last year and it was immensely interesting comparing the two lives. The style of the book itself made for a very easy, highly readable account of a very interesting life. That's the difference, I think, between good biographies and unreadable ones. Foreman sure knows how to select compelling events in a designated year and when she quotes passages from letters they are never long and are in clear prose. I really enjoyed reading this biography and I'm even more sure now that the movie The Duchess is really a blink-and-you-miss-it account of Georgiana Cavendish's life. Her love affair with Charles Grey is about 10 pages long in a 400-page book. Foreman doesn't think Georgiana's life can be reduced to her relationship with a single man, and I applaud that. The woman was a full being and deserves better.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Flat is the first word that comes to mind. I gave my lenghty opinion on the first part on this same blog so I'm not going to say it again as I have the same issues with it.
I was shocked to see the little time given to Hareton and Cathy's relationship, and more specifically to the absence of such a relationship. The made it seem as if Cathy had always been in love with him which is so not true to the book. I've already talked about this in my first post so I'm not going to repeat it but really, I was hoping for something more.
Catherine and Heathcliff stole the show, as was expected. It disappointed me very much as the book doesn't only focus on them. Poor Nelly, she didn't have much screen time although she's one of the main characters in the novel. The whole thing was too simple and wasn't nearly as crazy as the book, one scream of pain, however powerfully done, does not craziness make. The gothic was barely here, Catherine's ghost made but a short apparition and I couldn't find any difference between the supposed moor and any other country landscape. The music could have supported that but all we had was a score which I agree was beautiful but was only supporting the love story. I disagree. Wuthering Heights is more than that, Bram Stoker used Heathcliff as an inspiration for Dracula. Well, he sure couldn't have used Tom Hardy's Heathcliff for that, all the characters looked very much grounded in reality when it's a novel of excess and surfeit.
There's no questioning the actors' talent, they were all excellent in portraying the characters, it's the script and TV restrictions that are to blame. A longer, more passionate adaptation would have been refreshing and would have introduced new people to an original, shocking story. There was barely anything shocking in what we were shown and I for one won't be buying the DVD.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
EMILY: And what about me confuses you, Lorelai?
LORELAI: Well, so many things. I mean, for example, why can't you keep a maid in this house? I mean, there must've been a thousand women who've gone through here in the thirty-two years that I've been alive, and not one of them could stick it out.
EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.
That's about it ! I'm closing this with the catchy Everly Brothers.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
This movie is so much a part of me it's hard to talk about it. I have perhaps never felt so close to fictional characters before. It takes place in Paris, not in an idealized Paris (although the language used is a bit more posh than the one I use) but the real Paris filmed here as in a documentary. I've lived in Paris all my life and seeing the city I've always known being the background of such a hopeful story brought me more than I can express. It simply feels like home.
The movie was shot during the presidential race of 2007, about 4 months before the election in May (it was shot in January) and everywhere there are subtle references to the political context, how could there not be? Ismaël and Alice work for a newspaper and that's what made the headlines in January 2007. It takes intelligence to make a movie about youth in 2007. Absolutely nobody before had ever targetted youth as the cause of all evil the way Sarkozy did during the campaign. The movie feels so contemporary and makes a beautiful statement. It's a little bubble of resistance in itself.
Later, Christophe Honoré, the director, would do a movie called La Belle Personne (starring Louis Garrel again, but also several actors who already worked with him on Les Chansons d'Amour, including Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) inspired by the book La Princesse de Clèves by Mme de LaFayette after he heard the same president despising this 17th century novel (the first historical novel, at least in France) in one of his speeches as too literary and too difficult for the common man. Honoré's answer was a movie in which the plot of La Princesse de Clèves is easy to relate to and even the common man can find echoes of it in everyday life.
The songs used during the movie are all excellent, the lyrics are sophisticated, sexy (Je n'aime que toi), sometimes lyrical (Ma Mémoire Sale) - I've never been fond of musicals but here it works beautifully, it never feels forced. The actors, wo aren't professional singers, do a great job with the songs composed by Alex Beaupain, and the music is splendid. By the end of the movie, Ismaël embraces his feelings for Julie but realizes he feels more alive than he's ever felt with somebody else, Erwan, brilliantly portrayed by Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet. Ismaël lets it all go and gives in to love. This movie is a tribute to love, a tribute to hope, to moving on and making each day count.
From left to right : Louis Garrel, Chiara Mastroiani, Clotilde Hesme, Ludivine Sagnier, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It's such drivel but I don't feel too guilty reading her books either, because she's got a great sense of the period and I always end up learning something anyway.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Luckily enough, I watched Ninotchka for the first time not long afterwards and it restored my faith in the director. Garbo/Douglas is a really good pairing that works beautifully and it's full of memorable one-liners that I found hilarious.
Leon: Thank you.
Ninotchka: That is why I believe in the future of my country.
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld was disgusting (it's all about parasites) but compelling and very interesting. The whole idea that vampirism is in fact an illness that can be scientifically and rationally explained is scary as hell and original. I loved what Westerfeld did with Darwin's theory of evolution, it feels like a direct example of what this theory implies. This book should be in every school's library, it is hugely readable science and the plot was good, the characters believable. I wanted to know more about them. Definitely an author I'll keep reading.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first part. I've read the book and I like it as an object of analysis, not so much as a story, but still.
Besides, Cathy Linton appears as much less stubborn than she does in the book - in the production she follows Heathcliff first and hears Nelly's warning afterwards, in the book she goes as far as Wuthering Heights on her own despite being warned beforehand. Again, mistake, although she didn't deserve what happened to her afterwards, Cathy is no angel. I liked Hareton, although we didn't see much of him. Cathy isn't as rude to him as she is in the book, again, mistake - notion of class, people. I hope they'll show more of that in the second part.
Another issue of mine had to do with the total absence of nature : where on earth is Brontë's romanticism in this adaptation? Where's the Gothic? We barely saw the moor, there's absolutely no gothic element whatsoever (problem with the timeline here, perhaps that'll be shown in the second part), it lacks supernatural, Wuthering Heights the house feels too much like yet another victorian house when it is the exact opposite. Too much realism.
I hope the second part will be wilder and transgressive. It's a difficult book to adapt, I even think it's impossible but I think the production has potential and despite my many issues with it, as I said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's hoping to less likeable characters, more passion and more craziness. Wuthering Heights is a very subversive book and so far the production has toned it down just like it did for Hardy's Tess. What is it with ITV and the BBC that they can't take dark stories and adapt them as such ? We're in 2009, it's time to wake up. So no, the audience probably won't like the characters but then they weren't created to be likeable anyway, and no, the audience probably won't consider it as a feel good period drama that's nice and cosy and can be watched with a cup of tea. But really, what's the problem in that ? Would it be too much to ask for a challenging story once in a while ?
Saturday, January 17, 2009
That added to the racism in many of the books they've reprinted, the so-called "essence of femaleness" supposed to be associated to linens, flowers and pretty things. I can't stand it anymore. Persephone, you and me, we're done.
Although the scythe isn't pre-eminent among the weapons of war, anyone who has been on the wrong end of, say, a peasants' revolt will know that in skilled hands it is fearsome. For Mort however, it is about to become one of the tools of his trade. From henceforth, Death is no longer going to be the end, merely the means to an end. He has received an offer he can't refuse. As Death's apprentice he'll have free board, use of the company horse and being dead isn't compulsory. It's the dream job until he discovers that it can be a killer on his love life...
There is a way into Faerie, beyond the fields we know, and it lies in a village called Wall, somewhere in the early Victorian era. Every nine years there is a fair on the other side of the wall, where Faerie sells its wares to the mundane. Farmer Duncan Thorne had his moment of mad love with a witch's bondservant; Tristan, his son, turned up in a basket nine months later. Now Tristan is old enough to fall in love, and promises Victoria a falling star... This is a fairy story in the tradition of George MacDonald and Hope Mirlees; a book of passion and terror and wit which reminds us that Faerie is not a safe place, or a fair one. And at its edges there lurk other stories--Neil Gaiman's work in comics and television has previously shown his capacity to evoke mystery and glorious magic by telling us just enough and no more, but he excels himself here. Charles Vess's illustrations, (Vess collaborated with Gaiman on key episodes of The Sandman), have charm and occasionally more--the stars dance, Pan looms from the forest, a witch queen rides a chariot driven by goats and Tristan journeys by candlelight leagues at a step.
Hmmm I've been jilted again
He packed his bags and left whistling a happy song
I jumped through hoops to keep that man
Oh how did I get it so wrong?
I tried new positions
I learned his friends names
I made myself sit through football games
Oh, Been jilted
Been jilted again
RORY: All you have to do is pick out a quote for the front page, and I'll print 'em up.
LORELAI: "We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty." Perfect!
RORY: Mussolini it is.
ROSE: I'd rather be his whore than your wife.
Now, will my computer freeze ? Let's find out !
Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann/Atonement by Ian McEwan/Sula by Toni Morrison/Miss Charity by Marie-Aude Murail
A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs by Marcel Proust/The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman/The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman/Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith/Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild/Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters/Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Monday, January 12, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Last, but not least, a hilarious quote from Gilmore Girls 5x11 Women of Questionable Morals, which I've just watched again :
KIRK: (runs into Luke's diner) My girlfriend's the whore! My girlfriend's the whore! (runs out)
LORELAI: Great, now I’m not even the town whore.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Pember Reeves writes beautifully and it never felt tedious, it's quite cleverly organized, too. I love her ideas and as the Persephone website says, it is definitely "relevant to today's Britain". The preface did say that it hadn't changed much since it was published, it's appalling.
The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham is the story of five siblings whose parents have gone to look after their grandmother and have left them alone to take care of themselves. The eldest is but 14. It was published in 1938. 70 years later, I found the book really terrifying at times - how on earth can people let this happen ? The children manage even though it's very tough and I felt sorry for Sue, the eldest, more than once. Some characters were complete stereotypes - the parents - and I missed the characterization a writer like Noel Streatfeild for example, would have brought. I enjoyed the book, though, even though it sounded completely unrealistic at times, some details were lovely and some lines very funny.
I gave up on Deadwood and Weeds because I want to rewatch as many of my DVDs as I can before going abroad for a year. I won't be able to take my DVDs with me so I might as well enjoy them while I still can. Nothing much to report, my midterms are dangerously close and I'm focusing on those right now. Nevertheless, I always manage to squeeze in some reading/watching/listening hours even in the busiest of times, and I've recently discovered an album by Placebo thanks to a fanmix. Unusually for me I discovered their newest album first (I usually go chronologically), it's called Meds and was released in 2007, and my favourite song is Post Blue (the one from the fanmix), but the whole album's very cool.
I leave you with a picture of Louis Garrel, as a teaser of things to come.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Extract from The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf (1925)
"It is probable that if Miss Cassandra Austen had had her way we should have had nothing of Jane Austen’s except her novels. To her elder sister alone did she write freely; to her alone she confided her hopes and, if rumour is true, the one great disappointment of her life; but when Miss Cassandra Austen grew old, and the growth of her sister’s fame made her suspect that a time might come when strangers would pry and scholars speculate, she burnt, at great cost to herself, every letter that could gratify their curiosity, and spared only what she judged too trivial to be of interest.
Hence our knowledge of Jane Austen is derived from a little gossip, a few letters, and her books. As for the gossip, gossip which has survived its day is never despicable; with a little rearrangement it suits our purpose admirably. For example, Jane “is not at all pretty and very prim, unlike a girl of twelve . . . Jane is whimsical and affected,” says little Philadelphia Austen of her cousin. Then we have Mrs. Mitford, who knew the Austens as girls and thought Jane “the prettiest, silliest, most affected husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers “. Next, there is Miss Mitford’s anonymous friend “who visits her now [and] says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of ‘single blessedness’ that ever existed, and that, until Pride and Prejudice showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or firescreen. . . . The case is very different now”, the good lady goes on; “she is still a poker—but a poker of whom everybody is afraid. . . . A wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk is terrific indeed!” On the other side, of course, there are the Austens, a race little given to panegyric of themselves, but nevertheless, they say, her brothers “were very fond and very proud of her. They were attached to her by her talents, her virtues, and her engaging manners, and each loved afterwards to fancy a resemblance in some niece or daughter of his own to the dear sister Jane, whose perfect equal they yet never expected to see.” Charming but perpendicular, loved at home but feared by strangers, biting of tongue but tender of heart—these contrasts are by no means incompatible, and when we turn to the novels we shall find ourselves stumbling there too over the same complexities in the writer.
To begin with, that prim little girl whom Philadelphia found so unlike a child of twelve, whimsical and affected, was soon to be the authoress of an astonishing and unchildish story, Love and Freindship, which, incredible though it appears, was written at the age of fifteen. It was written, apparently, to amuse the schoolroom; one of the stories in the same book is dedicated with mock solemnity to her brother; another is neatly illustrated with water-colour heads by her sister. These are jokes which, one feels, were family property; thrusts of satire, which went home because all little Austens made mock in common of fine ladies who “sighed and fainted on the sofa”.
Brothers and sisters must have laughed when Jane read out loud her last hit at the vices which they all abhorred. “I die a martyr to my grief for the loss of Augustus. One fatal swoon has cost me my life. Beware of Swoons, Dear Laura. . . . Run mad as often as you chuse, but do not faint. . . .” And on she rushed, as fast as she could write and quicker than she could spell, to tell the incredible adventures of Laura and Sophia, of Philander and Gustavus, of the gentleman who drove a coach between Edinburgh and Stirling every other day, of the theft of the fortune that was kept in the table drawer, of the starving mothers and the sons who acted Macbeth. Undoubtedly, the story must have roused the schoolroom to uproarious laughter. And yet, nothing is more obvious than that this girl of fifteen, sitting in her private corner of the common parlour, was writing not to draw a laugh from brother and sisters, and not for home consumption. She was writing for everybody, for nobody, for our age, for her own; in other words, even at that early age Jane Austen was writing. One hears it in the rhythm and shapeliness and severity of the sentences. “She was nothing more than a mere good-tempered, civil, and obliging young woman; as such we could scarcely dislike her—she was only an object of contempt.” Such a sentence is meant to outlast the Christmas holidays. Spirited, easy, full of fun, verging with freedom upon sheer nonsense,—Love and Freindship is all that; but what is this note which never merges in the rest, which sounds distinctly and penetratingly all through the volume? It is the sound of laughter. The girl of fifteen is laughing, in her corner, at the world."
Saturday, January 3, 2009
In December 2007 was broadcast a beautiful adaptation of Ballet Shoes, a book written by Noel Streatfeild and published in 1936. This classic of children's literature is a gem that introduced me to an amazing writer. She wrote 23 books for children and 16 for adults and was very prolific till the 70s but it seems to me that she is now unjustly forgotten. Her stories never give in to sentimentalism - the characters in her children's books have an artistic gift or lack any artistic gift but want to succeed and need to succeed because they need the money to help their guardians. It it the case of the Fossil sisters in Ballet Shoes but also of Sorel, Mark and Holly un Curtain Up and of Rachel and Hillary in Wintle's Wonders. The rationing imposed by the Second World War are depicted through the crumpling of ballet skirts, children who repeat their lines, auditions to get a part that will pay for a proper dress.
It is perhaps the family portraits Noel Streatfeild does that are the most interesting aspect of her works - without realising this small revolution it seems, she describes in 1936 that of a family that is one not because it is conventional (the Fossil sisters have all been abandoned by their parents but don't seem affected by it), but because it is made of affinity and mutual tenderness (a family has nothing to do without a few chromosomes in common). Brilliant. It may be interesting to notice that the adaptation of Ballet Shoes is, in this regard, very convervative : in 2007, a final wedding (completely absent from the book) is still needed to recompose the traditional family pattern. We can say it happened after the girls decided what they wanted to know with their lives and therefore this marriage isn't for them but rather for Sylvia who finally thinks about herself after having thought about raising children for such a long while.
The minutiae of Streatfeild's depictions that have to do with showbusiness are among the best, if not the best, I have ever read. The characters in Noel Streatfeild's novels are not all endearing, sometimes they're quite the opposite - after all, it's children we're talking about. If their language is refined, they are often cruel towards one another but we care nonethelees because of the disarming proximity with which Noel Streatfeild deals with her story. It is perhaps more obvious in her adult book Saplings, published in 1945 and reprinted by the delicious publishing company Persephone Books (it is her only adult book still in print today). Streatfeild described the everyday life of a common family - the characters' psychology is rich and captivating, be it children's or adults'. And then one day, the father dies in battle. But their lives must go on, despite the feeling of abandon their all experience. Tony's feelings, before the cataclysm are best expressed by this sentence (he is twelve when he says that) :
Wars, and all that were attached to them, were passing inconveniences, but they did not change the pulse of his world.
Friday, January 2, 2009
The plot itself is of course grounded in fantasy and uses some well-known devices belonging to the genre (magic, of course, fate is discussed, the heroine has to learn about her world so we can learn with her, she has to go on a journey to save the last help she could have) and yet, I was very impressed by Garth Nix' twists on the genre : I loved the depiction of Sabriel practising Necromancy, that was very imaginative. Death is almost a whole character onto itself in this novel, and that was a welcome change, it was quite simply very interesting to learn about this world. The obligatory explanatory passages were gripping and never felt artificial, mainly because they didn't end up being monologues that took full chapters - Garth Nix took pains showing the protagonists' different reactions to the news throughout the whole book rather than throwing five pages of notes at us. I think this also helped fleshing the characters, especially Sabriel and Touchstone.
The book kept me interested throughout - I thought about His Dark Materials quite a few times, the writing is that good, no wonder Pullman wrote the blurb of the book, calling it a "winner"- and I very reluctantly put it down when I had to. It's a great story that was exciting and I am really looking forward to the sequel.