Monday, March 29, 2010

Hornfield Hall...get it? Get it?

As promised, I want to say a few words about this book. I discovered after reading it that this was yet another book that began it's life as Fanfic and ended up getting published as part of a trilogy. I had little hints here and there but for the most part it was written fairly well that it didn't bother me.

The part I feel like the writer got right was Rochester's self-loathing and internal struggle. Part of the appeal of this character has always been his dark, thoughtful, somewhat obsessive nature. And for the first part of the book it goes along swimmingly with the original text. Our hero is brooding, haunted by his past and despairing for his future. The first few chapters were so well written I was ready to sit down and call this one of the best books ever. I thought the fact that he was immediately attracted to Jane was a little bit of a break from the text, but was willing to go along with it. UNTIL...

**spoiler alert**

There is a superfluous scene in which he spies on Jane playing piano and writing a song about him, and they sort of make out by the fire. Call it "intense hugging". I was a bit taken aback and think I said "Okaaaaaay" before reading on. Then comes the night when she saves him from the fire. Rather than going back to her room like a good Victorian governess would, they MAKE OUT!  And the making out and "close calls" continue throughout the book. Don't get me wrong, they aren't quite as smutty as they could be, but at the same! The great thing about Jane Eyre is that Jane does the right thing, the hard thing, in spite of her passionate nature. Our Jane would never be making out on a bearskin rug with her Employer if she happens to love him or not!

Then comes the confusing, and I think a tad unnecessary derivations from the time line and original plot of Jane Eyre.  When Mason shows up at the Thornfield house party, Jane is already gone to Gateshead Hall. Instead of finding St. John, Mary & Diana Rivers by providence, Jane is introduced to them through a lawyer. There are a lot of instances like this where I finally came to peace with the notion that this book was not for the Jane Eyre purist (or even the diehard fan).

I did enjoy Mr. Rochester's sensual side, his darkly romantic musings, and his heart-to-heart conversations with his good friend Eshton. I also was more interested in the book's take on Bertha, showing her and Edward as both being victims of their father's greed. The Squee noted that there was a definite nod to Wide Sargasso Sea in this book, and I agree as far as the portrayal of Bertha goes there was. Also shown in a different light is Blanche Ingram. Instead of being a puppet for Rochester to inspire Jealousy, she is a coldly calculating woman with a total absence of heart or conscience. And her Dad is super creepy. 

The book is peppered with descriptions of food, and at one point Rochester and Eshton are comparing women to food and one of them remarks "Now I'm Hungry". I had to laugh out loud at that.  They eat, smoke, and Drink (capital 'd' because that's how much they drink) in such excess I felt like I had a hangover just from reading about it.

Would I recommend this book? Sure, if you can look at it as an alternative story from the original. It's definitely sexy, and I probably will read the next 2 books because even a slightly different Rochester is still pretty hot.

That's what she said?

Am tired from a busy day of food, shopping and driving so this won't be a very long post. I did want to mention (and I will go in to further detail on this later - maybe tomorrow) that I just finished reading what I now realize is book one of a trilogy: Rochester: A Novel Inspired by Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" by J. L. Niemann. It's not as heinous as a lot of the Darcy books I've read lately (the two 'Diaries' were really the best out of the bunch, I am currently compiling a list of the worst offenders) all I'm going to say for now is that he was actually living at Hornfield.

Oh an future sister-in-law just started blogging her little heart out. She is hilarious and wry and all things delightful, see for yourself here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Robin Hood, my Arse...

Can I just come right out and say how much I hate the idea of Russell Crowe playing Robin Hood? To me, Robin Hood should be mature, but not above 40. (As I'm sure at that time 40 was probably considered pretty well aged) He should also not be all doughy. UGH. This is not just my personal dislike for R.C. here, I really am not in love with his acting either. And why can't they get an English guy to play him?

My picks are...

1. James Purefoy
I realize that James is probably the same approximate age as Russell Crowe, but what a difference! He has a roguish charm that would definitely suit the role.

2. Matthew Macfadyn
I know that  Mr. Macfadyn will be playing the Sheriff of Nottingham, who the movie was suppossed to be about originally. Too bad we will not be getting THAT movie.

3. Henry Cavill

This guy deserves a feature role! Not only is he the hottest and most compelling character on The Tudors (sorry, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) but he was beaten out of playing not one but two roles by Robert Pattison.  Henry auditioned for the role of Cedric Diggory for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Stephanie Meyer pretty much wrote the character of Edward Cullen with Henry in mind, saying "The only actor I've ever seen who I think could come close to pulling off Edward Cullen is....(drumroll)...Henry Cavill". But by the time they were able to cast the movie, Pattison looked closer to Edward Cullen's 17 than Cavill. O, what might have been!  Imagine a world without RPatz mania...seems peaceful, no?

 4. Jeremy Northam

Loved him in Emma.  Loved him even more in Gosford Park and Possession. Played Sir Thomas Moore on The Tudors. It's time to give this man a weapon. 

 5. Kevin McKidd 

I realize I'm contradicting myself, Kevin McKidd is not English but Scots. However, anyone who has seen Rome knows he can put on an English accent no problem. He's mature but still has a boyish charm that I find appealing. Not only that but the guy is a hell of an actor (way better than R.C., IMO) and can shoot daggers with his eyes better than anyone I've ever seen.

What do you guys think? Am I being too harsh on Mr. Crowe or are you as disturbed as I am? Who would YOU see as Robin Hood?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I want to go to there...

Found these over at Mental Floss today.

In honor of the warmer weather, here are more T-shirts that want me to wear them...

From Cafepress.

From Threadless.

Married to the Sea T-shirts available from Sharing Machine. Married to the Sea is, by the way, one of the most hilarious sites you will ever want to waste time at, I promise.

Am currently halfway through Amanda Grange's Colonel Brandon's Diary. More thoughts on that later.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Two Diaries of Darcy

After a good six months of reading (almost exclusively) Young Adult Fiction, I decided a few weeks ago that I would plunge back into the classics, and I did so with a vengeance. I finished with Pride & Prejudice, and then decided to listen to my buddies at and try some of the novels that were P&P retold from Darcy's point of view. I decided to make an experiment out of it and read them back-to-back after glossing over P&P one more time.

The first one was Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange. I liked this one, though at times thought it was kind of 'Darcy for Dummies'. More of a Romance than P&P, but was nonetheless an enjoyable read. I think I might prefer this version of our hero to the other book (though not to the original). At first it started off a bit dull, but I quickly found myself enjoying the narrative, particularly his mixed delight and wariness at Lizzy's sharp wit and laughing manners. Amanda Grange knows her audience, and gives them exactly what they want. She never pretends to be Austen, but is pretty adept nonetheless. One of the things I liked best was the few pages which chronicle events that happened after the wedding, up to the Darcy's first Christmas. It flowed seamlessly from the previous narrative, and seemed like it could have been a feasible end even for Jane Austen. It's not as meaningful or layered as P&P, but definitely sweet and may cause you to get a case of the warm fuzzies. My largest complaint: In a letter to his friend Darcy, Bingley calls Jane "an adorable angel". That's a little blech-worthy, even for Mister Bingley.

The second book was The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy by Maya Slater. Now this was a clever concept, a diary found in a hidden drawer of a desk two hundred years from the time it was written by none other than our Mr. Darcy (the "afterword" claims that it was written by the man they believed Austen based the character on). This book was a rich, often disturbing, and sometimes dry look at the life of a Regency-Era gentleman. He engages in fisticuffs, he fences, he goes to bordellos and dallies with housemaids, he talks war and politics (Napolean Bonaparte is referred to, amusingly, as 'Boney'). And of course, he and his good friend Charles Bingley hang out with none other than the infamous Lord Byron, rock star of his day. There are so many things I disliked about the portrayal of Darcy in this book, and so many things I liked about it at the same time. In the beginning he is just as he was first portrayed in P&P...stiff, arrogant, rude. Not to mention a man with a healthy appetite for the ladies. Though at first the only ladies he is interested in are the prostitutes and the maids, he seems to show no interest in the ladies of society (such as the ever-scheming Caroline Bingley, whose overtures have never been more pathetic as they are portrayed here). Unlike Mr. Darcy's Diary, this version of Darcy at first seems more disturbed than delighted by Elizabeth, and the attraction (though not the admiration) is almost immediate. He makes a valiant attempt at denying it, but can't fool us or himself. On her last day at Netherfield attending to Jane, Darcy prides himself on having ignored Elizabeth for the entire day, but still notes that while he ignored her for his book, "she pricked herself while sewing, and lifted her finger to her lips". He thinks he's doing such a good job of ignoring her, but by this he gives the game away.

Much of the parts that take place between the Netherfield Ball and Darcy's visit to Rosings have only brief mentions of "E", and is much more occupied with keeping a sunken, heartbroken Bingley from despair (and from the clutches of a crafty courtesan) and trying to help frail Georgiana recover from a much more violent version of events that took place between herself and the perfidious Mister Wickham. As to the character of Georgiana, I could have done without so much of her. I felt that she was written very contrary to what Austen portrayed, a shy sweet girl becomes a willful, sometimes bratty kid sister. Charles Bingley, however, has never been more interesting than this bitter, heartbroken version. I found myself liking his character at times more than Darcy's!

The Meat of the story takes places in describing the events from Darcy and *Col. Fitzwilliam's arrival at Rosings to months later when he stumbles across Elizabeth taking in the view at Pemberly. To myself, the best part of the book is his self-delusion that Elizabeth Bennett is nothing more than a pretty face, to the realization that he can't stay away from her and is in the middle of a full-blown obsession. His desperation as he observes her, the constant need to be near her to see her is in fact an overwhelming difference from the former, slightly disturbed and put-out regard he had for Elizabeth. Darcy describes himself as desperate and half-crazed. And the events that take place after her resounding rejection show our hero in such a state of despair, anger, and self-loathing that we can't help but feel for him. All in all I would have been happy if they had omitted the debauchery provided to them by Byron, I felt that the events that took place at Byron's estate dragged on and lost all of their shock value. Of course, as he must, our Hero emerges "properly humbled" and hopefully forever faithful to his Elizabeth. I can't say I loved this book in context with P&P, but as a stand-alone story it was a solid, entertaining read. But proceed with caution, if you do not want your image of the Mr. Darcy in anyway tarnished, than this is not the book for you.

*One thing I found of interest was in both of these books, Col. Fitzwilliam had more than a passing fancy for Elizabeth. In fact both versions lamented to Darcy that she was "the perfect woman but for want of fortune" and both versions seemed to consider actually offering to her during the visit at Rosings, giving both versions of Darcy a "close call" that they did not, she undoubtedly would have accepted.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Poor and Plain, Obscure and Little

I just finished re-watching the 2006 BBC version of Jane Eyre and was once again blown away by how perfectly it captures the book. And I would know, as a nerdy teenager I carried my battered, dog-eared copy everywhere. I read it and re-read it until I could dream at night about being in Thornfield Hall. If you have never read it, here is an excellent reader review that touches on Jane's Feminism and Rochester as the ultimate romantic hero. (He definitely had my vote!)

So, in honor of that, I briefly considered listing my favorite Edwards from Literature, but all I could come up with was Rochester, Ferrars, and (recluctantly) Cullen. Instead, I'd like to stick with Jane Eyre and list my top 5 favorite movie versions of Charlotte Bronte's classic. And before you comment, I have yet to see any of the versions from Mexico, Hong Kong, India, or the 1997 one with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton. Not to say I won't get around to it.

5. 1996. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Starring a practically unknown at the time Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane, a definitely phoning-it-in William Hurt as Rochester, and a teeny Anna Paquin as young Jane.

I liked it when it first came out (in my senior year of high school and at the peak of my Bronte-mania), in fact I had an enormous version of the movie poster on my wall. This movie would have been so much better if not for William Hurt. He dosen't have the edge or the fire that Rochester has. He's Blandy McBlanderson. And I know I'm just nitpicking here, but dammit...Rochester is not a blond guy. Gainsbourg is okay, but to be honest when I went back and rewatched some of the clips she comes off as dry as toast. I'm not saying it's not worth a watch, Elle McPherson makes a cameo as Blanche Ingram, though she spends her scenes looking confused as to what she is doing there. So was I! All in all it's a very decent effort, though it leaves out a lot of the book (which is usually my biggest complaint).

4. 1970. Directed by Delbert Mann.

I don't have much to say about this version other than I've seen it, sorta. I watched it when I was sick with Mono, Thrush, and a whole bunch of other disgusting stuff. I had a 104 degree fever at the time and can't remember anything about it other than the colors were really, really weird (though that was probably just the fever) and the music was very eerie. My future mother-in-law loves it though. I'm not sure if it's still her favorite since the BBC version, if not it's a definite second.

3.1983.. Directed by
Julian Amyes.

This is the one I refer to as "the one with Timothy Dalton". It's good, if a bit (really) sound-stagey. Dalton turns in a solid performance (even if at times he flourishes his words a bit too much. ACTING!). Zelah Clarke plays Jane so understated she's practically on mute through most of the film, with exception of the scene when Rochester proposes. It's been a while since I've seen this version, but I remember watching that scene and thinking "She's Fiesty! Where has she been this whole time?"

2.1944. Directed by Robert Stevenson.

This was the first film adaptation of the book I ever saw, and I guess it's stuck with me quite a bit over the years. Starring Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine (who I always adored), and a very young Elizabeth Taylor as the (spoiler!) doomed Helen Burns. Orson Welles, not surprisingly, was brilliant at capturing Rochester's restless, cynical, and somewhat obsessive side. I thought (and still believe) that Joan Fontaine was way too gorgeous to have ever played a character who is by and large known as plain, but her acting is up to the challenge and she plays the part well. The sets are stark and spooky, and the recreation of the Yorkshire Moors is something to see. This is a dark and beautiful version, even if it is a bit choppy and cut short in places.

1.2006. Directed by Susanna White.

I really can't stop singing the praises of this one. The music is beautiful, the sets are gorgeous, the costuming perfect, the acting superb.
I do have to say (and give credit to the director & actors) this version was quite a bit sexier than the very chaste book. Toby Stephens' Rochester practically smolders his way through the first half of the film. And Ruth Wilson has done the best job of any of her predecessors with Jane's independence, virtue and passion. Both actors are quite a bit hotter than the characters they are playing, but you will never hear me phrase that as a complaint. And MAJOR points for this being the only version that gets the Moor House part of the story right! St. John Rivers is as cool and hard-nosed as he was in the book, yet I found myself liking his character in the movie more than on the page. And I have to give props to the casting director for casting Claudia Coulter as Bertha Mason. If you have seen Wide Sargasso Sea*, (a prequel to Jane Eyre about young Edward Rochester's exploits in Jamaica) you will know that Coulter is almost a dead ringer for Karina Lombard, who plays the Bertha in Sea.

*I just looked up the IMdb page for Wide Sargasso Sea and saw that Rochester is played in that movie by Nathaniel Parker, who I had the hots for as the Dunstan Thorn, a.k.a. the Dad in Stardust. That explains it, I knew I'd seen him nekkid before.

In any case, I've added my favorite clips below. The first one is the scene that takes place after Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire that was set in his room. This scene makes me SWOON.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Beautiful Solution

I love the Vivienne Westwood Union Jack Pillow, but could never justify paying $495 for one.

Enter Helkatdesign. I found myself loving these far more than the original, and they are a fraction of the cost. Here are a few of my favorites...

Handprinted rustic unionjack flag in muted brown and blue on a hessian cushion $42

Welsh Dragon $54. Which is like beloved little Teapot...

The whole shop is delightful, and she offers a discount if you want the cover only. Who could ask for more?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Found on Craigslist for under $100...

Chrome Chairs. 2 for only $60!!!

Orange Vinyl Chair. This little baby is sweeeet. It's calling me...and it's only $45. I think it's love.

And then there is this little bit of gorgeous...for only $50.