The Classics Club: Cranford

Cranford

I’ve long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell after hearing such wonderful things about her novels. I finally got the push I needed when I picked up this lovely collected edition, The Cranford Chronicles, from a local charity bookshop; I decided to start with the eponymous Cranford tale first.

We are introduced to the small rural town of Cranford by a young woman (we find out her name later), who regularly comes to stay with friends in the town. Through her eyes we come to see the day-to-day lives, trials, tribulations and joys of the town’s inhabitants; who are mainly widows and spinsters. They live quiet lives of genteel poverty where traditional standards and customs are upheld, and money is never discussed. Little happens to ruffle their lives except the passing of a friend, new people moving into town, or friends being lured away into marriage by those pesky men.

As you may imagine this is not a story full of action or drama, instead it is a touching and meticulous study of the lives of women in a small town in Victorian England. What really makes this story is the characters. Our young narrator comes to stay most often with the upright Miss Deborah Jenkyns and her tender-hearted sister Miss Matty; the spinster daughters of the late reverend. Their friends include Miss Pole, Mrs Jamieson, Mrs Forrester and Lady Glenmire. The few men who do come to live in Cranford cause gossip and commotion with their mere presence: the loud Captain Brown and Dr Hoggins with his audacious proposal. Yet for all the women’s airs and graces there is some true friendship too.

I think this novella was a lovely introduction to Gaskell’s work for me. It didn’t necessarily feel like a novella but more like a short story collection – as we had short snapshots into the characters lives, as and when our young narrator came to stay or received letters. I enjoyed how this helped me to dip in and out of the story as if I too were coming to visit. I found Gaskell’s style detailed and meticulous – perhaps not as gripping or dramatic as some of her contemporaries – but comforting and personable. I really felt I got to know the town and characters. I joined them in the trivia of their lives, the pain of their losses, their joys and the often silly customs and fronts they uphold.

I found Cranford to be a charming and comforting classic. I looking to reading the rest of The Cranford Chronicles which includes: My Lady Ludlow and Mr Harrison’s Confession. I would also love to see the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you seen the TV adaptation?

The Classics Club – 41/50
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #4

Adaptations: April 2016

Adaptations

Hello my fellow bookworms, adaptation lovers and any of those dropping over from the Book to Movie challenge; here are the adaptations I’ve watched recently:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

A gritty, action-packed, superhero bonanza; featuring characters from the DC comics. Gotham’s dark vigilante Batman and Metropolis’ indestructible Superman meet for one almighty clash. Spectacular effects, epic fights, leads into the Justice League and Ben Affleck was much better than I feared. I’ve heard negative reviews but I thought it just worked and for me it was a … Great watch.


 The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)
Read     TV Series     Television

ITV Encore’s thrilling new series that re-imagines the Frankenstein myth (Mary Shelley) on the streets of 19th century London. The discovery of a mutilated child’s body leads Inspector John Marlott (Sean Bean) into a terrifying case of missing children, body snatching and Galvanism. A gritty and gripping series, with a great ensemble cast, but a shocking and frustrating ending! Great watch.


Little Women (1949)
Read     Film     Television

Classic Hollywood adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s charming novel about the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as they grow up during the American Civil War. A sweet, amusing and romantic film with some really lovely casting, although you do have to excuse Beth appearing to be the youngest and Amy being played by an older Elizabeth Taylor. Good watch.


Shakespeare Live! From the RSC (2016)
Read & Not Read     Variety Performance     Television

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the BBC broadcast a live variety performance from the RSC (Stratford). Presenters, Catherine Tate and David Tennant, were joined by a host of actors, singers, musicians, dancers, comedians and famous faces to bring classic scenes from his many works into new life. Good watch.


I also re-watched the amazing Jurassic World (2015) and Spider-Man (2002) (the latter in preparation for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War); which brings my total up to 5 adaptations. This month also sees the release of the new live-action The Jungle Book (2016) and the long-awaited 6th series of Game of Thrones! Both of which I am excited to watch.

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

New Read: Girl Meets Change

Girl Meets Change

As a practicing Christian I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. I can also be a major worrier particularly about change so Christian non-fiction Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong seemed like a perfect read for me.

Kristen Strong knows all about change, being a military wife, she has had to deal with her husband’s deployments and she has had to move herself, children and home around the country to different military bases; leaving houses, schools, jobs, friends and churches behind for all new ones. But change does not come easily for her! She has made mistakes, worried, panicked and dreaded the changes that have come her way. Yet along the way she has gained knowledge, experienced that change can be good too, and discovered that her family, love and God is all she really needs; wherever she is.

In this book Strong shares with us her experiences, what she has learned and advice on how to deal with change ourselves. Sharing candidly her own touching life stories and her feelings during them, as well as some poignant and appropriate stories of her friends, family and other military wives. This is all written in a detailed, inspiring and down-to-earth way; like a friend giving you advice. And throughout Strong kept God, prayer and his word running through the stories, through how she dealt with change, and in her advice to us. Offering scripture, events from Jesus’, Esther’s and Joseph’s life and prayers that helped her and could help us too.

Girl Meets Change offers good, practical advice about how a Christian woman can face change – it certainly got me thinking and feeling a little more confident about dealing with change myself. I haven’t read anything by Kristen Strong before however I would definitely be interested in reading more. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else about change?

New Read: Broken Banners

Broken Banners

After reading the engaging fantasy novella A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King in February, I was eager to read more. So much so I picked up book 2, Broken Banners, only a month later in March. (This post may contain spoilers for the previous book).

This book continues the story of Elinor, the King’s Reaper, and her loyal friend and royal engineer Conbert. After the bloody reaping at Last Dawn Keep, Elinor is now in disgrace and no knight will follow her. With a small ragtag assortment of loyal engineers and workmen, Elinor travels across the wilds to Heights Ward Keep. Under orders to merge with the Ninety-Fifth Pioneers, led by Janen Aldis. Only instead they come across the grim sight of the massacred bodies of the men and women of Ninety-Fifth Pioneers; seemingly cut down from behind as they fled the very keep they were meant to be reaping.

I thoroughly enjoyed reuniting with the strong, brave Elinor and the fair, noble Conbert. Since abandoning their orders and following Elinor’s instincts at Last Dawn, they have lost their position, power and many men. However Elinor seems to have gained a new power after her encounter with this world’s old magic. The new element to this story is Janen Aldis. The leader of the Ninety-Fifth Pioneers and Elinor’s old Academy friend; although we soon discover why Conbert doesn’t remember him fondly. Janen is strong, charming, ambitious and willing to do anything to achieve his goal. Even so I kind of liked him – he is a likeable rogue who Elinor and me hope can be redeemed!

I was again seriously impressed by how Gelineau and King managed to give the story that epic fantasy feel; with a well-built world and magic system that had a sense of age to it, and good character description and development. This book felt a little shorter and less detailed than The Reaper of Stone, however it was another engaging and highly readable novella. Gelineau and King came together to write this set of series, Echo of the Ascended, in homage to all the classic epic fantasy tales and great heroes of their childhood – of which Broken Banners is just part of 1 or 3 series set in the kingdom of Aedaron. While there are currently no more instalments in Elinor and Conbert’s story I do have other Echo of the Ascended novellas waiting on my Kindle for me.

Broken Banners was another quick and engaging fantasy novella, which I finished in just 2 to 3 short sittings. I hope very soon to read Best Left in the Shadows next. Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of Gelineau and King’s other fantasy novellas?

Once Upon a Time X – #2

New Read: The Villa in Italy

The Villa in Italy

Mediterranean suspense, The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson (A Vintage Mystery) has languished in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for far too long! Finally the What’s in a Name 2016 challenge gave me the push I needed to read it, and I am so pleased it did.

Delia, a successful opera singer, is languishing in boredom and illness when she receives a summons to a will reading. She and three other strangers have been named in the will of the eccentric, wealthy socialite Beatrice Malaspina; whom none of them ever knew. The mystery only deepens as a requirement of the will is that these four strangers must come together at Malaspina’s estate, Villa Dante in Italy. Delia with the encouragement of her, paparazzi hounded, best friend Jessica skips the country and drives down to Italy for sun, sea, good food, friendship, secrets, mystery and resolution.

Delia and Jessica are joined at the neglected but beautiful Renaissance Villa Dante by George, an idealistic scientist; Marjorie, an impoverished author; and Lucius, a banker in personal turmoil. I instantly liked Delia, George and Lucius. Jessica and Marjorie are harder to get to know and hold quite strong prejudices which are put to the test once they are altogether. It turns out Beatrice Malaspina has hidden the final codicil for her will inside the villa. To find it they must work together to find out more about each other, themselves and Malaspina. This search helps them to connect with each other, uncover secrets and to deal with painful and dark memories from their past; by the end I loved them all!

The Villa in Italy is the first novel I have read by Elizabeth Edmondson. I picked it up originally hoping for some mysterious fun in the sun, however I got a whole lot more from this wonderful novel. I found Edmondson’s style descriptive, easy and comfortable, like I’d been reading her for years, so I was immediately swept off to Italy of the 1950s. Where I could feel the warm sun, hear the waves lapping against the bay, smell the delicious food, and picture the Renaissance Villa Dante; with its colourful murals, airy bedrooms, Roman tower and it’s almost tangible secrets. I wanted to go to Italy before – now I really want to go! Then on top of that you have the issues of family rifts, forbidden love, heartbreak, the war, divorce and ethics.

The Villa in Italy was a sweeping, romantic mystery set on the beautiful Italian coast. In the future I would really like to read more by Elizabeth Edmondson. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Edmondson?

What’s in a Name 2016 – A Country (2/6)

New Read: The Book of Life

The Book of Life

After reading Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness earlier this year, I didn’t wait too long to read, The Book of Life, the final instalment in Harkness’ paranormal romance All Souls series.

Having grown in her powers and now pregnant with miraculous twins, Diana Bishop and her husband Matthew must return from Elizabethan England to the present time. However they still have many powerful enemies to contend with; in particular the Congregation are out for blood over their forbidden marriage and they also fear their unborn children. Diana must keep under the radar and surround herself with friends and family. While they look for a way to get their hands on the bewitched manuscript, Ashmole 782, which they hope will finally give them the knowledge to defeating their enemies and prejudice forever.

Through these books it has been nice to see Diana grow as a woman, witch, mother and matriarch. Sadly I am still not that enamoured with Matthew, because of his vampire possessive-ness, so it was great to see them spend some time apart in this book. Giving Diana the chance to shine and she even whoops some ass too! Another powerful element of this book is Diana and Matthew’s return to the present, leaving behind friends and loved ones in the past. While Diana and Matthew’s time walk took only minutes, many of these friends and loved have waited hundreds of years to see them again or have sadly passed away – some really poignant points arose from this.

I continued to love the detailed and immersive style and world Harkness conjured; and all the historical, alchemical, literary and art references and details. I also enjoyed the pace of this book, as the characters whizzed around the world to keep under the radar and to discover the truth. We spent time in the ancient Der Clermont seat at Sept-Tours, France; the eccentric Bishop home in Madison, USA (one of my favourites); Matthew’s grand London townhouse, England; the Congregation’s headquarters in the historical Venice, Italy; and many more fantastic locations. This book truly went international which helped keep me gripped to the end.

The Book of Life was an interesting and satisfying ending to this well written paranormal series; full of history, magic and art. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the previous books in the series?

Once Upon a Time X – #1

The Classics Club: Five Children and It

Five Children and It

Last year (2015), I took a wonderful trip down memory lane when I read The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. So this year I decided to read another of Nesbit’s children’s classics: the magical Five Children and It.

In this tale Nesbit swept me back to the Victorian, English countryside. This time to follow siblings; Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane and their baby brother, the Lamb. Who are left alone during their summer holiday, while their father is working and their mother goes to care for her sick mother. As the weather is fine and the maid wants them from under her feet, they got out to play almost everyday. On one such day, they mistakenly dig up  a cantankerous Psammead (sand fairy), in a gravel pit.  They return each day as ‘It’ will grant them a wish that lasts until sunset, but often these wishes have absurd and disastrous consequences.

In The Railway Children I really liked middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter, and I enjoyed watching them grow as characters. So I was interested to read about another (larger) set of siblings. The 5 children that discover ‘It’ are inquisitive, clever, argumentative and can sometimes be rather naughty. Making them slightly less likeable but realistic and rather amusing at times. Sadly though no one sibling stood out from the group, except for ‘the Lamb’, I couldn’t really distinguish Robert from Cyril or Anthea from Jane. Still a fun family to read about but I couldn’t help comparing with Nesbit’s well-drawn railway children. If I’d read the books the other way round I probably wouldn’t have noticed so much!

Unlike The Railway Children I haven’t seen the film of Five Children and It; although I vaguely remember a TV series when I was a young child. By vaguely I mean I remember little to nothing about it so this was a completely fresh story for me. I really enjoyed the children’s quaint and eccentric adventures that arose from their childish and often spur-of-the-moment wishes. I particularly enjoyed the day they had wings but fell asleep atop a bell tower and when they awoke their wings were gone! Then when they found themselves in a besieged castle or another when surrounded by red Indians. And as for ‘It’, the grumpy sand fairy, I thought he was wonderful and rather naughty (I swear he knew what trouble those wishes would cause!).

Five Children and It was a charming, magical children’s classic for me. I didn’t love it as much as The Railway Children, however I do look forward to reading the next in the series: The Phoenix and the Carpet. Good read.

Have you read this or watched any of the films/TV series?

The Classics Club – 40/50
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #3