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Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Discovering Anthony Trollope is a wonderful experience - The Warden by Anthony Trollope is the first of his Barsetshire novels and only my second ever Trollope read.  Having been a life-long fan of Dickens, I admit to being a little biased and resisting Trollope for some time.  I'm so glad that I decided to go against my better judgement and give Trollope a chance.  His writing is just wonderful and his characters more than compare to Dickens.

The Warden tells the story of Septimus Harding who is the warden (no surprise there) of an almshouse in Barchester.  The plot centres around a legal action against Mr Harding, challenging the living he makes from the wardenship.  Trollope examines the effects of investigative journalism on those involved and how it colours opinions and can damage reputations.  There is biting satire  - Dickens is lambasted as Mr Popular Sentiment, an author writing novels pandering to the masses and manipulating their emotions.  But it is also a story about human relationships and what brings us happiness.

Anthony Trollope

What I find so intriguing about this novel is how it has remained so fresh and applicable to society today.  Journalism and publishing still influence opinion and can manipulate the general public.

Mr Popular Sentiment
While I will never turn my back on Dickens, I can now appreciate that Trollope is a writer of equal importance and possibly greater talent.  While Dickens embraced and shaped popular thought and opinion Trollope questioned and challenged them and in some ways this makes Trollope's work more universal and lasting.  I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the Barsetshire novels and am grateful that Trollope was as prolific as Dickens!

One Day by David Nicholls

I don't think I would have ordinarily picked this book up were it not for a string of recommendations by book bloggers and friends.  One Day by David Nicholls turned out to be one of those books that really took me surprise.  It started off as straight-forward.  It's the story of two people who spent one night and day together following their university graduation.  We then catch up with them on the anniversary of that day (St Swithin's day) over the next twenty years.  I think the beauty of this book is that it all seems so real - Emma and Dexter are people you know, the situations they find themselves in are those that we, or our friends, go through.  It's a book about the things in life that matter - love, friendship and realising your dreams.  I started off thinking it was going to be a story that I have read a million times before and yet the brilliant thing about David Nicholls is that he manages to make this seemingly standard love story different and memorable.  For all the things about the story that are familiar, there are still moments that surprise, and shock.

There's an up-coming film adaptation of One Day, due later this year, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.  Having seen (and enjoyed) other films and tv projects that David Nicholls has written (Starter for Ten and Cold Feet) I have no doubt that this adaptation will work really well.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Brighton Rock - the film

Went to see Brighton Rock at the lovely Reigate Everyman cinema this afternoon, and am still a little undecided about it.  Of course, there is no arguing that the cinematography is beautiful and the acting, for the most part, is wonderful.  Andrea Riseborough gives Rose an innocence and childlike quality that goes some way to making her character believable.  Sam Riley, whilst certainly brooding and menacing wasn't much else and we never got a sense of why he was the way he was.  I haven't read the book, but watching the film made me wonder how much more there is in the novel than they were able to squeeze into the film.  So much of the story seems to be unexplained - I don't think we saw enough of Rose and her home life to understand her willingness to devote herself unconditionally to Pinkie.  The religious aspects of the story are glossed over and there are many sub-plots which are hinted at, but left undeveloped.  It may be that the book is much the same but I felt that many of the characters seemed quite flat because their motives were unexplained.  On the plus side, the film certainly gave me a good deal to think about - what makes us love or trust people the people we do, what are we driven by? - and it also made me want to read the novel!

Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

Having read my first Georgette Heyer crime novel a couple of weeks ago, I thought I knew what to expect from Footsteps in the Dark and it started off true to form.  Celia, her husband Charles and siblings Peter and Margaret have moved into the Priory which the Fortescue children have inherited from their Uncle.  The locals are full of tales about The Monk - a mysterious ghost that haunts the Priory and its surroundings.  So the Edwardian country house is there, as are the upper class heroes - but this novel has more than a touch of the supernatural about it and for much of the first half of the book I was convinced this was more of a ghost story than a crime fiction.

Heyer is so readable and perfectly draws you into the story - and that is what I love about her books.  They are complete escapism and while the mysteries are not the most complex (I confess to guessing the ending, although not that much before it was revealed!) and yet it remains a real page-turner.  Thank heavens she was such a prolific writer - these are the sort of novels I love to have 'on standby' for those times when I want an easy, enjoyable read.
Anthony Trollope

Putting aside Heyer, I have now thrown myself into the world of Barsetshire and begun The Warden by Anthony Trollope.  I have only previously read one Trollope, The Way We Live Now, and I thought it was wonderful and I am very hopeful that The Warden will also deliver!  Trollope's characters are so vividly created and his writing so smooth that it makes his novels an absolute joy to read.  Much as it pains me to say, I may even end up preferring Trollope to Dickens...

Pretty Woman at the Prince Charles cinema

 Some friends and I went to see Pretty Woman and the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square last night.  It's one of my favourite films and I don't think I had ever seen it on the big screen.  It was one of those really lovely cinema experiences when everyone there loves the film, the audience are all in-tune with each other.  Going to see a film you know is such a different experience to seeing something brand new.  At the start of the film I was wondering how much of it I would remember - and about ten minutes into the fim all of us found ourselves mouthing along to some of the lines.  And of course the music is fantastic!  The cinema were showing this as part of their 'Feel Good Friday' series and that's exactly what it was - we all came out of the film feeling really happy (and after the day some of us had at work, that was no mean feat!) and ready for the weekend.  Even on the train home we were still talking about it - and the chap sitting next to me (easily in his fifties) even joined in to say how much he loved the film (although for him it was Julia Roberts' smile that made it a favourite!

Of course, is made me want to go home and drag out all my old favourite films - Back to the Future, The Sure Thing, The Breakfast Club... and anything with Richard Gere in it!  There is something about him that is just so watchable.  Unfortunately, the only thing I have at home starring Gere is Chicago, and I wouldn't say that is one of his greatest moments.  So, I'm off to LoveFilm to stock up on Yanks, American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman!