a very proud and prejudiced review

After reading Marvel Illustrated’s Sense and Sensibility (adapted by Nancy Butler and illustrate by Sonny Liew), I was eager to read their take on Pride and Prejudice. Reviews on amazon were not particularly favorable with regards to the artwork, but the cover had a look similar to that used in S&S so I wanted to judge for myself…. Unfortunately, the reviewers were right. The text is very well adapted (Butler adapted P&P as well as Marvel’s Emma); however, the images were just wrong. There is a liveliness and softness to Liew’s illustrations in Sense and Sensibility, they work very well with the text.

Hugo Petrus’s illustrations just scream classic, fanboy comic world. As one amazon reviewer put it, “Other than Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, the girls look like 80s porn stars and her mom looks like Granny Goodness from the animated JLA series.”

They do. The hair is big and the expressions are fierce, while the color palette applied to the first half of the series is extremely harsh and orange. It just made me cringe. Great cover art, disappointing story art.

Wuthering Heights 2009

My final selection for the Brontë Challenge was Masterpiece Theatre’s loose adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (2009). This film rendition of the tale does away with the narrative quality of the story, reducing Nellie’s part as narratorand forcing the plot into a more linear storyline. There is a lot more romance, and less Gothic drama, which makes the Bronte’s tale of mad passion and revenge seem more mainstream. I found that this version tries to rationalize Heathcliff’s cruel tendencies by emphasizing the rivalry between him and Hindly, and showing glimpses of his happy, free-spirited childhood with Cathy. Tom Hardy does provide a compelling portrayal of Heathcliff, but I find most of the other characters a bit bland. Heathcliff is portrayed as a deranged, though slightly sympathetic character in this version, which is very different from my understanding of his character in the text. The relationship between the second generation of Earnshaws and Lintons is thrust into the background; the three young cousins are present but their part is minimal in the development of the tale.

Overall, not my favorite adaptation of the novel, but not terrible. It has its moments. I gave it a three-star “Liked It” rating on my Netflix queue.

On a side note… This is my 100th post!!!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

This weekend, I watched the BBC’s 1996 adaptation of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, starring Tara Fitzgerald, Toby Stephens, and Rupert Graves. This is one of the two movies I selected as part of the “All about the Brontës” challenge and I was not disappointed.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Having read the novel a few months ago, I was eager to watch the series. As with most novels that are adapted into film, the series differed from the book but I found that it did not take away from the experience. Tenant is a disturbing tale and the series effectively captured the threat and anxiety of Helen’s situation. The novel is complex in its exploration of women’s place in society and the tenuous position of wives and mothers in particular. The film did a good job of emphasizing this by presenting Helen as the focal point of the story, though removing Mr. Markham as the main narrator of the tale.

Tara Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Helen added to my understanding of that character. In my reading, Helen came across as a very hard and pious individual, seeming a bit priggish until I learned the reasons for her high moral stance. While watching the film, I felt sympathetic towards Helen from the beginning, the occasional flashbacks that she experiences aiding the viewer in understanding her obvious sadness and isolation, and her devotion to her son. When reading the novel, my sympathy towards Helen grew when she reveals her past to Gilbert Markham, about halfway through the book.

The interaction between Gilbert and Helen is less charged in the film, as many of the misunderstandings that arise during their early interactions are glossed over. Their friendship is a lot more easy in the adaptation and Gilbert seems much less proud than he does in the book.

I found that Rupert Graves was wonderful as Huntingdon. He played such a vile character and really made me hate Huntingdon. The relationship between Helen and Huntingdon was sexed up in the film, adding a different dimension to my understanding of the situation between these two.

All in all, a good start to my Brontë-watching 🙂

a bit of fluff

Watched the “City of Ember” movie last night and though it has been a very long time since I read the book, I cannot say that I recall there being giant mutant moles in the pipeworks. But I may be wrong about that. Were there really mutant creatures in the book?

Otherwise, the movie was excellent. Much more fast-paced than the book, but it still managed to remain true to the story.

Work has been slow lately, so I’ve managed to read two books while waiting around for no-show appointments: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

The Graveyard Book was a wonderful read. Bod’s graveyard family is charming and not the least bit macabre, and Bod’s transition to young adulthood makes for an unexpectedly touching story. And yes, I cried as I read the last chapter.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation really was just a bit of fluff. I had it in the “to read” pile for ages, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a sort of romantic comedy with a historical twist, so it has its funny moments, but not enough to inspire me to read the sequels (There are about four others?). Cute and silly, but enjoyable as a quick read.

“We all came out of Gogol’s overcoat.”

He had spent years maintaining distance from his origins; his parents, in bridging that distance as best they could. And yet, for all his aloofness toward his family in the past, his years at college and then in New York, he has always hovered close to this quiet, ordinary town that had remained, for his mother and father, stubbornly exotic. — The Namesake, 281.

After a long hiatus, I finally found the time to finish reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. Like so many of her stories, Lahiri’s novel highlights the struggle experienced by displaced Bengalis seeking to establish a sense of community in America. Tracing the lives of the Ganguli family, Lahiri evokes the loss of identity associated with the immigrant experience. Following Ashoke, Ashima, Gogol, and Moushumi, Lahiri voices the restless desire for home and identity.

Seamlessly shifting from one character to another, the narrative can be read as a series of stories–illustrating the connections created within this small community as lives come together and break apart.

When I first picked up the novel, I had already seen the movie (something I usually avoid, but Netflix beat me to it). Because the movie tends to focus on Gogol’s story, I find that many of the other voices that make the novel seem so very real are lost, as is the feeling of life’s abruptness that Lahiri creates.

ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL

She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.Persuasion

When I’m in a slump, I always return to Austen. And, as all the recent adaptations, remakes, and attempts at imitation have shown, I am not the only one.

Like many Austen fans, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel, but I find that as I get older Persuasion is taking the lead. Like so many girls, I’d like to thing of myself as a Lizzy – quick and clever, and always ready for a challenge – but to be honest, I’m an Anne – introverted and far too thoughtful for my own good.

Persuasion, Austen’s last completed novel, is a story about second-chances. As with Austen’s other works (except possible Northanger Abbey), there is a strain of melancholy that pervades much of the story. Anne Elliot, 27 and unmarried, finds herself in this state after she allowed herself to be swayed by the upper-class pretensions of her family and her neighbor, Lady Russell. Having accepted an engagement with the hopeful but unemployed Frederick Wentworth when she was only 19, Anne was persuaded not to proceed with the engagement. Now at 27, Anne has little hope of ever leaving her father’s home, where she receives little attention, and even less appreciation, a matter that is only complicated by the family’s financial difficulties and the return of a long lost cousin, and a long lost lover.

Like all of Austen’s novels, on the surface, this is a marriage story with an unlikely heroine. After a few twists and turns, and some coincidences (hey, everyone knew everyone else’s business in Bath), the story ends with a happily ever after.

As I see it, what makes Persuasion such a wonderful story is Anne’s introspection – and this is why I find that none of the movie adaptations (regardless of great acting and scenery) have quite got it. Recently aired on Masterpiece Theatre, ITV’s latest version of Persuasion is a 98 minute sight-seeing tour of the English countryside, the seaside, and Bath. Beautifully directed though it may be, the film is so short that it only touches on the main points of the story – the Elliots move out, Anne goes to her sister’s house, the Crofts appear, Frederick comes back and ignores Anne, some moments of light jealousy, the trip to the sea, Mr. Elliot appears, then back to Bath and it all turns out all right in the end. However, the film does succeed in capturing Anne’s mood throughout the events, focusing on her perspective and the sadness that pervades much of the story. As a thorough adaptation of the novel, the ‘95 version still wins, though Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds will always be a bit too old for the parts that they played.

Atonement – The Unreliable Witness

I’m always slightly anxious about sharing my views on books, but this is my blog, so I can say what I please.

After a very sporadic read-through, and one late-night movie adventure with Grace, I can finally write about something bookish and current.

I had never read Ian McEwan before reading Atonement and, I must admit, I never knew about him before Amazon sent me the trailer back in July (one of those, “If you like Pride and Prejudice, you’ll love enter name of amazing Amazonian recommendation here“). But, after so many young adult books, children’s novels, and Victorian lit, I owed it to myself to finally read something contemporary and intended for my age group.

With the movie out, and the movie tie-ins piled up in every bookstore (never read tie-ins), most readers have some idea what this story is about. At its most basic, the plot could almost be confused for a Miss Marple:

English manor house in 1935. Dinner party in the works. Hot summer day. Guests arrive. Everyone has an agenda, even the children. A crime occurs, and the only witness is a thirteen year old girl who likes to make up stories.

What really makes this story so enthralling are the shifts from one perspective to another and the manner in which the story is divided. Told in four parts by a third person narrator, the first part gives you all the details that you need to get into Briony’s head and understand why she makes her confession(s). Everything that happens during that first part, 175 pages describing one day, is essential to the rest of the story… down to the mole on Cecilia’s back.

Because of the shifting focalization, I had my doubts about the movie adaptation. You usually expect movies based on books to fall short, and when an author chooses to write from different points of view, purists like myself tend to cringe at the thought of adaptation. That’s why I started bouncing in my seat when the story shifted back upon itself. When Briony closed that window and it shifted to Cecilia, I knew this was going to be one of those rare instances where the movie is almost as good as the book. There were changes, of course, but they didn’t take away from the story. In the novel, the confession(s) ends differently — the movie simplifies the ending, but something had to be lost when adapting a book that relies so heavily on the reader’s ability to pick up on seemingly insignificant character traits.