Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: The Inheritance by Lousia May Alcott

I was inspired to order this book again after seeing the movie adaptation of the story last week, so this is almost more of a comparison post than a proper review; however, first I will talk about the writing style which obviously isn't that connected to the movie.. or is it? There is a definite 'distance' created by the overtly poetic writing style which is somewhat betrayed by how it runs through your head! As I told my sister, I partly read it so fast because I was starting to think about the most everyday things in a fluting high flown style which is rather irritating in daily life. Not that I dislike poetic imagery (L. M. Montgomery is one of my muses), but the Gothic overtones of this got a whee bit head-achy. :)

The movie softens, no, does away with, the melodrama, leaving the natural intensity of the scenes and story to play out all the more profoundly. The workings of the story are vastly different from that of the book, but the spirit of it -- the integral parts of Percy giving his friendship so freely to Edith, her courage and skill with horses (though only slightly seen in the novel), even all the way to Edith looking “long and sadly” at the portrait of her father -- are all neatly tied in.

Perhaps it's my excitement for anything Ivanhoe, but I thought the whole imagery with the tableaux, Edith as Rebecca and Arlington as the Templar (while perhaps quite blatant) worked very neatly into their relationship. Having there be a Hamilton son certainly makes the whole disinherited thing a bit stronger, but why oh why was Edith so submissive to all of Ida's orders? It drove me crazy! It does make her more Cinderella-like to be sure, but I didn't see why Edith owed any especial deference to her. Why, if Lord Percy had been but a touch less observant he might have never seen anything of it! Observation, however, is the very keystone of his character which is something they bring out very well in the movie and also a character trait I highly admire/respect, so all is well. :)

Do I think it can be completely compared to the movie? Not at all. The book is quite melodramatic, with crumbling walls and single dropping tears – whereas the movie, in its thoughtful friendship, refreshingly gentle romance and adorable humor is one of the most everyday-like costume dramas I have ever seen.

Though the book was rather slower than I remembered it being, I had a great deal of fun remembering and placing little anecdotes and keys from it as seen in the movie and enjoyed my re-visit to it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review: Golden by Cameron Dokey

Before Rapunzel's birth, her mother made a dangerous deal with the sorceress Melisande: If she could not love newborn Rapunzel just as she appeared, she would surrender the child to Melisande. When Rapunzel was born completely bald and without hope of ever growing hair, her horrified mother sent her away with the sorceress to an uncertain future.

After sixteen years of raising Rapunzel as her own child, Melisande reveals that she has another daughter, Rue, who was cursed by a wizard years ago and needs Rapunzel's help. Rue and Rapunzel have precisely "two nights and the day that falls between" to break the enchantment. But bitterness and envy come between the girls, and if they fail to work together, Rue will remain cursed...forever.

I usually review only books that I’m totally crazy about, but really, that creates a very lopsided view of my reading. (Well, mayhap not quite so lopsided, as I tend toward reading only books that I know I will like, but I’m trying to branch out from that too. :))

So I decided to begin with this book. A book that I half like, from an author whose stories I love. Sounds good, yes?

To begin with the plot was just a little too scrambled for me. I liked most of the individual parts, but I couldn’t quite see how they were bound together. I will say no more here lest I give away the story, but only that some of the Strong Reasons for Things felt a little weak to me. And some of the dialogue was just a wee modern for my taste, but that’s just old-fashioned me.

Now for the happily delicious bits. First the big one: I loved how Rapunzel (later Susan) has no hair. Absolutely none. There are many books where the hero falls in love with a heroine because of her beautiful character, but the heroine just happens to be ravishingly beautiful, as well (though there is nothing wrong with that -- in fact, I enjoy that, too). Beauty of character is truly what gives the living glow to any loveliness. But I thought it was really neat how in Golden that is simply swept away. Yes, she has beautiful eyes, but they are hardly spoken of and it is her character that is laid clear and for which everyone loves/learns to love her for. You know the gift her hero brings her from his travels? Extravagant head scarves - each more shining and imaginative than the last. He brings her a covering! Ah, there could be some very neat imagery here!

I also like Rue’s romance with the prince; because it’s just plain cute.

As with Belle, this story is sparkled with nuggets of lovely prose and description, one of my favorites being the part where Rapunzel is running across the plain after being confined in the tinker’s wagon for several days. Even as I lay reading the book I could feel the great emptiness of the plain around and the joyous pounding of her feet upon the ground as she ran.

Now I’m finished, but I received a surprise while writing this. Examining and putting my thoughts in order, I think I might just like this story better than I first supposed. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Movie Spotlight: The Inheritance (1997)

Lately the name of a certain costume drama has been floating around this place, to wit, Lark Rise to Candleford. Many feeling terms have been applied to it (one of which coming to mind is Favorite Period Drama Ever), but that's not quite accurate, because before LRTC there was (and still is)... The Inheritance! And The Inheritance really is truly nearly perfect.

Firstly now, a synopsis:

Edith Adelon lives as the companion to the daughter of a wealthy family. Her life is a happy one, only slightly clouded by the knowledge that someday she will have to leave the only place that has ever been home to her. But time has a way of beginning things before you know it. A friend of the family, James Percy comes to ride in one of the greatest events in the neighborhood, the Greenscup. He and Edith connect in their love of horses and Edith soon finds herself falling in love with the very man specially “imported” to marry the shrewish cousin of the family. This cousin soon becomes a conniving enemy who will stop at no deceit to ruin Edith's chance at happiness.

And that is my own description and I'm really rather pleased with it, which is exceedingly nice. :)

The Music - Simply put, it is cantering put to music. Just listening, you can almost feel the musical inflection of the horse beneath you. Lyrical, thrilling and totally romantic, it whisks you away into the magic of olden days.

Sets and Scenery - Are so beautiful! I have little idea of where it is actually supposed to be set, but it looks like it must be in the South somewhere or it might be in California. The house looks very Spanish-inspired from the outside. But the exact locations don't really matter, because it's not really about accuracies, but just utter loveliness. And the overall coloring is so lovely: dusty brown and golden with tints of rose and just a general golden glow.

The Costumes - Bustles, riding outfits, ruffled ballgowns... it's all a pure delight. :) I talked more about most of my favorite dresses in this post. One I didn't mention was Edith's ballgown, which is creamy, ruffled and simply elegant. And her hair is so gorgeous. Could anything be more refreshingly lovely? The men's garb (i.e. James's) as it ranges from practical riding clothes to distinguished evening wear, is also positively wonderful.

The Characters -

Edith Adelon - I love how her humor and gentleness is coupled with just enough spice to make her terribly fun without being feisty. She knows uncertainty at times, but is always confident in truth. She's constantly inspiring while yet making you feel she would be the jolliest of chums. :)

James Percy – First, let us have a moment of silence. His name!!! Isn't it the neatest thing? Louisa May Alcott did have a knack for perfect names. :) Handsome and accomplished, he knows just how to put a shy person at ease (let alone knowing how to handle an overly-interested-young-lady) and his character is truly beautiful. He has everything a true man can and should have. A man that can be respected, with patience and just enough dash to make him very fun. :)

James and Edith together – First their meeting: oh, the sweetness... I can hardly bear it! So quiet and unassuming and there is a HORSE – his horse – there, too. Could it be better? In fact, could any of their relationship be better? The entire thing is simply beautiful, as in tear-worthily beautiful. And as their love grows – on a base of mutual interests and friendship – it will clearly be one for a full and joyful lifetime together.

Mr. And Mrs. Hamilton - The couple who have raised Edith. You know what I said about James and Edith? Well, here it is about twenty-some years later! They are different people, so it no doubt looks a little different than James and Edith's will, but it still has the wonderfulness factor. The humor between them is hilarious. And she is such an elegant and thorough gentlewoman. Honestly, she is really one of my favorite movie characters. Their daughter Amy – the young lady Edith is companion to – is truly bubbly and sweet, treating Edith much more like a sister than anything else.

The Villains... Are truly terrible! I mean, they must be on the list of the Worst Period Drama Villains Ever: sophisticated, cunning, and altogether simply infuriating.

And hence, some of the parts you should know about: Basically, the villain tries to force a kiss on Edith and there's a scuffle, but he gets his just deserts. The whole part is really easy to see coming. Also, some of the villainess's dresses especially are fairly low-cut.

So I reach the end of a review and once again words fail me. How do I adequately write of something where the glow of beauty is more felt than anything else: with the ache of sympathy as Edith meets and undergoes all the pain and misunderstanding that any true Cinderella knows, and then the deep bubbling joyful glow when she meets her “prince” and at last finds 'home.' It's all entirely heart-wrenching, romantic, and utterly beautiful!

Note: This review was first posted for Heidi's Cinderella Week and Miss Laurie's 2016 Period Drama Challenge!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Movie Spotlight: First Love (1939)

Except... it wasn’t first love for me. I wept and gnashed my teeth over it (pretty image, is it not? :)). The teacher was too nasty (I said)… her family was odious… and that was the end of the matter for me. Or so I thought.

But then, months later, I saw it again and (what is that line from Tangled? “And it's like the sky is new”).. I know that’s a romance song, but that part is so true for this story. Because I fell totally in love.

So it’s through those new eyes that I present this review –

First thought: Connie’s teacher is rather hard, but it’s the hardness of love that teaches what the world is like so that it won’t crush and then shows that love can be found even in the busiest, blindest of places.

But what is this place? The sparkly splendor of 30’s high society, complete with its crazy fur, dainty high-heels, and the swirling shimmer of the ladies’ shining skirts… It’s the stuff dreams are made of and, believe me, the perfect setting for a Cinderella story!

This movie has, I think, the funniest meeting between Cinderella and her “prince”, which gets only more comical as I think of the other versions. Ever After has him (ahem) borrowing her horse (such a little gentleman :)) and Cinderella 2015 has them both riding (love that scene so much!) But in this one Connie, obeying the order of her cousin to delay Ted Drake (i.e. The Prince) till she gets there, lures away his horse with some sugar cubes from the place where he tied it. And hence proceeds the most hysterical game of tag: with Connie in front and the horse galloping after, with Ted in hot pursuit. After which Ted very niftily pretty much saves her life. Totally adorable, I do assure you. :)

From there, the story only gets sweeter, from the interference of the “Nasty Stepsister” to the dreamiest ball sequence. Connie and Ted dance to a medley of Strauss waltzes thus instantly putting Strauss, and waltzing in general on my list of the Most Romantic Things Ever. The dance also includes the neatest fade-out effect with the other couples fading away, leaving them dancing in an empty ballroom and then having a lovely conversation on the terrace which overlooks New York City.

The entire story is entwined with songs that are variously joyful and as heartbreaking as they come. But the best moment? The end of course. (I’m skipping over the dividing part on purpose because second only to Slipper and the Rose it is the most heart-wrenching of the Cinderella partings.)

But I won’t tell you much of it… only that it is stirring, tugging your heartstrings, and utterly lovely with promises of a future all the brighter for dear Connie.

Aren't they the cutest ever?!!

Thus ends one of the loveliest (in both senses of the word) movies of all time, leaving you with a sigh of the dreamiest kind, a nice cozy feeling that glows to the tips of your fingers, and the feeling that love at first sight might just be possible after all.

Note: This review was first posted for Heidi's Cinderella Week and Miss Laurie's 2016 Period Drama Challenge!

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