For decades, my mother has been nagging me to read Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow.  The book was published in 1959, making it just about the same age I am.  I’m not sure why I never got around to reading it, but now I could kick myself for not having read it when Mom first mentioned it.  In short, I loved it.

We meet Celia herself right away.  She is a 20-year-old orphan who is working as an apprentice seamstress for the best dressmaker in Charleston, South Carolina.  The year is 1779, and the American Revolution has been going on for several years.  Celia really doesn’t care one way or the other about the war; all she cares about is having some excitement in her life.  But circumstances draw her in, and soon she cares very, very much about the war and the participants.   She gets engaged to a rebel captain, she becomes a spy for the rebel cause and, along the way, she and the people she cares about face real danger and real sorrow.   As has been said, “War is Hell,” and young Celia learns this first hand.

Real historical figures play important roles in the story; we get to meet Francis Marion (the “Swamp Fox”), and we learn about the King’s commanders Cornwallis, Clinton, Tarleton, etc.

At first, I found Celia a little annoying, but I guess a lot of 20-year-olds are, and she did grow on me.  I loved the supporting characters as much as Celia does, and felt her joy and her pain as her world went all topsy-turvy around her.  Celia grows up because of her experiences, and I am glad I got to go along for the ride.  I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who likes a good historical novel with lots of romance and action.  It’s just wonderful and it’s a book I can see myself reading again over the years.


OK, now for the reason I’ve been away so long.  I took the plunge and became a homeowner.  Neither side used a realtor, so I got a crash course in home buying and it consumed so much of my time and emotional energy (and cash!) that I didn’t have enough to spare for reading, stitching, movie-going, blogging, etc.  But now I’m settled in and am getting used to living on my own again.  No parents, no dogs, no “partners-in-crime” just across the street or down the block.  It’s very quiet, but I am remembering how much I like quiet when I’m not at work (odd for a City Mouse, but true).   In my 100+ year-old NYC apartment building, the walls were so thin that I could practically hear my neighbors boiling water (and we all heard things we wish we hadn’t!).  But this is a 7-year-old building made out of cinder block, so I hardly know I even have neighbors now.  I still need a ton of stuff — book cases, living room couch, coffee table, etc.   I had “issues” with the washing machine, and the ice maker that I bought in December to go with the refrigerator  I bought at the same time was just delivered and installed this morning.  The guest room still has a lot of boxes, but the living room and dining room are looking good.  My handyman will be back next weekend to help out with some stuff I can’t do myself, and the “official” housewarming is in 2 weeks.  It’s a small townhouse, and all but 2 of the 20-something invitees have said they’ll be here.  Yikes!

Anyway, so now you know “The Rest of the Story.”

Two years ago, Janeites celebrated the 200th birthday of S&S, and this year we are celebrating P&P.    Yes, today marks 200 years since P&P was first published.  The book had been rejected by a publisher in the late 1790s, but a much smarter publisher accepted it for publication on January 28, 1813.  And the world is a better place as a result.

I have been listening to the “readathon” at the Jane Austen Centre website.  It’s been a lot of fun listening to each chapter as read by a different person.  It was supposed to go from 11 a.m. — 11 p.m. GMT, but it’s now 1:30 a.m. GMT on the 29th and there are still at least  6 or 7 chapters left to go.

Just over 2 years ago, I reviewed Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy.  It’s a movie I really like, and I watch it periodically because I do find it to be so entertaining.

I bought my copy from an LDS (Mormon) website and, as a result, I get emails and other promotions from that site to this day.  That site,, sent me an email this morning offering me the chance to buy the movie at the price of $9.99.  The email said that this price is good for today only (but the website itself doesn’t say that), and that it won’t ship for a couple of weeks.  But this movie is hard to find, so I wanted to make sure that everyone who wants a copy is able to order one for their own collection.

Good luck and, if you do buy a copy, please let me know whether or not you liked it.


Updated July 22, 2012:  the movie now costs $12.99.  It’s still less than the list price of $19.99 and less than Amazon’s price of $17.01.

Last year, I posted the Declaration of Independence in its entirety.  This year, I give you “The Signing” from one of my favorite movies of all time, 1776.  No, the Founding Fathers did not sing and dance their way through the Revolution, but there are still enough facts in this play/movie that it cannot be called “mindless entertainment.”

This scene gives me chills each and every time I see it.  If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It’s on TCM this evening at 5 Eastern time.  Enjoy!

Overnight I got an email from Amazon Canada telling me that they are offering a special for Harry Potter fans. It’s an amazing boxed set containing all 8 films in DVD, Blu-ray and digital editions. The set includes a total of 13 discs, and there are tons of extras. Here’s the complete description from their website. I don’t happen to have an extra $349.99 (whether it be Canadian, American or even Australian) lying around. But if I did, this sure sounds like something I’d consider buying.

It is a little odd that this new boxed set is for sale because of the announcement from Warner that no new Potter products were going to be available after December, 2011.  Who knows.  I’m not exactly “plugged in” with Warner, and I am one of the millions of fans still waiting for Pottermore to go live.  So, if you are in a position to buy this, please let me know if it’s any good.  If not, I still have the regular movies (and, of course, the books!) to keep me company.


Update! — For those who don’t want to/can’t buy from, the set is being offered for $349.99 US.  Unfortunately, regardless of whose dollar we’re talking about, I still can’t afford it.  *sigh*

Downton Abbey paper dolls!

I cannot take credit for finding these.  A fellow denizen of the Republic of Pemberley called my attention to them.  I have two words: Bloody.  Brilliant.

Something else that is brilliant is Vulture’s episode-by-episode synopsis of the series.  Check it out — it’s not quite as funny as the one from the Telegraph, but it’s still highly entertaining.  Here is their take on the Christmas special.  I only need to add one thing — the author of DA is not “Sir Fellowes,” he’s “LORD Fellowes.”  One never uses “Sir” with a surname.  NEVER.  These people need to be added to the ever-growing list of writers who desperately need to check out Debrett’s.  The information is out there — USE IT.

But I digress.  Anyone in North America who has wanted to watch DA has now seen it in its entirety.  Even I, who have problems with the way PBS treats the material, could not resist watching it last night (despite the fact that I own the Region 2 DVDs), and Matthew’s proposal was as beautiful as I’d remembered. *sigh*

First off, it’s been posted at YouTube right here.  Hurry before it’s pulled. [On edit — it has been pulled, so don’t bother clicking on it.  Sorry.]

I loved the Christmas Special.  LOVED it.  It had more of a series 1 feel about it.  It was less soapy than series 2 was.  The episode is slightly more than 90 minutes long, so there was more time to spend in the individual subplots.

The two biggest stories involved Bates and Matthew/Mary.  Bates gets convicted of Vera’s murder and Matthew and Mary finally get engaged.  It seems to be for real this time.

In Bates’s trial, Robert is a witness for the defense, and Mrs. Hughes and O’Brien are witnesses for the prosecution.  Unfortunately, since we all know the circumstantial case against Bates was very strong, their testimony hurt him.  So he got convicted and was sentenced to hang.  But the attorneys did their jobs and he got a reprieve. He’s no longer destined to die; he’s now got life imprisonment.  Personally, since Bates is such a popular character, I cannot see Lord Fellowes keeping him in jail for the entirety of series 3.  They have to figure out a way to get him out of there.

As for the other major story, the whole of l’affaire Pamuk is finally out in the open.  Cora tells Robert.  Robert tells Mary she doesn’t have to marry Carlisle just because of it.  Mary tells Matthew, and he tells her that she doesn’t have to marry Carlisle, that he doesn’t hate her and that there is nothing to forgive.  Carlisle tells everyone that he will put the whole story in the papers as soon as he gets back to London.  Matthew punches him and the two of them fight.  Carlisle tells Mary he really loved her.  Mary decides to go to America to stay with her maternal grandmother, and Anna offers to go with her.  Matthew proposes in the snow after the servants’ ball and she accepts. It’s very sweet and very romantic.  I had a smile on my face and tears in my eyes after it was all over.

We had several other subplots, too.  Daisy accepts her role as William’s widow and William’s father takes her under his wing as the daughter he never had.  It’s also very sweet.  Daisy is still a naive girl, but she starts to grow up and stand up for herself in this episode.  Yes, she takes the wrong advice at first, but by the end she and Mrs. Patmore come to an understanding — Daisy is ready to take on a bigger role in the kitchen and to really learn to be more of a sous-chef instead of just the scullery maid.

The bad advice Daisy got was from Shaw, Lady Rosamond’s new lady’s maid.  She is a nasty piece of work from the get-go. She looks down upon all of the DA servants, including those who outrank her, namely Mrs. Hughes and Carson.  And, speaking of Lady Rosamond, her latest suitor, Lord Hepworth (Nigel Havers), is also around a lot.  Violet tries to warn her daughter not to marry a fortune hunter like Hepworth, but Lady Rosamond is old enough to do what she wants and she wants Hepworth.  But Anna keeps noticing Shaw and Hepworth together, and then, during the servants’ ball, she sees the two of them holding hands, sneaking up the stairs.  Next thing we see is Anna leading Rosamond and Mary up to Hepworth’s bedroom.  They open the door and there are Hepworth and Shaw, in full pre-shag mode.  Of course, Hepworth tries to tell Rosamond that it’s not what she thinks it is, but Shaw is not quite that stupid.  The two of them are out on their ears the next morning.

Sybil and Branson are absent, but we learn a reason why; Sybil is pregnant.  Cora desperately wants to see Sybil and, of course, her first grandchild, and she stands up to Robert on the subject.

The servants’ ball was lovely.  It was such a hoot to see Carson dancing with Cora, Mrs. Hughes with Robert and Matthew with O’Brien.  I loved it.  The family’s Christmas gift to Carson was a book about the royal families of Europe. How appropriate!  Carson looked so proud and pleased to see Lady Mary dancing with Matthew. Everyone knows they adore each other.  I wonder if series 3 will open with a wedding or with Matthew and Mary telling everyone the big news.

All in all, this is the best episode of DA in a long time.  See if it you can. My copy of the DVD is on its way from the UK as I type; I can hardly wait. 🙂  What did the rest of you think?

Alas, everyone’s favorite period soap is over for the time being. Yes, there will be a Christmas special airing on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day and, based on what happened in this week’s episode, DA’s millions of fans are looking forward to Christmas even more than they ordinarily might.

While some loose ends were cleared up, the clearing up is leading to even more questions.

The Spanish flu visits Downton and attacks Cora, Lavinia, Carson and Molesley. Oops — Molesley’s not sick, he’s just drunk. One wonders if he’ll still have a job once everyone’s recovered. The Spanish flu mostly affected the young and healthy, so it makes sense that Carson (the eldest of this bunch) would not suffer as much as Cora or (especially) Lavinia. Yes, especially Lavinia. The poor thing sees and hears Matthew and Mary dancing, kissing and talking and she realizes that Matthew doesn’t love her (Lavinia) as much as he claims to. So, when she takes the inevitable turn for the worse, she tells Matthew to marry Mary. Then she dies.

The hand we saw in last week’s trailer was Cora’s. She’s reaching out to Robert to see if they are still ok. They both apologize for having been distant. This happens not too long after we thought Cora was at death’s door. And, while Cora was in her room possibly dying, Robert was in his dressing room, attempting to shag Jane, the housemaid. Luckily, Bates came by to ask when Robert wanted to be awakened the next morning, otherwise Robert would spend the rest of his life feeling even more guilty than he already does. But Cora lives, and Robert seems chastened.

Sybil and Branson announce their engagement, and the family are irate. But, after seeing that Sybil cannot be budged and Branson cannot be bought, Robert relents and, while he doesn’t exactly give them his blessing, he does say he won’t try to stop them.  Branson is, apparently, now a journalist.  When did this happen? Did he go to correspondence school or something?

Bates and Anna do get married.  They spend their wedding night in one of DA’s many guest rooms.  The whole thing was arranged by Mary and Jane.  And, after Lavinia’s funeral, they come back to the servants’ quarters and there are 2 men waiting for Bates.  They take him away in handcuffs to discuss Vera’s death.

Thomas spends most of the episode trying to ingratiate himself back into the household.  Carson and Mrs. Hughes see right through him, but they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it, so it looks to me as if Thomas will continue to be on staff at Downton Abbey.  Every soap needs a villain, right?

And, speaking of DA villains, O’Brien is so upset when Cora appears to be dying that she even tries to tell her about The Soap.  Luckily, she doesn’t.  If Cora had were truly dying, then maybe.  But, as long as there is even the slightest chance that Cora will live, telling her is a very, very bad idea.

Ethel’s baby daddy’s parents (Mr. & Mrs. Bryant) ask her to give them Charlie so they can raise him as their own.  She decides not to do it.  I think she’s crazy.  She can barely provide for him and, as those of us who are not romantic have figured out, while money doesn’t buy happiness, poverty doesn’t buy anything.

Last, but not least, Sir Richard is still evil and I still wish he’d contracted the flu and died.

We have about 6 weeks until the Christmas special.  Nigel Havers has been cast as someone who tries to woo a Crawley daughter.  Since Sybil is supposed to be in Ireland and Mary is supposed to be a) engaged to Sir Richard and b) in love with Matthew, the most likely candidate to be the object of Nigel Havers’ affections is Edith.  She deserves to be happy, but I can’t see him playing a good-guy character.  He so rarely does.

Anyway, there is no trailer for the Christmas special, so we’ll just have to wait until ITV starts advertising it closer to air date. I’ve read that they’ve only recently finished filming it, so I guess the trailers haven’t been produced yet.  It’s supposedly 2 hours long, so hopefully it’ll be meaty enough to keep us going until next Autumn.

I just finished watching the last series of Spooks. After the weirdness that was series 9, I was looking forward to the show going out in a blaze of glory.

A friend told me I’d be irate at the ending, and I was.  I am very, very disappointed.  For years now, I’d wanted Ruth and Harry to live happily ever after, and for her to die like that is just so wrong.  Yes, she sacrificed herself for him, but it’s just not fair.  I got all teary-eyed when Ruth died, and then again when Harry looks at the list of names of MI-5’s dead. There was Adam, and Jo, and Ros and Ben and so many spies who I came to know and love.  Obviously Connie and Lucas aren’t there, but so many others were (one question though — I didn’t see Tariq’s name on that wall.  Did I just miss it, or was it not there at all?).

What I really found intriguing was the sight of Tom Quinn showing up at the Russian’s home just after the Home Secretary tells Harry that he knows how to deal with that particular Russian.  The idea of the Government hiring Tom to kill this man was just the right touch for the ending  of the series. It really brought things to a full circle.

Anyway, now it’s all over.  All we have now is the memory of 10 years’ worth of great television.  Next year at this time, there won’t be a new series of Spooks to keep me on the edge of my seat, and that makes me sad.  Not as sad as Ruth dying of course, but very sad all the same. Someday, when I have the funds, I want to buy a box set of the entire series so I can watch it whenever I want.

JE11 stars Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  It also features Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Sally Hawkins as Aunt Reed, Tamzin Merchant as Mary Rivers, Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram and Simon McBurney as Mr. Brocklehurst.  Haddon Hall once again plays Thornfield, and it’s gotten to the point that I don’t know if I can imagine any other house as Thornfield.  This is, of course, the adaptation that inspired the Jane Eyre-athon project and, even though I still don’t love it, I am very grateful to it.

I don’t want to repeat what I said back in April, but it all still holds true.  I’m still not fond of the idea that most of the movie is a flashback. The last half hour was still terribly rushed. I still think it’s silly that Jane is an heiress but the Riverses aren’t her cousins.

I did listen to the commentary by Cary Fukunaga, and am very glad I did.  There were some interesting little tidbits, such as the fact that they filmed the entire movie in a 2+ month period (March — May) and had to add leaves to the trees digitally during scenes that were supposed to take place during the summer.  He said he really wanted to be faithful to the book and talked about scenes from the book that were either changed or omitted from the movie, and tells us why.  But he never mentioned that the Riverses are Jane’s cousins.  I really wanted to hear his reasons for omitting that information.

Given the fact that the movie is only 2 hours long, they spend a lot more time (on a relative basis) on Jane’s childhood than some other adaptations have.  Of course, Helen is not quite as devout as she should be, but I really did like the Lowood scenes (as an aside, we see a lot of Helen as a ghost in the deleted scenes). Gateshead was fleshed out more than it was in both JE96 and JE97, which I appreciated because what Jane goes through in her childhood is important to the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, there is no gypsy scene, and one speech that was otherwise taken directly from the book has been edited so that the grammar is incorrect.  Just before Edward proposes, and Jane still thinks he’s going to marry Blanche, Jane says:

I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

Unfortunately, hypercorrectness has set in, and in this film, Jane says “…as it is now for I to leave you.”


Dear Moira Buffini,

Here is today’s Grammar 101 lesson: “I” is a subject pronoun.  “Me” is an object pronoun.  The twain  never meet.  Subject pronouns are never part of a prepositional phrase; only object pronouns are.  The word “for” introduces the prepositional phrase and therefore must take “me” rather than “I.”

So, the next time you think about changing a sentence written by someone who writes better than you do, think again.  Either that, or buy a grammar book and learn what the parts of speech are.


I honestly don’t think I’m being nitpicky.  After all, it seemed that Buffini’s intent was to lift the entire speech from the book, so why did she make that one change?  Did she think that Charlotte got it wrong? If so, I am not only not amused, I am also not impressed.

In the final analysis, I liked the film somewhat less this time than I did back in April.  After spending so many months with the likes of Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, etc. I was forced to rethink my earlier impressions of the chemistry between the two leads.  This time, I really didn’t see much.  Mia’s Jane is sometimes too repressed.  Fassbender’s Edward rarely shows me that he’s tortured.  It still gets a “meh” from me.  It is beautiful to look at, but we know that beauty is often skin deep. There is just not enough substance in this film for my taste.  I know it can be done — JE70 (which is 20 minutes shorter and had a tiny budget) managed to do that without all the resources Fukunaga et al. had at their disposal.  It’s a shame, too; I had been looking forward to this version and thought it had great potential.

This is the end of the great Jane Eyre-athon.  I need to finish a bunch of library books, as well as some books I already own, and I need some downtime to figure out what my next “project” is going to be.  I’m leaning towards Wuthering Heights because, in large part, there are so many adaptations out there, and also because I’ve never read it.  I started it not too long after I’d read Jane Eyre, but I only read a couple of chapters before putting it down with no regrets. But that was almost 40 years ago, and I hope I can do better this time.  I also hope to include Sparkhouse as one of the adaptations, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.


I’m taking a break for a bit, but will be back with more blatherings in a week or so.  Ta!