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.

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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.”

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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, DeseretBook.com, 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 Amazon.ca, 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?