Quote Of The Week


Review: Isabella: Braveheart of France, Colin Falconer

Another day, another piece of historical fiction.  Ho hum.  Sometimes I think that the tagline for this site should be 'Reading bad historical fiction so that you don't have to.'  I really need to stop doing that, it's not as if I don't have other things to read.  This time, rather than various members of the Houses of York or Lancaster flouncing about, Colin Falconer chooses to focus on Isabella of France, wife to Edward II.  Brief background: Isabella of France was posted off to England to marry Edward II when she was only twelve.  At the wedding, everything was embroidered with the initials of the happy couple.  The only problem was that the happy couple involved did not include Isabella.

Saturday Poem - Daffodils

I have a complicated relationship with this poem.  I love daffodils - I really do, they're my favourite flower.  When I was a Rainbow Leader, this was my leader name (the children picked it) and when I turned eighteen, the leaders sent me a bouquet of them which was impressive given that my birthday is in December.  However, I do not like William Wordsworth - he's florid, moralising and for me represents the worst of Victorian Romanticism.  Coleridge was a far more interesting poet  Still, at least Wordsworth and I have in common the fact that we both really like daffodils.  Daffodils are the best.

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

For the full archive of past Saturday poems, visit Poetry Please in the Features.

Film Review: Suite Française

I read Suite Française a few years ago and was blown away by quite how powerfully Nemirovsky depicted a society disintegrating and turning in on itself - this is not historical fiction, the book was written as the events were unfolding.  Irene Nemirovsky was a Jewish writer living in France and an established novelist when France fell to the Germans in 1940.  She wrote the first two books of a planned five book sequence before she was herself imprisoned in a concentration camp.  She died in Auschwitz and Suite Française was lost for sixty years before being rediscovered by her daughter.  The legend surrounding the book's publication almost threatens to overshadow the content of the book itself and certainly it seems doubtful that the book would be so popular now had it been published immediately after the war.  Certainly this film would not have been made - but the very fact of the book's tortuous journey to fame complicates its adaptation.  It is incomplete and so the film was always going to be a different creature to the one first drafted out by Nemirovsky in her notebooks.

Thursday Picture - The Princes in the Tower

At the risk of courting controversy, I am going topical with this week's Thursday Picture.  Richard III is due to be re-interred this week - I would hesitate to say he is being 'laid to rest' as he'd been doing that for about five hundred years in the car park before Philippa Langley came around to bother him.  Anyway, people are getting very excited about this romantic medieval warrior and while I would not say that Richard III was any worse than his peers (King John killed his nephew with his bare hands), I just felt that in the interests of balance, it was not a bad time to remember that two young children who might have reasonably expected his protection instead most likely met their ends at his hands.

The Princes in the Tower, Paul Delaroche
I have seen the original of this one in the Louvre and it is gigantic.  It is a very clever painting - while one of the boys seems resigned to death, the other is watchful.  They cling to their Bible and their little dog is looking at the door and a light is just visible underneath it.  The end truly is nigh.

The Princes in the Tower, John Everett Millais
Nobody quite did waifs like Lord Millais.  These two royal bairns look out watchfully and seem to know that a threat could step out from the shadows at any time.  Which it will.  Very soon.

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

I have loved this book for such a very long time - I think I was about thirteen when first I read it but it has been roughly a decade since I last picked it up.  It is one of those books which I have been meaning to re-read ever since I started blogging but only now am I actually getting round to it.  It was a different experience this time, for the first time I really felt aware that this is a re-telling of past events.  The adult Scout speaks from the perspective of her childhood self but she speaks with the wisdom of hindsight.  The very first line explains almost casually that in the past 'When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.'  It is that phrase 'got his arm badly broken' that tells us that this was no random accident and as adults, Jem and Scout attempt to reach a conclusion about where it all began.  So we have both the adult woman's wider view of her town's history and the child's angle on events taking place which are just slightly beyond her comprehension.

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Unseen Characters In Fiction

About a week or so ago, Freda Fry passed away on The Archers.  For those who are unacquainted with the finest soap opera ever broadcast, Freda was the wife of Bert Fry and had been in the programme for well over forty years - certainly for as long as I'd been listening.  But I never did hear Freda, she was one of that select band of long-term 'silent characters', and along with Derek Fletcher and Neville Booth, her character was shaped by the words of those around her, particularly her adoring husband Bert.  Such is the power of radio however that I felt truly tearful when I heard that she had succumbed to a heart attack brought about by a heart attack following the Great Ambridge Flood.  I felt particularly annoyed with the wicked script writers who I feel dispatched Freda because somebody needed to have died in the flood after all that drama but by picking Freda, no actual contracted actor is being put out of work.  On Freda's behalf, I am indignant.  Being an Archers fan is a peculiarly niche hobby but those of us who Believe are very dedicated.  Over New Year, I was drawn into a very animated discussion with a new acquaintance concerning recent plot developments when we looked up to realise that the rest of our friends were staring, shocked to see people so worked up about The Archers.  Just trust me, it's amazing.  And it won't be the same without Freda's hotpot  Anyway, in honour of Freda's tragic (and frankly unbelievable - Freda would never be so stupid as to drive into a river, I mean really) death, I decided to think about her literary equivalents.  While Frasier had Maris Crane, The Big Bang Theory used nothing but the voice of Mrs Wolowitz and Dad's Army had Elizabeth Mainwaring, it is not easy to construct an unseen character on the page but that does not mean it has not been done.  My findings are below: