‘You’re Such a Purist!’

On my Second Blog Birthday I decided to think about the phrase ‘You’re such a purist!’. Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse has been known to repeat this many a time as we watch various adaptations of much-loved novels. Do not get me wrong, I understand that a novel can not be transported directly to the screen, but there are some things in some novels which are just not to be messed with!

There whole term ‘Purist’ was often thrown at me during ‘Sherlock’. A much-loved show, but can something that has been so changed really have characters called Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson? By all means, writers can be inspired by other writers and even characters, but the final straw for me was the day a friend turned to me and uttered the words ‘I love Sherlock Holmes’ and when questioned had never read a story but had a crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. If the show had encouraged her to pick up the original books and discover those glorious original tales, I could maybe have forgiven the statement – but sadly it did not!

More recently, I had a little rant after watching ‘The ABC Murders’ over the festive season. Unfortunately, it simply was not a Christie tale that we sat down to watch. There is something wrong about adding such violence to the gentle escapism of the original story. And why transform Poirot’s character and side step Captain Hastings? Can modern audiences simply not be entertained without so much extreme drama? If they were to pick up the novel, I am not sure it would be anything like they expect.

Do not get me wrong, it does not mean that any adaptation should not be allowed. The Joan Hickson Marple’s are beautifully done and, although more recently Miss Marple may have appeared in cases that weren’t hers, at least if you pick up the book the tale is not changed beyond real recognition.

If TV and film encourage people to pick up books then I agree that is not a bad thing – after all I read ‘Brideshead Revisited’ after the great TV production with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews – but should we find novel to hardly resemble the production?

Have you been left cold by any adaptations of much-loved novels? Or am I really the only ‘Purist’?

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I can not thank HayleyFromHome enough for sharing this book with me. This novel has to be one of the loveliest stories I have ever read and every moment has been pure joy.

I did break the golden rule as a bookworm and watch the film first (well I was on a long-haul flight). However, this has not taken away from the enjoyment of the book because the film is just as enjoyable.

This is the kind of YA fiction that world needs. Simon is a typical teenager, struggling a little with his place in the world as he deals with his identity. We follow Simon on his journey as he comes out to his friends and family – and gets to know the mysterious ‘Blue’.

The whole story is beautifully written – alternating between the standard narrative and the email exchanges between Simon and ‘Blue’. It is such an ordinary yet important tale for the modern world and, in fact, it is a shame that this is not the kind of novel that hit popular YA audiences sooner.

What struck me about this book, and comes from the title, is what really is the normal agenda? Who decides what is ‘normal’? (A question Simon and Blue discuss).

This novel, for me is a modern classic – one I want to share with everybody (just like the film). So, thank you again, HayleyFromHome, for sharing it with me this festive season.

The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn

The title of this novel immediately made me think of that classic film ‘Rear Window’. Not a bad first thought as, like the central character Dr Anna Fox, I love those classic films, so I thought I was likely to enjoy this novel.

It is clearly inspired by all those Hitchcock-style films as Dr Anna Fox is unlikely to leave her house and her only real day-to-day contact with the outside world is through the windows of her home. Like ‘Rear Window’, she witnesses what appears to be a crime but, with her muddle of the real world, film plots, memories and medication, nobody seems to believe her. The evidence is also scarce and Anna wonders if she can even rely on herself.

This is an engaging thriller with plenty of twists and turns. One of the plot twists was a little obvious, however there were plenty of other surprises along the way. I also thought that Finn’s nods to so many of the classic films was a nice touch – in fact, I have a film list now from all the references. After all, they clearly were some inspiration for the novel.

I did race through this book at some speed, as I was always keen to know what would happen next and what some of the dark secrets were. It is a great thriller, which is something we all need sometimes.

Have you read ‘The Woman in the Window’ or any other thrillers I need to add to my wish list?

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

So, the first book of 2019 is completed. It was a gem to start the year – especially as we are all probably looking for a way past winter as we enter January.

Although we all know we should not judge a book by its cover, how can you not be drawn to this stunning cover? Classical and stylish in white, gold and green, it oozes winter fantasy. There is also the figure of the girl which is another delight of this novel: strong female leads (well, they do not have a choice, as all the boys appear to be mysteriously disappearing).

The story is set in perpetual winter, the only season many have known, with spring and summer almost a myth. Mila and her sisters have already lost their father in a mysterious disappearance that, when their brother, Oskar, also disappears on the same night the family have some strange visitors, they decide something is to be done. It leads them on a magical adventure with Rune, the boy mage.

This is a beautifully written tale that whisks you off on a fantastical adventure. Strong female leads can give inspiration to many young readers – after all, we can all go on adventures in our own way.

Which book have you started your 2019 reads with?

Three Festive Reads

While we are still in that daze of those days between Christmas and New Year I thought I would share three of my favourite reads of 2018.

  1. Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig

I first started reading the books of Matt Haig last year – and his festive novels were my starting point. Therefore, when I spotted ‘Father Christmas and Me’ in paperback this festive season, I had to read it.

This was a lovely third festive novel. It dealt beautifully with the theme of difference and the uncertainty that many (especially the young) feel about trying to fit in.

The clash of the Easter Bunny and his team wanting to ruin Christmas gives Amelia (our young heroine) to not only save Christmas, but also cement her place in Elfhelm.

I enjoyed the humour in the novel and, although it is part of a series, it can be a standalone novel. Enjoyable all the way through.

2. One Day in December by Josie Silver

The lovely Miss W gave me ‘One Day in December’ as a Christmas gift. I was so excited, as I had spotted this novel all over the Bookstagram world.

This is a lovely read – a modern romcom. Girl almost meets boy, but girl and boy become friends and life starts to happen to them both, but not quite in the way either hopes.

I can not spoil this book for anyone who would like to read it, however I have to issue a mascara warning – for tears of sadness and tears of joy.

3. Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

I am a huge fan of ‘A Christmas Carol’; it is a story that always guaranteed to evoke a festive mood. I am also a fan of those authors who have the guts to take on the stories of some of our most established classic characters.

I saw an article that talked about how Sarah Marshall had to complete Vanessa Lafaye’s work, as she died before she was able to. This made me even more intrigued to read this book because they clearly had both a great friendship and a deep appreciation of Dickens’ work.

It is clever that it is told from the point of view of Jacob Marley’s sister. It offers us the tale of her and her brother and, and why Marley becomes the ghost we all know so well. It is a tale that provides us with some answers/predictions to the background of the famous characters.

I really enjoyed this book and may need to make this as much of a tradition as the original ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Do you have any favourite festive reads I should plan for next year?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Reading a novel by Agatha Christie at this time of year is like a hug. Although this is not a festive read, it has been selected by ‘The Maidens of Murder’, as the BBC has an adaptation of this classic in its festive TV schedules.

One reason why this novel makes me happy is that our dear friend Hastings provides us with the narrative (well, the parts that they can). Returning to a novel with one of my favourite fictional teams already means I will enjoy the story. And I did…

I found this to be one of Christie’s most clever tales. You really do fall for the huge red herring that is marked for you from the start – even though you know you probably should not. Our murderer really does go out of their way to try and get away with murder.

Of course, you know that Poirot will always get his target. However, this also reminded me of Sherlock and his foe Moriarty, as this is more of a case of puppet and a puppet master as many of their classic encounters can be.

As a bold statement, I think this could be one of Poirot’s most wonderful cases – especially as the big reveal was as much of a surprise to me as the characters in the room with man himself.

I would like to thank ‘The Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read of a scope of Christie’s work – I look forward to more in 2019!

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

I am about to make a bold statement: this is my favourite Pratchett ever (so far – as I am reading them in order).

I was late to discovering Pratchett. Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse is a big fan so I decided I should give the Discworld novels a go, especially once the beautiful hardback books were published.

I have to admit that sometimes I am not entirely sure what has happened in the stories but I have always enjoyed them. However, ‘Pyramids’ seems to have changed that. I managed to keep the thread of the story even without chapters (that has really taken some getting used to). ‘Pyramids’ is infused with Pratchett’s gentle humour and witty observations that create his Discworld parallels to our world. Their version of Ancient Egypt is highly ridiculous with a whole host of highly comical and equally ridiculous characters. Yet, the odd voice of reason comes in the shape of our hero, Teppic, his ghostly father and a camel (well, he offers thoughts of reason).

This book has certainly reignited my joy in being part of Discworld. I accept that chapters are not a thing and sometimes I will need a character list to keep me on track, but the escapism is totally worth it (and the giggles).

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Bookstagram community has been one of the best spaces I have found. It has brought together so many fabulous bookish people and it has encouraged me to read all sorts of books that I may not have read or have had on the to-be-read pile for a while.

My latest read-along (that I actually managed to complete and stick to) was ‘The Moonstone’, as part of the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This has been a lovely community where, in the month of November, we read a section a week shared our thoughts. There have been great discussions and such a friendly atmosphere (and the end of November does not mean that the chatting stops).

And, now to the novel, my only regret has been that I did not read this sooner. ‘The Moonstone’ is a story I have known for a long time thanks to TV and Radio adaptations, but I had never got round to picking the book up. What wasted time that was because I absolutely loved this!

From the moment I started this book I could not put it down. Collins created a wonderful detective story (some say the first modern one in fact) from the word go. You are drawn into the narrative by how ‘The Moonstone’ ended up leaving India and arriving in England. Even that simple introduction is shrouded in mystery just as the rest of the tale is. Collins creates a colourful cast of characters who become mixed up in the mystery of ‘The Moonstone’. However, together, they eventually also manage to solve the mystery of this magnificent stone.

This is a tale that has stood the test of time as it can still engage modern audiences. However, it is also a novel of its time with references specific to the period but all of that is the context of the era.

Reading ‘The Moonstone’ has firmly cemented Wilkie Collins in the territory of one of my favourite authors of the classics. I can not wait for the next read with the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’, which is ‘The Woman in White’ in January.

Glorious Guernsey

So, we have returned to the routine like we never left it. After 6 wonderful weeks off, week one of the day job has been completed. This has left me reflecting on the adventures of the summer. Our big adventure was 5 days in Guernsey. The reason we went to Guernsey was simply because I had read ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’ and I wanted to see if was as wonderful as the novel made it seem.

Destination: St Peter Port

This is the capital of Guernsey, a port town. It is a charming, historical town. So beautiful with wonderful architecture and cobbled streets. The views out over the harbour are stunning. For a capital is has a very relaxed vibe (although it is slightly hectic if the cruise ships come in). You easily find yourself wandering round, not noticing the time pass. Only a few paces up the hill you easily leave the hustle and bustle of St Peter Port and it is still all so beautiful. As you walk behind the city in a north east direction you find a part of the town with a very French style and atmosphere, to the north west you come across glorious gardens that could be in the English countryside. As capitals go – it is an adventure.

Day One: Castle Cornet

I LOVE castles; a sniff of history and I am in my element (another reason Guernsey is glorious) and Cornet Castle oozes it! You can do all the attractions at the castle in any order you like but we started with the story if the castle, short, sharp facts of its colourful history. Perfect to ensure we were out in time to see the firing of the Noonday gun. This was very History geeks dream, the men come out in period army uniforms, check and fire the gun. OH MY WORD, does it make you jump (I doubt anyone has a successful photo of the event), even though you know it is coming it always seems worse but it is worth it for the electric atmosphere of feeling like they are experiencing a historic tradition.

We then made our way round the other museums housed in the castle and explore the grounds. The views of Guernsey you can get from different parts of the castle are stunning. You spend hours exploring and learning so much history about the colourful castle. This is certainly one of the gems in the Guernsey crown.

Day Two: The Underground Hospital and The Little Chapel

A huge part of the charm of Guernsey is that you can so easily get round the island on the bus. So, we caught the bus a little further inland to allow us to explore the German underground hospital from the occupation during World War Two and follow that with a gentle stroll to the Little Chapel (in the rain).

The underground hospital is simply a route of tunnels but the atmosphere in unbelievable (especially on a very rainy day). As soon as you hear one echoing sound it sets your imagination firing about what it would have been when it was in full use. The two gentlemen who work there (and count you in and count you out again) are very knowledgeable and willing to share their vast knowledge of the occupation with the visitors.

The Little Chapel is a short walk from the underground hospital. It is stunning! Inspired by the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Massabielle (a small market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees). The chapel has been rebuilt on a number of occasions, always by Brother Deodat (although he never saw the final version), and the chapel as it stands today was started in 1923 and decorated with pebbles and pieces of broken china as other materials were scarce. In 2016 The Little Chapel Foundation was established to work to preserve the chapel as little had been done for it several years. You can not visit Guernsey without visiting this chapel.

Day Three: Victor Hugo’s House

Guernsey is an island that is perfect for a book and theatre lover because this is the island that Victor Hugo spent his exile AND finished ‘Les Miserables’.

Nestled to the north east of St Peter Port is a rather imposing white house that flies French flag – Hauteville, the home of Victor Hugo and owned by France. You do have to book onto a tour in the language of your choice so you need to be flexible (we went for another beautiful walk while we waited for our tour).

The gardens are open to the public to stroll around at your own pace at any time Hauteville is open. The views are stunning out to sea. The garden is beautifully laid out with a great Oak in the centre planted by the great man himself. (LOVE!)

I can not out into words the interior of Hugo’s house ¬†you would have to see it for yourself (in some sense to believe it). However, the tour of the house is fascinating, the snippets the guides share are fascinating and I think you will leave with a desire to read Hugo’s books. (Especially when you see the EXACT spot he finished Les Miserables).

So, Guernsey is glorious. The food is fantastic. The views are stunning. The walks are wonderful. The people are friendly. You really need to visit!

Have you ever visited the Channel Islands? What did you think?

 

 

The Book of Mormon

Last week was my birthday, and the only way that a Bookworm and Theatre Mouse wants to spend their birthday is at the theatre. I was lucky that Mr Bookworm and Theatre Mouse seemed to agree and, even more surprisingly, he agreed to a musical (slightly strange) – and then I discovered why: he had booked us tickets for The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. Now, my thoughts (as echoed by a few of my friends) was that this was something that he wanted to see and may not be my cup of tea. Oh, how we were all wrong; I loved it, the way that I loved Avenue Q – it was a musical for adults.

From the moment the first note was struck, the audience seemed to be giggling and it did not take long for this to become almost hysterical laughter from some, including me at points. This musical is a friendly and harmless ribbing of the Mormon faith. It is all done in good humour from the writers of South Park. The comedy comes from the script, the songs and the excellent comedy timing of all the actors on the stage. The best laughs all seemed to be thanks to Elder Cunningham – his comic timing and sheer enthusiasm brought so much enjoyment to everyone, even those on the stage with him. However, the ensemble as a whole made the full experience thoroughly enjoyable (even if you did catch yourself laughing at things that you are not entirely sure you should be).

There are, of course, some clever comments on the society that we live in throughout the play, all done in good humour, but it does leave you thinking about the world that we are in and maybe some of our actions.

Although, before I arrived, I had no real idea about what to expect, I left humming the tunes and find myself reliving moments and having a bit of a giggle. Not always at the most appropriate times, but it is the sign of an excellent show if you are still thinking about it a long time after the curtain has dropped.

There was a standing ovation for this production and it was well deserved – it really was a piece of very happy escapism from the ever-so-slightly-crazy world we live in.