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Category Archives: British Lit

The Moonstone

moonstone

Told by a several different narrators, all with different personalities and motives, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone entertains from start to finish. It begins with a family’s black sheep bequeathing a large, expensive jewel, the moonstone of the title, to his niece Rachel. The moonstone originally was a sacred jewel in India and three former Brahmans have come to England to get it back no matter what.

Rachel receives the moonstone on her 18th birthday when many have gathered for her party. She flaunts the stone all night and then puts it in a cabinet in her bedroom. During the night it’s stolen. Who did it? The Indian jugglers, who came by out of the blue? One of the servants–particularly the maid who had been caught stealing by her previous employer? Or a guest who’s in need of money? It could be anyone and Collins keeps the surprises coming chapter after chapter.

I enjoyed the humor and how the story was as much about the personalities of the characters and their relationships as it was about finding the culprit who took the cursed moonstone. I will soon read another Wilkie Collins’ story, that’s for sure.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2016 in British Lit, British literature, fiction

 

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Poem of the Week

Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerald Manley Hopkins

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2016 in British Lit, British literature, fiction, poetry

 

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Poem of the Week

God’s Grandeur

by Gerald Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in British Lit, poetry

 

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Mary Poppins

mary poppins

This month’s book club selection was the children’s classic Mary Poppins. Saving Mr. Banks prepared me for some differences between the film starring Julie Andrews and the actual book, but it led me to think the father was a prominent character, who needed redemption. Well, not in the book, he doesn’t. He’s not a big part of the story.

In fact the book is more of a collection of delightful, imaginative experiences that happen while Mary is with the Banks family. More happens in the novel. Michael and Jane have baby fraternal twin siblings who can understand the communication of animals, stars and all of nature. When they go Christmas shopping with Mary, they meet and help Maia one of the stars in the Pleiades constellation who appears like an almost naked child wearing a simple blue cloth.

Mary is a mystery, a strict mystery. She comes to a family that lost their nanny, but the children weren’t bad so there was no dire need for discipline. Sure they’re not keen on chores, but they get along with each other and seem to obey.

I rewatched the film on my flight to Beijing and Mary’s not all that nice in it either. She’s a stick in the mud and very strict. For some reason though she’s magical and loves imagination, she constantly hides the fact. I was startled that a classic children’s book would end with an adult who pretty much abandons children. Yes, she told everyone she’d leave when the wind blew and she never was one for explanations, but really? Abandonment is terrible for kids and just leaving a job without giving notice is not something we want to encourage. What would Freud say?

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in British Lit, Children's Lit

 

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Graphic Novel: Sign of Four

sign of 4

The Sign of Four, a graphic novel adapted by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbrand, provides a faithful version of the Arthur Conan Doyle story. Like all the Sherlock stories I’ve read, it’s a quick read that engages from the start. The illustrations look very modern in their style. It took me awhile to get used to a Sherlock with a Jay Leno chin, but it didn’t bother me.

Unless you’re pressed for time, make sure you read the original. This is fine, but not great.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in British Lit, classic, graphic novel

 

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The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

UnofficialDowntonAbbeyCookbook

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Batnes beckoned me at the library. Consisting of recipes for the folks upstairs as well as downstairs, The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook not only offers recipes, but is full of insights and explanations about cuisine in Edwardian England. Recipes include crunchy fig and bleu cheese tarts, classic oysters Rockefeller, crispy roast duck with blackberry sauce, Mrs. Patmore’s downstairs pork pie, chicken, leek and caerphilly cheese pie for St. David’s Day, and treacle tart.

I made Sir Anthony’s Apple Charlotte last week and it’s a new favorite. Looking at photos of apple charlotte it seems that many recipes call for bread rather than bread crumbs. This recipe was so delicious that despite my curiosity I doubt I’d bother with a different version.

Sir Anthony’s Apple Charlotte

2 c. light brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. allspice
5 large tart apples, pared, cored, sliced thin
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. fresh orange juice
½ c. butter, cold, chopped
½ c. butter, melted
1 loaf French bread, shredded into crumbles. 1 c. reserved
butter for topping

Preheat oven to 350.

Note: I just used Progresso plain bread crumbs

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Reserve 1 cups of the mixture to use as a topping.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together apple slices, lemon and orange juices.
  3. Cover the bottom of a medium-sized dutch oven with bread crumbs and bits of cold butter. Layer with sliced apples and brown sugar mix, then with another few tabs of butter. Repeat until the dutch oven is filled.
  4. For the top layer, combine the reserved bread crumbs, ½ c. melted butter and 1 c. reserved brown sugar mix. Top with more butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I served it with vanilla ice cream, which might be an American touch.

Source

E. A. Baines, (2012) The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Avon, MA, Adams Media.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in book lovers, British Lit

 

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Sherlock Holmes: “The Empty House”

English: Second of the four illustrations incl...

English: Second of the four illustrations included in the edition of Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by AC Doyle published in 1894 by A. L. Burt in New York. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sherlock, season 3 begins on PBS tonight. In anticipation, I’ve read “The Empty House,” the Arthur Conan Doyle (ACD) short story that the episode is based on. It’s been years since I’ve read a Sherlock story. When I was in high school, I was in the Sherlock Holmes Society and read several. Doyle knows how to tell a good story. His style is direct and compelling. His hero, Sherlock is brilliant yet flawed and he captures the friendship between Holmes and Watson very well. They’re able to speak frankly, though Watson sometimes refrains from commenting because he feels he won’t be listened to or in other cases, is in awe of his friend’s mental prowess.

“The Empty House” was the first story of Holmes’ return or resurrection. Fans will remember that Doyle grew tired of his popular character. Apparently, ACD suffered more than Watson from being overshadowed by Sherlock. Try as he might, he wanted Sherlock gone, but the public clamored for more and after 10 years, ACD relented and wrote, “The Empty House” in which Sherlock returns to solve the case of the murder of Ronald Adair.

Highlights include Sherlock explaining how and why he cheated death and fooled Moriarty and Watson holding what might be the first literary intervention when he voices disproval of Sherlock’s use of (the then legal) cocaine. Like the modern Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the original Sherlock used stimulants to stave off the boredom of ordinary life.

I delighted in how often Sherlock quotes Shakespeare and recommend getting an annotated book like The Oxford Sherlock Holmes, which illuminates all the references and quotations.

Reading the story this time around, I was struck by how much screenwriters Moffat and Gatiss borrow from the original. I’m not complaining. In fact I applaud them for their faithful, clever adaptations.

Tonight American fans  see what the duo has done to explain Sherlock’s death. How could he fake his death so convincingly? The YouTube video above provides a thoughtful analysis. If it’s correct, Moffat and Gatiss would have closely followed what happened in the original story. Folks in the U.K. already know what happened. In North America we’ll soon find out.

Do read the originals. They’re well written and you’ll gain insight. For next week I’m finishing The Sign of Four.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in British Lit

 

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