Elizabeth Gaskell – North & South

Ok guys, here is my absolute favourite book of ALL TIMES. Seriously. North & South is like a masterpiece, so briliant, so well written, so adorable and so smart and… It’s perfect. It is just perfect.

So, my first question would be – if you don’t know Elizabeth Gaskell yet – do you know Jane Austen?

If so, and if you like her, run to the closest bookshop and buy North and South! You will love it!

You know what? I will be nice, and I will even give you the link of the FULL book. Because I’m like that. You can thank the Gutenberg project for it :) Obviously, I still advise you to buy a proper paper version of the book, because paper versions are the best, they smell nice and it feels good to have it in your hands. Reading on a screen doesn’t have the same impact, nor the same warm, comforting feeling. But, anyway, here is the link: “NORTH AND SOUTH”

Now what is it about? Let me write a short summary.

The story takes place during the industrial revolution in England. The Hale family leave the South to settle down in an industrial city of the north called Milton.

It is nothing like what they know. The misery of the workers, the apparent cruelty of the ‘bosses’ and the rising capitalism are very hard to understand for Margaret, the daughter, who absolutely hate this new place she is forced to call home. Her prejudices will cause more harm than good but as she struggle to adjust to her new life, Margaret will also start to realize that maybe there is some good in this city.

In Milton, John Thorton is one of the bosses. He is sarcastic, very cold and extremely strict. But as the story goes on, we start understanding that this is only a façade and that maybe Mr Thorton is not the cruel, heartless man he seems to be.

For 425 pages, Margaret and Mr Thorton struggle to find a way to understand each other despite their prejudices and differences, to a background of strike, bosses-workers relations, industrial revolution, debts, capitalism and bankrupcy, diseases, tragedies, deaths and home life.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, here is a quote from the book:

“One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not if I could. I have never loved any woman before; my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absolved with other things. Now I love and will love. But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

You might cry, get frustrated, yell at the characters, smile or maybe even laugh, but one thing is sure, you cannot remain completely indifferent to Elizabeth Gaskell’s amazing writing style.

I consider North and South to be an Autumn book. I really think it suits the November-like atmosphere and I love reading it while drinking a hot cup of mocca and petting my cat. Well, I don’t have my cat with me this year, but I do have Mocca, and I do have my book, so I am definitely going to read it again in a few weeks, when I finish all the essay writing I have to do for my classes.

I hope you guys will enjoy reading it as well, and please do tell me if you liked it! Also, if you read it already, I’m interested in your opinion as well!

Thank you,

Pink.

Alice in Wonderland – Ready for some magic?

//I hope you have time ahead, because this is a LONG article… Sorry everyone~~I didn’t think I could do longer than what I did for P&P but… here I am//

I don’t know if you read the books. Quite hard to follow, quite confusing, more a succession of events than a story but it is interesting to read. I’d recommend it any time. I won’t say it is a great book. It isn’t bad either. It just gives you a strange feeling. As I said… interesting.

But today, the subject isn’t the book. It’s the 2010 movie.

You know, if a movie is directed by Tim Burton, I usually know it will be good. But, if it is directed by Tim Burton and includes BOTH Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, I am sure it will be OUTSTANDING. Honestly.

Tim Burton + Helena Bonham Carter + Johnny Depp = Winning Formula.

I went to the theater to see it when it came out in France. It might be one of the few movies I saw that actually used the 3D, if only a tiny bit. When Alice fell, you know, it really felt like I was falling too.

A month, it was on TV so I thought it was a good opportunity and convinced my mother it was the best movie to watch that night (but it had competition! Legally Blonde was ALSO airing that day. Luckily I watched it just a week ago or Alice wouldn’t have stood a chance).

My TV allows to choose the language on some channels so I put it in English. I can even choose to put the subs if needed. Well, it was very much needed. I was really, really upset. I mean, I am supposed to understand English better than that! Yesterday it just seemed like I’d never heard English before. I hate when it happens. I feel dumb. I did not understand enough to really appreciate the movie, which is a shame, so I ended up putting the subs. I know, I know, it’s terrible. Still better than watching it in French but… it feels like a failure to me.

Anyway~ Once again, I thought “ah, really, THIS is something only Tim Burton can do“. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland is a weird, fantastic and somehow disturbing story and I think it suits Tim Burton‘s universe really well. In fact, I can’t think of any other director who would have done such a good job with this story. What do you think? Could someone else have done a better job? 

Let’s talk about this movie a bit.

The Cast

Maybe I should start with Alice, as it is Alice in Wonderland

It is said that she is almost 20. Well, I am 20 and I think she looks much younger than me. Mia Wasikowska was 21 in 2010, but with the make-up and all, she looks more 16 than 20 to me. She makes a really good Alice, I think. I am happy they didn’t try to choose someone more famous. Mia Wasikowska had done some stuff before, but she wasn’t that well known yet. I think it was a smart choice. And I love the blue dress she wears at her “engagement party”. I want the same. There is a trend going on turning our fairy tales heroines into warriors, which I find a bit weird but overall, I liked this version of Alice (the character) more than any other.

The hatter. Johnny Depp. I bet you already understood that I like him a lot. He is charming and as an actor, I don’t think anyone can compete. He is in a category on its own, so I guess comparison is hard. He can pull off weird characters and never gives an impression of déjà vu. Each time, he creates a brand new person, with its own mannerism and way of speaking and… well, it is just amazing. So, to come back to the Hatter, Johnny Depp was an excellent choice. No-one else could have played it as well as he did. And he looks great with make-up. Can you think of anyone who would look so charming with make-up like this?

As for the Queen of Heart (promise, I’ll stop at her, other characters are all secondary), Helena Bonham Carter is, as ever, outstanding. She is fabulous and of course, if you watched Harry Potter, you know just how good she is at playing the mad and cruel/heartless character. I even ended up liking the Queen of Heart, which seemed totally impossible reading the book (but of course, it is also due to the script. She does become likeable at some point).

All of that to say this movie was a win-win to me. Everything was at its place, everything fitted. I often watch a movie and think “if they had cast somebody else for this character, it would have been better“. If I think that, it probably means that at some point they did a mistake, because I am very easy to convince.

The Story

First of all, I felt awful for poor Alice. I would HATE to be proposed to in public. Though I understand that some people might like it, I would feel pressured and who wants to be pressured at such a moment? And, honestly… honestly who would want to marry Hamish? He doesn’t even try to be nice to Alice.

I know Tim Burton disagrees (as he stated before in interviews), but it can be seen as some sort of sequel of the books. Alice went to Wonderland when she was a little girl (=the book) and comes back (=the movie) without remembering anything about it. But it is not exactly a sequel either. We know she came before, when she was a little girl. But what happened back then we have no idea. Wonderland changed since she first came. For example, the Queen of Heart killed the King (she says she did so because he would have left her anyway). The atmosphere changed.

The Hatter famous sentence “Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk” was included to the movie, the Queen still plays cricket with flamingos and yells “Off with his head!” all the time… It is Alice in Wonderlandwithout being an strict adaptation of the books. This is probably why I like it so much. The book was a nonsense but the movie uses the book to create a story. It is briliant. Tons of little references to the books are made. You may not catch them the first time you watch the movie, so watch it several times!

The plot in itself is really entertaining. It is pretty classic, you know. Alice comes to Wonderland only to discover she has to get back the Vorpal Sword and kill the Jabberwocky to save everyone from the bad Queen. However, though she is Wonderland’s only hope, she doesn’t think she is the right Alice. Only at the end, thanks to Absolem wise words does she understand that she has to face her destiny and save her friends. Said that way, it does seem a bit simple, but it is a really good movie, and you SHOULD watch it.

The Characters

I’ll be quick on this part, as you already know what I think of Alice, the Hatter and the Queen of Heart.

The Knave is as bad as expected. He is so bad that he probably is the ONLY character I hate in the movie. He is ugly, he is petty, he is opportunistic and he is heartless. I mean, at the end of the movie, even the Queen of Heart does say something that makes me change my mind on her. She is banned from Wonderland with the Knave, and tells him “At least we have each other“. Isn’t it cute? Doesn’t it show that somewhere under her cruel appearence hide human feelings? I felt terrible for her because she does love the Knave and he heartlessly tries to kill her, and then begs to be killed just not to be with her! The poor Queen seems completely heartbroken.

The Cheshire Cat is one of my favourites. I know he isn’t very important in the movie, but I like him and what he represents. We understand from the Hatter’s words that in the past Chess has been a coward and saved his head instead of helping the others. But during the movie, Chess does try to help. He saves the Hatter from being beheaded. He does help Alice several times. It shows that whatever you did in the past, you can improve. You can do better. I like this idea.

The character who moved me the most (apart from the Hatter) is probably Bayard the bloodhound. He puts his own life in danger, as well as the life of his wife and kids to save Alice. He doesn’t die, but he is ready to sacrify himself to help the cause, so I guess he is one of the true heroes of this movie.

Well, I won’t comment every single character in the movie. I think they were all good. The March Hare is totally crazy, as expected, the White Rabbit is barely seen but very in-character, Tweedledee and Tweedledum had very little screen time but still managed to make me laugh (probably because they are mid-human mid-computerized, which make them appear very weird) the dormmouse was cute…

Costumes and Scenery

Costumes are all great, not much to say about it; I particularly love the Queen of Hearts’ dress, and, as stated before, Alice “real world” dress. I also absolutely loved the Hatter costume, it totally fits him and helps create that “mad” aura.

As for the scenery… well, I said it. Tim Burton has that ability to bring you to new worlds and it was the case here. Everything is splendid, beautiful, fantastic. It doesn’t really try to look realistic, and it’s better that way.

The Red Queen’s palace is FABULOUS. I can’t describe it well enough so I won’t.

castle-alice-in-wonderland-ipad-wallpaper

I also have to talk about the final battle set. It IS probably the best scenery of the whole movie. Even if I love castles. It is a giant chessboard (which does recall the second Alice book) with some sort of greek ruins on the side. Really pretty.

…. to conclude …. (Please, stay with me! It’s almost over!)

You know, when I want to write a review, I take notes while watching the movie, then take some time to think about and re-write it. Here are some stuff you can find in my drafts

Am I the only one… Am I really the only one who was awfully sad and heartbroken that Alice didn’t ended up with the Hatter? Honestly? He was just SO cute. 

That was even before starting the movie, as I tried to remember what I felt when I watched it the first time at the theater…. then, while watching the movie, that’s what you get:

So saaaaad! Whyyyy leaving, Alice! The Hatter says “You could stay” and you leaaave! Whyyyy? Look at his eeeeeeyes! You caaaan’t leave him! You can’t!! This is cruelty!

It tells you just how frustrated I was at the end of the movie! Though I suppose it will sound weird to anyone who didn’t watch it, I swear Alice and the Hatter were cute together. She is not the little girl Alice from the book or the Disney animated movie, so it isn’t that creepy.

I am really sorry for that terribly long article. In the future, I will try to make my reviews shorter, as I am afraid I lost most of you before the end…

If you watched Alice in Wonderland, do you agree with me? Did you think it was sad that Alice returned to the “real world”?

I hear rumors about a sequel of this movie. What do you think? Is it a good idea? What kind of story would you like to see in this sequel? Which actors should come back for this?

Pink

Marian Keyes – This Charming Man

Ok. So this is a book review! It had been ages since I read a new book. I usually just re-read ones that I’m sure I like. Don’t want to be disappointed. But! I read this new book, took me more than two months. Absolutely unbelievable. Usually, if I start a book, I finish it right away. I CAN’T sleep if I don’t finish my book.

I wondered several times “why did I buy this book? Why?” It isn’t like if the synopsis actually made me want to read it. Here it is:

“Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married”

But for four women in particular, the big news about the charismatic politician is especially momentous…

Stylist Lola has every reason to be interested in who Paddy’s marrying – because she’s his girlfriend, yet she definitely isn’t the bride-to-be… Journalist Grace wants the inside story on the de Courcy engagement and thinks Lola holds the key… while Grace’s sister, Marnie, still can’t forget her first love: a certain Paddy de Courcy. And what of the soon-to-be Mrs de Courcy? Alicia will do anything for her fiancé and is determined to be the perfect wife. But does she know the real Paddy?

Four different women

One awfully charming man

And the dark secret that binds them all.

I usually don’t like those kind of stories (or rather, the kind of story I thought this book would be, based on the synopsis). I don’t like love triangles (here it would be an hexagone, but who cares!), I don’t like when there is a sort of jealousy, of I-don’t-know-who-he/she-will-choose feeling. Because it’s annoying. Like, the man isn’t so sure who he prefers so he dates the two girls at the same time, changes his mind every five minutes, lies to both until the end and finally finds his true love and gets forgiven. No. Just no.

I’ll be honest here. The only reason why I bought this book is that when I was in London back in January I temporarily lost my mind. WHSmith is paradise. Sooooo many books there. Couldn’t resist. And there it was, with this beautiful pink-colored cover. Couldn’t resist I say. The title isn’t actually purple. It’s pink. But since it’s a shiny (it’s actually shining!) pink, it appears purple on screen. Weird enough. Honestly, based on the cover, I thought it might be a cute story. And since I love pink… I thought “it will look pretty in my bookcase!” I know, I know, I shouldn’t choose books based on their covers. But I always do. An ugly cover isn’t appealing at all. I can’t read a book with an ugly cover.

I started to read it back in April. So long ago! Read three pages at a time, because more was impossible. Didn’t understand anything, was very disturbing.

Finally I found the courage to read it. A bit every night before going to bed. And finally I understood. Every pieces started to fit and in a way, I was happy that this book actually managed to SURPRISE me. It hardly ever happens. I hadn’t guessed at all the main issue until page 500-something. Well, I felt something was wrong. I did. But didn’t guess anything.

It’s a very complicated story, to be honest. It’s not even one story. It’s four stories into one. Or rather three-and-a-half, because we almost never read about Alicia (the bride-to-be).

Marian Keyes decided to write her book from the point of view of the four women, which means that the narrator regularly changes. Each woman lives her own life, has her own issues to deal with, her own stories, but in the end, the central theme still is Paddy and his relationship with each of them. It’s just that the story you are reading isn’t always related to the main story. So it can be a bit hard to read.

Lola, the stylist, run away from Dublin because she is unable to control her pain. She ends up in a small irish village near the coast, meets everyone there, becomes friend with some of them… it isn’t as boring as it sounds. I actually enjoyed Lola‘s narrotor times a lot. Her life in Knockavoy brings some -much needed- smiles.
Slowly but surely, we learn how was her relationship with Paddy. At the beginning of the book, we don’t know who he is (we know what he is: an engaged politician, but not who). As she creates bonds with her new neighbours she starts to trust them with her secrets, things that she hasn’t shared with her bestfriends in Dublin. And then you, as a reader, start to understand what the whole story is about.

Marnie, Paddy‘s first ‘love’, is an alcoholic. She refuses to admit it until the very end of the book, though, but she has very serious issues with alcohol and her state is very, very bad. She often forgets things, often disappears and comes back miserable. Ends up in the hospital. It’s very bad. She is married and has two young daughters. It’s a problem that she drinks so much vodka. Although the synopsys says she isn’t over Paddy… from what I read… she was actually over him. Not completely, but she really had moved on with her life. A girl never forgets her first love, so of course she is a bit upset by the news… but I think her true link with Paddy is that he is the main reason why she is drinking so much. As the story goes on, we learn more and more about they former relationship, and no wonder why Marnie is how she is.

Grace, the journalist, is Marnie‘s sister, so right away she has good reasons to hate Paddy. She is living with her ten-years boyfriend Damien and enjoys her job. She is particularly fond of a woman politician named Dee Rossini, and several times saves her from scandals that could have destroyed her career. Grace the central piece of the story. I think she shares the “main character” role with Lola, but she is the one that actually lead the story to its end. I really, really liked Grace. Don’t know why, but she was definitely the character I understood the best. Well, most of the time.

Finally Alicia, the bride-to-be, isn’t a big part of the story. She is just there, no-one knows why Paddy chose her. She wants to be the perfect wife and most of all, she wants to show Grace and Marnie that she managed to get him. That’s what she always wanted (and I was proud because I understood right at the beginning that Alicia was friend with Grace and Marnie a long time before the engagement). Alicia in the end is the only one for who we don’t know what happens. I’m afraid her fate isn’t really desirable….

There are various things I liked while reading This Charming Man. When Marian Keyes changed of narrator, there were small interludes, if I can call it like that… one paragraph or so. It seems so random at the beginning I was really wondering “what does it have to do with anything?” but as you learn more about the characters, it suddenly becomes so clear.

I’d love to give you the main theme of this book. I suppose some of you guessed all right reading my article, but I hope I didn’t reveal too much. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. It’s actually really well written and I highly recommend it. And I was happy enough because there was a few love stories in it. And I love love stories.

It’s a really serious book. I was surprised, I hadn’t expected it at all (and frankly, would you, based on the cover?), but it’s really enlightening. It’s NOT a teenage story. It’s NOT cute, it’s NOT heartwarming. It’s dead serious, it’s frustrating and yet it’s light. I don’t know how to say it… It’s just… it’s kinda easy to read, once you get into it. It’s not depressing or boring. It’s good. It’s really, really good, you even manage to laugh at times, even though it deals with important, serious subjects, like politics, women, work, alcoholism… (and yes, on the cover it’s written that it’s funny, but I didn’t really think it’s funny. It makes you smile, yes, that’s true, but laugh out loud? Maybe once or twice, no more)

So you guys go to the library now and find this book!

SPink