Tag Archives: History

The Book Blogger Insider Tag!

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Hi everyone! My focus recently has been on reviews, especially movie reviews. I wanted to open up my blog and vary the posts a bit, and Q&As always tend to be popular. Thanks to Jenny in Neverland for this open book tag!

Top 3 Book Pet Peeves

a) When people ask “..and what are you reading at the moment?” with the anticipation that you’ll confess you only ever read Vogue magazine…b) When someone spills orange juice (or any kind of beverage) on my books. It’s only happened to me once, but it was my teacher and she practically marinated Amanda Foreman’s Duchess of Devonshire biography…c) Books that are too big to sit on my shelves and have to be laid flat. Grrr.

Perfect Reading Spot

At home somewhere. Especially next to a radiator. Or if it’s sunny, I’ll sit in the garden with my cat.

3 Book Confessions

a) I nearly always think the book is better than the film.. b) I feel awful if I don’t finish a book – I expect a lot of people feel like that! I had to force myself to finish Swing Time by Zadie Smith…c) Books are forever and parting with them is hard.

Last Time You Cried Reading a Book

I did tear up a bit at the end of The Lost Wife. It’s by Alyson Richman, who I think has a background in art history. It’s a very beautiful romance set against the backdrop of the Holocaust – the romance didn’t affect me, but the camps at Terezin and Auschwitz, were, sadly, very real.

Number of Books on Your Bedside Table

Zero. I keep a ‘to be read’ pile in a corner on my desk. If I fall asleep in bed with a book I wake up with it on my chest. And my cat near my head.

Favourite Reading Snack

No snacks! I drink an iced coffee.

3 Books You’d Recommend to Anyone

Lion was a great memoir, better even than the film, which was good too. I loved American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to everyone, so…Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield feels like an ‘anyone’ book. Harry Potter is always a good distracting read that most people could enjoy.

A Picture of Your Favourite Bookshelf

Um, I really don’t have one! Nearly all my books are in stacks or in boxes. One day, if I have a favourite bookshelf, I’ll post a photo.

How Much Books Mean to You (in 3 words)

Quite a lot.

Biggest Reading Secret

I remain committed to physical books. I love the smell of newly-bought books, although there is often something about the smell of secondhand books that I don’t like.

Sometimes I get an electronic copy as back up, to make it easier for me to get through, especially if I’m not enjoying it or if I’m tired. I find varying the medium helps break the experience up. Also e-books make it easier to go back and look for something, and make notes. Yes it’s pricier, but I don’t read that many books (for a book blogger) and it’s a worthwhile way to spend my time.

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That’s all and thanks for reading! I’m excited to have several book reviews coming up on my blog over the summer, and I’ll also be posting short reviews on my Instagram page. Bye for now, L.

More Royal Drama for 2017: The Crown, Victoria on PBS, King Charles III

Following the Golden Globes last weekend, the internet’s post-ceremony commentary involved mocking Tom Hiddleston and gushing over Meryl Streep.

I think the real star speech was made by Claire Foy, who took home the Best Actress in a TV series (Drama) award for playing HM The Queen in Netflix’s The Crown.

 

  • Victoria Review -“WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!!!”
  • The Crown Review – I kept expecting Matt Smith to suggest a Doctor Who-themed nursery for Charles and Anne 

Writer and creator Peter Morgan has committed to six seasons of The Crown, each focusing on a decade of the Queen’s reign. Filming is already underway on the second season, with a November release likely.

If Foy is popular in The Crown, she’s better as Anne Boleyn in the adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, about the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister. I’ve just watched the series after finding it on Netflix, and I really recommend it.

I was asked if The Crown was like Downton Abbey. No, but it’s not as gripping as Wolf Hall; there was real peril in the Tudor court.

Dearly departed Downtown’s true heir is in fact ITV’s Victoria, the first series of which debuts in America on Masterpiece on PBS this weekend. Lucky guys! Personally I can’t wait for the second series to show in the UK, so that I can take the piss review a really popular show. Jenna Coleman is the spirited young monarch and Tom Hughes is Prince Albert Emo, the original right-on royal with a social conscience.

And there’s even more royal drama to look forward to, like King Charles III….No not like that – I mean I’m sure Charles will be a wonderful king – but it’s actually the title of a new one-off BBC TV drama based on a play by Mike Bartlett.

I caught the royal history bug early (I watched my mother’s VHS tapes of the BBC series Elizabeth I starring Glenda Jackson before I started infant school). But Charles III isn’t history – it’s a future where Charles is finally in charge and causes a political ruckus. Charlotte Riley, who is probably still best known for being married to Tom Hardy, is Kate Middleton. Riley described the Duchess as “a really interesting woman”.

Sure. Has enough time passed for a serious drama about the girlfriend years? It’d beat the ratings for Anne Boleyn, QEII and a Harry/Meghan wedding combined!

TV REVIEW: The Crown (Netflix) starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith

Netflix’s new series, The Crown, cost around 100 million dollars to make, which would cover nearly a third of the huge cost of the Buckingham Palace renovations.

It’s got great reviews, too – the series, not the impending renovations, which are proving quite controversial. (And all for a palace that according to this series, nobody much wants to live in.)

Now I’m not the sort of person who enjoys cooing over royals, or cooing over pretend-royals in sumptuous costumes. But yes, The Crown is well-made and absorbing. It’s an intensely, richly, cinematic imagining of Queen Elizabeth II’s life behind palace doors.

So it looks expensive.

The ten episodes take us from the then Princess Elizabeth’s 1947 marriage to Prince Philip, right up until the brink of the Suez crisis of 1956. In between the historical milestones, the young royal is embroiled in family dramas, and in each chapter she will have to choose between the ones she loves, and duty.

“The fact is,” her grandmother admonishes her, “the crown must win – must always win.”

I wasn’t sure about Claire Foy as our unknowable queen, with her open face and large cornflower blue eyes, her expression either astonished, anxious or vulnerable. (Sarah Gadon in the fanciful A Royal Night Out looked more the part.) But Foy is believable as a simple countrywoman, more concerned with her dogs and horses than politics or people, even if she seems too timid to rule.

Creator/writer Peter Morgan’s series is actually all about the hat, not the person wearing it.

“An ordinary young woman of modest ability and little imagination,” is how her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, describes Elizabeth during his bitchy coronation commentary. Once anointed, she is transformed, he says, into a “goddess”.

Matt Smith layers his rubbery-faced, zany energy over the mannerisms and ‘wit’ of the notoriously prickly Duke of Edinburgh. I kept expecting him to suggest a Doctor Who-themed nursery for Charles and Anne.

In fact, almost everyone seems far nicer than they probably were/are in real life – even Eileen Atkins as scary Queen Mary (George VI’s mother, the Queen’s grandmother). Well,  almost everyone. There’s the fabulously brittle pairing of Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor and Lia Williams (I had to check it wasn’t Game of Thrones’ Red Woman – Carice van Houten) as Wallis Simpson.

The Crown is secure enough in its power that we also spend plenty of time with the politicians, although really needing a movie to themselves are John Lithgow as Churchill, and Stephen Dillane as the painter Graham Sutherland, hired to produce a portrait of the PM. (It ends up on a bonfire – true story, apparently).

The Crown can be artificial, as things have to be explained to the audience. Underlings tell Her Majesty: “And your father’s real name was Albert, and of course your uncle’s real name was David and your name is Elizabeth…”

It’s a bit like a popular history book come to life, and I suppose we couldn’t have expected anything more controversial in our nostalgia-obsessed times. With six more series to go, I wonder, if just once, a character will stop fretting over whether the Crown will endure, and instead wonder if it should.

Jackie Portman

Jackie: Natalie Portman lines up another Oscar?

I thought, after Black Swan, that now Natalie Portman had her Academy Award, she’d switch to the business side of movies. Maybe she’d semi-retire and concentrate on her family.

In the six years since her Oscar triumph, Portman became a mother to a baby son; gave a lacklustre turn as Thor‘s love interest; moved to Paris with her French husband; had a go at producing, writing and directing.

When photos of her as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy were released, I rolled my eyes, expecting her only to live down to Katie Holmes’ panned portrayal in the eight-part miniseries The Kennedys.

However, at its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Jackie really got the critics buzzing. Chilean director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim are being praised for their bold approach, but it is Portman who really wowed the festival crowds.

So how come a clip on Youtube has got some people puzzled…This performance?

This is the performance that The Hollywood Reporter called a “tour-de-force”? That led Variety to proclaim “you can’t take your eyes off of her”?

It’s not fair to judge on one short scene, but this sounds like a painful turn from Portman, like she is working so hard to imitate Kennedy’s docile speaking voice it dominates her performance.

Critics (who have seen the whole thing) are enamoured with the movie and with Portman, but they also seem desperate to defend her mannered performance style.

“When Portman speaks in that demure New England dialect, she tends to come off too mannered. With every dropped “R,” it becomes obvious Portman is trying very, very hard to be someone she’s not,” said US Weekly, while praising her screen presence and ability to carry the movie.

“At first, Portman seems distracting in the role, the accent catching in her throat, her every line and mannerism coming across as studied. But that affected quality is all part of the strategy of Jackie,” wrote A.A Down at The AV Club.

“Portman’s highly affected performance is deliberately off-putting at first…Portman’s never been one to disappear into her roles, but here that’s a strength. The fact that she always feels like she’s acting lends the character a tragic dimension,” said a BBC Culture review out of TIFF.

Which reads as: “So although she is mannered and it’s obvious this is Portman ACTING, it works in the context of the film because….because we’re all so in love with her OK?…..My lord THAT FACE!”

Portman is probably tied at the moment with La La Land‘s Emma Stone as early front-runner for Best Actress, in what is shaping up to be a really competitive year.

I don’t have a particular dislike for Portman, but while the public worship her as a Harvard-educated Serious Actress, she has a career strewn with dodgy accents and critical ambivalence. It’s Leon – Closer – Black Swan – basically the only times she’s ever been good, and that’s to the credit of her directors.

This is the woman Time magazine said can “look utterly stranded on screen — bereft of an actor’s most rudimentary tools…”

Jackie has a December release lined up in the USA. No word on a UK release yet, but I’ll be sure to give the movie a fair go.

REVIEW: Victoria – Jenna Coleman in a royal TV drama

Soap actress and Doctor Who sidekick Jenna Coleman made her bow as Queen Victoria this past weekend.

ITV’s new series is an eight-part look at the early years of Victoria’s reign.

The show is more Downton Abbey than Game of Thrones, but I was still struck by how Jenna’s portrayal owes a lot to Emilia Clarke’s performance as Daenerys Targaryen. I can totally see Victoria screaming “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!!!”

She even has a “mad” grandfather, George III, who lost America – just like Daenerys’ father the Mad King lost the Seven Kingdoms.

Anyway, it’s not been lost on Twitter users that Jenna Coleman’s little queen is far more beautiful than Victoria ever was. Looks wise, Alfie Allen in a wig could have doubled for Queen Victoria (although the craziest royal casting ever would still be Ray Winstone as Henry VIII).

Of course Jenna is too pretty to be Victoria. More importantly, would a modern-day Victoria be pretty enough to be queen in the age of appearances and celebrity? Considering the grief her 4X great granddaughters Beatrice and Eugenie get for their figures and frumpiness, no. I think nothing would end the monarchy faster than an unattractive princess waiting in the wings.

But Victoria is a frothy period drama, and movies and TV do tend to cast actors far better-looking that their real life counterparts – Rufus Sewell is too handsome for Victoria’s first PM, Lord Melbourne.

And it is such a good career move for Jenna, even if it’s not a heavyweight drama that taps into the debate about the future of the monarchy in a 21st century democracy.

Another royal drama – this time a real prestige project – arrives in November in the shape of Netflix’s super-ambitious The Crown. Planned to run for six series, it will trace the life of Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy) from her wedding to the present day. Actor Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip, has promised that the writing – although respectful – is not “overly reverential”.

I’m all for dramas about the modern royal family that aren’t either rousing and predictable (The King’s Speech) or just silly (Will & Kate: The Movie). Victoria is entertainment somewhere between the two, and set in a time when royals didn’t pretend to be Just Like Us.

I wonder how long it will be before we get a well-researched, blockbuster Middleton/Cambridge biopic. Any scrutiny of them, however mild, seems to really hit a nerve.

At least Victoria will only upset historians.