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Frost In May (VMC)
Frost In May (VMC)
by Antonia White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten classic, 28 July 2009
This review is from: Frost In May (VMC) (Paperback)
Like Elizabeth Taylor (the author, not the actress), Antonia White is an early 20th century writer whose books should have become modern classics, but instead remain largely forgotten.

The most likely reason for this is that these novelists are women, who write largely about women and, possibly (although never exclusively), for women. It is certainly not because of the quality of their novels.

Frost in May is a remarkably evocative and painful novel which, despite its gentle pace, is always absorbing and impossible to forget. Its subject matter, that of a convent school just before the first world war, might at once seem irrelevant and childish. This is the mistake, it seems, generations have made.

In fact, one does not need to be a convent educated catholic to recognise the characters and issues which White raises in this novel. Educated 80 years later in exclusively state, secular schools, I would seem to have little in common with the heroine but White writes not about just an institution but about humanity, not just about nuns but about women, not just about catholicism but about faith.

It is not only relevant, however, but it is also a very adult novel. The inexperience of the childish Nanda is constantly clear when compared to the relative maturity of the writer. Nanda does not get her relationships right; she does not understand her father in the way the writer and therefore the reader does. White's deep understanding of human morality and motivation is quite startling. Never have I identified myself so closely with a protagonist as I have with the heroine of the Frost in May quartet.

Virago recognised the power of these novels and their importance, showing a faith in its content which is certainly not misplaced but which has rarely been mirrored in the pubic.

My only complaint would be that, in these latest editions, Virago has to some extent lost its individuality. The beauty of my Mother's copies from the late 70s/early 80s is in no way mirrored in these editions. This is a shame as books like Frost in May show that Virago has a legacy to be proud of.

At Mrs Lippincote's (VMC)
At Mrs Lippincote's (VMC)
by Elizabeth Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autumnal, perceptive but often also very funny, 14 Jun. 2008
It is difficult to pin down the brilliance of this novel in a review. It is all to easy to draw attention to its domestic minutiae. Nothing much happens and reading this amazon page it seems to be easy, gentle, inconsequential women's literature. But it is not. The tone is best described, not as gentle, but autumnal. Taylor also has a beautiful tone and ready, sharp wit.

Domestic based writing can be, as this book and many others prove, as profound and thought provoking as the most epic war novel. The human characters and relationships within this family are painted with truthful, and at times heartbreaking, clarity. I have rarely read a family portrait as realistic and relevant.

It is also never, in spite of its limited plot, boring or dull. It seems odd to describe such a novel as a 'page turner' but it is. The writing is so taut and well controlled that there is always something to discover. And, essentially, you care.

This is no 'clever' modern novel. Apart from the slight twist at the end, this is chronological and traditional. And yet it often seems with so many contemporary novels clever narrative devices are only there to disguise inadequate writing. This book needs no disguise. It is, simply, wonderfully written.

So please try it whether or not you are attracted by domestic kitchen sink drama. Because the writing here is flawless, the truth devastatingly well realised. Well worth a try.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2012 5:09 PM BST

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Complete DVD Collection
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Complete DVD Collection
Dvd ~ Sarah Michelle Gellar
Offered by LT Lighting
Price: £89.99

184 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply a masterpiece, 30 Mar. 2008
Buffy is more difficult to sell than 'serious' shows like The Sopranos and The West Wing. The name itself is very silly; the notion of "Buffy" and "vampires" was probably enough to scare off half the population before it even aired. And then there is the main character. Buffy is no cool, serious or attractive man but a blonde, stereotypical teenage cheerleader holding a stake. There seems to be no depth, reality or threat.

But Buffy triumphs in defeating stereotypes and the preconceptions you have whenever a young blonde woman walks onto the screen. From the very first scene where the blonde victim idea is subverted, Buffy establishes itself as the wittiest, funniest drama around. As the season progresses you realise that this show can also be dark and is as innovative as any other, more acclaimed, modern culture.

The writing is consistently brilliant, avoiding predictability and cliché throughout, unlike most drama scripts. Each character is beautifully created. They are always real, tangible, different and three-dimensional. Although there is a sharp sense of morality in Buffy, the fantasy element never leads the writers into the trap of the superhero versus the evil monsters. Buffy and her friends are not perfect and not even always good.

But probably what makes Buffy great, rather than just another sharp witty drama, is the direction. Buffy is a TV show, not a book or film on the small screen. The strengths of the medium are constantly exploited - the uniquely long amount of time TV has to establish character and expand plot are used brilliantly. Look at Buffy over the 7 seasons and it is clearly a cohesive whole, a journey. A journey you are invited to join over a vast period of time.

Because of these strengths the acting doesn't have to be brilliant but it generally is. Many of the actors here are little more than average but something in the chemistry of the show raises them well above their game. No one sees Sarah Michelle Gellar as an Oscar winner, but here, on the small screen, her acting is pretty near perfect.

The final strength of this show is the concept. The hero is, unusually, a woman and a strong, capable, demon fighting one at that. The often quoted metaphor that High School is Hell does fit the first seasons but there is often a lot more to it that that. There is a sense of morality, goodness and duty that runs throughout. The strength of friendship and the importance of doing what is right even if it hurts you is constantly emphasised.

I do not want to make Buffy something it is not. It is not always deep, serious and meaningful. It is sometimes only silly. But what I can guarantee is that it has moments of breathtaking brilliance and is almost always really good fun. It is wonderfully acted, directed and written. It is different, never clichéd and always fresh.

So if you have resisted Buffy until now, if, like me, you have been put off by the title, the heroine and the concept please give it a chance. I can promise that you will not regret it.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2011 4:57 PM BST

Bones - Season 1 [DVD]
Bones - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Boreanaz

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth buying., 11 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Bones - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Bones is very different to other popular American shows like CSI, Lost and Dexter. Rather than being slick, shiny and plot obsessed it concentrates on character development and humour, a welcome change in my opinion.

For anyone wondering about whether to buy this DVD, you should. It is cheap, entertaining and funny. The female characters, such as Brennan, are complex and unusual rather than being shallow, blonde caricatures. Brennan is smart but awkward socially; a brilliant central character. Bones, the FBI agent, is also great. He is very funny and the relationship between them is a brilliant backbone to the show.

This is, however, not one of the best shows ever on T.V. It is well worth watching but by no means a masterpiece. Some of the supporting cast are irritating and the show lacks a mythology and story arc. Additionally, the emotions of the characters, and the relationships between them, are not left to develop through the story as much as they should be. Far too often the characters are forced to explain their, and others, motivations in slightly stilted, and often embarrassing, dialogue.

In spite of this, I would recommend this DVD whole-heartedly. I enjoyed it much more than I expected. Its characters, humour and charm more than make up for the occasional deficiency in the script.

Serenity [DVD] [2005]
Serenity [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Nathan Fillion
Price: £3.25

25 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 18 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Serenity [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is not poor by any means, just disappointing. Firefly was a masterpiece, this is not. The failure of this movie is not down to Joss, however, but the format. What was a stunning T.V show makes an average action movie for various reasons.

The first is that Joss Whedon's main strength is his characters and their development. He fails in this here. You can develop a character over 10 hours, it is more difficult in less than 2. Additionally to this, it seems he was a slave to momentum. Any moment of emotional dialogue or backstory were cut so we no longer learn anything about the characters. Coming to this cold, you may miss the throw away comment that Zoe and Wash are married, and there seems to be no real emotion in their relationship. You would not understand why Inara is there and Jayne just becomes a hired gun. We get great fight scenes, but no emotional impact.

The second is the size of the cast. A T.V show can easily have a cast of 10 main characters (the West Wing, Buffy) and it will work because it has hours over which to study them. This does not work in a film. In the short space of time available, a cast of 4 is big enough and yet Whedon is landed with spares from Firefly. One of the chief victims of this is Inara. A wonderful character in Firefly, in Serenity she is cut into almost non existance. For a new comer it must be baffling, she becomes that terrible thing, a token love interest. In my opinion, Zoe also suffers. Her relationship with Wash is not explored and her cold reactions to major plot developments are not explained. We are barely informed of the huge impact of the Battle of Serenity Valley on her or Mal and we are never told that she is the consummate professional soldier.

This is not a bad film. It is fast moving, witty and enjoyable. However, all the complexity of the T.V show has gone. Worth buying, but only after you have bought, watched and loved the far superior Firefly.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 1, 2011 4:14 PM GMT

The Jewel In The Crown: The Complete Series [DVD] [1984]
The Jewel In The Crown: The Complete Series [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Charles Dance
Offered by Mega-Deals
Price: £24.99

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant British drama, 10 Jan. 2007
This is an emotionally absorbing, interesting, brilliantly acted and brilliantly directed T.V series. The start is breathtaking - Daphne Manners is enchanting and Hari Kumar is perfectly acted by the very attractive Art Malik.

The danger for this show was when, relatively near the start, both Hari and Daphne effectively vanish from the screen. Having become attached to these characters it is an act of will to continue watching. It is a testement to the series that it manages to make us do this. Although the few episodes following with Sarah and her family are not as absorbing and the storyline gets a little difficult to follow at times, the narrative soon picks up again as the central characters of Dimitri, Ahmed Kasim and Guy Peron (Charles Dance) are introduced. Together, they add a lighter touch and enable a connection with the viewer to be made once more.

Of course, the one constant throughout all 14 episodes is Merrick (Tim Piggot Smith). The character disintegration is brilliantly realised as the brief glimses of humanity appear less and less. The continuing motifs of the bridge, fire and the butterflies caught in the web are well handled and, cleverly, Daphne and Hari are never really forgotten. Their shadow pervades the whole 14 episodes, even when they don't appear.

This programme chronicles the tradgedy of India through the fates of its many characters. Its great success is that, throughout the whole epic series, we never stop caring about each individual character. The emotional impact of the last episode is as strong as the second.

Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Nathan Fillion
Price: £9.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, 16 Nov. 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Watching firefly, you can see all the plot lines that could have been. You can see the years of enjoyment you could have had. And all you get are these 14 episodes - not even a full season because the network saw fit to cancel it.

However, the pain is worth it. All the Whedon characteristics are there. Breathtaking episodes, genius characterisation and an absorbing, brilliant plot.

The characters are reminiscent of the wonderful central characters of Buffy. Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Inara are excellent, Jayne is very funny and Zoe and Wash's relationship is absorbing. Additionally the women in it are, unusually for TV but not for Joss Whedon, refreshingly well drawn and complex. This is character based drama so the setting and plot are often incidental, this is not serious sci-fi. It is funny and accessable, the characters and the dilemas are real. There are no aliens (so fewer monsters than in Buffy) and the future is recognisable. Even so, the world of the characters is well realised and the ship, Serenity, is a perfect central set.

So had it had a chance to go further, this could have been a TV masterpiece. But, forgetting the cancellation, what is here is brilliant and important - well worth buying.

Edward Thomas. Collected Poems.
Edward Thomas. Collected Poems.
by Edward Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adlestrop - one of the best poems in the english language, 17 May 2006
Edward Thomas is a badly underated poet, up to a few weeks ago I hadn't heard his name. Although he wrote throughout the first world war, he could no be classed a a war poet as most of his poems focus on civilian life. In style, he is more of a georgian poet - quiet and understated. Through a few simple words, Thomas achieves an emotional truth that is difficult to find. My favourite poem, Adlestrop, brought me to tears when I first read it. The transitory nature of life and therefore the pain of memory is discussed here with more poignancy than other writers, such as Michael Frayn in Spies, can manage over 200 pages. In short, highly recomended- a valuable addition to any poetry collection.

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