Month: September 2017

TV review: Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Posted September 15, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

A lot of reviews praise this version for its fresh feel, but I found it very stilted, and actually disliked it pretty strongly. Elizabeth was flat, Darcy was stiff and arrogant almost all the way through, Mr Bennet was unpleasant, Mrs Bennet was… oh, actually, she was all right. Lady Catherine was good, too, but you have to be pretty ham-fisted to get that wrong, and she was the right age for the mother of an unmarried daughter. And hallelujah for a version which actually does something with Anne de Burgh, and makes her into a sympathetic character. Mr Collins was not funny enough. In fact the whole production largely lost its wit.

And that was, perhaps, the biggest problem with Elizabeth. In the book she’s lively, irreverent, quick-witted and very, very funny. As portrayed here, there’s nothing funny about her at all. She reads her lines as if she’s struggling with the antiquated language, and then she smiles all the time to lighten the tone. It makes her seem like the sort of sweet, simpering miss that’s the very antithesis of the real Elizabeth!

Darcy had only one facial expression all the way through until the final scene. It was very, very hard to see what any woman would find attractive about him. One scene in particular summarises the way his character is portrayed. After he gives Elizabeth her letter, he is seen walked steadily away from her…and away and away and away… the whole time she reads, he never varies his pace or direction. Yet this is the defining moment in the book for Darcy. He’s proposed and been rejected in the most brutal fashion, and been forced to re-evaluate his conduct and explain himself to her. He is in the process of a major change of character, yet the scene says exactly the opposite, that he remains unswerving in his manner and methods. Completely, utterly wrong.

The camera work is of the era, I suppose, and the costumes the same – almost right, but not quite. And all the men seemed to dress the same, with no distinction of rank. Only Lady Catherine had the properly aristocratic elaborate costume. And I did wonder what happened to the Bennet sisters’ dresses at the end, when they changed style quite abruptly, as if a different designer was called in at the last minute. The script used quite a lot of the author’s original words, even from the narration, but then used them in the wrong place or put them in the mouths of the wrong characters, which had a strangely jarring effect.

A dreadful piece of work, and not recommended at all, except for completists.


Review: ‘A Gentleman of Fortune’ by Anna Dean

Posted September 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I adored the first book in this series (’A Moment of Silence’), which combines two of my great loves – the Regency era, and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple-style amateur sleuth. So this one was a no-brainer. It isn’t quite as successful as the first book, but it’s still a delightfully enjoyable read. The writing is authentically Austen-esque, the mystery is intriguing and the sleuthing rattles along at a merry pace.

In fact, it’s almost too fast a pace. Our amateur detective, Miss Dido Kent, has only to poke her nose out of doors for her to bump into someone with information to impart, or else she overhears something of vital import, or she calls on someone and they obligingly tell her exactly what she wants to know. All this become increasingly implausible, frankly.

One aspect which bothered me somewhat was the numerous similarities to Jane Austen’s Emma. I suppose it’s done as an affectionate homage, but every time we had a strawberry-picking party or the characters start making anagrams with double meanings, I was knocked out of this book and straight into another book. And there’s one parallel that actually gives away a plot element, which felt all kinds of wrong to me (although there’s a twist at the end which partially ameliorates the situation).

This is not a conventional Regency romance, but there is a romantic story simmering beneath the murder, which was begun in the first book, and continues swimmingly here. It leads, in fact, to some interesting (and spirited!) discussions between Miss Kent and her paramour, he feeling that she should be guided by him and give up this nasty sleuthing business, and leave everything to the constables, and she feeling that such submissive behaviour would rip out her very soul. And really, the root of the problem is the nature of marriage in such a patriarchal society as Regency England, where women were very much expected to submit and not worry their pretty little heads with… well, anything very much outside the domestic sphere. I enjoyed this element of the book very much.

Another excellent read, beautifully written, with the murder mystery and romance threads nicely balanced. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Five stars.


Review: The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton

Posted September 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This book should have been right up my street – Regency era, murder mystery, a locked room mystery, even! What could be better? Well, quite a lot of things as it turned out. I don’t know if this is the author’s debut work, but it certainly reads that way. It’s clunky and uneven, and much of it just doesn’t work for me.

I like the idea very much – Stephen Lavender, a Bow Street Runner (an early kind of policeman) is sent to Northumberland with his trusty constable Woods to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an heiress from a locked room. Some of the background colour is excellent. The scene with the prostitute, while it has no relevance to the plot whatsoever, and is there only to show how much research the author has done, is nevertheless an effective introduction to the seedier side of London life, complete with holes in the prostitute’s stockings.

But then it’s off to the north by coach and another irrelevance. The coach is held up by highwaymen (yes, that tired old chestnut) and our two stalwart policemen perform the necessary heroics to avert disaster, aided by a Spanish lady who happens to be handy with a gun. This is where the book goes off the rails, because Lavender unaccountably gets the hots for the Spanish babe (who’s a married woman, by the way) and fancies his chances rather. He essentially forces her to have dinner with him alone, something no respectable woman would or should do, and is very disappointed when she fails to offer him the expected invitation to her bed. I don’t know what this is supposed to achieve, but frankly, it made him very unlikable to me. I do expect a Regency hero to demonstrate some care for a woman’s reputation, and not just attempt to screw her the first time he meets her. Not a nice man.

But then it’s on to the mystery, and another array of cliches – the unpleasant step-brother with the even more unpleasant friends, the wicked step-sister, the loyal maid, the simple but harmless brother, oh and let’s not forget the gypsies who are unfriendly initially but come round when the hero renders them some service or other (stop me if you’ve heard this plot before). There are the usual array of set-piece confrontations, which don’t throw up too many surprises.

There’s a lot of Gothic about this, and the mysteries (the locked room and the disappearing heiress) are resolved quite nicely. The writing’s good, too, and the author’s done her research. This is possibly one of those series that will settle down and become unmissable by about the third book, but for me the clunky pacing, the unlikable characters and especially the very unpleasant main character keep this to three stars for me.