Category Archives: Film

Downton Abbey

The World of Downton Abbey by Julian Fellowes who wrote the series.

My lunch hour at the park; where I thought it would be fun to share with you some eye candy from the book that accompanies the mini series Downton Abbey.  The visuals are just beautiful and full of interesting information about how ones would have lived back then.  And how the actors felt making the series.

It would be a lovely book to add to your library.

Christy

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A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines

This book was first published in 1993 and is again part of the Boy’s school reading.

Set in the sugar plantation area of Louisiana, around 1940s.  It’s about the last days of Jefferson a young black man convicted of a murder he did not commit and the growing relationship with Grant Wiggins a local black school teacher.

During the trial Jefferson’s defense lawyer portrays Jefferson as sub-human, no better than a hog.


“Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.”

Jefferson’s godmother who raised him goes to visit Wiggins and says:


“I don’t want them to kill no hog,”  she explains, ” I want a man to go to that chair on his own two feet.”

At first Grant doesn’t want to do this, but Tante Lou, who he lives with is close friends with Emma Glenn and firmly persuades him to take this on.

He has to humiliatingly beseech the sheriffs cousin, as does Emma Glenn who has worked for the family all her life, stubbornly states what she wants and that she is owed this.

I always think of tobacco plantations when I think of the South, but Ernest Gaines grew up in the sugar plantation area of Louisiana and this is where several of his books are set.  Drawing on his childhood experience growing up there.  His books are powerful and moving.  Well worth reading, you truly breath the humid air,  feel the holding onto the tiny shred of pride that is left to them.

Several of his books have been made into films and are well worth watching.

Christy

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards


Obviously I have been away from my Lit Blog for a while. I have three books to review, but will start with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards. As soon as I read the review on the back of the book cover, I remembered seeing this as a film, although at the time did not realize that the film was based on a book.

Doctor David Henry is newly married, and very much in love with his wife, who is about to give birth to their first child. A blizzard in Kentucky, prevents them getting to the hospital, so he has to deliver his child at the nearby clinic, with the aid of a nurse.

The baby boy is delivered, a healthy boy. But following close on his heels is a second baby, unexpected, a little girl, who as soon as she is delivered Dr Henry can see that she has Down’s Syndrome. What to do, in a split moment in time he makes a decision which affects the rest of their lives. He decides to have the nurse, Caroline take the newly born child to an orphanage, keeping the knowledge of her living, a secret from his wife. Caroline though is unable to leave the newborn girl there and makes a decision that affects the rest of her life, to keep the child. Paul and Phoebe twins, growing up apart, never knowing each other. One decision brings sorrow, the other happiness.

The book goes into why he made this decision, and how secrets within a family destroy it. You have to go back to Dr Henry’s childhood, being brought up poor in the hills of West Virginia, with a very sick younger sister, who had a heart condition and who took much of the families energies and resources, but who also brought a lot of love. He saw himself in his son Paul and his younger sister in Phoebe, and he wanted to save Paul from what he went through, only remembering the bad things of his childhood, but forgetting the good. He could only remember as a student doctor a professor saying “A mongoloid, do you know what that means?” And he did all sorts of problems including the one he was most afraid of, a heart condition.

Caroline moves with the baby to Pittsburgh, where she gets a job, moving in with a woman Doro and her senile elderly father, as his nurse and helper. Here they thrive and are nurtured and grow.

His wife thinking the little girl is dead, holds a memorial service for her. She just cannot get over it. Even as years move on and she would like more children, he will not. She gives, he can’t, he knows why he can’t give and she doesn’t. All know they have the facade of a family, but something is missing.

There is so much more to the story, split decisions, not going back and putting things right, secrets, and why we do what we do.

It is a very well written book and I would highly recommend it.

Christy.

Charlotte Gray, by Sebastian Faulks (the book verses the film)


The book or the film?

A Scottish girl recruited by secret service to work with the resistance in France during WWII. Falls in love with a British pilot Peter, who is shot down over France.

Julian is her resistance co-worker in France, who she also likes.

A full one third of the book was dedicated to Peter and Charlotte, which gave you a much closer insight into both of their personalities and why they made the decisions they did. Charlotte was in a way a strong character, making things happen. Peter came across, and he said it himself, as one that didn’t think things through but went along and acted on a situation that came up. He was very much disturbed by loosing almost all of his friends in the Battle of Britain. Which was the first big air fight for control of the skies over Britain. Even the two men who recruited Charlotte pretty much said he and all men who came through there were emotionally disturbed.

Charlotte was distanced from both her parents. The hinted at problem of her child hood with her father was sorted out in a satisfactory way in the book. Referring back to WWI and how it had affected him as a doctor. Her relationship with Julian’s father was tied into her relationship with her father. Both had fought in WWI. I felt so much of the book was about her relationship with Julian’s father not with Julian and not with the children. At the end of the book she felt a need to let him know why Julian did what he did. Traveling up to the internment camp, paying for a guard to tell him. She did not go for the children, although she saw their suitcase on the station platform, what was that about? I don’t think I ever came to a conclusion on that. Was it just that she knew that they had left the internment camp and had been transported. I thought she would act on that knowledge, but she didn’t do anything.

Julian’s father was a painter. You didn’t get the impression that the house was as run down as they depicted in the movie, because Charlotte was hired to clean it. They also had another servant I think and the girl who came to pose, whose house the children were eventually hidden in, not for long though. Julian’s mother did not die young she was around when he was a boy. He spent time with his father at the shore along with other artistic friends. Although he was not a good father, the animosity towards his father did not come across so strongly as in the film.

I didn’t think that her going to France was primarily to find Peter; it was secondary to her need, although part of it. Her relationship with Julian I did not find at all central to the story. Also she was never told by her contact that Peter was dead, was she? She did try to find Peter initially, but the contact was cold and she left it there. The book did go into more detail about how Peter escaped from France. Which builds up more about Peter, and that is why when you come to the end of the book, you have no feeling that she has even thought about staying or going back to Julian.

The two Jewish children, Andre and Jacob, Julian was the one that I think was more especially close to them, and the two older ladies whose house they stayed in, in town. Julian would visit them. Charlotte would go now and again, you didn’t get the idea though that they were constantly on her mind. Also after the children were moved to the country the old lady at the house betrayed them, although they probably would have found them.

I haven’t mentioned the movie too much. The movie gave Hope for both Julian’s father, who was one quarter Jewish and the boys. Also they did not have to face the ordeal alone. The book left you no hope, taking both to their ultimate conclusion. There was no letter in the book. When the boys were taken in the movie, I did think, better they had been taken all at once with their parents, but then they had Julian’s father. In the book they never came to know his father. So I felt they definitely would have been better off if they had been taken with their parents in view of the outcome. If the outcome had been different and they had not been found then of course I would say it was a good thing they did not go with their parents.

How about B. I cannot think of his name. Benoir comes to my mind but I don’t think that’s right. The schoolteacher. There was a lot more background as to why he did what he did, his thinking on how the war would go. Also the fact that many thought like him and did not like Churchill and the British, but would rather have the German’s there with a Vichy government, and get rid of the Jews and the Communists. B’s need for recognition and power. The girl who was the telephoned exchange operator, she was not so much against them.

There were many more characters in the book, all the different resistance workers and a mention of the two groups, the Gaullist’s and the Communists.

The conclusion of the book was satisfactory, with the good outcome with her father. Peter coming to the realization that he truly did love her and he lived to be reunited with her. But as in true life the sadness. The small wish of Julian’s father that Charlotte would like Julian, but he knew it wasn’t so, because she had told him about Peter and knew she didn’t feel that way towards him. No hope for the father and the children.

The book did leave you to think that Peter and Charlotte would go back to France to visit the families and individuals who had helped them. As with Peter and the elderly couple who took him in with his bad leg and shared all they had with him. Julian and Charlotte had a strong friendship, which was more, for a brief moment of need. You felt that after the war Peter and Charlotte would go back to France together to visit.

In the movie Charlotte sees Peter, tells him it’s all over, too much water under the bridge. After the war she goes back to France, to see Julian, and their future is together.

Which did I like more, well I liked both, but the movie held out more hope.