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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Katie Fforde’s ‘A Perfect Match’

Three years ago Bella Castle left her home town nursing a broken heart over Dominic Thane, the man she fell in love with but couldn’t have …

Now she’s made a new life for herself in the country, working as an estate agent.

Bella loves her job and she loves her boyfriend Nevil. But recently he’s been preoccupied, and she’s starting to question if his future hopes and dreams are a perfect match for hers.

And when Dominic turns up unexpectedly in search of his dream house, she begins to wonder if home is really where the heart is. But she’s over him, isn’t she?

I chose this book because I’ve read and enjoyed Katie Fforde’s, Recipe for Love, A Perfect Proposal, Love Letters, Going Dutch, Practically Perfect, Paradise Fields and Artistic Licence… to name a few. In fact it wasn’t until I started the list that I realise just how many I’ve consumed in a period of years. That’s part of the beauty and charm of Fforde’s writing. You can be completely absorbed in her world of quaint towns and village life for a few hours then put it down and out of your mind. Therefore each time you pick it up its like rediscovering an old friend.

Fforde’s writing can be rather formulaic at times but that is not necessarily a critique. She knows what she’s good at and more importantly she knows what we won’t which I think why I’ve come back to her over and over without even realising. I confess this isn’t my favourite of her novels despite the fact that it ticks all the boxes. Small town, check. Previous heartbreak, check. Crappy current boyfriend, check. Return of the dashing heartbreaker, check. Task that allows our heroine independence, check. But for some reason, this particular novel didn’t work for me.

Fforde usually portrays strong yet heartbroken women looking for a way to restore their confidence and sense of self worth. But I found Bella a highly irritating. She never seemed to stick up for herself in the face of her boyfriend’s belittling, irritated smiles and quick changing of subjects left me yelling ‘say something!’. She quickly discovers that passive aggression gets you nowhere but strong-armed into an unwanted marriage and home.  Nevil is the stock patronising, misogynistic ‘bad guy’ that I refuse to believe could possibly exist. Although I myself am not, and never have been, a man I have always found the male characters in Fforde’s writing to be fairly well rounded and complex, not as much so as the heroines, but enough to be believable. Nevil is nothing but a caricature and Dominic is barely explored.

That being said, it is always possible that my opinion is heavily coloured by my own personality. It is possible that relationships like Bella’s do exist but I could never see myself putting up with the behaviour that Bella does and therefore cannot relate with her. But I love Alice! She is a ray of sunshine! A perfect balance of classic and modern, opinionated yet understanding. She is the figure of the older lady that any young woman would be happy to have in their life. Alice conducts her relationship with Michael perfectly by being open and adventurous yet cautious enough to be sure. What is wonderfully refreshing is that she is independent, unmarried with no children and perfectly happy, there is no sense of judgement.

The Perfect Match is a story about exactly that, be that the perfect house, perfect house-mate or relationship. There are an expanse of truly heart warming relationships displayed throughout the novel to offset the more enraging ones. Katie Fforde is a wonderful way to take a few hours to yourself, get lost in her world and relate to or castigate her characters. I’d recommend you try her novels for yourself to get lost in quiet, quaint towns across Britain.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Literature Review

 

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National Theatre’s Frankenstein

Cast List

Let me preface this review with an apology. I am going to be discussing the screening of The National Theatre’s most recent production of Frankenstein starring Jonny Lee Miller as Dr Frankenstein and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Monster and therefore there may be points in which I give things away. I hope to limit this but as with all reviews it is often difficult to avoid and so I apologise. It is also worth stating that watching a theatre production and watching a screening of a theatre production are two very different experiences, both with their good and bad points. I will attempt to engage with these differences where I can.

The screening begins with a short introduction from the writer, Nick Dear, and Director, Danny Boyle. It is a nice touch that allows you to connect with the artistry of the production before you even begin as it allows you an insight in to their minds and anticipate changes that they explain their motivations. We also see a montage of both Miller and Cumberbatch in both roles which wouldn’t otherwise be possible unless you choose to see the production twice. We also hear from the actors themselves as the explain how they went about choosing how to portray the characters and what inspiration they use. It is a great resource for any actors of film buffs in the audience. But only to the cinema going audience as this opening introduction is not available to the theatre audience. The first thing they would have seen was the birthing of the Monster.

I do mean the literal birthing, the monster emerging from a womb like opening complete with umbilical cord. What is witnessed next can only be described as excruciatingly uncomfortable yet brilliant. The opening of the play sets up the tone as stated by Boyle. It is all about the Monster, we are made to watch and concentrate on nothing but the monster as he emerges and finds his feet, a cross between the primordial human and a fawn in the woods. This is one of the ways that the filming of the production differs from a film. You get the impression that Boyle has made the theatrical equivalent of a growing/learning montage. But instead of the scenes being sharply cut together showing rapid progress we get no breaks or reprieves. We are made to sit and watch as the, practically naked, monster stumbles around slowly animating his limbs and discovering his voice.

As always, Benedict Cumberbatch is extremely convincing in this role as he is with any. As anyone who has seen his audition for Smaug in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Cumberbatch embodies the character he is playing fully, even when it is only a speaking role. His portrayal of the monster is no different. It is almost as if his limbs actually don’t belong to him in places, animated as the rest of him is still as though he has no idea it is there. Very convincing indeed. But I can’t help but wonder what Miller would have done with the same scene on a different night. During the interview at the beginning he shares that as they kept swapping the roles, the characters began to bleed into each other sharing stutters and other characteristics. This makes you want to turn up the next night, knowing that the stories will be exactly the same just so you can pick out where it is different. To see if the characters will seem even more similar when they switch places. It is a fantastic experiment in characterisation and acting styles.

As stated before, this production is very much focused on the Monster, his feelings, motivations and experiences. We see Dr Frankenstein once at the beginning when he chases the monster away but then he doesn’t return again until the Monster goes looking for him much later. It is not until he returns later and we see his conduct with his fiancée/Cousin Elizabeth that it occurred to me, both Miller and Cumberbatch both play Sherlock Holmes, they share another character. Their portrayals of Sherlock are very different, almost as if they are of parallel universes. They are both modernised but Millers version is set in America, John is in fact Joan as well as Moriarty being a woman and a transgender Mrs Hudson. Cumberbatch’s version more traditional, using the original story lines in a modern setting. Therefore we are used to seeing these to actors comparatively through the characters they play. But more than that, we are used to seeing them distant and socially awkward yet absolutely brilliant.

What was strange was the casting of George Harris and Naomi HarrisBoth wonderful actors in their own right but it is entirely unexplained as to why, as members of the Frankenstein family, they are clearly from another heritage. It is never mentioned, alluded to or indicated that it is at all unusual. But I find that somewhat endearing, clearly to them it does not matter. As though it is not worth mentioning, they ask us to accept that this family appear to be from different cultural backgrounds but they are a family none the less, accept it and move on with the story. Much like the second movie in the Jurassic Park Trilogy, in which Jeff Goldblum’s daughter is black with no explanation as to why. It is what it is and we move on.

So, moving on, watching a the filming of a theatre production does have it’s pros and cons. For example, we are given the unique advantage of close ups and camera angles which is impossible in even the most expensive seats in the theatre, which raises my next point. It makes the experience a hell of a lot more affordable as well as accessible if, like the majority of the audience when I went to see it, you are a student in the midlands and can’t afford to pop to London on a week day to take in a show. But at the same time you are at the mercy of the director, more so than if you were in the theatre audience, you also don’t get the atmosphere that only seems to exist in the theatre. The awe of knowing that actors now considered national treasures are in the same room and putting on a show for us is lost in the cinema yet the fact that we are still in a cinema means that we do not lose the collective feel as you would when watching it on DVD at home. By being in the cinema, we are an extension of the theatre audience, laughing when they laugh (believe it or not there are some fairly comical moments) and jumping when they jump. If you can’t make it to the theatre to see an up and coming production, a cinema viewing is truly the next best thing.

Previous to this viewing, I had never seen a theatre production filmed for cinema actually at the cinema and now I wonder why I’ve never been sooner. With the calibre of acting and directing quality it was always going to be a fantastic and moving production and it certainly didn’t disappoint. If it is showing anywhere near you would implore you to go and see for yourself and if you can’t decide which version to see… go to both! I wish I had.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in Cinema Review, Theatre Review

 

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Fred D’Aguiar’s ‘The Longest Memory’

Written in taut, poetic language, THE LONGEST MEMORY is set on a Virginian plantation in the 19th century, and tells the tragic story of a rebellious, fiercely intelligent young slave who breaks all the rules: in learning to read and write, in falling in love with a white girl, the daughter of his owner, and, finally, in trying to escape and join her in the free North. For his attempt to flee, he is whipped to death in front of his family, and this brutal event is the pivot around which the story evolves.

D’Aguiar’s novel The Longest Memory is one that I have been studying this week in my Representing Slavery module at university but it’s unlike any of the other books that we’ve studied so far so I’ve decided to make it my début review. The subject matter is obviously a sensitive one, one that it is difficult to say you’ve enjoyed lest someone get the wrong impression. So instead I will say that I enjoyed D’Aguiar’s writing in this novel. He does not adhere to the same restrictions that perhaps other writers fall prey to in the sense that he has a freedom and fluidity of medium that I personally have never experienced before. It’s written mostly in first person present but not completely, he adopts different characters voices (both male and female), he switches to verse form and back, he incorporates newspaper clippings and diary entries. The result of this is a novel that intrigues the reader as you have no idea what you  to expect as you turn the page.

The beauty of this novel is that although it is fairly short (a godsend when doing an English degree) it’s polyphonic form makes it feel full. It effectively tells one story from many perspectives, each chapter/character giving us a little more information/insight into the one event that is the main focus of the book.

Although there is both violent and disturbing imagery in The Longest Memory it does not detract from the beauty of the writing or the complexity of what D’Aguiar is trying to do with this novel. I would wholeheartedly recommend it just for the experience of reading a novel that so flies in the face of what we’re used to expecting when we pick up a novel.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Literature Review

 

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