Shades Of Words

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Georgette Heyer’s Frederica

Book Cover

Reading “Frederica” was one of the best things that I did this month. It satisfied the literary snob in me with its language and character development, but it also engaged the over-worked, hassled mom in me who doesn’t have the time for complex plots.

The Heyer novels specialize in Regency Romances and while they give an insight to Georgian lifestyles and fashions ( quite deliberate on the fashion!) they don’t intend to do more than entertain. The plot line is fairly simple and predictable – in this case a rich and arrogant Marquis has to undertake the guardianship of a precocious set of distant cousins.The eldest of the four cousins is Frederica, who though not as pretty as her younger sister, is charming,witty, clever and unpretentious. Extremely different from any sort of gold-diggers that Marquis is used to. Of course they are going to fall in love, but it’s how that happens is extremely entertaining with several laugh out loud plot lines. What also sets this apart that the real focus of the story is not the actual love story, but the relationships of all the characters. The Marquis relationships with his older,interfering sisters, Frederica’s dynamic with her siblings, the parallel sub-plots of other couplings and most interestingly the Marquis’ transformation from a careless bachelor into a family man who becomes a father-like figure to Frederica’s underage brothers.

As a feminist, I do have several issues with the way women are represented here – the dumb-blonde-beauty stereotype, the not-pretty-but-clever stereotype, the end-goal-of-women’s-life-is-marriage stereotype, the arrogant-masculine-jerk hero stereotype – but I won’t because I think it would be assuming that these books have a larger significance.

For the few hours that I poured over this book, I was successfully transported into the glamorous life of aristocratic England and that was a good diversion :)


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It’s Here – 2015

Yet another year. Yet another fresh start. Yet another chance to make and break resolutions.

People often tell me that there is no point to new year resolutions as one rarely ever keep them.

True.

I went back and looked at all the things that I wanted to do in 2014 and I have not completed any of them. But I made good progress – which is better than nothing. It’s good to have goals for a better, more fulfilling life. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t fulfill them. At least, you tried. Then there is always next year.

So these are my top 5 resolution for 2015

1. Buy a house – yup, that’s a biggie. Its scary too. All my energies and time are currently focused on that.Fingerscrossed
2. Year of the Classics – I intend to plough through Greek Classics and more this year. It seemed daunting at first, but      halfway thru the Iliad and I am totally digging the bloody war.
3. Open a travel site – What?Another one? Why? All good questions and I don’t have the answers. I just want to do this for myself – a memory capsule of my travels shared in an (hopefully) intelligent way with the rest of the world
4. Blog more
5. Bake more

So, what is it that you want to do this year?


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Liked: Gone Girl aka Marriages can be hard

What would happen to your life if one day you come home and your wife has disappeared? Would you worry yourself to death? Or would you send a little prayer of thanks?

What would happen if your wife disappeared and it looks like you killed her?  I bet you would be pretty desperate for her to be found.

 

Poster courtesy contactmusic.com

That’s where Nick Dunne finds himself one day when he returns home to find his wife gone. (If you haven’t watched the movie, then I suggest you stop reading now and rent the DVD!). The cops are called in and find proof of foul play. While surprised by the careless attitude towards his wife’s disappearance, due to lack of evidence they hesitate to bring him in.

Meanwhile -where is Amy? More importantly, who is Amy? Through a series of flashbacks, narrated by Amy as parts of her journal, we get a peek into the Amy’s childhood that overshadowed by her fictional version, Amy and Nick’s early years of romance followed by a crumbling marriage.

In the present, police find holes in Nick’s stories and a trail of clues that convinces them that Amy’s disappearance was an inside job – as in the husband did it. Smiling Instagram pictures with a volunteer, having a mistress and generally not giving a shit about his wife don’t help his case.

Then the police find the golden ticket –Amy’s journal with the last sentence that literally states- ‘He is going to kill me’. A little convenient, don’t you think? I thought so too.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched the movie yet, stop reading now.

Amy was no ordinary mid-west house wife. She was a pretty, highly educated and accomplished city girl. She wasn’t going to stick around in an unhappy marriage that used up all her money. She wasn’t going to get cheated on. She was going to get even and how!

I wasn’t surprised that the elaborate set up was to frame Nick for the murder. What surprised me how Amy chose to punish Nick, or the other men before him. It was as if she was fighting thousands and thousands years of subjugation of wives all over the world. She also chose to punish men by falsely implying them in criminal acts that are most often true against women. She was beating them at their own game. In the end, sure she was a psycho bitch, but all those men, maybe deserved just a little bit of it. To call her a nut job would be over simplification.

Based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, director’s David Fincher’s Gone Girl is a fascinating movie at so many levels. Of the bat, it’s a great who-dun-it. On the next it’s a fascinating psychological thriller with an extremely intriguing cast of characters. At a deeper level, it’s a commentary on mental, sexual and physical abuse in marriages presented through a distorting looking glass. There is no justifying the crimes that Amy commits but what’s horrific is that how easily true all her claims could have been. Gone Girl is also a commentary of the invasion of media into our lives and how critical it can be in determining one’s fate. Nick’s concern is not limited proving his innocence to the system, but also to the public. His wife is missing and he has to come on talk shows to explain himself.

Rosamund Pike has the right mix of vulnerability and steely determination to be Amy. She clearly overshadows the rest of the cast. Ben Affleck is ideal for the role of stone faced Nick. The tone of the movie is dark, even the early happy days in New York are shot in the cold winter. It’s not a happy movie, but it is extremely entertaining.


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Loved: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Courtesy: ABC

This Australian period drama is an example of perfect escapist television. It has great production quality, good acting and mostly engaging script.
The show is set in 1929 -10 years after the end of the Great War. The tone of the show is light and funny. The shadow of the war is subtle and adds to the dark corners of the show. No character passing through this world is left untouched by it. Feminism, gay rights and religion are also touched upon frequently – the show clearly leaning towards the liberal left. Almost all episodes pass the Bechdel test. The mysteries themselves are a hit and miss, though Season 2 has stronger plot lines.
Our incorrigible heroine is The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective. A single wealthy lady determined to pursue her passion for solving mysteries with a formidable team of domestic help and companions. Every good detective needs a little inside help from the police. DI Jack Robinson is Phryne’s friend, confidante and potential romantic interest.
Essie Davis does a pitch perfect job of portraying Phryne Fisher. She brings sass, style and intelligence to the role. She does look much older than the 29-something Miss Fisher of the books, on which the TV show is based, but I think that brings more credibility and gravitas to her character. Nathan Page does a fantastic job of an exasperated yet amused police inspector who works hard to keep Miss Fisher off his cases. His character, like Miss Fisher’s, is extremely modern for his time, and their mutual respect for each other contributes greatly in the actual solving of crimes. It’s also a relief to have a police inspector who is actually as intelligent as the main private eye. He is not a blundering idiot and adds valuable insight to the ‘detecting’ process.
The costumes of the show deserve a special mention as they help build the essence of the characters (also give Downton Abby a series run for the money!). Phryne has the silk and chiffon gowns, the fur hats and coats, which are just like her – flamboyant, stylish and fun. DI Robinson and Constable Collins possess the respectable working man brown suits and hats. Dorothy, Phryne’s companion and lady-in-waiting, has the chaste Catholic girl clothes of long skirts and oversized cardigans.
The show was cancelled after Season2 but due to the ruckus created by its loyal fans, it was brought back. Season 3 returns in 2015 – I will be waiting for it.


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2014 – The Year of the TV

2014, was my Year of the TV. A new baby at home and a DVR service courtesy DirecTV meant that I could relax my exhausted mind with endless TV shows and movies. New parents often tell me that when you have a child, you never get to watch a movie again. In our case, watching TV was the only mode of relaxation that involved the least effort and the maximum returns when the baby was asleep.

The whole year is a blur and it’s hard to remember what all drivel I sat through, but a few things stand out – because there were really good or really bad. As 2014 comes to a close, over the next 1 month I am going to reviews on everything I liked, loved or hated.


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Book Review : Santiago and the drinking party

This is an odd little book. It doesn’t have a plot, or a theme. Stuff happens. Why or to what end doesn’t seem to matter.

The story starts at an unusual place, deep in the Amazon, where Daniel, our narrator, is backpacking as a student. During a dangerous, almost fatal river crossing he meets Santiago. Santiago is the resident philosopher –who earns his living feeding off the superstition of the tribes. His daughter, Angelina makes quite an impression of Daniel. Then they have sex. And then Daniel runs for it. Well we don’t know why exactly, but Daniel decides that he has had enough of the Amazonian exoticness and must head back to US of A.

Years pass, presumably. We don’t know for sure. Daniel is back in the Amazon, riding a bus back into its depths, reaching the little town which he visited many years ago. Why is he going back? What is he looking for? What is he running away from? Again, we don’t know.

The story or whatever this is really starts from there. Daniel is welcomed into the dysfunctional social circle of Santiago’s thinking and drinking club. It is exactly what it sounds – Santiago and few men get together in the Cantina, drink beer and have existential discussions. Once in a while they make you think, but mostly they are just the ramblings of drunken men.

Angelina has now become the bonafide village hottie – who freelances as an actress, guide, scientist – anything that will get her out of this little shit -hole. She is of course desired by many men and is often the cause of petty fights.

Several characters are introduced but none are really etched out. Who are these people? What do they do all day? What do they live on? How do they earn their wages? We don’t know. References are made to tourist groups and expeditions but how central are they to the economy to the village is again not clear.

There is something almost mythical about the world that Clay Morgan creates. There are pink dolphins, blue butterflies, green dense undergrowth, clear waterfalls and naked dancing tourists. There is a man that appears in the middle of the river island, a flood that brings an epidemic of toads, a brain fever that makes people dizzy with happiness. And the endless disappearing of people.

The most macabre of all is the endless disappearing of people. Hector, the village con artist and sociopath keeps disappearing into the forest with tourists and no one knows what ever becomes of them

So should you read this book? Oh, I don’t know – it’s quirky, fun and interesting. The language is beautiful. Towards the end it’s just bizarre. Morgan tries to fill the last 100 pages with as much weirdness as possible. What is an already an aimless tale becomes even more derailed. At the end you are left with a sense of wasted time.


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The Four Graces by D.E Stevenson

The Four Graces is a pleasant, relaxing beach read for the discerning reader. Early 21st century England, life at the vicarage in a quaint parish, local gossip, eligible young bachelorette’s – it’s fairly staple Victorian fare. Not quite up the alley as Gaskell or Trollope, there is sufficient amount of plot to keep it interesting. The war clouds hovering over the story add some depth to the somewhat two dimensional storyline.

The Four Graces are the daughters of the Vicar of a small village (the name of which I can’t recall).  Sal, Liz and Tilly live with the father. Addie works in London. The book may as well have been called the ‘The Three Graces as Addie is hardly in it and is clearly not loved as much by all the sisters. She is painted as a self-centered, immature girl who does not have much regard for her sisters’ lives or hardships in the village. What I do like about the book is that the portrayal of the sibling relationship is realistic. The four sisters love each other, but there is does exist elements of friction over matters big and small.

As there are four young girls of marriageable age, the central plot predictably includes love interests. Several eligible men make their appearances. There is for instance the young Roderick Herd who inexplicably takes to hanging about the household, sending mixed signals to the girls about his interest. Then there is William Single, a professor type of indeterminate age, who comes to stay with them. A lot of space in the book is spent in developing their relationships with the girls.

There also is the annoying Aunt Rona, who imposes herself on the household and then goes on to become even less endearing by needless matchmaking.

In terms of character development, the book makes clear all the four sisters have their own personalities but does not really dive into them. Tilly, the youngest follows in Sal’s footsteps, but is much inspired by Liz and starts to find her own voice towards the end.    The most interesting character in the book for me is Liz – she is the only one who imbibes some quality of the modern women. She is outdoorsy, independent, witty, calls a spade a spade. For unfathomable reasons, she is not her dad’s favorite who tries to find the image of his late wife in them.

This book will pass very nicely as a young adult novel that introduces this generation to the Great War.  Even in the tranquility of the English village life, the realities of war are not far away. Everything is in short supply and rationed – salt, sugar, meat, clothes, patience, and faith. An extra guest is a strain on the resources. Small events in the village life take larger significance and are important distractions. There is the fear of separation and death. Men are on the frontlines, and women are also joining the services. Each family has a life or two at stake.

But days go on. People get married, have babies, gossip and plan village fetes.

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