Friday, May 29, 2009

Vote For Your Favorites!

You'll remember that awhile back, the Guardian UK came out with a list of 1000 Novels that Everyone Must Read. Now, in association with Nintendo's 100 Classic Book Collection, they are allowing readers to vote for some of their favorite literary characters. Here are the categories and the nominees:
  • Most Romantic Heroine: Anne Elliot (Persuasion), Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre), Tess Durbeyfield (Tess of the D'Urbervilles), Becky Sharpe (Vanity Fair), Cleopatra (Antony & Cleopatra).
  • Most Romantic Hero: Orsino (Twelfth Night), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), The Black Knight (Ivanhoe), Gabriel Oak (Far From the Maddening Crowd).
  • Most Irritating Character: Hamlet (Hamlet), Beth March (Little Women), Dr. Watson (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Emma Woodhouse (Emma), Lemuel Gulliver (Gulliver's Travels).
  • Most Evil Villain: Iago (Othello), The Queen of Hearts (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Bill Sikes (Oliver Twist), Count Fosco (The Woman in White), Magua (Last of the Mohicans).
  • Best Performance by an Animal: Black Beauty (Black Beauty), Buck (The Call of the Wild), Moby Dick (Moby Dick), The Bear (A Winter's Tale), Jip (David Copperfield).

So who is your favorite? Go here to vote! Here is how I voted (not to influence you!):

  • Heroine: Jane Eyre (surprise, surprise!)
  • Hero: The Black Knight (I refuse to vote for Heathcliff, and who doesn't love a gallant knight-at-arms)
  • Villain: Iago (super-bad)
  • Irritation: Emma Woodhouse (she is just so clueless!)
  • Animal: Black Beauty (lovely)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Little Switcheroo

I had planned on reading Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men as part of this year's summer challenge, but a flip through the book showed me that there was way more cursing in there than I am willing to deal with. So, I have replaced that book with another Southern classic and Pulitzer prize winner: Harper Lee's immortal To Kill a Mockingbird. It has been many years since I have read this book, so the story is almost new to me. It is pretty enjoyable so far.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekly Geek 2009-19: Summertime Reading

This week's Weekly Geek fit right in with what I had already planned to post.

Again with Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S. starting traditionally on Friday evening, it also is unofficially the start of summer. You've probably been asked this in other meme groups in which you participate, but do your reading habits change over the summer? Do you choose lighter fare? What do you enjoy to take to the beach, for example? What is the ultimate summer book?

My reading habits do change for the summer. Some of you might remember that I did something special with my reading last year. I challenged myself to read J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I really enjoyed the challenge, and decided that I would make that the structure for this summer's reading as well. This year, I'll be focusing on classic Southern literature.

As a born and bred Southern girl, I've always loved stories that reflect my heritage. I have picked five books for this year's challenge, all of them from the height of the Southern Literary Renaissance. Their were only two real requirements that the books had to meet. First, they must be written by someone FROM the South (no Yankees allowed). Secondly, they must be considered a classic. Here are the five books that I have selected:

  • Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor. This is the second collection of O'Connor's short stories published not long after her death. I am looking forward to seeing how it compares to A Good Man is Hard to Find.
  • All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. The Pulitzer-prize winning novel by author and poet Warren tells the story of the political rise and Fall of Willie Stark. A portrait, not just of Southern politics, but also of American politics in general.
  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. This novel won the National Book Award in 1962 and is on Time magazine's TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. It is regarded as one of Southern lit's most popular novels.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The epitome of Southern lit, this novel is also a Pulitzer-prize winner (1937) and is on Time magazine's TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. This is my grandmother's favorite book, and was also a favorite with my mom. We'll see if the tradition continues.
  • Bonus: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. This is a bonus book because I'm not sure if I'll end up with enough time to read. Also, I'm not sure if I'm smart enough to read Faulkner. But as it is ranked among the best in 20th century lit, I figure that it deserves a shot.
So, this is what my summer reading looks like. To answer the other questions, I don't really change what I'm reading as much as I change how I'm reading it. I don't particularly need lighter fare, and if I go to the beach, I'm not going to be reading. As far as the ultimate summer book, it all really depends on what you want. You may desire something challenging for the long days, or you may prefer something light and refreshing. Here are a few books that I think might work either way.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. You can't go wrong with an Austen novel, and P&P is her best work IMO. Witty, sparkling, and romantic, it's great for anytime of the year.
  • When Knighthood was in Flower by Charles Major. Here is a easygoing romantic tale for the long summer days. A breezy plot, great characters and a happy ending. Perfect!
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. Escape to Sherwood Forest with this fun book. It's funny, adventurous, and engaging.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Middle-earth is calling, so pack up and head out for the ultimate summer vacation. Like all vacations, it has its frustrating moments, but it will leave you with wonderful memories. Watch out for orcs!

Picture by Lindas' Many Muses

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sherlock Holmes Hits the Silver Screen...At Least, That's Who They Say It Is

When I first heard that there was a new movie version of Sherlock Holmes coming out this year, I figured that it was going to be bad. When I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. was going to be playing the immortal detective, I figured that it was probably going to be atrocious. Then I saw the trailer and, well, it pretty much removed all doubt. Here it is (caution: some objectionable material):

(Picks self up off the floor laughing hysterically) See what I mean? I LOVE the Sherlock Holmes stories. In my opinion, they are the best in detective fiction. Surely they deserve something better than this! I mean, Downey's Holmes looks like he just rolled out of the gutter! Here is the official plot summary:

In a dynamic new portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes sends Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson on their latest challenge. Revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect, Holmes will battle as never before to bring down a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.

Translation: This a version for all you people who find Holmes' intellectual genius boring and so need bombs, fistfights, satanists, and sex to make it remotely interesting.

Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or scream at this. I need to breathe deeply. I need to calm myself. I need...I need JEREMY BRETT!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-18: Local Literary Traditions

This week, take us on a literary tour of your hometown!

Do you live in a place where a famous author was born? Does your town have any cool literary museums or monuments? Does Stephen King live at the end of your street? Was Twilight set in your hometown?

Share your fun literary facts about the town or area where you live. You can talk about famous (or not so famous) authors who live there, novels that have been set in your area, or any other literary facts that you know about where you live. Feel free to embellish with pictures of places and/or authors, maps of the area, and fun facts about the authors.

As usual, feel free to personalize this. Don’t like your hometown? Pick another! Do you live in a literary wasteland? Feel free to expand and discuss a region. Feel like returning to a place you lived 20 years ago? Go for it!

I was unsure if I could really pull off this week's Weekly Geek. My hometown(s) are not exactly hotbeds of literary happenings (we're known more for our movie industry). But the the idea really intrigued me, so I decided to give it a go. It took a little research, but I found a few novels set in/around my two hometowns. I haven't read any of them, but they look pretty interesting.

A Chosen Few by Carolyn Rawls Booth

This is the third book in Booth's Between the Rivers series. Set during the bleak days of the Great Depression, this book tells the story of Len Ryan who is hoping to qualify for one of the Penderlea Homesteads. These homesteads were created as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal Resettlement Act which created over 200 new farming communities, including Penderlea. For $60 a year, family's were able to lease one of the homesteads which included a house with indoor plumbing and electricity, animals, barns, etc. The families were expected to raise enough food for themselves, plus some to use in bartering with other homesteaders, creating a self-sufficient community. It was one of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's pet projects, and she even visited the community in 1937. Today, Penderlea is still a tight-knit community, located a few miles from my current hometown. There is even a Penderlea Homestead museum. It's nice to see a novel that gives a glimpse into this little known project that saved many families during the depression.

Magnolia Mystery Series by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter
This mystery series is set in and around my other hometown (I spent about 6 years of my childhood there). The author uses not just the locations, but also events like the 60+ year old Azalea Festival. The books involve historic-preservationist Ashley Wilkes and her sister Melanie (hehe!) who solve various murders. Most of the reviews I have read describe them as "good, light mysteries" and "great beach reads".

Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Perhaps no author has done more for the modern NC literary scene than Nicholas Sparks. His second book is set in Wilmington, NC and involves a woman vacationing on Cape Cod who finds a love letter in a bottle. She tracks the author down to Garrett Blake, who has been dropping these notes to his deceased wife. The relationship continues from there in typical Sparks romance/heartbreak style.

Though most of the books set in my hometowns aren't exactly my cup of tea, it's always neat to see authors who appreciate the beauties of places that are a part of your own life. Thanks to Weekly Geek for such a cool assignment!

Friday, May 15, 2009

David Balfour

In 1893, Robert Louis Stevenson was living thousands of miles from his native Scotland on the Samoan Islands. Twice he had tried to visit his homeland and twice the trip had been aborted. But though his body was unable to return, his pen was. One year before his death, Stevenson continued the story of the young Scottish Laird and his Jacobite friend in his novel Catriona (known as David Balfour in the U.S.).

The Plot:

David Balfour begins exactly where Kidnapped ends. Now in possession of his inheritance, David is trying to gain justice for James of the Glens who has been arrested for involvement in the Appin Murder. He meets with Lord Prestongrange, the Lord Advocate, to press for James' release. During this time, he also meets (and falls head over heels for) Catriona MacGregor Drummond, daughter of James MacGregor Drummond, an imprisoned Jacobite. But David's attempts to help James of the Glens are thwarted by the Jacobite leader's political enemies and he is again kidnapped and held prisoner until it is too late to help James.

After his release, David travels with Catriona to Holland; he to study at the University of Leyden and she to meet her now free father. Upon arrival, James Drummond is nowhere to be found and Catriona is left penniless and alone. David takes her under his protection until Drummond's eventual arrival. During this time, many misunderstandings occur between the two, driving both Catriona and her father to France. David must now try not only to restore his relationship with Catriona, but also to save his friend Allan Breck Stewart from a horrible betrayal.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

It is the bane of all sequels to be compared (either favorably or unfavorably) to their predecessor. David Balfour is no different. It has never been as popular as Kidnapped and many readers describe it as "dull". But while it is true that David Balfour is not nearly as exciting as Kidnapped, it is nevertheless an interesting read with many strengths and weaknesses.

First, Stevenson is wonderful at creating the feeling of Scotland. Edinburgh, the people, even the weather are described in rich detail and really help the reader to sink into the atmosphere of the story. Unlike Kidnapped's sense of immediacy, David Balfour has an almost nostalgic quality to it, something of a yearning for the land of Stevenson's childhood.

Secondly, Stevenson has created in this story something that he never really did in any of his other works: fully-developed female characters. Barbara Grant and Catriona Drummond, though different in many ways, are both wonderful characters with their own strengths, and both play an integral part in the story and in David's development as a character. Barbara helps smooth out his rough, provincial edges and Catriona opens his heart. It is with Catriona, in fact, that we see some of David's maturity from boy to man.

But herein lies one of David Balfour's weaknesses. In Kidnapped, David would have never have made it out of the Highlands without Allan's help. It was very clear who the natural leader of the two really was. In Catriona, David is suddenly making major decisions by himself, using more and more street smarts, and getting himself out of quite a few holes. We expect our hero to grow over the course of a novel, but David seems to do so over the span of a few minutes rather than a few years. This gives a bit of uneveness between the two books.

The other great weakness, to me, was the lack of Allan in the story. You'll remember in my review of Kidnapped that I considered Allan to be the lifeblood of the story. Here he is relegated mainly to the background and I feel that the story really misses some of his dashing bravado.

All in all, it is a good story with wonderful characters and writing, it is just not a perfect sequel to Kidnapped. So the question is, do you have to read it? You don't HAVE to because Kidnapped stands well on its own. But it is still a worthy read if you desire to finish David's story or if you want a a classic Stevenson story with some twists. It is a novel that Stevenson himself was proud of despite its flaws, and rightfully so.

The Movie:

There is no actual adaptation of this novel. Some films combine certain elements of it with Kidnapped, but this never gives you a complete view of the story.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Masterpiece Theatre: 2009 Roundup

Once again, we have come to the end of another season of Masterpiece Classic. I have had a kind of love/hate relationship with this season. Only 3 of the films were really interesting to me, I'm only considering 1 of them for purchase, and none of them were real showstoppers. For the past few years we have been able to count on at least one film to be so good that it would make the entire season satisfying (Bleak House, Jane Eyre, Cranford), but this year didn't seem to have a "defining" film. I'm not saying that this season was a total waste, it just wasn't as good as some previous ones. Anyway, here is my ranking of this season's films from least favorite to most favorite.

#6-The Old Curiosity Shop: Not even great actors like Derek Jacobi and Gina McKee could save this. The plot was super-streamlined, the emotional pulls were destroyed, and I couldn't have cared less about Nell. Hardly worth staying up for.

#5-Wuthering Heights: I realize that this is not an easy book to translate to film, but this one just really lacked substance. Every character seemed to be a mere shadow of their novel counterpart and there was more,, than was really necessary. Decent marks for Tom Hardy, Burn Gorman and the Yorkshire moors setting. Oh, and I loved the uber-Gothic exhumation towards the beginning. Really creepy!

#4-Oliver Twist: This was a fairly good adaptation, just nothing special. In my opinion, it was Tom Hardy as Bill Sykes who really held up this film, especially in the "haunting" scenes. I also enjoyed Adam Arnold as The Artful Dodger and the darker atmosphere of the film. Overall, a decent adaptation.

#3-David Copperfield: A classic example of what a good BBC drama looks like. Engaging story, stellar cast, lovely production qualities...simply a wonderful period drama. A must see!

#2-Little Dorrit: Andrew Davies serves up another great adaptation. What really makes this film wonderful is the cast. Tom Courtenay, Matthew McFadyen, Claire Foy, Russell Tovey...they were all wonderful. It also held true to the themes that Dickens was trying to communicate. The only real problems were the rather confusing plot(s) and the fact that it tended to drag in some parts.

#1-Tess of the d'Urbervilles: You could switch this with Little Dorrit and I probably wouldn't argue (too hard). But Tess is in the #1 spot for one reason-Tess (Gemma Arterton). More than any other hero/heroine from this season, she is the one whom I connected with the most. Her story was heartbreaking, inspiring, and bittersweet and Gemma was simply stunning in the role.

All in all, I did enjoy most of this darker season of Masterpiece Classic. I think that our host for this season, Laura Linney, deserves some special recognition. She's no Alistair Cooke, but I did enjoy her more than Gillian Anderson. The best thing about this season, however, was getting to watch the show with my younger sisters and seeing them develop a love for these classic stories. They've even begun insulting me Dickens style. For instance, my 15 year old sister thought that I was being too bossy one day, and she glared at me and yelled "You're such a Mrs. General!". Oh well, at least she hasn't called me Murdstone yet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Masterpiece Theatre: The Old Curiosity Shop

When I first read about Masterpiece's showing of a new adaptation of The Old Curiosity Shop, I had to wonder, "Can you effectively adapt a 600 some page Dickens novel to a 90-minute film?" The answer in this case is a resounding NO!

It's really amazing how you can tell the difference between an ITV production and a BBC production. With the exception of one, the ITV films that I have seen have always come out somewhat shallow, merely scratching the surface on some of the best novels in the English language. The Old Curiosity Shop is no different.

First off, The Old Curiosity Shop is known as Dickens' most sentimental work. Many readers were left distraught over Little Nell's tragic ending. This production strips the story of almost all of it's sentimentality, which can be a good thing if it is replaced with something else such as suspense (Bleak House) or romance (Little Dorrit) . But there is nothing to replace it here, not even length. We can't really feel sorry for any of the characters, because nothing in the film's atmosphere draws us to them.

Secondly, the script itself lacked any depth. The plot was streamlined to fit it's 90-minute time frame, and consequently many characters and events were cut. I would question why ITV would got to the trouble of attaining such brilliant actors as Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker, and Gina McKee if they are going to have them play such shallow characters. The grandfather (Jacobi) is simply a man with a gambling problem. We are not really allowed to see his inner pain and conflict (compare this to Tom Courtenay's portrayal of William Dorrit). Sophie Vavasseur as Nell was another problem. As with the rest of the film, she is stripped of her sentimentality and it just doesn't work here like it did for Esther Summerson or Amy Dorrit. We need something to make us care whether Nell lives or dies, and Vavasseur/the script just couldn't deliver. Add to this the seemingly happy ending for the grandfather and you are left with a feeling completely different than those that Dickens intended.

I am willing to give the film good marks on a few points. The sets, costumes, etc. were good and matched up with any other Dickens adaptation. And Toby Jones is sufficiently creepy and disgusting as Quilp. But all in all, this adaptation left me with a feeling of "Whatever." I just didn't care. Basically, it's an adaptation of the CliffsNotes version rather than of the novel itself.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


When it comes to adventure novels, nobody does it like Robert Louis Stevenson. Though in the years immediately following his death he was regulated to the ranks of the "children's literature" and "horror" genres, today he is recognized by many as a peer of such writers as Joseph Conrad and Henry James. He is also ranked the 25th most translated author in the world, ahead of such notable writers as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe. In his 1886 novel Kidnapped, Stevenson trades the high seas for the Highlands, which prove no less thrilling and dangerous.

The Plot:

After his father dies, young David Balfour is left a letter which he is to take to his uncle Ebenezer Balfour of the House of Shaws. Upon his arrival at Shaws, David discovers that is uncle is a miser (go figure) who greatly mistrusts him. David soon discovers that his uncle has murderous intentions for him but he doesn't know why. He sets out with Ebenezer the next day to the local port in hopes of gaining information about his uncle and father. While there, Ebenezer has David kidnapped by a sea captain who plans on selling him as a slave in the Carolinas.

While on board the ship, David meets Allan Breck Stewart, a Jacobite whom they picked up from a wrecked French ship. When David discovers that the captain means to murder Allan, he and the highlander stage a fight and succeed in defending themselves from the murderous crew. The ship then wrecks off the coast of Scotland. David finds himself alone in the Scottish Highlands and is soon caught up in the heated political wranglings of the country. He meets up with Allan again, and together they set out to escape the pursuing redcoats and to return David to the House of Shaws that he might claim his inheritance.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

Though it was considered a "boys novel" when it was first published, this novel is great reading for everyone. I mean, why should guys get all of the exciting novels? What makes them so special? But, I digress. What is so interesting about this novel is that the plot itself has really very little to do with how exciting it is. Most of the thrill is found, not in David reclaiming his inheritance, but in his flight through the Highlands. Stevenson's writing gives such a sense of urgency, that you feel that you yourself are running for dear life.

But other than its writing, much of the quality of the story is found in its two main characters. First, there is our hero, David Balfour. David is rather similar to Jim Hawkins of Treasure Island and Dick Shelton of The Black Arrow. He is caught between two warring groups, both of whom he feels demand his loyalty. First, as a lowland Scot, he is loyal to King George, and he doesn't mind telling that to anyone. He is not exactly sympathetic to the Jacobite cause and feels that the murder of Colin Campbell is an unforgivable offense. On the other hand, Allan has saved his life on many occasions, and has remained loyal to David throughout their friendship. He also feels that Allan and all of the Highlanders deserve equal justice from their government. As the story progresses, David tries to balance his feelings for the two sides and discovers that not everything in life comes in black or white.

The other important character, and in my opinion the lifeblood of the novel, is Allan Breck Stewart. Perhaps nothing sums up his character better than his exclamation "Am I no a bonny fighter?". He is daring, he is vain, and he is loyal. He is everything we think of when we think of a Jacobite rebel. Though he doesn't agree with most (okay, any) of David's "Whiggish" viewpoints, his love and loyalty for David causes Allan to defend him, even among his clansmen. He also risks his own life by returning to the Lowlands to aid David in gaining his inheritance. Of the thousands of literary characters found throughout history, Allan Breck Stewart ranks as one of my all-time favorites. He may not be perfect, but he is exactly the kind of friend you would want watching your back.

Finally, the other thing that makes this novel such a wonderful read is its historical setting. Being a bit of a history buff, I love it when writers involve their heroes with real life people. The Appin Murder of Colin Campbell was very real and even today the question of "Who shot the Red Fox?" remains one of history's most fascinating unsolved mysteries. Besides Allan, we are also able to meet such notable characters as James of the Glens, Cluny MacPherson, and Robin Oig (son of Rob Roy). It is, in fact, with Allan Stewart and Robin Oig that we get one of my favorite parts of the novel: the duel of the bagpipes.

Kidnapped is a thrilling read for both children and adults. Its story and characters will stay with you forever, like a haunting Highland air. Definitely deserving of its place on the list of 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read Before They Die.

The Movie:

According to Wikipedia, there have been about 21 movie and TV adaptations of this classic novel. Here are three of the most popular ones.

The 1960 Disney version is probably my favorite adaptation. It stars James MacArthur and Peter Finch. It follows the book very well, was actually filmed in the Highlands, and all of the characters are very well done. Peter Finch is especially wonderful as Allan. If you are going to watch any adaptation, this is the one that I would recommend. It's great for the whole family.

The next is the 1971 version starring Lawrence Douglas and Michael Cain. It was also filmed in the Highlands and combines both Kidnapped and its sequel David Balfour. I've only seen a few clips of it on YouTube, and it looks like major plot changes take place. But I must admit, Michael Cain is looking rather dashing as Allan. Hmm, I might have to hunt this one down.

The last is the 2005 Masterpiece Theatre version starring James Anthony Pearson and Iain Glen. I found this version to be rather disappointing. First, it is also a combination of Kidnapped and David Balfour, so plot changes are everywhere. Second, while Glen was passable as Allan, I never really warmed to Pearson. But my biggest gripe is that they filmed it in New Zealand. New Zealand looks nothing like the Highlands. It really looks like David and Allan are running from orcs rather than redcoats. Check it out if you must, but it's not the best adaptation.

Trivia: If you watch the Disney version, keep an eye out for Peter O'Toole's film debut as the handsome Robin MacGregor.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Masterpiece Theatre: Little Dorrit

After a marathon run of 5 episodes (8 hours total), Masterpiece Classic finished its showing of the newest adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit on Sunday night. Secrets were revealed, villains were brought to destruction, and our hero and heroine earned their happy ending. I really enjoyed it overall. Here are some of my thoughts on the film:
  • The plot was EXTREMELY confusing. It made Bleak House's long plot look simple. Characters popped in and out at random, various sub-plots never really seemed to mesh, and the whole Tattycoram thing fizzled in the end. However, I don't really fault Andrew Davies for most of this because from what I've read, most of the confusion lies with Dickens' original work. I think it will take me a few more viewings to really grasp what is going on.

  • The actors more than made up for any problems with the plot. Claire Foy was wonderful as the title character, bringing a strength and complexity to the role that kept her from being one of Dickens' typical heroines. It was great to see Matthew MacFadyen again, and he made Arthur Clennam one of the most likeable (if the most dense) heroes I've seen in a while. Other favorites included Ruth Jones as the silly Flora Finching, Eddie Marsan as Pancks, and Russell Tovey as the super sweet, brings me to tears John Chivery. But the highest marks have got to go to Tom Courtenay as William Dorrit. A simply brilliant performance!

  • The sets were awfully interesting. In most films, it doesn't really seem like you are on a set. But this one did. Everything was just off-balance enough (especially exteriors) to never seem quite real. Examples include the House of Clennam and Venice (which was rather obviously not filmed in Venice). I'm not saying that this was a bad thing, merely interesting.

  • Pretty faithful to what I know about the story, and I think that it really allowed Dickens' themes to shine through. I also liked how you could tell that every character was a prisoner in one way or another. Mr. Dorrit is a prisoner first of the Marshalsea and then of the past, Mrs. Clennam is a prisoner of her wheelchair and false piety, Mr. Merdle is a prisoner of his own schemes, and even sweet John Chivery is somewhat imprisoned by his job and his love for Amy.

Overall, though it is perhaps not as good as Bleak House, Cranford and North and South, it is still a wonderful production and definitely one of this season's best. Here are some of my favorite scenes:

  • William Dorrit's final descent into madness as he addresses the guests at the ball and welcomes them to the Marshalsea.

  • John Chivery's proposal to Amy. Heartbreaking, even if I didn't want her to accept him.

  • Flora Finching leaning against Arthur as they descend the stairs at her house.

  • Fanny finally gaining authority over the now ruined Mrs. Merdle.

  • Mrs. General teaching Amy to say "Papa, prunes and prisms".

  • Mrs. Plornish "translating" for Cavaletto.

  • The House of Clennam crashing down once the secret has been revealed.

  • The way Arthur begins losing himself in the Marshalsea, making you realize that Mr. Dorrit's experience was probably the same.

Up Next: Masterpiece Classic concludes with a new adaptation of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.