Friday, July 31, 2009

Some people like to pronounce this "Ver-sales." A Historical Novel Review.

Versailles: A Novel
by Kathryn Davis

Cover: I had a hard time finding any image of the cover that wasn't tiny on the internet, so trust me when i say that it's a fine one. It appears to be a photo of the ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors, where little flickers and sparks dance around chandeliers. It's kind of haunting, actually.

Summary: This is a difficult one to sum up. It's basically a series of snapshot-like vignettes of Revolutionary France, in particular life at Versailles, written in a fictional Marie-Antoinette's voice. I think the thing that most struck me about the summary on Amazon is that it's not so much "a novelization of the doomed queen's life," but rather a poetic interpretation of what it must have been like to live at the palace, and Davis has Marie-Antoinette explain to us that she, herself is a part of the soul of Versailles. If any of that makes any sense...

My Review: I liked it and I didn't like it, so I'm going to split this review up thus into two parts:

Davis writes beautifully. I think a really cliche'd way of describing her style would be to call it "poetic prose" or "lyrical," but there's more to it than that. She takes elements from modern dialogue and the historical dialogue and mixes them into a surreal trip through the mind/(soul?) of Marie-Antoinette.
As I have said in previous posts, I'm not *always* a stickler for historical accuracy, if I can see the reasoning behind a change or the omission of fact. I think that, for the most part, Davis had an accurate read on the queen's character, and her attention to the historical details of the building of the palace is impressive.

If you have not read a bit on the life of Marie-Antoinette, this is not the book for you. After I saw the Sofia Coppola movie, I went on a bit of a Marie-Antoinette kick and read a few biographies and history books on the subject, so while I know less of this time than I do of other historical periods, I was able to easily get the historical references in Versailles. However, unless you know the details of The Affair of the Necklace, the historical right for the fishmongers' wives to appear in Versailles, the botched escape plan, and myriad other little details of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI's life, this will be a confusing little book. So, even though it's not marketed as such, I think it can only be read as a "foot note" fictional interpretation, along with the real story.
The book is structured in a mix of stream-of-consciousness, a blending of past and present, historical revisionism, and even little one-act plays. Yes, plays. Surrealist plays. I really got a lot out of Davis' prose style, but the plays seemed to break up the flow of the novel. They were too jarring, involving characters we don't really know, and they just seemed unnecessary, perhaps an "easy way out" of exposition.

Overall, I think I'll conclude on that I enjoyed this short novel. It's not my favorite interpretation of the queen's life (the real story, after all, is so fascinating that it needs little fictional embellishment), but as a history geek I appreciated some of Davis' commentary on our fascination with Marie-Antoinette.

"Why should it be sad, the end of privilege?
Why should it be sad that Marie-Antoinette never sees the Trianon again, except for the fact that it's always sad when anything ends forever."

It's a powerfully-true statement to make: perhaps we who study history love the endless chase, forever trying to glimpse something that we can never quite see.

Read a Bookslut interview with the author

Buy this book on Amazon

Monday, July 27, 2009

This book is made of awesome. An Alternate History Novel Review

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire Series, Book 1)
by Naomi Novik

I think this looks very "Hey, look at me! I'm reading a fantasy novel!" Not that that's a bad thing... obviously, I'm an equal opportunity book nerd. But... it could be less nerdy. And anyway, I think this is more of an Alternate History than it is a strict High Fantasy. But I like the coloring, and the dragon looks just as Temeraire is described in the novel.

Summary: Captain Laurence is a perfect product of the British navy (during the illustrious years under Lord Admiral Nelson and amidst the Napoleonic Wars) until he unwittingly takes a prize French ship with a dragon egg aboard. As soon as the dragon breaks the shell, he knows he is done for. According to legend, dragons imprint on the first people they see, and must be harnessed by those people or else risk of being "feral" for the rest of their long lives, and of no use to the Crown. But duty is duty, and Laurence harnesses the dragon, christening him Temeraire and trying to find a way out of this loathsome situation.

It is weeks before he reaches shore and can receive any sort of explanation as to what he is to do with a growing dragon, and in that time he bonds with the intelligent, literate Temeraire, who likewise grows attached to the captain. So it is not too much of a problem for Laurence to turn in his sea legs and take to the air as a member of the Aerial Corps, serving the Crown with other dragons and their human counterparts.

Basically, if Jack Aubrey flew a dragon, this would be the book.

My Review: I was a little iffy at the start of this book. I love reading about Nelson's navy, so I was sad to see Laurence have to drop his naval life altogether. His life is practically turned upside down: he loses his betrothed, his parents practically disown him, and he can hardly be expected to keep his clothes pressed when they are packed onboard a dragon. However, the dynamics of the fictional Aerial Corps are intriguing and highly amusing, so I got over that quickly.

The dragons themselves develop personalities, in some cases stronger than the other air captains. For instance, Jane Roland, a female captain (yes, ladies are allowed because a powerful British race of dragons, the Longwing, only allow women to ride them) presents an interesting aspect of a time period that was male-dominated. However, we don't see much of her other than the fact that she is "hard-core" and treats interpersonal relationships the same way she treats relationships with dragons: no nonsense, and by-the-book. On the other hand, her dragon is shown to be a powerful addition to the Corps, and we learn a little more of the dragon society than we do of the human.

Temeraire is darling, needless to say. He comes to represent everything that was missing in Laurence's life (other than the woman, of course) when he was in the navy, and he happens to be a valuable Chinese breed of dragon. Not only is it important that he was stolen from the French, but he will come to be a valuable addition to the British dragon breeding lines. The Corps can only hope to keep word of his theft on the down low as long as possible, as there is no telling what the Chinese will do to get him back.

Laurence is endearing as well. Raised to the navy his whole life, he puts duty before personal desire and ensures protocol wherever he goes, whether or not his input is actually requested. He is more disciplined than the other air captains, which highlights the difference between the tight-knit society of the navy and the individual-strength based society of the air corps. I hope we get to see more of his awkward personal encounters and compass-like sense of duty in the other books in the series.

Overall, I loved this book. I downloaded it a few months ago to my eReader when Random House was promoting their SciFi/Fantasy line (the free downloads are no longer available, sadly) and had never gotten around to reading it, but I'm so glad I finally picked it up. I highly recommend it if you like great action sequences and a little anachronism in your historical fiction! I know I will definitely be reading the rest of the Temeraire series.

With a little Google searching, I found this gorgeous artwork of Temeraire in his formidable days on the high seas before joining the Corps.

Edited August 4th: This is the hardcover of the Science Fiction Book Club omnibus, which holds books 1-3 in the Temeraire series. I am going to need to get myself a copy of that volume! Thanks, Sue, for the info. The painting is by Todd Lockwood, and you can visit his website here to see his other cool fantasy-based works.

Visit the author's website

Buy this book on Amazon

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crack-tastic! A Historical Movie Preview.

Click here to see the teaser trailer for Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

If 300 and HBO's Rome had a baby together, and then Troy and Caligula* had a baby, and then those two kids grew up, got together, and one crazy night had a strange, strange love-child, that would be this show.

Premiers on Starz in January 2010.

Visit the IMDB page

*do not ever, ever see this movie, if you value the contents of your stomach

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"She wants to see for herself if he's an idiot."

Click here to watch the (high resolution) Bright Star trailer!

They finally released the official trailer, yay! No matter what the actual, full-length movie is like, I will always have this little trailer to be in love with.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Anna "Banana" of Byzantium. A Historical Novel Review.

Anna of Byzantium
by Tracy Barrett

I really like this cover. It's like she's coming out of a mosaic into life; bringing the past into the present. Very illustrative of the time period and attractive.

Summary: From her seat in a lonely convent on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire, Anna Comnena looks back on her short life, and how she fell from empress to exile.

My Review: I love a good medieval story, so I was excited when I found this one on Amazon. A Young Adult novel that takes place in the Byzantine Empire? I'm there! I haven't read much about the Byzantines, and only know what I do from two medieval history classes in college. However, I've been a Young Adult reader my whole life, so I feel confident considering myself something of a connoisseur in that regard.

The book started out promisingly enough in the 12th century, describing daily life in a convent. On a personal note, here, I am always amazed at how people have slept through the night throughout history. Anna describes to us how the nuns wake up at various early hours to pray and complete daily chores, many of them before the sun has risen. How did everyone always wake up so early? How did they get enough rest on their meager bedding? Nowadays, it's hard for us to imagine sleeping in anything less than a completely silent, pitch-black room on a comfy pillow-top mattress... it never ceases to amaze me!

Moving on: Anna is sulking a little bit to be cooling her heels in the convent, so she asks permission to help in manuscript illumination. In doing so, she will have access to all the writing materials necessary to complete her own history of her royal family in a book that would come to be known as The Alexiad, detailing the chivalrous life of her father, Alexius Comnenus.

Anna is remarkably literate, not merely for a woman, but for any person in the high middle ages. She knows passages from Homer and Virgil by heart, and is heavily influenced by the heroic age in her own writing. She believes she is born to rule and to set the empire to rights, after the machinations of her grandmother have upset the court. At the tender age of 13, Anna is capable of manipulating court politics to her advantage, knowing that any wrong move could end not only in losing her power, but result in a death sentence.

She is torn between the love she holds for her mother, who herself is a descendant of the royal Ducas family that was conquered by Alexius, and the power she knows her grandmother holds over her father and her weak brother, John. Here, too, Anna must choose whose influence she will want in her own court, and whose influence she will use to get there.

I liked that Anna holds unpopular opinions. She makes no apology for believing that she is destined by God to rule over others, and she goes so far as to plot the death of her brother by poison, believing she may be saving the empire in doing so. While our modern sensibilities balk at these extremes, a true medieval mind would have believed these ideas without doubt. I think it's important that Young Adult authors stick to this development, no matter the harsh realities, because finding the truth in history is what's ultimately important.

Nevertheless, I couldn't help the feeling that the story was ultimately "dumbed down," and incredibly truncated, to make it "easier to read" for intermediate readers, and I never really approve of that. For instance, Anna wishes that her maid address her as "Your Majesty," a title that was not in popular use until Henry VIII's time, when absolute rule came into being. I don't know what the proper title for a future empress would be (I know "Porphyrogenita" would be somewhere in there, in reference to the Byzantine royal color purple), but I know "Your Majesty" isn't it. That could have been an interesting detail in which to educate the readers, and instead Barrett glossed over it with an anachronism. Furthermore, there is very little description of architecture, background, and the physical aspects of what it would be like to live during the era. I don't think the reader gets enough historical information out of this historical novel: it's more like a character sketch.

In regards to the character: I feel like there wasn't enough of an arc in Anna to make the end satisfying. She goes from a confident ruler to a vengeful reject to a bored exile, and that's it. She doesn't come to personal terms with her mistakes, which results in the second half of the book dragging to a conclusion. It's as if, as soon as she loses the throne and her betrothed, there wasn't anything else to write about her, which would actually contrast with the author's vision.

Overall, this was a great historical figure to choose, and I applaud the author for choosing to write it as a Young Adult fiction, but it's more of a sketch than a novel.

Visit the author's website

Buy this book on Amazon

Friday, July 17, 2009

Coming Soon: Bio-Pic Craziness

If you'll remember, Sofia Coppola put out a "modernistic" take on the life of Marie-Antoinette a couple years ago. It was received with mixed reviews. I think the biggest criticism of it was some significant historical inaccuracies. Also, some found it "shallow," and found Kirsten Dunst's reading of Marie-Antoinette to be difficult to crack, or even "vague." Furthermore, some just found the 80s music soundtrack and modern dialogue to be completely out of place with any period piece. For my part, I really liked this movie, and I verged on loving it. I liked the use of the 80s music to make a social comparison between time periods, and the song choices were interesting reflections on Marie-Antoinette's emotional arc. As an historical fiction fan, I'm used to historical inaccuracies (and anyway, I didn't get interested into the details of the time period until after I saw this movie) and I am willing to forgive a lot (provided it's not out-and-out lie-telling) if I think the movie approaches the truer character of the historical figures and events. I can always read a history book to get swept away by the details and the true lives of the past; I prefer my movies to be something different.

Anyway, before this becomes a huge digression on Marie-Antoinette, I'm going to get back to my purpose for the post: a new, "modern" take on the life of Romantic poet, John Keats, is slated to come to theaters this Fall (whether or not it will come to the U.S. remains to be seen).

It is titled Bright Star and focuses on his tragically short love affair with Fanny Brawne, who inspired some of his poetry.

Looking at the cast (Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish, et al), it's easy to see why it is being compared to Marie-Antoinette; they're young, they're hot, they've done weird movies in the past. The director (Jane Campion) is critically-acclaimed AND a woman. *gasp!* (Which means a lot of critics will see this movie and report back, "It was incomprehensible... there was no story line..." &c, &c., just like they do with S. Coppola's stuff. Clearly, I do not understand this line of criticism.) The set pictures of costuming and scenery are conceptual and intriguing.

I don't know how modernistic they're going with this, of course, regarding dialogue or music or willful anachronisms, since it has only been screened at Cannes, but I'm excited. It got positive reviews in France, and anyway, it has been all too long since we had a good movie about the Romantics.

Watch an official clip from the Cannes Film Festival on YouTube

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

If any of you know anything more about this film or have seen it, comment away! What do you think about "modernistic" interpretations of historical events? (Think Amadeus, Marie-Antoinette, etc.) Got any good recommendations in that department, book or film-wise?

Visit the unusual official movie site here for Bright Star

Read a glowing review from the LA Times here

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunday Brunch

Food: Memories of yesterday’s breakfast: what my mother and I fondly refer to as “the best omelets in the world” at a little diner we know.

Book at table: Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. I picked this up at one of my favorite bookstores while on vacation.

Exams went well, and I even got to go on a minibreak, and I’m very happy to return and settle back in with some good reads.

Via the Bookslut blog, I read “Fired from the Canon” by The Second Pass, and in between bouts of wishing I could convey sarcasm and literary commentary as succinctly as they can, I had to agree with a few of their choices. The article lists about a dozen books that they would pick to oust from “required reading” lists, based on their poor quality or modern irrelevance. I mean, I really liked One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I understand how it can be a frustrating and time-consuming read.

If I could remove one book from my memories of required school reading, it would be The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. It’s written in the typical “lyrical prose” of Serious Writers, or as we called it in high school, “What is this? Are they making us read more poetry?” Like James Frey modern writers emulating Hemingway, Cisneros uses short, clipped, repetitive sentences to bore the reader senseless to convey contemporary urban life.

The thing is, I don’t remember much of what happens in this book. I recall a surprising rape scene, thrown into the middle of the jumbled story and never referenced again. I recall some story about “Hairs.” In fact, I don’t think there’s much of a story to it at all. It’s just a sad, sad examination of an impoverished girl growing up amid racism, sexism, and every other sort of horrible thing you could throw at a teenage girl.

The English teachers at my high school really enjoyed teaching this book, but I don’t remember any students who enjoyed reading it. I didn’t feel there was much of a redeeming quality to the book; there is not a commentary so much on society, as there is on the fact that the small society surrounding this girl was really, really horrible to her. In the end, it was an unpleasant read, and I didn’t take anything away from it.

I imagine some people would pick Moby-dick, if their school taught that, though I would venture to say it’s a book I would heartily defend to remain on required reading. It probably helps that I didn’t read it until my senior year in high school, when I was wending my way through "the classics." We also had a teacher who was terrific and really knew how to teach the material, so it was easy for our class to get into reading that immense novel. It’s not even the longest book I’ve ever read by a long shot, but it’s a novel I feel accomplished in saying I read it, and I hope to read it again some day to get even more out of it.

So here’s the Sunday Brunch question for this week:

If you could remove one book from school (elementary, high school, or college) required reading lists, which would you choose, and why?

Look for some historical fiction news and reviews this week, and happy reading!

Temporary Blogging Hiatus!

I know I haven't been around in the last couple days, but the outside, contemporary world has been a bit busy for me. Summer Session midterms are this week at university, so most of my reading time has been taken up by extra studying time, I've been working more hours at my day job, and plenty of other fun (but time-consuming!) activities.

So I'm taking a week off from here, just to get some school stuff done, but I'll be back next week with plenty of reviews and news about historical fiction!

In the mean time, here's what I'm currently reading:

1. The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian-- I love the Aubrey/Maturin series so much, but this one has a slow start and is taking me a ridiculously long time to finish.
2. Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett-- I've read very little of anything that has to do with the Byzantine empire, but this is a very good YA novel so far.
3. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novick-- I was vociferously recommended this book series very recently, and there happened to be a free download from Random House to promote it, so that's how it's on my eReader right now. This answers the question: What if Admiral Nelson had had dragons at his disposal in the Battle of Waterloo? In other words: this book is amazing.

Happy reading and blogging!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yes we can! A Non-Historical Book Review.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
by Seth Godin

Cover: I'm going to admit that I'm not crazy about the cover. From afar it looks like some sort of laboratory slide. Otherwise, it's just your typical informational, possibly do-it-yourself type of cover.

Summary: The modern world, largely due to the internet, no longer allows for traditional marketing to succeed. People are too stuck on status quo and following the old industry pathways and sabotaging themselves from success. In this short examination of modern successful leaders (and not necessarily ones making headlines), Godin shows us how we can "be the change we want to see" and find communities of like-minded people. According to this book, we all have leadership potential within us, and the potential to create entirely new, creative, and successful businesses, organizations, and communities.

My Review: I was recommended by a friend of mine to read this book since I've been into blogging (this isn't my first blog, after all) and I appreciated a lot of what Godin had to say.

The book is written in a very casual style. There isn't a strict, chapter-by-chapter breakdown on how to start your own breakthrough company from the ground-up. It's rather a collection of brief vignettes and success stories, along with various lists of common sense qualities that lie in good and creative leadership.

Godin writes significantly about blogging, and I think we bloggers would have to agree with his general truths: we thought about what we were interested in investigating and talking about, found a way to get a message out there, and looked for communities of people with similar interests. I think for the most part, though, that bloggers are naturally motivated to get their writing out in the open, rather than as calculating as Godin describes in his book. However, I believe he was writing more for general business and organizing, which might use blogging as a tool over a cornerstone, rather than strict blogging and blogging circles.

It's a quick read: I did it in about an hour and a half, but I think it was well worth it. As a soon-to-be senior in college, I'm already looking for jobs and future careers, and I came away excited about the dynamic future of business. In this tough economy, it's wonderful to read someone who sees opportunity (or as he calls it, "obligation") for growth and development.

Visit the author's blog

Buy this book on Amazon

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Web Spotlight Wednesday: Entertainment Style

Continuing with the Jane Austen craze, I was perusing other people's accomplishments on the Everything Austen link page, and was delighted to read about Fuzzy Cricket's discovery. If, like me, the idea of coffee and a book to read is something like heaven for you, then I think you'll like this, too:

Dominic West reads the first Darcy proposal scene aloud, while you take a coffee break and enjoy.

It is put on by Carte Noire, a coffee company, and you may recall Dominic West from his roles as the creepy guy in 300, the Italian professor in Mona Lisa Smile, and star of HBO's The Wire. Basically, this is a good-looking British guy reading Jane Austen while you drink coffee... in other words, possibly the perfect website. If you look around, there is also Greg Wise, who played Willoughby in the Ang Lee version of Sense & Sensibility reading from that book.

I... have no more words, really. What a cute little marketing site!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Coming Soon!

Before I start talking about the book that has me so excited, I have a bit of a personal preamble:

When I read the news on her website about her latest release, I screeched happily until my roommate ran up the stairs to make sure I was okay. Whether or not I've loved every book she's ever written, I love many of the books she has written over the years, and some of them have become personal favorites. Whether or not I agree with every public action she has taken regarding her books, I understand that she is a private person who has led a very public life and that it cannot have been easy. What I'm trying to say is this: I'm so happy she has written another book in a style similar to that of her old work that I don't even care about any of that. I just want to read it. I'll be there the day it comes out to get my copy.

So here it is: Angel Time: A Novel, by Anne Rice, coming October 2009, just before Halloween.

The very slight blurb written by Herself says

"In keeping with my commitment to do Christian fiction in a variety of forms, I am developing a new series called Songs of the Seraphim. The first of these metaphysical thrillers, Angel Time, will be coming in October 2009. The second has already been written and the third is underway. I'm hoping for a long life for the series with many adventures for its hero. I continue to work on Christ the Lord, the Kingdom of Heaven, the third book in the Christ the Lord series. "
It's times like these that I wish I could get my hands on an advance copy immediately. It will purportedly involve "time travel" and "medieval madness" and everything else you ever loved about the original Anne Rice.

See the full press release here on the divine Ms. Rice's website

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Shorty, but a Goody. A Historical Story Review.

Pride and Prometheus
by John Kessel

Where to Get This: Pride and Prometheus won the 2009 Nebula Award, which is a big deal for excellence in Fantasy and Science Fiction. It comes from Kessel’s anthology, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories, and was made available as a free download by its publisher, Small Beer Press, here. I read off of a Sony eReader, so I downloaded the .pdf format, which is also good if you plan on reading off of your computer screen. It’s only 38 pages, so I think it’s definitely readable off of a computer.

Summary: It’s more than 8 years since Pride and Prejudice left off, and Mary Bennet is accompanying her sister, Kitty, on her season in London. Mary is 28 (which… I am too lazy to check the dating here, but I suppose that’s believable) and “off the shelf” in terms of marriage prospects. She is aware of her awkwardness, and feels a lack of proper society to satisfy her intellectual pursuits. Kitty flits around her season (she is 25, and I would have to conclude too old to be “introduced” into society as she is here) and Mrs. Bennet frets about marrying off her youngest daughter and everyone generally ignores Mary, which is not entirely to her displeasure.

While in London, however, Mary is introduced to the young, brooding Victor Frankenstein, who intrigues her with his talks of “natural philosophy” and life in Europe. Mary is disappointed that she and her sister must remove to Derbyshire for Kitty’s health and leave behind her new friend, but is quickly restored when she finds Frankenstein (and Henry Clerval) in town, as well, buying up supplies for scientific experiments. Frankenstein seems haunted, both figuratively and literally, and Mary wants to find out the truth before she, too, becomes involved in his dangerous world.

My Review: This story is terrific on many levels; let me number them for you:

1. The writing style is somewhat reminiscent of Regency formality, but it is not a complete copy, and definitely not a pastiche. It’s rather a modern continuation of the original, rather than trying to rewrite or glom on to the untouchable original. I thought this was respectful and welcoming to read.

2. The characterization is beyond believable. Mary’s personality here could easily have sprung from the sketch that Austen left us with, and while it has been many years since I last read Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus, it touches well on Shelley’s characters, as well. I particularly enjoyed the description of Lydia and Wickham’s marriage; their bickering but mutual dependence is very much how I imagined it would be.

3. The plot is only slightly mysterious, but still acts as a great character study on Mary Bennet, and the kind of man she could fall in love with, and how it would happen. The plot, however, is neither trivial nor uninteresting.

4. The discussions of science during Regency times are very accurately dealt with. Scientific investigation was coming into vogue, but more conservative people such as Mr. Darcy would have shunned the topic entirely.

My only caveat on reading this story is that there is Austen character death. Be forewarned! I won’t tell you which one it is, but if you can’t bear the thought of one dear character coming to an untimely end, then you may want to skip this one!

In conclusion, this was a great short story. I haven't read a short in a while, and I know I should go back and read them more often. Pride and Prometheus was definitely enough to intrigue me to want to read more by John Kessel. And it's another delightful step toward completing the Everything Austen Challenge!

Buy the anthology on Amazon

Thursday, July 2, 2009

*SWOON* Friday Film Review.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Rosamund Pike, Simon Woods, Dame Judy Dench, Jena Malone

Summary: I’m… not going to summarize this. If you’re reading a book blog, and furthermore a historical book blog, I think I have good odds that you know what the story is about.

My Review: As I’ve already stated, I love this movie. The book purist in me cringes at the cuts and changes they made to the storyline and various characters, but I love it regardless.

Thus, this is mainly going to be a gushy picture post.

I liked Keira Knightley as Lizzy a lot. I think that she comes off as an intelligent person on screen and she does a great character arc.

I did once read, however, a review that said she would have done better as Cathy in a production of Wuthering Heights, rather than P&P. They said, among other comments, that she wasn't quite charming enough as Lizzy, and anyway the rest of the cast was ready made for that movie. I do think that Matthew Macfadyen would also have been great as Heathcliff, and this picture:

could absolutely have been lifted straight out of a scene of WH.

Regardless. I like this cast together a lot, and I still love this movie. Also, this scene at the end, where Darcy walks across the field with his jacket billowing in the breeze? That's awesome.

Which brings me to Mr. Darcy himself. Look at that. He's all broody and judgey. He just wants a hug, and to get the hell out of that ballroom. Matthew Macfadyen was definitely worthy of taking on the role. But is he better than Colin Firth? I answer that question with another question: why do we have to choose? There's plenty of Darcy love to go around!

I also like most of the rest of the cast. I loved Rosamund Pike as Jane, particularly because now we could believe what all the characters say in the book: Jane is the fair, gorgeous Bennett girl, and Lizzy is the sharper, slightly less polished daughter. As for the other girls... they were fine. I can't tell if I didn't like Jena Malone because Lydia is such an infuriating character, or because I was jealous that she got to be in this movie and I didn't, or because I have traumatic memories of being forced to watch that horrible Stepmom movie where she plays the daughter. Either way, I could have done without her.

This is a very visually appealing movie. I know a lot of people didn't like the drabness of Lizzy's dresses and her giant walking coat, but I actually did. I feel like, given their family situation, they might not be wearing the latest cute fashions, or have clothes that fit them exactly, or have perfect hair.

I love the hair in this movie. Witness this picture. Getting my hair to look like this is on my list of things to do before I die. I simply feel that this movie is the way it might have looked to live in Regency England. Also, see the Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion. Even the actors in that one look straight out of Regency. I don't know what it is, if there's a certain look or dress, but that's the feel I get from these two movies.

This is my favorite scene in the movie. Thiiiiiiis. This is subtle and gorgeous and so real, and more beautiful than the final kiss. This is actually one of my favorite movie scenes out of any movie.

So that's one item down on my list of things to do for the Everything Austen challenge. In fact, I'm enjoying this so much, I may just review a film adaptation of every major Jane Austen novel. We'll see next week!