The Count of Monte Cristo ~

I always loved “The 3 Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” is another by Alexandre Dumas. It’s a powerful book about loyalty, commitment, determination, strength of spirit, of seeking justice and yet not giving up hope. And along with that, if you like sword fights, revenge, disguises, deception, then it’s right up your alley!

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.”

No truer words said! As the main character finds out, he finds his ‘truth’ in the most unexpected way, through the people he meets that come into his life only briefly and teaches him something at the moment he needs it the most. 

Edmond Dantes is unjustly framed for treason and sent to a prison fortress for 14 long years. A fellow prisoner is able to teach him all he knows, to figure out his purpose and to plan his vengeance on his duplicitous ‘best friend’ who stole is life, and love. With the secrets to the treasure of Monte Cristo, he is able to re-instate himself in society as the mysterious Count, surrounded by wolves in disguise, he learns to keep his enemies close….

So, no matter what, we must endure. Nothing is perfect in life or happens as we expect, it’s about our mindset when we face disappointment and adversity, and how we act that counts.

*

“When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”

~ The mystery of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ ~ 🖤🌹

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is definitely a tale about escapism- Christine spends her whole life being coached by a ‘mysterious voice’ that mentors her to do better and achieve beyond what she thought possible, when she finally steps through the mirror and meets the man behind the voice, her illusion shatters and she is repulsed by his deformed face. 💀

Instead, she goes for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, and, the phantom realises that despite all he’s given her, she still turns away in horror. She pities him and yet still agrees to lay a trap, by going along with his grand plans for her on the stage, but in the end, his jealousy still destroys them (and the opera house which is also his home.) 🎼🎭

We see him as the villain of the story, but we also feel sorry for him, hiding away with no love and kindness- and perhaps it’s this forced solitude & space to develop his talents that turns him into a musical genius. There are many things to learn from it, that you can’t force love, that you can’t expect too much from anyone, yet also the power of forgiveness and also dedication throughout a lifetime. 🖤🖤

Another thing I love about the Phantom are the aesthetics, the opulent backdrop & historical references- after all it’s a theatre, the masquerade balls, the grandness, and of course, the amazing soundtrack!! Andrew Lloyd Webber really transformed it and made it his own- hence why it still stands the test of time. 👰🏻👻🎞⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

~ 𝔔𝔲𝔬𝔱𝔢 𝔠𝔬𝔯𝔫𝔢𝔯~

“They played at hearts as other children might play at ball; only, as it was really their two hearts that they flung to and fro, they had to be very, very handy to catch them, each time, without hurting them.”

“And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.”

20,000 leagues under the sea

Having started “20,000 leagues under the sea”, watched “Aquaman”, “Jaws” & “Blue Planet-the deep” all in the space of 2 days ~ it’s no surprise when I started dreaming of being violently flung about on a boat swept by ominous looking black waves. 🌊

My phone was sliding around on deck, and I had just managed to catch it in one hand with triumph- only to discover my 2 companions were sinking under the tide (we were on our way to attend a party.) Needless to say, I arrived at the party without them… though I did give all my best efforts searching around, it turned into an affair like “The Great Gatsby”, they had different personas and were trying their best to evade me…

I’ve always been intrigued with creatures deep under the ocean. Their bulbous eyes and sharp teeth, their luminescent, transparent bodies, their spongy blob like exteriors… stuff out of nightmares…(which, I love calling up on the projector to show my students just to see their reaction!)

They say an iceberg is largely 3/4 under the surface. There are things below those tranquil waters that are beyond our imagination, and will still continue to lie unobserved.

So when the ‘Nautilus’ arrives and causes havoc in the seas around the world, it’s not hard that it could be mistaken for a narwhal or a cross between a whale/sea unicorn with its impenetrable exterior. It raises panic enough that the best captains rally and send forth a ship ready to capture, and, sadly slaughter this troublesome creature…Only to realise, it’s not a beast at all coming forth from the depths, but indeed a vessel, captained by none other than the infamous Captain Nemo. At this point our 3 protagonists have nothing else to do but sit, wait, and be carried along in an adventure like no other (since they’ve seen too much to be allowed to return home to dry land.) 🙄

Captain Nemo lets our guests into many secrets about the creation of his vessel (as surely it defies science), but we know this is only the beginning. If it’s anything like “5 weeks in a balloon”, I know that there will be no shortage of crazy events, the possible harpooning of sea spiders and giant squids, oxygen shortage, walking on the ocean bed and many, new discoveries.

And…if it’s anything like Dr Ferguson, Kennedy & faithful Joe- hanging onto the last trimmings of their damaged hot air balloon, shot at by arrows above enemy waters and praying to be saved~ we can only hope this Parisian professor & his friends get back safely (along with the unsuspecting sea creatures that cross their path!)

Robin Hood ~ the return of a legend?

I’ve probably analysed all adaptions to death in my previous post, but here’s another update! (This doesn’t help the ‘nerd’ image in the slightest…)

*spoiler alert*

So what comparisons can we make?

This movie takes the darkness of the Russell Crowe version, combined with the humour of the TV show (Marian looks the spitting image of Lucy Griffiths). It delivers the action, the evil, and combines it with a lot of assassins creed. Riding horseback over rooftops, shooting 100 arrows a second, their modern outfits, buildings that look more eastern than medieval 🏰 … we know how unrealistic this is going to be, but that’s also what keeps us riveted to the screen. It isn’t going to be accurate. But we also know that RH didn’t exist in his ‘current form.’ RH is a great bowman, (my jealousy knows no bounds) and if nothing else, it’s good to have a heroic figure to believe in.

John takes over Azeem’s role in ‘Prince of thieves’, that of mentor and companion, Will Scarlet actually becomes the new sheriff (bet you didn’t see that coming!) There is no gang, at least not without a beginning and each has a story to tell. The dynamics have shifted between them, and they’re not the beloved characters you remember them to be.

The concept of RH to me isn’t just the rich robbing to give to the poor. It’s about the idea of justice, of doing what’s right, and caring for those around you. It might seem two dimensional, (he is a killer, and surely has done some terrible things during the crusades. Isn’t stealing from the law equally as deplorable?) But to this day, and what makes it such a popular legend to portray, is that it shares some important qualities~ of staying loyal (Robin & Marian throughout the time he’s at war), of friendship (in this case striking a bond with those you fight/ work alongside and having a common cause), fairness and sacrifice- death seems but a notion, if its fighting for what you believe in/ those you love.

Yes all versions have a bleak view on the corruptness of the church. The crusades were dark, horrific times and nothing is pretty about heads being lopped off, or peppered by a thousand arrows. They fight for a cause directed by another’s hand and it’s only upon his return home does RH realise the corrupt villains at his own door.

So isn’t he justified in taking action? To strike at the root of evil? No matter what face he wears over the years, he represents an ‘idea’, to stand up against tyranny.

All along it seems a tug of war between RH and the sheriff, of deception, both equally dependent on the other. So it’s interesting to see their relationship throughout the process.

For this movie, RH keeps his personae as robin of Loxley (rich Lord of the Manor) as well as his doppelgänger Robin of the hood. His disguise is never doubted and the sheriff trusts him all too easily. Which is what makes it so intriguing. You’re always waiting for that moment when he’ll be found out.

So what if you found a role reversal, with RH as the villain, the sheriff as compassionate, albeit flawed man caught between his duty & personal affairs who isn’t fixated on capturing Robin Hood at all but merely surviving and protecting his family-what then? 🤔

Overall, it did fulfill what I can only describe as the RH ‘criteria’ and pay homage to the essence of what he represents. The true core of it stays the same, no matter how modern or glitzily revamped the adaptations are. It’s easy to be a critic of the movie, but the reason it stays in people’s minds is down to one thing. Whether he existed or not, he’s been turned into a household name that inspires courage and imagination through the years … and that’s the true legend of Robin Hood.

*Sneak Peak!* My Book Cover

cover final_s (1)Thanks to the very talented Bonnie for my wonderful book cover design! The novel is called “Caskets of Ice”.

If you have any questions, or think I should release a preliminary chapter (or two!) out into the blog- world, then please feel free to comment below! Here is a link to Bonnie’s page so you can check out her other illustrations and general awesomeness:

http://bonniepang.weebly.com/

swirl-divider4

“Our Mutual Friend” Dickens


Finally, I have found time for a Dickens Review! I put these in small bite 20140804_144457sized chunks, for easy viewing…so here begins;

  • Summary as taken from the blurb of Our Mutual Friend: “Dicken’s last completed novel and one of the greatest books about London, ‘Our Mutual Friend‘ is a dark, enigmatic portrayal of a city corrupted by money.When a body is pulled out of the Thames, it is presumed to be John Harmon, drowned under suspicious circumstances before he could claim the fortune his father made from rubbish heaps. This mystery impinges on the lives of the naiive, hardworking Boffins, the riverside scavenger Gaffer Hexam, his beautiful daughter Lizzie, the mercenary Bella Wilfer and the doll’s dressmaker Jenny Wren, in a story of greed, death and renewal.”16

1. A dark story, it is considered one of Dicken’s most “sophisticated works”, though perhaps, one of his least well known.

2. The novel has a vast array of memorable characters which, through his wit and humour; you soon grow attached to.Though the language is less straight forward compared to his earlier novels, don’t be put off. The narrative is very well thought out and incredibly complex with intricate and unexpected plot lines. Compare the layers to an onion…

3. Death, intrigue, mystery, romance – it has everything. You are fooled along with a great number of characters along the twists and turns of a very complex narrative.Very satisfying as characters get their just rewards and no evil deed goes unnoticed, or unpunished. For me, the reading experience has to hold a variety of things, just like my favourite films. Action adventure mixed with fantasy and a bit of romance. It’s great how though Dickens manages to portray the worst of human nature in squalid London and the boundaries of social class- there is a particularly heart warming scene between John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer that I always find myself going back to and just melts my heart (yup, I’ve bookmarked the pages)

OMF-Lodger-and-Daughter4.Like each of his books, there are some great characters- no matter what shape or form they take, from the devilish and hideous dwarf Quilp in “The Old Curiosity Shop” who delights in playing tricks on others and getting the better of them, to the one legged and villainous Silas Wegg who circulates the pages of “Our Mutual Friend.”

5.However one thing about Dickens most people notice, is that his female characters are often under developed. They either hold supporting roles, as spinsters, the frugal or the vain and frivolous, or proud mothers. Young females are all dignified, elegant, pretty who undergo some tragedy or suffering which make them all the more beautiful and heroic; sought after and admired by men of all ages.

6. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed. They really bring the characters to life and gives that something bit extra to your reading experience.

177.The novel exemplifies on the corruption money can bring, the greed it excites, and how it effects the lives of those it touches.

8.After finishing the book, I thought up a hierarchy of wealth of all of the characters in the novel, taking into consideration their fluctuating social position. This may seem a bit time consuming and superfluous, but the story made me think long after I had closed its pages,(often as I was lying awake at night) and it was my way of sorting through the vast array of characters in the novel. I don’t want to give away spoilers by laying it out in all its glory. So I will let you read it first…

(Follow for more bite sized reviews on “Barnaby Rudge”, “Nicholas Nickleby” and other Charles Dickens novels.) 

The World of Edgar Allen Poe

Some of you may have heard of him, some of you may not. However, it is hard not to come across something he has influenced.

So why is Edgar Allen Poe so famous?

Firstly, he is said to be the inventor of detective fiction, inspiring young readers today with his portrayals of the gothic and horror genre. Secondly (and importantly for us writers), rather than to deliver a message, he believed a poem’s “first obligation is to create beauty through rhythm, rhyme, and visual imagery.” Not only are his stories eerie and terrifying, but they reach into the deepest recesses of the reader’s sub conscious and into the darkness of human nature.

His works explore the juxtaposition between madness and sanity, the dead and their power over the living, of love versus all consuming hate, as well as the inner exploration of the self. Perhaps Poe’s most famous poems include “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”, and short stories such as “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Murders at the Rue Morgue.” He was able to create such a variety of poetry and prose, appealing to a universal reader. They are dark, unsettling and macabre and it is hard to find another author who quite writes like he does.

“The Raven”

 

Perhaps my personal favourite is “The Masque of Red Death”. It is intriguing, captivating and rich with colour and imagery. While the plague rages on in the country, Prince Prospero locks up his castle and invites guests to enjoy themselves at a grand masquerade ball, a retreat away from the death outside his walls. We are introduced to an enchanting setting, where everything is opulent, gaudy with aspects of the grotesque. Each room is a different colour, decorated with silks and damask, under the rule of the selfish Prince. Before long, the red death is revealed by the figure of an unknown masquerade character, who having brought the plague into the walls of the castle and causes Death to all present; simply vanishes into nothing.

There’s something about it that reminds me of the “Phantom of the Opera”, of which there is a similar masquerade scene…

“Phantom of the Opera” (2004)

 

“That which you mistake for madness is but an over acuteness of the senses.” Many of Poe’s characters profess their “sanity” despite the cruelty of their actions- actions which are strategically planned and carried out, such as in the story “The Tell Tale Heart” first published in 1843.

Ranging from melancholy to despair- there is a certain mystery that surrounds his works, and an equal mystery associated with his death in Baltimore. Yet there is no denying it, there is something haunting about his writing, something that stays with you; a long time after you have turned the last page…

Fun Fact: If anyone is familiar with the film “Holes”, you will notice there is a scene where Kate Barlow is reciting a poem to her pupil. The character of Sam overhears it and starts to quote…

“I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with a love that was more than love-

I and my Annabel Lee-“

 

You got it! It’s Poe once again-

Do you have a favourite of Poe’s work? Have you seen the film adaptation called “The Raven”?