Thursday, May 26, 2011

In praise of: Lost in Austen (mini series)

Posted by lea at 12:07 AM 2 comments Links to this post

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Austen fans clamour for more from their long-dead favourite author, so new variations of her work will always be acceptable if they're done well. And what a corker this one is. It's not perfect but it's a charming homage about a modern day Austenite who swaps places with her favourite character and literally gets lost in the world of Pride and Prejudice.

The first time I watched this four-part mini series was on TV, each episode doled out weekly while I waited with bated breath. The twists and turns had me utterly enthralled. (Spoiler alert) What, Jane marries Collins? Lydia runs away with Bingley? Wickham turns out to be the good guy??? With all these plot differentials, the time travelling portal isn't hard to swallow.

The second time I watched it all at once and became more aware of the gaping holes. Nonetheless, I think a little suspension in belief is good for the imagination. Anyway, what can you expect when you've got time travelling heroines and a huge plot to deal with in just four 46 minutes episodes? I would have been happy for them to have doubled that number. Despite glossing over some major inconsistencies, Lost in Austen does a great job creating an escape for those who, like Amanda, love the world that Jane Austen creates.

The casting was great: Jemima Rooper as Amanda, the modern-day Elizabeth with her witticisms and love-hate relationship with Darcy, was perfect, as was the smouldering Elliot Cowan as Mr Darcy and the luminous Gemma Arterton at Elizabeth Bennet.


And it's funny too. There's a scene where Amanda says to Mr Darcy, 'Will you do something for me...' and next thing you know, he's coming out of the lake, his wet shirt clinging to his considerably-more-buff-than-his-predecessor body. 




The biggest treat is how wayward the characters go as Amanda tries desperately to keep the plot together. Any self-respecting Austen fan knows the book practically by heart, so it's wonderful to see the characters come to life without the boundaries of Jane Austen's pen. We as the audience also find ourselves going wayward. I mean, what is the world coming to when we don't want Lizzie and Darcy to get together?



Ah the romance.

It's been at least two years since I've read P&P (it always takes willpower not to pull it off the shelf, but I know that the next reading will be the better for having waited), so I think now it's time to get a little lost myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Case of the Missing Books, Ian Sansom: book review

Posted by lea at 10:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The Case of the Missing Books is the first of a comedy/mystery series involving reluctant hero Israel Armstrong: a chubby, bumbling, Jewish, not-entirely-inept librarian.

The plot begins when Israel lands in the middle of nowhere, Tumdrum Ireland, having accepted a librarian position only to discover that it's for a mobile library (apparently the bottom rung of libraridom). To add insult to injury, he's forced to live in a barely-converted chicken coop with a quirky family of brother, sister and their grandfather, he doesn't have enough money to return home without receiving his first paycheck, and all the library books have gone missing and the council won't let him out of his contract until he finds them.

I was led by the back cover and many reviews to believe that it's a funny and delightful book, but as much as I wanted to like it, it just wasn't the hilarious comic caper I'd hoped for.

The characters are drawn a little too hard like "quirky locals" and they end up as single dimensions of a big farce, like the overweight Linda Wei who constantly crams junk food in her mouth at every opportunity and punctures her scenes by passing gas.

It's gentle humour that attempts to please, but ultimately failed to engage this reader.

Reviewed as part of the Great Library Challenge, author S.

Prospect Park West, Amy Sohn: book review

Posted by lea at 10:20 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I have to apologise for the brevity and vagueness of this review, but I read this book around two months ago and just haven't had the chance to blog about it. However I'm resolved to review all the books I read as part of the Great Library Challenge so I'll try to dig into the recesses of my memory and give a quick review.

Prospect Park West is about first-time moms in a particularly yuppie area of Brooklyn that seems overly populated with young at-home mothers. There's bored and sex-starved Rebecca who laments her glamorous old life, 'hasbian' Lizzie whose lesbian tendencies begin to return as her husband's work-related absences increase, freakily intense Karen who will stop at nothing to get a Prospect Park West postcode for her son, and beautiful but insecure movie star Melora, whose entire life, including her adopted child, seems to be a public relations exercise.

The story is fast-paced and laced with a dark wit that's not exactly mean-spirited, but far from kind in its portrayal of at-home mums. The characters swing between the type that's obsessed by their kids (Karen) to the mum who almost seems to fear being in the same room alone with their child (Melora), but in every case there's some type of self-destructive behaviour linked to a sense of lost personal identity stemming from the birth (or adoption) of their child.

It's a theme that appears almost despite itself, as Sohn busies herself with witty observations and poking fun at her characters. The book seems to be in a rush to end, and certain storylines are left hanging and unresolved, so there's a sense of unfinished business at the end. Apparently Sohn is writing a sequel, but I doubt I'll be coming back for seconds.
 

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