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Notes on a Scandal is the story of Sheba, a teacher at a high school in London who has an affair with one of her students. Both the movie and the book are told through the perspective of an older, single, bitter teacher at the same school who befriends the pretty, 30-something Sheba and manipulates her into becoming her friend and confidante. The older teacher is played masterfully by Judi Dench, and Sheba by Cate Blanchett, both of whom have been nominated for Oscars. It’s a good movie – well-edited, suspenseful, and expertly written. There was nothing in the movie that was inconsistent with my memory of the book, and I felt that the adaptation worked hard to maintain the tone of an emotional thriller – like the book – as opposed to simply telling a salacious tale. I do think that if you’ve read the book beforehand, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage because you know in advance how much to trust the narrator and what her motives are, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie. Note: The adapted screenplay for Notes on a Scandal has been nominated for an Oscar. Advantage: Tie. Both are worth it.
It’s fun when I come across people blogging on the same wavelength as me, and I agree with what Gayle said completely. I’m rooting for this script to win Best Adaptation at the Oscars, because it is true to the book. That’s not to say that Children of Men is not a good movie–it is–but it’s not a perfect adaptation because it deviates in vital ways from PD James’s book, and not out of translation necessity (as in my example from earlier about the adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada).
I’m so glad that I finished all my reading for work. The last book was quite an interesting read, a published book that reminded me of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex. If you can guess the book I’ll think you’re a genius.
It’s 9 pm, and I’m going to do the NY Times Crossword puzzle while vegging out to TV. I might throw on Marie Antoinette or Sherrybaby, but I’m not sure my brain can handle anymore narrative tonight–at least until I read a few pages of Tale of Two Cities before going to bed.
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A friend of mine and I were emailing about Robin Hobb’s Six Duchies books, and she wrote about why she liked them:
Heroes aren’t all good. Love alone doesn’t conquer all. Women don’t pine away and die. Even the annoying characters can grow up and become really interesting.
This is why I read. This is what I’m looking for. One of my favorite techniques used by writers to create this depth is what I’m calling “deep cover,” after the Lawrence Fishburne movie where he went undercover to bust a drug ring and ends up so deep that he becomes one of them. He loses his old identity completely.
I love to see characters do this–pretend to be something they’re not in order to achieve a goal, but by the time the goal has been achieved they’ve completely sold out and have turned inside out. Hopefully they come back to themselves, but sometimes they don’t. Hobb and George RR Martin do this very well. I think it’s a good story technique for achieving peripety–that hinge moment where a character stands or dies. When you’ve turned inside out, that can give you the perspective to see what was wrong with you all along, if that makes sense.
This post is being put up in honor the 525-page book I read for work this morning. It represented everything that is wrong with both publishing and the world today. I have one more to go for my weekend stack, another 500 pager that looks much more promising.
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The second in trilogy begun in His Majesty’s Dragon finds Temeraire and Laurence traveling by sea to China where Temeraire will take his rightful place as the dragon of an emperor–not a member of His Royal Majesty’s Navy battling against an ever-encroaching Napoleon.
Throne of Jade is a more than worthy installment in the tale of Temeraire, a dragon hatched from an egg given by China to Napoleon but seized by the English. When Temeraire hatched, the first person he saw was naval officer Laurence–and this was quite by accident, to the despair of the pilot who was next in line to bond with a dragon. Laurence has to leave the navy with his beloved order and ritual, for the less rigorous though no less disciplined aerial corps, and learn to pilot a dragon and his crew to fight the air battle against Napoleon in service of the British Army. Book one covered this coming-of-age story beautifully, and by the end of the book Temeraire and Laurence were as thick as thieves and devoted to fair Albion.
At the outset of the second book, however, Laurence and Temeraire find themselves separated and accused of treason. Temeraire is an incredibly rare dragon, a Celestial, and can only be paired within the royal line. Temeraire will not sail to China without Laurence, so the two find themselves on a sea voyage around the world to the Far East. All the while Laurence suffers from jealousy and even paranoia as Temeraire masters the Chinese language and begins to write poetry in the foreign tongue.
Novik is an incredibly visual storyteller, bringing to life a sailing vessel in a storm, a glorious battle between ships and dragons, the wonders of Peking where dragons walk the streets, and all the range of the human emotions. And she pulls off the dragon thing in spades, writing an alternative version of history that feels like it could’ve happened that way. I mean, how on earth did we beat Napoleon without dragons? It’s a great adventure story and it’s also grounded in a tale that has a great deal of meaning and resonance.
A few mentions of the existence of “feral dragons” makes me hope that book three, Black Powder War, involves an encounter with such a terrifying creature.
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I found this meme on Cam’s Commentary, and thought it would give me good fodder for a post for the work book I read last night. It was an awesome sports biopic about the only sport that makes me cry: the marathon. I hope it becomes a movie.
I have 2 more books to read today for work so look for more posts.
Below is the list with instructions for marking.
Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.
1. The Da Vinci C
ode (Dan Brown)–I only bolded half because I only read half. The other half I would not touch with a ten-foot pole.
+2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
+3. +To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
+5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
+6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
+7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
+8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
+15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
+20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
+21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
+22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
+25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
+28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
+46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
+51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
+52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
+53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
+54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
+55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
+59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
+60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
+70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)–read this en francais as well
+71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
+77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)–have read hundreds of times
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
+83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
+85. Emma (Jane Austen)
+86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
+87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)–borrowed this from a friend for a year w/o reading
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
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Tonight I had a book for work, so husband and I did not do the Valentine’s thing. I was in a rush to get it done tonight because we have friends in town from Austin tomorrow night. I succeeded in busting through the 384-page tome and got my report written in time for “Lost.”
I am such a fangirl (despite the disappointing start to the fall season) that I actually read the book they put out last summer that purported to be the book Sawyer was reading on the beach. It was not really worth the time I put into it–it didn’t reveal anything secret about the show nor was it very good in its own right. I felt like a fool for reading it, but at least it was short and didn’t take me very long.
For pleasure I’m about halfway through Throne of Jade, the second book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. It’s even better than the first. Watch for a post by the weekend. After that, A Tale of Two Cities.
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Roberta and her brother and sister have to leave London for the countryside when their father is mysteriously sent away, but they discover a world of delight thanks to the nearby railroad.
The Railway Children is an utterly charming book for children, the kind that is a delight to read aloud. Nesbit occasionally editorializes, offering gentle guidance towards right behavior without seeming preachy or moralizing. I fell in love with Roberta, who calls herself Bobbie except when she wants to be brave. Then she calls herself “little girl” by way of goading herself not to act like a child.
Nesbit makes the railway seem like magic, and I found myself wishing that I could play with Bobbie and Paul and Phyllis. The scene where their “old gentleman” gets all the passengers to wave at the children is breathtakingingly sweet and made my throat catch a bit.
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Tonight’s work read was a book for teens that horrified me with how shallow it was. It made me fear for the souls of young readers until I reminded myself that I read the Sweet Valley High series up through something like number 60 and I turned out okay. I mean, I am looking forward to reading War and Peace so they must not have damaged me too badly. It used to drive my dad crazy to see me with those books, though. He called them “popcorn reading.” But I could not be stopped, not when it came to Elizabeth and Jessica and Lila Fowler and all the gang. Plus, the one where the girl dropped dead from doing cocaine once totally kept me off the drugs.
Bratz, on the other hand, are pure evil. I’d like to burn the Bratz factory down.
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The book I read for work last night was pretty good, but it doesn’t appear to have been published in the US. Too bad, because it was lovely, with a sweet sense of humor and some indelible characters.
I hate hate hate that Amazon thinks that different editions of the same book are DIFFERENT BOOKS!
I told Amazon I liked Jane Austen’s Persuasion, so it recommends Persuasion from several different publishers. Do I lie and say that I did not like Jane Austen’s Persuasion? Well, I tried that, and now it only recommends sci-fi and fantasy to me.
Every so often I go in and try to optimize my recommendations, but it never seems to work. I would really like for recommendations to work, because I like hearing about new books and authors, but I’m so tired of seeing books I already own in my recommendations list just because they are in the public domain and have multiple publishers.
One recommendation I am seeking–what translation of War and Peace should I get? Anna Karenina whetted my appetite for what everyone says is the best novel ever written. I’m leaning toward the Constance Garnett version, but there are a lot out there. I really liked Joel Carmichael’s translation of Anna, which had flow but wasn’t “modernized.”
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An old spinster teacher narrates her obsession with fellow teacher Sheba Hart, who is having an affair with her 15-year-old student.
Notes on a Scandal is very fast read, well written and possessed of a keen insight into the psychology of a human vampire. I read the book because I quite enjoyed the movie with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, and I was not disappointed.
Nor was I completely blown away, but my familiarity with the story was probably what kept me from being truly sucked in. Heller’s book is a worthy addition to the British gothic genre, and she can hold her own with Patricia Highsmith and Barbara Vine. I’m certainly hoping for more from her.
Filed under: British Literature, Gothic, Psychology | 5 Comments