Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happy Sir Percy Day!

   It has recently come to my knowledge that today, April 27th, has been declared Sir Percival Blakeney  Day throughout the land! (And I never knew?!) Well, thought I, this calls for some enumeration over one of my most adored and revered and admired (and so on and so on) heroes ever! Unfortunately I haven't the time at present to write very much about him and why I love him so, but I didn't want this auspicious occasion to pass without my doing my part in honouring our brave hero. And yes, I am in a very wordy mood today, but that's beside the point. Happy Sir Percy Day to you all!

 And, of course, we must have some pictures....

By the way, I love that monocle thing! :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Downton Abbey, Season One: A Review

 My mum and my sister Sadie just finished the first season of Downton Abbey last week! I'd wanted to see it for quite some time and, naturally, I had heard many good things about this series from various sources and so I was so excited when my dear mother bought the first season for us for Easter! We didn't watch it right away- Hornblower kind of got priority if you know what I mean :)- but last week we finally started it and we watched the entire thing throughout the course of a few nights! It was actually even better than I'd anticipated, and I can't wait to see the second season!

  I probably didn't have to add as many pictures as I did to this review- especially of Matthew Crawley- but I really couldn't help myself! Silly girl. You'd think I was a fan or something. :)

 First of all, the Crawley family.

I'm really not sure what's going on in this picture, but it was one of the only ones I could find of just the two of them. I have absolutely no idea why the Earl is sitting on the floor.

 I liked the Earl of Grantham. He was a decent, honest, fair man. I initially had a bit of a hard time thinking of him as a good character, since the only thing I've seen Hugh Bonneville in is Daniel Deronda as Henleigh Grandcourt, who, if you don't know, is simply horrible. But fortunately that didn't last long, and I grew to like his character very much. The Countess I was not so fond of. First of all, it took awhile to get used to tolerating her accent- which, by the way, I am fairly certain is not real- and even though she was "nice" and all that, I just wasn't terribly fond of her. It wasn't that I really disliked her or anything, she just wasn't my favourite. And how did she fail to see that O'Brien was a tyrant? I mean, it was just a little obvious! But I suppose she had been her maid for many years and it had probably never occurred to her that she was not 100% trustworthy.

  Mary was....well, not my favourite either, let's just put it that way. And I cannot BELIEVE I did not recognize her as Erminia from Return to Cranford! *Hangs head in shame*. She was clever and beautiful and snobby and insincere, with a disposition similar to that of Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda. In fact, that's who she reminded me of at first. I did sympathize with her, because that whole incident with Mr. Something-I-Can't-Read was not entirely her fault, but after a while it seemed like she was just constantly whining about how she was "a lost cause" and would never be happy and blah blah blah. Alright, we get it. So I suppose it just got a little old. Let's just say that if she gets married to Matthew in a later season- which I'm pretty sure she will, because that's just the way these things go- I will be considerably disappointed.

 I don't really have much to say about Edith. I feel like we don't get to know her very well- she's kind of "the boring sister"- but she seemed kind of....pathetic. But even though I didn't especially like her, I thought her relationship with Mr. Eccleston  Lord Anthony was rather sweet, and I sympathized with her at the end when he left the garden party early when she was expecting him to propose. (That Mary!) She seemed to be not a very strong character- not strictly bad, but not strictly good either.

  Sybil was my favourite sister, and I also thought she was the prettiest (Mary's insincere smile sort of began to annoy me after awhile.) It seemed towards the beginning of the season that we weren't going to see much of her, but then I was glad when she became a bigger part of the story. She played the part of the youngest sister very well, I thought, and I loved how she was so interested in . I really liked her friendship with Branson, the chauffeur (sink me if those two don't get together!), and how she helped Gwen finally get a position as a secretary. She could be disobedient and even a little rebellious, but overall I thought she was a very capable, genuinely nice character.

  Maggie Smith, of course, gave a brilliant performance as the Dowager Countess of Grantham- but we all knew she would, didn't we! She was quite hilarious in her old-fashioned, straitlaced ways, and she had a great many saucy lines that have become some of my new favourites. "I must have said it wrong." Her rivalry with Mrs. Crawley was quite funny to watch, and she played the part of the opinionated, slightly overbearing "Granny" fabulously. Bravo, Maggie Smith!

  Matthew Crawley was just simply charming. I had never seen Dan Stevens in anything before this, (although I have heard that he plays Edward Ferrars in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility), and I think he is quite a nice young actor. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I think he could play a very charming Edward. I myself will always be loyal to Hugh Grant, but since someone had to play Edward in "The New One", I'm glad it was Dan Stevens. Not that that fact makes me want to watch the 2008 Sense and Sensibilty, but still! Matthew was definitely one of my favourite characters. He was quite sensible, honest, capable, and yes, handsome. Which a young man should be if he possibly can! I also really liked his mother, Isobel Crawley- Penelope Wilton is just so cute! I first saw her in Pride and Prejudice (2005) as Mrs. Gardiner, which wasn't a huge part, but since then I've seen her in Wives and Daughters and now this and I have come to the conclusion that she is simply adorable.

Mary and Matthew walking together.

 And now, the servants.

  I really liked most of the servants. Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes were both very nice, which I was glad of, because all too often the housekeeper or the butler is a bad character and then that messes everything up for everyone else. They were both perfectly strict but fair, and I liked them immensely. William was so sweet, Gwen and Anna's friendship was so cute and Mrs. Patmore, fierce as she was, made me laugh. "No, I put them out for the fairies."

 Anna was my favourite character in the entire show, I think. She was kind and cheerful and such a good friend to Gwen and Mr. Bates, but at the same time she could be clever and shrewd- a "naughty girl" as Mr. Bates said. At first I didn't think of her as being very pretty, but that changed quickly after I started to get to know her. The way she sought justice for Mr. Bates and kept on believing him to be an honest man even when it seemed like he wasn't was very admirable.

  Which brings me to Mr. Bates.

  Oh, I absolutely loved him! He and Anna together were simply too sweet for words. And when she had a cold and he brought her dinner.... my sentimental little heart just went all aflutter. Needless to say, their relationship was extremely sweet. I've only ever seen Brendan Coyle in North and South and in that he was kind of.....rough, shall we say, but in a good way. I liked Nicholas Higgins but I like Mr. Bates a great deal better. He was definitely one of my favourite characters.

  Another favourite was Tom Branson, the Irish chauffeur who entered the scene about half way through the season. I knew I would like him from the very first- the fact that he was Irish may have had something to do with it! I've always had a strange affinity for Irishmen. I felt sorry for him when Lord Grantham got so angry about his taking Sybil to the political thing or whatever it was (you know what I'm talking about!) It really wasn't his fault- even as much as I like Sybil, it was her fault-  and he made it very clear that he would never do anything to put Sybil in danger. I'm actually hoping that Sybil and Branson will get together in a later season-  I suppose I'll just have to wait and see!

As I said, I may have gotten a wee bit carried away with the pictures.....

  And now the villains of Downton Abbey:

  Thomas was perfectly horrid. Definitely one of the worst villains I have ever seen, I knew instantly I would dislike him. He was so slimy and horrible...ugh! I can hardly bear to look at him! I really don't have anything to say about him except that I utterly loathed him and was just as glad as everyone else when he handed in his notice. Not that he won't still be in the show; I'm sure he will, I just hope he won't be bothering poor dear Mr. Bates- and everyone else- anymore. Miss O'Brien was equally ghastly. Plus she was always so cross, which made her even worse. I could very well see why the Earl wanted to be rid of her. Why the Countess couldn't see that her lady's maid was a villain was a little puzzling, but then again she wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. In short, they were both perfectly awful- the kind of villains that you just have no sympathy for, you just want them to die and be gone forever.


 How many of y'all recognized this gentleman? :) Robert Bathurst is the kind of actor who just keeps popping up everywhere! To me, he will always be 1st lieutenant Eccleston, but I've also seen him as Mr. Weston in Emma and I've grown quite fond of him and his acting skills. Lord Anthony was a rather small character and wasn't really in it very much, but I couldn't help liking him- I don't think Robert Bathurst could ever play an evil character, he's just so cute! The face he made when he tasted the salty pudding was absolutely hilarious. :)

   And I simply cannot neglect to mention this gentleman! Mr. Murray only had one scene in the entire first season (although, according to IMDB and as evident by this picture, he does come back), but my sister and I immediately recognized him as Mr. Bracegirdle from Hornblower! (What have I always said? Everything has at least someone from Hornblower in it- although in this case, the show was chock-a-block full of Hornblower characters!) You know when you've seen an actor as a character you really like, and then when you see him for the first time as someone else, it's like, a really big moment? Sadie and I were so excited we couldn't hardly speak- it was the biggest thing since seeing Jim-Bob Walton in The Blue and the Gray! (Although in that case, I actually fell off the couch screaming- if I remember correctly I was wound a little too tight that evening.) Anyway, Mr. Bracegirdle-Murray's appearance simply made my day!

  The costumes in this series are absolutely gorgeous-  definitely a new favourite to add to my Favourite Period Drama Wardrobes list! (As number one or two, probably!) Mary's and Sybil's dresses were my favourites, but really I loved them all. The styles, of the evening gowns especially, was reminiscent of Elise McKenna's dresses in Somewhere in Time, but I actually liked these better. This is probably my favourite era as far as fashion goes, although the Regency comes in close second. Some of my favourites were Mary's brown evening gown....

    Mary's red evening gown....

  And, of course, Sybil's adorable bloomers!

 The music was also very well done, and for me the music adds a great deal to the merit of the movie- or series, in this case. The composer, John Lunn, has also composed the music to Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Under the Greenwood Tree, and several other period dramas. I've grown to like his style very much. In the scene where Mary goes riding with Mr. Napier and Mr. Something-I-Can't-Read,  the music sounds uncannily similar to Esther and Allan Woodcourt's wedding in Bleak House! All in all, I thought it was a very nice score, and I've pretty much had the theme in my head all week. Maybe it's not quite as catchy as the Campion theme song, but close!

  In short, I was very impressed with this series. It has its faults- if you've seen it, you know what I mean- but moreover I think its merits outweigh its faults. The acting is excellent, the music is superb, the costumes are utterly gorgeous, and it's visually stunning. It's not as much of an instant classic as Cranford or Wives and Daughters, but it really is a fabulous series. I can't wait to see the next season!

Have you seen Downton Abbey? What did you think of it?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to James McAvoy!

                     Today is James McAvoy's 34th Birthday!

 James McAvoy is one of my favourite actors because he is simply so charming! Well, that's not the only reason- he's also a very good actor and I love his Scottish accent, even though he doesn't use it very often. I've seen him in several movies, some period dramas and some not, and he is incredibly versatile in the roles he plays- for instance, he often plays Americans and you can't even tell that his accent isn't genuine! View his IMDB page here.

 Here are some of James McAvoy's movies:

                             Becoming Jane as Tom Lefroy

 I have very mixed feelings about this movie (don't we all!), and Jane Austen's love interest Tom Lefroy is not the best character ever, but he's so charming and clever that it's almost impossible to dislike him entirely. Tom is a bit of a dandy, and an unfortunate one at that, and James McAvoy seems to be very good at playing those types of characters! Despite being a bit on the mischievous side and not entirely trustworthy, I did like this performance and it's actually one of my favourites of his. Plus his costumes are so stylish! "Green velvet coat- vastly fashionable!"

                         The Conspirator as Frederick Aiken
  James McAvoy plays an American in this movie- with a beard?!! I admit I had my doubts about it at first, but I've since come to the conclusion that it seems to suit him very well! The movie is set after the Civil War and tells the story behind the assassination of President Linclon. I'm fascinated with history, so naturally I thought I would love this movie when it was released two years ago, but I actually ended up liking it more than I'd anticipated. Not only is it very well-cast and well-filmed- not that I'm an expert on filming or anything!- it's also very historically accurate, and all around a very worthwhile movie. Plus, James McAvoy gets to wear a Union uniform, which, I might add, is not unreasonably flattering. :)

                                Penelope as Johnny Martin

 This is very possibly one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen (confession: I initially only wanted to watch it because James McAvoy was in it), but it's also rather charming and clever and this is actually one of my favourite of James McAvoy's roles. Johnny Martin is kind of a....what's the word? I hate to say bum, but that seems to fit! He's sort of a down-on-his-luck kind of character, and when a reporter looking for an assistant mistakes him for someone else, he goes along with it because he needs the money. He really improves a lot by the end of the story- at first he's a gambler and a thief - but he really reforms a great deal and I like this character quite a bit. And he plays the piano! That was quite nice. :) This movie also has some very interesting costumes- it's pretty much impossible to tell just what era the story is set in- or what country, since some of them sound American and some of them sound British- but Johnny Martin has quite the impressive wardrobe. In short, if you like quirky movies with weird storylines and great actors, you'll probably like Penelope!

  I've also seen James McAvoy in Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but that was only once a very long time ago and I really don't remember it at all- plus, that's really not my cup of tea and so that's probably why I've never cared to watch it again!

Facts About James McAvoy:

 -He is married to actress Anne-Marie Duff, and they have a son named Brendan.

 -He trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

 -As a child, he wanted to become a missionary.

 -Before he went into acting, he wanted to join the Navy.

 -After growing up in Glasgow, he moved to London at the age of 20.

 -He is good friends with Benedict Cumberbatch (another favourite of mine!)

Simply put, he is quite charming!

Have you seen James McAvoy in many movies? Which is your favourite of his roles?

Very Truly Yours,

Emma Jane

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Horatio and Archie

This is an excerpt from the first Horatio Hornblower novel, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, which my sister Sadie is currently reading. My second favourite character in the series, Archie Kennedy, is a far smaller and insignificant character in the books; indeed, he only has a few lines in the first book. And that's it. They made him into a much bigger character in the movie series, which furthers my very strong belief that the screenwriters knew EXACTLY what they were doing! However, I really liked this one line (of his three- THREE!) in the book, because it shows how he and Horatio really were friends, even if they were not as close as was portrayed in the movies.

  Excerpt from chapter 4, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

 Midshipman Hornblower was walking the lee side of the quarterdeck, as became his lowly station as the junior officer of the watch, when Midshipman Kennedy approached him. Kennedy took off his hat with a flourish and bowed low as his dancing master had once taught him, left foot advanced, hat down by the right knee. Hornblower entered into the spirit of the game, laid his hat against his stomach, and bent himself in the middle three times in quick succession. Thanks to his physical awkwardness {*} he could parody ceremonial solemnity almost without trying.
  "Most grave and reverend signor", said Kennedy. "I bear the compliments of Captain Sir Edward Pellew, who humbly solicits Your Gravity's attendance at dinner at eight bells in the afternoon watch."
  "My respects to Sir Edward", replied Hornblower, bowing to his knees at the mention of the name, "and I shall condescend to make a brief appearance."
   "I am sure the captain will be both relieved and delighted", said Kennedy. "I will convey him my felicitations along with your most flattering acceptance."

           Awwww! That's enough, Emma.

* Physically awkward indeed!

Very Truly Yours,

         Emma Jane

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Birthday to Emma Thompson!

                     Today is Emma Thompson's 54th birthday!

 Emma Thompson has been one of my favourite actresses for quite some time, ever since I first saw her as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1995). Since then, I have had the pleasure of seeing her in numerous other period dramas and she is quite delightful! (Coincidentally, she is also my namesake! Well, sort of.)

 Emma Thompson was born in London, England, on April 15th, 1959, into a family of actors- her father was Eric Thompson, who has passed away, and her mother, Phyllida Law, has co-starred with Thompson in several films (her sister, Sophie Thompson, is an actress as well). Thompson's wit was earlier cultivated by a cheerful, clever, creative family atmosphere, and she was a popular and successful student. She attended Cambridge University, studying English literature, and was part of the university's Footlights group.
 Thompson has continued to move effortlessly between the art film world and mainstream Hollywood, though even her Hollywood roles tend to be more up-market productions. She continues to work on television as well, but is generally very selective about which roles she takes. She writes for the screen as well, such as the screenplay for Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995) in which she also starred as Elinor Dashwood. Thompson is known for her sophisticated, skillful performances, and her arch wit. (Mini biography taken- let's say borrowed- from

Period Dramas

  Sense and Sensibility (1995) as Elinor Dashwood

This is one of my very favourite movies and also the first movie I saw Emma Thompson act in. She will always be the face of Elinor for me, and I truly loved this performance. Also, even though I haven't read the novel, I'd say that she did an  excellent job writing the screenplay! (Also, I loved her Golden Globe speech after she received the award for best screenplay- it's on the special features of our copy, which I think is a special edition, and the speech, which is mostly about Jane Austen, is very clever and witty.)

Howard's End (1992) as Margaret Schlegel

This *cough* is not by any means the best movie I've ever seen; in fact, I don't really care for it a great deal. It's extremely sad and somewhat difficult to watch, and this is not one of the best roles I've seen Emma Thompson in, but still she was quite lovely. And I loved her early 19th century hairstyles! The scenery in Howard's End is very pretty and the film has some good lines, especially the when Margaret and her sister Helen are talking back and forth to one another. Emma Thompson's performance was good, and there a number of other very acclaimed actors in it, but I'm not sure I'd very highly recommend the movie.

The Remains of the Day (1993) as Miss Kenton

Another sad movie! My mother really likes this movie, and I wanted to see Emma Thompson so those are the main reasons why I saw it. It is a very well done movie (it was nominated for eight academy awards, I think)....but again, not my favourite. This movie too had very pretty post-WW1 costumes, and I loved Emma Thompson's hairstyles! The cast was also very impressive- Matthews from Hornblower even had a small role!- and the scenery and music were very pretty. The ending was- sob- REALLY sad, because *spoiler* even though Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens loved each other, they never got together and ended up somewhat miserable *end of spoiler*. Actually, to tell you the truth, I didn't exactly watch the entire thing- I was younger then and got kind of bored- but I got the impression that things didn't turn out too great. So it is a very well-done movie, and I liked Emma Thompson's and Anthony Hopkins' characters, but keep in mind that it is very sad!

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) as Beatrice

 My family actually watched this movie for the first time just this year. We had seen the trailer over and over again on Sense and Sensibility- actually, I suppose Sadie and I were the only ones who watched it over and over) and I was not disappointed at all! I'm not a huge fan of Shakespeare- I tried watching As You Like It once and couldn't make head nor tails of it- but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and most everything about it.  And the music is by Patrick Doyle, so what's not to like? Beatrice was a very charming and witty character, and I think this is one of my favourite of Emma Thompson's performances.

Facts About Emma Thompson

  -She is married to actor Greg Wise, and they have one daughter named Gaia Romilly Wise.

  -She speaks French and Spanish fluently.

  -She is good friends with actress Meryl Streep

  -She met her husband-to-be Greg Wise on the set of Sense and Sensibilty in 1995, and they were married in 2003

  -Her performance as Miss Kenton in The Remains of the Day is ranked #52 on Premier Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time

Personal Quotes

"I am who I am and there is nothing I can do about that."

"I've realized that in all the great stories, even if there's a happily-ever-after ending, there's something sad."

                                                                 Dear Emma!

Have you seen Emma Thompson in many films? Which of her roles is your favourite?

Very Truly Yours,

   Emma Jane

It's Monday....and there's no Movie Quote

 Hello, my dear readers!
  After much thought and consideration- well, alright, not that much- I have concluded that I will not be continuing my Monday Movie Quote thing. Why? Well, because I've found that it's kind of difficult to get the exact quote from the movie unless you have completely memorized it, and IMDB is useless as far as quotes go, I've found. They have no idea what they're doing. I recently watched Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil again, and that quote I posted back in March was WAY off from the original. I will still post quotes from movies and books and historical figures every now and then, but not routinely on Mondays.

Very Truly Yours,

   Emma Jane

Mood: thoughtful

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Girl in the Gatehouse Discussion Questions

I just finished reading this novel yesterday, and though I did not care for it as much as some of Julie Klassen's other books, it was tolerably good and I enjoyed it. I had started reading it last year and didn't finish it for some reason or another, probably because I found it uninteresting at the time- and it does start out rather slow- but having read and enjoyed The Tutor's Daughter and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, I decided to try it again. I found it charming and clever, and I have decided to answer these discussion questions I found in the back of the book.

#1 Had you known that Jane Austen's name never appeared in her books during her lifetime? Did it surprise you that novel writing was considered (at least by some) improper and unladylike? In what ways might those attitudes continue today?

 Yes, I did know that Jane Austen published anonymously during her lifetime. Since I've seen Becoming Jane (yes, I know it's not entirely accurate, but I think it did succeed in  conveying how adamant Jane's parents- namely her mother- and others were against her writing) and I've read quotes and other snippets Jane Austen wrote or said at the time in her life, it didn't really surprise me that novel writing was considered improper for ladies by most people. However, it did surprise me how angry Captain Bryant became when Mariah told him that she was the elusive "Lady A". I suppose it would seem very improper and unladylike for a young woman to publish such 'scandelous' novels, because young ladies were supposed to feign ignorance on most serious subjects and so I can kind of see how a woman writing such a novel would wish to remain anonymous, especially if her family was already ashamed or disappointed in her.

#2 Mariah's situation (sent away after an indiscretion to live in relative isolation) was loosely based on the fate of one of Jane Austen's characters in Mansfield Park (although Maria Bertram was a married woman who had an affair.) Did you think Mariah Aubrey's father treated her unfairly? How have attitudes toward "vice and virtue" changed since the early 1800s?

 Even though Mariah had gotten herself into a great deal of trouble by trusting James Crawford, I am inclined to think her father was maybe a bit too hard on her. After all, even though Mariah was to blame in part, it was mostly Mr. Crawford's fault and just poor judgement on Mariah's part. She obviously never meant for it to happen at all. I know it would've been very difficult, but I think her father ought to have forgiven her. Attitudes towards "vice and virtue" have certainly changed a great deal! These days, anything goes, when back then the sort of scandal Mariah was involved in was just that: a scandal. It's an awful shame how 'lax' people and their propriety have become. Then again, back then men could do whatever they jolly well pleased, and if women ever committed any indiscretion it was a huge deal. And yet others, like Mariah's father, were so appalled by others' impropriety that they refused to forgive them. So I suppose even though people's views in general have certainly changed, there were bad and good kinds of people then, and there are bad and good kinds of people now.

#3 Did you learn anything new from the historical quotes at the beginning of each chapter? what quote in particular did you like? Why?

 Well, as you likely already know, I love quotes, and so I quite enjoyed reading the ones the author chose to put at the beginning of each chapter. Most of them were about woman authors and writing in general, which I liked, and most of them had at least something to do with Jane Austen (surprise, surprise- Julie Klassen seems to be somewhat obsessed,) but there were a great many that I found extremely clever. (That is not to say I didn't like Jane Austen's- I did, but I admit it did get rather tiresome.) Here are some of my favourites:

 " At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction."     -Elizabeth Barret Browning

 " A novel, like poetry, should have for its hero a person superior to the common herd of men"   -Lady Shelley

 " Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet."     -Jane Austen

 "A novel must be exceptionally good to live as long as the average cat."    -Lord Chesterfield

  "I have finished a novel called Pride and Prejudice, which I think a very superior work. I wish much to know who is the author, or ess as I am told."     -Annabella Milbanke

 And here is one that I simply resent, from that horrid man Nathaniel Hawthorne ,who just says one nasty think after another. (That's right, the same Nathaniel Hawthorne who said of John Brown, "Nobody was ever more justly hanged.") It was written in a letter to his publisher in 1852:

  "All women, as authors, are feeble and tiresome. I wish they were forbidden to write."  
     -Naughty Nathaniel Hawthorne

Despicable man! I could just cook him!


#4 Did you figure out the mystery of Captain Prince early on? What about the "treasure" in the gatehouse? Did you spot any red herrings (false clues) that led you to believe there might be real treasure (say, jewels or gold) in the gatehouse?

 No, I confess I did not figure out the mystery of Captain Prince. *Hangs head in shame*. I was probably as puzzled as Mariah about the strange man roaming the roof with a telescope. so much for my Nancy Drew detective skills! Neither did I suspect of there actually being any "real" treasure in the gatehouse, although I kind of suspected that Hugh- that devil- wanted Francesca's journals for something. I didn't guess early on that he had actually published one of her novels, but it didn't really surprise me that much, because that is JUST like something he would do.

#5 Captain Bryant spent many years trying to gain his father's approval. Can you relate? How so? What makes father/child relationships so important?

 I feel like I've read so many books where the son endlessly tries to gain his father's approval, but to no avail. Matthew Bryant's father wasn't as fire-and-brimstone as Frank Wyatt in Hidden Places, though, thank goodness! I can't say that I really relate, because I've never exactly felt that I had to try very hard to gain someone's approval. I suppose that's because I mostly don't really care what other people think of me- to a certain extent, that is. I don't wish people to think I am a hard-hearted villain, of course- because I'm not- but I honestly don't mind if they think I'm somewhat....eccentric. Because really, I am, and there's no denying it! Yes, I think father/child relationships are indeed important, because ideally, you want to be able to admire and look up to your father as someone you can trust and depend upon. If a father is cold and unaffecionate, it can make it difficult for you to be close to him. Also, in Frank Wyatt's case, it makes the child very frightened of their father, and that is never a good thing.

#6 Did you find yourself growing fond of any character that you did not care for at the outset? Which character was your favourite? Why?

  At first, I didn't really care for Miss Dixon, which is strange, because by the end of the story she was one of my favourite characters. I started out picturing her like Beatrix Potter's companion in Miss Potter, Miss Wiggin, who, if you've seen the movie, is not exactly all smiles and benevolence. I suppose it was because the author first described her as being "barely fifty, but complaining like a much older woman." But after a while, the character grew on me, and even though I still think of her as Miss Wiggin, I liked her immensely. Also, Martin the manservant really grew on me as well. When it was first mentioned that he had a hook, I thought, Oh dear, Lemony Snicket. But he wasn't your regular hook-handed, villainous, child-napping man at all, and when I found out he had been a ships' steward ( hooray for the British navy!), I liked him all the more. I also thought it was charming the way he and Dixon teased each other all the time. Even if it was a little too obvious that they would end up together. :)

Favourite Characters:

 - Martin

 - Miss Susan Dixon

 - Lieutenant William Hart- Captain Bryant's former first officer who comes to stay with him at Windrush Court. He seemed a bit bitter at first, sort of a I-know-I'm-crippled-but-I'm-still-just-the-man-you-are-and-I-don't-want-your-pity-so-just-leave-me-alone kind of guy, but I eventually grew to like him, and he and Lizzy's romance was just so sweet- in truth, I liked them better that Mariah and Matthew, probably because there wasn't so much un-needed drama involved in their relationship. Plus, I just liked the characters better.

 -Miss Amy Merryweather, the kind, frail old lady from the poorhouse whom Mariah befriends. She was always so cheerful and optimistic, despite her bleak circumstances, and her unfailing faith in God was definitely inspiring. Later in the story it is discovered that she was sold into prostitution by her own father when she was young, but then Percival Prin-Hallsey (aka Captain Prince) came along and bought her freedom and placed her in a respectable home. She and Captain Prince's relationship reminded me of Miss Matty Jenkyns and Thomas Holbrook in Cranford, because even though they never married, love without marriage is still a sacred thing. I admit I was disappointed with the scene where Miss Amy died. (Honestly, Julie Klassen, can't you give me a decent tear-worthy death scene?) And for one of my favourite characters in the book, no less! Arggg. I prize my tear-jerking, epic death scenes, ( even though that must sound kind of morbid), and needless to say this was not the best *cough* one I've ever read. Not the worst, but by no means the best. Miss Amy deserved better.

 - Most everyone from the Honora House poorhouse- the Merryweathers, Lizzy and George Barnes, Maggie. But then again, the poor folks are always the favourites, aren't they? Even though their circumstances were none too pleasant- and they had to put up with that abominable Mrs. Pitt- they all seemed so much happier than Captain Bryant's stupid house party. It was especially evident when Captain Bryant and his so-called 'friends' tried to put on the theatrical, because it was clear they didn't have near as much fun as the players at Honora House. It just goes that wealth and position isn't everything- unconditional cheerfulness is!

Least Favourite Characters:

 -Captain Matthew Bryant- yes, I know, he's the hero (per se) of the story and therefore I am supposed to like an admire and revere him and all that- after all, a novel should have for its hero a person superior to the common herd of men- but I didn't. I'm not sure why, exactly, but he seemed rather......weak. And for a sea captain in his majesty's navy, one cannot be weak. In the author's note in the back of the book, I read that  Captain Bryant was inspired by Captain Wentworth of Persuasion and..... Forester's Horatio Hornblower? WHAT? Nothing about him was in the least bit equal to Horatio. Nothing. Except, of course, that he was a navy captain. Since I am not at all acquainted with Captain Wentworth, I would not presume to judge how Matthew Bryant compares or measures up to him, but he was certainly no Horatio. But of course, no one is. In a way, he reminded me somewhat of Arthur Clennam in Little Dorrit, since all the while he was trying to win the fickle and shallow Isabella Forsythe, Mariah was the one who truly loved him. However, I did not like Captain Bryant near as much as Arthur. I know Julie Klassen is capable of creating a likable hero, because I did truly find Henry Weston in The Tutor's Daughter very satisfactory indeed, but Matthew Bryant was, needless to say, not my favourite. I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say he's my least favourite, but I honestly didn't like him much.

 -Hugh Prin-Hallsey was an abominable scoundrel. I knew I disliked him from the start. I did find it rather comical, however, how he and Mariah's Aunt Francesca disliked each other so much, and I can see how she would.

 -Ned Parker- another abominable scoundrel! I started out liking Ned and I admit I was, like Mariah, deceived by his seemingly charming ways, but then he made clear to everyone that he was a complete idiot. Before he made the big scandalous scene during the theatrical, however, I was very amused at how he and his mother bantered back and forth and teased and scolded each other, sort of like Edmund Sparkler and Mrs. Merdle in Little Dorrit. (One thing I've noticed about Julie Klassen is, a good many of her characters in each story remind me so much of Little Dorrit characters!)

#7 What was your reaction to Amy Merryweather's red yarn as a symbol of our life to come? (As a reminder, she said, "Don't hold on to the knots and forget the life ahead.") Have you had to get past knots in your own life?

 Oh, dear Amy Merryweather and her metaphors! I did like her analogy about the yarn, and her advice not to become distracted with knots and forget about the life God has promised us in the future. As Horatio Hornblower wisely says, "Each of us has a maggot in our past that will happily destroy our future." We can't let the maggots eat away at our futures- we should just kill the darn things and remember all the wonderful blessings God has given us and the life He has in store for us!

#8 Mariah did not blame God for her problems, but she no longer felt worthy of His love. Have you or someone you've known had difficulty embracing forgiveness? How did that affect your relationships and /or self-esteem?

  It is easy to see how Mariah could feel unworthy of God's love- after all, she had disgraced her family's good name and condemned herself to a life of regret because of what she had done. But forgiveness is unconditional. No matter how great the sin, God still forgives, and that's what's so absurdly wonderful about it. Sometimes I think about just how unworthy I am, which, I'm sure you know, is not the most pleasant thought in the world, but really, we're all unworthy and undeserving, and yet He still forgives us. Because even though we are- all of us, even Horatio Hornblower- sinners, God is good. And He is enough.

#9 Go back and read the first two words and the last two words of the book. Any thoughts on why the author may have chosen them?

  I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with her ladyship Julie Klassen (haha,) but as the first two words were "The end" and the last two words were "the beginning", I think she must have chosen them because at the start of the story, Mariah felt as though it was the end of her life as she had know it and nothing would ever be the same for her again, which I imagine is none too pleasant a feeling, and at the end she was just beginning her life with Matthew didn't know what the future might have in store. It's actually quite straightforward. Funny, I didn't notice the significance of the first and last two words until I looked back again!

#10 If you could ask the author one question, what would it be?

 My dear Mrs. Klassen, have you ever even seen Hornblower? Do you even know who he is?Kidding! Honestly, I don't really know. I'd most likely ask her where she finds all of her quotes, or whether she's ever considered writing anything that was not set during the regency era. Things like that.

This question wasn't in this book but rather The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and since I (almost involuntarily) do this anyway with almost every single book I read, I have decided to include this question just for the mere amusement of it:

 -If this book were ever made into a movie, which actors would you like to see in the leading roles?

  I love speculating about casting books! However, I usually can't make up my mind as to which actors should play the main characters in novels, but once in a while it's quite obvious. For instance, Dr. McGrath in Fire by Night IS Michael Fassbender and  Lady Weston in The Tutor's Daughter IS Francesca Annis and Gabe Harper in Hidden Places IS Gerard Butler. More often it's the smaller, less significant characters who I can really picture being played by a certain actor. Here is my 'dream cast' for The Girl in the Gatehouse:

  Mrs. Pitt-- Pam Ferris

I've only seen Pam Ferris in Little Dorrit as Mrs. General, (and although I've never seen it, she is Mrs. Squeers in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, 2001), but I immediately pictured her as Mrs. Pitt, the cold and unfeeling poorhouse matron. Mrs. Pitt also made me think of Mrs. Frouchie, the orphanage matron in the American Girl Samantha movie, but I think if this book were ever made into a movie- that is, if I were the casting director, I would cast Mrs. Ferris

Albert Phelps-- Tom Wilkinson

I suppose it was because Mr. Phelps the gardener reminded me so much of Dr. Chausible in The Importance of Being Earnest that I thought of Tom Wilkinson, but from the very start he was the face of Mr. Phelps. I've seen Mr. Wilkinson in quite a number of films, actually, including The Patriot as General Cornwallis, Sense and Sensiblity as John Dashwood (the elder- at least, I think that was his name,) The Conspirator as Reverdy Johnson, and Martin Chuzzlewit as Seth Pecksniff (he was so weird in that!) He seems to be very good at playing odd but well-meaning older gentleman, which is exactly what Albert Phelps is.

John Pitt-- Matthew McNulty

Yes, I know, Edward Bell, ugh. But John Pitt is ugh, so I think this guy would be perfect. John Pitt is Mrs. Pitt's only son (who thinks he's all that) and who admires- bothers, actually, is more like it- Lizzy Barnes. I did not like him, and Edward Bell immediately came to mind for some odd reason, even though they're not really the same sort of *bad* character, but I think this is who I'd cast.

Amy and Agnes Merryweather-- Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins

The Merryweather sisters didn't particularly remind me a great deal of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah- actually, they sort of made me think of Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin in The Waltons, except neither Miss Mamie or Miss Emily were cranky like Agnes. I suppose it was because the whole Captain Prince, long-forgotten romance was reminiscent of Ashley Longworth! Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench are just so good at playing sisters, though, that I think they would be quite charming as Miss Amy and Miss Agnes, Judi Dench as Amy and Eileen Atkins as Agnes. That is not to say that Eileen Atkins (or Miss Deborah) is grumpy, that's just how I picture it.

Isabella Forsythe-- Georgia King

Just as Captain Bryant's futile quest to win Isabella Forsythe made me think of Arthur Clennam, Isabella, naturally, gained the face of Pet Meagles. I've never thought of Georgia King as very pretty- alright, people, let's face it. There's just something not right about her mouth. I don't know what it is, but unfortunately, it's not very flattering. However, if not for her mouth, she very likely would be very pretty indeed, and she has that delicate, fair complexion that is generally thought of as pretty, or was back in those days, (oh, those days!), and that's exactly how I picture Isabella- fair and dainty, but not strikingly beautiful.

Captain Prince-- Martin Shaw

I really don't know anything about this guy, as all I've ever seen him in is Cranford as Matty and Deborah's brother Peter. At first I pictured Captain Prince more like the horrible, mentally unstable Captain Sawyer in Hornblower. However, it soon became obvious that this captain was not in any way like the tyrannical Sawyer, even if he was a bit unstable. I suppose it's because he was (rather) old and kind and had been a traveller in his earlier days that he made me think of Peter Jenkyns. Plus, I had really liked Martin Shaw as Peter- much better than Jonathon Pryce!- and so I think I should like to see more of him. That, and he just looks like a kind old sea captain!

Hugh Prin-Hallsey-- Nathaniel Parker

You probably don't need me to tell you who THIS horrible gentleman is, but I shall tell you anyway- this, my friends, is the actor (who, I'm sure, is probably a very nice person...) who plays Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. This is the only movie I've ever seen him in, but since Hugh Prin-Hallsey is the type of scoundrel who is more of a fop who doesn't really mean any harm and whose main goal in life is for wealth and ease, Harold Skimpole seemed to fit the bill.

The ending of this book, I admit, was strangely reminiscent of a Barbie movie- everyone marrying each other, the bad characters coming to bad ends, Hugh Prin-Hallsey believed to be residing in a "shabby Cheapside inn".....just a little too happy-ever-after, if you ask me. The wedding scene was like the author completely copied it from Barbie Rapunzel, or maybe that was just me? Not that I don't LOVE Rapunzel, (it remains one of the best Barbie movies of all time- they don't make them like they used to, but then I suppose I'm sentimental), but for a historical novel, it seemed just a bit too...happy, if that's even possible!
I'm not saying I didn't like the book; I truly did. Of course, I've read much better, but this was a refreshingly simplistic, charming novel, one I would recommend, especially if you like the regency era in general.

  "Harmless amusement!"  -The Monthly Review, about Emma

Very Truly Yours,

 Emma Jane

Mood: dreamy
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