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The author’s real name is Carolyn Heilbrun, the detective Kate Fansler


Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) of Prime Suspect fame

Friends and readers,

An interim blog: this is me thinking out a few semi-conclusions I’ve come to after a couple of months of reading books about women detectives (history, literary criticism, culture, feminist) and reading and rereading a few such books by men and women. As I’ve written on my Sylvia I blog, I seem to be going through something of a transition after living in this world without Jim for some 9 plus years. Part of this is I am liking books I used to not be able to read, and able to accept optimism and at least sympathize with (understand in a new way from an outward transactional POV) some conventional transactional pro-social-ambition perspectives.

To get to the point here, I find that I can’t resist reading and watching new kinds of material in the detective, mystery-thriller, spy genre kind, which I’ve come back to seeing as closely allied to the gothic. Not that I altogether rejected books with women detectives at the center: my first Internet pseudonym was Sylvia Drake, a minor character in Dorothy Sayer’s Gaudy night, and my gravatar for my political blog is a small picture of Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane looking thoughtful.


From Strong Poison: she is supposed the murderer and this is in prison, she is talking to Lord Peter Wimsey (Edward Petherbridge)

The reading came out of my preparing for my coming The Heroine’s Journey course this winter. As you can see, if you go over the look, there is no example among my four slender book choices of a female detective novel. That’s because I couldn’t think of one slender enough for such a short course until I came upon Amanda Cross’s (aka Carolyn Heilbrun’s) Death in a Tenured Position. Most recent and older female detective novels are average size, say 350 pages (Gaudy Night is about this size) because often many combine a “novel of manners” (or domestic romance) with the detective formula. But I found it to be a central category because since surfacing in novels in the 1860s, the type has multiplied in appearances until say today there may be several TV shows featuring a female detective available all at once.

Although I’ve found dictionary-type books with lists and essays on women writers and their detective novels (Great Women Mystery Writers, ed Kathleen Gregory Klein, truly excellent; By a Woman’s Hand by Jean Swanson and Dean James, 200 short entries which have the merit of naming the author as well as the detective and offering enough information to give the reader a gist of what type of mystery fiction this is), it has been very hard to find any essay-like books treating just the category of female detective fiction by women writers. The nature of the material (influences, who’s writing what, movies as a group-creation) has led to many male writers putting female detectives at the center of their series, and many female writers putting male detectives, and these mixed gender creations (so to speak) are often superb in all sorts of ways.

One of my felicitous reading and watching experiences this past year was Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders (both book and film), which features a private detective, Atticus Pund (spelt without accents) in a 1950s novel as part of an investigation into a parallel murder today by the old trope amateur sleuth, Sue Ryland in (presumably) 2021 — for its witticism, self-reflexive uses of the core fantasies, styles and yes multi-gender empathies.


Sue Rylands (Leslie Manville) is also intended to appeal to older unmarried career women (the spinster trope transformed & modernized at last)

But as there is a real, findable, and demonstable fault-line and difference between male and female writing, and films made by mostly men or mostly women, and visual art, and music too, and one of my aims as a teacher and writer is to keep women’s literature alive and make it more respected; I’ve been after just the books by women albeit in a multi-gender context. I’ve also tried to stick to films where the central author originally (or continuously) is a woman, and evidence shows women directing, producing, doing set design. The qualification here is all of these are shaped by the kind of detection mystery genre the book/film is written in. I’ve followed Andrew Marr centrally here; Julian Symons’s Bloody Murders is also indispensable.

I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions.

I agree in part with Kathleen Klein’s brilliant analysis (The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre) of the depiction of female detectives mostly in books, but equally by men and women that often these may easily be read and are in fact intended (when conscious) as anti-feminist (meaning the movement for independence and equality) portrayals from a male (in some eras on TV lascivious) POV.

This POV is on display in right now in the incessant arguments and brutal put-downs of Miss Eliza Scarlet (the ever patient Kate Phillips has played many an wholly abject woman, from Jane Seymour in the recent Wolf Hall, to Tolstoy’s hero Andrei’s long-suffering wife, the 2016 serial by Andrew Davies) by “The Duke” Inspector Wellington (the pugnacious, overtly insulting professional police detective played by Stuart Martin, doubtless chosen for his resemblance to the matinee idol type, Richard Armitage) who reiterates constantly a woman cannot be both a real or natural or happy woman and a detective; who needs strong men around her to protect her. Injury was added to insult in the most recent episode (Season 3, Episode 2) where a story was concocted whereby a mean and bullying ex-friend, Amanda Acaster, who repeatedly humiliated and nowadays derides her, is also used to criticize adversely Eliza’s character: Eliza is supposed now to have felt for Amanda trying to have a career using the same manipulative amoral tactics she did when the two were young. She is not charged though her measures were what encouraged a gang of thieves to use her restaurant as a front.  But look she surpasses Eliza in the Victoria sponge cake line. The costuming of the program shows some knowledge of the illustrations for such stories in the 1870s/90s, the music is very good, and lines are witty (though usually at Eliza’s expense) and I’d call the presentation stylish. I have spent this much time on it as it’s contemporary and its perniciousness extends to endorsing bullying and mocking non-macho males (Andrew Gower as a homosexual man controlled by his mother).

In many of these detective stories especially the hard-boiled type, and since the 1990s, the woman simply takes on male characteristics, and when she doesn’t and displays genuine female psychology, set of values, life experiences, and is as competent as the males and not just by intuition, by the end of a given book or series, we are to see she has not lived a fulfilled life, which must include marriage and motherhood. This is how Prime Suspect finally ends. In medias res, the female detective of whatever type is often allowed genuine common women’s lives characteristics and we see themes and archetypes familiar in women’s literature, e.g., recent film instance of the mother-daughter rivalry paradigm in Annika where the older heroine is divorced and lives with her teenage older daughter. There is now a line of disguised lesbian socially-conscious fiction, e.g., Val McDermid, seen in film recently featuring Karen Pirie played by Lauren Lyle, of Outlander provenance, dressed in unemphatically non-binary ways

But I don’t agree wholly with Klein (or others who write from her vantage). At the same time, the way out is not to trivialize and pretend to treat as playful amusement “the lady investigator” and her now many daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters, all the while lightly coming to the same conclusion as Klein, with some face-saving and genuinely rescuing qualifications. This is the vein taken by Patricia Craig and Mary Cadogan in their The Lady Investigates: Women Detectives and Spies in Fiction: a very informative as well as insightful book; it covers amateur and private detectives as well as the spy genre, which Klein does not. Nor is it to ignore this aspect of the genre altogether: Lucy Worsley in her Art of Murder manages this, at the same time as she (curiously) denies that the mass audience for this kind of thing understands it as fantasy (that most murders are not solved, and when solved not by brilliant ratiocinative nor super-scientific techniques, but rather information from people involved) but out of a thirst for violence and fascination with death (this does ally it to the gothic).

What we need to remember is the history of the genre: it first emerges in the later 19th century when women could get jobs and income on their own, go to college as woman (usually women’s colleges). The whole larger genre of detective fiction develops its characteristics when you first have men hired in visible numbers and a real police force. So there were male models for male detectives but no female models for female detectives. This changes (Miss Scarlet and the Duke is quite a startling throw-back) post-World War II when women held on to their array of male jobs and began to be hired, however slowly, and to be promoted to managerial positions in institutions, including the police (Lynda LaPlante modelled Jane Tennison on an actual woman detective).

I suggest that the woman detective was an popular substitute for the “new woman” so distinguished by feminist literary scholars of the 1890s (which never achieved much popularity or was not lasting); she becomes liberated and a real woman as women in our western societies begin at any rate to achieve the right and education for financial and some real sexual independence. We see this in Horowitz’s Sue Rylands and I hope to show other women detectives from the post World War II era.

So as a follow-on from this framework, I hope from time to time to write blogs here when the writer is a male and the portrait less than really feminocentric; on detective fiction found in both books and films; and on Reveries under the Sign of Austen (when the writer is female and the work genuinely l’ecriture-femme, which includes for me a genuinely anti-violence, anti-war and pro-woman political POV, which by the way I do think Prime Suspect was and is: Gray Cavender and Nancy C Jurik’s Justice Provocateur: Jane Tennison and Policing in Prime Suspect. The victims in these shows are often women tortured by male violence, young children, including boys destroyed and warped by male pedasty, immigrants, mostly women working menial jobs desperately, and yes prostitutes too, and women who murder (including one semi-accidental infanticide) too.

First up for Austen Reveries will be Amanda Cross’s Death in a Tenured Position and, for this blog, the older masterpiece, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant investigates the character of Richard III)


Of course Josephine Tey was a pseudonym; the author’s real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh, and the photo is of Jennifer Morag Henderson who wrote an excellent biography

Ellen

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The baker (Jake Lowenthal) and his wife (Erin Weaver)

This musical needs no recommendation, but perhaps this particular production as a seasonal favorite does

Gentle readers and kind friends,

The world may be about to burst into flames or drowned seven fathoms deep, people killed senselessly and maliciously or for profit everywhere we look (recently especially the world’s cup with millions watching anyway), a mad-dog version of an older political party about to take over the US House of Representatives, with the aim of doing nothing but destroy, but this year Washington DC can boast of several emotionally fulfilling productions — which (I think) do this by returning to faery tale and fantasy. The usual Folger production is at the Roundhouse in Maryland (and it has been too far for me or I would have seen it more than once), a wonderful Tempest, Wicked at the Kennedy Center, still sparkling, I’d say utterly iconic (the witch looks like Margaret Hamilton), and this past week, I enjoyed the National Theater fantasy caricature of MAAN.

What I liked about this Into the Woods — I’ve seen a number, including a year after Jim died, the Disney adaptation (see the blog for discussion of Sondheim’s motives and ideas about the faery tales) –,  is its clarity. What a wonder.  It is not over- nor under-produced. You were allowed to pay attention to the outlines of the interwoven stories, the characters’ lines, and their simple or archetypal emotions. I don’t know how they managed such a fresh feel, but they did it


At turning points in the plot-design, the whole cast gets together around the storyteller to hear where we are and project togetherness

Perhaps, as may be gathered from Peter Marks’s review (Washington Post), it was just that you were able to grasp the common human emotion driving this fantasy character in his or her ordinary predicament (she cannot get pregnant, the young boy will not be able to make a living, the little girl as a woman is impeded by a predatory male wolf), several of them desperate.


Cinderella in her Russian peasant outfit — the outfits seemed to me redolent of Russian peasants in archetypal movies (especially that of the Baker)

The Cinderella core paradigm of envy among women feels the least humanly convincing, the most exaggerated: the stepmother and three sisters resonated least for me, were most artificial because they were all made so ugly. Curious, the incidents that today hit home: the prince, when his princess has disappeared, aggressively seducing and lying to the baker’s wife, and the witch as the mother who in her need for her daughter’s love rationalizes she’s protecting her, when she’s preventing her from living. I this time admit the witch’s lines to Rapunzel “Stay with me:” “Don’t you know what’s out there in the world? … Stay at home … Who out there could love you more than I? …

Stay with me
The world is dark and wild
Stay a child while you can be a child …

did not resonate as much. I feel the original witch-look (Nova Y. Payton) was too much a caricature, and her black-sequined glamor gown made her not sufficiently a mother, more too much of a “black mamma” sexual object. There is such a thing as over-modernization because our favored cultural images and gestures are so very artificial, relentlessly competitive, and heartless. So there the simplifying didn’t work; the witch role was over-the-top, done somewhat crudely


Alex de Bard as Little Red Riding Hood shrugging off two mothers

I call the ambiance clarity, for this is the first time I realized how many of the characters actually die. Hitherto I thought of this as a story where we are shocked by the unexpected sudden unprepared death of the baker’s wife, but in fact (taking faery as fact), Little Red Riding Hood’s mother and grandmother die, Jack’s mother dies, the storyteller at one point is no longer with us, and I never felt assured the blinding of several characters was reversed. I had taken it the first half ends happily, so we are left to wonder what can keep us to a second half?


The spiky paratextual theme song (“Into the Woods” we go) is essential for keeping the impetus thrust forward going

I wondered what more was there to say? It is really common for Sondheim’s musicals to fall off in the second half (especially clear in Sunday in the Park with George). That was the feel as we re-began . But soon we began to see a lot could happen — that’s why we need all this wishing: the statements “I wish”  begins the production and one more ends it.

Disaster strikes in the form of a never-seen female monster-giantess. Feel free to allegorize? We watch our left-standing characters re-group again and again — after some squabbling. I remembered the death of the Baker’s wife since it was emphasized in the Disney film (and the other deaths skipped or slid over somehow), but that this was the incident in the film which provoked the lyrics that I began to keen over once again: here it was Red Riding Hood who suddenly missed her grandmother

Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Others may deceive you.
You decide what’s good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone …

Jim has left us (me and Izzy) halfway through the wood. I just moved stiffly further back in my chair as I tried to dissociate myself from the audience, theater, all about me, lobby outside. Once again I was not quite recovered when four of the characters and baby were left bonded into a new family, and then, one by one, the disappeared characters returned  onto the stage, and became part of a singing your soul out ensemble.

Don’t miss it. Magical fairytale, It’s a Wonderful Life without the miracle. Dogged as does it.


Cast towards the end singing their hearts out

I need to tell you how I managed to go. I had a win last week when I went to the Phillips with the same friend who accompanied me to this musical and then in Shirlington to dinner out in a quiet restaurant with delicious Thai food. So I am no longer immured at night even if public transportation has once again been cut — as long as there is not yet another cab or bus to take once I arrive near my destination. Very nervously I obtained the address of the restaurant from a waiter, clicked away on Lyft, went outside when it said 1 minute to go and found the car (by license plate) and man (by name, Khalid).  It is against the backdrop of what’s happening across the world, a reactionary deprivation of the majority, more and more isolation from many causes (though we have had a pushback this election cycle) that these musicals (that do not refer to the Christian myth) can best be understood.

Ellen

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Beatrice (Kate Jennings Grant) and Benedick (Rick Holmes) as TV news anchors

Readers and friends,

As many local people (DC, Maryland and Virginia) know, the Shakespeare Theater Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing (now running until Dec 11th) has been getting rave reviews. Some acknowledge you have to suspend your common sense when it comes to matching words to the action, or consistency in what happens right before us; the reviewer’s reply:  “So to Shakespeare purists I say: Reason not the need.” Supported by a strong case (I agree a number of the center actors are very good), we are to turn ourselves over to those who want to give a party


Intermittently the stage revolves and we find ourselves at a ball (this is the last scene of the play)

I don’t like being called a Shakespeare purist:  to me that means I want to see Shakespeare’s play for real at some level, a production that does justice to his text and genius. I think rather that we need not dismiss Shakespeare at all, that the production does present a coherent enough reading of the play, its transformations witty  & some appropriate. I admit as the play opened, my first reaction was to feel appalled: for a start, the characters were not following the original play’s script. I could barely hear Shakespeare’s language, there were flashing lights everywhere, lots of noise and neon. How did the production win me over until by the end I was enjoying it and had participated in genuine grief and happiness from the play?

We were in SNN (Shakespeare News Network) and hearing of episodes in Shakespeare’s other plays retold in reductive or caricatured funny ways; these punctuated the action, and they became more hilarious and more daring as the play went on. Some of the funniest had Shakespeare’s other characters’ lines as tweets. The two central stories gradually unfold, and as far as I could tell, most of Shakespeare’s best lines were kept: perhaps Kate Jennings Grant as Beatrice was too loud, too aggressive; she was (I felt) overdoing the assertion, but she was matched by Rick Holmes as Benedick undermining her. What they were doing (and I’ve seen this in other productions of MAAN) was trying to cover over, blend together two disparate stories: Hero and Claudius come near tragedy, and far from iconoclastic, and subversive of anything, they are over-the-top conventional. So the actors (Nicole King and Paul Deo, Jr) were made to speak what they had similarly loudly and with accompanying comic and romantic business also dressed absurdly:


Hero (King), Beatrice and Leonato (Edward Gero)

The theme of Shakespeare’s play is the danger of gossip, of rumor, of misinformation, and it’s from that angle the news-show as entertainment fit its themes. I found myself amused by the ingenuity of the appropriation’s details. We were worked through the farce of Benedict being fooled into thinking that Beatrice loves him and Beatrice vice-versa, with them listening from behind going into all kinds of conniption fits. Then the actors were working so hard, meant so well and at moments winked past their costumes and the action to signal to the audience. Beatrice ends in a garbage bin; when she emerges hurls a piece of pizza across the stage, she looked pointedly at us to applaud her. That sort of thing. Then we see the videotaping of two characters dressed up to resemble Hero and another man. A kind of falsification of evidence we are familiar with. As in all productions, one is then pushed into the pathos of Hero and made to feel the cruelty of the way the men humiliate Hero and her father, never giving either a chance to explain or justify themselves, and become emotionally involved:


Margaret (Dina Thomas) to the side; Benedick as in all productions ends on the side of the women

Then back to farce with the intervention of Dogberry (Dave Quay), Verges (David Bishins) and two unnamed cops as an incompetent surveillance team and secret service; at moments it all felt inspired as we moved back to hear more of what was going on in other of Shakespeare’s plays (everyone dead on the stage in Hamlet, the war in Egypt not going so well &c&c). In the better productions I’ve seen this interlude of Shakespeare’s play is not downplayed but used centrally as it was here:

I’m not going to make it better than it was. Like this summer’s DC production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, this was a frolicking, rollicking version of one of our national ritual plays meant to rouse us out of ourselves — and here, however lightly, skimmingly, to comment on our own world that has such ridiculous TV shows:  it won’t bear philosophical or political scrutiny. I wished too that Gero had been given more space and time to convey Shakespeare’s old man’s grief (I remember when he was doing the heroes of Shakespeare’s plays), but it is a kind of compliment to this play if it were not such a trek for me to get there, I’d see it twice so as to take in what was happening. I wished I were closer to the stage to hear what was said or we had surtitles.

I’d like to end on the idea that were it filmed as Kate Hamil’s dancing Sense and Sensibility has been, I’d go to see it in a theater or (better yet) stream it up close to me on my computer in my home. At the same time, as with Hamil’s staged production, a lot was done that was fun that only works in a live theater. Each time I go to a play since the pandemic entered this later stage, I am reminded that wonderful as it is to watch them from London on my computer, much is lost without the lived real presences and its accompanying sense of risk taken.

Ellen

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A Whole Lot of Humbug (New York Times)

Dear friends and readers,

This NBC review of two new movies for the Christmas market is superb and ironic; at moments nearly scathing: Anibundel offers a sort of history of Dickens’s story in commercial terms (how many sold), a concise synopsis, and then these two new rewrites (?): Scrooge and Spirited, the animated one with a stellar cast (including Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley).

The irony of “Christmas Carol” reboots in the age of billionaires is “too bad neither “Scrooge” nor “Spirited” knows how:

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/netflix-christmas-carol-reboot-spirited-misses-elon-musk-irony-rcna59889

Egbert says the ide of Spirited is there is a spirit industry in the business of redeeming a new miser each year; Metacritic finds Spirited a “whole lot of Christmas fun”


Scrooge, the animated one, is [more than] “slightly off key (another NYTimes review)

As Anibundel says, today’s super-rich are not finding redemption by being charitable …. I add they are not seeking redemption even …

FWIW, it seems from her description these contemporary versions have not made Scrooge into a miser. To make the “trick” work the very rich old man must both be a miser, seen as socially isolated, finamentally alone and somehow embittered.  Central to the assumptions of the modern versions of Dickens’s tale is it is terrible to be alone; to keep Christmas is to be with others in a kindly spirit.


Opening scene of 1951 movie

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FWIW, my feeling is Dickens’s story would have to be so changed to speak to people today that it would really take the sort of thing a brilliant sequel or post-text once in a long while does. Some new character or perspective not in the original, or some minor character. The new character or perspective is Mary Reilly (Valerie Martin) out of RLS’s Jekyll and Hyde. The minor characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Stoppard) out of Hamlet.


Donna Reed as the unmarried Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life

A minor character ignored is the woman Scrooge loved as a young woman and who rejected him, and is seen fleetingly working in a poorhouse. Why has no one thought to re-write a post-text centering on her? Give her a memorable name? Remember her in the last scenes of memory of in the presence of Christmas present? … Probably not, and this morning I cannot locate my DVD of the 1951 movie and this moment is nowhere on the Net. Only the absurd picture of George Bailey’s wife, unmarried, an old maid librarian (a fate worse than death in It’s A Wonderful Life); Scrooge’s ex- grown old finds worthy fulfilling self-sacrificing (of course) charity to be performed.

See my review of the British 1951 movie, A Christmas Carol, with the imitable Alistair Sim, where the film-makers and audience could still respond to Dickens’s ghost tale.


Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey

I’ve written many reviews of Christmas movies meant for the Christmas market and others which have become Christmas movies over the years. But as a reboot, It’s a Wonderful Life deserved a blog of its own.


Roubaix in A Christmas Tale (a recent favorite with me)

Ellen

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From Andrew Davies’ 2004 serial drama, three of the major characters of Daniel Deronda: Daniel (Hugh Dancy); Gwendolen Harleth (Romolai Gareth), and Grandcourt Mallinger (Hugh Bonneville)

Here I describe the experience of the book I’ve had over these 3 months, describe it generally and argue that the way of reading it as two separate sides is not adequate — though understandable. To read it as one tapestry with the Jewish story just one strand won’t do either. The problem is, Where is George Eliot in her book? and how is it a text we find her working her own deeper psychic problems out through.  She is mirroring her and Lewes’s life once again (as she did in Middlemarch) …

Ellen

Dear friends and fellow readers,

For the past 3 months, in four different ways, on top of reading the book silently to myself, I’ve been engaged socially through George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. I took a course in the book (alas only 7 sessions, but we went over time — well past 90 minutes — a number of times) with the marvelously inspiring enchanting Maria Frawley online at Politics and Prose; I participated in a group reading and discussion of it with at least 20 people on the TWWRN face-book group, where each three days someone wrote about three chapters, often in detail, with summaries, evaluations, questions, pictures attached. It was a close read of a mighty meaty book. I listened to Nadia May reading it aloud in an unabridged form on CDs in my car. And I watched for an umpteenth time Davies’s brilliant adaptation (4 DVD form and streaming). This was probably my 4th time through over many years.


Early scene of Mirah (Jodhi May) singing for the Meyricks, Daniel to the side in attendance

This is a book which needs a book to do it justice, and I want to write a not overlong blog about these experiences. I will first write about it in the way literary critics often end up: divide my description into two stories, one about a pair of Jewish characters, Mordecai, dying when we meet him from some fatal organic disease or TB; and child-like Mirah Lapidoth, whom Daniel becomes involved with after he rescues Mirah from suicide by drowning, slowly falls in love with her, and so helps her build a career as a singer and teacher of music. Daniel goes on a quest within London and finds out for her her long-lost brother, Mordecai:  think of Shakespearean romances derived from the 3rd century Greek ones of vast watery worlds where after disaster, tragedy, there is renewal, reunion.


Mordecai (Daniel Evans) waiting and watching for a Deronda on a bridge over the Thames

The other story is, in this scheme, then about at least three groups of English characters, of whom the vulnerable (because monetarily bankrupted after being brought up to do nothing to be self-supportive) Gwendolen Harleth is the center; she marries a sadistic debauched cold man, Grandcourt Mallinger, who has a mistress, Lydia Glasher, now widowed, with four children by Grandcourt.   He, together with her forcible vehemence, haunt and cow the nervous, and proud (also child-like) Gwendolen.


Lydia (Greta Scacchi) terrifying figure for Gwendolen, found among some neolithic stones on Grandcourt’s property.

There is Daniel’s foster father, Sir Hugh Mallinger (brilliantly randy Edward Fox), genial, cynical, a relief for this reader (he is never solemn), the shaded face suggesting how he evades many questions:

Sir Hugh’s wife, daughters (no son); Daniel’s friend, Hans Meyrick, student painter whose family Daniel helps support themselves. Grandcourt’s sycophant Lush (James Bamber in the film).  The Arrowpoints who include a couple who hold out for marriage for love (lest they not get to pass the precious life they have together). And we must not forget Daniel’s mother, Leonora, now called the Princess or Contessa Maria Alcharisi (Barbara Hersey), a strange exotic figure, like Mordecai, a type of character straight out of Walter Scott. She probably belongs to the Jewish story, but she has fiercely thrown off this identity, and tried to erase Daniel’s; her connection to Daniel is through Sir Hugo who once loved her.

Told this way it almost seems an exciting read; the movie is exciting and mesmerizing to watch (strange and repellent beauty), but the book is slow-going, meditative, long passages filled with argumentative and poignant worked-out thoughts. If you look at it this way, you end up having to discuss some very questionable ideals (nationalism, zionism), a genuinely progressive agenda, pro-semitic or at least anti- anti-semitic, on the one hand, and, on the other, the usual attack on coerced mercenary marriages, run by cruel, indifferent and malign men, the subjection of women, with quite a number of them complicit.  This includes importantly Gwendolen’s lachrymose probably abused-as-a-wife mother, Mrs Davilow (played by the endlessly worried looking concerned Amanda Root) who nonetheless does nothing to prevent her daughter from marrying partly for that mother’s sake for money a man Gwendolen knows nothing about that does matter.  Mrs Davilow should & does know enough:

Daniel becomes the linchpin of this diptych, the man of integrity trying to serve all; identity-less when we first meet him, slowly discovering his Jewish heritage. His presence and needs leads us to think about how motherhood as practiced ideally then, and partly now too imprisons women; about adoption as an alternative way of bonding people: it worked for Daniel and Sir Hugo, who love one another, and for Daniel and his mother, who did have her career, though in the book Eliot thoroughly punishes her for it, making her endlessly miserable and now dying and still angry at her father imposing on her the subjected (to her stigmatized) identity of a Jewish wife, mother.

An interesting side-theme is the place of music in our lives, and how to build a career through aristocratic patronage. The learned radical musician Herr Klesmer presides over this: beautiful interesting quotations from Italian poetry of the era:

But there are other ways one could read the book. Here is a second, concentrating again just on the book itself. It’s not two separate stories, but a group of [English] interwoven strands, with Jewish one threaded in and out of the larger tapestry:  the Meyricks take in Mirah, Hans falls in love with her, Daniel’s foster father and his wife promote Mirah, protect Gwendolen after her monstrous husband dies — mostly from an accident he brought on himself. Daniel becomes Gwendolen’s adored trusted confidant, functioning as a psychiatrist-priest: they are the central couple.

Women’s stories might be said to predominate, with the hard deals they are dealt for the most part in life to the fore, but equally there are a group of male stories, with some of the men at least having had to make their way in the world as does Deronda. Even Lush (David Bamber), the failed academic should be considered a human being; he is a conduit for information whom Sir Hugo is not above using.

Both ways account for how basically we read the book in the P&P class and on face-book; how Davies would have us humanely interpret it, with an emphasis on the loving friendship between Mordecai and Daniel, as Daniel takes over Mordecai’s life work (and his sister) — Davies often brings out the male individuals in his film adaptations

The problem here for me is both descriptions omit George Eliot. Where is she? For me this book only becomes understandable when you see Eliot’s presence strongly everywhere — both in the book’s daring insights about women, especially motherhood and the limited choices given women otherwise; and in its odd flaws or sudden absences and contradictions.

What I bring together are Lydia Glasher’s fate: “it was as if some ghastly visions had come to her [Gwendolen] in a dream and said, ‘I am a woman’s life’ (Bk 2, Ch 14) and Mirah’s probable one. The book is at times hopelessly fairy tale stuff (part of its flaws); when Mirah’s basely fraudulent father left his wife taking Mirah with him as a child, he was later led to try to sell her to a man, and probably she would not have been able to escape; if she had made her way to London to find her mother and brother once more, it’s highly unlikely she would have been rescued by a Deronda.


Near suicide romanticized

Grandcourt’s death is too convenient (as is Raffles in Middlemarch, even if both deaths are used to show the ambiguity of murder itself in ordinary life),as well as the legacy aftermath which rescues from destitution Lydia Glasher and her children, and Gwendolen and her mother and sisters.  Eliot never seems to remember the probability in most families would be:  had such a huge estate been left to a nobody mistress and her bastard son, it would have been ferociously contested. Without Daniel’s generous subsidy, the Meyricks would have lived a subsistence life — a widow (Cecilia Imrie tries hard, but the “little mother” designation grates on me), and two or three daughters — they are basically women with one artist son without any money to back them up in life’s ordinary emergencies.


From the National Gallery, we see Eliot’s friendly alert face

I see in all the women of the book and Deronda himself surrogates for Eliot as she over and over again thought about and dramatized the life’s experiences she had known — breaking away from a stern, religious father, a vindictive brother, working for small sums as an editor in the house of a philandering man, not only her unmarried life with Lewes, but Lewes’s own life –Lewes is a model for Ladislaw in Middlemarch, so his burning idealisms (and very sick state) are poured into Mordecai who dies at the end. She was a step-mother to Lewes’s sons, whose lives were not easy.

I see George Eliot in all her fictions immolating central characters who have integrity and good natures. In “Janet’s Repentance,” Janet seems to have been blamed (for alcoholism), and her reward for escaping the brutal husband (also dead by the end) is to become a repentant depressive. Her husband beat her brutally and the community, Eliot shows, allowed this. At the close of The Mill on the Floss, Maggie drowns herself; in Romola, its heroine of the same name endlessly sacrifices all (sexless too). Dorothea gives all to others with little break. There’s the child-like guilty and self-effacing heroines of DD, Gwendolen (desperate to be good) and Mirah (who seems incapable of sustaining an angry thought). The only woman in the book who tried to follow her destiny was Daniel’s mother — presented in this light, not from the light of her career. From what I can see of Eliot’s life, though she’d break down (like Maria Edgeworth before her and Virginia Woolf after) after she published a book and could not read critics, she fulfilled herself mightily. She broke away for herself, spend an individual life of achievement, and did not turn into an exotic, though others from far may have seen her that way since it was felt she had to isolate herself or be subject to continual vicious attacks. The books’ greatness is to show us these predicaments; what makes them disappointing is the relentless pressure on the best major characters to renounce their worthwhile dreams and projects. Daniel has not really started his. It’s a saturnine joke that Lydgate having been forced to establish a lucrative practice among the rich in Bath achieves research about gout that is valuable.

I can only be suggestive: the best biographical study I know thus far is The Real life of Mary Anne Evans by Rosemarie Bodenheimer; one of the best books on her art, George Eliot’s Serial Fiction by Carol A. Martin; The Cambridge Companion has some fine essays, and for me very insightful is The Transformation of Rage: Mourning and Creativity in George Eliot.

Here she is, for example, as a poet, a foremother poet.

It has been a tremendously stimulating three months for me as I made my way through this book with all these other intelligent reading friends and companions.


Probably a bad edition (no introduction, no notes) but the best cover illustration …

Ellen

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Lord John Grey (David Berry, Episode 5, “Give Me Liberty)

Dear friends and readers,

I complete my account of the sixth season of Outlander (see Episodes 1-4: Processing Grief … ). I’ve been so enjoying the sixth season, I’m telling myself by mid-December I’ll try again to read or listen to The Fiery Cross and then go on to A Breath of Snow and Ashes, both of which I have as books by Galbaldon and as CD sets read aloud by Davina Porter.

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Episode 6: Give Me Liberty

Yet another basically reflective and retrospective episode. I was delighted to find that David Berry has returned. To my taste, he is the handsomest of all the male leads, and I’m “charmed” (really am) by the character. At one point he is wearing a lovely cream-colored outfit, but I could not find a still online of this scene.

This is another episode hard to disentangle and hard to replicate with the interweave so again I’ll just cover each thread. My framing will be the feature that comes with it: all about trauma and how trauma is affecting several of the central characters.

I had not picked up on how much Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is using ether – as one would a calming drug today. So at several points in the episode we her disappear after she takes a drug too. She sees and hears Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) as a haunting revenant.

Fergus (Cesar Dombey) is now traumatized because of his loss of his hand and the way other males and females too have treated him. During the episode he seems to disappear we are told after trading he began to work as a printer in one of the larger North Caroline towns, not far off from where Aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) has her estate. We also hear she is funding him, and what’s more he is again printing subversive pamphlets. He is for the colonialists in the struggle in which Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) was involved. Just one line from her but strong (because Maria Doyle Kennedy is a very effective presence) that she misses Murtagh: she is helping the “side” Murtagh died defending.


Jamie, John and black servant girl

This then involves Jamie (Sam Heughan). He has given up being an agent for the crown with the Indians because he does not want to be a mole. Claire and Brianna (Sophia Skelton) have told him the British lose – this seems to figure in his thinking. Lord John Grey first seen in the episode talking to the British representative and vouching for Jamie, and at first Jamie lies to him, but then tells him the truth, and Grey then alerts a meeting of the Regulators (?) on time so all escape.

A subplot involves Roger still helping a widow and her child finish a house and settle in. Everyone is talking, Brianna is jealous or worried Roger is being dragged in. We see in part he is — he is also a man who hasn’t got a role in the world that fits him anymore. But by end of episode Brianna pregnant again and Roger has supplied another young man as a substitute for himself.

An as yet nameless young man (later we find out his name is Henderson) appears to be having an affair with Malva – very dangerous because of her fanatic and tyrannical father. She seems to court punishment by prostituting herself. A scene I did not understand at all – we see Malva is visiting what looks like a half-alive and half-dead rotting corpse. She slices off one of his fingers. This is creepy gothic. I know she is not to be trusted.


Lizzie serving, Brianna and Roger at the table

Lauren Lyle as Marsali in this season comes into her own, in the various roles we watch her play – soon she will be joining Fergus we are told.
Ian not much there if at all in this episode. Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan) grows ill with malaria (malarial attacks repeat themselves) and we see the two twin male servants care a lot for her.

At end of episode suddenly Claire hears a tune that comes from a later period. I could not place it, but then we see (it seems) perhaps in prison but at any rate from the back, someone with a jewel he stole from Jocasta’s necklace in his hand. Long black hair from the back? Who could he be? I have not guessed it.

So a lot going on, much of it inward.

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Episode 6: The World Turned Upside Down


Claire seeking out Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones)

Well at long last we are not quietly reflective and retrospective: this is a powerful deeply distressing and disquieting episode. Everything is turned upside down when Malva becomes pregnant and accuses Jamie of having sex with her repeatedly, liking it, and being the father of this coming baby! Before very long everyone in the settlement or on Fraser’s Ridge has been told about this. This happens about half-way through the episode.
It gets worse.

The first half of the episode is about a disease running through the settlement. Is it cholera? Bacteria carried in the water. Different people appear to have different diseases. Claire becomes very ill, and while Brianna is out, Malva and Lizzie meaning for the best (I’m not sure about Malva) chop off Claire’s hair until it’s very short. She recovers, but many die. Of course the 21st century watcher worries about the gossip about Claire as a witch.

Caitriona Balfe is more interestingly dressed than she has been in a few seasons. She has after all been in story about American pioneers. We see her in long skirts most of the time but now she dons a Napoleonic like long coat and a fine hat to cover her head. She visits Tom Christie to discover if he has the same disease she does, but the conversation goes badly. He walks her back though.

And now the shocking accusation. Christie with his daughter and son, Allan. It should be noted they are hardly ever apart and when I first saw them I thought they were courting. Claire had had a bad dream in which she thought she saw Jamie responding to one of Malva’s advances. She flees to a barn and Jamie follows after denying everything and throwing the Christies out. A confrontation ensues: Claire cannot disbelieve him but she is shaken: she does not belong here, neither do Brianna or Roger, all for love of Jamie. This does bring home to us how much they are giving up. But we see other moments where she and Jamie are missing Marsali and Fergus now. How Brianna is attached to her. Even Brianna is shaken because of her parents’ own unconventional relationship. He confesses the one night of love-making with Mary MacNab before he gave himself up to Ardsmuir prison.

Always generous, Claire visits (!) Malva and tries to talk with her but it is soon obvious it’s useless – Malva lies, calls Claire a witch, the brother backs her up. Claire gets angry and threatens Malva. Malva impervious


Malva morte

At the very end Malva is found with her throat cut, just dying or dead, and much to my horror, as Claire is the one to find her, Claire seeing how advanced the baby is (how big the bulge) performs a C-Section on her! (with a knife), of course now she cannot live; Claire pulls a tiny baby, but complete and it is just breathing and she works to resuscitate it, but it dies in her arms. I was terrified by this as I know she cam be blamed for a double murder! I gather it will take a long time in the book ( A Breathe of Snow and Ashes) before it is finally discovered who fathered this baby, and who did the murder.

This is violence enough. Very real. Very relevant to our world today (I’m thinking of women’s reproductive rights, what pregnancy is, the attempt to stop all abortions maybe even contraception &c&c in places in the US).

This is worrying for Jamie is gone off to the Philadelphia Continental Congress where he Is not chosen for a representative because his reputation now ruined. Back, we the whole settlement ostracize the Frasers and Mackenzies – Roger had been a central minister at the opening of this episode. Iain gets into fights on Jamie’s behalf; he goes to Claire and says he is the father for he did once have sex with Malva. Claire suddenly says that Roger came upon her having sex with Henderson (I wonder that was not brought out before or made public). Malva seems to be promiscuous – who knows who the father is?

Then Claire still suffering traumatic memories (Lionel Brown’s ghost and voice haunts her), takes some ether rather than answer the door. It’s Malva. She has a bad dream of Malva accusing Jamie and her. Wakening, she goes out to the garden and find there the dying Malva, and what I described above ensues. Claire is left crying with horror.

I finished reading the redaction of A Breath of Snow and Ashes in the second companion and find that Bonnet died in this book. What’s more there is a lot more military action going in. The film-makers have deliberately excised that stuff from both the 5th and now this season. The girl’s accusations and its results up to her death are there in the book more or less as told in the film. The title of the book refers to the season of winter, and I see at the end of the book the explanation for the brief obituary Brianna read, which brought her back in time is also revealed.

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Episode 7: Sticks and Stones

This one feels like a cumulation of all the episodes of this season dealing with trauma; Claire is now utterly caught up with murder of Malva.
Then paratext of song this season is “the Laird that is gone …”


Brianna and Roger wished “safe travels”

Begins with Mrs Bug suggesting Malva was never to be distrusted, but Claire insists she never thought that way about her. Mr Crombie first appearance.

They are all standing around the corpse: brother (I cannot find any stills of him) curses Claire and Jamie; how did you go out there with a knife; did they see anything at all; father does not want to give her a burial in consecrated ground; Jamie says they will bury the bodies at the Ridge. Claire insists she thinks of Malva as life and light not darkness

Claire’s bad dreams woven throughout: it’s the voice of Lionel which is the voice of guilt; the most traumatic of all her experiences beaten and gang raped. Knocking at door. She is using ether – trying to medicate herself but making herself worse; haunted Ian out searching, asking questions. It was a Sin Eater who was missing finger parts and we now realize that’s who we saw Malva cutting.


Henderson — a likely candidate for Malva’s baby’s father

Anecdote episode with Henderson come to complain about questioning; it emerges that Roger saw him having sex with Malva and he gets indignant
Voice goes over all Claire’s history and “betrayals” and lies from first season on, with angry protesting voices at her at the time; she left when she should have stayed; stayed when she should have left (Frank’s voice, Black Jack’s)

Brianna and Roger now talking about it, he says he will do the service; as this episode develops Roger becomes more and more explicit that he wants to be a minister – finally this can be his occupation in this era


Roger as minister at funeral

All finally take note that something wrong or different about Lizzie’s behavior, she is caught in lies; Josiah and Kezzie have vanished

Perry Mason thought of by Claire (she wishes they had him there): who could have, who had the motive, who has opportunity and Claire says me: she is beginning to think she may have done it, rather that she wanted to do it.

Nightmare with Malva banging at door, shock she awakens, lost her temper and threatened Malvina: I’ll fucking kill you; Jamies there to contradict, sooth; over voice: funny we saw we are just human when we do bad things, not good ones.

Who is she now after all the roles she’s played? (Claire thinking)


There are contemplative images of them — an older couple

Story of Lizzie and Beardsley boys emerges; Lizzie feels she has done nothing wrong; eventually handfast with them both.

Talk about killing; eating animals (vegetarian explained); Jamie says big difference when Roger Mac killed a man in self-defense and this murder of Malva
Claire: because I came here I changed things: whole history of all; it was because she desperately wanted to be with Jamie – she loved him

Funeral scene: Allan (the brother of Malva) accuses them both – terrible scenes in the church. Quieter by the grave Jamie not to carry coffin; Ian can.

Claire going crazy she feels; losing it; Jamie says she must not lock him out the way she did not allow Jamie to lock the world out after Wentworth. She says she’d do it all again.

Brianna and Roger now decided on this career for him, a minister (it’s what his adopted father was); it seems to demand they go to Edenton as a family; Roger upset at how child is being taught to believe people become ghosts.

All now quiet, they are making dinner, and the posse of the Brown gang arrive and demand to take Claire away as under arrest

Episode does center a lot on Jamie and Claire — we keep returning to them

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Episode 8: I am not alone


Jamie and Claire defending themselves early in the night

I put off watching this because somehow I found it so painful and anxiety-producing the first time round, but that was late at night and I watched it directly after S6, E7, Sticks and Stones. This time I could see reassurance set up by the end

The previously takes us way back: Brianna tells Roger she cannot tell if Jemmy is his. News of deaths of Claire & Jamie in a fire. Jamie gives Cherokees guns. Roger preaching sermon, he & Briana to Edenton so he may be ordained Presbyterian: this could be his fitting occupation. Your wife covered up to elbows in blood. The accusation. Brown: we have come for our wife to arrest her for the murder of Malva Christie.

A scene of 2 in a café modern eating fries … one a woman, cannot catch the other – slipped in …


The Posse comes, led by Richard Brown

They demand Claire, are Committee of Public Safety. Beardsley & Lizzie flee. A battle ensues. Men surround the house; Claire kills with rifle man who got in. Frees Jamie from crowd; they barricade themselves. Boarded up windows. House being destroyed by all out shooting. Brown found out Marsali killed his brother (Claire to Jamie). This is revenge, an excuse. Brown with a white handkerchief; they’ll go to Salisbury for fair trial; that’s the law …. Jamie shoots at them, they look like thugs.

Switch to Roger & Brianna and Jemmy. Talking of revolution; what’s happening in Boston; once Roger would dream to go, but now he’s here. I must think all be safe. They talk of how truths kept from them as children; she now accepts what happened … Back to house, Jamie and Claire fear firing of their house; by the hearth, with water, find food, Obituary says 21 January; this is May so they must survive. No plan. Outside men bivouac.

Roger and Brianna inside tent with child; beautiful love-making scene of comfortably married couple, laughter, she pregnant. This contrasts and compares to Jamie and Claire: condemned eat hearty meal; she’d choose cheeseburger &c (it sound like the meal we saw a opening still). Where is everyone? Ian? Lizzie? They remember the times he came near death, when she did. Fortune teller read his palm and it connected death with number 9. Jamie cites Prayer of Contrition.

Outside fisherfolk, Hiram Comb – come out, thou shalt not suffer a witch to live; they accuse him of killing Malva; Claire shouts hoarsely she was trying to save the unborn child and Jamie innocent. Accusation of revenge. Malva’s brother: you debauched and killed my sister. Scots people ride up with Lizzie but no go. Tom Christie arrives and manages a negotiation Witness and mediator. No reason you should not rest in your own bed. Frasers go back in. Guard set. Love-making that night. Knitted bodies. Jamie promises her this will not be the last time they see the house and environs.


Their last night — an expressive image

Daylight. They are in wagon. Shall I tend to their wounds? Christie brings her breakfast. No court at Salisbury; off to Wilmington; Tom Christie looking remorseful. Lizzie I am back, but she cannot help; Ian back but vanishes. People roused to throw stones. Calm reasserted

Brianna: are we there yet? They read New Bern Onion, Fergus printer. Poet’s corner – Marsali. Child has lice; they cut his hair and discover hereditary nevus like the one Roger has. So they are father & son.

Back to Jamie and Claire in wagon; Christie hanging round. Ian there, but not time yet. Don’t go away, lad I am with you Uncle.

Someone comes up; a man dies; Jamie brought out for drinking water: a trap, the rest ride off with Claire, shouting. Brown tells Claire his brother a lout but she is a murderer and he was his brother Mr Fraser sent to Scotland; Christie will not leave her, insists Jamie alive, he is there to protect her. Trip of fearful discontent.

Snap shot of Brianna and Roger still off with child to Edenton

Claire now over-voice: Tom Christie troubled; will not admit Jamie dead. Town (Wilmington) in bad shape. Corpse hanging. She is put in jail. Christie there: I would not have your deaths on my conscience. She is to trust him.

Switch to Jamie tied to post; just as someone is about to crush Jamie’s head, Ian’s arrow hits; we see him and Indians. All there, reassurance, and group now riding post-haste to rescue Claire (with Tom Christie protecting her). She (I) is not alone.

Finis for season — until next year when (we are told) there may be 16 episodes and then the series will come to an end. I have not included the more frantic and debilitating and humiliating seasons (Claire led by a rope, for example) because the over-all feel is stoical

Ellen

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Brianna (Sophia Skelton) helping Claire (Caitriona Balfe) to bathe — after she is brought back to Fraser’s Ridge from gang-rape (Season 5, Episode 12: Never My Love)

How many times have I put my hopes, my fears, my secret longings into the hands of a Being that can’t see, can’t hear, can’t even feel. How many times have my prayers been answered? Time is a lot of the things that people say God is. There is pre-existing and having no end. There is the notion of a Being all powerful because nothing can stand against Time, not mountains, not armies. Give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of, all pain encompassed, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And if Time is akin to God, I suppose that memories must be the devil …. (from script, the overvoice for Season 5, Episode 5, “Perpetual Adoration”)

Friends and readers,

I loved this 6th season, which, while it basically adapts freely A Breathe of Snow and Ashes, like Season 5, also brings together material from a later and earlier book and re-arranges everything to the point the overall feel is very different (a handy list for viewing all recaps and commentary on Season 5). It is also, crucially and astonishingly to me, strongly dependent on the viewer having become immersed before and being totally involved before you begin. I’d say almost all the episodes had long sequences that were reflective and meditative, remembering and re-processing as it were — so how does this rivet new watchers? There is but one feature and it is all about trauma. We hear from all the major actors/characters, the central scriptwriters (those here since the first season), where they talk of each major character in terms of how processing grief is difficult; everyone processes grief differently; it’s real, violent, volatile. They are searching for their identity, what is the way forward; their past holds them. Some terrible things have happened; is Claire Teflon? No. Jamie is giving her space and time to heal; she has nightmares .. the feature goes over each character but dwells on Claire, Ian (“The Hour of the Wolf”), and Fergus. I am telling myself I must go back and finish reading/listening to The Fiery Cross and then go on to A Breathe of Snow and Ashes.

I admit since I found the fifth and sixth Outlander books so muddled, so without forward thrust, that for much of the previous season and all of this one too I relied on The Outlandish Companion: Volume II by Diana Gabaldon

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Episode 1: Echoes (a straight recap with video clip)


Ardsmuir (New Craigmiller Castle)

Just a first impression, and w/o benefit of reading the source book at all. As I said a while back I got through only half of book 5 (The Fiery Cross); I’ve never opened book 6 (A Breath of Snow and Ashes). You are at a considerable disadvantage when you’ve not read the book in these sorts of film adaptations meant in part to be faithful and using the book for deepening. A brief read of some comments on Season 6 show Roger Moore back in central place (I imagine his movements away to other shows became fewer when the pandemic hit and much new programming delayed or cancelled but I could be wrong) and Gabaldon interesting herself to the point she says that much that she cared about made the transfer but not all; we are told the opening is not in the book but taken from elsewhere.

Certainly the opening was a surprise and to me a somewhat demoralizing one. We are back at Ardsmuir, way before Lord John Grey took over, not just after Culloden, but just after Jamie gives himself up (1753) – I did recognize the actor who played the first general. It is such misery and what we see is slowly Jamie asserting himself and the men gaining minimal rights. An ambivalent relationship emerges between Jamie and a man who is at the head of Protestant faction: Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones). I felt the loss of Murtagh and found that Duncan Lacroix is no longer in the cast at all.


Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire, 1773 (after flashback) dressed with attitudes which signify they’re older

Then we fast forward 20 years to 1773 and North America. I began more to enjoy it. I have to say that this episode reminded me of the opener in Episode 5: it moves slowly and is a gradual development of our favorite characters, showing us what they are at this point. I loved it but my feeling is if you are not already deeply immersed this may not grab you at all. Seasons 1-3 openers did, and Seasons 1-2 were especially exciting and melodramatic almost throughout. I grew to love 5, but I acknowledge others might not unless they were wrapped up in the characters already.

So basically Claire is slowly overcoming the trauma of the rape-beating; Jamie keeps close to her lest anyone attack her again; she is now inventing anesthetics but Brianna worries lest they be misunderstood and attacked again – part of the animus against Claire in Season 5 was her portraying herself as Dr Rawlings dispensing contraceptive information. And lo and behold there is Christie’s daughter, Malva (Jessica Reynolds), who seems at first simply a fanatic evangelical type sniffing around the “phosporus,” saying this is the stuff of the devil.

Yes Tom Christie turns up with his family; he saw the ad and wants to be part of the settlement. Jamie, a bit reluctant, nonetheless accepts them in. Tom is a tyrant to his family, and his son is going bad, partly a result of this repression and bullying. Marsali (Lauren Lyle) is pregnant again, but this time she has a bruise on her arm, and soon it emerges Fergus (Cesar Dombey) has become an alcoholic. She is deeply ashamed and he’s in denial: we are given clues some of this is the result of his having one hand and not being of service like the others. Problem here is this was not a problem before: he was always as active as ever (partly from Jamie’s influence but that’s not gone). Brianna and Roger (Richard Rankin) just there, in support (not given much to do beyond that). Young Ian (John Bell) active in hunting animals with bows and arrows; there is a conversation where he brings up the idea that perhaps Claire could help him change his destiny as he sees it with respect to his wife. This is the first we’ve heard of her explicitly.

Central scene is love-making, gentle and tender between Claire and Jamie – as befits this grandparent couple. Both of them have bad dreams or memories: Jamie’s shorter (of Ardsmuir) and Claire’s of the rape and beating. We see them as kind grandparents to Brianna/Roger’s children and one of Fergus/Marsali’s.

Plot-design of episode; governor’s aide arrives early to ask Jamie to become a chief crown agent dealing with Indians; he does not want to involve himself (as he refused in episode 5 – reminding me of Ross Poldark’s reluctance). The governor is going to tax the Frasers heavily for not agreeing to take on Indian tasks. But what happens is the threatening presence our enemy group (one must have a true villains) are what is left over the Brown gang, headed by Richard Brown (Chris Larkin), the brother of man who instigated the rape of Claire (hated her for helping his wife, his daughter) and whom Jamie murdered and returned in a body bag. The Browns demand that Jamie punish Tom Christie for stealing an object and Jamie is forced to whip him (we see a flogging of Jamie at the opening in Ardsmuir). Jamie hates this. Jamie now told Lionel (Ned Dennehy) will become the Indian agent. So at the end of the episode Jamie relents and takes the position as it would be dangerous for them, for the Indians, for everyone for such a gang to have power.

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Episode 2: Allegiances (another recap, this time with still, more evaluative)


Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones)

I’ve watched Episode 2 now and find that it’s making me very curious about A Breath of Snow and Ashes. I have the feeling the film team has done the same thing they did for Season 5, from (more or less) The Fiery Cross. They have picked a few of the episodes, and rewritten and rewoven them to fit a theme (or themes) across this season. Despite the re-appearance of Roger Moore’s name in key places (writing too), it has the quietude of the fifth season, with this difference, I am continually worried or feeling anxious about our six principals: Jamie and Claire; Roger and Brianna; Marsali and Fergus.

The threat is from the people Jamie has allowed to build and live in their compound (the religious ideas of Tom Christie are paranoid and aggressive, including an obviously misogynistic inspired distrust of Claire as a witch), and now the Indians that Jamie has (paradox this) become an agent to the crown (George III) to. Every doctoring deed Claire does is worrying, and now Brianna, matching Claire’s invention of ether, invented matches.


Still brings out the quietly comic feel of the operation

Story: it opens with Claire trying to mend Tom Christie’s more crippled hand, which she says she will have to operate using ether on. As in later conversations when Christie brings up the idea God doesn’t want him to have a good hand, Claire refutes this with secular and ironic understanding. Marsali’s pregnancy is quite advanced and Claire now with Malva (dangerous because Christie’s daughter-in-law) goes to take care of Marsali. The baby is near birth, but something is wrong, and Claire dare not do a C-section, for that would kill Marsali. Claire also gets out of Marsali, the bruises are from Fergus; they fight intensely over his drinking. Jamie deputies Roger to go get Fergus who is very drunk when Roger arrives, and Roger becomes disgusted and angry with Fergus, who finally agrees to come.


Fergus with Claire

A second thread moving through this is Jamie and Ian’s overnight visit to the Indians who are asking Jamie to ask the governor to give them guns, ammunition. Jamie consults Claire as to the future allegiance of the Cherokee and she says she doesn’t know as she did not read that far into American history: this Is part of a scene where they make love.

Back to visit to Indians overnight: a supposedly comic scene of two Indian women trying to have sex that night with Jamie, stopped finally by Ian speaking to them. Jamie will only promise to consider asking the governor.

Fergus comes and he is transformed (one hopes more than momentarily) to the Fergus we knew: sweet, loving, he begins to make love to Marsali, as enormous as she is, sucking her breasts. He says in the brothel they did that to help women give birth. All leave the couple alone, but and eventually hear the baby coming. We see Marsali giving birth with Claire and Malva on either side, also Brianna there, but when Fergus takes the child after a few minutes he is horrified (“nain” he cries and runs off): the child is perhaps a Downs Syndrome baby; Marsali loves it immediately.

The thread of the Christie group appears again with Christie building a church; and an old woman in the group dying. Roger is to be minister at the funeral and lo and behold she awakens momentarily. Claire explains this – a semi-comic, semi-deeply felt scene ensues with the old woman alive but dying still is what happens. Again the modern ideas that Claire brings to this endanger her in the eyes of these people. A little later Jamie comes up to their compound and queries this building of a church before houses; Tom Christie stands up for this idea, and Jamie appears to allow it as long as the new church is neither Catholic nor Protestant specifically but rather a meeting house for all – he refers Tom to the opening at Ardsmuir where he, Jamie, resolved constant fighting by joining the Freemasons and telling the others too and thus defusing religious conflicts.


Bree and Roger, playful

Brianna and Roger are seen having private time together with her hurt because over the meal they had just before Marsali went into labor, everyone thought good news was a new baby, when it was her invention of matches. Only Claire seemed to understand how important and convenient these are. It’s frustrating to Brianna that her abilities have nowhere to flourish. They talk of how they have decided to stay permanently and how they have been trying to have another child with no result as yet. We see Brianna a little later walking to stables where she meets Ian. She overhears him praying for a child he apparently had with his Mohawk wife. Ian is bothered by Jamie’s refusal to ask the Governor – a refusal that the Indians learned of and came to be angry over. Claire says if Jamie gives them arms, they could end up the Fraser’s enemy as the Frasers right now are on the British (not rebels) side. Ian says that nonetheless the Indians deserve weapons if they are to be endlessly displaced by these white colonialists.

In another scene (I’m not sure exactly where these all occur in the sequence) Brianna and Jamie sit on the porch together talking and cleaning their two guns. Brianna tells Jamie that Ian had a child who is probably still with the Mohawk.

A small later episode shows Jamie talking to Mr Bug about some supplies he is taking with Kessie to trade; up to them comes Mrs Bug and Lizzie (Caitlin O’Ryan) and we see that Kessie and Lizzie have a flirtation going on.

The episode concludes with Jamie writing a long letter to the governor (at first from some dialogue we assume it is to his Aunt Jocasta); late at night Claire comes out of the bedroom to ask about the letter. He confides to her he is going to give it to the Major (then with them) to give to the governor to ask for the Indians to have guns. She says I thought you were against this. He replies that he now realizes that Ian’s allegiance is to the Mohawk, to these Indians, and that he, Jamie’s, allegiance is to Ian so he will do as Ian asked him to.

Just about all these scenes are quiet thoughtful ones, filled with mood and complex feelings – even quieter and less overt aggressive action than Season 5. I find I have no trouble staying up and watching intensely, ever worried for everyone and caring about them. Snow on the ground showing it’s winter. The whole episode is beautifully photographed throughout.

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Episode 3: Temperance (detailed straight recap, emotional, with still)


Jamie offering Malva Christie friendship

I am now not puzzled altogether about the curious tone in which people who wrote about Season 6 when it was airing on Starz: the third episode is as oddly quiet, non-violent, non-active as the first two. Season 5 did have violence and action by the third episode – the fight with the Browns, then regulators versus the royal governor. The first sign we will have any is a newsletter that appears at the end of the episode telling of the Boston Tea Party. It’s not called that in the paper, but Claire refers to it that way. This is again a series of mostly non-violent incidents which are exemplary in different ways.

I looked at the summary of A Breath of Snow and Ashes in the 2nd Outlandish Companion and find it as unreadable as I found the last 2/3s of The Fiery Cross – there is no thrust forward but rather stories about our characters as they live an isolated life on Fraser’s Ridge. They are interwoven but again I’ll tell each incident or thread together as I cannot remember the order they are in as there is no weaving forward to some conclusion; they are self-contained. Another problem with these episodes is Jamie and Claire are too perfect, as are Roger and Brianna. The only un-exemplary character is Fergus – for Ian is also without any real flaw. I love them myself but recognize the incidents lack inner conflict. Yes, Claire carries on being haunted by images of Lionel Brown who insulted and raped her and uses ether sometimes to sleep. But that is not enough

By contrast, The Crown (Netflix series about British monarchy, 20th century) has shows Philip to be very flawed while we feel for him; and Elizabeth to be conflicted over how to behave towards him, angry and also torn in her role as queen.

So we have Tom Christie giving in and coming to have his hand healed – cut and re-formed and sewn the way Claire did Jamie’s hand – the man refuses ether (horrified by the idea) and won’t even bite on a piece of wood but reads aloud passages from the Bible with Jamie chiming in and holding him down slightly – he does scream from the pain. By the end of the hour (this time it is just an hour) he is healed, grateful, and takes away a copy of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, saying he thought novels were evil until he heard Jamie telling aloud tales at Ardsmuir. Now he agrees they are forms of escape and distraction. However, when he reads the book, we look over his shoulder and see him reading one of Fielding’s many ironic passages about love, and he closes the book, and returns it with a note to the effect “this is filth” and he had thought better of Claire.

Another incident occurs when Roger sees a baby in a basket floating on the river towards a water fall and its death. He jumps in, barely saving it, all the while realizing a group of boys had done this. They include Germaine, Marsali and Fergus’s son. He is incensed at their idea this child is a demon – because it’s a dwarf. The boys are scolded fiercely and then required to turn up to Jamie who gives them the choice of touching a red-hot iron or the baby. They had also thought they’d be burned if they touched the child. Of course, they choose the child and find they are not burned, and the baby behaves sweetly.


Marsali (Lauren Lyle) spinning

Roger has become the minister of the place and we see him deliver a sermon against superstitions about dwarves using the Biblical story of Moses. Brianna seems to have built a spinning wheel, and we watch Marsali learning to spin fibre into yarn or thread. Brianna needs to be doing something too.

Marsali is not having much success stopping Fergus from drinking to excess all the time; now he blames himself for having such a child. He tells Claire how he saw dwarves treated in Paris – it sounds like the dwarves here are Downs Syndrome children. Claire says none of that will happen now for they will take care of Henri-Christian. Fergus wants to know what happens to the child after they all age and die. At one point the Frasers are collecting rent (in just the way of the Highlanders) and one couple find Fergus “stinks” and say he is responsible for his freak child. He physically attacks them. Later Marsali says to Claire, Fergus has promised to stop drinking; but when he comes home, he is drunk as ever. She throws him out and says she’d rather have no man than a drunk one. And later in the episode Jamie is out in the wood and from afar sees Fergus slash his wrist badly; Jamie saves Fergus, and there is a scene of traumatic talk, with Jamie the father hugging his son and when they return it does seem as if Fergus will reform and accept himself again and his new son.

Ian and Malva are striking up a friendship. I had mistaken and the young man I thought her husband is her brother — but there is an important hint here: they are behaving as if husband and wife. We are of course to see love blooming in Malva, but Ian seems attracted. Touching dialogues about what they believe, her father’s cruelty (in one scene we see the father whipping her now that his hand is fine), but she mentions that her father would be upset if she had a “lover” and it’s implied even more were he like Ian – Indian like, not Christian. Ian says he does not know what he believes.

Somewhat improbably Brianna builds a glorious spinning wheel. She needs to do something but it is Marsali who sits turning fibres into thread or yarn.
Lizzie makes an appearance at one point and again we see she is courted by Kezzie. She appears very happy in her position as working beloved servant-companion.

Christie tells Jamie and Claire his group of people have accepted the offer of the Browns to protect them – Claire tells Christie this is a bad move.
The end of the episode has Major Macdonald returning with the guns for the Cherokee, and bringing the newsletter about the Boston Tea Party. Claire says “the storm” (or war ) has started.

For my part I love watching it because I’m fond of the central six characters and worry about them.

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Episode 4: Hour of the Wolf (recap from an amusingly anachronistic POV, with 2 clips!)


Ian (John Bell) and his central rival, Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa (Morgan Holmstrom?)

Another quiet mostly retrospective and reflective hour — it’s curious that is the atmosphere because it includes a challenge and duel where one of two people could have been murdered. But no one is.

Ian’s Mohawk name was Wolf’s brother, and so the meaning of the title is episode devoted to Ian’s history, inner life, and watching him try to come to terms with what happened.

It opens with him remembering how he was initiated by rituals into the Mohawks, fell in love with girl whose name was so hard to pronounce, he called her Emily. They were happy but after the second bloody miscarriage, Ian was told the gods were against him being part of the tribe; Emily was given to the man called his brother, and he coerced into leaving.

Also early in the episode before they get to the camp, Jamie is giving Fergus the task of going with goods from the farm to trade for things needed, make money. Fergus is not drunk and says he knows what Milord is doing. Keeping him occupied. Jamie says he needs these things done, and as Fergus had said remembering their time in Edinburgh as printers, Fergus is a good businessman trader. Some of this was too didactic, but it’s beautifully acted and the film landscape and music and feeling is good.

These memories are prompted by a trip Jamie takes with Ian to the Cherokee to give them the guns. (Again as I’ve done before I am not trying to recap the episode because I’m not following the interlace. Some of the above is in a flashback Ian has when Jamie and he arrive at the Cherokee camp and discover Mohawks there, and (what a coincidence), just this brother who took Emily from Ian.

Before we get there Major (I’m not sure of this name) MacDonald has been at Fraser’s Ridge handed over these arms, and Brianna told Jamie that 60 years from now these Indians will be forced off the land — well after the revolution. So they will need these armaments. When they get to the camp, Jamie, now reflectively ethical, tells this to the chief. He explains his knowledge by his wife’s extra powers (so too his daughter). This is of course the cruel (infamous) Trail of Tears inflicted on these people during Andrew Jackson’s administration.

Another trader, a Scot, Alexander Cameron is there, and a fight erupts between him and Wolf’s Brother, and that’s the duel. Cameron cheats and turns to shoot before Wolf’s brother but Ian on the alert, shoots the gun (or hits it with a strong arrow), knocking it out of his hand. Wolf’s brother’s turn, but he does not kill the begging man, rather shoots in the sky. Ian acknowledges to Wolf’s Brother he can bear him having Emily (there appears to have been a daughter and be a son).

Back at Fraser’s Ridge, Claire is practicing her invented ether on Lizzie and Kezzie and Jo (I suspect the same actor plays these twins). It is worrying since Malva is watching, as her apprentice and she swears she will not tell the father, and looking at Claire’s notebooks, Malva appears not to take these as spells of a witch. Or so she says, but there is something insinuating about her.

At the close of the episode when Jamie comes home, Claire rushes to where he is, and in a barn they make love. The last still shows Malva watching them through a key hole.

Ian still has Rollo; in the previous episodes we’ve seen Adso drinking milk, sitting on the bed with Marsali …

What they must have done here is taken a group of incidents and meditations about Ian and drawn them together with knowledge of the coming wars against the Indians (the previous episode referred to the Boston Tea Party and heating up rebellion). Jamie again says she cannot be a rebel and Indian agent for the crown so he must give up this agency.

Upcoming: Episodes 5-8

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From one of the many moments of consolation, grieving, holding together …

Gentle and I hope forgiving and flexible reader, I realize two years have gone by since I blogged on Season 5, and going further back, all these blogs began in 2017 (3 years after the first season aired). What’s more at first I was putting them on my Reveries under the Sign of Austen (where many remain, except those here on JimandEllen). At first I deemed them based on a woman’s quintessentially woman’s historical romance, with a woman at the center, but then realized how many of the film team were men and how often every effort was made to create a male focus, so I also blogged here. Nowadays I’m here because the series is so popular, it seems to me to have a non-gender specific audience, i.e., both men and women (even if women are the greater number of viewers).

I confess to blogging less often and using the images I find on the Internet available openly instead of snapping my own as I watch. It’s easier, less time-consuming, and these are most of them images the film-makers have made readily available to the public.

I am doing my best and my dream is now that when I stop the teaching to write about the Outlander books and films, together with the Poldark books and films.

Ellen

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From the campaign to place a plaque in Westminster Abbey for Anthony Trollope

Friends and readers,

A briefer blog than usual (as to space): October 21, 2022, Kate Howe interviewed, the present Chairman of the London Trollope Society

Dominic Edwardes very perceptive on Trollope’s long fiction; he tells of Trollope’s place among his peers, his reputation then and now, his life, the mission of the Trollope Society to keep his books in print and read by as many people as the Society and internet can reach; Dominic also confides how he (DE) he came to read and love Victorian novels, then as among the best of them, Anthony Trollope, Dominic’s first introduction to the Society (he went to an event which he thought would be in costume and it turned out no such thing, so he was the only one there in costume) & what the Society is doing now: yearly dinner, lectures, trips, and a vast growing website where you find recorded information on Trollope’s fiction, on the illustrations to them, on editions, from many talks given at the every-other-week online general reading group, and information about other more local reading groups and lectures.

As prelude or preface to the interview, she includes a cornucopia of beautiful and effective illustrations from the fiction of the era — the sort of thing you find in the original illustrations to Trollope’s novels.


“Oh, George, if you knew all … ” (Francis Arthur Fraser, illustration for Trollope’s Golden Lion of Granpere, not included in Howe’s set, but the same sort of thing)

Posted by Ellen

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The first image we are confronted with: Aafrin (Nikesh Patel), not in a suit, but bare chested, typing a seditious pamphlet, with new Indian girlfriend, also a rebel against the British — he is somewhere in Bengal


Upon returning to Simla, now in the British suit, Aafrin is confronted by Alice (Jemima West), who has been coerced into accepting her abrasive sadistic husband, Charlie Havistock (Blake Ritson)

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been far more than a week since I last wrote about Indian Summers; more than a full month has gone by since I framed the series and summarized as well as evaluated the first half of Season 1, one of the finest series ever made, and its second half, a tragic and ironic denouement. In the series itself, it’s three years later, and we are startled to see as our first image, Aafrin, ever trussed up and respectful of the British, naked to the waist, living in what looks like a worn-down bedsit, with a Indian lover, Kaira Das (Sughandha Garg); he is typing a subversive pamphlet, which is about to be printed and distributed in the streets to stir up demonstrations as the possible new viceroy is due to come to Simla at any time. Aafrin looks hard, tough; he has been away from his parents for three years. Kaira is involved with a violent revolutionary we only glimpsed in the first season, Naresh Banerjee (Arjun Mathur).

We switch many miles and with Aafrin as our POV (he is our POV most of this episode) find Alice back with Charlie, the son she had fled with, Percy (Caleb Allen), a blonde toddler who we discover later is the reason she chose to stay with Charlie (so that she would not lose custody). We are soon immersed in the lives of the familiar characters whose circumstances appear to have changed far less.

I shall take it as propitious that I’ve not had time to finish this brilliant series with my readers — for in the interim, the queen (who would have been queen-empress as her father, George VI was king-emperor, if India had not achieved its independence before George VI died) died, Elizabeth II Windsor, causing what seemed the whole world to sit up, take notice, watch the official 10-days mourning of “a nation” and then see put on a spectacular ritual aired everywhere in the world on TVs, internet, cinemas, as a kind of last gasp of the Raj in spirit. And few as they were, we read and heard the voices of protest that called all this magnificent display so much hypocrisy, a vast disguise behind which the grossly unequal arrangements of colonialism and capitalism carried on, less unchanged than you might think (see the comments to my blog The Passing of Elizabeth II).

For myself I’ve determined I will do (if the OLLIs last) The British Indian Novel Take Two, having thought up four different novels/memoirs, books of essays (J R. Farrell, The Seige of Krisnapur; Kamala Markandaya, The Nowhere Man; Salmon Rushdie (nearly assassinated): Imaginary Homelands (a book of essays, columns, life writing); and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowlands … . I have two 18th century epistolary novels & memoirs partly set in India and hope to get to them soon: Eliza Fay’s Original Letters from India, ed, introd E. M. Forster (!), and Phoebe Gibbes, Hartley House, Calcutta. Both by women. And found my copy of Emily Eden in virago about her time in India in the early 19th century, Up Country

So you see I’ve carried on reading and thinking, and am glad to return to watching, remembering, coming to terms with this more explosive season than the first. Let’s dive in. The second season’s episodes have acquired titles.

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Season 1, Episode 1: Three Years Have Passed. While it seems so much has changed, more thought makes one realize the same patterns, the same emotional relationships and conflicts are being repeated. Again Aafrin is torn. After three years he has taken up with a revolutionary woman in Bengal, and the man who has a plan to blow up the club or the Whelan house – we are shown that bunch of dynamite immediately. And again Aafrin finds himself over his head. He wrote the seditious page, typed it and brought it to the printer, but then he is identified and we are left wondering whether Ralph knows or not. He might. Ralph again this cagey ambiguous character with Cynthia Coffin, looking out for him, a very vicious yet older woman. We see her with two helpers humiliating an Indian man who is trying to get into the club. He has to have a coat of arms. He has to study something and know it. She tells Ralph to send the old Viceroy home, Willingdon (Patrick Malahide) – he has a heart attack when a toy grenade thrown at him. She is gearing up for seeing Ralph become the next Viceroy He’s not sure how to grab the position.


Cynthia (Julie Waters) watching Ralph intently

Madeleine, complete with ayah Bhupi’s wife, and a baby girl in tow, follows Ralph now. The horrible Sarah (Fiona Glascott) is as horrible. ow we see her stealing flowers from the gardens of the house she once lived in but no longer does. She had gone to England to leave her son there, and when she returned found the Dalal family installed. She is enormously pregnant, and has thus trapped Dougie (Craig Parkinson), who has separated himself from Leena and is nowhere to be seen. Instead Sarah sits teaching on a throne, “lessons” which consist of asking the children absurd questions, and laughing at them when they respond with “wrong” answers. She berates and condescends to them. Only a few have left as her pregnancy necessitates their return to England. Dougie is as pliable and useless, grieving over the loss of his school. And surprise, surprise Adam now a young adolescent has been taken into Ralph’s and now the Havistock home as another boy servant; soon he will be joined by Leena (Amber Rose Reevah), who avoids homelessness just, as governess to Alice’s child. It takes half the season for Madeleine to realize Adam is her husband’s son, but his behavior makes it obvious to those who know

The Muslim reporter, Naseem Ali Khan (Tanmay Dhanania) is still sniffing about. Ian (Alexander McCleod) now running his tea plantation, thoroughly his own man, who has not forgotten Ramu Sood. Sooni (Asha Kala) cannot be far away, still politically involved but cannot get Aafrin to tell her anything. Worst off is Alice: returned with a vicious spiteful sadistic husband who denigrates and spies on her, passive, giving in (we learn he buggers her regularly to hurt her) He works for a bank and we will soon learn that Ralph needs this man’s money. Rowntree (Guy Williams going about with his policeman intruding in Indian houses and bazaars, no need for a warrant and arresting supposed culprits.


Kaira has little sense of self-worth …

Season 2, Episode 2: Black Kite (code name for Kaira, who will not survive). Now we note subtle changes from the 1st season; new characters and new emphases. To the credit of the creator-writer Paul Rutman, there is an attempt to give nuance to the character of Cynthia Coffin so she seems more vulnerable and less powerful –- while at the same time as nasty, bullying and ruthless-racist as she had been. Ralph Whelan seems softened because he too is more vulnerable: a Lord Hawthorne (James Fleet) sent from the UK and parliament is either there to himself take over the viceroyship or check out if Ralph is “fit:” Hawthorne is not “radical,” does not wanting really to share power with the Indians (Muslim or Hindu), much less hand power over. We see him respond to Alice’s coaxing that he tell Adam that he is Adam’s father . When Adam is given a copy of a child’s classic owned by her dead brother, Madeleine takes it back. At the same time Ralph is pushing Aafrin to find the terrorist who printed the pamphlets (he knows or suspects that the writer is Aafrin himself).

Aafrin is again like Alice, easily vacillates, easily blackmailed. We are shown more closely a male of pure evil for the first time (like Captain Merrick in Jewel in the Crown. Naresh Banerjee is a crazed terrorist, and when he is shot down by the British (using the excuse Rowntree believes Banerjee spread the pamphlets), Aafrin saves Banerjee’s life, but in ironic reciprocation Banerjee plucks Kaira back from the safety Aafrin had tried to send her to — as she has also been a mole for Whelan (she too has a son to protect). Aafrin had tried to placate the man, first finding a file to satisfy him (that’s an obvious thing Aafrin should not have done, it implicates him too) and when Banerjee uses the information to threaten Kaira as the Black Kite or mole Aafrin desperately says he fabricated the whole file. At this Banerjee coolly shoots Kaira through the head.

The count of those ruthlessly unfairly murdered thus far includes only Indians: Ramu Sood was the first; Jaya’s brother the second (in prison beaten and cut to death) – now Kaira Das. They will be joined by the end of the season when Leena is sent away to prison for 9 years after Hawthorne tried to molest/rape her and Adam, showing real fury, throws sets Hawthorne on fire – she takes the rap. The only white killed will be the moral minister, Raworth, white, is killed – by mistake trying to save a child from a bomb the child is wheeling about.

It’s the truly horrible Charlie who manages to needle Cynthia by calling her Mrs S, a char woman; we see how awful he is again, but this time accompanied by his giving Ralph a big check to keep that mansion up. Alice is unable to free herself, but still making gestures at Aafrin. Cynthia wants to get rid of Alice and urges her to go home (the way she did Madeleine), but Ralph, now more alert to this kind of thing, puts a stop to that. Cynthia also insults Leena when Cynthia sees that Alice has hired her (she was homeless, a beggar when deprived of the missionary job when Mrs R returned and became pregnant) and threatens her if she tells that Adam is Ralph’s son. Sooni’s role remains normative somehow: the mother wants to marry her off to a proper Hindu male and invites a woman friend/relative to bring her son to dinner; Sooni is resisting marriage, she wants to use her lawyer’s degree – it’s the most situation comedy storyline of the series.


Sooni, three years older …

Season 2, Episode 3: White Gods

One might be forgiven for thinking the series is turning into the story of Aafrin, as his trauma and behavior under terrific stress is central to the over-riding plot-design of this one. He is so deeply distressed by Nareesh Bannerjee’s murder of Kaira, and fear what he will do next, Aafrin, again on that same broken typewriter, writes a warning the man has a box of explosive bombs he intends to blow the club or someone’s mansion up with and its in a cave. He manages to persuade Ralph to take this seriously and send Rowntree and his men to search. Nothing is found, but the camera shows us it is in the bazaar. We can see that Ralph follows Aafrin’s advice because he believes Aafrin’s underlying motive is loyalty. Ralph as a character is and must be more self-contained.


Dressing the maharajah (Art Malik) for cricket (sly humor here)

A central scene is a cricket game where Aafrin is required to be umpire. Not easy for the spoiled Maharajah (Art Malik grown much older) whom Whelan is courting wanted to win. We meet this vain and amoral man and his mistress, Sirene (Rachel Griffiths), apparently actually from Western District of Australia (real name Phyllis).

A dinner at table reveals to Cynthia how ugly is Charlie’s humiliations of Alice and so she stops pressuring Alice to leave and to get back at him for calling her Mrs Sparrow provides a room for Aafrin and Alice to carry on. The stress of this cricket game, what he endures at the club (from his well-meaning benign father), and now this fulfillment makes him break out into hard sobbing. He had loved Kaira but cannot refuse Alice and the profferred English way of life she might take him into.

We see Lord Hamilton begin to chase Leena, that Raworth refuses to help her and his kowtowing to his wife again seen as coward’s way. Ralph is beginning to have his whole household treat Adam better, teach him things a Sahib should know … Madeleine watches this


Ralph Wheelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) showing Adam (Dillon Mitra) something

I have omitted my favorite male character: Ian McCleod played by Alexander Cobb: I love how he trails around in an Indian version of a kilt, the relaxed atmosphere around him, the lack of phoniness, the friendship he is building with Sooni — they go together to investigate the place where it appears Bannerjee was “confronted” (it was the other way round) by Kaira and Aafrin, and where Jaya took lost her life too.


Ian relaxed, dressing comfortably for heat and work …

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For Episode 4: Empty Chair (clicking on comments) and Episode 5: Hide and Seek (ditto).


Ralph comforting Alice

The titles of the episodes are mostly ironic. This second season is not nearly as melodramatic as the first, but the politics and human relationships go deeper, have gone on for longer, and are at the end (Episode 10) harsh for many, yet accepted … At this point we are reaching the midpoint of a second volume of a novel.

Ellen

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A fall syllabus for reading Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset and Joanna Trollope’s sequels online at OLLI at AU: Barsetshire Then and Now.

For a course at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at American University
Day: Tuesday afternoons, 1:45 to 2:15 pm,
SG 690: Two Trollopes: Anthony and Joanna: The Last Chronicle of Barset and The Rector’s Wife
10 sessions online (location of building: 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20016)
Dr Ellen Moody

To begin the process of registration go to:  https://www.olli-dc.org/

Description of Course:

We’ll read Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset, the last or 6th Barsetshire novel, one of his many masterpieces, once seen as his signature book. I’ve read with OLLI classes the first four; there is no need to read these, but we’ll discuss them to start with (the one just before is The Small House at Allington). His indirect descendent, Joanna Trollope, has recreated the central story or pair of characters, the Rev Josiah and Mary Crawley of the Last Chronicle in her Anna and Peter Bouverie in The Rector’s Wife in contemporary terms, which we’ll read and discuss in the last two weeks, together with her The Choir, a contemporary re-creation of the church politics and whole mise-en-scene of the Barsetshire series in general.

Required & Suggested Books:

Trollope, Anthony. The Last Chronicle of Barset, ed., introd, notes. Helen Small. NY: OxfordUP, 20011. Or
—————————————–——————————–, ed., introd, notes Sophie Gilmartin. NY: Penguin Classics, 2002. The Oxford edition is better because it has 2 appendices; one has Trollope’s Introduction to the Barsetshire series, written after he finished all six of them; and the other very readable about church, class, religious politics in the era.
There is a readily available relatively inexpensive audio-recording of the novel read by Timothy West reproduced by audiobook as 2 MP3s; an earlier one by Simon Vance, produced by Blackstone’s, also 2 MP3s. West’s more genial ironic voice is the one many people say they prefer.
Trollope, Joanna. The Rector’s Wife. 1991: rpt London: Bloomsbury, Black Swan book, 1997. Any edition of this book will do.
—————-. The Choir. NY: Random House, 1988. Any edition of this book will do too. We may not read this as a group, but I will discuss it.
There are also readily available relatively inexpensive audio-recordings of The Rector’s Wife and The Choir as single disk MP3s, read aloud by Nadia May for Audiobook. They are both novels well under 300 pages.


Trollope’s own mapping of Barsetshire

Format: The class will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion. You don’t have to follow the specific chapters as I’ve laid them out; I divide the books to help you read them, and so we can in class be more or less in the same section of the book. This part of the syllabus depends on our class discussions and we can adjust it.

Sept 20: 1st week: Introduction: Trollope’s life and career. The Barchester novels. LCB, Chs 1-9

Sept 27: 2nd week: LCB, Chs 10-19
Oct 4: 3rd week: LCB, Chs 20-28

Oct 11: 4th week: LCB, Chs 29-39
Oct 18: 5th week: LCB, Chs 40-50
Oct 25: 6th week: LCB, Chs 51-60
Nov 1: 7th week: LCB, Chs 61-71
Nov 8: 8th week: LCB, Chs 72-83

Nov 15: 9th week: LCB, Ch 84. Joanna Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife, if you can, 3/4s of it, or the equivalent of Parts 1-3 of the film.

Nov 22: 10th week: Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife and The Choir. Trollope and the equivalent of Barsetshire today.

Suggested supplementary reading & film adaptations aka the best life-writing, a marvelous handbook & remarkable serials:

Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography and Other Writings, ed, introd., notes Nicholas Shrimpton. NY: Oxford Classics, 2014
—————-. “A Walk in the Woods,” online on my website: http://www.jimandellen.org/trollope/nonfiction.WalkWood.html
Gerould, Winifred Gregory and James Thayer Gerould. A Guide to Trollope: An Index to the Characters and Places, and Digests of the Plots, in All of Trollope’s Works. 1948: rpt Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987 (a paperback)
Joanna Trollope: Her official website
The Rector’s Wife, 4 part 1994 British serial (Masterpiece Theatre, with Lindsay Duncan, Jonathan Coy); The Choir, 5 part 1996 British serial (also Masterpiece Theater, with Jane Ascher, James Fox) — the first available as a DVD to be rented at Netflix, the second listed but in fact hard to find in the US


Lindsay Duncan as Anna Bouverie, the Mary Crawford character, first seen trying to make money by translating German texts (Rector’s Wife)


Boys’ choir taught by organ-master Nicholas Farrell as Leo Beckford (The Choir)

Recommended outside reading and viewing:

Aschkenasy, Nehanna. Eve’s Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition. Pennsylvania: Univ of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. Also Woman at the Window: Biblical Tales of Oppression and Escape. Detroit: Wayne State Univ Press, 1998.
Barchester Towers. Dir Giles Forster. Scripted Alan Plater. Perf. Donald Pleasance, Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Rickman, Geraldine McEwan, Susan Hampshire, Clive Swift, Janet Maw, Barbara Flynn, Angela Pleasance (among others). BBC 1983.
Bareham, Tony, ed. Trollope: The Barsetshire Novels: A Casebook. London: Macmillan Press, 1983.
Barnet, Victoria, “A review a The Rector’s Wife,” Christian Century, 112:2 (1995):60-63.
Doctor Thorne. Dir. Naill McCormick. Scripted Jerome Fellowes. Perf. Tom Hollander, Stephanie Martini, Ian McShane, Harry Richardson, Richard McCabe, Phoebe Nicholls, Rebecca Front, Edward Franklin, Janine Duvitsky (among others) ITV, 2015
Gates, Barbara. Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes & Sad Histories. Princeton UP, 1998. Very readable.
Hennedy, Hugh L. Unity in Barsetshire. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. I recommend this readable, sensible and subtle book
Jeffreys, Sheila. The Spinster and her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880-1930. 1985; Queen Margaret Univ College, Australia: Spinifex, 1997.
Mill, John Stuart, The Subjection of Women. Broadview Press, 2000. Online at: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/mill/john_stuart/m645s/
Rigby, Sarah. “Making Lemonade,” London Review of Books, 17:11 (8 June 1995): 31-32. A defense of Joanna Trollope’s novels.
Robbins, Frank E. “Chronology and History in Trollope’s Barset and Parliamentary Novels,” Nineteenth Century Fiction, 5:4 (March 1951):303-16.
Snow, C. P. Trollope: An Illustrated Biography NY: New Amsterdam Books, 1975. A fairly short well written biography, profuse with illustrations and a concise description of Trollope’s centrally appealing artistic techniques.
Steinbach, Susie. Understanding The Victorians: Culture and Society in 19th century Britain. London: Routledge, 2012.
Trollope, Joanna. Her official website. A selection: Other People’s Children, Next of Kin, Best of Friends. Britannia’s Daughters: Women of the British Empire. 1983: rpt. London: Random House Pimlico, 1994.
Vicinus, Martha. Independent women: Work and Community for Single Women, 1850-1930. Virago, 1985. See my summary and analysis: https://ellenandjim.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/martha-vicinuss-independent-women-work-community-for-single-women-1850-1930/


Arthur Arthur Frazer, “It’s Dogged as Does It” (early illustration for Last Chronicle of Barset)


Artemisia Gentileschi, Jael and Sisera: in one subplot an artist, Conway Dalrymple paints a rich young woman as Jael

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