Tag Archives: books

The Pillars of the Earth REVIEW & Character Development

Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists.

-Publisher’s Weekly

It was past 2 a.m. when I finally read the last page of Ken Follett’s massive novel, The Pillars of the Earth. The moment I shut the book and put it aside, my definition of EPIC had forever been redefined. Don’t let the size of the book daunt you as it did me at first. Reading PotE has been a beyond great experience. Despite some obvious slips into modernism, the story transported me back some hundreds of years ago to a time where injustice governed, where greedy nobles reigned, and where peasants lived in constant fear and oppression. I went through quite a roller-coaster of emotions while reading this great medieval epic: I cried, I laughed, I fumed. What I loved best about this book was how the lives of very believable characters were woven so beautifully, so stunningly, into a complicated work of art.

Through this book, I learned several lessons. I learned of humility and compassion through Prior Philip. I learned of determination through Arianna: she built her life once more when it was in shambles; she searched for her lover throughout Christendom. And Jack, oh Jack—I watched him grow from a wild boy to a brave young man who ended up stealing my heart. I love this book to bits.

As a writer, I learned what it meant by “real, breathing characters”. Follett’s PotE is one of the few books (well, there were many, but only few remain in my memory) in which the characters came to life for me. They were so real that by the end of the book, I felt as if I knew them in reality, as if they were my acquaintances.

So, as a writer, I wondered to myself: what makes a character “real”? Answer: Character development. Throughout the 1000+ pages, gradually, bit by bit, Follett reveals to us the vices and virtues in each major character. Their personality isn’t shown to us in an information dump, but through their reaction to/and how they deal with a certain situation. No one character is perfect. And no one character is the same by the end of the story. Growth and change is what defines us human beings. And Follett adds depth to their characterization by incorporating this truth. The protagonists and antagonists, by the end of the story, have been altered and moulded according to the life situations they are thrust into.

What brings characters alive for you guys? What is the first book with GREAT character development that pops into your mind?

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I’m following the eight-hour long T.V. adaptation of Pillars of the Earth. This Friday the fifth episode will be airing. Maybe it’s because I read the book first, but I find that the story is moving so quickly, allowing for little of the development I adored in the novel. But, then again, it’s impossible to fit the whole story into a miniseries. With this fact taken into consideration, I think it’s worth-while to watch. Especially because Eddie Redmayne is playing Jack (He was Angel in Tess of D’Ubervilles).

P.S. I’ve received some truly lovely graphics for Be Still My Heart. If you’d like to send me a design of your own, feel free to do so! You can send it to me at june.hur@hotmail.com. I will be using all the graphics submitted to me 🙂

By Katherine (Blog: November’s Autumn)

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By Kelly H.

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By Sharon K.

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Filed under Be Still My Heart (retitled: Fall of the Sparrows), Book & Film, Writing

Period Drama Review: War and Peace (2007)

I love you…as I have never loved before…Have I any hope?
–Prince Andrei Bolkonsky

5nCJcQeWeqZU9sk5wLIS9Ie74wyWAR AND PEACE is based on Tolstoy’s massive 1000+ page long book. As I’ve not read W&P, I can’t say the adaptation is faithful to the book. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent watching this series. By the end I was smiling and crying and had a pile of tissues by my side.

W&P is a story about love and forgiveness during the Napoleonic wars. To me, as I’m a major romance-junkie, my attention was mainly focused on blossoming relationship between Natasha Rostova and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky.

The naïve and hopelessly romantic Natasha first sees Bolkonsky at a party, which marks the turning point in her life. Not only does she find herself infatuated with the cynical (and married) Bolkonsky, but she, along with all the other women, discover that they will have to let go of their men. The men have been called to join the army to fight against Napoleon.

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Bolkonsky goes off to war, and it is at Austerlitz that he realizes that man cannot live for glory alone, so he is determined to return home and refocus his life on his family—to love the wife he had been neglecting for so long.

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However, things don’t turn out the way Bolkonsky planned.

His wife passes away and he is left in complete misery. It is during this period that Bolkonsky meets Natasha again. Her enthusiasm for life enchants and bewilders him. He eventually falls in love with her.

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But then war tears them apart again.

Natasha is left to wait for the Prince for a year, in which her devotion is tested…

As for the Prince, when he returns back from the war, his love for Natasha is also tested by the changes brought by their time apart…

This is one of the very, very few period dramas that not only gave me heart-palpitations but really moved me to the core. It’s not to say that this was a perfect series. However, the issues I had with it could be overlooked, as the message behind the story was so powerful.  SO powerful that I now am determined to to finish reading the book (within my lifetime). If anyone has read it, please leave a comment, and tell me how great this novel is.

Period Movie Collection

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Film Review: Fanny Hill (2007)

Fanny Hill was directed by Andrew Davies. Yes, Andrew Davies, the director of BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But Fanny Hill is no P&P… this series is a Period Erotica.

I watched Fanny Hill, a two-part miniseries, because I was curious to see how Davies pulled off directing an adaptation of an 18th-century erotica. I read this book, and let me tell you guys a little about it before getting into the review.

John Cleland wrote Fanny Hill in prison, 1748. His work, one of the first English erotic novels, was banned for its obscenity. Curious, I picked up this book, not quite knowing what to expect—and discovered it to be an erotica that, even in the standards of contemporary erotic novels, would be considered explicit. For this reason, this book is still banned in some countries.

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The adaptation, on the other hand, was much tamer.

It’s about a naive country girl who is deceived into prostitution. She ends up quite enjoying the trade, though.

The only character I liked in this series was Mr. H, Fanny Hill’s second lover, who is an earl’s wealthy brother. At first, he doesn’t care that Fanny is still in love with her former sweetheart, Charles Standing. But Mr. H slowly begins to fall in love with Fanny.

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A romantic relationship blooms between them, as Mr. H teaches Fanny how to be a lady, by refining her Lancashire dialect, and teaching her the beauty of poetry. Soon, Mr. H is no longer satisfied with her body alone—he wants more—he desires her love.

However, she denies him this, and in a single misstep, Fanny sparks her lover’s jealous outrage. To her shock, he boots her out of his life, and she finds herself on the streets, destitute.

So Fanny goes to Mrs. Cole’s hat-shop, hoping to find a respectable position there—only to find that the hat shop is a façade for an upper-class whorehouse. Fanny decides that it will be in her best interest to work at a brothel again.

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The brothel turns into a home to Fanny. She becomes popular with the men, and this infuriates Esther Davies, another harlot.

Esther, in order to show Fanny who the more desirable woman is, takes up Mr. H as her lover. Fanny is completely unaware of this until she bumps into Mr. H at the brothel. Esther enters the scene and snakes her arm around Mr. H. Fanny becomes jealous.

However, little does Fanny know that Mr. H’s heart still belongs to her. . .

And little does she know that searching throughout London for her is her sweetheart, Charles. . .

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Did I enjoy this series? The answer is: Somewhat. I’m entertained by all things period drama. But I found myself skimming through this show. A lot. More than half of the show was comprised of sex scenes, one after the next. So there was little to no character/relationship development. I felt no sympathy for the characters—except Mr. H. The storyline was un-engaging. It all comes down to this: Fanny Hill is a trashy romance.

Still, this adaptation along with the book offers an interesting look into the English Underworld.

Period Drama Collection

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles (BBC 2008)

 

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“The story concerns a simple country girl, Tess Durbetfield, whose father’s pretensions to social status lead her into the company of the nouveau-riche d’Urberville family. In a scene which suggests rape, though it is open to interpretation, Tess is made pregnant by the rakish Alec d’Urberville. Tess returns home in disgrace, but the child she bears soon dies, leaving her free to leave her village once again to look for work. While employed as a milkmaid, she encounters the morally upright Angel Clare, who falls in love with her…[knowing nothing of her past]”

Oh. My. Lord. I just finished watching this 4-part series with my sister and we nearly used up an entire tissue box from wailing so much. To me, compared to the other adaptations I watched, this one was the most faithful to Thomas Hardy’s heart-breaking novel.

The music was bewitching, the cast was amazing (!), the scenery was breathtaking… I loved how the director gave us more perspective on Angel Clare. In other adaptations, a lot of it was left to the viewer’s imagination, and it ended up making Clare look less in love.

For example, in the 1998 adaptation, when Tess is arrested, Clare looks a bit too composed for my liking. But in this 2008 version the viewer is able to get a better sense of just how deeply Clare was in love with Tess.

The trailer didn’t do justice to this series though. I put off watching this series mainly because of how modernized the trailer made the adaptation look, which wasn’t at all appealing.

So, for the period drama fanatics out there: Thou must watcheth Tess!

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Filed under Book & Film, Thoughts