Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Anne with an E on Netflix

The miniseries Anne on the CBC has now finished the first season and is headed to Netflix (as Anne with an E). Our beloved Anne Shirley from Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables book series has been re-imagined for the new millennium and it is not your mother's (or grandmother's) Anne! For those who don't know the LM Montgomery books, Anne Shirley is an orphan sent to be adopted by unmarried siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who were expecting a boy to help out on the farm in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. Anne is picked up by Matthew at the train station and the mix-up doesn't get explained to Anne until she arrives at the idyllic Green Gables farm in Avonlea. Many of us grew up reading about Anne, Diana and Gilbert and this is the latest adaptation for television.

Amybeth McNulty and RH Thomson as Anne and Matthew in Anne with an E

I'll try to sum it up by saying that you'll either love it or you'll hate it, and possibly both simultaneously. Having written about period dramas for 7 years now, I've come to the realization that viewers have very strong opinions about new adaptations of old favourites. Some viewers want a verbatim version of the book, which is not only impossible, but would be boring. Some have already seen their definitive and beloved adaptation (in this case the 1980s version with Megan Follows) and anything else is heresy to them.

Megan Follows as Anne and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert from 1985 Anne of Green Gables

I am fairly sure the latest generation of kindred spirits will truly enjoy Anne with an E, and hopefully their mothers and grandmothers will see that the timing was perfect for a brand new Anne. As much as I adore the Megan Follows version, the cinematography and scenery in Anne with an E will blow you away and make you want to pack your bags for P.E.I.

Dalila Bela and Amybeth McNulty as Diana and Anne

Anne with an E is an almost entirely female driven production which is a refreshing change for period drama which, although mostly consumed by females, is usually written, produced and directed by men. This is not the case here however. Moira Walley-Beckett of Breaking Bad fame is the Canadian screenwriter and was a producer. All of the producers are female and most of the directors are female. Interestingly, each episode was directed by a different person, although this is not apparent in the continuity of the series.

Geraldine James as Marilla Cuthbert

The acting is superb with English actress Geraldine James (who I remember as the uptight W.I. leader in Calendar Girls) as Marilla Cuthbert and Canadian stage and screen actor RH Thomson as her brother Matthew. Irish actress Amybeth McNulty is a truly wonderful Anne whose occasional misstep into hysteria can be forgiven because for the most part she is delightful. The supporting cast is also top notch including Lucas Jade Zumann from 20th Century Women as Gilbert Blythe.

Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe

Although he is a great actor, I am as yet unconvinced on Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe. Jonathan Crombie is still my Gilbert...sort of like my Mr. Darcy will always be Colin Firth. But he may grow on me as it seems we are going to get at least one more season of Anne.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I'm Still Here! 2016 Round-up

Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell in Victoria on PBS/ITV

Sorry I haven't been posting lately but my day job has been demanding too much time. So I have a bit of catching up to do. And thanks to Rabia, a concerned reader who wanted to make sure I was ok as my blog had gone quiet. So sweet and thoughtful of you Rabia. This post is for you!

I hope you all have been enjoying Victoria either on PBS or when it came out last year on ITV in the UK. I know they spiced up the Victoria/Lord Melbourne relationship a bit but when Rufus Sewell is playing Lord M...I am all for it! Jenna Coleman (Dr. Who, Death Comes to Pemberley) is adorable as the young Victoria. We'll never know what Victoria was really like but it seems there was enough material from her copious diaries for writer Daisy Goodwin to fill in the juicy bits.

Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes in Victoria on PBS/ITV
And the appearance of Tom Hughes as a rather hunky Prince Albert is not bad at all either. Yes, we know they were none of them this attractive, but at least they don't all have blow-dried hair like in The Tudors! :)

The Crown on Netflix

At least as splendiferous is The Crown on Netflix. When Victoria is over, I am going to go back and watch this again. My husband (known as The Squire on this blog) started binge watching this while I was away for the weekend and I had to catch up 3 episodes when I got back. So it has some universal appeal especially for a history buff. It is fascinating to take a peek behind the curtain of the lives of royals who are either still living (Clair Foy as QEII and Matt Smith as Prince Philip) or are in recent memory (Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and Victoria Hamilton as The Queen Mum). John Lithgow is pretty amazing as Winston Churchill...I love the bath spilling episode!

Now, a quick catch up on other films I have enjoyed since last posting! Hidden Figures...just wonderful. Again, this is one my hubby really enjoyed as well. The audience was cheering and jeering at the screen. Awesome! 3 ladies with fabulous scientific minds that we should know about and an entertaining film to boot. I want to read the book as well. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.  How is that for a book title?

I know, 1986 does not really qualify for a historical period film but LION is great. I was sobbing at the a really great way. The little guy who plays Saroo as a boy (Sunny Pawar) is heart-breakingly adorable. The story of a lost child in India, adopted to Tasmania, Australia by a loving couple who subsequently finds his way back as an adult via Google Earth. Dev Patel as adult Saroo was fab as was Nicole Kidman as his Australian mum. I am not a big Nicole Kidman fan but she really did a great job with this one. And this one also is adapted from a book, again a true story, A Long Way Home.

Again, Sci-Fi is not my usual genre, and yet Arrival is one that I believe my readers would truly enjoy. It is about communication with aliens and will have you on the edge of your seat. No explosions and car chases, but lots of really different drama. Good different!

Sing Street is a real gem about a teenager in 1980s Ireland who starts a band to impress a girl. We caught this one on Netflix and both of my twenty-something sons sat down and watched it with us. "Where did you find out about this film Mom?"... Enough said.

Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days a Week is a fabulous film. Only if you are a Beatles fan, but if you are this one is great!

Florence Foster Jenkins! I absolutely loved this one! Meryl Streep disappears into this over the top character and gives a really fun and yet tender portrayal of a fascinating lady. Hugh Grant shows some real acting chops and Simon Helberg (from Big Bang Theory) steals the show as her bewildered accompanist.

A few others worth mentioning were The Man Who Knew Infinity with Dev Patel as an Indian Mathematician in 1914 who makes his way to Cambridge England. You don't have to be an academic to appreciate this one but it is a well told and interesting story. On Netflix.

Shetland is a classic British murder mystery television series set in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Not for everyone as it can be gruesome, but this one gripped me. Also on Netflix.

The Detectorists is a much lighter, quirky British show about metal detectorists in England. You have to like quirky for this one so of course I loved it!

On PBS, The Durrells in Corfu and Grantchester are both really good, and I have to catch up on Poldark as I haven't seen all of those. I still enjoy Call the Midwife, and there is a new season of Homefires coming to PBS along with To Walk Invisible about the Bronte Sisters.

There are many more that I want to see (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jackie, Fences, Queen of Katwe).

Anyway, I better post this or it will be another month before I get back to the blog! Thanks again to Rabia for checking up on me! :)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

To Autumn- Ben Whishaw

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook 
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the rivers sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats Ode To Autumn brings back memories of a lovely trip to England in September of 2015. Ben Whishaw reading the poem is divine. Transcendent!

Enjoy the coming Autumn season my friends.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Love & Friendship - The Film AND The Book

Jane Austen meets Oscar Wilde meets Monty Python? Yes, please!

First let me say, I loved Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship (based on Jane Austen's Lady Susan). Just wonderful. Second, I saw this on a middle aged double date! My friend enjoyed it almost as much as I did and our husbands were good sports (I think Kate Beckinsale helped). However, another of my friends happened to be sitting behind me in the theatre on a girls night out and when the film was done said "Well, THAT was different!"

So, a super film but not necessarily to everyone's taste. As you are reading my blog, you will likely love it as much as I did. I can't wait to own it and watch all the DVD extras. It might also be an idea to leave the captions on in order to appreciate the quick paced dialogue.

Kate Beckinsale, who in her younger days dove enthusiastically into the two slightly bossy/comic roles of Emma Woodhouse (BBC Emma 1996) and Flora Poste (BBC Cold Comfort Farm 1995) now gets another juicy role with the very wicked and quite funny Lady Susan Vernon. Created by a young Jane Austen and embellished by Whit Stillman, you can tell she is having the time of her life.

The other characters are also well cast, and you will see new faces amongst well loved period drama players such as James Fleet, Stephen Fry and Jemma Redgrave (I used to love watching Jemma Redgrave as Dr. Bramwell in the 1990s).

It was brilliant to release a hilarious version of the film script in book form as well, as it is difficult to pick up on all of the witty dialogue. Mr. Stillman also had the good sense to include--as a bonus--the original Lady Susan written by Jane Austen, the "spinster authoress" as he puts it, amended constantly by a certain Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca (a supposed great-grandson of said Lady Susan whom he tries to vindicate).

Very smart move as I have bought both the Love & Friendship book and pre-ordered the DVD of Love & Friendship which is coming out on September 6 2016.

Please comment below and tell me whether you liked it too. It is a rather wry, satirical film and not to everyone's taste but I will leave you with an example of Lady Susan's view of the world:

    "That's the parent's lot! We bring these delightful creatures into the world--eagerly, happily--and then before long they are spying upon and judging us, rarely favourably. Having children is our fondest wish but, in doing so, we breed our acutest critics. It is a preposterous situation--but entirely of our own making." 
    Susan spoke not in exasperation but with a charming laugh.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

If you haven't yet heard about Julian Fellowes's new book/app Belgravia you are in good company, as  I just heard about it today. Julian was on the CBC radio show q this morning (heard all over Canada) promoting this project, which comes out in hardcover book form on July 6, 2016. I will admit to being a fan of Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, as I watch my DVD of Gosford Park at least once a year and bought both of his other novels, Snobs and Past Imperfect (and enjoyed the books very much although they will never be mistaken for high English Lit).

If you want to see if it is for you, download the app and listen to or read the first installment for free. It was released one chapter per week in the style of Charles Dickens or Elizabeth Gaskell starting in April, but I believe the entire novel is now available online if you like to binge. My sister will be happy to hear that Juliet Stevenson is doing the narration and she has done a bang up job, if you prefer to listen instead of read. There are lots of extras too on the app with maps and photos and even plans of the large country homes in the story which correspond to the narration. I find this very cool as I am one of the geeks who watches all of the extras on my fave DVDs. Numerous times!

Anyway, just thought I would post this to give you all a heads up as I was thrilled to hear about this project. Very Dickensian and just in time for beach season. Yay!


P.S. Will be seeing Love & Friendship this week (finally!) so should be able to give you my review on that soon. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The World of Mr Selfridge Book Giveaway!

The final season of Mr. Selfridge is now airing on PBS and if any of you would like the chance to win one of 2 gorgeous companion books, The World of Mr. Selfridge, jammed with sumptuous photos, all you need to do is leave a comment with your contact info (and your favourite character or aspect of the show if you like) and I will choose the winners on the night of the finale (Sunday May 27th on PBS). Retweeting one of my twitter or facebook posts about the draw will also get  you another entry!

Season four of Mr. Selfridge, based on the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge (which I also adored) is running on PBS right now. If you need to catch up on the new episodes, US residents can watch it on the PBS website and the first three seasons are on Netflix.

Please forgive my terrible photos of the book as I was getting reflections off of the glossy pages. The new season does not feature my fave character from the show, long suffering Rose Selfridge played by the amazing Frances O'Connor but she does play a big part in the first two seasons. Jeremy Piven is a good choice for Harry Selfridge as he is fascinating to watch but none too likeable, much like the real man himself.

The early seasons follow Agnes Towler, an adorable sales clerk played by the luminous Aisling Loftus (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and War and Peace) who gives us the perspective of the working-class girls who made Selfridges run smoothly. At a time when women were just getting used to the freedom of shopping as well as working in retail it is an amazing peek into their world.

With many peripheral characters like Kitty, Mr. Crabb, Miss Mardle, Mr. Grove and Agnes' love interests Henri LeClair and Victor Colleano there is plenty of plot to keep this show rolling through four seasons.

Lady Mae Loxley
Friends and especially love interests of Harry Selfridge wander in and out of the plot with infuriating regularity. Was the man really this much of a player? And if you know anything about the real Harry Selfridge, you know which direction the last season is going. A little hint...things are not rosy after the demise of the lovely Rose.

I had forgotten that Samuel West plays newspaper man Frank Edwards whose friendship with Harry hits some rough spots along the way. If you haven't had a chance to check out Sam West's parents on Great Canal Journeys (actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales) it is well worth checking out on YouTube.

It is lovely to think of tea (the most perfect the world produces) being a mere tuppence a cup and half scone or jam tart a mere penny each. However considering the wages of the times, that was probably not considered inexpensive for afternoon tea at the Palm Court Restaurant.

Again, forgive my horrid photography of the book, but views of the props like these hat pins and fans are absolutely breathtaking!

And in this US election year (our Canadian national election was last year) just remember that even the makers of this book and the Mr. Selfridge series want to remind you that your vote was hard won by your ancestors so please ladies and gentlemen, exercise your right to vote!

Now feel free to add a comment and your contact info below to win a copy of this brilliant book.


Later edit-I have chosen the winners:

Sheila Majczan
Jenna Oksanen

Congrats and I will be contacting you to get shipping info. Thanks to all who entered here and on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Grand Sophy Film: Latest News March 2016

I recently had a tantalizing comment on my last post about The Grand Sophy film on this blog which went like this:

Financing is being pulled together now. Film will shoot in either May or September 2016 with Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in supporting roles.

It was anonymous and so could not be directly followed up. However I took the liberty of contacting Jennifer Kloester, the author of Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller to see if she knew anything about this. She is a wonderfully knowledgeable source and she was recently speaking at the unveiling of the blue plaque on the Wimbledon birthplace of Georgette Heyer, with Stephen Fry!

Photo by Elizabeth Hawksley from
Jennifer Kloester speaking at the blue plaque ceremony

Jennifer was able to contact the agent for the Heyer estate who said:

 "They've got a great young actress called Jessie Buckley for Sophy, and Rob Ashford as director, and they're working on yet another draft of the script, but no production date has been set. The producers are talking about trying to attract A-listers for subsidiary roles, but no names have been mentioned."

Jessie Buckley as Princess Marya from War and Peace

Jessie Buckley seems a good choice for Sophie as she got rave reviews for her performance in the recent BBC version of War and Peace by Andrew Davies (Viv Groskop of The Guardian called her a marvel). I haven't seen War and Peace yet but have been advised to track down the UK version as the American version was ruthlessly edited (thanks Janeheiress).

Jessie Buckley- much prettier when not playing a pious Russian Princess!

A bit more unusual is the choice of Rob Ashford as director. He is originally a Broadway stage choreographer and now director but he has been working closely with Kenneth Branagh lately both directing in the West End and also doing choreography for the film Cinderella. I wonder if Ashford could talk Ken B into a cameo role. I would also be surprised if Stephen Fry wasn't interested in being a part of this project. Although if Colin Firth is truly involved, we may run out of older male parts (unless they leave in the horrid moneylender scene!).

If Helena Bonham Carter IS involved, I wonder if she would she make a better Marquesa or Lady Ombersley? Or how about Emma Thompson for one of those fun supporting ladies? Oh, here I am trying to help with the casting but it is really fun to imagine oneself as a casting director.

I would imagine Stephen Fry to be a wonderful Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy wouldn't you?

Now maybe I will have to try to contact the scriptwriter Olivia Hetreed to see how the project is progressing. Perhaps we should start a Twitter campaign to show the BBC et al that there is an eager audience waiting patiently for this to happen. And of course, if any of you haven't yet signed the petition for a Georgette Heyer film the link is here:

Comments below are very welcome!


Update: Petition Buzz is now defunct and so our wonderful petition for a Georgette Heyer film is gone, although it had almost 2000 names from all over the world! Keep leaving comments here and on GoodReads (or anywhere searchable) and hopefully the powers that be will hear us. Fingers crossed...



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