Sunday, 3 September 2017

My Glass no Kamen fansite mentioned on Japanese magazine AERA!

An article mentioning me and my website dedicated to the manga "Glass no Kamen" in 28 August 2017 issue of Japanese magazine AERA.

Maya no Garasu no Kamen

Those who know me well know how important that website has been for me as it gave me a reason to learn how to make websites (which became my job for many years) and also made me meet a lot of great people (one of which convinced me to move to London!).

It's an old, dated site and hasn't been updated for a while but it used to be well known among the international fandom and even to the author of the manga, Mrs Suzue Miuchi.

It's a massive honour to be mentioned as a big fan. I am so grateful to those who made it happen.

In a few occasions I wanted to close it down because of some nasty fans, but I am glad I did not.

I badly need to find some collaborators as I am determined to work on it again and update it.

AERA magazine - Glass no Kamen article

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Week Scotland 2017

Every year the Scottish Book Trust creates a public participation campaign for Book Week Scotland.

This year's topic was "Nourish".

My entry is a short piece about eating disorders and healing.

You're welcome.

You can read it here: Letter to the Past

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Recruitment, we have a problem!

Yes, I am still alive, though I wish I had more energy to dedicate to what I love doing most!

Somehow, I manage to spend some time creating a comics-style infographics about my personal struggle with job hunting. Enjoy!

Recruitment, we have a problem!

Friday, 20 January 2017

"North and South", review and analysis.
Part 2: The book by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the series of events which led me to read this book.
Let's be honest, I owe it to the TV adaptation, which I could not get enough of.
As I wrote in my previous post, after watching the 2004 BBC series, I was worried that I might not enjoy reading the original story much. Somehow the lack of Richard Armitage and stunning scenery might have removed all the magic. But at the same time I was hoping for something to complement what I saw on screen, with more scenes and more insight of the characters' thoughts.
Well, I can definitely say that I was not disappointed. Quite the opposite!
What a beautifully written story! In spite of knowing the basic plot already, I could not put the book down until I was really exhausted for sleep deprivation. I don't remember the last time I have been so excited about a book!
I am a bit sorry that I need to give it back to the library. I am waiting to return it as I keep reading my favourite parts over and over again!

Disclaimer

Attention please!
This is a weird way of writing a review (or maybe I should say analysis). I first analyzed the TV adaptation and now I am just comparing it to the book. Normally you would expect it to be done the other way round. Remember, I first watched the TV series and then read the book. I am only following the order in which I discovered this really involving story :)
The first impression I had when I read the book was: I am so glad I first watched the film and then read the book. This way I could fully love both. Had I done it the other way round, I would have probably thought: WTF have they done!!!
Admittedly, lots of things have been changed, including but not only the ending part which is a completely different story. To be honest with you, I do not understand why so much was changed. I genuinely would like to speak to my now beloved Sandy Welch and ask her the reason behind several of her choices.
But hey, I will never have a chance to speak to Sandy Welch, so my questions will remain unanswered. C'est la vie!

The plot

The essential elements of the plot which are both in the book and TV series are the following:

  1. Dissenting Mr Hale leaves his job as clergyman and moves to Milton with his family - house and job found thanks to his friend Mr Bell.
  2. Mr Hale's daughter, the young, righteous and a bit snobbish Margaret, meets mill owner John Thornton, who has become her father's favourite pupil. He is a honest man, hard worker, straightforward and a bit rude in posh Margaret's eyes.
  3. Margaret protects Thornton during a riot, and gets hit by one of Thornton's mill workers.
  4. Thornton falls in love with her almost immediately and proposes, but she rejects him.
  5. Little by little Margaret falls in love with John, while he seems to have a lower and lower opinion of her.
  6. Mr Thornton sees Margaret and her brother Fredrick at the train station at night. He does not know she has a brother. He does not know he is in danger in England as he was responsible for a mutiny. He does not know Fred came to see his dying mother. He thinks the two are lovers.
  7. A policeman asks Margaret if she was at the station that night as she has been seen there, and she may help the investigations about a drunk man's death. She lies to the police. Thornton is a magistrate in the case and is informed about Margaret's denial. He helps her in that case. She is not able to explain what happened to him, as she cannot betray Fredrick. Mr Thornton thinks ill of Margaret.
  8. Mr Hale dies, Margaret moves back to London to stay with cousin Edith and her husband captain Lennox.
  9. Mr Bell dies, leaving all his fortunes to Margaret.
  10. Thornton has to close down his business.
  11. Thornton finds out that Margaret has a brother and it was with her at the station before Mrs Hale died.
  12. Margaret wants to help Thornton and makes it look like a business proposal. She will lend him a considerable amount of money and ask for a small interest.
  13. Happy ending at last!!!

Differences and comparisons

The remaining part of this post will focus on what is different in the book from the 2004 BBC drama. And I will share my personal preference each time.

Mr Hale's doubt

Yeah, this makes no sense in the TV adaptation and in the book either. But it does make a bit more sense in the book. At least it is a bit more explained, and even if most of us cannot relate to Mr. Hale, somehow we do see why in the end the clergyman decides to change job and move to such a different place. Sure thing, his friend Mr Bell can help him find a house and a job in Milton, but part of the reason is that it is a very different place from his beloved Helstone.
Mr Hale comes across as both a weak and cowardly person (he made the decision without asking his wife and asked his daughter to give the bad news to her mother!) but also someone a man of integrity who earns the respect of people like Mr Thornton, Mr Bell and even Higgins. I feel a bit resentful towards him, but somehow I am glad his reasons were explained more in the book.
Also, in the book there is more interaction between Mr Hale and Higgins. He goes visit Boucher as well! This definitely did not show in the film! There is much more religious talk in the book, which I am glad was removed from the TV adaptation. But Mr. Hale was a clergyman, so it is likely to have been a big part of his talks.

Book or TV series? Draw.

Mrs Hale

Mrs Hale comes across as even more as a very unhappy person. I mean, it was quite clear from the movie already that she was letting herself die as she could not cope with the change of location and lifestyle. But I had the impression that she was perfectly happy in Helstone, before I read the book. Instead she was already miserable and unwell. And probably regretted marrying for love, as her sister could afford a much better life.
Sure thing, she was probably just a moaner, and she regretted complaining about Helstone once in Milton. Professional unhappy character, with no flexibility skills.
Her relationship with Dixon is much stronger than I guessed from the TV adaptation. Mrs Hale is closer to and confides more in Dixon than in her own daughter. Both Mrs Hale and Dixon also seem to prefer Fredrick to Margaret, even though this may be as well because he is in exile and they miss him.

Book or TV series? TV series. She's more loveable.

Martha

Who is Martha? In the TV series Dixon is the only servant following the Hales in Milton. Apparently there is another servant who to be honest does not have a big role in the story... It was not a bad idea to remove her from the cast.

Book or TV series? TV series. She is not needed.

Margaret Hale

YES! The book does Margaret the justice I was looking for. Thank you massively, Elisabet Gaskell.
Margaret and her mother openly despise manufacturers and tradesmen but in the book Margaret is much fairer to Mr Thornton. She comes across as more open-minded. At least she acknowledges that somehow Mr Thornton is better than other tradesmen and defends him when her mother judges him harshly. There are many misunderstandings between Margaret and John Thornton but they try to understand each other more than in the movie. There is generally speaking more communication between the two. They are a bit more patient with each other while trying to understand each other's point of view.
It may be just because Mr. Thornton is her father's favourite pupil, but hat's off for Margaret Hale in the book for not being the diva she becomes in the TV series.
Mind you, she is still a bit righteous and opinionated but we can see where she comes from, her reactions are never over the top like sometimes happened in the film version...
BUT
Most important thing ever! She actually makes mistakes, acknowledges them, suffers for them, regrets them. This is the Margaret I was missing. Human! I like her!
In the book we can follow her progressive attachment for Mr. Thornton, her growing love and respect - even if she is denial for longer than necessary. And we fall in love with Thornton with her.
Also, in the TV series, Margaret seems to be the only one who does take action... Some examples? In the book, when she meets Nicholas Higgins and Bessy for the first time, they ask her to visit and she actually initially forgets. When she finally visits them, they forgive her. In the film, she insists on visiting them and they say she will not come, whiles she prove them wrong. Quite different! And... She does not take a basket on her first visit like in the film! Later, a basket is sent to the Higgins/Bouchers by Mrs Hale, not Margaret. Oh and it is very ill Mrs Hale who urges Margaret to write to Fredrick, once again it was not Margaret's initiative like in the movie.

Book or TV series? Book. 1000 times the book. No comparison.

John Thornton

In the book like in the film, Mr Thornton is a strong, dark, somehow clumsy and unrefined Northerner. He is an enlightened mill owner, honest and hard working. But unlike the film, he is a rather sweet and kind person in private. And he is NOT violent at all. EVER.
I can see now why the scene which was created in the BBC adaptation was so controversial. If I had read the book first, I would have been horrified at seeing Mr Thornton kicking one of his men in the factory. Mr Thornton, the original one, is always in control! A very respectable man!
Strangely enough, at the beginning of her friendship with the Higgins', when Nicholas compares Thornton to a bulldog, in the book Margaret claims he is 'plain enough', while in the TV adaptation she clearly said he was more handsome than a bulldog. In the book we fall in love with his inner beauty more than the appearance. In the movie... Well, I can see why they had to change that line... It was not credible to define Armitage 'plain enough'! LOL
I have to be honest, after seeing Richard Armitage I could not help thinking of how attractive Thornton is while reading the book... So it was difficult for me to imagine him otherwise. I have the feeling that the male hero of the book is not as impressive as he could be. Hotness apart, the interpretation Mr Armitage gave of Mr Thornton, in spite of his flaws, gives the character the strength and charisma that is missing in the book. We can forgive him even for being a bit of a violent psycho at the beginning! ;)

Book or TV series? Book because we fall in love with Mr. Thornton's qualities. He is like a raw diamond. Movie because you'll never meet a sexier mill owner in centuries. I'd call it a draw.

The handshake

In the TV series, Margaret refuses to shake hands when Mr Thornton comes to visit, and she is told off later by her father. Later at the dinner party, she shakes hands with him and makes a remark that she is learning the Northerners' ways. In the book, she does not shake hands twice, she is never told off, and when she finally shakes hands with him at the party she does not even notice that she is doing it. Meh!

Book or TV series? TV series. WTF Margaret!

Nicholas Higgins

Well, this is a surprise for me, but after falling in love with Brendan "Bates" Coyle's Higgins, I found that the book character is less strong, both physically and mentally. Actually, the original character is not in great shape, quite ill, and tends to drink too much! He is still a likeable character who will develop a beautiful sort of friendship/collaboration with Thornton, but I think Brendan Coyle improved him a lot.

Book or TV series? TV series. Bates, you rock :)

Fanny Thornton

Fanny in the book is unlikable, like Edith in my opinion. Both are vain and superficial. So different from Margaret! But sickly and weak? I did not have this impression in the movie. She looked quite spoiled and energetic. Or maybe just very young. Anyway, hat's off to the script writers for turning Fanny Thornton into a very entertaining and strong character, who adds a lot of humour to a dramatic atmosphere. She counterbalances the gravity of her brother and mother.
In the book we can also learn more about the relationship between Mrs Thornton and her children. She loves and respect her son and is grateful to him for everything. But somehow she has a soft spot on that younger daughter who is not as strong and as brave as her brother. A bit unfair to poor John... But hey, this is something Margaret and John have in common... A sibling who is more loved than they are!

Book or TV series? TV series. Jo Joyner made me laugh out loud!

Mrs Thornton

Well, I love her, but I owe this to the superb performance of Sinéad Cusack. So I cannot be totally objective regarding the original character. Like for her son, every time I read something about her, I would immediately visualize Sinéad Cusack.
What a powerful and charismatic appearance!
I think I liked the character in the book as well, no big differences here. Apart from her sort of preference for her weak daughter, which was not showing in the film. But she adores her son, and he is much more similar to her than her daughter will ever be.
There are some changes made in the TV adaptation in the part after Margaret is seen with Fredrick late at night, before Mrs Hale's funeral.
First of all, Mrs Thornton and her son talk about that unfortunate fact much more than in the film. She makes him admit that he suspected that man to be Margaret's lover. However he somehow defends Margaret's actions, saying that there must be something terrible she is hiding, but does refuse to explain more to his mother. He does not want to tell his mother that Margaret lied to a policeman!
Also Mrs Thornton in the book reveals to her son that she promised dying Mrs Hale to advice Margaret if necessary. John thinks it is a good thing.
Last but not least, after Mrs Thornton visits Miss Hale to perform her duty and advise her on the impropriety of her conduct, and after seeing Margaret's reaction, we get an interesting insight of her thoughts. Mrs Thornton is somehow happy with the outcome of the conversation! From Margaret's response, she believes that Margaret is bold but not giddy, and that she will never do it again. Also, in her mind she compares Margaret favourably to her own daughter Fanny... The latter IS giddy and weak!

Book or TV series? I'd say draw. Even though Sinéad Cusack is a goddess.

Boucher

Just one thing. Did he throw that stone? He clearly did in the TV series, but in the book everybody seems to accuse him unfairly... Margaret is sure it wasn't him.

Book or TV series? Draw. I don't like this character at all. Even though I am grateful to him if he threw the stone, as such a beautiful thing happened between Margaret and John thanks to that silly action :)

Ann Latimer

This character was so useless in the BBC adaptation, she did not even utter a sound!
And surprise surprise, she does not even exist in the original story! Ha ha!
No rival for Margaret in the whole book!

Book or TV series? Book, she was so useless anyway.

Henry Lennox

Poor Henry Lennox could have married Ann Latimer had she existed in the book. Two poor guys with little luck in love!
Jokes apart, Henry Lennox is actually useful. He is rejected at the beginning and to be honest nobody apart from himself thinks he will have ever another chance. However, he is genuinely a nice person, helping Margaret with any legal and financial matters. After Mr Hale's death, he is encouraged by Edith to try and propose again, but eventually he does not do so. He understands that Margaret would not have him at last, and moves out of the scene more graciously than in the TV series - see what I wrote about the ending scene in the TV adaptation.
He probably does not even think Mr Thonrton is a rival until the end, yet in the book there is nothing of his nasty remarks to make Thornton jealous. Overall, Henry Lennox is done much more justice in the book. I almost like him!

Book or TV series? Book. Because every character deserves some dignity. Ha!

Mr Bell

Mr Bell in the book appears only later in the story. He does not like Milton, and he visits only when strictly necessary for business, as he owns properties there. In the TV adaptation he gatecrashes the Thornton's dinner party. In the book he appears only after the rejection, after Mrs Hale's death, in a great scene which sadly does not appear in the film.
Also, he does not seem to want to marry Margaret. Phew.

Book or TV series? Book, even though I really like Brian Protheroe's Mr Bell an awful lot. He makes me smile!

The Grand Exhibition in London

This scene is completely invented by the screen player. While I like any scene where Margaret and John exchange a few lines, I would have preferred that they did not cut some scenes from the book rather than adding new ones.

Book or TV series? Book. It was not a necessary scene.

The marriage proposal scene

Ok this is another pivotal points for the plot. In essence it is the same in the book and in the film, but it is much better developed in the book. It is still annoying, and you still want to scream at Margaret for being silly... But it makes more sense when you read the book.
A major difference is the following: while Margaret is laying on the Thornton's sofa with bleeding temples, waiting for the doctor, she overhears Fanny and a servant talking about her hugging John. Fanny is very surprised at the servant's report! Fanny claims that everybody can see that Margaret is after her brother, but that he would never marry her.
So yes, when Margaret gets home and thinks about what she heard, she gets wound up. Margaret is not aware yet of her feelings - better, she is in denial. But that conversation in my opinion triggered the defensive reaction that will lead to rejecting Thornton's proposal. She would have rejected him anyway at that early stage, but not so horribly. But well he would not have proposed so quickly if she hadn't jumped at his neck and hugged him!
Anyway I do have a question for Elizabeth Gaskell. Both John Thornton and Henry Lennox are rejected but still are determined to love her and not give up hope. Where did she find these men? LOL

Book or TV series? Book, totally book.

Mrs Hale's death

In the book, Margaret did not notice that Mr Thornton came to the funeral. He was standing at the back, with head bent down. Nobody noticed him. However he went to talk to Dixon, to enquire about Mr Hale and Margaret. According to Dixon, "Master is terribly broke down. Miss Hale bears up better than likely".
Thornton does not like this answer. First of all, he selfishly hoped to be able to be there to cheer Margaret up. Secondly, the memory of seeing Margaret with a handsome young man just a short time before kills him with jealousy.
However, he said he will visit Mr Hale.
Dixon never mentions to Margaret that Mr Thornton was at the funeral so Margaret never finds out!
However, Mr Thornton's visit is very welcome, as Margaret notices that her father benefits from talking to him.
Mr Thornton eventually looks at Margaret and realises that she has suffered much more than Dixon led him to believe... He speaks tender words to her. She cries. Thornton's heart beats very fast.
Sadly Margaret is called away by Dixon, as she receives the visit of a policeman, who is making enquiries about drunk Leonard's death at the train station.
After denying she ever was at the station and sending the policeman away, Margaret faints. Mr Thornton really hopes to see her again, but eventually goes away wondering why she never came back. Then the policeman talks to him about Leonard's case. You know the rest.

Book or TV series? And you ask? Book! For Thornton's tender words and manners, and Margaret's gratitude towards him. For both being just very human, Thornton wanting Margaret to be distressed so that he could offer his support, Margaret for actually breaking down and not being as stoic as in the TV series.

John Thornton after the rejection

Again, I really loved reading John Thornton's thoughts and reasoning in the book. It adds so much more to the character's depth!
First of all, somehow, in spite of his low self-esteem, Thornton does not completely give up hope after being rejected. He lies to himself a bit, but he tries to convince himself that he needs to prove that he is totally in control.
So he keeps visiting his friend Mr Hale as he used to. He perceives Margaret's presence in the room but does not look at her and ignores her. But he needs to feel her presence somehow.

Book or TV series? Book. Nothing is better than character's psychology!

Higgins asks Thornton for work after the strike and Boucher's death

This is another big difference between the book and the BBC TV adaptation.
In the book, Thornton decides to give work to Higgins mostly because he is impressed by the long time Higgins waited just to be able to talk to him. Not because it was a woman who advised Higgins to ask Thornton.
Actually he understands that it was Margaret who advised Higgins only when he goes to Higgins' place to offer him the job, and finds Margaret in his house... She was just saying that she is disappointed in Thornton when he enters! But she immediately goes away, leaving the two men alone to talk.
Also after offering Higgins a job, Thornton follows Margaret and tries to talk to her about the night at the station, but Margaret cannot reveal Fredrick's secret and explain. So Thornton tells her that he is no longer in love with her. She is very distressed. Good. She does not seem to have many feelings in the movie!

Book or TV series? Book. The TV series is all about Margaret. The book is more fair to all the characters.

Tea at the Hales

This is a scene which was completely cut off the movie. No idea why... I loved it!
So, finally we meet Mr Bell, having tea at the Hales' with Mr Hale, Margaret and John Thornton!
Thornton is determined to keep ignoring Margaret and being cold. However at some point he lets a nasty remark about Margaret not being truthful slip. Margaret is mortified. She does not attempt to talk for the rest of the evening, she sulks in, embroidering in silence. Thornton is not pleased with himself for stooping so low, and hopes to meet her eyes hoping for forgiveness all evening... He is disappointed that it does not happen. He was used to Margaret's strong reactions, not this! This is when in the book Mr Bell understands that there is something going on between the two, and he suggests that to Mr Hale. This is also when Mr Thornton decides that he cannot control himself as he thought and that he needs to stop visiting the Hales. It is much clearer than in the movie when things changed, and I like the fact that for a while he kept visiting Mr Hale. I was so sorry for poor Mr Hale who lost his wife and his only friend's company.

Book or TV series? Book, book, book!

Mr Hale's death

Mr Hale's death happens in Oxford, exactly like in the TV series.
However, in the book Mr Bell meets Thornton on the train from Oxford to Milton, where he is going to bring Margaret the bad news. So Thornton is the first person to find out, and it is not Higgins who tells him!
Then Mr Bell orders Aunt Shaw to come to Milton to stay with Margaret for a few days and then take her to London.
Mr Bell stays at the Thornton's. In the book this is when Mr Bell mentions to Thornton that Margaret has a brother, Fredrick. And again, it is not Higgins who discloses the piece of information!
However, poor Mr Thornton hopes that it was Fredrick the man he saw with Margaret at the station, but Bell is not aware of Fredrick coming to England since the mutiny. Mr Bell suggests that the man must have been Henry Lennox!
Anyway, it will be Higgins later who will confirm that Fredrick was indeed in Milton when Mrs Hale was dying.
Mr Hale in the book is buried in Oxford, while Mrs Hale in Milton. This makes me really sad.
Mr Thornton went to the funeral, but Margaret did not as she was too unwell to travel to Oxford. Margaret leaves one of her father's books to Dixon and asks her to give it to Thornton after she has left for London. In the movie she gives it to him herself.

Book or TV series? Draw, maybe. I am not sure why so many things have been changed, though it does not affect the main plot.

Look back!

OMG this amazing scene is actually not happening in the book!
Thornton's goodbye in the book is cold and distant. Thornton tells himself that he does not find her attractive any more. He does not look at the carriage with those smouldering eyes! Aaargh!

Book or TV series? TV series. You simply cannot unsee that scene!

The visit to Helstone

In the film it looked like everything remained pretty much the same when Margaret and Mr Bell visit Helstone. The new parson and wife made only a few changes (like getting rid of the roses). But in the book, a lot was changed. And Margaret does not thing that it was a bad thing. Somehow she saw that her dad was not a man of action, but more a man of contemplation and meditation.
Unlike the TV series, Margaret asks Mr Bell clearly to tell Thornton that the man he saw her with was her brother. Mr Bell promises he will do it next time he goes to Milton - she asks him to tell him in person.
But... Time passes and Mr Bell does not go to Milton. Margaret is increasingly anxious as she wants Mr Thornton to think a bit better of her... But Mr Bell dies!
In the TV adaptation, Margaret is not too sure what she wants Mr Bell to tell Mr Thornton. However, Mr Bell is aware that he is dying so he goes to Milton to settle his affairs, leaving everything to Margaret before going to South America for the last part of his life. He confessed Margaret that he wanted to marry her (yuck!) but now things have changed. When he talks to Thornton in Milton, he almost tells him about Fredrick but since Thornton does not encourage him to talk about Margaret, he goes away without telling him. I may be wrong, but in my opinion Mr Bell did not really want to tell Mr Thornton. Was he jealous? Was he selfish? I don't know for sure. But I do not like this part.

Book or TV series? Book, 100000 times. A nicer Mr Bell, a less confused Margaret, more suspence while waiting for a letter from Mr Bell to know if he was going to Milton or not. No creepy marriage thoughts in Mr Bell's head. Good.

Speculation

The speculation thread is much more stressed in the TV series.
In the book there is mention at the beginning to how Mr Thornton's father killed himself after losing everything to speculations. Towards the end there is a mention to Fanny's husband Watson and his investments. And when Thornton is about to close down he does have a discussion with his mother about speculations. But in the movie speculations is discussed between mill owners and businessmen over and over again, with Thornton always understandably being against it.

Book or TV series? Draw. I do not care so much about speculation even though it is nice to be reminded how principled Thornton is!

The ending scene.

Yes, the total f-up.
I see now why book fans did not like this.
I have so mixed feeling about the whole ending scene!!!
To start with, there is no northbound train! You understand my problem here! Argh!
So, Margaret does not go to Milton like in the film, but it is Thornton who comes to London to talk to Henry Lennox.
Margaret is now Thornton's landlord since Mr Bell's death and Henry is Margaret's financial and legal advisor.
Henry Lennox is actually nice to Mr Thornton. The two like each other - later Henry will mention to Margaret what an agreeable person Thornton is! Even when Henry tells Thornton that London's air did Margaret well compared to Milton, he does not sound malicious.
Thornton explains more about his enlightened ideas to Henry and other guests. He mentions to Margaret that Higgins collected names of people who will work for him again if he is able to take on workers.
Everybody likes Mr Thornton.
Maybe Henry Lennox did not understand initially what Mr Thornton meant to Margaret.
But then Margaret asks Henry for a private meeting as she needs his help - and cousin Edith's hopes for a marriage proposal go sky-high. During that meeting, probably the penny drops for poor Henry.
He arranges another meeting between himself, Margaret and Thornton. He makes sure there is a quiet room where nobody disturbs them as they need to talk business. BUT he does not turn up, leaving Margaret and John alone.
What an amazing gesture. So much better than the humiliation to be led on and used by Margaret, to see Margaret and Mr Thornton kissing on a station platform!
The ending scene is more beautiful and less lame.
The main content is the same (and it is brilliant, thanks Elizabeth Gaskell!): Margaret is nervous and trying to explain the business proposal to John Thornton, without Henry's help. She wants to help him but making it look like she is just lending money with a little interest. At the moment all that money is in a bank with no interest. So he cannot have any shame in accepting and start his business again!
BUT
in the book, the two are alone in a room. And this is not the only thing that makes the scene so much better.
First of all, as soon as Mr Thornton understands the meaning of the business proposal, he calls Margaret by her name with a tender and passionate voice. She was looking for some papers to look more convincing, but after he calls her again she covers her eyes with her hands. He gets closer, and suggests her that if she does not send him away he would claim her her own. Not only she does not sends him away, but with her hands still on her eyes she puts her head on his shoulder. He hugs her.
"Oh, Mr Thornton, I am not good enough!"
"Not good enough! Don't mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness!"
Yes, some humility from Margaret too. I am so in love with this book!
You see, one of the things I did not like in the BBC adaptation's ending scene was that he does not even somehow asks her if he still has some hope, after being rejected once. The book did exactly what I needed to find the scene credible. And this it not all.
After a while, Thornton takes her hands off her eyes and puts them around his neck asking her if she remembers when she protected him from the stone. He adds that he requited her with his insolence the following day. She replies that she remembers only how wrongly she spoke to him.
THIS. THIS!!! Margaret admitting her faults. Great. I love this more and more!
There is even more. The rose from Helstone.
Mr Thornton did indeed visit Helstone, and not just at the end of the story. We find out because when after some time spent hugging in silence, Thornton shows Margaret a dead flower he kept in his pocketbook.
Margaret does not guess immediately where that flower comes from. She asks him if it was from her, and he mocks her: "Vanity!"
There is no psychic power like in the film (see my TV series review!). I love this more and more.
There is also tenderness and gentle mockery. The scene ends with Thornton guessing that Aunt Shaw's comment will be: "That man!", to which Margaret replies that surely Mrs Thornton's reaction will be: "That woman!".
I did not think it was possible, but yes, the ending scene of the BBC adaptation is much worse in my eyes now. I am glad I watched it before reading the book, and I will still watch it many times anyway! Ha!
However, I do have a complaint. WHY are the endings so rushed! Both book and TV adaptation? Seriously? After endless misunderstandings and suffering and longing...WHY can't we enjoy more than a 2-minute kiss at the train station (TV series) or just a short page of a book? I want to read more! I want to see what happens in Milton!!! I want to know how the relationship between Margaret and Mrs Thornton develops! I want to see Mr Thornton's enlightened experiments! I want to see Mr Thornton and his men working together!
It is not fair!!! Shall I read fan fiction now?

Friday, 21 October 2016

"North and South", review and analysis.
Part 1: The 2004 BBC TV series

North and South - BBC 2004 - Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe

As a hopeless period drama junkie, I cannot believe I hadn't discovered this little gem before. "North and South" is definitely a timeless classic, yet for some obscure reason it was not publicized much by the BBC. They did not expect the success it had, allegedly. How this is possible, it will always be a mystery to me.

Before I start writing this review, I need to make a few disclaimers.

  1. When I first watched the series, and for the way-too-many times I re-watched it afterwards, I hadn't read the books and I had no idea what the story was about. I have finally decided to get a copy of the book, but I want to write my review of the film before I read the book. I will add a "part 2" to this post later, and I will make a comparison between book and TV series. This may be a very rare case of book being less enjoyable than the adaptation; let's face it, no words can describe Mr Armitage's smouldering look or sexy voice well enough!... But at the same time the TV adaptation left me wanting for more, so the two versions may actually complement each other! We will see.
  2. I re-watched these 4 episodes several times and I read quite a lot of reviews online, so I had time to think about it more calmly. My review after watching the TV adaptation for the first time(s) would have been summed up with: "OMG Richard Armitage!!!". Admittedly, I needed many many viewings before other elements in the movie were noticed. Yes, the Armitage effect exists and it still claims victims.
  3. Spoilers. This post is full of them. You have been warned.

The plot.

Mr Richard Hale, former clergyman in Helstone, Hampsthire, decides to leave the Church of England on a matter of conscience. Thanks to the help of his friend, Mr. Bell, he finds a house and a job as a private tutor in the northern industrial town of Milton.
The story starts with Mr and Mrs Hale, together with their daughter Margaret and their servant Dixon travelling to Milton. Soon we meet the (drop dead gorgeous) ruthless local mill owner John Thornton, who becomes one of the favourite pupils of Mr Hale. The first time Margaret and John meet is far from ideal, as the man is beating one of his workers for smoking in Marlborough Mills, his factory. Margaret does not have a good opinion on northern tradesmen and especially Mr Thornton, which she makes clear in more than one occasion. At the same time she starts doing some charity for the mill workers and learning about their poor living conditions. She eventually becomes very good friends with some of them. Little by little she gets accustomed to the ways of the northerners. Also little by little her attraction for Mr Thornton grows, even if she does not admit it to herself or to anyone else! Mr Thornton falls in love with her quite immediately and even proposes to her, but is badly rejected by proud and righteous Margaret.
The story has many threads and subplots, like the Union gaining power and organising a strike, Nicholas Higgins from the Union and Mr Thornton, his master, gradually understanding and respecting each other, a few heart-breaking deaths, the speculation craziness, a lot of misunderstandings and misery that will lead to a happy ending... At last!

The comparison with Pride and Prejudice

This comparison is unavoidable. The stories have way too many things in common. But "North and South" is "Pride and Prejudice" meet Dickens, which makes it so much more interesting. Mind you, I am a massive fan of "Pride and Prejudice", especially the one and only adaptation, 1995 BBC with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, of course.

  1. Pride. Prejudice. Misunderstandings. Of course. Margaret initially idealises the South, with its good manners and culture and sees the Northerners (especially Thornton) as the exact opposite. The Thorntons see the Hales as haughty and snobbish (well how can we blame them!). And there is a lot of pride from both sides, including but not only in the longest and most painful rejection scene ever!
  2. Mr Thornton and Mr Darcy. Yes they have some similarities. They both make a bad impression at the beginning but little by little their actions show their true good nature. Both Darcy and Thornton are from different classes from the woman they love, even though Darcy belongs to the upper class, while Thornton belongs to the working class. Thornton's family disapproves of Margaret like Darcy's family disapproves on Liz Bennet. However, who would have thought this could ever happen? Darcy suddenly becomes boring in this comparison. He is a privileged man who happens to be a man of integrity and kind nature. Thornton lost his father when he was only a kid - the man killed himself after losing all his money on bad investments. Thornton had to work hard to raise his family (mother and sister) from poverty; he created his fortune from nothing, with hard work and determination - and support from his mother. There are more layers to Mr Thornton. He is a bit ruthless and he is a businessman, but he also honest and he cares about his workers' condition more than other masters. He does not think he is superior to the woman he loves, like Darcy did, but quite the opposite, he thinks no woman would have him. While he initially shows some bad temper (in a very controversial scene I have mixed feelings about), he always has a reasonable explanation for his actions... Even Mr Hale agrees about that :)
  3. The rejection scene. Very similar scene, in which the man against all odds declares his love to an unsuspecting and outraged woman. The woman rejects the man of course. And she regrets it pretty soon. To be honest, in "Pride and Prejudice" the rejection was understandable, as Mr Darcy's words were quite disrespectful. In Thornton's case, I did not see where Margaret came up with the idea that he thought himself better as he was richer or that he wanted to save her reputation. Personally I would have slapped Margaret in the face. But Thornton is a gentleman.
  4. Both Darcy and Thornton somehow save the reputation of the women who rejected them, whom they still love after all. Darcy manages to save Liz's sister's Lydia's reputation by forcing Wickham to marry her. Thornton protects Margaret's reputation when she lies to the police about being at the train station at night with a gentleman. Thornton does not know that man was her brother. He suffers like hell thinking that Margaret has a lover and that she has no concerns about her reputation. Still he protects her reputation. BUT. When Liz thanks Darcy, he claims that he did not do it for her family (whom he does not like so much) but for her. When Margaret thanks Thornton, he says that he did not do it for her (whom he no longer loves) but for her father, who he still respects. Serves you right Margaret!
  5. At some point in the story, both Liz and Margaret admit to themselves and to someone else (Liz to her sister Jane, Margaret to Mr. Bell) that they hate the fact that he (Darcy, Thornton) has a bad opinion of them. They are using almost the same words!

By the way. Mr Darcy who? ;)

The final scene

The first time I watched this film, during the final scene I fell off the chair screaming: "Sandy Welch, if you were man and single I would marry you!". I re-watched that scene over and over again, and I doubt I am the only one who did it. This ending makes me cry because it is outrageously beautiful!

Eventually I came up to the conclusion that is the biggest problem of these 5-minute masterpiece: it is too short!

Anyway, let's proceed with order. When I first found myself staring at the incredible, legendary "Northbound train" scene, I did have a strange feeling. But I ignored it. Only at the umpteenth time I started making sense of what it was all about. It was the very little part of my brain which is reasonable, and that little part of my brain was protesting! That's what it tried to say: this scene is so lame! For all the following reasons:

  1. WTF the Heltstone rose.
    When did Thornton become a psychic? How come he decided to go to Helstone to find the roses Margaret never mentioned to him? He even had to "look hard" to find them! This drives me insane!
  2. WTF that kiss in public.
    So, it was completely wrong for Margaret to be seen at night with a gentleman at the train station but it is perfectly fine to kiss (and what a kiss!) during the day, in a very crowded train station. Double standards much? How is this making any sense? Was the plan to make the script more modern? Well the story-telling can be made more modern but this is a very anachronistic PDA!?! It is just plain wrong! Moreover... While Margaret exposed herself to public shame in more than one occasion, John Thornton had always been a perfect gentleman until then. He even told off Margaret for not caring about her reputation. What happened to him? Do Helstone roses have psychedelic effects by any chance?
  3. WTF Thornton's sudden self-confidence.
    I may have missed something, but until moments before they met at the station, Thornton kept repeating that Margaret had a vert little opinion of him. Suddenly he finds out that she did not have a lover but a brother, which I appreciate sheds a new light on some past events... But... But... As soon as Thornton sees Margaret during his return trip from Helstone, he is a different person! He does not even need to ask if he has another chance with her, like Darcy did with Liz... He does not even need to hear the business proposition... The way he looks at her on the platform says it all... Really? I want to sniff that Helstone rose too!
  4. WTF the unbuttoned collar.
    OK this did not disturb me so much. Someone else in their reviews made me notice it. Maybe I did not realise that this as well was not acceptable in those times. Maybe I thought Helstone looked very hot compared to Milton... And maybe I did not mind either. Does anyone remember Darcy in a wet, white shirt? ;)

AND YET

The rest of my brain silenced the tiny reasonable part every single time I watched that scene.
I love it madly, against all logic.
I adore the way Margaret and John communicate with their hands and how Margaret kisses John's hands.
It was an incredible relief to see the two finally getting together.
I would not change anything.
OMG that kiss. How many women envied Daniela Denby-Ashe in those few minutes?

BUT

It felt a bit too rushed an ending.
We all could have done with a longer beautiful scene after so many misunderstandings and so much suffering.
I would have loved to hear Margaret swallowing her pride and apologise for once. Like in "Pride and Prejudice", a bit of humility from both sides wouldn't have done any harm.
And I would have loved to see Mr Thornton and Miss Hale come back to Milton and meet the soon-to-be mother in law. That would have been fun!

The characters

As I mentioned before, I too have been a victim of the powerful Armitage effect.
I had to re-watch the whole thing many times before I started appreciating other elements. And the more I watched it, the more I loved all the other characters (what a great cast)... And the less I liked Margaret!

Margaret Hale

Margaret is perfect, or everybody seems to think so. "Remarkably handsome", educated to a higher standard than most hard-working Northerners, and, as her dying mother put it: "she never does anything wrong". YUCK.
I share the feeling of Mrs and Miss Thornton. Miss Hale is so haughty, and always looking so severe. She walks around looking in the distance, with her angel face, always doing good and helping people... She does not even look human, she is just superior to all of us.
Why John likes her exactly is not clear. I hope the book will help me understand this. But she does him good, by challenging and seeing the kindness in him - Higgins noticed that very well ;)
Seriously, Margaret makes some mistakes like every mortal but she does not even properly admit it. Even when she sort-of apologise she does not sound convincing. She claims more than once that she is not ashamed of what she said or that she did not do anything she would not do again. Rubbish.
The way she rejects marriage proposals is irritating. And by the way in the end she is blatantly using poor friend-zoned Henry and she does not even feel guilty about it.
It is much easier to sympathize with John Thornton even if he beats and kicks a defenseless man in his factory. And not just because he is hot. Because he is human. And he is a bit more humble that Saint Margaret!
Mind you, Margaret does eventually change her point of view and grows up a bit. And most important I forgive her for saving Thornton and his cotton mill.

My favourite quote:
"You once accused me of not knowing what kind of man I rejected. And you were right."

John Thornton

Well, Richard Armitage. Do I need to add anything else? I wonder why they kept seeing other actors after seeing him. What a mistake they would have done if they had chosen someone else!
His presence is incredible. He says so much with just his eyes or his gestures. Just from the way he walks you understand so much of the character. Let's not even mention his voice.
Oh, but this was about John Thornton, not Richard Armitage. Oops!
I said already a lot about John Thornton in my comparison with Darcy of "Pride and Prejudice".
John is a man who created his and his family's fortune starting from absolutely nothing, and is working hard every day to keep it. He needs to make a profit with his cotton mill, but compared to other business owners he tries to make his workers' conditions as good as possible.
"My workers are healthier. Their lungs don't clog so easily. They work for me longer. Their children work for me longer. Even you can see the profit in that."
"If men eat well they work well. And that'll please masters too, unless they are idiots. Which some of them are."
He is obviously handsome and many young ladies are after him. But he is a workaholic, so that could be the only explanation why he is still single. That, and his slightly worryingly close relationship with a possessive mother.
But deep down Thornton needs love. He does not believe a woman can love him. And to tell the truth, probably most women were attracted by his money... Even Ann Latimer might have found him less attractive when he lost everything.
As mentioned before, his baffling love at first sight for Margaret Hale may be due to the fact that she challenges him. She his a very strong woman, like Mrs Hannah Thornton. Deep down, both John Thornton and Margaret Hale are principled and kind. Only Thornton does not know it yet, while Margaret is so full of herself. Anyway, I think there is great chemistry between the two and that their relationship will bring out the best of both.
I also particularly like the relationship between Higgins and Thornton. The two should hate each other: a master and a Union member! But they are both good at heart and at business. They learn to understand each other's point of view and collaborate for a mutual interest. This is one of my favourite relationships in the whole story.
Oh and have you noticed how sexy Thornton is when he reads with little Boucher or when he smiles at a child? ♥swoon♥

My favourite quote:
"Look back. Look back at me!"
[Best set of facial expressions on the planet. And divine soundtrack too. The bar has been set sky-high now.]

Hannah Thornton

This woman is amazing. I cannot wait to read the book to see if she has been portrayed in a faithful way or if it is another superb acting and directing combination. Hat's off to Sinead Cusack for the most wonderful example of potential mother in law!
I think she is a bit scary and creepy, but I like her a lot. She is always keeping an eye on John and Margaret, as she figured out before everybody else how the story is going to end.
John is really grateful to his mother, and most likely Hannah is behind her son's success with her relentless support. She is very proud of him and for a good reason.
Mrs Thornton does not think Margaret is worthy of her son's love (and she is right) but she is ready to accept her for his son's happiness. 5 stars.
She even promises dying Mrs Hale that she would look after Margaret if necessary!
Hannah Thornton survived her husband's suicide, extreme poverty, and all the highs and lows of John's trade business... She is the strongest character in the story, even though she comes across as very cold and distant: "I'm afraid it is not in my nature to show affection... even when I feel it."

My favourite quote:
"Don't be afraid, John. She has admitted it to the world. I may yet even learn to like her for it. It must have taken a great deal to overcome her pride."

Fanny Thornton

How on Earth Fanny is part of that family I do not know. But I thank her for that. She makes me laugh out loud in a story which is quite sad and heart-breaking.
She does not seem to disapprove on Margaret and John at the beginning, even though she might just enjoy the gossip. Surely she does not like Margaret, and how could she? They are so dramatically different! To be honest it's not easy to like someone as righteous and serious as Margaret is. I wouldn't be best friends with Fanny but I do think she has a point when she comments that miss Hale could do with having just a little humility about her position.
Fanny is quite young, but I doubt she will ever get less silly and frivolous. I like that she tells it as it is... About John, about Milton... I think she is a much needed light-hearted point of view in the story.

My favourite quote:
"Ooh! John is such a stick-in-the-mud!"

Richard Hale

Mr Hale is another very well portrayed character.
While I do not fully understand the matter of conscience that made the whole story happen, I accepted it. I guess the story needed to start somewhere, even though I am sure that for many people this whole move to a Northern industrial town is a bit out of order. But I like to think that Richard Hale was a man of integrity, and he did not feel honest in pretending he believed something he no longer believed in. I respect him for that, even though his family had to suffer a great deal because of it.
Strangely enough, Mr Hale seems to be the only one in the family who is able to adapt to the new life and to see the good in it. Unlike his wife who clearly had no intention of living any longer since she was forced to leave Helstone, and unlike his daughter who behaved like a spoiled brat towards the Thorntons in quite a few occasions, he was able to see from the beginning that people are the same everywhere, and he even enjoyed his new position of private tutor.
He is a good man, and I am not surprised he never recovers completely after his wife's death. He married her for love and he is aware of having caused her distress by moving to Milton.
If I have to say something negative about him (and his wife), well, they could have taught Margaret that she is not a princess. But hey, people make mistakes.
Oh and I have to add that Mr Hale is a bit clueless about a certain relationship; he did not even suspect that his best looking pupil is in love with his daughter. For heaven's sake, Hannah Thornton saw it. Fanny Thornton saw it. Mr Bell saw it. Higgins saw it. Hopeless case!

My favourite quote:
"My word, Margaret! To admit that the South has it's faults and that Mr. Thornton has his virtues. What has happened to bring about such a transformation?"

Nicholas Higgins

I love this man. Like I loved Bates in "Downton Abbey". Thanks Brendan Coyle!
Higgins is a kind-hearted and principled working class man. He may be a bit passionate, but he is a loving father and a fair player.
He is actively involved with the Union and he is promoting the strike to improve the working conditions. But he does not want any violence; he wants to show the masters that workers are men, not animals. He is heartbroken when the strike fails and angry at Boucher for ruining everything.
He swallows his pride to get back to work after taking care of the 5 little Boucher orphans.
He becomes good friend with Margaret, and what really touches me, he eventually develops a beautiful relationship of respect and mutual understanding with Thornton.
When Thornton has to close down his business, Higgins will collect names of people who are happy to work for Thornton if he is ever in a position of running the business again.
Ok, cunning Higgins kind of uses Thornton's weak point, Margaret, to his own benefit when he needs to be re-employed after the strike, but I think we can forgive him for this. What's most important, Higgins is the person who will eventually tell Thornton that the gentleman seen with Margaret at the station at night was actually her brother.
I LOVE this man! Well both of them :)

My favourite quote:
"Reckon I'll leave my brains at home, then!"

Mr Bell

Mr Bell is an interesting character. A bit eccentric Oxford academic, very cheerful and entertaining, but also hiding something... Like the fact that he was investing money in Watson's risky speculations, the very ones John Thornton refused to join!
Also he was planning to marry Margaret! I am sorry he too is destined to die, but I am glad I was spared yet another badly rejected marriage proposal.
And I am very grateful to Mr Bell... Thanks to him the Hales moved to Milton and met the Thorntons, thanks to him Margaret travelled back to Helstone and realised she does not belong in there any more and thanks to him Margaret becomes rich and able to save the sexiest cotton mill owner and his men! Hurrah for Mr Bell!

My favourite quote:
"Oh no, I can’t have this! Mrs. Thornton being wild is bad enough. But romantic? No, no! You wouldn’t call Milton romantic in any way at all, surely?"

The music

Martin Phipps. Are you single and straight?
I love soundtracks. But this is absolutely the most amazing one I have ever listened to. I do not know why this man is not more famous. Surely he's an outrageously talented human being. If he is human, that is.
The "Northbound train" track adds so much to the already beautiful scene that I use it as my alarm clock tune these days. The only problem is that I wake up, sigh, and want to keep dreaming.
And the "Look back" music... Perfection! What a powerful, powerful scene.
Why the OST was never released, is another proof that life does not always make sense.
Wherever you are Mr Phipps, please accept my blessings. And keep composing little masterpieces. The world loves you and thanks you.

Photography, atmosphere and settings.

Just a few words. Some silly reviewers complain that the film is depressing and too dark. Well, it was edited by Dickens, not Walt Disney. I personally love Dickens and dark atmospheres. But I adore the Bronte sisters so maybe my opinion is slightly biased.
The cotton mill, perfectly described as snow-white hell, with the constant sound of the working machines... I'm glad many scenes were taking place in it. It is such a energetic and compelling background setting, I loved it with all my heart.
Anyway. The choice of locations was fantastic, I would not change a single thing. And I was very pleased to spot Edinburgh in several scenes. My beloved pretty Edinburgh. It will always be in my heart. It was the only thing I noticed apart from Richard Armitage the very first time I watched the series. And it is a perfect background for a period drama :)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Little Autumn update

So, what happened to this year? How come it is already October?
How come I still haven't managed to found a job? I am so glad I left London, but wow there is a high price to pay!

This month is one of the best of the year. Beautiful colours, important birthdays, delicious fruit... Yay for October!
Also, my very favourite drawing challenge, Inktober, happens to be this month. As some of you noticed or read this on my Facebook page, this year I decided not to take part in this awesome global drawing challenge. It was a painful decision, but I am a very tired full time job seeker at the moment.

Anyway, last weekend I had the pleasure to visit the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal and it was a nice birthday treat! The town is lovely and the events very inspiring!
I saw amazing Craig Thompson again and quite a few artists I know from the London comics environment.
I attended a couple of very fun workshop.
This is my contribution to a collective Halloween/politics-themed drawing created in a workshop run by Martin Rowson.
Featuring scary T May who may kick me out of this country sooner than I expect...

Halloween Theresa May

Friday, 26 August 2016

My father's comets

It's been a while, but I moved and I'm looking for a job so I am justified :)

However, there is a beautiful short story for you to read.

My friend Elisabet wrote a beautiful dialogue which touched my heart.

I could not resist... So I illustrated it.

Enjoy!

My father's comets

Monday, 11 January 2016

My Facebook Page

Hello world and happy new year again!

Finally I got around to creating my Facebook Page, in order to share my artwork more easily in Facebook Groups.

Enjoy!

Francesca Mancuso - Artist - Facebook Page

You're very welcome :)

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy new year!

Goodbye 2015. You haven't been a great year but it could have been worse. I had worse years and most important thing, gazillions of people had it much worse.

I spent a way too long time in a toxic working environment and my health has been badly affected. Looking at the bright side though, I spent more time drawing than the previous years and this helped me a lot. I love drawing more than everything else, except the outdoors maybe. So even if I was not well enough to spend a lot of time outdoors, I did manage to feel better with more creative time.

I'm also very grateful to life because once again I am able to spend the Christmas holidays in my home town with my parents and siblings, who are always there for me and who really care! I love them!

Creative achievements of 2015 I am most proud of:

New Year's Resolution

  • Taking more care of myself, especially avoiding people and situations which do me no good.
  • Working on my self esteem. Nobody else can help me with that.
  • Improving my stress management skills. Good luck to myself.
  • Being responsible for my happiness and not giving away my power to anyone!

A bit ambitious I know. Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars!

Sentiero della Salvia, sunset. January 1st 2016.

Sunset from Sentiero della Salvia, Trieste, Italy. January 1st 2016.

Best wishes to all of you. May this year bring hope, health, happiness and love.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thank you

Recently I was told that my original artwork will be sent as a reward to a very generous Japanese supporter of the successful Art Aid Nepal. They pledged £100 or more!

I am so grateful to this person, it means a lot to me!

Not a single friend of mine eventually contributed to this project which was so important for me, not even with the minimum offer of £5... In spite of my constant reminders... They gave me a lot of "likes" on Facebook and some of them even shared my posts, but nobody gave a penny. And this person, without a word, made such a generous donation.

I put a lot of love in my illustration. I hope this wonderful human being who is going to get my artwork will receive all that love.

For everybody else who decided to ignore, their loss. They could have been part of something beautiful!