Time for our first costume drama of 2016, and the BBC has gone with a work that practically defines epic: War and Peace. This is the second time the BBC has shown Tolstoy’s masterpiece some adaptation love (the first time was in the early 70’s, with Anthony Hopkins playing Pierre). The first outing ran 17 hours and was a pretty slavish adaptation, from what I understand. This is a much leaner version that will undoubtedly trim quite a few minor characters and subplots. Let’s just see how it goes.
It’s 1805 and Napoleon has invaded Austria. Russia’s thrown in with Austria, which means war for Russia as well.
We open on a massive army encampment overlooked by, presumably, Napoleon himself before moving to St Petersburg, which looks really lovely.
Time for a ball! Drink! An awkward young man, Pierre, arrives and grabs a drink while the hostess, Anna Pavlovna (played by Gillian Anderson, whom the BBC just adores) chats about this impending war with another guest, Prince Vassily Kuragin, who reassures her their glorious emperor has things well in hand. Anna notices Pierre and we learn that Pierre’s the illegitimate son of a wealthy count who is also a kinsman of Kuragin’s. Pierre is staying in Kuragin’s home. We get a brief glimpse of Vassily’s two children, Helene and Anatol, who are clearly too cool for school here. Also, Helene’s costuming is so anachronistic it’s kind of distracting. She looks like she was dressed by a fashion designer from the 30’s who was taking some cues from the early 19th century but essentially hewing to art deco ideals.
Continue reading “War and Peace: Inheritance”
Previously on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: The Gentleman took a fancy to Belle and tricked Jonathan into thinking she was dead so the Gentleman could keep her in Lost Hope as a dance partner for all eternity. Jonathan, naturally, didn’t take his beloved wife’s death well and set out to resurrect her, even at the cost of his own sanity. He also wrote a book, which Norrell was not at all ok with.
‘There are some that say the Raven King is not a man but an idea, and not one magician but several.’
‘I want you to bring my wife back from the dead. Please.’
Jonathan is now a wanted man. There’s a reward and everything. Also, his book has been published, which surprises me because I thought the government was quashing that. I guess that’s the sort of thing that’s really hard to justify.
Continue reading “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: The Black Tower”
Previously on Death Comes to Pemberley: Wickham was brought before an inquest, which declared him a murderer, so now he gets a full-blown trial. He’s also apparently been a busy boy, having fathered a child with Louisa Bidwell under a fake name. Georgiana’s decided she’s being forced to marry Col Fitz, so Henry’s heart is broken and things are super tense between Lizzy and Darcy.
Wickham, less smug now, tries to settle in his jail cell, but it’s no good. He flashes back on time spent with Louisa, walking through the woods and probably carving that heart in the tree. He seems sad.
Continue reading “Death Comes to Pemberley: The Trial”
Previously on Death Comes to Pemberley: Lizzy and Darcy just wanted to hold their annual ball, but then Lydia showed up screaming her head off, Wickham was found with a dead body in the woods, and things got complicated really fast.
Darcy looks down at his sleeping son. The boy wakes and smiles up at his dad and Darcy smiles back, tucks him in, and heads out.
Lizzy washes her face and gets ready for the day, pausing to look at the letter fragments she fished out of the fire. She looks out the window and sees men poking around at the edge of the woods. A little later she goes to play with the kid and seems disappointed to hear that Darcy’s already been to see him and gone.
Continue reading “Death Comes to Pemberley: The Plot Thickens”
Heads up, literature fans: today marks the birthday of Mary Shelley, creator of one of the most famous literary characters of all time and all-around tragic figure (seriously, her life was rough, right from the beginning).
Mary was born in London in 1797; the birth ended up costing her mother, early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, her life—she died just ten days after her daughter was born. Unable to cope for long on his own, Mary’s father, William Godwin, remarried (yet another Mary) in 1801. Though he was happy, Mary apparently loathed her stepmother.
Continue reading “Mary Shelley”
Spencer Perceval is not one of Britain’s better known prime ministers. In fact, he’s really only notable for one reason: the poor man holds the dubious distinction of being the only British prime minister to have been assassinated. He was shot by John Belingham, a failed businessman who was found guilty of the crime and hanged on May 18, 1812. Bellingham, as you might imagine, … Continue reading Lesson Learned: Just Let it Go!
On March 6, 1806, at Coxhoe Hall in County Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the Victorian era’s most celebrated poets, took her first breaths. The eldest child of a wealthy family, she was mostly raised at a 500-acre estate called Hope End in Ledbury, Hertfordshire, which would later inspire her work Aurora Leigh. Elizabeth was a studious, precocious child who was already studying … Continue reading The Lady Poet
This is a good day for literature: on January 28, 1813, one of my all-time favorite books, Pride and Prejudice, was published by Thomas Egerton of Whitehall, who purchased the copyright from Jane Austen for £100. Austen wrote the first draft of the novel—then called First Impressions—between October 1796 and August 1797. Her father asked a London bookseller named Thomas Cadell if he had any … Continue reading Pride and Prejudice
Previously on John Adams: John got to be president, which ended up being an exhausting, endless fight, so he more or less willingly handed the position off to Jefferson and headed home, a private citizen once more.
It’s 1803, and John’s at his bucolic home, Peacefield. Dr. Rush arrives and is happily greeted by John, who thanks him for coming as he shows him upstairs to Nabby’s room. Seems the daughter of the house is having a health crisis. Rush sits down with his new patient and John and Abigail excuse themselves, closing the door behind them. Once they’re alone, Rush asks Nabby to tell him what’s bothering her. She informs him she feels a lump in one breast that pains her. Oh, dear God. Early 19th century breast cancer?! Yikes!
Continue reading “John Adams: Peacefield”
On February 26, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the island of Elba, where he’d been kept prisoner since the War of the Sixth Coalition ended in April 1814. Now, many people would be happy to spend their days in a villa on a picturesque Mediterranean island, but not the former French Emperor (despite the fact that his imprisonment was incredibly cushy—he was able to retain … Continue reading Elba’d Out