Sequels and Spin-offs: 11 ways to re-live Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice.

The very first published piece of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, which I suspect may have been the first of any fan fiction, was a book called Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil Brinton. Having no small number of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs on my own shelves, I had a notion of collating a list. Holy Moly, I had no idea how many were out there! A girl could spend her entire life reading nothing else. Darcy and Elizabeth grow old, or don’t, have two sons, have five daughters, have affairs with Bingley and Charlotte respectively (yes, in that order), battle zombies, are transformed into Antipodean animals, and, most horrifying of all, agree to take part in a reality TV show.

My girl reading Pride and Prejudice.

Meanwhile, my lovely twelve-year-old daughter has been reading the real thing. She ran upstairs last night to tell me, through the bathroom door (why must big announcements always be made through the bathroom door), that she had finished it.

‘It was so exciting! At the end! It all happened so fast! After all the long stories! With Wickham and everything! And then Jane and Bingley! And then Elizabeth and Darcy! It was like wham, wham, wham, The End! But what will I read now?’

Like thousands before her…

Eldest daughter helped me design a solution to finding your ideal dose of Darcy. For rapid reviews of these books, click hereSequels and Spin-offs to Pride and Prejudice.

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Harry Potter, The Cursed Dad?

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, review, J.K. Rowling, Lego Harry Potter, Lego Draco Malfoy, Scorpius Malfoy, Albus Potter,

Here be spoilers (but not big ones ).

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Has ever a book had such a build up? In this household we’ve had seven books, eight  movies, badges, games, colouring books and pencils beyond count, at least five dressing-up costumes (including homemade wands and hand-knit Gryffindor scarves) and one very serious obsession with Alan Rickman. Let’s just say expectations were high. Click here to continue reading…

 

Three Books About Survival And More.

Survival means living but more. It means staying alive but more than that too. Survival means living beyond something that killed someone else or might have killed you. In some basic way, I suppose, it must be the theme of all our lives, every day, but we don’t tend to think about it all that much.

‘How are you doing?’
‘Oh, surviving.’

and we laugh, as if surviving was no mean feat. Most days, we take survival for granted but, somedays, it’s all we can manage.

Survival.  The state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.

survive (v.) Look up survive at Dictionary.commid-15c. “to outlive, continue in existence after the death of another,” originally in the legal (inheritance) sense, from Anglo-French survivre, Old French souvivre (12c., Modern French survivre), from Latin supervivere “live beyond, live longer than,” from super “over, beyond”.

 

Postcards by E. Annie Proulx.

Postcards. E. Annie Proulx. Book review. Survive. Suicide.

Loyal Blood killed his girlfriend. From that moment he is an exile from his home, his family, from life as he knew it. Accident, ordeal and difficult circumstances are all he knows. He survives in an inescapable purgatory.

The family Loyal leaves behind can’t survive without him. The lives of his father, brother, mother and sister fracture and, with varying degrees of resistance, disintegrate.

This book is as miserable as hell. I lost count of how many suicides there were although I did have to laugh out loud at the one who,

‘left a three-hundred-twelve-page suicide note behind. Started it seven months before he did the dirty deed.’

The characters are beautifully drawn and so realistic I was compelled to read to the very last page. I needed to know the worst that could befall these people but it wasn’t good for me.

It’s a good book. It’s funny but joyless. It’s sad but tearless. It’s about being strong and losing anyway. It’s about survival but only just.

Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel.

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. Survival. Book review.

It all begins with a ‘flu’ pandemic.

I usually avoid movies and books that propose doomsday scenarios. I excel at anxiety and don’t need help imagining the worst but I was intrigued by the idea of  a post-apocalyptic Shakespearian troupe bringing art and music to people whose lives have been stripped back to the bare essentials.

This is a pretty decent book. It’s a page-turner. The plot is rich and compelling. I think the cast may be too large and the character development spread a little thinly. There needed to be fewer people or more book. It’s a pity because it was easy and enjoyable to read.

I like that science fiction often tackles the biggest questions.

‘Because survival is insufficient’.

The author concedes that the takeaway line from the book is lifted from Star Trek. I’ve no problem with that. It’s a good line. Surviving, staying alive, is good but not good enough. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? The something more than survival. The answer to ‘what’s it all for?’

The Humans by Matt Haig.

This one. This book has the answer.

The Humans. Matt Haig. Survival. Book Review.

I want to tell you everything. Every joke. Every heart-squeezing line of pure truth.

The Humans. Matt Haig.

Matt Haig reduces everything, all the complexity and confusion, to something we can understand. And more, to something we can believe in. And even more than that, to something we can live by.

This book is more than a feat of imagination. It is a perfect thing.

The Humans. Matt Haig.

Read it. Please. You will learn something. You will feel better. You will feel great.

The Humans. Matt Haig.

The book made me laugh out loud and the acknowledgements made me cry. That’s a new one.

I’m going out now to buy everything Matt Haig  has ever written. He has given me new hope.

But what’s it about, I hear you ask. It’s about a being of superior knowledge who came from heaven to save us and gave up immortality to be like us. Happy Easter.

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Don’t Go…

…don’t leave me now, now, now. Half my readers abandon me as soon as I announce a book review so I’m hoping to draw you in with a youthful Liam O’Maonlai as an amuse bouche.

Ah come on, he was hot back in the day. I remember, I think we were in Fourth Year, when a whisper spread like flame through the school that The Hothouse Flowers were signing records in Golden Discs on Patrick Street. The place emptied out as girls, in stealthy pairs and threes, slipped out of the side door and jogged downtown. Blue-clad SWAT teams with Mr. O’Maonlai in their sights.

I didn’t go. Why? Well, it was against the rules. I was unlikely to get caught. Even if I had, my mother was more likely to have cheered than chastised me. It’s just that I have always been OK with the principal of benign dictatorship. Put someone who knows best in charge and I will tow the line. The problems arise when you realise that someone might not know best. I have struggled all my life to become a rule breaker.

Anyway, moving on, I initially intended this to be a book review blog but people are much more interested in reading about food and … no, actually, just food. As a point of interest, the dog poo debacle remains my top post. People replied with their own shite stories…I didn’t stop laughing for a week. It was great. We should publish a compilation.

I still want to keep a record of all the books I read and this seems as good a place as any. Let’s just flake through these at great speed.

This stack cost me a fiver  at the Christmas bazaar. An excellent haul. I doubt whether I’ll finish this lot before next December’s expedition. The real reason you are seeing this photo is because I am too lazy to take the memory card out of the computer, put it back in the camera, find the books and take a proper photo. Could his be a hint of rebellion? (pathetic, I know).

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When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

I read these in the wrong order (just too lazy to Google it) and still loved them. I gobbled them up. They are books 3 and 4 in the series featuring Jackson Brodie, ex-soldier and policeman. Mr. Brodie is seriously challenging Ross Poldark in the divine literary hero competition (the one in my head, obviously).

I need to find Case Histories and One Good Turn and then decide whether to continue going backwards or start from the start. Good Lord, breaking rules all over the shop today.

I’ve just discovered there is a BBC series starring Jason Isaacs. I think I might be in love with the BBC. Seriously now, I didn’t know what good TV was until we started paying for BBC.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

There was a day a couple of weeks ago, just as I was reading this book, when I happened to pass a fox hunt as I drove to my daughter’s school. It’s not that I’m not fond of foxes. I think they are beautiful and intelligent creatures. It is undeniable, however, that there is something impressive about thirty riders in red coats and a pack of hounds tearing across a frosty field. I was left feeling confused and guilty.

This book aims to make you think about our attitude, as humans, to other species. It makes you ponder our assumed right to use and abuse other species. This book asks you to take ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ literally. It won’t stop me killing the wretched slugs but has made me consider how and where I draw the line.

It’s an interesting but uncomfortable read. I found the tone a touch high and mighty. I can’t say that I enjoyed it but it was worth reading for the unique angle it takes. I can’t tell you more without giving away the bizarre twist.

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Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Ah yes, another classic which had me taking notes and marking pages.

The first of those marked passages is this;

‘-an old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. You could not pay the short quarter-of-an-hour call, without being told of the wonderful milk or wonderful intelligence of this animal.’

The lady even went so far as to provide a flannel waistcoat and drawers for the cow.

An explanatory note explains that Alderney cows came from Jersey and were farmed for their rich milk. They are now extinct.

Isn’t that sad? That a breed once considered so valuable was allowed to become extinct. That neither you nor I will ever know how good that milk was. Everyone gets teary-eyed about tigers and pandas just because they are beautiful. What about Alderney cows and Ballinora Pippins?

Boy, I’m distractable today.

Here’s another extract;

‘I never knew what sad work the reading of old letters was before that evening, though I could hardly tell why. The letters were as happy as letters could be… There was in them a vivid and intense sense of the present time, which seemed so strong and full, as if it could never pass away, and as if the warm, living hearts that so expressed themselves could never die, and be as nothing to the sunny earth.’

That about sums up my feelings after reading this book. It’s gentle and sweet and charming but somehow melancholy. It’s also quite short and easy to read in coffee-break-sized segments. It was originally serialised in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and retains that episodic quality.

Again, there is a BBC series, starring Judi Dench this time, which I have yet to see.

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The Giver by Lois Lowry.

It’s heartening when your children begin to recommend books to you. My ten-year-old daughter thought I would love this and she was right.

The Giver is set in the future, in a community where every detail of life is controlled by a benign someone-who-knows-better. People are farmed, trained, indoctrinated and medicated so that their lives contain no conflict or pain. They have no memory of any other way of living. Sounds good, eh?

In each generation, one citizen must act as the memory keeper. Jonas, at age twelve, will become the only person who knows the possibilities, who sees all the colours, of a free life.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful read.

BUT… I dislike HATE the ending! I enjoyed a great debate with my sweet girl about what the final passage really meant. She tends towards optimism, thank God. I wanted someone to tell me, for sure, what happens when you break the rules?

That’s the point, of course. To break the rules means  taking a risk, and taking control.

I’m on a mission. Find some rules and smash them to smithereens. Anyone have any suggestions ?

(EDIT, April 9th, 2016: Alice has written her own review which you can read on her brand new blog, Treehouse Reads)

Shall we wrap up with another blast from the eighties?