Monday, 22 June 2015

Powder and Patch - Georgette Heyer

In this short romantic comedy, Philip Jettan, heir to a country estate, is told by his childhood sweetheart that he is too unsophisticated and boorish, and that he must go to town to become a real gentleman or she will not have him. Reluctantly he travels to Paris, where (somewhat implausibly) he takes naturally to French fashion and court gentility and is a great social success. On his return, his beloved Cleone barely recognises the new, polished Philip, and he has to win her approval all over again.

Although rather a contrived, unconvincing plotline, Powder and Patch is full of witty dialogue and has some very funny scenes, particularly with the role-reversal of the couple when Philip returns to England. Heyer's usual warmth and humour brings the characters to life and makes them all likeable and enjoyable to read about.

An amusing little novel, great for picking up if you fancy something light and quick to read.

Next up: Stephen Fry in America by Stephen Fry

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting - Syd Field

I began this book completely uneducated as to screenwriting – I'd watched and enjoyed films, but had no idea what went into the process of crafting them. Field starts out by explaining the basics of film structure and theory (very useful if, like me, you're a total beginner), then goes on to dedicate individual chapters to specifics like character, plot, and each section of the film. He finishes by explaining the process of turning a freshly-written screenplay into an eventual film, which again was very useful new information for me.

Field has an open, conversational style that makes for approachable reading and ease of understanding. I did find that some points felt rather laboured, and that he takes a rather didactic tone (sometimes it felt like I was being told what to think and feel, as well as what to do, during the screenwriting process), but on the whole this was very engaging and pleasant to read considering it is, essentially, a textbook.

As my own background is in literature, it was especially interesting for me to see the very different methods by which a screenplay must tell a story – by showing only the external, in particular tiny details that would be implicit in a novel – as opposed to the forms I'm more used to, where the reader is usually privy to what goes on in the protagonist's head, and any external cues we're given are those perceived specifically by that character.

I couldn't help but feel a bit annoyed by Field's assertion that for a film adaptation of a novel “you are not obligated to remain true to the original material.” I can see that there are great challenges involved in transferring a story from one medium to another (more than I'd appreciated before reading this book), but I, and probably many others, are familiar with that sense of disappointment that comes when you see a much-anticipated screen adaptation of a beloved novel and it just isn't the same, it doesn't capture what you loved about the book at all. In my opinion there's nothing wrong with a screenwriter reading a novel and feeling inspired to write a screenplay on a similar theme – just please, please, unless you're willing to be faithful to the original, don't label it as an adaptation.

Next up: Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer

Thursday, 18 June 2015


This week's Booking Through Thursday is:

When you travel, do you bring one book with you? Or a pile of them?

And, is that pile still a load of paper to lug around? Or do you use an e-book reader like a Kindle or your iPad to help carry the load? (Because, even if you prefer paper, it can get heavy when you’re traveling!)

It depends on how long a journey I'm going on, but I always try to take one more book than I think I'll need, just in case. In spite of the inconvenience I still can't bring myself to buy a Kindle, so it's physical books for me. I do make sure that I choose relatively small, densely-typed paperbacks to cut down on weight and luggage space, though.

Much of the time I'll end up accidentally buying more books when I'm away, so I'll come back with twice the quantity I left with in any case!

Saturday, 13 June 2015


This week's Booking Through Thursday is:

What magazines do you subscribe to? Personal ones? Professional ones?
Or do you only/mostly pick up your periodicals at the newsstand?
How do you feel about digital editions versus print?
Do you save the old copies after you read them? Or promptly recycle them?

This is a very boring answer, but honestly I don't really subscribe to any magazines at all. It's true that I do get the occasional one through my door - I think the alumnus magazine from my university is the only one right now, thankfully RSPB stopped sending them about a year after I stopped my donations - but after a brief flick through I never really read them, they just go into the bin.

Those girly magazines with full-page spreads of celebrities' before-and-after diets/divorces/plastic surgery/etc are always lying around at work, and sometimes I'll have a glance at them if I'm bored, but I've never really been interested enough in any one publication to want to pay for it or order it regularly.

I find that I prefer to stay up-to-date by following blogs and clicking through links my friends post on Facebook, and things like that, so for me the internet has made paper magazines pretty redundant.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Lamentation - C J Sansom

In C J Sansom's most recent installment, hunchbacked medieval lawyer Matthew Shardlake is asked to help Queen Catherine Parr recover a compromising book revealing her controversial religious opinions, before it is brought to King Henry VIII and causes her downfall and possible execution. His efforts to discover the book entangle him with some of the most powerful figures in the realm and lead him into danger and self-doubt.

As with the previous novels in the series, one of the best things about this novel is the vividity of description Sansom uses to bring the reader into medieval London. We experience the sights, smells and sounds, and are jostled in the crowds along with Shardlake. I'm not ashamed to admit that much of my historical knowledge is taken from historical fiction, and getting to know historical characters and their deeds by almost experiencing them by proxy sticks in my mind much better than by trying to memorise dates and battles.

Sansom creates memorable, believable characters, and the plot twists and winds deviously with betrayal, double-bluffs, spies and infiltration. Lamentation is full of emotional depth as well as intrigue, and keeps you turning the pages right until the end.

Next up: The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting by Syd Field

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Graduation Presents

This week's Booking Through Thursday is:

May and June … graduation season.
If you were to give a book as a graduation present to some eager person ready to launch themselves into the world … what would it be?

I know the most sensible answer would be 'some kind of inspirational self-help guide on how to achieve your dreams', but I think what I'd actually want to give someone would be Victor Hugo's The Count of Monte Cristo.

Not only is it a coming-of-age story, where the protagonist develops from a naive young man to a worldly, experienced millionaire, but it's absolutely full of adventures, subterfuge and colourful characters. Well worth reading as a novel, as well as thematically appropriate for someone stepping out into the real world for the first time.

Although hopefully very few of the things that happen in The Count of Monte Cristo will happen to this year's young graduates. Hopefully.