Book Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge is dubbed a ‘tragedy’ novel. It is about Michael Henchard, a hay-trusser who sells his wife Susan and their daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor on a drunken whim. Years later, Susan arrives in Casterbridge and, to her surprise, finds Henchard is the Mayor and is a reformed man. The pair reunite, but both Henchard and Susan are keeping secrets from one another, and the past refuses to stay buried.

In true Thomas Hardy style, multiple taboos are introduced quickly in The Mayor of Casterbridge, such as the maltreatment of women, drunkenness, fights, fake identities, and death.

The number of problems each character faced, and how these problems impacted upon the other characters made the book feel very much like an 19th century predecessor to The Jeremy Kyle Show!

I thought The Mayor of Casterbridge was okay, despite having a dislike for most of the characters; each character was selfish and deceptive in varying amounts, so it was hard to feel sympathetic for any of them.

The Mayor of Casterbridge has particularly witty moments, and I liked the Harry Potter-like language in this passage:

‘she [Elizabeth-Jane] no longer spoke of “dumbledores” but of “humble bees” […] that when she had not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she had been “hag-rid,” but that she had “suffered from indigestion.”’

(Chapter 20)

I think it’s still unclear as to whether this passage inspired J.K. Rowling, when it came to writing her best-selling children’s fantasy series. In an interview with Stephanie Loer for The Boston Globe, Rowling said:

“Some of the names are invented… Dumbledore […] is an Old English word meaning bumblebee. Hagrid, who by the way is one of my favourite characters, also comes from an Old English word – hagridden – meaning having a nightmarish night.”

Regardless, I liked The Mayor of Casterbridge (not as much as Jude The Obscure however) – not because of its maybe links to the Harry Potter books, but because of Hardy’s ability to simply tell a good story.

– Judith

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An Interview With Georgia Rose

I interviewed Georgia Rose, a writer and blogger from Cambridgeshire, England.

Image result for georgia rose book

As well as reading and writing, she has a lifelong passion for horses, and her family. Her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby, delight in accompanying Georgia to book events.

In addition to writing, Georgia runs her own business, which provides companies with book-keeping and administrative services.

Her first book, A Single Step, was published in 2014. A Single Step was succeeded by Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water, forming The Grayson Trilogy. Georgia said: “They are a series of mysterious and romantic adventure stories, written from the point of view of my heroine, Emma Grayson.”

“Completing my trilogy is one of my biggest achievements. I struggled desperately getting the last one done as it was terrifically hard work, so it was an utter relief to finally have it finished. I loved the entire writing experience – even the difficult parts.”

All three books currently have at least a 4 star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, one of the most popular sites for book reviews.

However, Georgia agreed that negative reviews are as equally valuable as positive ones. “Negative reviews do exactly what reviews are meant to do, which is to inform potential readers.”

“For example, someone reviewed my book recently and complained about my use of the F word and the descriptive sex scene. It was a well written review and provided me with helpful feedback. If another potential reader read that review, and decide they don’t like that type of book, they can save their money by finding something more appealing to them.”

Georgia is a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, a group of readers and bloggers dedicated to reading new books and sharing their reviews. She also has her own blog.

“Someone told me I should have a blog, so I started one. I had no idea how it worked and I scrabbled around for quite a while trying to work out what I should put on it.” Georgia admitted. “My blogging style is a bit patchy; I post odd reviews and share others’ too. I think I’ve got better this year though, as I’ve committed to posting at least once a month!”

Georgia revealed her frustration with blogging to me. “I find that blogging is just something else that takes me further away from writing my next book. I see myself as an author first and a blogger second.”

Georgia’s favourite genres to read are serious romances, psychological or crime thrillers and mysteries.

“My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve always said Pride and Prejudice because I was converted into liking it, I think!” she joked. “I had to study it during my O Level years, and really disliked it at first. However, because I had to pay attention, think about it, and write about it, I grew to love it! I have reread it many times since.”

I asked Georgia which author she’d most love to meet. “There are so many!” she gushed. “If I had to pick one it would be Sue Grafton. I love her Alphabet Series and how she has managed to work her way through almost the entire alphabet, keeping the fabulous protagonist Kinsey Millhone intact. We would have so much to talk about!”

Grafton’s Alphabet Series are a series of crime novels, following the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her most recent addition to the series, X, was released on the 2nd of August last year.

However, whilst I love finding new book-to-film adaptations to talk about, Georgia Rose isn’t so keen. “If I’ve ever enjoyed a book, I won’t watch a film adaptation because they always ruin it for me.” she explained. “There are some exceptions however; I’ve enjoyed both the books and films of the Harry Potter series with my children, and I think the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was utterly perfect.”

In her reading, Georgia also steers clear of the fantasy genre. “I soon get bored with the overly complicated place names and character names, and fictional creatures just can’t hold my interest.” she said.

“I’m also not keen on frothy romances; everyone is beautiful and you can see the happy ending from a mile away!” she continued. “I need something more than just boy meets girl, which is probably why I write romantic suspense.” Since the release of The Grayson Trilogy, Georgia also published a short story, The Joker, which expands the storyline of one of her characters.

Finally, I asked Georgia if she had any advice for aspiring writers who may be reading our interview today. She said, “Yes: stop calling yourself an aspiring writer!”

She explained, “If you write, you are a writer. Believe in what you do. If you want to write a book, stop putting it off – no-one else is going to write it for you. Sit down and start typing. It’s that straightforward.”

You can find Georgia Rose on Twitter at @GeorgiaRoseBook and her website is www.georgiarosebooks.com.

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Thanks for reading!

– Judith

Film Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian is about the four Pevensie children, who return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (played by Ben Barnes) in his struggle with for the throne against his corrupt uncle, King Miraz (played by Sergio Castellitto).

I think Prince Caspian is a good sequel; I liked the fact the actors were older because it gives the characters more maturity and allows the director to explore darker themes, in a similar way to the Harry Potter films. Of course, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were good films, but by The Prisoner of Azkaban, there was more development, a higher sense of threat and you knew the characters could be tested more – which makes for a more interesting experience as an older viewer.

In addition, I found it easier to engage with all four main characters: Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) because they’ve all grown up, whereas in the first film, I always preferred Peter and Susan, as opposed to the more childish Edmund and Lucy.

I particularly appreciated the growth of Edmund’s character; he steps up and makes careful decisions, learning from his previous mistakes in Narnia, highlighting the change from his weedy and foolish character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However, I’m not sure how I feel about the eponymous Prince Caspian – despite the film being titled after him, it still felt like Prince Caspian was still more about the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian was just a “tag along”. Although, I did like the suggestion that he and Susan liked each other, and the competitive rivalry created between Peter and Caspian – this added for comic relief in more serious moments of battles and politics. Eddie Izzard’s Reepicheep also added humour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chronicles of Narnia without Aslan, and Liam Neeson reprises the role to bestow more wisdom on the children. I also love the theme music – you know something great is going to happen when the score begins to play.

When I talked about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I discussed some Christian themes from the first film, so it seems only fitting to do that here too. What struck me was Lucy’s fervent faith in Aslan (symbolising a Christian’s belief in God), even when some of her siblings begin to doubt and follow their own ways. This is developed further by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), as it is just Edmund and Lucy who travel to Narnia because Susan and Peter have become “too old” for the world of Narnia.

I recommend both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as good family-friendly films, great for watching at Christmas time.

– Judith