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Sep 10

Fatal Boarding and Deep Crossing, by E R Mason

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 in Books, Reviews, Science Fiction

Ever since I discovered ebooks I’ve been searching for freebies to download and read, first on my iPod Touch, then later on my Kindle and my Cybook Odyssey. Most of those freebies have been – to put it charitably – ok for a freebie, some even exceptionally bad.

Fortunately, I have also come across a few really good ones.

Two books by an author named E R Mason belong to the latter category. I’m amazed that this writer is giving away his books for free.

I grew up reading the classics among fantasy, sf and horror. I never took to horror stories (except for some ghost stories) and though I enjoyed the classics, I never really liked modern sf until a few years or so ago when I discovered To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (a time travel novel). And suddenly I was enjoying science fiction again. A little later I came across a Swedish book called Alba about a young woman who is among a group of people exploring a distant planet. It seemed I was on to something. Not that I stopped reading fantasy, mysteries and the other genres of books I enjoy, but it was unusual for me.

And I now I’m getting to E R Mason’s two novels Fatal Boarding and Deep Crossing. There are some aspects of the books I don’t like so much, but in general I love both books. Though I normally prefer mystery to suspense, these books have both and they’re very well written (except for needing a bit of editing). I’m amazed that these two books are available for free. I’d happily have paid to read both of them and now I’m going to read the other books by the same author.

The first book is set aboard a space ship where the main character Adrian Tarn is chief of security. Not long into the journey the ship runs across a wreckage drifting dead in space (thank you, Star Trek, for that phrase). It’s decided that a team will investigate. That’s their first mistake…

I could describe this book as a thriller set in space (and in the future) but in any case I think my dad, the major sf fan, would have enjoyed it.

The second book is also about Adrian Tarn, this time on an expedition to a very distant star system. There’s some suspense in this book too, but mainly it’s fascinating. I had no idea where the book was heading at the beginning.

I can really recommend these two books, to anyone who enjoys science fiction or thrillers.

Sep 5

Death of a Serpent by Susan Russo Anderson (A Serafina Florio Mystery)

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2013 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

I have just finished reading this fascinating historic mystery. It’s set in 1860’s Sicily, a (more or less) new time and place for me. Other than from my studies of history, I haven’t read anything from this era.

What I really like about this book, apart from the very interesting plot, is that I like most of the main characters. Lately, I’ve been disappointed in so many books, because even the ‘good guys’ are such extremely unsympathetic characters. It’s hard to really get into the plot of a book, if you hate everyone in it. With this book I didn’t have that problem.

I was a little surprised to find that most of the plot takes place in a brothel! But strangely enough you ended up sympathizing with many of the people there, and not just pitying the ‘girls’.

The ‘sleuth’ is a recently widowed midwife with seven children (one of them has run away from home and another has gone off to university). The madam of the brothel is Serafina’s best friend, and that’s why she agrees to look into the gruesome murders taking place on the very doorstep of the brothel. Someone seems to have it in for Rosa, the madam, or is there another motive behind the killings?

One of the few things that bothered me about this well-written book is the fact that almost no one questions Serafina when she suddenly becomes a private investigator. Only two of her sons even comment on the fact!

Another thing that I’ve been wondering about is that everything is so modern. Serafina has studied at the university. She and her friend and some of the children go on idyllic little outings by train. Everyone seems very up to date about things happening in America, though in all fairness many people are emigrating and many others probably have relatives living there who keep in touch regularly. Maybe that part isn’t too surprising. But really, even if the setting is a bit too ‘modern’ I don’t care. This was such a wonderful reading experience I won’t question all the details. The author must have done her research, quite probably she knows more about the time and place than I do anyway.

I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes historic mysteries.

Mar 3

Letto (Bookeen Cybook Odyssey) review

Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 in Literature, Reviews

Since it was on sale – at a very good price – I decided the time had come to get the ‘Letto’ or Bookeen Cybook Odyssey as the original device is called. For a while now, I’d been wanting an ereader that could display library ebooks.

The other day, the ereader arrived, in the mailbox outside. I’d been told I’d have to go and pick it up at a store in town, but apparently, it fitted into our mailbox and that was of course very convenient.

Expectantly, I unpacked it. It was actually in a nice looking box resembling a ‘physical’ book. An adapter for a wall outlet was included, which was – again – convenient. I wasn’t sure what I’d have to order extra. As it turns out, not a lot. Just some kind of cover and some vinyl screen protectors, just in case. I’ll get to that later.

It’s great to finally be able to read on something decent-sized. IOS devices are great – for talking, chatting and listening to music – but not so good for reading longer texts.


Unfortunately, here’s where I’m forced to get to the negative.

First of all, I have to say that I bought this ereader to read library books, and nothing else. I can’t stress that point enough. As it turns out, it’s extremely complicated to transfer the books to the right file on the device. In the end, I couldn’t manage it and I had to ask my tech savvy sister for help. Eventually, she managed to find out hot to do it, by trial and error.

I have read reviews that warned about this problem, but the thing is, I didn’t have much of a choice. It was basically either get the Letto or keep reading library books on the iPod Touch. So when the price dropped down about 50 US dollars, I felt I had to get it. The alternative would be to try and order a Kobo Touch imported from Germany, which would probably mean an older model, and not in the color I wanted, or get an iPad MIni, which I can’t afford at the moment, and probably never will. The fact is that a Kindle AND a Letto PLUS covers and screen protectors are still a bit less expensive than one iPad Mini WITHOUT a cover and screen protector! So I was still getting a bargain.

I just feel sorry for the people who can’t get help transferring their books to their devices. On the other hand, maybe those people aren’t getting theirs exclusively to read library books? Apparently, if you want to buy books from the bookstore that sells the Letto, it’s really easy to transfer the files. They pretty much transfer themselves, or so I’ve been told.

Another con is that while the original Cybook Odyssey comes with several free books, in more than one language, including dictionaries, if I’m not mistaken, the ‘Letto’ comes with one or two Swedish classics and a few modern ‘freebies’ (not any that I will want to read) and no dictionary, but a manual, that unfortunately didn’t help much. The stuff it dealt with was easy to figure out on my own.

To be fair, part of the trouble I had was getting my Adobe ID to work, but it’s still very complicated to download Adobe Digital Editions, then authorize both the device and the computer (just to remember the password is hard – we’d had this problem before with Adobe and apparently our way of solving that was to get a new ID…) Maybe it will get easier once I’m used to the Letto.

Anyway, now that I have the Letto and I’ve been able to transfer the book, I’m not too unhappy with it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to read library books on it (unless they’re as tech savvy as my sister).

Bottom line:

Low price (at the moment anyway – but still quite a good price at any time)
Cute box
Cute ereader with a back that is nice to the touch
Easy to read fonts
Power adapter included
Device entirely adapted for Swedish conditions

Difficult to transfer files (other than the books from the bookstore that sells it).
I had trouble with the touch screen and had to resort to using the physical buttons on the side to turn the pages.
Hard to get nice covers: you only have one type to choose between, in a range of not so dazzling colors. Of course, if you check out the measurements, you can always take a chance and buy a cover meant for another, slightly bigger, device.

Oops, it turns out I’m quite partial to the Letto, after all. 🙂 Oh, well, draw your own conclusions. If you live in Sweden, this is still a rather good choice. If you live in France (Belgium, Switzerland etc), the Cybook Odyssey might still be a good option, but you’ll have to decide that for yourself. As for others, maybe you should consider some other device.


I just thought I’d post a quick (and brief) update about the Letto’s screen in comparison with that of the Kindle Touch.

Kindle Touch:

The touch screen is quicker to respond. It looks a little different from the Letto’s too. I can’t say exactly how.


This touch screen is slower and it’s a bit harder to turn the pages. On the side there are two pysical buttons that I’m not used to yet, and I keep pressing them and the pages turn quickly forwards or backwards. The text looks even more, if that is possible, like a regular printed page.

Feb 11

Les revenants, French tv series

Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 in Fandom, Reviews, TV series

Recently, I finished watching a really good French tv series. Swedish television had taken the rather unusual decision of airing it only online, perhaps as a sort of trial to see how popular it would get. I thought it was great. No more keeping track of time, just watching whenever I liked.

The series is about a town where strange things happen. It lies idyllically in the mountains, somewhere in France. Perhaps a French viewer can be more specific about which region it is, or perhaps it’s been left intentionally vague. I’ve seen other series like that.

The first episode begins with a teenage girl wandering around rather dazed in the countryside. She is seen climbing up from a slope, onto a road. She has no memory of how she ended up there. Her last memories are of being on a school trip, on a bus.

She makes her way home and meets her mother inside, telling her she understands if she’s been worried, but something’s happened and she doesn’t remember what. Her mother manages to keep her calm, and embraces her daughter, but we soon learn that the girl, Camille, has been dead for four years, following a tragic accident while on a school trip. Despite that, she seems exactly as she was four years earlier.

Camille only learns about that when her twin sister (!), Léna arrives home, rather late. Léna has a hysterical outburst and Camille is upset too. The family can think of no explanation for Camille’s return.

I won’t go into all the main characters, but Camille is probably ‘the’ main character so I thought I’d describe her more in depth. Léna has had a really hard time dealing with losing her sister and has rebelled against her parents, but she finds it even harder to accept her sister’s return. The two sisters have a falling out.

In later episodes we learn more about the two sisters and also about a number of other characters, some who have returned from the dead, among them a sinister little boy, a good looking young guy, who played in a band, but who, we are told, killed himself on the night before his wedding and a serial killer.

Some of the returned have no families to return to, having died ten, or even, in one case, thirty-five years earlier.

I’ll just end by saying a few words about the name of the series. In French it’s called Les revenants (“the returning”) and in Swedish it’s been given a name that is one of our words for ghosts (literally meaning ‘those who walk again’, or ‘someone who walks again’). I think that’s a bit of a misnomer, in a way. These people are not like traditional ghosts, though somehow, they seem to be able to get around in mysterious ways. However, we never get to see them going through a wall, or anything like that. You never get the impression they are not flesh and blood. They can eat (to begin with, they’re quite hungry), fight, have sex, but have a difficult time sleeping, though some are able to, as time goes by.

If you get a chance to see this series, I can really recommend it. It’s fascinating, creepy but not too terrifying (if it had been, I wouldn’t have been able to watch it). The tension builds slowly with little details adding to the feeling of dread.

Edit: Here is a link to a gallery with images of the main characters. Just click the image to see the next.

May 16

Kindle Touch review

Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in Other, Reviews

A year or so ago, my sister and I were able to get our hands on a Kindle (gen 3). We posted a review of it, on our sites. Now I’m in a position to compare the Kindle 3 to Kindle Touch (and also iPod Touch/iPhone and iPad 2).

Kindle Touch iPod Touch



Excuse the poor quality of the first photo. I really should learn to do it a little better (or get a real camera).

First of all, I’d like to say, though I hesitate to even make the comparison, for reasons I’ll get into later, that I very much prefer to read a printed book. That goes without saying. Or – I suppose I should say that if someone forced me to choose, I’d always go for the printed books. Fortunately, that’s not how it is. I can, and will read both and enjoy both types of book, if not exactly equally, then quite close enough.

I should also mention that I’ve decided, at least for the moment, never to pay for an e-book, unless the online bookstores should start to offer package deals. If so, I’d gladly pay a little more to get the same title in both formats.

Now back to the Kindle. When I tried the Kindle 3, I found it easy to use and pleasant to read from, though, in all fairness I’ve never really had any problem reading from a computer screen or smart phone display either.

When I found myself able to get a Kindle myself, only the Kindle 3G Keyboard and Kindle (4) were available. Strangely enough, only a day or so after I began to consider buying my e-reader I found that the Kindle Touch was now on offer as well.

So I ordered mine and waited. Kindle 3 arrived after barely two days, all the way from the US. Kindle Touch took a bit longer(about a week), but that wasn’t too bad.


In some ways the two Kindles are more or less exactly the same, at least as far as ease of use is concerned. Of course, there were more superficial differences. Kindle Touch is a little sturdier, not as thin and I think, a bit smaller overall, than Kindle 3. That extra weight is absolutely no problem. In fact, if anything, Kindle Touch is even easier to hold in your hand. The touch interface is a little different, but other than that, it feels the same as the older Kindle.

File transfer

Dowloading books is just as easy as on the older Kindle. You just log on to your Amazon account (or find the book you want on Gutenberg or other free classics site, then click to download. If you turn the wifi on, the book will download automatically. If you’d rather not waste battery (though unless you download dozens of books every day, you’ll hardly notice the drain), or if wifi isn’t available, you can just plug your usb cable into your computer and drag and drop the file. At least that works with Gutenberg. I haven’t tried it from Amazon or any other site yet. In the past I’ve read free classics on the computer or on my iPod Touch. On the Kindle the book looks a lot better. In all honesty, a printed book looks even better, but it’s a step in the right direction.


As for free books – there are plenty available. Above all, you can get thousands of free classics, mainly in English, but also in other languages – for instance, Jules Verne’s classical sf stories are available on Project Gutenberg. Sadly, I must say that the selection of Swedish books is pathetic.

There are also, again mainly in English, plenty of new books available for free on Amazon or other sites. Admittedly, many of those are of a somewhat lower quality than the ones you pay for, though not always. If you’re lucky you can find temporary offers. Books that normally cost 5 dollars or more will for a limited time cost nothing. If you keep an eye on Amazon’s site you’ll find a couple of those freebies every day.

One my complaints when it comes to the iPod Touch/iPhone is that the display is too small to comfortably read. It’s not the size of the font that bothers me, though if it does bother you, it’s easy to adjust the text size (you can do that on the Kindle as well). It’s just that you have to turn pages so many times. At a guess, I’d say at least twice as many time for books of comparable size. On the other hand, I’ve also tried the iPad 2 and that’s too big and heavy to comfortably read a book on.

I’m not big on reading news – with a few exceptions, I mostly just scan the headlines – but when I’ve tried it on IOS I’d say that the iPad is pretty much ideal. In many countries you should also be able to watch videos and movies (as well as tv) on the iPad. Of course you can also do it on the iPod Touch/iPhone, and it works up to a point, but just imagine watching more than a clip or short movie on something the size of your palm. If that’s all you have (like on a trip), then sure, you can do it, but at least I wouldn’t choose to do it for long. I have also tried reading Tintin on the iPad, and that’s almost as good as reading a printed comic book – in some ways better.

Color or not?

Unlike on the i-devices, on the Kindle Touch you don’t get color. When it comes to most fiction for grownups and older kids and many types of textbooks that’s fine, but like I said, for news sites, comic books, tv/movies, you need something in color and something a bit bigger. So I guess it depends on what you want to do with your device. If money isn’t a problem – or you’re like me who never upgrades a gadget until I have to, and will happily hold on to stuff older than five years old, if they just continue to work, you could go for two or more devices but if you’re like most people, you’ll have to decide which is more important to you – text or images. If it is text then I’d suggest the Kindle in some form.

Battery and storage space

The Kindle Touch has about the same (excellent) battery time as the older Kindles and about the same storage space. The new Kindle 4 has a lot less of both, but should still be a good deal for you if the price consideration is most important. If you hardly ever read fiction and/or you’re a student of other disciplines than art/humanities and social sciences, then you might want to consider something in color, like the iPad, Kindle Fire or one of the other tablets and e-readers available.

Of course, cheapest of all would be to read on your iPhone or other smart phone, since most people need some kind of phone. A bit off topic, but at least related: you can get a bunch of free books for your IOS device too. Just search the iBooks bookstore. In the past weeks I’ve read a number of excellent and a few not so good sf, fantasy and crime novels (and quite a few short stories/novellas). Some of those might end up on my book reviews page later on.

Library books

I’ve been told that there’s an application that converts epub books into mobi format, which means you could read library books on your Kindle. I haven’t tried that myself yet, but when/if I do, I’ll comment on it here on the blog.

In any case, if you want to read library books, an IOS device would be simpler. Here in Sweden it’s easy to download free library books to your computer, then if you have a dropbox or similar file storage app, you can open the book in some book app (I use Bluefire). Usually, there are some limitations on how many e-books you’re allowed to borrow in a given time and also a time limit for how long you get to keep the book before it disappears from your device. Here it’s three books per week (and you can keep them up to three weeks).

Audio books

I’m not that much into audio books, but the Kindle and (I think) the IOS devices can handle those too. My mother is keen on audio books, and when we’ve got her some, I’ll see if I can persuade her to share her experiences here. At least I’ll interview her and post about it later.

Mar 28

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Fandom, Movies, Reviews

I recently re-watched Ponyo on the Cliff beside the Sea. It’s such a sweet movie I just had to watch it again to try and cheer myself up. When I found out it was a sort of version of The Little Mermaid, I was surprised at first, but then I could see the similarities. There are of course also details that I imagine are based on Japanese culture, but also apparently references to Richard Wagner’s series of operas about the Ring des NIbelungen.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a movie about a little boy who lives on a cliff beside the sea (his father is a sailor). The little boy finds an unusual fish down by the sea shore and wants to bring it to his daycare center. He names the fish Ponyo, not knowing that Ponyo is really the daughter of a wizard and a sea goddess and her real name is Brunhilde. The wizard used to be a human but has retreated to the sea in disgust over how humans are treating the world. Ponyo, who ended up on the shore in the first place because she’s the most adventurous of all her hundreds of siblings (sisters?), immediately becomes fond of the little boy, Sosuke. She decides she wants to stay with him and become a human. Her father doesn’t like that at all, and her escape causes a tsunami. LIke the little mermaid, Ponyo risks turning into sea foam if Sosuke (a five-year-old boy!) betrays her.

I love this movie, it’s so sweet and cheerful and I like the underlying message too (if I’ve understood it correctly?). Some things confused me though. This movie has been translated from Japanese into English and, I imagine, then from English into Swedish. Some things might have been lost on the way. Of course it is still possible someone translated directly into Swedish from the original Japanese, but I doubt it. There were too many inconsistencies. For instance, the voices and the subtitles didn’t match at all.

One thing I was wondering about was why Sosuke calls his parents by their first names. Why is a Japanese mother named Lisa? Also, no one seems particularly surprised about a five-year-old girl showing up straight out of the sea and telling them she used to be a fish and about her wizard father and sea goddess mother. Still, the overall impression is just beautiful and the movie is very skillfully done.

Jan 2

Doctor Who revisited

Posted on Monday, January 2, 2012 in Reviews, Science Fiction, TV series

Three years ago, I posted a review about Doctor Who, after watching part of season 1. I just reread it and I must say it was sort of funny. After having spent many evenings of happy watching, I have a rather different view of the series. I think it’s time for a new review.

Three years ago, and a bit more, Swedish tv aired season 1 of the new Doctor Who series. My dad had watched some episodes of the older series (not sure which ones) on the Sci Fi channel (I know it’s spelled differently now, but it looks ridiculous, and anyway it wasn’t called that back then). I hadn’t been particularly interested. What little I’d seen looked decidedly odd, compared to Star Trek and Star Wars, which were pretty much the only experiences I’d had of science fiction on tv and/or in movies.

Then three and half years ago, roughly, the new series came out. This time, I was definitely interested. Some of the things I said in my earlier review still stands. I don’t like all the episodes, but despite that, I won’t hesitate to say that I love the series. By now, that first Doctor (for me, that is) Nine, has been replaced by Ten and Eleven. I like them all, so it’s hard to make a choice and anyway, they’re all the same Doctor.

I think what I’ve seen so far of Eleven is from one season (apparently season 5).

Fortunately, my sister has a friend who’s given her two DVD boxes of Dr Who, so we’ve been able to watch the whole series in peace and quiet at home. Almost every time I sit down to watch it, I think that my dad would have loved it. (Actually, I do that a lot. Every time I see or hear of something I think my dad might have liked, I think about that. I kind of hope that somehow he does get to see those tv series, movies etc.)

So what can I say about the series? First of all, it is very different from American tv series, but I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. I like many different kinds of tv series and movies. Put simply, Doctor Who is about a lonely alien, the last of his species, who travels the universe in his space/time ship the TARDIS (acronym), that looks like a blue phone booth, looking for distractions, but who also lends a hand when someone – mainly humans – are in danger. To cure his loneliness he picks up human companions and lets them travel with him for a time.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t seen the series (or the whole series, as far as I’ve seen), but I thought I might just mention some favorite episodes.

The first episode of series 1 (Rose) is pretty good (The Doctor saves the Earth from an invasion of mannequin dummies…). I also like The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances (About an eerie child who asks everyone “Are you my mummy?”) .

From season 2 I have several favorites, starting with New Earth (set in a futuristic hospital, where humanized cats care for the seriously ill, if you know me, you can probably guess what I like about this episode), then The Idiot’s Lantern (perhaps a warning about watching too much tv?), The Impossible Planet, The Satan Pit (a double episode that can be quite scary at times, introduces a couple of great characters that I wish would return and also an interesting new species, the Ood) and finally Fear Her (about a scary child who likes to draw a lot).

In season 3 I particularly liked Smith and Jones (a hospital is moved to the Moon by some kind of intergalactic police force chasing an alien wanted for murder), Gridlock (very interesting idea and some adorable kittens, I’m a sucker for those), 42 (again with a promising new character – who hasn’t returned so far, and a fast paced plot: find out what’s wrong with a cargo ship and what’s killing its crew members before you fall into a sun all in 42 minutes) and Blink (very, very scary – keep an eye on those statues and never blink, even for a second).

The list goes on… 🙂 Season 4: Partners in Crime (Donna returns looking for trouble, hoping to find the Doctor, this time a warning about quick weight loss schemes?, I’ve never seen any fat look so cute though LOL), The Doctor’s Daughter (fascinating idea, terraforming and instant non-sexual reproduction, among other things) and finally The Unicorn and the Wasp (where Donna and the Doctor meet Agatha Christie and try to solve a murder mystery in a British manor house).

Somehow season 5 seems quite different, with a new Doctor again. The Beast Below (welcome aboard the starship United Kingdom where something is not right, don’t ride in the elevators at least not when a frowning face is staring at you) is really interesting, and so is The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone (again, really scary, with those nighmarish Weeping Angels – to watch or not to watch?). I also like Amy’s Choice (I do love Amy’s guy Rory, he’s such a sweetie). I can’t quite make up my mind about The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood (don’t dig too deep, you never know what might turn up). In a way they’re really fascinating, but in other ways – well, as I said, I’m not sure. There are parts of those two episodes I like less.

All in all, it’s been absolutely thrilling to have these Doctor Who marathons. I can’t wait to see the next season.

Feb 11

Bone Mountain

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

When I first came across Eliot Pattison’s mysteries set in Tibet, I was thrilled. Tibetan culture is something I’ve been interested in for years, in fact ever since I first read Tintin in Tibet. My love for Tibet only increased when I discovered Tibetan dogs (but that’s another story.)

Like the two earlier books in the series, Bone Mountain was fascinating, but sad. Parts of it read like a fantasy because of the incredibly interesting and unique culture and lifestyle of (some of) the Tibetans. Pattison’s ‘sleuth’ Han Chinese Shan, first came to Tibet when he was deported to a gulag. He survived the harsh conditions in the camp by embracing Tibetan religion and culture (the two are completely interwoven, so it’s hard, if not impossible to separate the two).

Bone Mountain deals with the desctruction of Tibet’s nature, by the Chinese occupation force. Reading about it almost made me cry. The ‘hero’ of the book is really Tibetan culture, in many ways illustrated by the characters. They’re all unique, fascinating and mostly sympathetic. It’s obvious that Pattison has come to care about his Tibetan friends and their culture, that, like the country it originated, is threatened by extinction.

Feb 11

Desperate Romantics

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Historic, Reviews, TV series

Desperate Romantics is another tv series set in the nineteenth century. It’s about the so called PreRaphaelite Brotherhood – a group of artists and poets who decided to challenge the current ideals of beauty and launched a new painting style (among other things). In private, many of them led tumultuous lives. They drank, took drugs, were involved with prostitutes and had affairs with each other’s wives. The series is narrated by a friend of the artists – Fred Walters – (I’m not sure if this man existed in real life or is a convenient invention to tell the story).

There’s a lot of sex and drama, and a bit of history, especially art history, but my remaining impression is the sad situation faced by women in those days. They either had to lead sheltered, anemic, boring lives or risk losing their reputations and end up as prostitutes. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (from a family of famous artists and poets) seems to have been a sex addict, chasing prostitutes and barmaids, as well as his own models, some of which were prostitutes and barmaids, but he married a young milliner’s assistant, Elizabeth Siddal. She becomes Rossetti’s model, wants to become an artist like him, but is frustrated both by the lack of interest in her work and her husband’s constant infidelity, and later dies of a drug overdose. It’s pretty much all like that. You get to see a lot of Aidan Turner’s naked body, and believe me, I’m not complaining about that, but also all those women. It made me sad.

All the men, except John Millais, who had his own premarital problems, were more or less in love with the same women, but usually the charismatic Rossetti had the best luck with them. For years he had an affair with his friend and ‘brother’ William Morris’ wife, apparently with Morris’ full approval.

At the beginning of the series, the ‘brothers’ are trying to get the art establishment’s attention and eventually are able to gain the famous critic Ruskin’s approval. Ruskin is married to a frustrated young woman, Effie, but apparently he hasn’t consummated the marriage – he finds the female form unattractive. During the course of the series, it’s suggested that he might be a paedophile, but he strenuously denies the accusation. Perhaps he was what today would be termed ‘asexual’, but on the other hand, who would admit to being a paedophile? In the later part of the series, Ruskin goes everywhere with a young art student of his, a fourteen-year-old girl. Effie has the marriage annulled, after a humiliating physical examination to confirm the fact that she is still a virgin. Soon after, John Millais marries her. Apparently their marriage is both normal and happy and in the end they have eight children (but you don’t get to see that in the series). As far as I can tell, it deals with about ten years of the ‘brotherhood’s career.

The only really likeable character in this series is John Millais, and I suspect that’s partly because he’s not really a main character. He was never the rebel the others were, and even from early in his career gained recognition by the art establishment.

The others, especially Rossetti, claim to understand women, but end up hurting their feelings, through lack of understanding of their situation. Ultimately all the women, except Effie, formerly Ruskin, later Millais, are more or less unhappy.

Feb 11


Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Classics, Historic, Reviews, TV series

I’ve always liked historic series/movies/books and whenever there’s something like that on tv, I want to watch it. Cranford was no exception. The series was on a few years ago, and after it ended I read that there would be a ‘Christmas special’. I was hoping we’d get to see that too, but the Christmas of 2009 came and went and there was nothing like that. Fortunately, I had more luck last Christmas (2010). At least I assume it was the ‘Christmas special’ we got to watch.

At first I thought the tv adaption was focusing a little too much on (unintentional?) humour. Despite that, I found it interesting though rather sad. Some of the characters were really likeable, others less so, but still interesting and/or funny and definitely real and believable. Undoubtedly this was partly due to the cast. I’d especially like to mention Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie and Imelda Staunton, but the others too, famous or not so famous, did a great job.

Cranford is a little town in mid-nineteenth century England. It struggles with the changes their country is going through, not convinced that all change is for the better. For instance, railways are considered a threat. In the end, though, the people of Cranford find that nothing can stand in the way of ‘progress’ and perhaps they were wrong to try. The town is populated by a number of memorable people. Especially the women are described in detail.

At the beginning of the series, two elderly sisters, Misses Deborah and Matty Jenkyns, invite a young woman, Mary Smith, daughter of a friend of theirs, to come and live with them. You get to see Cranford and its inhabitants through her eyes. I suspect she’s the author’s alter ego. (I understand that Cranford is based on a series of books by a woman named Elizabeth Gaskell. I haven’t read them, but I think I might like to.)

Looking back on the series, my strongest impression is that it’s mostly about women who have never married, are widowed or whose prospects of marriage are poor, either because of lack of money or connections. Another theme seems to be the position of women in nineteenth century Britain.


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