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text 2017-07-08 08:38
Fragile Cromwell: "Wolf Hall" by Peter Kosminsky

 

NB: I have not read the novels yet, but I'm afraid I'm going to be a little negative.

 

I had a “couple” of problems with this drama: firstly, I thought it felt a little 'empty' in terms of atmosphere. The camera-work, lighting and (to a lesser extent) the art-design was, for me, rather 'plain' - as if they were going for a very orthodox, no-frills adaptation of the novels. Likewise, I also thought that the soundtrack was rather dreary and 'safe' - although 'Tudor Pop' admittedly isn't my cup of tea. It would be nice - in general - if TV dramas would take more of a risk with their soundtracks: in the last week, I have re-watched Paul Thomas Anderson's “There Will be Blood” (with Jonny Greenwood's superb, experimental soundtrack) and then saw Birdman (which has a soundtrack almost solely composed of avant-garde jazz percussion) and was struck by how much these films were enhanced by a more original approach to background music.

 

If you're into period pieces, read on.

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review 2017-01-29 21:14
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant - Tracy Borman

This is actually quite a nice and balanced biography of Cromwell. He isn't white washed, he isn't made a saint. It is pretty darn good. And you don't need a background in the Tudors to read it.

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text 2016-01-02 22:25
2015: The Year in Review
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) - Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
The Martian - Andy Weir

According to my 2015 "Reading Challenge" log, I read 79 books in 2015 (excluding re-reads) - quite an exceptional year for me. I aim for a book a week and usually end up around 60 or so.

 

Why not an even 80? Because my travel plans got changed at the last minute, so instead of reading on an airplane on New Year's Eve, I got to spend another day with my "second family," and my reading time was shortened considerably for the very best of reasons.

 

It was a varied year - plays, poetry, lit crit, non-fiction, biographies, novels, and more. Could I pick one stand-out book? I could not. I have raved about many of these titles at various times to particular people. 

 

Here, I'll say that perhaps I loved best the "big novels," Hilary Mantel's Cromwell Books, Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch," and Andy Weir's "The Martian." LOVED LOVED LOVED all four. 

 

What's coming up in 2015? I haven't posted much lately, but I have some ideas in the queue, so look for several "Notes on Adaptation" posts soon. A summer reading list will come in May. Until then, some serendipity will come into play. Stay tuned, and read along. 

 

-cg

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review 2015-07-07 22:00
Bring Up the Bodies (audio) by Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

As with Wolf Hall, I feel like I had a deeper experience listening to this book and immersing myself in the thoughts of Thomas Cromwell. I am still part of what seems to be the minority that enjoyed Wolf Hall more, but Bring Up the Bodies still stands high above most modern literature.

The second installment in Mantel's trilogy doesn't have as many laugh out loud moments. We see a scarier side to Thomas Cromwell as he chooses those who insulted Cardinal Wolsey as his scapegoats to remove Anne Boleyn once Henry has tired of her. The reader continues to see his fine mind at work through an up-close and personal third person point of view, but it is darker in there now.

Despite his maneuverings, I still couldn't help but love Cromwell and fear his inevitable downfall. I convinced myself, much as people of the time did, that these men were guilty of something, surely. Blame it on Henry. Cromwell is only doing his bidding.

Mantel has written a fairly stereotypical Anne, who I was not sad to see go. She is one of the less complex of Mantel's characters, with few redeeming qualities.

The great thing about listening to this on audio book as my "re-read" is that any of the strange writing style issues that may have annoyed before are completely unnoticeable in this format. I could simply sit back and enjoy.

This is a book - a series - that I see myself returning to many times. I am anxious for the final installment, but will be sad to finish it.

 

And....I almost forgot to mention the narration by Simon Vance! Amazing as always. A pleasure to listen to.

My original review of Bring Up the Bodies can be found here.

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review 2015-06-30 00:22
The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau
The Tapestry: A Novel - Nancy Bilyeau

The latest installment in the Joanna Stafford series continues our favorite former novice's story as she attempts to make a life for herself that doesn't include the priory, maybe includes a husband, and hopefully doesn't include contact with her cousin Henry VIII. As in the first two books, events rarely transpire as Joanna has planned, and sometimes she doesn't even have a plan.

The twists and turns in this story evince in depth historical research going well beyond the court of the English king and his unfortunate fifth wife. I enjoyed learning about some of the drama going on the continent as Joanna searched for the truth about Edmund Sommerville.

Joanna's friendship with the sweet, naive Catherine Howard had been well established in The Chalice, so when Joanna runs into Thomas Culpepper early on in this novel I was already preparing for her heartbreak. Catherine and Thomas end up not quite as featured as I would have guessed as the story takes unpredictable paths.

Since I do not want to give away too much, I will simply say that I love the way Bilyeau has made Joanna so real. Part of her aches to return to the priory and a future that is simply no longer possible. Her faith is a strong influence on her decisions and actions, even when she isn't sure what God would have her do with this uncertain future. She continues to struggle with her feelings for Edmund and Geoffrey, and at other times wonder if she was even meant to marry at all. I loved her. I wanted to shake her & help her see the truth. I can imagine that a young woman like Joanna really existed in Tudor England.

This series has been surprisingly good, and I am glad that I had the pleasure of reading it. My copy of The Tapestry was provided by Nancy Bilyeau, and she was even kind enough to sign it. This did not affect my opinion or review, but it is awesome! I want to thank her and assure her that I did indeed "enjoy the journey of Joanna!"

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