Monthly Archives: February 2012

Austen’s classic through different eyes…

I talk to so many students about their favourite books and I reckon it’s pretty cool that ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is usually right up there on the list. Personally, I love Jane Austen’s classic – so much so that I probably re-read it once a year just for fun.

Well, if you’re into P & P and you’re looking for something to read, the library has a couple of spin off novels that might interest you.

‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, by P. D. James was released last year to great acclaim. It’s set a few years after the original P & P finished, and takes place predominantly in the great halls of Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth, now settled with children, live a content life; Jane and Bingley and their children live close by, Mr Bennet is a frequent visitor (Mrs Bennet is NOT), Lady Catherine de Bourgh has long since kicked the bucket and Lizzy doesn’t have to deal with an embarrassing mother or younger sister. But on the eve of the Darcy’s annual ball, an uninvited Lydia arrives at Pemberley in hysterics – she claims that Wickham has been murdered. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are immediately on the case, but all is not as it seems, and the further the case progresses, the more secrets are revealed.

‘The Independence of Mary Bennet’, by Colleen McCullough, follows a completely different storyline. Set twenty years after the original P & P, this novel follows the story of poor old Mary Bennet. All of her sisters are married and settled and she –always labelled the plain and boring sister – seems to be resigned to a spinster’s life. However, Mary has blossomed. She has matured, bloomed in looks and independence, and with the death of her parents, is at leisure to do what she likes. With plans to write a rather inflammatory political novel, she begins travelling the countryside as part of her research – only to get caught up in a dangerous adventure of her own.

Both of these novels are completely different in style as well as plot. Both strongly reference the original story, yet it’s P. D. James’ novel that retains more of the Austen style of language. McCullough’s novel uses slightly more modern language and tends to be (like her other novels) a sweeping drama of romance and intrigue. P.D James is more famous for writing ‘whodunnits’ and ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ is more of a classic murder mystery.

I liked both novels because they were completely different, but as an Austen fanatic, I preferred ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ because I thought it was truer to the original characters and plot. ‘The Independence of Mary Bennet’ really changed some of the characters and made them far more dramatic which grated with me a little. Both novels were easy to read and great for a rainy day like today!

The Hunger Games Film is almost here!

Right, there’s only a month to wait before the release of ‘The Hunger Games’ film. I for one am mega excited about this film, partly because I think it’s an awesome story and partly because the casting is really interesting and different.  For instance, did you know that musician Lenny Kravitz is playing the role of Cinna – fantastic!  To whet your appetite (and if you haven’t already seen it), here is one of several versions of the film’s trailer:

Book Review – The Apothecary

by Maile Meloy

When Janie unexpectedly moves with her parents from sunny California to gloomy London, she isn’t sure how well she’s going to like her new life. World War II might be over, but the world is still unsettled and secrets and suspicions are part of daily life.  Janie is glad to find a friend in Benjamin, the son of the kind but mysterious apothecary.  But when the apothecary disappears and Janie and Benjamin are left to guard the ancient magical book, the Pharmacopoeia, they embark on a dangerous adventure that takes them to places they never dreamed possible.

This is a difficult book to define; it’s technically historical fiction, but has elements of magic in it too. I enjoyed its pace – it didn’t get bogged down in too many details about the era, which can be a fault of some historical fiction novels.  At heart, ‘The Apothecary’ is a good old fashioned rollicking adventure story, with enough mystery and magic to keep you interested without overdoing it. Janie is a great character; she’s brave and fierce with just the right amount of girlishness.  The novel itself is littered with beautiful illustrations, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  They sometimes aided in the telling of the story, but mostly were there to simply be appreciated.

‘The Apothecary’ is a wonderful novel for escaping reality. I highly recommend it to students from Year Seven to Year Twelve.

One is never enough!

Are you up to date with some of the latest sequels?

It seems like every novel you read these days is one of at least three in a series. Sometimes it feels like no one writes a single novel anymore! There are two reasons for this. Firstly, teenagers who like to read also tend to get a little obsessed with stories (remember Harry? What about Edward? Jace anyone?) and never want them to end – thus the popularity of the series. Secondly, publishers love this obsession because is means more book sales for them, and they often encourage their authors to write lots of books revolving around the one story or set of characters. If it sounds like your reading practices are being exploited, well, they kind of are – but the good news is that it means more and more books for the reader!

One of the sequels I read over the hols was Marianne de Pierres’ ‘Angel Arias’, the sequel to ‘Burn Bright’.  These fantasy novels are an acquired taste; they’re a little bit left of centre.  For some reason, I reckon these novels have an Obernewtyn Chronicles feel (which I LOVE, btw) – they feel more sci-fi than fantasy, but not in a robot-ey kind of way.  ‘Angel Arias’ picks up where ‘Burn Bright’ left off, with the aftermath of Naif’s escape from Ixion. Some the dark and sinister connections between Ixion and the councillors are revealed, and the battle between the Ripers and rebels continues with some fairly catastrophic consequences. I really like the way Naif is developing as a character, and I really enjoyed the introduction of Jarrold – a classic. Also, these books get my vote for the coolest cover art going around.

‘Tantony’, by Ananda Braxton-Smith, is not a sequel in the traditional sense.  She utilises the same imagined world and the same mythology as she did in ‘Merrow’ but tells a story about a completely different set of characters. You can definitely read ‘Tantony’ without having read  ‘Merrow’! Braxton-Smith is a very interesting writer – her language is very lush and descriptive. Some people love that kind of thing and some people don’t. I’m not a huge fan of overly long description, but what I like about Braxton-Smith’s stories is that they’re so sad and so real.  She doesn’t necessarily give you the ending you want; on one hand it’s refreshing to be surprised but sometimes we’re disappointed when we don’t get what we want in a story! It’s your call – recommended if you want to ready something really different.