Day 20 – Favourite Romance Novel

Okay, I admit that I don’t read romance novels very much anymore.  So I’m going to change the challenge to “favourite romances in books”.  Now for an eclectic mix ….

The romance of Dante and Beatrice!  He first saw her when she was eight years old and loved her until her death at 24, even though their lives did not intersect.  She was his muse and guides souls to heaven in The Divine Comedy.

Another Beatrice and her love Benedick feature in the Shakespearian drama, Much Ado About Nothing.  It is said that the course of true love never did run smooth and that is a perfect description of the relationship between these two characters.  A fun romance to read about!

A beautiful story of a boy and his dog.  It made my cry!


Day 19 – Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie

Without a doubt, the movie version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is my favourite book turned movie.  The producers stuck so closely to the plot and all the lines so closely mirror the dialogue in the book that it is a true production of the original. 

Other versions try to alter the story or the actors aren’t able to portray the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy accurately, making them poor comparisons.  

And, just to be obscure, another adaptation that I have actual enjoyed more than the book is Doctor Finlay by A.J. Cronin, a story of a doctor in a small town in post-WWII Scotland.

David Rintoul’s performance is excellent and I find the medical procedures of the time fascinating.

An interesting tidbit:  Rintoul played Mr. Darcy in a 1980 version of Pride and Prejudice.  


Day 18 – A Book That Was a Disappointment

I love Tove Jansson’s Moomin series!!  So what better book to grab for a summer read on an island, than her The Summer Book.  I was so looking forward to it but, overall the book was a sad disappointment.  I thought it would be a nostalgic, earthy, summer-y story about a grandmother and her granddaughter on an island in the Gulf of Finland.  However I found it started rather abruptly and the relationship between the two of them was almost antagonistic.  At times the granddaughter was outright rude, seemingly for very little reason, and the father was often “absent”, even though he was there.  It did pick up, with more description and a few funny stories but that wonderful enjoyment of a summer read was woefully lacking.  


Day 17 – Favourite Quote From Your Favourite Book

Whew!  This was a tough one!  Surprisingly so, because I love quotes.  Yet nothing is coming directly to mind so I’m going to randomly go with:

“Thou speak’st aright.
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal.
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt telling the saddest tale
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me.
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she.
And “Tailor!” cries, and falls into a cough,
And the the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.”
                          Act II, Scene I


“Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
                         Act III, Scene II


Day 16 – Favourite Female Character

Jane Eyre is a wonderful female character.  She somehow remains childlike in her spirit; curious, intelligent, sympathetic and honest, yet she is also a strong woman who will not compromise her principles.  Her loyalty is unwavering and I was happy that she was rewarded for her perseverance at the end of the novel.  Even so, Charlotte Bronte did not wrap everything up in a perfect bundle.  Edward Rochester would not have been the easier man to live with but Jane knew his faults and how to moderate them.  It was a good match.

Able Seaman, Titty, from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, is my next choice.  Oh, to have her imagination!  She is full of spunk and adventurous ideas; Captain Flint (Uncle Jim) would still be missing his “treasure” if it hadn’t been for her ingenuity.  A first class female heroine!

She is one of the main character’s in Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  Beatrice ……… what better reputation than being famous for guiding souls to Heaven!  Even though Dante only saw her twice in his lifetime, she became his muse and he called her, “la gloriosa donna della mia mente” which translates to “the glorious lady of my mind”.

A slightly less than enthusiastic vote goes to Penelope, wife of Odyseuss in The Odyssey.

There could be no better tribute to love than to wait for your husband for 20 years, ten while he was fighting in the Trojan War and ten while he was attempting to make his way home again.  However, I still think there must have been some way to get rid of all those pesky suitors!


Day 15 – Favourite Male Character


Hector, a prince of Troy and brother to Paris, (who stole Helen) in The Iliad.  Courageous and brave, a man who comes “like some fierce tempest that swoops down upon the sea”, he is also a man loyal to his wife and small son.  Duty is all to Hector and in it he never wavers, even when he knows that death is a certainty.  A true hero.

I also like Sarpedon, in The Iliad. King of Lycia, he was an important ally of the Trojans.  His forces were the first to enter the Greek encampment which allowed Hector to break through the Greek wall.  He fell in battle, killed by Patroclus, friend of Achilles.

Also high on my list is Aristides, an Athenian statesman, who was called “The Just”.  It is rumoured that he acquired that appellation in this manner:  Themistocles and he had quarrelled once too often and the people were voting on which one to exile.  An illiterate farmer, who did not recognize Aristides, asked him to write “Aristides” on the ballot.  Aristides inquired if this “man” had wronged him and the farmer replied, no, he didn’t even know him, but he was annoyed at always hearing him called “The Just”.  Aristides was so honest that he did as the man requested.  Now that is my idea of a hero.  He was exiled, but was recalled to defend Athens and gave his loyal support to Themistocles who was eventually exiled himself.

And to complete the hero roster, Leonidas I, King of Sparta.

During the Battle of Thermopylaea, he marched with 6,300 soldiers to defend the pass against a Persian force that Herodotus numbered in the millions.  Leonidas held the pass against the army of Xerxes I but when a Greek shepherd betrayed his kinsman by showing the Persians a secret way around from behind, Leonidas and all his army were slain.  

None of these men were “characters” so to speak, but how much more interesting to draw heroes from real life!


Day 14 – Book Turned Into A Movie and Completely Desecrated 

Beowulf, the epic poem, a story of a courageous hero who battles two evil, ferocious demons who are wreaking havoc on the Danes, and shows his power by the consideration with which he treats others.

Beowulf and Grendel, the movie, where Grendel is not an evil monster, but a poor, misunderstood one, who hates the Danes for killing his father.  Throw in a witch (huh?), a story of a rape, and Beowulf and the witch getting it on, and you just have to smack your head and say, WHAT?!!!

This movie is a disgrace to the poem, a cheap attempt twist the original plot and themes to make a social statement and to add themes for gratuitous, infantile pleasure.

I can’t make enough bad remarks about this one.


Day 13 – Favourite author


This was an easy one for me.  C.S. Lewis.  I’ve read most of his books, I’ve watched documentaries about him and his life, I’ve read snippets of his biographies and letters, and I’ve taken a university course based on some of his works.  So perhaps he is my favourite author because I know, by far, more about him than any other author.

Lewis was the grandson of a Anglican priest but he abandoned his Christian faith as a teenager.   He hated school and when he was sixteen, his father finally agreed to hire a private tutor.  This tutor, whom Lewis called, The Great Knock, was “a hard, satirical atheist who taught me how to think.”  He was a great influence on Lewis’ journey into atheism but, surprisingly Lewis credits his tutor for teaching him how to reason, which therefore allowed him to be argued into Christianity.  Lewis called himself “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

I dislike Christian books that attempt to manipulate the reader into a belief in God.  I perhaps have even more of an aversion to secular books which attack Christianity without an understanding of it.  What I love about Lewis is both his rational, direct opinions, yet his warmth and generosity towards the people with whom he disagrees.  With him, I never feel like I’m having some idea or precept forced down my throat.  He merely presents his beliefs in a very logical, matter-of-fact, reasonable way, but they are presented as his beliefs and the reader is only asked to consider them, almost as if you are joining him in conversation.

One of my favourite quotes of Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

I have a great amount of respect for C.S. Lewis.  A year doesn’t go by without a read of at least one of his books.


Day 12 – A Book You Love But Hate At The Same Time

I hated this book when I first started to read it.  Most of the characters in it were depraved, their behaviour a dark spiralling into vice and evil.  But about two-thirds of the way through the book I began to view it in a different light.  In spite of the depressing undertones, I felt Wilde was trying to communicate the dangers of allowing oneself to sink into what appears to be the easy habits of one’s friends or peers, while not recognizing the pitfalls toward which one is heading.  I then began to enjoy it for its lessons and it ended up being one of my top reads for the year.

I still feel uncomfortable reading many of the situations in the book but now can appreciate its greater overall value.


Day 11 – A Book You Hated

I was looking so forward to reading this book.  What a disappointment!  The main character, who was the narrator, not only lacked a name, she appeared to lack a brain as well.  Unbelievably naive, her actions did not run to logical conclusions and I kept finding myself ready to tear my hair out as she acted as a door mat for her older husband.  He finally reveals to her that he murdered his first wife and the only emotion she appears to experience is joy, as that means he loves her and not Rebecca.  Good grief!

I did not find Mrs. Danvers scary at all.

Here is a taste of the main character’s amazing, stimulating conversation:

“Yes?” I said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” I said.

and another somewhat more lively conversation

“Not so very well,” I said.

“No.” I said.

“Very pretty,” I said.

“I’m so glad,” I said.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” I said.

“How nice,” I said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Really?” I said. 

How any publisher decided to print such drivel, I’ve yet to understand.

I’ve read that du Maurier struggled with writing this book and I believe it shows.  The plot felt so heavily manipulated that it resembled a lump of pock-marked clay ……… uninteresting and unappealing.

I will say, however, that she wrote some beautiful descriptions, especially in the beginning of the book.  It’s the one redeeming feature.