Last summer I was reading one of Fabio Volo’s witty love stories,"IL GIORNO IN PIU' ", and I discovered that all around the world there are nice cafés called Starbucks where you can comfortably sit and just have coffee – especially long American coffee, big mugs of it – reading, writing, or just looking around for hours if you like. The atmosphere he described was so inviting I heartly wished to go to one of those cafeterias somewhere in the world some day. It came true and I found myself alone in a Starbuck’s café in London about 3 weeks ago during the Easter holidays. Why am I telling you about that? Because I read part of the book I want to tell you about just in that place, for 2 hours, sipping a very huge quantity of English/American coffee. I was sitting there alone waiting - unlike Fabio Volo who was waiting for a beautiful Italian girl in New York to make her a surprise- for my husband and son who were visiting the Stanford Bridge, the stadium of the Chelsea football club. So, all alone there, I spent some time leafing through Bill Bryson’s NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, which I finally completed last night. It was odd to read this travel book about England, written by an American journalist/writer, while I was an Italian tourist visiting London for some days…
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, took the decision to move back to the States for a while, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him (!)
Bill Bryson is considered a master of witty prose and indeed he made me amile more than once and laugh out loud even at some of his humorous anecdotes. He tells about his last trip around Britain before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country which had been home to him for so long.
A short excerpt from pp. 98-99 of 1995 edition:
"One of the charms of the British is that they have so little idea of their own virtues, and nowhere is this more true than with their happiness. You will laugh to hear me say it, but they are the haappiest people on earth. Honestly. Watch any two Britons in conversation and see how long it is before they smile or laugh over some joke or pleasantry. It won't be more than a few seconds. (...) I used to be puzzled by the curious British attitude to pleasure, and that tireless, dogged optimism of theirs that allowed them to attach an upbeat turn of phrase to direct inadequacies - 'well, it makes a change', 'mustn't grumble', 'you could do worse','it's not much, but it's cheap and cheerful', 'it's quite nice REALLY' - but gradually I came round to their way of thinking and my life has never been happier. I remember myself sitting in damp clothes in a cold café on a dreary seaside promenade and being presented a cup of tea and a teacake and going 'Oooh, lovely!', and I knew the process had started".
In 1999 NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND became a two-part TV travel programme. Bill Bryson went on the long tour narrated in the book again and commented the situations and the places reading pages from his books.
Have a look at this clip.

Tonight I'll start reading a new book, an essay about Jane Austen and her novels by DEIRDRE LE FAYE. My beloved Jane Austen and "The World of Her Novels" will be on my bedside table or in my bag for a while.
Now I must prepare my lessons for tomorrow. Have a nice afternoon and FLY HIGH!


Better a not-very-good David Copperfield than any Big Brother!

Yesterday night, Sunday 26 April 2009, about 9 p.m.

At last, I think, Italian TV has decided to improve its own standards! So I sit in front of the telly waiting for the new adaptation of Dickens’s DAVID COPPERFIELD largely advertised on Tv programmes, the press and the net. Well, I know I’m spoilt by my collection of BBC costume drama, since the British usually offer high quality products and very respectful-to- the- original - text film versions, but I was truly deeply disappointed by what I saw.
The two- part drama, directed by Ambrogio Lo Giudice, stars a bunch of Italian actors I didn’t mind in their previous performances: Giorgio Pasotti as David, Maya Sansa as Agnes, Stefano Dionisi as Mr Murdstone and Gian Marco Tognazzi as Huriah Heep. This time, instead, the latter is the only one I found faithfully Dickensean: his grotesque, exaggeratedly creep characterization was the only decent one. As for the others, their acting was rather shallow and not very accurate and, often, I hardly could perceive what they were saying.
Then, main reason for my disappointment, they rewrote Dickens! Why?!? It’s pointless, nonsensical! There were so many changes in the plot I think “loosely based on…” is not enough to justify them.
1. Traddles is David’s mate at Murdstone’s and Grinby’s
2. Mr Micawber first meeting with David is after he’s robbed at night while he is trying to get to Dover
3. Mr Micawber rescues David and brings him to his home
4. David lives in his house for just one night and the next morning leaves for Dover
5. David becomes a successful lawyer and works for Mr Wickfield (not for Mr Spenlow)
6. Mr Micawber is in debt to Mr Wickfield and David is sent to him to ask for the money he owes
7. David becomes Mr Micawber’s attorney in a trial and succeeds in helping him with his financial troubles.
8. Dora goes to Yarmouth , sent there by her father who wants her to marry Mr Murdstone and not to see David
9. David decides to join her there and travels with Agnes and Steerforth

Who read or studied the novel will have understood … No need to go on. Can someone help ME understand why it is necessary to change so much to propose a 19th century classic to nowadays audience? The universal values in the story are priceless and timeless, they are so well-conveyed by Dickens that they really needn't add any correction in the plot to attract the reality show generation.
I’ve seen so many TV adaptations and films based on classics, I sincerely must admit some devices can be useful to charm modern audience, but the text and its author must be respected. For instance, one of my favourite Victorian novels is Gaskell’s North and South, and , though I noticed the changes the 2004 BBC version applied to the text, I found the TV drama very successful in depicting Margaret and Thornton as well as the conflict between masters and workers in the cotton mill.
So, what can I suggest to Rai Fiction? Apply for a stage at British BBC on how to film a classic before shooting another one.

However, last night the first part of DAVID COPPERFIELD on Rai 1 was seen by 6,164,000 people, with a share of 26%, and I was among them. Tonight I’ll try to see the second part, but it’ll be hard to get to the end. I just want to see what else they invented. Anyhow, nonetheless, as incongruent / incoherent as it may sound, I really hope they can repeat their success with the second part …. I hope they will beat BIG BROTHER on Italian Channel 5. Better a not-very-good David Copperfield than any BIG BROTHER show!

Related posts

. As for good Tv drama, do you know what? My favourite BBC series will be back next autumn. The 8th season - as Americans would say - is being shooted in London just in these days. I'm talking about SPOOKS, the extremely well-made spy drama I told you about in a recent post of mine (HERE). So you see? I also appreciate modern drama.



When the earth quakes...

When the earth quakes once, twice, three times a day or even more often and your house is there, standing up right but with lots of "scars" on the walls; when you're often woken up in the middle of the night 'cause your bed is shaking and swinging at the rythm of a sinister rattling and creaking and you cannot go on sleeping, well, you start hating your own home because you don't feel safe in there. Your life is inevitably shaken, your self-confidence shattered to pieces, your optimism, hopes and dreams are hidden away in a deep black hole inside your heart waiting for better times.
I force myself to think about those unfortunate who lost their dear, houses, businesses in the earthquake on April 6th and "Look", I say to myself, "you are luckier". But it doesn't work, it's even worse. I go on with a constant sense of anxiety and shakiness, wishing to go and live somewhere else, to escape. I did it for a while, I went to London for some days at Easter but I had to come back, eventually.
Inevitably our conversations at school and at home, with friends and family focus on the earthquake, on our colleagues who live nearer the epicentre and aren't coming to work, who will instead finish the school - year in schools closer to their collapsed or condemn - habitations and are living in tents or hotels, on other colleagues who are looking for a temporary accomodation here, in our town, because there are about 100km between the epicentre and us - so, maybe, it is better to move here. Even though we are trying hard to go on with our routines, it is not that easy. For example, while I'm teaching my classes, reading Conrad or Wilde, I start thinking..."Will I be able to act and react properly if...?" "Will I be able to contain their panic if ...?"
"It will pass", I repeat to myself, "It will pass away" but I can't avoid thinking that, anyway, it will come back sooner or later. It has already happened: in 1980 when I was a teenager, in 2000 when I was at home with my two little sons and felt desperately powerless and inadequate at protecting them, and now again ... and it doesn't stop ... it doesn't end.
Natural catastrophes, like wars, can be radically destabilizing. So I want to close this post with some lines from a poem written during the war in ex-Yugoslavia by an Italian poet-writer, Erry De Luca, I greatly admire:
"In guerra le parole dei poeti
proteggono la vita
insieme alle preghiere di una madre
In guerra gli orfani
e quelli senza un libro
sono senza riparo"
For those who don't understand Italian I'll try to translate:
"In war-time the words of the poets
protect your life
together with the prayers of a mother
In war-time the orphans
and those without a book
are shelterless"
I'm lucky then: I've got plenty of beautiful books and I love poetry. And I've got my mother's prayers as well, that is , my family's support and love. It will pass, it will end, it will fade away...



As I've always loved reading Jane Austen's novels since I was a teenager, now I especially love teaching about her, her world and her achievements to my students. This is my on line archive, that is to say, all the posts I've dedicated to her and her production as well as to the several film/drama adaptations from her works I've seen.
If you are among the thousands of Austenettes all over the world and are interested in having a look, here are the links to my professional blog, LEARNONLINE. CLICK ON THE 6 TITLES AND ... FLY HIGH!


Based on the life and letters of Jane Austen, Miss Austen Regrets tells the story of the novelist's final years, examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction she died having never married or met her own Mr. Darcy.


Becoming Jane is a 2007 historical film directed by Julian Jarrold. It is inspired by Jane Austen’s (American actress Anne Hathaway) early life, and her posited relationship with Thomas Langlois Lefroy (Scottish actor James McAvoy). Although the film assumes an otherwise unproven relationship between Austen and Lefroy, the original screenplay was inspired by real events, which were chronicled in the book Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence, who was the historical consultant on the film. In fact, prior to Spence’s book, biographers Radovici (1995) and Tomalin (2000) have also acknowledged a relationship between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy.


Northanger Abbey was written in 1798, although it was not published until after her death when it was compiled with her final novel, Persuasion. It is notable for being a fierce parody of the late 18th century Gothic style's fainting heroines, 'terror' (giving hints of something fantastic but dreadful, only to quash it later with mundane truth) and haunted medieval buildings. Austen targets with particular venom Ann Radcliffe's extremely popular The Mysteries of Udolpho and has her characters reading and mimicking it whilst the author undermines it at every opportunity. Austen's comparatively thin novel as good as destroyed Radcliffe's reputation for almost two centuries and the exciting gothic writ large of Udolpho is only now being reassessed. Northanger Abbey itself concerns a typical Austen heroine, the young Catherine Morland who is taken to the fashionable resort of Bath with the her friends the Allens. From there she travels to the eponymous medieval abbey, the seat of the Tilneys. As an impressionable girl, Catherine becomes obsessed with the possible atrocities going on at Northanger Abbey, inspired by Radcliffe's novel. As ever, Austen cannot resist injecting a little romance into proceedings and she puts Captain Tilney under the spell of the unpleasant, scheming Isabella Thorpe. The novel's central theme, common to Emma and Sense and Sensibility is the peril of confusion.

The Jane Austen Book Club is 2007 American romantic drama film written and directed by Robin Swicord. The screenplay, adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by Karen Joy Fowler, focuses on a book club formed specifically to discuss the six novels written by Jane Austen. As they delve into Austen's literature, the club members find themselves dealing with life experiences that parallel the themes of the books they're reading.


The most popular adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 British drama film directed by Ang Lee. The screenplay by Emma Thompson is based on the 1811 novel of the same name by Jane Austen. There is also a good BBC 3-part-adaptation of the same novel (2008) .

Pride & Prejudice is a 2005 film based on the popular Jane Austen novel of the same name. This second major motion-picture, Academy Award-nominated version was produced by Working Title Films, directed by Joe Wright and based on a screenplay by Deborah Moggach. It was released on September 16, 2005 in the UK and on November 11, 2005 in the US.

Lost in Austen is a four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network, written by Guy Andrews and loosely based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Produced by Mammoth Screen, the first episode was shown on ITV at 9 pm on 3 September 2008, gaining 4.2 million viewers. The remaining episodes were broadcast on a weekly basis. Lost in Austen was released in the UK on DVD on 28 September 2008.


Critically acclaimed and a popular success, Pride and Prejudice was honoured with several awards, including a BAFTA Television Award for Jennifer Ehle for "Best Actress" and an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special". The role of Mr Darcy elevated Colin Firth to stardom. A scene showing Firth in a wet shirt was recognised as "one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history". The serial inspired author Helen Fielding to write the popular Bridget Jones novels, whose screen adaptations starred Firth as Bridget's love interest Mark Darcy.




I really can't explain why I love period drama and classics so much. It has always been like this, since I read "Little women" at 9: if a story is set in the past - especially in the 19th century - it draws my attention and fascinates me lots more than fiction or movies set in our days.

So, from my DVD collection, here's a lovely series BBC broadcast last year. Actually , the second series has been recently on, and I'm eagerly waiting for my new DVD from Amazon UK. Twelve new episodes!

LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD is a good TV adaptation of Flora Thompson's memoir of her Oxfordshire childhood. Flora Thompson's charming love letter to a vanished corner of rural England is brought to life in this warm-hearted adaptation. Set in the countryside in the 1880s, this rich, funny and emotive BBC series follows the relationship of two contrasting communities: Lark Rise, the small hamlet gently holding on to the past, and Candleford, the small market town bustling into the future.



Seen through the eyes of young Laura (Olivia Hallinan) the inhabitants endure many upheavals and struggles as the change inexorably comes; their stories by turns poignant, spirited and uplifting. And Laura herself must face great change. Taking a job in the Post Office in Candleford, run by the mercurial Dorcas Lane (Julia Sawalha), Laura turns her back on her childhood hamlet to make her way in the world. With her loyalties divided, she must choose her own path to womanhood...

Miss Dorcas Lane - Julia Sawalha on the left - runs the small post office which is the "heart" of Candleford, she is a strong - willed woman, sensitive and generous, not married but passionately involved in a love ? / friendly? relationship, ready to help anyone in need.

Laura - Olivia Hallinan in the centre -, from whose point of view we enter Lark Rise's world, is a country girl, quite naive but rather intelligent to work in Miss Lane's post office. She is wooed by two young men, is ashamed of the poverty and simplicity of her family, observes everything attentively then writes it down in her journal, and grows up into a young woman little by little.

Caroline Arless - extraordinary Dawn French, on the right - is a poor mother left alone by her husband at sea with 3 children and lots of troubles. She can't cope with the hard situation and, being pursued by a bailiff collecting debts for the brewery, ends up in jail.

Mixing in humour, drama and the production values we seem to take for granted from the BBC, Lark Rise To Candleford really is quite a treat. And what’s more, it’s proof positive that when it comes to television period drama, there really isn’t anyway doing it better. Super stuff (Jon Foster)



Very soon, I hope, something about the new second series!

Fly high...meanwhile!



Spring time in London is surprisinlgy multicoloured. This huge modern city is full of unexpected green spots and wonderful flowers all over. This morning we woke up with beautiful sunny weather and decided - well, my husband and son did - to visit the Stanford Bridge, Chelsea soccer team's stadium. We got there by tube and they were so enthusiastic and excited to be there! They knew there would be an important match tonight against Liverpool but they didn't expect not to be allowed in for this reason. The disappointment was so great ! They had been waiting for this moment for three days and... ! So we moved toward step two of our route for today: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. You can imagine their faces, can't you?
There was an interesting exhibition of Picasso's works, the National Gallery's first exhibition dedicated to Pablo Picasso, which shows how the modernist master was influenced by the great European painting tradition. We also had a look - I can't properly say "visited" - at the permanent exhibition of masterpieces of all ages there and it was already lunchtime.

Our plan was to get to the London Zoo and have luch there, so we did it, though we didn't imagine it would take so long. By tube, bus and a long walk we got there at about 2.30 p.m. Before our visit there, we had a fast lunch. I really felt sorry for all those poor wild animals kept there but loved watching the pelicans and the flamingos in various relaxing poses all around a beautiful green pond.

After a couple of hours, we took a bus back and again by tube and another long walk, we reached Shakespeare's Globe along the river Thames. We were there two days ago but it was late for a visit so we went back there today. I was captured by the ancient magic atmosphere of the place: it was as if everything I always imagine while reading, studying or teaching Shakespeare had come true and I was there, part of that impressive scenery. Some craftsmen - and women - were preparing the set for next Romeo and Juliet and we could sit in the roofed galleries and listen to our English guide. It was perfect!

The end of the day was entertaining and even funny: we went to Covent Garden and walked among the crowd, the shops were already closing but street performers were still playing music or performing their shows. We laughed and clapped our hands :those people were extraordinary artists! Well, they deserved much more than some coins and a ... big applause!

Tomorrow it's time to fly back to Italy. Time has gone by so quickly!



LONDON - Day 3

We left our hotel quite early this morning and, actually, didn't expect such good weather after three days of cloudy sky. By the way, we are staying at Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes's famous street. We left for Windor Castle from Paddington Station and at about 10a.m. we got there.

We visited the State Apartments, the Queen's Doll's House (huge, luxurious, full of interestings paintings and portraits) and St. George's Chapel. Just like yesterday at the Tower of London, we had to bear long queues everywhere.

In the afternoon we went back to Baker Street and went for a walk in Regent's Park, which is nearby. Great, wonderful natural spot!

We decided to end the day and spend part of the evening at Westminster. A really pleasant Easter Monday!


Day 1 and 2- Saturday and Sunday
Easter time! I am in London these days. It is overcrowded with visitors from all over the world, cloudy and wet as usual, but always extremely attractive and exciting.
We arrived yesterday and went to Piccadilly Circus...It is one of the most crowded meeting places and landmarks in London but we didn't expect that crowd!

Tamil people protesting in Piccadilly Circus

Once Regent Street was cleared, we walked along it down to the Mall and found these extraordinary spring colours all around Buckingham Palace and at St. James's Park.

Today, instead, Easter Sunday, we went to Greenwich on a river cruise ...

... went back by boat again and visited the Tower of London ...

We couldn't see the Crown Jewels - well... actually, we gave up 'cause the queue was terribly long - but we went to the Bloody Tower and, inside the White Tower, visited an impressive exhibition of arms and armours belonged to Henry VIII: DRESSED TO KILL!

After crossing Tower Bridge, we walked along the riverside and had a look at Soutwark Cathedral and Shakespeare's Globe...

We then got to St. Paul's Cathedral walking over the Millenium Bridge ...

... then went back in an Italian-style- full double - decker English bus ( the subway was partially closed today) walked around the Houses of Parliament ( the Tamil protest was there this time!) ... ... and , finally, took the brown Bakerloo underground line ( among the few ones working today) to our hotel in Baker Street. Our feet and legs were begging for some rest!


SPOOKS: no ghost but “alive and kicking” MI5 agents!


Not books nor theatre, not poetry nor any literary passage. To fly high a very good TV series tonight. SPOOKS, directly from BBC, my favourite one.

There are generally just a few things that American television does better than its British counterpart. Note …I said just a few, because in general I feel that a lot of British programming is far superior to that of the USA and of Italy, of course!
So what does the Americans do better than the British? Well, if you have ever seen series such as '24' or 'CSI' then you will understand what I mean. First of all they do not appear to have a limited budget, then they are well crafted, fast paced and extremely well edited.
Each episode is a clearly defined unit and its storyline works well and fills the hour with no loose ends. There is, in my view, one series that challenges them on BBC1: SPOOKS. It is a series that has received a good deal of criticism since its broadcasting,

The seventh series has been nominated for a BAFTA award in the Best Drama Series category. The other series nominated are Doctor Who, Wallander and Shameless. The first series of Spooks won the BAFTA in this category in the 2002 awards, and it was also nominated in 2004 and 2005.

'The BAFTAs' are the most prestigious awards in British television, and are given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. This year's award ceremony will be held in London at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 26th April. The full list of nominees can be seen at BAFTA's website.

SPOOKS features the work of the British espionage agency, MI5, but it is no glossy James Bond type of programme. We do not see a glossy 'aren't they all a great bunch' kind of programme, we see people with flaws, with grievances and sometimes we see them doing things they should not be doing or being defeated if not even killed.

Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones) & Ros Meyers (Hermione Norris) -Together in series 5 and 6

There have been seven series on television so far – the last has been the most critically – acclaimed ever - and the filming of the eighth series is due to start in March 2009. In Italy, from time to time, you can watch some episodes on BBC Prime, the satellite channel of the BBC (in English with no subtitles). Last summer the third and fourth series were on Hallmark (again satellite pay TV) every Tuesday night at 9.00 p.m. , this time it was doubled in Italian but …it sounded strange. I prefer the original voices of the British actors!
I bumped on one episode of the first series during the summer 2006, zapping boringly in search for something interesting, and since then … I’ve seen all the episodes of the first six series (56!) on DVD , I’ve read articles and reviews about the latest series (broadcast on BBC1 and BBC3 from 27th October till 8th December) and I’m eagerly waiting for the release of the new DVD (February 2009).

By the way, SPOOKS is slang for “ghosts” or “spies”. MI5 is the Home Espionage Agency. MI6 is the Foreign Espionage Agency. James Bond (007, not any spook) is an MI6 agent.
Have a look at some of the most popular SPOOKS…

Matthew Mac Fadyen as Tom Quinn. Tom was decommissioned because he jeopardised a delicate operation and left the cast at the beginning of series 3 just in time to become ... don't you recognize him? Do you remember MR DARCY in "Pride and Prejudice" 2005 adaptation?
SEE VIDEOCLIP from SPOOKS series 3: "Tom's decommissioned" .

Tom was replaced by Adam Carter, actor Rupert Penry-Jones. He stayed on as one of the leaders of MI5 section D till the first episode of series 7. See the video of his last dramatic breathtaking moments ...

In 2008 episodes, a new arrival, Lucas North, actor Richard Armitage (my one weakness!). Lucas was tortured, then jailed for 8 years in Russia. He replaces Adam Carter at section D where he had worked before he was caught. Is he a double - agent?

I've also found this great music clip which blends my favourite TV series and one
of my favourite songs by Coldplay: have a look and enjoy it!




Imagine you are a young university student ... Imagine you love Philosophy and Poetry ... You've got friends as well as a beautiful girl you start fancying about...But your happy ordinary world is suddenly turned upside down by the news of your father's death. You grieve and mourn and you can cope with it ...What you really can't stand is ... your mother's behaviour... After just few weeks (4!), she gets married again, with your uncle, your father's brother...You find it unbearable but nobody else seems to notice that unacceptable exhibition of joy and love. Then something even worse happens: your father's ghost comes back from hell, reveals you the tragic truth of his death and orders you to avenge him! Your uncle Claudius has murdered him and now he is your mother's new husband!
What would you do? Would you respect your father's will?
This is what happens in the first act of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", one of the most popular tragedies of all times.

I'm just back from Rome where I saw this play performed at Teatro Eliseo. Rome is wonderful in spring and we ( some of my students, some of my colleagues, the female part of my family and I ) enjoyed the warm afternoon. But let's say something about the performance. First of all, I especially appreciated Luca Lazzareschi as Hamlet and Nello Mascia as Polonius. Then I loved the wonderful lights and the impressive music that, with a minimal, very dark set design, have underlined the tragedy of Hamlet, the symbol of the crisis of modern man before his destiny and his responsibilities.
Shakespeare' s Hamlet is also a metaphor of the theatre as a vision of the world. One of the best moments in the play was "the theatre within the theatre", that is when Hamlet, who has been pretending to be mad for a while, asks a company of actors to perform "The Murder of Gonzago" at court. It resembles the story of the terrible murder of his father. So the actors became audience on the stage of a second play, and the actors of the latter were wearing masks - recalling ancient Greek theatre - which amplified the voices.

The show lasted four hours but we were all so involved in the dark atmosphere and waiting for the frantic bloody finale that ... we hardly realized.

If you want to know more about the play and its adaptations for the screen or its links and connections to other literary works....
And now I'll leave you with two lines from Hamlet:
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go. (Hamlet, 3. 3 )