News, news, news! It's so exciting to have a hero to cherish and admire, especially when he is out on big risky quests or adventures and makes our lives less grey with his bravery, strength and initiative. For good and for bad.

Our hero is ...



It 's been as gripping as a good period drama, as intriguing as a mystery story, as delightful as an Austen adaptation. A pleasant surprise. Living history, actually.
Watching this three-part series presented by Professor Amanda Vickery, based on her Behind Close Doors and fortunately available as a DVD, has been incredibly interesting. 
As a fond reader of historical fiction, as a student (I feel I still have so much to learn!)  and teacher of English literature, I watched it with extreme pleasure and curiosity. Professor Vickery's  descriptions of homes were mingled to the narration of real lives, through the reading of diaries and letters,  and that made everything  realistic and really involving. Professor Vickery is an entertaining, smart story - teller.
Furthermore, in my mind, the lives and experiences of real individuals found parallels in many fictional characters' lives. I  went on thinking of Jane Austen,  of course. Impossible not to think about her own real life or about the world she created in her work while watching.



I've just finished watching BBC Case Histories, 6 poignant episodes, 3 compelling stories,  based on Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books, "Case Histories",  ""One Good Turn", "When Will There be Good News?". To be honest, I must admit  that the novels are "much more" than the TV series. If you still haven't,  you must read Kate Atkinson's mystery stories with detective Brodie as the protagonist, her storytelling embodies both emotional depth and humour (My review of her "When will There Be Good News?"can   give you a hint of her style, themes and characterization) .
The series was very good, another great BBC production I liked a lot. There were a few changes here and there in the scripts which I didn't mind (Ashley Pharoah, writer of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, reworked Kate Atkinson's novels for television - read an interview here). To be definitely clear, no criticism nor disappointment, only I find the books let you go deeper into both characters and their stories. 



Here we go, ready to announce the name of the winner of the e-book or Kindle edition of G.S. Johnston 's Consumption.

It has been won by ... Risa!!!

Congratulations to the winner and many thanks to G.S. Johnston for taking the time to answer my questions for an interview on Fly High as well as to all of you who commented. 
Remember, G.S. Johnston's Consumption is available in the kindle edition on amazon.com and in another e-book version on smashwords.

The book

In the dying days of British Hong Kong, Sara Sexton, upon breaking up with a Greek lover, visits her old friend Martin Blake, a high-profile, high-dollar interior designer.  She finds him greatly changed since their playground days in Australia.  His razor-edge wit is all but gone, and has been largely replaced by a fondness for designer shoes, cars, and exotic house servants. Even though she can barely recognize him, she feels that the secret they shared in the past - the secret that led to Sara's breakup - is still enough to bind the two together. Friendships, especially friendships
as deep-running as theirs, are worth fighting for. Or are they?

This suspenseful story, set in Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, shows the effects of a lifetime friendship going toxic as modern life pulls the once quasi-siblings in opposite directions. As Sara embarks on a simpler life, Martin becomes increasingly complex and erratic. Eventually Sara is forced to a terrible choice in the name of self-preservation, and choices can have terrible consequences.



"I was a penniless, landless petitioner, my Neville blood a curse, my future dependent on the charity of those who despised me ..."
As soon as Anne O'Brien talked to me of her first book on Anne Neville, VIRGIN WIDOW, while  we were arranging her interview at Fly High to present her second historical novel, Queen Defiant, I wished I could read it. After  Sharon Key Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, and Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time , I wanted to know more about  those events linked to the War of the Roses and to  King Richard III's personal story. I was curious to see those known facts from a different point of view, from Anne Neville's eyes. 
She lived for only twenty- eight years and left little imprint of herself in history books so, maybe, this is what makes her an intriguing enigma. Such a fascinating character, whose personality may be freely created through imagination- since other than the date of birth and death and a minimum record of the significant events in her life, we know nothing about her likes, temper, wishes, personal reactions - couldn't go on  ignored by historical fiction. This is the blank  Anne O'Brien tried to fill in writing VIRGIN WIDOW.



I've recently watched this 1992 TV movie based on a classic novel by George Eliot, Adam Bede, her first published work, actually.  It was not as good as other adaptation of Eliot's works I've seen (Daniel Deronda, Middlemarch or The Mill on the Floss) . However, it was at least rather  loyal to the book. The strangest thing was ...my feelings for the protagonist. One is supposed to sympathize with him, while I felt so ... awkward and uneasy since the supposed flawed but  naive, good-hearted, romantic lead character,  Adam Bede, had the familiar face (twenty years younger) of Iain Glen. What's wrong with him? In my mind he bears the guilt of being the trechearous and wicked Vaughn Edwards in Spooks 9, the one who started the downfall of Lucas North. I had a hard time to move from hate to love, poor Adam Bede. Think that I rather preferred the meant-to-be the villain in this story, the charming seducer Captain Donnithorne, played by James Wilby.



The author
Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, G. S. Johnston lives in Sydney with two cats, home-loving Reba and the wayward Rose, and Miss Mia, a black and white cuddle dog.  The days rush by.
His first novel, CONSUMPTION has been published in the Kindle version and it is a heart-rending, provoking novel about the nature of long term friendships.

The Book - Synopsis
 In the dying days of British Hong Kong, Sara Sexton, upon breaking up with a Greek lover, visits her old friend Martin Blake, a high-profile, high-dollar interior designer.  This suspenseful story shows the effects of a lifetime friendship going toxic as modern life pulls the once quasi-siblings in opposite directions. As Sara embarks on a simpler life, Martin becomes increasingly complex and erratic. Eventually Sara is forced to a terrible choice in the name of self-preservation.
The beautiful prose, arresting characters, and intriguing setting as Johnston evokes the cities of Hong Kong and Sydney and immerses the reader in a world that is as beautiful as it is painful.



Chosen by random.org, here is the winner of Anne O'Brien's QUEEN DEFIANT, just released in the US.

Congratulations to ...

And many thanks to Anne O'Brien who's been extremely kind and generous to be my guest twice (HERE and HERE) and let us know more  about such an intriguing historical figure as Eleanor of Aquitaine. Of course, thanks to all of you who commented and entered the contest. 



Shakespeare prints from Zazzle

It has been suggested that Shakespeare may have visited northern Italy as some of his plays show a detailed knowledge of local topography of certain towns in that area. Shakespeare produced a number of plays with an Italian background, from his earliest 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' to one of his last, 'The Tempest'. In total six of his plays all or partly took place in Italy. Italian literature was so widely read in the society in which Shakespeare lived that it would be surprising if he did not have knowledge of the Italian language. Either Shakespeare visited the north of Italy or he got his information from an Italian living in London. There is no evidence that he came here, but it is very likely that he met John Florio, an apostle of Italian culture in England, tutor to Shakespeare's patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton.



You know I particularly love Elizabeth Gaskell and I've often written about her works and their adaptations. Just click on the tag Mrs Gaskell or North and South at the bottom of this post, to get an idea.  I always teach about her to my last year students, reading Mary Barton or North and South with them. Why am I mentioning her again? Because I've just finished reading an excerpt of the first  unabridged Italian translation of her North and South  that  will be soon published by Jo March Edizioni.  (HERE)

North and South appeared as a twenty-two-part weekly serial from September 1854 through January 1855 in the magazine Household Words, edited by Charles Dickens. So it was rather time: 1855 -2011.

The majority of Italian readers still have to discover Elizabeth Gaskell and, especially, her Margaret and Thornton. So I'm so incredibly happy for this next publication, that I wanted to share with you, whatever language you speak.



Conspiracy is a 2001 TV movie starring several  popular British actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, Brendan Coyle, as well as  American film stars like Stanley TucciIt dramatizes the 1942 Wannsee Conference. The film delves into the psychology of Nazi officials involved in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" during World War II. It is also a partial remake of the German film The Wannsee Conference (1984).
On January 20, 1942, 15 men gathered in a villa on the outskirts of Berlin for a clandestine meeting that would ultimately seal the fate of the European Jewish population. Ninety minutes later, the blueprint for Hitler’s Final Solution was in place. Adolf Eichmann prepared 30 top-secret copies of the meeting’s minutes. By the fall of the Reich, all had disappeared or been destroyed—except one. The Wannsee Protocol, found in the files of the Reich’s Foreign Office, is the only document where the details of Hitler’s maniacal plan were actually codified, and serves as the basis for Conspiracy.



Queen Defiant is Anne O’Brien’s novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine released in the US today, June 7th. It was previously published in the UK as Devil’s Consort.
Anne is back on Fly High after her previous interesting guest post "Mirror, mirror on the wall ..." , which was an inquiry about Eleanor's aspect. 
She  has kindly accepted to answer my questions about the queen she so much admires today and there is another exciting giveaway!

Commenting this interview you'll get the chance to win a signed  copy of  Queen Defiant. This contest is open internationally and ends on June 14th, when the name of the winner will be announced. Don't forget your e-mail address! 

If Blogger gives you troubles while  leaving  your comments or logging in,  try using Google's Chrome browser . It works when none of the other browsers does ( Download Google's Chrome
If you can't log in and comment from any other browser, please send  an e-mail  to learnonline.mgs@gmail.com  saying you want to be entered this contest.



This is my second post in this series. After sharing with you the most interesting points in Margaret Harris's Taking Bearings: Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South Televised in a previous post, I'm now going to do the same with another essay.  The author is Dr David Kelly , he is Senior Lecturer at Sydney University, Department of English and  wrote "A View of North and South" in 2006.  
The opening pages are an interesting reflection on the theme: has the mini-series become the novel of today? 
"The home entertainment revolution has had a profound effect not only on our viewing but, perhaps surprisingly, on our reading habits. ...No doubt part of the attractions of the mini series for readers is that it has certain affinities with the novel - especially the classic realist novel - which give it  a number  of advantages over the feature film when it comes to the adaptation of literary classics... the television series leaves the viewer with a sense of aesthetic complexity and completion". (pp. 1 - 3) These and other thoughts on the different approaches to a classic either  of a feature film or of a long-running TV series were prompted by Dr Kelly's watching North and South (but not having read North and South!)



Strangely enough, I've happened to watch several old movies lately, which, I'm sure, most of you saw in due time , that is, when they were released . Thanks to the pay-TV channels I usually neglect, to my best friend's and my elder son's recommendations, here I am with a series of ... "I've seen it, at last!". My impressions on watching Vanilla sky (1997), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003) follow.

1. Vanilla Sky (1997)

Vanilla Sky is a 2001 remake of the great 1997 movie, Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes).  Tom Cruise plays David Aames, a selfish,  spoilt, rich  young man who takes other people's emotions for granted, and thinks only of himself. He is the one who will have to open his eyes on what really counts in   a  man's life, he will have to rediscover what to live means and make a final essential choice.  Jason Lee plays Brian Shelby, David's best friend , and in many ways, his only one, which underlines the extreme solitude and shallowness David leads his life in. Penelope Cruz plays Sofia Serrano, Brian's girlfriend whom accompanies him to David's birthday party. Cameron Diaz plays transgressive, volcanic Julie Gianni, David's occasional bed buddy.