Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my favorite books.
It was my introduction many years ago into the world of the Bronte sisters and it has been a book that I have gone back to time and time again.

Jane Eyre is an orphan forced to live at Gateshead, the home of her Aunt Reed, where she is treated cruelly and is not shown love by those who could have nurtured and accepted her.
She then is sent to Lowood school where it is even worse.
What I love about Jane is that through all of this she has such a strong voice, such an iron spirit.
Jane soon takes up the post of governess at Thornfield where she meets the mysterious and handsome Mr. Rochester.
Their story is one of love, morality, and choice.

I love Jane and her independent nature. Her commendable integrity. 
And the ending is perfect. 
I will never tire of this novel and it will always have a place as one of my favorites.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wuthering Heights adaptations

I have recently watched three different adaptations of Wuthering Heights to compare them and see which one I would like best. 
The first one I watched was Samuel Goldwyn's 1939 version starring Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, and David Niven.

I actually liked this more than I expected to. I do really like old movies but I wasn't sure how this one would be. Sometimes the acting felt unnatural and the music didn't necessarily always fit the mood of the story but overall it was really good and quite true to the book. 

What I found really interesting is that with such great actors in this film the real standouts for me were the actor and actress that played Heathcliff and Cathy when they were young. They were great. 

I feel like sometimes this adaptation didn't reach the level of emotion that the story really calls for and that was the only real problem I had with it. 

Which brings me to my second viewing. 
For the next film I chose the 1992 version starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. 

I can't fault the film or the acting but this one was so dark. While the last one didn't always seem to have enough emotion, sometimes this one felt like it had too much. Is that even a thing?
And I get it. Wuthering Heights is a dark tale. There is no getting around that. But this one is SO dramatic. They really ran with the theme. 

I don't know how I have missed it but I never noticed until watching this just how much Juliette Binoche looks like Julia Roberts. 

So, this is a good attempt and some people might like this one the best if they want it to be really dark. But I didn't really enjoy it much to be honest. 

My last adaptation was the only one I had seen before and remains my favorite. 
It is the 2009 Masterpiece Theater mini- series. 

This one stars Tom Hardy as Heathcliff (first thing I ever saw him in and I have been a fan ever since) and Charlotte Riley as Cathy. 
They are both really good in their parts. They are not just evil. They are complicated. 
Their chemistry is the best of the three films in my opinion which makes sense since they are now married in real life. They brought so many more dimensions to these two characters than I have seen before.

It also stars Andrew Lincoln as Edgar and he was really good as well at treading that line between arrogant and rude and kind. 

I think that my favorite thing about this adaptation is the bringing in of the next generation. 
This made this the only one of the three for me that ended with some hope given. 

It was fun to see some more of the adaptations of this book but I definitely realized after watching three in the course of a week that this is not the kind of film I can watch a lot and not get sick of the story. It is not really that fun to watch that often!
But like I said, the third remained my favorite and it will be the one I will watch in the future. 

*Have you seen any of these adaptations or one of the many, many other ones that have been made? 
*If so, do you have a favorite?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Let's talk about: Emily Bronte

(portrait by Branwell Bronte)

Emily Bronte was born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton. She was the fifth child of the six Bronte children. Emily was three years old when their mother died. 
When Emily was six she joined her sisters at the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge for a very short time. She was removed after the epidemic that swept the school and killed her sisters. 
She was home schooled for a time with her remaining three siblings by their father and aunt Elizabeth Branwell.
 The children began to write fiction together and a lot of poetry. When she was thirteen she and Anne began their stories of Gondal. 

At seventeen years old Emily went to Roe Head Girls' School. She only stayed for a few months however because Emily was always taken with extreme homesickness when she was away. She returned home and Anne went to take her place. 

When she was twenty she became a teacher at Law School in Halifax but she did not do well with the stress of the long work days and being away from home again. She returned home about seven months later. After that she stayed home doing most of the cooking and cleaning and teaching Sunday School. She taught herself out of books, learning German and the piano. 
However in 1842, Charlotte convinced her to attend the Heger Pensionnat school in Brussels, Belgium run by Constantin Heger. Heger was impressed by Emily and said this about her: 

"She should have been a man- a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman.. impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned."

They did so well at the school that Madame Heger asked them to stay another six months for Charlotte to teach English and Emily to teach music. But their aunt died and they returned to Haworth. 
They tried to open a school soon after their return home but it was not a success. 

Emily went through all of her poems writing them neatly into notebooks in 1844 and when Charlotte found them she insisted that they be published. Emily was furious that Charlotte had gone into her notebooks but finally gave in when Anne offered her poems as well. 
In 1846 their poems were published in one book called Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
Emily's pseudonym for publication was Ellis Bell. 
(You'll notice they all went with the same last name of Bell and then they used male names starting with the same letter of their own name.)
Only two copies were sold. 
But they did not stop writing and soon began their respective novels. 

Emily's Wuthering Heights was first published in London in 1847. It was first published in one volume also containing novels by both of her sisters. 
Most readers thought that Wuthering Heights was written by a man. According to Juliet Gardiner, 
"The vivid sexual passion and power of its language and imagery impressed, bewildered, and appalled reviewers."
It was often condemned for its violence and passion. 

There is some speculation that she began another novel before her death but that it was lost or even that Charlotte burned it. 

There isn't as much information available on Emily. She had a very reclusive, introverted nature and kept to herself at school and in social situations. She didn't seem to have any friends outside of her family. Most of the information gathered about her has been from her written works and from her sister Charlotte who wrote this as a preface in the second edition of Wuthering Heights in 1850: 

"My sister's disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them: knew their way, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word."

She was most comfortable at home, with nature, with her family, and with animals. 

Norma Crandall said her "warm, human aspect" was " usually revealed only in her love of nature and animals". A newspaper in 1899 related this story of her:

"Once she was bitten by a dog that she saw running by in great distress, and to which she offered water. The dog was mad. She said no word to any one, but herself burned the lacerated flesh to the bone with the red hot poker, and no one knew of it until the red scar was accidentally discovered some weeks after, and sympathetic questioning brought out this story."

Emily caught a very bad cold soon after the funeral of their brother Branwell and soon was showing signs of tuberculosis that was probably contracted because of a weakened immune system. 

Charlotte wrote this: 
"She grows daily weaker. The physician's opinion was expressed too obscurely to be of use- he sent some medicine which she would not take. Moments so dark as these I have never known- I pray for God's support to us all."

With her last words she told Charlotte, "If you will send for a doctor, I will see him now."She was extremely restless.  But it was too late and she died that afternoon on the sofa. Emily had grown so thin in her sickness that her coffin was only sixteen inches wide and the carpenter said that he had never made a narrower one for an adult. 

"Her funeral procession was headed by the bereaved father, mourning his 'beloved daughter', and Keeper, Emily's faithful dog, walking first side by side."
-Juliet Barker

Keeper stayed at the family's feet during the service and then went to the door of her bedroom where he sat for many days howling. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Let's talk about: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I have found that Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of those books that completely divides people. It seems like most of the people that I have talked to about it either love it or hate it. 
I tend to lean toward the loving it side. 
It is definitely not a fun read. It's not pleasant by any means. It isn't inspiring or happy. 
But I think it is interesting. And I think it brings up a lot of talking points. 
Wuthering Heights tells us the story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff and the mad, wild love that they share. Heathcliff is adopted by Catherine's father when they are young. 
He is not treated well by Catherine's brother Hindley. I think that he doesn't ever feel like he fits in and is a lost soul right from the start. I felt like if he would have been welcomed by the family and treated well we could have had a completely different story. 
Catherine and Heathcliff had a very tumultuous love story and we see how bad choices can shape so many different lives.
Wuthering Heights is Emily's only novel. I think it is really well written and I was drawn into the moors with the characters. 
It is a romance story that really isn't romantic. It is about love and hate. And how those two things can intertwine. 
I have heard that this book has never been off of the banned book lists of the world. It is interesting to think of how controversial a book like this, full of unbridled passions, revenge, hatred, and violence would have been in the time period it was written. 
Wuthering Heights won't ever be a book that I will sit down to read when I want to feel good. But it is one I will turn to when I want a good gothic story that leaves me feeling and thinking. 
I highly recommend it but I do know that it is not for everyone.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Let's talk about: Anne Bronte

(sketch of Anne Bronte, made by her sister Charlotte around 1834)

Anne Bronte was born on January 17, 1820 at 74 Market Street in Thornton. Her father was curate there at the time. She was the last of the six children born to Maria and Patrick Bronte. 
The house was quite small for their large family and Patrick began looking for a better appointment and they were able to move to Haworth in April of 1820 where they lived in the parsonage. 
Anne was four months shy of her second birthday when her mother died and only a couple of years older when her oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth died as well. 
Her aunt Elizabeth Branwell (her mother's sister) came to stay with them and be a sort of surrogate mother to them.
The four children banded together and began to create imaginary worlds that they made up stories about. Branwell (the brother) and Charlotte had their own world and Anne created a world, Gondal, with Emily. 
She and Emily were described as "like twins". Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey described Anne this way,
"Anne, dear gentle Anne was quite different in appearance from the others, and she was her aunt's favorite. Her hair was a very pretty light brown, and fell on her neck in graceful curls. She had lovely violet-blue eyes, fine penciled eyebrows, and a clear almost transparent complexion. She still pursued her studies and especially her sewing, under the surveillance of her aunt." 
Anne's first time away from home was when she went to school at Roe Head at age fifteen. She didn't make many friends while there and was very homesick but she was hard working and wanted to get an education.

In 1839 she accepted a position as a governess at Blake Hall for the Ingham family. Apparently she used her experiences there for her novel Agnes Grey. She was dismissed from her job at the end of the year. 
She returned home. 
There is some speculation that she fell in love with her father's new curate, William Weightman and that he is the subject of many poems she wrote during 1840-1845. He was an attractive man that by all accounts was kind to the Bronte sisters and was liked by them all. No one knows for sure if she had feelings for him or not and if they were returned. 
Either way, Anne was determined to find another governess post. All four of the Bronte children were staying at home at this point and money was tight. She got a position with Reverend Edmund Robinson's family at Thorp Green near York and left for it around May 1840. 
 She would work for them for the next five years and spend very little time at home as she also went on vacation to Scarborough with the family. 
During this time she saw the York Minster for the first time and it left a lasting impression on her. She also grew to love the seaside at Scarborough.
In November 1842 her aunt died which would have been quite hard for her and that was followed by the death of William Weightman, who died from Cholera. 
 In December of that year she wrote a poem "To-" that is thought to be written about his death. 

"And yet I cannot check my sighs, 
Thou wert so young and fair, 
More bright than summer morning skies, 
But stern death would not spare; He would not pass our darling by
Nor grant one hour's delay, 
But rudely closed his shining eye
And frowned his smile away, 
That angel smile that late so much
Could my fond heart rejoice;
And he has silenced by his touch
The music of thy voice."

 In January 1843 Anne's brother Branwell came with her to Thorp Green when she returned after the holidays. He was to be the tutor for one of the children. She continued on there for two more years but resigned in June 1845. It is generally believed that she left because she had found out about her brother's affair with Mrs. Robinson (the mother) and no longer wanted to remain there. She stayed close with the daughters that she had taught.

By the summer of 1845 all of the Bronte children were home again but the circumstances weren't as happy. Charlotte convinced the sisters to make a book of their poetry. They decided to have pen names. Anne chose Acton Bell.
By July of 1846 the three sisters were starting to write novels. She wrote Agnes Grey. They sent their novels out for publication and began working on new ones. She began writing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It is believed that some of the book was based on Branwell as he descended into alcoholism and depression. At one point Branwell's bedclothes started on fire while he was in bed drunk. Anne discovered him and tried to rouse him but Emily was the one to drag him out. He soon caught influenza and it is thought he also might have had tuberculosis. He died in September of 1848. 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall became a success.
Soon Emily also became ill with tuberculosis and died. 
During this time Anne was also ill. Her sister's death affected her deeply and made her illness worse. Over Christmas she became ill with influenza and tuberculosis followed. Her father called in a specialized doctor but he didn't think her chances were good. 
"Anne is very patient in her illness." Charlotte wrote. 

Anne seems to have been very religious and found hope in her belief that she may be received with joy in Heaven. Anne asked if she could be taken to Scarborough thinking that it may do her some good. Charlotte was frightened that her sister may not do well on the journey and refused. Anne wrote to Charlotte's friend Ellen asking her to intervene fearing she didn't have much time left.

"I have a more serious reason than this for my impatience of delay: the doctors say that change of air or removal to a better climate would hardly ever fail of success in consumptive cases if taken in time, but the reason why there are so many disappointments is, that it is generally deferred till it is too late. Now I would not commit this error; and to say the truth, though I suffer much less from pain and fever than I did when you were with us, I am decidedly weaker and very much thinner my cough still troubles me a good deal, especially in the night, and, what seems worse than all, I am subject to great shortness of breath on going up stairs or any slight exertion. Under these circumstances I think there is no time to be lost... I have no horror of death: if I thought it inevitable I think I could quietly resign myself to the prospect... But I wish it would please God to spare me not only for Papa's and Charlotte's sakes, but because I long to do some good in the world before I leave it. I have many schemes in my head for future practicehumble and limited indeedbut still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose. But God's will be done. " (The Brontes, Juliet Barker, p 589)

 Patrick, their father, intervened and asked Charlotte to accompany Anne to Scarborough with Ellen. They stayed first in York as Anne really wanted to see the Minster again. 
Then they went on to the seaside. 
Anne was becoming very weak at this point. It was obvious that she did not have long. 
They were told by a doctor that death was very close. 
Anne spent a lot of time in prayer and speaking of her faith in God. She told Charlotte and Ellen of her love for them and told Charlotte to "take courage". She was calm and aware of what was going on until the very end. The doctor said that he had never seen such a deathbed and "it gave evidence of no common mind." As opposed to her siblings that had fought death in the last moments she went peacefully at around two in the afternoon on Monday, May 28, 1849. 
Charlotte had Anne buried in Scarborough. Her funeral was held on the 30th and her father did not have time to make the trip. Anne was buried at St. Mary's overlooking the sea. Charlotte bought the stone to be placed on her grave with the inscription, 
"Here lie the remains of Anne Bronte, daughter of Revd. P. Bronte, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She died, Aged 28, May 28th, 1849."

Anne has become known as the "forgotten" Bronte sister. She was the meek one, the quiet one, the one whose works have not been as well read. 
I am so glad that I have finally read one of her novels and that I will be able to read her other one as well. I think that Anne should not be overlooked anymore.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Books of Anne Bronte

Most of you will remember that I read Anne Bronte for the first time last year. When I did my read-a-thon in September The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was the first book I read and ended up being my favorite one I read that week. 

"Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past."

I enjoyed this book so much. I felt that there were so many relatable things about Helen Graham and I feel like she is a really strong woman. She left behind a hard life in a time when that would not have been easy or normal. She cared so much for her son that she did everything for him. She was also really compassionate. I admire the way that Anne wrote Helen and I really liked her writing style. 
I read somewhere that when Helen slams the door on her husband it was "the door slam heard around the world" and that a lot of people considered this book to be one of the first real feminist novels. I totally get that. 
The Bronte's seemed to be notorious for writing things that weren't normal or accepted for women to write about in their time and I admire them so much for it. 
I think this book would be enjoyed by anyone who is a fan of either of Anne's sisters and it is one I will definitely read it again. 

The other novel that Anne wrote during her life was Agnes Grey

 When Anne was nineteen she worked as a governess for a few years. 
Agnes Grey is based on her experiences during that time. 

 " Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals."

This sounds like it may be very close to Anne's own life and I can't wait to read it for the first time. I plan on picking it up when we visit the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth in a few months. I will review it as soon as I read it!

*Have you read either book by Anne Bronte?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

(image from Visitlondon.com)

Happy New Year! 
I am so excited for what 2016 has in store for Scones and Crackers. 
But first, there will be a change in posting this year. 
For most of 2015 I was posting five days a week and had a specific subject for each day of the week. It was really fun but there were times when it was really hard to make sure I watched a tv show, a movie, and read a book to review that week along with deciding what to write about on Mondays and doing a celebrity profile on Thursdays.
I want this blog to be the best I can make it so I want to take a more laid back approach this year and post what I feel like posting no matter what the day of the week is.
So, I am going to try something new and if it doesn't work out then I will reevaluate it later. 
Starting this month I will post 2-3 times a week. Sometimes it may be more. Sometimes it may be less. But on average it should be 2-3 times. The postings will probably be mostly television shows, movies, and books with the occasional actor/ musician/ artist profile and some travel and history thrown in when I have something I feel is interesting enough to share. 
There will also be some months that will have a theme much like October and December of last year did. 
January I will be taking a closer look at the Bronte family. 
This month I will be discussing the books written by the Bronte sisters, the movie adaptations of their books, a few books about their entire family, and the family members individually. 
I am really fascinated with the Bronte family and I can't wait to share some of my thoughts with you this month. 
I hope you have all enjoyed this journey thus far and that we will have a great 2016 together!