Author Archives: sarahmcg1

Visit to Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage

Since my interest in the Bronte’s has begun, I’ve desperately wanted to go back to Haworth. I went for the day years ago, before I had read any of their novels, and didn’t go to the Bronte Parsonage. This time around I was going to Sheffield to visit my sister with my parents, but the day before we left, travelled up to Haworth just for the day. It was not enough time  to be able to explore Haworth and the beautiful moors surrounding it, but it was such a worthwhile trip and has definitely left me determined to visit again.

Of course the main attraction for me was to see the Bronte Parsonage. After arriving we were told there was a talk we could attend, and so while waiting we went to the gift shop and I bought all the Anne Bronte things I could find.  (Counts as dissertation research right?) One small complaint I would have I that there isn’t nearly enough Anne in the shop, even with the postcards they had one of Emily, Charlotte and Branwell, but not an individual one for Anne. Other prints of quotes from their novels left Anne out again, though I did manage to find a card with a quote from Agnes Grey on. I’m biased I guess, and the shop had a great selection of books, my dad buying The Bronte’s: A Life in Letters by Juliet Barker which I’m looking forward to reading.

 

The talk we were given exceeded my expectations, sometimes at historical places the talks are too vague, or they leave large chucks of information out or stick to historical myths and misinterpret historical figures entirely. The one at the parsonage though given by someone who worked there, was great, detailed without being dull, and kept it equally balanced on all members of the family. It kept it focused on their lives, their works, and what we have left of their lives today, such as the famous Branwell painting of all three of the sisters. Admittedly I disagreed with one point in the talk, that Anne didn’t have that same spark of genius as Emily and Charlotte, but naturally I’m incredibly biased in that opinion.

 

It’s clearly a busy year for the Parsonage, with it being Branwell’s bicentenary year, and the airing of the brilliant To Walk Invisible in December, the costumes and props being displayed around the museum. The museum really felt like their home. It should regardless, but I’ve been to their places that have been great, but have left me feeling disconnected from the actual people that lived there. You could imagine and see the Bronte family in all of the rooms, you felt like you were in their home, and was nice to feel comfortable and relaxed while walking around, while still receiving information about the family.

 

Branwell, the Bronte brother that everyone had high expectation of who sadly became an alcoholic in his struggle for greatness, is being celebrated this year. Simon Armitage has turned Branwell’s room into how it might have looked in his last years, chaotic and disordered. There are drawings all over the wall, half written poems everywhere and it’s incredibly effective in picturing Branwell’s state of mind, and feeling sadness for someone that had great potential.

My favourite part however was the Wuthering Heights manuscript they are currently creating for Emily’s bicentenary next year. Since the original Wuthering Heights manuscript was lost. Claire Twomey is recreating this manuscript of Emily’s incredible novel, visitors writing a sentence out from the book into the manuscript, being gifted a pencil each to encourage and inspire visitors to write. When I visited they were on Chapter 11, and it’s worth paying a visit to be a part of it and get to have it exhibited next year.

 

Aside from the rooms of the house itself, there is a room with artefacts and information displayed, such as letters and drawings, and information about the entire Bronte family. Seeing Anne’s bloodstained handkerchief was shocking, I didn’t realise that they kept it, let alone that it was displayed in the museum.  But it was incredibly interesting and well displayed, I especially loved that there were quotes from various Bronte novels on the walls.

The rest of the day passed very quickly, had a great lunch at a café called Villette (titled after Charlotte’s last novel), had the best piece of chocolate cake (sadly ate it before I could get a photo). Managed to have a quick look in some of the shops in Haworth, and visited the Church.

 

The Church was very quiet and beautiful, and they had plaques commentating the deaths of the Bronte family. Anne however, is buried in Scarborough where she died, somewhere I desperately want to visit. After visiting the Church we had to leave sadly, and didn’t have time to visit the moors or do any of the walks around Haworth, so another trip is definitely needed.

 

Thankful to the Bronte Parsonage for keeping the family’s memory alive so well, and it was everything I had hoped for and more.

Thanks,

Sarah.

Monthly Reading Roundup: May

Monthly Reading Roundup: May

Didn’t get to read quite as much this month, but with my exams and other assignments it’s been a stressful time. Thankfully I’ve finished my second year of university, so this summer I’m looking forward to actually having the time to read for fun, as well as starting reading for my dissertation on Anne Bronte.

Brontesaurus: An A to Z of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte by John Sutherland
During revision I’ve been reading shorter books, and after finishing off April with the brilliant Anne Bronte book by Samantha Ellis, I continued the Bronte trend with Brontesaurus: An A to Z of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte by John Sutherland. Sutherland uses the alphabet to examine various myths and stories about the Bronte family, from Branwell’s opium use, and the origin of the word ‘Wuthering’. It’s probably best to read this book if you already have an interest in any or all of the Bronte’s, and not only adds humour to the questions surrounding their lives, but discusses them in an engaging way. Admittedly I think I rushed through the book too quickly, and for me personally I think I would have appreciated the book even more had I read through it in small chunks, as going through it all so quickly made parts of it harder to get through.
Rating: 3.5/5

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

While revising I managed to read Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, a short but incredibly powerful novel that has been on my to-read list for ages. The novel serves a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, following Mr Rochester’s doomed first wife Bertha Mason. To readers of Jane Eyre, we know her as the wife Rochester was deceived into marrying, who he secretly harboured and locked away in Thornfield Hall, due to her madness and violent behaviour. Jean Rhys takes the character of Bertha, whose real name in the novel is Antoinette Conway and looks at her life leading up to her marriage and what comes to her becoming the ‘mad wife’ that Charlotte portrays her as.
Antoinette is living with her family in Jamaica when the novel begins, and without trying to give too much of the plot away, her mother’s madness and events lead to the marriage of Antoinette and Rochester, (who is never actually named in the novel). Though reluctant to marry him, the marriage starts off well before Rochester is poisoned with tales of her mother’s madness and other stories about Antoinette’s family that shift his behaviour to her. It’s horrible to see Rochester act so cruelly to his wife, going so far as to strip her identity away from her, refusing to use her real name, calling Antoinette Bertha instead. Rhys’s structure of setting the novel in three parts allows the novel to focus on the stages in Antoinette’s life, the second section being narrated by Rochester as well as he deals with his marriage, allowing the reader to have a closer understanding of his actions, and pity Antoinette even more.
Even if you haven’t read Jane Eyre this is a worthwhile book to read, and not only shines a light on the dismissed character of Jane Eyre but gives her a powerful voice, Antoinette’s struggle to find her identity in society while dealing with an emotionally abusive husband in Rochester being heart-breaking to read, as well as casting a darker shadow over the character of Rochester and Jane Eyre. The novel illuminates the power men had in marriage, and how easy it was for women to be abused and dismissed, and have their own narratives twisted entirely.

Rating:4/5

 

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The Power by Naomi Alderman

The best book of the month without a doubt was The Power by Naomi Alderman. On the shortlist for the years Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, it was the best book to read after I finished my exams, and reminded me of how much I love getting absorbed in fiction, especially with books that are so hard to put down. The novel looks at a society where women gain electric powers, the ability to produce electric jolts through their hands. It begins in teenage girls, who pass it on to other women as it continues. Female babies are now born with the power, and older women can be passed on the power from those who have it. Men are now the ones who are afraid of women, who can’t go out late at night by themselves. Attempts to dismiss this power are soon proven wrong, as women all over the world access this ability and began to change society forever.

The novel follows four characters, Roxy the daughter of a crime boss in London who manages to have the most powerful abilities, Allie a foster child who uses her power to become a religious figure of a faith distanced from men, Margot, an older woman in America whose power enables her to successfully further her political career, and then Tunde, a young man who is amazed by this power and becomes key journalist in recording and charting the events as they unfold around the world.

It’s hard to read this novel and not feel powerful yourself, especially in the first half. Alderman so believably portrays this situation in today’s modern society, and the different characters allow her to go down various avenues in examining how the women use their power, and how the rest of the world reacts to it. While initially the power is liberating, it soon takes a darker turn for all of the characters, power being abused in horrifying ways that shifted my initial perceptions of the novel.
This is a truly worthwhile read, and I would strongly recommend it especially if you like work by Margaret Atwood.
Rating: 5/5

 

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Hoping to have my post on my recent visit to the Bronte Parsonage up next week!
Thanks,
Sarah

Monthly Reading Roundup: April

 

A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray Rating: 4/5

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Reading Non-Fiction, especially History books for me, always seems more daunting than it actually is.  After neglecting my growing pile of history books, I decided to start with A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray. I couldn’t have asked for a better book to get me back into non-fiction, with Jenni Murray perfectly merging the general overview of these women’s lives with her personal experiences.  This helped make the book engaging and enjoyable, rather than it reading like a Wikipedia page or just dull retelling of facts like some history books. Every woman’s place in the book is justified, no matter how controversial, as well as how they helped to shape history. The book shines when Jenni Murray reveals her personal experiences with each of the women, high points I loved include her sighting of Boadicea’s statue, her relationship with Barbara Castle and her interview with Margaret Thatcher.

Jenni Murray focuses on women from every part of history, their impact on politics, literature, science, maths, and Art. I really liked how it was a mixture of well-known women such as Elizabeth I and Jane Austen, and then others I had never heard of such as Caroline Hershel, and Ada Lovelace. It makes me angry that a lot of the names in the book I had never heard of, and how their ground-breaking work into our society hasn’t been recognised, let alone taught nearly enough.

For women whose names you know and connect with immediately, for those whose names recognize but don’t know anything about, or for the women you haven’t heard of at all, this book covers all of them. If anything, this book demonstrated how and if anything, how there are still a large number of bold, brave, and brilliant women whose impact on our society still hasn’t been told.

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood Rating: 4.5/5

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Yes, there’s a recurring theme with my book selection this month with regards to forgotten women in history, but hey, I have no regrets. Jenni Murray’s wonderful book gave me the courage to tackle the longest book that I got for Christmas, Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe.

This was not an easy read and took me longer than I would have liked, but it definitely paid off. This was a thorough and intense history book, but for me, it was the best mix of familiar women and history and those who I had never researched about before.  I love Tudor History, especially Henry VIII’s wives, and so I like how the stories of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were woven into the book with less written about Tudor women like Margaret and Mary Tudor, who I really enjoyed learning about.

All the women more or less seemed to be connected in some way, and Gristwood did a great job setting the stage beginning with the figure of Anne de Beaujeu, who helped bring up both Margaret of Austria and Louise of Savoy, who are linked to Isabella of Castile, Anne Boleyn and Marguerite of Navarre and Jeanne d’Albert, and who is quoted at the beginning of every chapter.

It is still so incredible to see all the women who exerted power and wielded such considerable influence during this period, yet are never taught about or given the praise they deserve. For me the biggest revelation was Margaret of Austria, a woman who I had heard of, but knew absolutely nothing about. Her role as regent of the Netherlands, who was at the centre of European politics, having dealings with all the political powers, governing her lands successfully, being crucial in gaining support for her nephew Charles V to be elected Holy Roman Emperor, and successfully negotiating a peace treaty on behalf of her nephew with France, in the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529, also known as the ‘Ladies peace’ as the French King’s mother, Louise of Savoy represented Francis in the treaty.

Gristwood keeps the book engaging, going through the century by switching back and forth between the various countries and their key periods. Even when the formidable figures such as Margaret of Austria pass, Gristwood proves how there were new emerging key players later on in the century, such as the rise of French Queen Catherine de Medici and Mary Queen of Scots, leading to of course Elizabeth I. This was a truly worthwhile read, and a must read for anyone who enjoys history and the 16th century.

Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis Rating: 5 Stars

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I didn’t plan on reading yet another non-fiction book, but while on holiday in Dorset I spotted this book in a great independent bookshop, and so I had to buy it and read it straight away. I’d been looking for this book in bookshops near me for a while, as I’m trying to avoid getting my books online so I was surprised, yet incredibly happy to see it in a small independent bookshop.

As you may have seen in my last post, I’m incredibly interested in Anne Bronte, and I’m planning on focusing my dissertation on her and believe she is woefully underrated, writing two ground-breaking novels in her lifetime. I mentioned in my last post that Anne’s legacy had been improving with two new books being published about her this past year. Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis, was one of them.

Yes I’m incredibly bias when it comes to enjoying this book, but honestly it is probably the best book I’ve read so far this year, or at least tied with Ali Smith’s To Autumn. Like Jenni Murray it is not an academic book, but a mixture of the author’s life and experiences alongside the subject matter. Having only one subject to focus on made it easier to be attached to Samantha and Anne’s journey, and I can’t overstate how much I loved this book.

Samantha Ellis’s discovery of Anne Bronte’s strength is written about after she was shown Anne Bronte’s last letter at the Bronte Parsonage, and revealed what goes against Charlotte’s martyr-like portrayal of her sister, and that rather than Anne quietly and gracefully accepting her death, she didn’t want to die. Anne wanted to live, to write more and accomplish more than what she did. This courage and spirit sets off Ellis’ journey to uncover Anne’s story and what she was really like.

This book has a fantastic structure, every chapter focuses on an important figure in Anne’s life, whether real or fictional, and the role they played in Anne’s journey, such as her family, Ellis looking at not only Charlotte, Emily and Branwell, but their father Patrick, and mother Maria, as well as the two other Bronte sisters who died in childhood, Maria and Elizabeth. Haworth really comes to life in the book, and I’m visiting the Bronte Parsonage next month so Ellis’s descriptions of it has made me even more excited.

It was frustrating to read all the critical reception of Anne’s work, and how she has been so easily dismissed as the ‘other sister’, and Ellis too doesn’t hold back on her opinions on how Anne has been presented both then and now in contemporary society, looking at the portrayals of Anne not only by critics, but in media and other literature, as well as the television adaptations of her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hal.

Ellis writes a truly brilliant book, it’s emotional, funny and heart-breaking and I felt so sad at how little we know of Anne and how so many of her letters and other works have gone, but happy to know of her determination and courage, and the wonderful works of fiction she left behind. My dissertation seems more and more daunting by the day, but reading this book reminded me why I chose Anne and how determined I am to examine the brilliance of her work, so I’m truly grateful I read it.

If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters, love Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and have never read Anne’s work, then I definitely recommend this book. Even if you haven’t read the Bronte’s, this book is worthwhile in highlighting an inspiring author that is excellently told by Ellis.

I’m hoping that after my exams finish next month I can post more, I’m planning a post on my trip to Haworth, as well as a post examining whether historical accuracy matters in Television and Film adaptations.

Thanks,

Sarah

The Bold and Brilliant Anne Bronte

“I am satisfied that if a book is a good one, it is so whatever the sex of the author may be. All novels are or should be written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man”- Anne Bronte, Second preface to ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

 

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It was only until I studied ‘Wuthering Heights’ at A-Level that I realised there even was a third Bronte sister. Even so, she received a passing mention, and it wasn’t until the summer before I started university that I investigated her novels. I watched the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and was incredibly surprised that this incredible story had never gained my attention beforehand. The 1996 adaption wasn’t perfect, but the brave and feminist character of Helen Huntington shone and compelled me to buy the book and bring it with me on holiday. The book far surpassed my expectations and left me with one nagging question. Why and how has Anne Bronte been forgotten?

Charlotte and Emily wrote ground-breaking, wonderful novels and are justly remembered for them. Anne on the other hand is the ‘other Bronte’ and those who may have heard of her aren’t familiar with her novels or poetry. Her novels are viewed as not reaching the same literary heights that Charlotte and Emily’s did, but to me, and to those who have read her work it’s clear Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are equal to anything Charlotte and Emily wrote, and surpass them in ways too.

Anne’s devotion to the truth is evident in all of her works, her unflinching honesty in Agnes Grey written before Jane Eyre details the harsh reality of being a governess, Anne writing about the hardships she herself experienced while being a governess. Anne shed light on a life that numerous women experienced in Victorian England, and while it doesn’t reach the gothic greatness of Jane Eyre, the novel is unwavering in its account of the tough life of a young governess. Agnes ends up with the sweet Mr Weston, and finds companionship and love, in a healthy and caring marriage. Unlike Charlotte and Emily, Anne herself persevered and managed to make her career as a governess a success after her turbulent experiences, becoming close friends with her employers the Robinson’s, and gaining her brother Branwell a position as a tutor, until his subsequent affair with Lydia Robinson caused Anne to resign and move home.

It is Anne’s brutal depiction of marriage however, that dominates her second and best novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. While examining Victorian marriage, Anne also addresses the true nature of the mysterious and damaged men that her sisters, and readers have idolized. The Byronic, brooding figures of Heathcliff and Mr Rochester have been heavily romanticized, especially in TV and Film, despite characters like Heathcliff behaving awfully, and while being a captivating and complex character to study, I question whether his actions warrant the rose-tinted view the media seems to enjoy.

 

 

Many Victorian novels end in marriages to these kind of figures, Jane with Mr Rochester, young Cathy with Hareton.  The marriage of Helen and Arthur Huntington however, happens early in Helen’s life, Anne raising the question of: What is marriage actually like to one of these men? Arthur at first appears attractive and charming compared to the other dull marriage prospects that Helen faces, and she believes that her love can change him and make him a better husband and father. However Arthur soon descends into alcoholism, resulting in him being emotionally abusive, having an affair and negatively influencing their son. This stark and violent illustration of alcoholism and its consequences on a marriage had not been written in such an intense nature before, let alone by a female author. As she did with Agnes Grey, Anne channelled her own life experiences into Tenant, the Bronte family dealing with their brother Branwell falling to alcoholism, eventually resulting in his death in 1848. While her novel was criticised, Anne defended her work, claiming

 “When we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest?”

Helen leaves her husband and takes her son, and moves to a new town under her maiden name where she meets Gilbert Markham, who takes an interest in the mysterious new woman. It’s evident why the novel is considered one of the first sustained feminist texts, Helen breaks the law by running away from her marriage and slamming the door in the face of her husband despite the persecution she faces, because she knows it’s the right thing to do for herself, and to protect the future of her child. The novel ends with her second marriage to Gilbert, after she’s secured her independence and financial security. While Gilbert isn’t the best dashing romantic hero, he loves and respects her. This time, she proposes to him, having an assurance that she will have a happy marriage on her terms of devotion and respect.

 

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However since then, Anne’s work has fallen off the public’s radar and seen as a lesser version of her sisters. It didn’t help that Agnes Grey was published in the same volume as Wuthering Heights, or that despite being written first, was published after Jane Eyre. However after Anne’s death in 1849, Charlotte chose not to republish The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, stating that

“Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake – it was too little consonant with the character – tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring, inexperienced writer”

As the novels dark themes were too radical it sees that this didn’t fit with Charlotte’s view of who her sister was, thus leading to its suppression. Charlotte didn’t appear to take Anne’s work seriously, and while partly it may have been to do with the negative critical response and Charlotte wanting to protect the memory of her sister, to suppress a work that was ground-breaking and important, disappoints me greatly.

The lack of television or film adaptions for her novels has contributed to the lack of recognition of Anne’s work, not receiving the Hollywood treatment like Wuthering Heights or the number of adaptions like Jane Eyre. Sadly without a captivating romantic lead, it seems no one believes an adaption could be a success, maybe Anne’s refusal to sugar coat reality doesn’t leave a stereotypical period drama that producers believe will draw in viewers. The 1996 version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is worth watching, but it’s definitely dated in parts and an update for the novel is desperately needed and its feminist themes and Helen’s struggle to escape a toxic marriage are just as relevant in society today.

 

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However this last year, it seems everyone is catching onto the brilliance of Anne Bronte, with at least two new books published on her, a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Agnes Grey, and the BBC’s brilliant television drama, To Walk Invisible which looks at the three years in which all sisters wrote and published their novels while dealing with the decline of their brother. Anne’s portrayal was fantastic, highlighting her strength and honesty, her close relationship with Emily and her integral role in the family.

In September I’ll be starting my third year of my English Literature degree, and I’ve planned to focus my dissertation on Anne and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, something I’m nervous but excited to start researching. I hope this spotlight of Anne continues, because she deserves far more than to be seen as the ‘other Bronte’, I hope that people continue to write about her, adapt her novels and talk about her courage and bravery, and that she claims her place in the literary canon with her sisters, as she rightfully earned with her feminist, radical views that proved she was far ahead of her time.

I’ve wanted to write about literature for a while, and I’ve decided to take a break from television reviews for now, so expect more book related posts coming up soon!

Thanks,

Sarah

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season Two Episode 13 Review ‘Can Josh Take A Leap Of Faith?’

“I’m just a girl in love,

I can’t be held responsible for my actions!”

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After a stellar second season, Crazy-Ex Girlfriend’s end to Season Two demonstrated how far Rebecca and Josh have come, and how much longer they still have to go to fully address their issues.

There are quite a few call backs to the pilot in this episode, from the embarrassing text Rebecca sends to her Dad mirroring the one she sent Josh when she first moved to West Covina, and Rebecca’s declaration that “This is what happy feels like”. Though instead of being stuck in New York, Rebecca is marrying the love of her life and she finally has her dad back in he life. Rebecca finally has everything she’s ever wanted, but naturally this idea was going to be crushed pretty quickly, when she ignores the realities of her relationships with Josh and her dad.

Rebecca’s reprise was one of the best moments of the season, all the call backs to earlier songs in the series, such as ‘I Love My Daughter’ and ‘We’ll Never Have Problems Again’. I always love reprises in  musicals, and this one was perfect. It was beautiful and emotional, yet also punched me in the gut. Seeing Rebecca so hopeful was heartbreaking, the use of ‘You Stupid Bitch’ and ‘I’m the Villain In My Own Story’ highlighting her false belief that all her negative feelings about herself would be wiped away through her wedding.

 

 

It was a brilliant choice for the audience to realise the origin of this seasons theme song through the revelation that Rebecca had been in a mental institution after her affair with Robert, and how she uses musical numbers to handle her reality. Rebecca’s mother forcing her to repress it and forget it ever happened makes sense, and I really hope we get to learn more about Robert’s impact on her in Season 3. We know that at the beginning of Season 1 that Rebecca gave up using her medication after being desperately unhappy, as I really liked the fact that the audience got the chance to see where her negative reaction to medication comes from.

Trent is bizarre yet brilliant, so I will happily take any appearance of his character. I liked how he was a red herring, and that the information he gave Josh wasn’t even opened. Josh didn’t need to read the files to validate his doubts about Rebecca, a choice I really liked. It would have been easy for Josh to read the files and call off the marriage, but no Josh had a different plan. (Also loved the instrumental music for ‘Thought Bubbles’ playing while he tried to reassure himself)

The finale still showed the progress Rebecca has made though, not only acknowledging how shitty her dad was and kicking him out of her life, but through the friendships she’s made.  Last season she had the always wonderful and brilliant Paula, but this season she’s even managed to secure true friendships with Valencia and Heather which is probably my favourite thing about this season. All the women standing together on a cliff supporting Rebecca vowing to destroy Josh Chan? Yes please. Rebecca has friends who care about her, friends that she has managed to help inadvertently or not, and I’m looking forward to these four women being centre stage next season.The romanticised fantasy of Josh Chan may be shattered, but Rebecca’s obsession isn’t going anywhere, only now being focused on enacting revenge rather than trying to gain his love. She now truly lives up to being the ‘Crazy-Ex Girlfriend’, and it’s a journey that will be necessary to Rebecca eventually focusing on her happiness, not fixating on Josh to achieve it.

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Josh too is shown to be going through the same  thing, acknowledging he has an issue by defining himself by his romantic relationships, running from partner to partner instead of working on his issues alone. Josh is seen running to another relationship to solve his problems, though rather than a relationship with a woman, it’s his relationship with God. It’s a great twist, and while shocking it didn’t feel out of character at all. I’m intrigued to see whether Josh will manage, and how he will deal with Rebecca’s wrath.

Best Lines:

-“LOVE IS PATIENT LOVE IS KIND! WHY VEER FROM A CLASSIC?”

-“Have fun flying coach, Dick!”

-“If you’re even one minute late, I will murder your entire family!”

-“It took me a while to find a big enough ‘Top Secret’ stamp at the craft store”

Favourite Songs From Season 2:

It Was a Shitshow

The Math of Love Triangles

Friendtopia

Who’s the New Guy?

Rebecca’s Reprise

Maybe This Dream

(Also shoutout to Greg’s Drinking Song and Tell Me I’m Okay Patrick)

Can’t wait for Season Three!

Sarah

 

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 2 Episode 8 and 9 Review

First things first, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been renewed for season 3!!! It’s such a relief that one of the smartest and funniest shows on television has been given another well-deserved season, despite currently having the lowest ratings of any show on network television. Though since its addition to Netflix, I like to hope a lot of views come from them, giving it a larger audience that the one is represented. Seriously though, it’s just nice to see a Network actually support well written and acclaimed shows, even if they don’t have a large audience. Also Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is only one of two shows that garners any award recognition

We were blessed with two new episodes this week, and I’m not going to recap everything, just my reactions to major plot points and any other details I liked.

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Who is Josh’s Soup Fairy?

Episode Eight didn’t take it easy on us, with the revelation that Scott had cheated on Paula with Tanya. While this wasn’t entirely out of the blue, with the distance that was created between them last episode it was still incredibly sudden, and damn you writers for breaking my heart. The developments in their marriage has been one of the highlights of this season, and I hope this fallout is explored more during the rest of the season. Though Paula’s heartbreak led to this amazing line when she realised there weren’t any ice cubes left for her drink at work

“What. MAN. Did. This?”-  (Give Donna all the awards)

‘So Maternal’ was a pretty great uptown funk parody, Rebecca assuming being a mother was easy led to stand out moments, Rebecca featuring on a podcast despite ‘not having any children and only been babysitting for less than hour’ and feeding Tommy a banana in a wrap.

 

 

Rebecca falling for Josh again was inevitable, their relationship still hasn’t reached the end point it needs to, Rebecca still holding onto any praise that Josh gives her, the romantic ideal of him not being forgotten despite their break up. Josh realising he was in love with her was surprising, and then I realised it wasn’t, considering Josh can’t not be in a relationship, always wanting someone who cares for him, and just after a breakup going back to someone who is there for him and can make him feel better about himself is hardly an out of character move. Both Rebecca and Josh don’t make the best choices when it comes to their emotions. I feel like for their romanticized ideal of each other to break, they have to actually be in a proper committed relationship, rather than Josh just sleeping with Rebecca and using her like he did at the beginning of the season. Also Josh seeing the soup as some sort of romanticised sign of whose he’s meant to be with is exactly the same thing Rebecca would do and has done, earlier in this season.

The fashion show was so embarrassing, I wanted to look away but Hector and White Josh’s reactions were priceless. Pretty much sums up my reaction to Josh walking down the runway.  Just the pained smiles and thumbs up were perfect.

 

Though this episode has a serious moment of character development for Rebecca, choosing to stay with Paula when she needs her, instead of going with Josh after his declaration of love. True it’s not perfect because she stays more out of guilt about lying to Paula more than anything, it’s still an important step in the right direction for her.

Best quotes include: “I think you’re meant to say you’re upset a kid is missing”- Heather

“Our love is not for your gaze”

“Oh god, I’ve left my body! I’m floating over this room right now looking down!”

When Do I Get to Spend Time With Josh?

I loved the West Covina reprise, the romanticized music, and this fake ideal that now both Rebecca and Josh are living in together. Josh tells Rebecca ‘I love you’ for the first time, and they’re both happy, so naturally it has to be fucked up.  Mostly by Rebecca.

The story is shaken up massively by the introduction of Nathaniel Plimpton, a big LA lawyer who Darryl has sold half the firm to. He’s attractive, cold and just a dick basically.  He represents Rebecca’s old life in New York, and the ruthless lawyer she was.

The best thing about this episode was how well all the supporting cast was utilised, especially in ‘Who’s the New Guy’ Breaking the fourth wall with jokes about ‘ratings’ and ‘episodes’, all the cast is so well used and funny, all of them have their own great moments in these two episodes.  Watching this number now makes so relieved that the show has been renewed thank god, so clearly the new guy worked.

The best example is George/Glenn/Gene’s mini Rose’s Style number after he’s brutally fired by Nathaniel.  It’s one of the standout moments from the episode, and just brilliant.

Nathaniel is an interesting love interest for Rebecca, being quite different from Josh, and even Greg. Now that Rebecca has the perfect relationship, the fantasy has to fade. Nathaniel and Rebecca are both intelligent and very good at their jobs, Rebecca now being bothered by the idea that Josh is an idiot. Nathaniel is a shit, so of course Rebecca is going to be attracted to him. It’s a good way to add some new drama to the show, and I’m interested to see what happens in their relationship.

The ending tag was pretty hilarious, Paula having to touch the ray on the date with the security guard was perfect, and the writers never cease to surprise me with the ending tags, always gloriously weird and wonderful.

Darryl knocking over the pot of pens as he was giving his dramatic speech and then going “Really?” had me in stitches.

Best Quotes include:

“Why should we root for someone male, straight and white?”

“None of his dream catchers work in here”

“I heard someone yell penis! What’s wrong Karen?”

“Karen did you try to cook a chicken in the microwave again?” “Not today but it can be done!”

Also can we just appreciate this:

Here’s to Season 3!

Until next week,

Sarah

 

 

Best TV Episodes of 2016: Part One

  • The Crown, Season 1 Episode 7 ‘Scientia Potentia Est’

the_crown_s01e07_still

Elizabeth’s sudden accession to the throne is detailed in the first series, her lack of preparation and confidence in her role as Queen being wonderfully played by Claire Foy, who perfectly illustrates how restrictive and damaging the crown is on her personal life and her own character. ‘Scientia Potentia Est’ is Elizabeth’s shining moment in the whole series though, where she takes a stand against those in government for damaging the relationship between the crown and the government. Elizabeth’s education is the focus of this episode, and it’s brilliant. When up against men like Winston Churchill, and other highly intelligent politicians , Elizabeth feels she is intellectually inferior, her lack of confidence meaning she has to change the conversation to ‘dogs and horses’. Elizabeth’s lack of detailed education in subjects like Maths, or History is not something I ever considered would have been an issue for a member of the royal family. What I love about this episode isn’t Elizabeth’s frustration, but rather what she does with it. Elizabeth hires a tutor in a wish to educate herself and further her knowledge,  and while she’s trying to improve herself, government lets her down.

Churchill suffers a stroke, and deputy prime minister  Eden is stuck in America having an operation, leaving the country without a  leader. Despite this emergency, no one thinks it right to tell Elizabeth and instead let her believe her into thinking Churchill only has a bad cold. It is patronizing to her and her position, done only so she won’t ask Churchill to stand down as Prime Minister. When she finds out about this concealment, though it’s clear where her strengths and intelligence lie. The show makes it very clear that Elizabeth is not uneducated, as if Elizabeth knows anything, it’s the constitution that was drilled in her when she was a child. This is a subject she has the upper hand on, one where she can make them feel inferior for not even following the basics, the trust between parliament in the Crown. It’s glorious to watch, and probably my favorite scene of the show, these two politicians being summoned to Buckingham Palace and nervously waiting for their audience. To Salisbury she is cold and magnificent, “It is not my job to govern, but it is my job to ensure proper governance” he doesn’t even get a word in before she rings the bell for him to leave. Elizabeth shows Winston far more respect, and rather than being angry she is just disappointed. Even bringing out her school work book to underline the trust the has been broken between the Crown and Government. It’s the best moment for her character, and her confidence and collected manner are beautifully summed up in the final part of her lecture to Churchill, “I would ask you to consider your response in light of the respect that my rank and my office deserve not that which my age and gender might suggest.”

(A small detail I enjoyed- when the professor tells her of a horse he backed in a race, she is quick to share her knowledge of the race and admiration for the trainer, only to learn he backed the horse only because he”just liked the name”. What Elizabeth does know she knows very well).

  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 2 Episode 4 “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?”

First things first, if you’re not watching this show, DO IT NOW. It was more difficult than I expected to pick my favorite episode of this show this year, with an incredible first season  being continued in its equally stellar second season. “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?” is not necessarily the best episode of Crazy Ex Girlfriend, but it is the bravest and boldest one. The departure of Greg is a sad one, and as one of my favorite characters I was worried about how good the show would remain without him after all the great work they put into his alcoholism storyline this season. But the show is breaking away from their love triangle, and sending Greg off to law school is the right choice for the character, as much as the audience has hated seeing him leave. The show is far, far more than who Rebecca should end up with, and with this exit they’re simultaneously  sending Greg into a better place in his life, and drawing the focus back to the show’s protagonist. Many shows exhaust their love triangles, so it’s refreshing to see that neither Josh or Greg is right for Rebecca. This episode also features some of the best songs this season, with ‘It was a Shitshow’ summing up Greg and Rebecca’s relationship perfectly, while making the most of Santino Fontana before his exit. ‘We Tapped That Ass’ is just hilarious, filled with great tap dancing and puns, with imaginary Josh and Greg  haunting Rebecca just as she decides to try and move on from them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tAiOVMYFY

It’s Paula’s storyline in this episode that is arguably the best part though. After getting into law school and then finding out she’s pregnant, Paula decides she has to give up her dream of law school, her life being too hectic to juggle three kids as well as law school. Though Rebecca’s fixation on her makeover leads to Paula taking over one of her cases, despite not being a lawyer.  Paula succeeding in the case and receiving high praise even though she’s caught out at not being an attorney,  gives Paula the final encouragement to make her choice. It’s only later, when we see her in bed and her son answers the door because “she just had an abortion” that we find out about her decision. It’s not heavily focused on, and it’s clear that it is the right decision for Paula, with her husband and family being incredibly supportive. It’s not something I’ve seen on TV before, a middle -aged woman already married with children making that choice, and it’s a credit to the writers for handling the storyline so well. There’s not a massive fuss, no guilt, it’s not heavily focused on. It’s just a woman making a choice that is best for her. Credit to the writers for handling the storyline in a such a simple, yet extremely effective manner. Seriously, this is one of the smartest and funniest shows on TV right now, and it is worth watching.

Small detail I liked-  The introduction of Heather’s parents highlighting how self obsessed Rebecca is, even though she’s apparently met them several times the audience is only is introduced to the when she has to stay with them after accidentally causing a fire in her own home. Also the fact she didn’t even remember Heather lived with her parents, forgetting Heather’s surname and therefore referring to her parents as ‘Mr and Mrs Heather’. I love this show.

  • Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 10 ‘The Winds of Winter’

It was a difficult decision in the end to pick between this episode and ‘Battle of the Bastards’, despite my criticisms of how the story played out during this season’s big battle episode. I’ve already talked about both of these episodes in an earlier overview of Season 6, and though nothing on TV could match the heart-stopping battle sequences and the brutal presentation of  war in Episode 9, ‘The Winds of Winter’ still reigns triumphant. I don’t want to repeat myself too much by talking about this episode, Miguel Saponick’s beautiful direction  creating what is arguably one of the best episodes of the entire show.  From the breathtaking trial sequence with the masterful score, to Cersei’s coronation and the numerous deaths throughout this episode, it set the pieces for the final two seasons. Game of Thrones was far from perfect this year, but after the mess that was season 5, they managed to partly redeem themselves with an episode like this. (Lena Headey was robbed of the Emmy this year, Golden Globes, please finally give her the award she deserves this week)

  • To Walk Invisible

“Our work is clever, it’s truthful, it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s vivid and subtle and forthright!”

I’m incredibly biased in including this one here, especially as it’s a one- off drama rather than an episode of a TV show, but I couldn’t not include it in this list. I have a great deal of respect and love for the Bronte sisters, with Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall being some of my all time favourite books. It’s about time there was a realistic, detailed look at their own lives and Sally Wainwright exceeded my expectations by writing a realistic and remarkable two hour drama looking into three crucial years in the Bronte sisters lives as they try to publish their work while dealing with living with their alcoholic brother, Branwell.

Even if you haven’t read any of the Bronte sisters work, I’d still recommend watching this to see a story of three courageous and talented sisters tackling their problems and each writing different and groundbreaking novels. The equal focus that Anne was given with Charlotte and Emily is what pleased me most, as my favorite Bronte and as a criminally underrated writer who wrote the most shocking and incredible work that is just as good, if not better, than her sisters. Despite being the ‘quiet’ sister, Anne is portrayed as the mediator between the fiery Emily and passionate Charlotte, accurately portrayed in showing her desire to write about truth and the real world. Sally Wainwright put a lot of detail into the relationships between the siblings, Charlotte being in awe of Emily’s work, yet describing Anne’s as “not without charm” which pretty much sums up their relationship. Anne and Emily’s close relationship was such a treat to watch, making up some of the best moments.

 But it’s their brother Branwell that really drives the story, Adam Nagaitis doing a truly impressive performance with a character that would be easy to hate, yet makes the audience feel pity for him as he struggles with alcoholism and a failed affair with his employer’s wife. Everyone had high hopes for Branwell as a painter and a writer, and you have to feel pity for him as he slides further and further into despair.

The attention they gave Emily’s poetry was excellent, and not something I expected. Charlotte’s rummaging in Emily’s room to find her notebook mixed with Emily walking among the moors started off a beautiful sequence with an extract from Emily’s poem ‘The Prisoner’. The raw and superb poetry  mixed with beautiful piano music as the camera focused on the Moors was simply stunning.  Like Charlotte, the audience is transfixed by Emily’s poetry.  A scene later on with Emily and Anne sitting on the Moors, as Emily recites ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ (Arguably her best poem) was also a favorite.

Jonathan Pryce is perfect as their father Patrick, there’s no one else I could imagine playing that role. Chloe Pirrie is the standout as the fiery and brilliant Emily, with lines such as “If he hits me, I’ll hit him back. Harder”. Finn Atkins is just how I imagined Charlotte, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Anne, played by Charlie Murphy.

The parallels between Branwell and the sisters are made clear, while Branwell’s pain and misery leads him to addiction, Charlotte, Emily and Anne channel all their experiences into their writing, creating wonderful novels in the process. Even when Charlotte’s first novel gets rejected, she persists and doesn’t give up, leading to the publication of Jane Eyre which as we know and see in the show, is incredibly successful.

There’s a truly magnificent scene with Charlotte revealing that she has published Jane Eyre to her father, and that all the sisters have published work under pseudonyms. The shock and disbelief Patrick goes though is a joy to watch, as well as his pride in his daughter’s work.

 This post ended up being a lot longer than I expected, so the second half will hopefully be up in a week or so!

I want to talk a lot more about TV and books this year, and try to regularly update!

Until next time,

Sarah