People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)

People of the Book is a novel by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a fictionalised account of the Sarajevo Haggadah‘s history.

Plot:
Australian book conservator Hanna Heath gets called to Sarajevo to appraise and restore the recently resurfaced Sarajevo Haggadah (it had been hidden from the war in Bosnia by the Muslim museum curator). She gets to work and finds several little things – a butterfly wing, a white hair, some stains – that each tell us a little more about the Haggadah’s history in WWII in Sarajevo, fin-de-siècle Vienna, 17th century Venice and 15th century Spain.

People of the Book is a book that works better in theory than in practice. But it’s sufficiently well-written to still make for a rather good read and I liked its main character, Hanna.

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Emma (2009)

Continuing the adaptation watching after finishing the book, is the BBC’s newest Emma, a miniseries directed by Jim O’Hanlon and starring Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Jodhi May, Louise Dylan, Blake Ritson, Tamsin Greig, Laura Pyper and Rupert Evans.

Plot:
Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai) is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) (Jodhi May) and Mr Weston (Robert Bathurst) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Louise Dylan). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Blake Ritson). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.

This miniseries is definitely the most literal adaptation of the book so far – little wonder, since it’s also the only one that gets four hours to tell the story. It has a surprisingly modern feel to it, which doesn’t always work and high production values, but around the middle it just stopped holding my interest.

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Book Meme – Meme Monday

[taken from here]

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest.

There are quite a few contenders for this one, actually, since I have a few books that I own since I was a child. There’s the beautiful illustrated Regentrude, a fairy tale by Theodor Storm, which I got when I was 6 or 7. There’s a book of Dinosaur stories which my father published when he owned a paper shop and which I got when I was about 5. But there are others, too.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time).

There is for example, Don Quixote which I read in the DR Congo and even though I didn’t particularly like it, I read it twice because I couldn’t bring enough books with me to keep me occupied for my entire stay. My “library” there consisted of Don Quixote by Cervantes, The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild and later I got a care package with Boyhood by J. M. Coetzee. There were a few other books which I can’t recall right now.

A book you acquired in some interesting way.

Does amazon count? ;) I bought a few second hand, I got some as a gift, most I got from a bookstore somewhere… I ordered one from Brazil, but there’s nothing really exciting about that, is there? I guess I’m not an interesting shopper.

The book that’s been with you to the most places.

I don’t think that there’s one book that I took to more places than on holiday once or something like that.

The most recent addition to your shelves.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next.

Currently reading: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
Last read: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Next Read: Not sure yet. I wanted to re-read the Thursday Next series before plunging into the newest book, but I also wanted to read Jane Eyre before reading The Eyre Affair, so I’ll probably do that. But there’s always a billion books I want to read, and I’ve tried doing reading lists to forget nothing, but that rarely works out.

Emma (1996)

[Since I finished reading the novel, I figured that I’d watch the adaptations, too and I decided to start with the films I hadn’t yet seen. So, this is the first one, but there will be more.]

Emma is Diarmuid Lawrence‘ adaptation of Jane Austen‘s novel, starring Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Dominic Rowan, Samantha Bond, Olivia Williams and Bernard Hepton.

Plot:
Emma Woodhouse (Kate Beckinsale) is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) (Samantha Bond) and Mr Weston (James Hazeldine) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Samantha Morton). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Mark Strong), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Dominic Rowan). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Raymond Coulthard) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.

This movie has it hard. It came out in the same year as the more famous Gwyneth Paltrow version and so really doesn’t escape comparison. And mostly, it loses. But only mostly, not entirely.

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The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

[Part of the Science Fiction special in the Vienna Filmmuseum.]

The Incredible Shrinking Man is Jack Arnold‘s adaptation of Richard Matheson‘s novel, starring Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent and Paul Langton.

Plot:
After being exposed to a strange mist and some insecticide, Scott Carey (Grant Williams) slowly starts to shrink. As his size changes, so does his life. Though his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) is very supportive of him, Scott can’t really handle his transformation and grows more bitter with every inch he loses. After being attacked by his housecat, he gets stranded in the cellar, where he has to fight for survival.

Much as with Invasion of the Body Snatchers real fear never came with this film. But it, too, was quite entertaining, though round the middle it dragged and the epilogue sucked.

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

[Part of the Science Fiction special in the Vienna Filmmuseum.]

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is Don Siegel‘s adaptation of Jack Finney‘s book The Body Snatchers, starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan and Carolyn Jones.

Plot:
Dr Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns early from a business trip because he got the message that a lot of people in his small town wanted to see him, and only him. But when he arrives home, everything seems to be fine. Except for the few people who claim that the people they love are not their usual selves, even though they look and act just the same. Bennell is intrigued and togethe with his old flame Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), he decides to investigate. Soon, they make a pretty gruesome discovery.

I can imagine that Invasion of the Body Snatchers was very scary at the time. But the scariness hasn’t aged very well and seeing it today, it’s mostly ridiculous. Deliciously so, no doubt, but still. That said, it’s an immensly entertaining and well-made movie.

[SPOILERS]

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

[Part of the Science Fiction special in the Vienna Filmmuseum.]

2001: A Space Odyssey is Stanley Kubrick‘s famous Science Fiction Epic, developped with Arthur C. Clarke and starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester and Daniel Richter.

Plot:
The film opens a long time ago, when a group of apes is disturbed by a suddenly appearing monolith which goes on to inspire them to use tools and weapons.
We then jump quite a while into the future where scientist Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) is sent to the (colonized) moon. Rumors have been going around that there’s an epidemic, but actually Floyd is there to investigate a mysteriously buried monolith.
18 months later, a mission is sent to Jupiter: 2 astronauts – Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole  (Gary Lockwood) – 3 scientists and cryogenic hibernation and AI Hal (voiced by Douglas Rain). Hal is supposed to be infallible – but is he really?

2001: A Space Odyssey is a monumental film, but it’s far from perfect. Parts of the movie are absolutely excellent, like the science and the special effects. Other parts aren’t, like the sound and the mystery around the monoliths. And it does have some lengths, though it’s mostly surprising how little length it has.

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Io sono l’amore [I Am Love] (2009)

Io sono l’amore is Luca Guadagnino‘s newest film, starring Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti and Edoardo Gabbriellini.

Plot:
Emma (Tilda Swinton) is the wife of upper class business man Tancredi (Pippo Delbono). A Russian emigrant herself, she’s not only literally but also figuratively exiles, though she seemingly has everything – money, three kids, a good life. But when she meets her son Edoardo’s (Flavio Parenti) friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) they connect and soon Emma finds herself in an affair that shakes not only her existence.

Io sono l’amore has an excellent cast and some things were very nicely done, but I just didn’t like Guadagnino’s directing style (which is too symbolic for its own good), nor did I like the ending (which is just a little ridiculous).

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