Forever Favourites ~ A Court of Mist and Fury & A Court of Wings and Ruin ~ #JNGReads

I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t think I can talk about it at the moment.

Today, I’ve decided to take the role of curator rather than reviewer. It would be very easy for me to go on and on ranting about why Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series is so brilliant…but none of it would be coherent whatsoever. Read my initial review of the first novel in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses itself, and you’ll see why. I could barely form logical sentences upon finishing that one, and now, after spending another month immersed in the world of Prythian, journeying beside Feyre and Rhysand…well, I have nothing concise or legible to write. My brain is basically mush and has been since I finished the third novel in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin, this afternoon in the Starbucks steps away from my home. Never mind that – my heart is mush. The story was touching on so many levels, the chapters towards the end were mind-blowing and heart wrenching, and I think what has me most emotional of all is the fact that it’s all over. I was lucky in that I picked up this series when all three novels were already completed and released, so that I could read them in rapid succession – I say that I was lucky because I didn’t have to wait months or even years before continuing on Feyre’s path with her, and yet, in some ways, I don’t feel lucky at all. I didn’t have to wait, but I also didn’t get to wait. Everything happened so fast, it was an utter whirlwind – I first entered Feyre’s world less than two months ago, and then I lived and breathed in it, got down in the trenches beside her, and now, after so short a time literally but so long and involved a time figuratively, my adventure has come to an end. And yes, I can reread the series endlessly for the rest of my life, but it will never be new for me again, and that is a sad and somewhat nauseating fact.

But, as I said, I don’t have anything productive to say about this series, nothing at all that hasn’t been said by other readers before me. So, instead, I am choosing to present to you some of the quotes I marked during my reading experience, those moments that truly touched me and that I will carry around with me for the rest of my reader’s life. These passages speak for themselves – no commentary is necessary – and it is my honour to present them to you as evidence of why the ACOTAR series is so one of a kind and enthralling. So much of what makes the series incredible is the way that Maas narrates through Feyre, the cadence and rhythm and actual poetry of Feyre’s inner musings and ruminations. It is so very easy to feel as though you are becoming a part of her consciousness, becoming her dear friend and confidante.

A note before all that though: I gushed and raved about A Court of Thorns and Roses the novel after finishing it, and I still think it is brilliant. However, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin have so much more to offer, the world grows so much larger and becomes more all encompassing, and I must admit that I fell in love with the series when I was in the midst of the second novel. I have to say it: I am Team Rhysand all the way, but not because I am comparing him to Tamlin or because I don’t believe in Feyre’s love for Tamlin and the connection they had. No, I am Team Rhysand, I am so enamoured with that High Lord of the Night Court, because he is Feyre’s true match, because he is her soul mate in every sense of the word, because he lifts her up, literally gives her wings and forces her to battle her demons, raise her voice, stand tall and become the defiant, strong and remarkably inspiring woman she is destined to be. I mentioned in my last blog post that being a man’s mate, for me, as a woman about to be married, means not succumbing to him, being submissive, subservient, quietly protected. For me, it means standing tall, being his protector as much as his protected. Choosing a mate, for me, means finding a man who will support me and who will stand in my corner as I fight my own battles. And Rhysand does just that for Feyre – he makes her his High Lady because he believes in her power, her ability to handle herself, and because he treats her as his true equal, as she rightfully deserves. What’s more, he helps her through her struggles with anxiety and depression, he urges her out of her shell and gives her the space and security to rebuild herself, stone by stone, until she is healed and whole again. As someone who suffers from anxiety and relies heavily on my own mate to navigate through it on a daily basis, I appreciated how gently but affectionately Rhysand helps Feyre through her traumatic experiences. This sort of relationship, of mutual trust and respect, is what we all need as an example in today’s society.

I offer to you, now, the passages in A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin that utterly took my breath away…

A Court of Mist and Fury

*“‘You are no one’s subject….I will say this once–and only once…You can be a pawn, be someone’s reward, and spend the rest of your immortal life bowing and scraping and pretending you’re less than him…If you want to pick that road, then fine. A shame, but it’s your choice…But I know you – more than you realize, I think – and I don’t believe for one damn minute that you’re remotely fine with being a pretty trophy for someone…’”

*“Feminine, soft, pretty. I hadn’t felt like those things in a long, long while. Hadn’t wanted to.”

*“I tried not to flinch away from meeting his stare. ‘She’s mine…And if any of you lay a hand on her, you lose that hand. And then you lose your head…And once Feyre is done killing you…then I’ll grind your bones to dust.’”

*“If I hadn’t been already in love with him, I might have loved him for that – for not insisting I stay, even if it drove his instincts mad, for not locking me away in the aftermath of what had happened yesterday.

And I realized – I realized how badly I’d been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I’d been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.

Rhys’ eyes darkened, and I knew he read what I thought, felt. ‘You might be my mate,’ he said, ‘but you remain your own person. You decide your fate – your choices. Not me. You chose yesterday. You choose every day. Forever.’”

A Court of Wings and Ruin

*“I wasn’t sure I’d been born with the ability to forgive. Not for terrors inflicted on those I loved. For myself, I didn’t care – not nearly as much. But there was some fundamental pillar of steel in me that could not bend or break in this. Could not stomach the idea of letting these people get away with what they’d done.”

*“‘And you are High Lady of the Night Court.’

‘Indeed she is.’

My blood stopped at the voice that drawled from behind me.

At the scent that hit me, awoke me. My friends began smiling.

I turned.

Rhysand leaned against the archway into the sitting room, arms crossed, wings nowhere to be seen, dressed in his usual immaculate black jacket and pants.

And as those violet eyes met mine, as that familiar half smile faded…

My face crumpled. A small, broken noise cracked from me.

Rhys was instantly moving, but my legs had already given out. The foyer carpet cushioned the impact as I sank to my knees.

I covered my face with my hands while the past month crashed into me.

Rhys knelt before me, knee to knee.”

*“It’s all right, Rhys soothed. This place cannot hold you.”

*“I do not let you do anything…You are your own person, you make your own choices. But we are mates – I am yours, and you are mine. We do not let each other do things, as if we dictate the movements of each other. But…I might have insisted I go with you. More for my own mental well-being, just to know you were safe.

*“‘You do not fear…You do not falter. You do not yield….Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.’”

*“I would have waited five hundred more years for you. A thousand years. And if this was all the time we were allowed to have…The wait was worth it.”

It speaks for itself, right?

A Court of Mist and Fury: ❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

A Court of Wings and Ruin: ❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

My Literary Maidens

Apologies are in order…big time!

I am so so sorry that I have been MIA on the blog for almost a month. Trust me, I get it – this is no way to show my appreciation for all you lovely readers!

However, allow me to promise you that a giant, mammoth of a book review is on its way VERY soon. If you follow along with me on Goodreads, or if you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I’ve been buried deep in the world of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series for quite a while now. That’s the reason for my lack of posts – I’ve been so enthralled with my reading, so eager to delve into my book and not put it down for the entire night, that I haven’t actually had anything else to review (although I know this is no excuse, considering I could’ve offered you some lifestyle posts in the meantime – massive apologies again!). I even chose to skip right past writing a review for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I just wanted to blaze right into the third book instead. And, I did exactly that – I am about two hundred pages away from completing A Court of Wings and Ruin, and my heart is already breaking at the thought. I have so enjoyed living in this world, with Feyre and all of her friends, and I simply do not want it to end. Hence why I have been reading extremely slooowly, savoring every last sentence and image and adventure.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time – and I swear, a book review of the entire ACOTAR series is on its way.

Having said that, when I realized a few days ago that I haven’t posted anything here in almost a month, I was horrified! I knew I had to get something out to you, and I also knew that I needed to exercise my writing muscles again, lest they get out of practice. So, on to a bit of a different topic… Here is another wedding-related post for you all…

“You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”

~ Pygmalion

Left to right: Lady Camille, JNG, Lady Courtney and Lady Kailah ❥

I count myself well and truly lucky to have some of the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for. My three best friends, my maidens, my bridesmaids, are among the most inspiring, beautiful and kind women I have ever known, and not only are they a constant source of pride for me, they also treat me with this unwavering respect and love. At times it is overwhelming to fully comprehend how loyal and dedicated they are to me and to our friendships, and they have each been the most incredible helpers throughout my wedding planning experience so far. To borrow from the idea presented in the quote above, my bridesmaids treat me like an absolute queen and make me feel so remarkably special, and I will forever be grateful for that. I cannot wait to return the favour at each of their own weddings! (Note: You can read a detailed post introducing and describing each one of my bridesmaids here.)

Not a single thing in the world could persuade me to change the three women I selected as my bridesmaids because they are the most perfect women that ever walked the planet. Having said that, there is one thing that could persuade me to increase their number – to add a few more ladies to my maiden fold – and that would be if my three favourite females from literature could jump out of the pages of their individual works and become real-life women. I recently found myself thinking about this, wondering which three heroines I would select to join myself and my bridesmaids in all of the wedding planning and events. And, there was absolutely no question – three literary heroines popped into my mind without hesitation, and I truly believe each of these women would fit in so well with my three best friends because they are all quite alike. I like to think I keep very good company, and I believe that even these women of the fictional world would adore my real-life bridesmaids instantly, and vice versa.

~ So, here we have it, my selections for My Literary Maidens (in no particular order, of course). ~

Jane Eyre

“Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien—I forgave him all…”

Was there any doubt that Jane Eyre was going to be on this list? Well, there shouldn’t have been. Jane Eyre is the one literary character that I will always owe so much of my personality, my morals and my convictions to. If I wasn’t such a chicken, I’d already have this Charlotte Brontë inspired tattoo on my skin that I’ve been dreaming up for years now, because that authoress is someone I will forever be indebted to. Jane Eyre, and the novel named after her, taught me so much about love, about soul mates, and about sacrifice. She presented a strong and dignified example to me at the most critical time in my life, when I was just leaving high school, and her story emphasized to me that it is possible to find an all-encompassing love that consumes but does not overcome you. Jane Eyre taught me that love is not an easy road, that there are countless obstacles on the way to finding it and also within a relationship, but that True Love means forgiveness, it means being strong enough to stand up for your love, to fight for it. To have Jane Eyre stand beside me on my wedding day would mean having a true role model in my midst, it would mean acknowledging that fortitude is an aspect of True Love that I will always apply in my own life.

Clare Abshire

“I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel that I also read when I was finishing up high school, and it is without doubt on par with Jane Eyre in my green heart. Clare Abshire is a source of undeniable inspiration in that novel, if only because she is constantly waiting for her love (time traveler, Henry DeTamble) to come home to her. Clare puts up with a lot of turmoil and tragedy in her relationship with Henry, and she faces every obstacle with unfailing resolve and impenetrable will. She is the very definition of a strong woman, and she has always been a model for me of how to overcome jealousy, uncertainty and insecurity. Clare is so confident in Henry’s love for her that she doesn’t let the little things, like ex-girlfriends in his life, or even the big things, like his regular absence, to get to her. She has a lot to face and get through in loving Henry, but she tackles each situation with a calm that is utterly remarkable. Clare Abshire taught me that love means being patient, it means waiting for The One and then hanging onto him through thick and thin, being his rock, his anchor. To have Clare Abshire stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love really can conquer all, and that the right love will survive all obstacles of time and distance.

Eliza Doolittle

“Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can’t take away the knowledge you gave me….Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.”

I admit, it was a bit trickier for me to come up with my third literary bridesmaid…but only for about two seconds. Then, it dawned on me, what better bridesmaid to have than the original flower girl, Eliza Doolittle of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Eliza isn’t your classic romantic heroine whatsoever, and that’s what makes her a character that taught me so very much about love and relationships. I read Pygmalion for the first time after starting university, but I’ve been a fan of My Fair Lady since I was something like 6 years old, so Eliza Doolittle has always been a mentor to me. And what a remarkable and unique woman she is – Eliza Doolittle is a woman who does not stand down, who is not flattened or trampled on by any of the men around her. Although she is fond of her professor Henry Higgins, she refuses to have her personality muddled or diluted by him, and she is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Her main objective throughout the entire play is to better herself, to lift herself up in society, and while her pseudo-partner Higgins assists her on her journey and gives her the tools to be a better version of herself, she is the one who gets down and dirty, who battles every day with society’s expectations and uses her indomitable will and strength to get ahead and make a name for herself. Eliza Doolittle is one of the strongest female characters that exists in literature, and that comes from her defiance of societal norms and her desire to question and interrogate the social structures around her. To have Eliza Doolittle stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love does NOT mean losing your identity or becoming a mere domestic goddess. It would mean acknowledging that being a woman in love, being a wife, does NOT mean giving up on your dreams or stifling your passions. It would mean proclaiming that the right husband, the right partner, will give you wings to fly and build your own name, for yourself.

With friends like these, how could a girl go wrong? My three real-life best friends and my three fictional ones are the pillars of my personality, the puzzle pieces that go together perfectly to make me into the woman I am today, the one that my fiancé fell in love with. Without each of them, I would be nowhere close to who I am at this moment, and I am so honoured that each of them will play a part in my Big Day…because believe me, I plan to make Jane and Clare and Eliza a real presence on my wedding day, even if they can’t be there in person…so stay tuned for posts about that in the future!

See you all again very soon, I promise!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Truly Unexpected Favourite ~ A Court of Thorns and Roses ~ #JNGReads

What on Earth did I just read?!?!?!

I rarely do this. I rarely sit down and write a review only moments after finishing a book, especially if it’s after 10:00pm on a weekday, but this time, I just couldn’t resist.

I am in shock – complete and utter, mind-bending, soul-altering shock – from what I experienced. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

I have to admit, I was expecting to enjoy Sarah J. Maas’ novel A Court of Thorns and Roses. Read the description of it, online, on Goodreads, anywhere you can find it – it is a novel right up my alley: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a strong and defiant heroine, battling it out against unique and terrifying villains, all in the hopes of saving her beloved. Sign me up. My only source of hesitation when picking up the novel was its genre – fantasy is not my thing whatsoever (Unpopular opinion time: I struggle to get through episodes of Game of Thrones that my fiancé finds incredible and heart wrenching, because I find that show DULL!), and so I had this feeling that I would like ACOTAR, but that I wouldn’t love it.

Well, I was freakin’ wrong on all accounts, and I am more shocked than anyone about it (except, perhaps, for my fiancé who can’t believe that a book of high fantasy had me gasping and writhing on our couch). Holy ****, I don’t even know how to describe what I’ve just experienced. This book is INCREDIBLE and I LOVED it!!!

Okay, how to put into words the emotions that are currently swirling in my chest… I have no idea. I need to try to be calm and rational about this, but it is so so hard, and if you’ve heard of ACOTAR at all or read any reviews, you’ll know why I’m so shaken. It is just that good. Like I said, I was NOT expecting to react this strongly or be this sucked into a fantasy world, but Maas’ writing is so intricate and detailed and consuming that I couldn’t stop myself from being overtaken. And more than that, I am completely overwhelmed by the story – it delivered every possible emotion; I felt horror and fear and anxiety and joy and love; it was romantic and funny and suspenseful and terrifying. It was everything, absolutely EVERYTHING that literature and fiction should be because it effortlessly transported me to another world. I was so enveloped in Feyre’s world that I almost forgot where I was at times, that I was able to ignore my real-life anxieties and obligations and go on a wonderful and awesome adventure. This, this, is what reading is all about!

Alright, let me try to properly articulate what I loved about A Court of Thorns and Roses… Everything!!! No, focus, be more detailed than that…

~ I loved the world, the setting. This surprised me more than anything. As I mentioned, I’m not one for all that fantasy stuff, and although I don’t mind reading about a fairy every now and then, I can’t say that I crave entering mythical or magical lands all that often. Having said that, Maas creates a world that is recognizable and relatable, but tinged with just enough magic to make it intriguing. Fantasy truly is the perfect word for it because I felt like Prythian was the ideal place to live, full of human comforts and familiarity, but also laced with wonders and immense beauty. I totally felt like I was living there because Maas’ descriptions were so breathtaking, and to be frank, I’d like to head back there right now.

~ I loved Feyre. I’ve heard criticism of her, and I’ll admit that I was SUPER annoyed when she couldn’t figure out the simplest riddle in all of existence, but she kick assed and I loved it! She is a strong, defiant and utterly brave female character, and she is about a million times more resourceful and resilient than her male counterparts. This is the type of female character that we need in this day and age, and when things got ridiculously intense at the end of the novel, I was on Feyre’s side every step of the way. I think she made all the right decisions, and I was in awe of her heart and her passion. I like to think that I’m similar to her in many ways, in my loyalty above all things, and she really did inspire me to stand tall and walk with my chin held high under all circumstances. Go Feyre!

~ I loved Rhysand. This is probably shameful, but this is where I’m at by the end of this epic novel. I don’t understand Rhysand, I have no real idea what he’s up to or what’s going on, but I like him. He’s mysterious and I just know that he’s misunderstood and has a kind heart way underneath his pale skin, and I’m sorry, but any time I sense even a bit of Mr. Rochester in a male character, I’m going to fall for him. It’s complicated, definitely, but I feel like something good is happening between him and Feyre, so I’m just going to go with it. He was there for her when it counted, when no one else was, and for that, I give him points. And, also, this scene…I mean, come on, I didn’t stand a chance…

“The pain shot through my bones again, and through my increasing hysteria, I heard words inside my head that stopped me short.

Don’t let her see you cry.

Put your hands at your sides and stand up.

I couldn’t. I couldn’t move.

Stand. Don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing you break.

My knees and spine, not entirely of my own will, forced me upright, and when the ground at last stopped moving, I looked at Amarantha with tearless eyes.

Good, Rhysand told me. Stare her down. No tears – wait until you’re back in your cell.

….Good girl. Now walk away. Turn on your heel – good. Walk toward the door. Keep your chin high. Let the crowd part. One step after another.

I listened to him, let him keep me tethered to sanity…”

~ I wanted to love Tamlin. I think I was supposed to love him, but in typical Victorian heroine fashion, I let a more interesting male character distract me. Tamlin was bland, if I’m honest, and he didn’t really do much of anything. Even his “romantic” interactions with Feyre weren’t all that spicy or intoxicating. However, I understand that it was important for him to be the likable good guy in order for Feyre’s willingness to die for him to be believable. If anything, though, I saw him as more of a plot device to get Feyre Under the Mountain, and that was just fine – but, the fact is, I’m not enamoured with him and I’m more interested in Feyre’s personal journey in the coming books than with her relationship with him.

~ I loved this entire reading experience. I can’t emphasize enough that A Court of Thorns and Roses delivers exactly what every reader should want: a true escape. I was whisked away to an entirely different realm and I was absorbed for every single second of my journey. The final third of the novel is full of such suspense and agony and uncertainty that I was actually shaken and left totally unnerved. I found it hard to concentrate on anything else, or even to sleep, because I kept dwelling on Feyre’s dilemma – it was that intense.

This reading experience was passionate for me, all encompassing and profound, and I am so glad that I decided to buy the second and third installment of the series this past weekend so I can dive back into the story right away. There must’ve been flaws with this novel, I’m sure there were, but I can’t even think about them because I’m too overjoyed and excited about how intricate the story was and how many new friends I’ve made in its pages. This reading experience was simply breathtaking, and I would highly recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses to any reader that wants to get away for awhile and be consumed by a world both different from and yet satisfyingly similar to our own.

On to the next novel – but seriously, I’m cracking open its spine tonight!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Reluctantly Charmed – #JNGReads

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill is a pleasant, charming read, and was the last book I needed to finish to complete my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. In hindsight, I set my goal pretty low, planning to read only 18 books in 2017, and the fact that I accomplished my goal within the first four months of the year is testament to the fact that most of the books I’ve read recently have been light, fun and airy. Reluctantly Charmed, in that way, was a very fitting end to my Reading Challenge, because it is quite possibly one of the airiest novels I’ve ever read. Now, I don’t mean that as a criticism whatsoever – it is true that O’Neill’s story is quite simplistic and is written in a straight forward and uncomplicated style, but if you are a fan of chick lit. with a unique twist, then this would absolutely be the book for you. Although it isn’t jam-packed with twists and turns and complex plotlines, it is the quintessential garden read, the perfect book to read in a park, under a tall, full tree, with an iced tea in hand.

I thoroughly enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed and I probably would’ve given it a 4-star rating, until I reached the last 100 pages. At that point in the novel, about 3 quarters of the way through when the main conflict was being revealed, my interest started to wane and I became a bit bored with the story and the characters, a touch restless and ready to be done with it. Prior to that point though, I found the story to be lovely and the adjective I used before, charming, is probably the best way to sum up the entire novel. Set in Ireland and heavily drenched in folklore and fairy culture, Reluctantly Charmed really did a perfect job of creating a distinct ambiance and feeling. It was so clearly set in Ireland, and you could feel that in every page because of how the characters spoke and the descriptions of the environment and the references to magic and fairy stories. The Irish setting was subtle though, and it was never overpowering to read descriptions of the country or its people – I do have to say that my favourite part of the novel was how clearly and powerfully Irish culture figured in all of it.

I also enjoyed reading from Kate McDaid’s perspective, and I found her to be an endearing character. However, I found that her clear narrative voice did become a touch diluted in those last 100 pages of the novel, and perhaps that is because this marked the point when Kate began to believe in the fairies. It sort of felt as though Kate got to the conclusion of believing in The Seven Steps her ancestor left to her and acknowledging her connection to the fairies in Ireland without doing any real soul searching or without any internal observation or reflection. All of a sudden, Kate remembered her fairy friend from her childhood and she accepted that her ancestor was in fact a witch, but this all happened almost as soon as she set foot in the rural town of Knocknamee, almost as if leaving Dublin caused her to open herself up to magical possibilities. That is all well and good and actually makes a lot of sense considering that Knocknamee is the site of the fairies in The Seven Steps Kate publishes, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more internal monologue from Kate actually marking her change in feelings toward the magic around her. Overall though, I enjoyed reading from Kate’s perspective and she was a fun character to follow.

What bothered me about the last 100 pages of the novel, I suppose, is the fact that Kate’s voice and the overall storytelling style started to become a bit too mundane. In the rest of the novel, Kate has such a witty, comical personality and when she narrates, this personality really shines through. I found that, as soon as Kate made it to Knocknamee, her narration was less engaging and enjoyable to read, and even her romance with Hugh seemed to be watered down and less exciting than it was when Kate was at her office in Dublin. I think maybe O’Neill intended for Kate’s narrative style to change slightly toward the end of the novel because she is becoming tired and her journey is slowly starting to take some of her strength away from her, but again I think some introspection on Kate’s part would’ve clarified that and made the reader empathize with her a touch more. I also found the ultimate resolution with The Seven Steps to be a bit frustrating, because I desperately wanted the fairies to be good and innocent, for Kate’s sake. I was enchanted throughout the novel by the idea of fairies inhabiting Ireland, and to give them a sinister, evil edge at the very end of the story sort of felt dishonest to me. In a way, I was rooting for Kate to believe in the fairies all along, particularly when she was reluctant (which was for most of the novel, as the title suggests), and to see her finally believe and begin to embrace her history and connection to the fairies only to then have her almost punished for that trust seemed like a huge let-down. For that reason, I had to reduce my rating of the book because it just left me disheartened, especially compared to how cute and fun the story was in the beginning.

Ultimately, I would recommend Reluctantly Charmed as a quick and easy spring or summertime read. It was nice and not at all stressful to get swept up in, and I think that many younger adults would probably really enjoy the magical realism elements and the quirkiness of the narrator.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Tale as Old as Time – #JNGWatches

“It’s my favourite part because, you’ll see,

here’s where she meets Prince Charming

~ but she won’t discover that it’s him ‘til chapter three.”

~ Belle

If you’re a longtime follower of this little blog, you already know how fond I am of stories, how invested and engrossed I get in the tales of fictional characters.  I’ve raved about Jane Eyre and her dashing Mr. Rochester, I’ve gushed over the more modern romance between Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire, and I’ve even obsessed over a piece of chick lit. every once and a awhile as well.  I am the type of person who wears my literature loving heart on my sleeve (in all its green glory), and I’ve ranted about other forms of pop culture as well, such as my adoration for musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and plays like Angels in America.  And, I’ve mentioned on countless occasions, that one particular film, from the earliest days of my childhood, touched me on a profound level when I was only a little girl.

~ Beauty and the Beast ~

Arguably Disney’s greatest movie.  It officially came out in November 1991, the very month and year I was born, and so there’s no denying that Belle and I were born around the same time, and may in fact (at least in my mind) be one and the same person.  Now, naturally, I’m somewhat delusional when it comes to fiction, making it such a huge driving force in my life, allowing it to inform many of my decisions over the years, like the courses I studied in university, and the friends I’ve chosen to surround myself with, and the man I’ve decided to marry.  But no piece of fiction has been with me as long as Beauty and the Beast, and I feel strongly that it is responsible for many of the aspects of my personality that I hold so dear.  There’s no doubt that the movies and books we encounter as young children have the ability to shape our thoughts and mold our future, and I was such a young girl when I first watched Belle’s story.  Is it any wonder, then, that I went on to develop a passion for the French language and for novels and the written word?  Growing up in a small town just east of Toronto was also significant, because I identified on so many levels with Belle’s desire to escape her “provincial life”, the “little town” in which she was born and raised.  Is it any wonder, then, that I chose to go off to the big city, to downtown Toronto, for university, and that I have decided to make this very city the home of my adulthood?  Belle, although to many people no more than a cartoon princess, was my soul mate as a child, my role model, and so very much of who I have become is owed to her.

So, imagine my jealousy when I heard that Beauty and the Beast was being remade, as a live action film, and that Emma Watson was taking my rightful role of Belle.  I’m kidding, of course – I was unbearably excited as soon as I learned that my beloved B&B was getting an update, and although I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of the casting, I was eager to give the film the chance it deserved.  I went in with an open-mind (which was surprising to everyone who knows my intense love for the original), and I immediately bought my tickets to see the movie this past Saturday, the day after opening night.

Well, as much as I would’ve loved to be able to critique something about the film and maybe present a bit of a more dignified review, I can’t – the film was nothing short of PERFECT!  I was in tears several times throughout the movie, and every tiny detail of it took my breath away.  This is going to be another rave-y post because I can’t gush about this movie enough.  I was tempted to pay for another ticket and watch it from the beginning again within minutes of it finishing, and if it wasn’t sold out, I probably would have.

I saw the movie with my fiancé, mother and father, all of whom are consciously aware of just how important this story is to me.  The most surprising thing is that all three of them absolutely loved the movie too!  I was expecting my mom to adore it because she has always been just as obsessed with the original as I am, but I was not anticipating just how excited my dad and SS would be about it.  They’re both eager to see the movie again and SS was singing lines from the various songs throughout the rest of the weekend.  He makes a pretty convincing Gaston, I must say!

The movie is touching – that is probably the best word to describe it.  So much of it just took my breath away, from the incredible and jaw-dropping sets to the gorgeous costumes.  I was extremely skeptical about the CGI and hoping that the Beast wouldn’t look too cartoon-y and ridiculous, and in the end I was so impressed with how realistic he looked.  His facial expressions were exact and I had no problem believing that he was actually real.  And of course, my favourite enchanted objects looked exquisite, as usual, and I was quite fond of the reboot and makeover they each got.

The music was just as incredible as in the original, and I was blown away by the musical numbers, particularly the performance of the song “Gaston”.  Was I expecting Luke Evans to be able to sing?  No.  Was I thoroughly impressed with him, on all accounts, but particularly during his  musical number?  Absolutely!  Luke Evans was by far the breakout star of the entire movie for me (probably because I have always had a soft spot for the villain!), and his dancing and singing was absolutely perfect!  This specific scene was easily the most fun of the entire movie, and Evans oozed this confidence that was exactly what the role needed.  He was my favourite part of the whole movie, no question!

From the time my mom and I met Gaston at Disney World!

Credit must be given to the other superb actors though.  Ewan McGregor was hilarious as Lumière, and he performed “Be Our Guest” flawlessly.  Ian McKellan was the dream Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson was the quintessential Mrs. Potts – she also performed the title song with grace and skill.  Emma Watson was, I must admit, a pretty great Belle, and while that character is very dear to me and it is hard for me to say this, I think she was very well cast and did a good job channeling Belle’s goodness and charm.

“How do you feel about growing a beard?” ~ Belle to Prince Adam

(Easily the most adorable and funny line of the whole film, and definitely my favourite!)

The greatest surprise for me, though, was Dan Stevens as the Beast.  I haven’t seen Stevens in any other roles (although SS tells me he’s remarkable in the TV show Legion) and so I had no expectations of him – but, he truly blew me away!  One of the many minor additions to the original is a solo song for the Beast called “Evermore”, which I found so endearing and moving.  Stevens brilliantly acted it and his singing was just great, and I found that particular scene to be so essential to the story because it really added a human quality to the Beast’s character.  There was no doubt, after that scene, that he had truly become a prince on the inside, where it counts.

“I am not a beast.” ~ Adam (aka the Beast)

I’d also like to briefly touch on the controversy surrounding some aspects of the film.  There’s no need to go into too much detail because I don’t want to bring any negativity to this review or give any credibility to this criticism, and I honestly haven’t read too much up on it because the headlines alone frustrated me.  Anyone who’s being critical of the fact that the film does include references to homosexuality is being totally ridiculous, in my opinion.  The film is beautiful, it stays true to its strong message of loving people for who they are on the inside, and it presents powerful role models to young children, particularly young girls.  By including some subtle references to homosexuality, I feel that the filmmakers only made the story more inclusive and more representative of our society, and I think that is simply wonderful!  There is at least one character in this film that everyone can attach to and be inspired by, and I think that is exactly how Disney stories need to be updated and brought into the 21st century.  For anyone who criticizes the film for these sorts of things, I would encourage them to actually see it with an open mind and an open heart, because they may actually learn a thing or two about love and kindness.

Beauty and the Beast deserves 5-stars, if you ask me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!  There is something for literally everyone to enjoy and I am so happy to say that it did the original so very proud!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Thousand Pieces of You

I’ve finished reading my most recent foray into the Young Adult genre, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray.

Let me start by saying what so many other readers have said before… The cover of this novel is gorgeous! The artistic, almost watercolour depiction of 2 cities merged is truly unique and mesmerizing. It is what drew me to the book originally and even several of my colleagues commented on how beautiful it was.

A Thousand Pieces of You

But, there is that age-old adage, Don’t judge a book by its cover, and unfortunately, I think it is true of A Thousand Pieces of You. The novel wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t as totally intriguing and creative as the cover would suggest; it was an interesting and different storyline, but it still felt distinctly juvenile and that is a real shame to me.

The premise of the novel was very cool: Marguerite, the daughter of two brilliant scientists, travels between multiple dimensions, trying to catch her father’s murderer. Along the way, she gets to live some really different lives, some futuristic and others more rustic. She’s even a member of royalty in one. The cornerstone of any YA novel, a love triangle, is present, and Marguerite does get to develop a fascinating, multi-layered relationship with her parents’ student Paul. This all makes for a fun ride, and one that I did finish rather quickly because I found the writing style easy to get through and enjoyable.

However, there were moments when I felt that this novel was almost insulting to the reader’s intelligence a little. YA novels are often criticized for being simplistic, and I do NOT believe that is true or fair at all; I have read some brilliant and very powerful YA novels that really touched me. I do feel, though, that any time a book dabbles in science fiction, it can be tricky. There are just too many plotholes that can emerge and too many variables that are open to being left unexplained. That would be my one main criticism of A Thousand Pieces of You: it didn’t explain the science behind interdimensional travel thoroughly enough. Details about how it all happens logistically, why some memories linger and others don’t, were glossed over too quickly. For example, it didn’t make sense to me that when Marguerite awoke in Russia, she would be fluent in Russian; does a person’s knowledge of language remain in their original body even if their memories are overtaken by a different version of them? Furthermore, Paul and his fellow student Theo were able to too easily understand the science of very advanced dimensions, such as one where everyone lived underwater, almost as if they retained memories from the versions of themselves that lived in that dimension. But at the same time, some geographical knowledge and all memories were still missing for them. It also didn’t make sense to me that Marguerite could do a bunch of water-related scientific calculations seemingly at random, while simultaneously admitting that nothing about this new dimension was consciously familiar to her. I want to believe that all will be explained in the future novels in this series, and I do hope for that.

The novel did also end on a cliffhanger, with absolutely none of the major conflicts specific to this story resolved (such as whether or not Marguerite will confront Wyatt Conley). Again, I’m assuming this will be investigated in future novels.

Having said all that, I did enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You. It was a fun summer read and a perfect respite from the heavier literature (an Austen and an Atwood novel) I just finished. And there were some romantic moments which were lovely for the warmer summer days. I’ll leave you with one of my favourites…

“I meant it when I said I didn’t believe in love at first sight. It takes time to really, truly fall for someone. Yet I believe in a MOMENT. A moment when you glimpse the truth within you. In that moment, you don’t belong to yourself any long, not completely. Part of you belongs to him; part of him belongs to you. After that, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you try.”

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Green Dwarf – A Study of Young Charlotte, Part IV

The Green Dwarf

The End.

I have now finished reading every work by Charlotte Brontë that I can get my hands on. Her novels have been my old companions for years, her poetry took me no time to delve into at all, and now I have come to the end of my study of her juvenilia, the short stories and novellas she wrote in her teenage years. I’ve recently written detailed reviews of The Secret, The Spell and The Foundling, and today I’ll be documenting my thoughts on The Green Dwarf, written down as I was in the process of reading.

I have to say, I had higher hopes for The Green Dwarf, probably because it’s green. I really hoped that it would be my favourite of the four juvenile works I own, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. I found that there were too many loose threads, too many moments of seemingly random narration that I couldn’t make sense of. The plot jumps around a lot, and although everything is pretty clearly connected at the end, the process of reading isn’t all that smooth because of the various stories that don’t seem totally related initially.

But, let’s not forget that this is a novella by Charlotte Brontë, and so I loved it even if it wasn’t my absolute favourite. The style is so totally Charlotte that I enjoyed the cadence of the sentences, and I appreciate that Charlotte puts such intricate detail into each of her characters. The novella tries to accomplish a lot, and it delivers a few surprises in the end, so overall, I did enjoy it. I just preferred her other novellas and stories to this one.

Here are my notes, written while reading The Green Dwarf:

  • Charles Wellesley is this story’s narrator too (along with The Spell) = he has been sick and this explains why he has not written in awhile = mirrors CB’s life because she was away at Roe Head School.
  • a random and slow start = what does Charles’ day have to do with the story the synopsis describes?
  • reference to feud between Charles and Captain Tree (narrator of The Foundling) = CB writes as two enemies, depending on her mood I suppose.
  • Marquis of Douro (Arthur, Charles’ brother = also Zamorna) is featured! = antipathy between the two brothers.
  • “Of course, Bud, according to the universal fashion of storytellers, refused at first…” = Wellesley is planning to tell story told to him by Bud, not “in the original form of words…but strictly preserving the sense and facts.” = some artistic license to the narrator.
  • conversation between Bud and Gifford is so random! I have no idea what it has to do with the story in the synopsis!
  • Lady Emily Charlesworth has enormous potential and mental faculties BUT, as a woman, she is doomed to be married and focus on pretty, feminine accomplishments. “…that’s the way of all women. They think of nothing but being married, while learning is as dust in the balance.”
  • anecdote about Napoleon is VERY random and out of place! So far, the structure and trajectory of this story confuses me immensely!
  • Lady Emily = “Her form was exquisitely elegant, though not above the middle size…” = another small but beautiful woman.
  • episode of boy selling his soul to the devil is very random (if that’s even what’s happening) and seems unnecessary = lots of moments in the story do not “fit” together!
  • Lady Emily’s lineage is confusing and inconsistent = is Lord Charlesworth her only relative or is Bravey her uncle, as CB indicates in the passage about the African Olympic Games?!
  • S’death visiting Colonel Percy = another random, loose thread to the story.
  • “Rogue – Percy, I mean…” = another narrator reveals a character’s true identity = is Colonel Percy none other than Alexander Rogue (Marquis of Douro/Zamorna’s enemy from The Foundling)?
  • detailing of history of Ashantee tribes and prince Quashie is evidence of Charlotte’s admirable commitment to creating vast backgrounds for each of her characters – and keeping them all straight! However, this divergence from the main plot seems very random and it is hard to tell where in chronology it belongs!
  • “It may now be as well to connect the broken thread of my rambling narrative before I proceed further.”
  • details of Duke of Wellington’s war with Ashantees seem so out of place in this “love story” = they could form a different work altogether!
  • the threads tie up rather conveniently and too quickly…BUT then CB has some surprises in store! [SPOILERS!] = Colonel Percy is in fact Zamorna’s enemy Alexander Rogue! = and Andrew (main character’s servant, the green dwarf) is Captain Tree (Charles Wellesley’s enemy and the narrator of The Foundling).

To sum up my thoughts on the story, I have to say that the surprises at the end were worth the journey. It’s a small text, amounting to just over 100 pages, and so it is definitely a fun and light ride that reveals much of Charlotte’s experimentation and growth as a writer.

My final comment on Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia will be to rank the stories in order of my preference…

4) The Green Dwarf

3) The Foundling

2) The Secret

1) The Spell

I would definitely recommend any and all of these texts to true fans of Miss Brontë! It is fascinating to get into the mind of the young Charlotte, and it develops an intimacy between the reader and this formidable Victorian author that is valuable beyond words.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Foundling – A Study of Young Charlotte, Part III

The Foundling

I’m on to my third study of the literary works of the young Charlotte Brontë, and it’s a testament to how intriguing and unique her tales are that I have been able to get through them so quickly. In less than three weeks’ time, I’ve been able to plow through The Secret, The Spell and now The Foundling – that might seem like a typical feat for an avid reader, but considering that I do work full-time, it’s hard to find time to sit down and read unless I’m truly motivated. If I don’t like the book I’m reading, it’s really unfortunate because I will struggle to convince myself to pick it up during my lunch break or on the bus ride home. But, with Charlotte’s works, there has been no hesitation; all I want is to know what will happen next, and because each of her stories contains layers of mystery and confusion, I’m eager to get to the conclusion and sort everything out.

The Foundling was no different from The Secret and The Spell in that regard: I needed to figure out what was happening, I needed to untangle the various threads Charlotte set up, and I needed to do it quickly, apparently. It took me two days to finish this novella, and if I add up the amount of time I spent actually reading in those two days, it probably amounted to about four hours in total. Not too shabby! This novella is shorter than both The Secret and The Spell, but the pace is quite a bit slower, so it shouldn’t be taken for granted that I got through it so fast – I was genuinely interested in what would happen to the characters (even if they weren’t my absolute favourite of Charlotte’s cast) and I was expecting a surprise or shock at every turn.

Here are my thoughts on The Foundling, written chronologically as I read:

  • as with Jane Eyre, CB’s narrator (Captain Tree) claims to be documenting a true story (“plain relation of facts”); again, the narrator is critical of his own work = “I am sensible that my tale is totally devoid of interest…”
  • here we finally learn that Verdopolis is a new English colony, founded in Africa.
  • First Impressions: Edward Sydney (22 years old) lacks the fire, depth and personality of Zamorna as a hero.
  • Douro (aka Arthur Wellesley, aka Zamorna) is featured here as well, although his circumstances are different = but is his personality?
  • “He was almost tempted to think himself in the hands of magicians or genii, who, he had heard, yet retained influence over the inhabitants of Africa.” = magic and fantasy is a fixture of CB’s imaginary kingdom. “‘Surely…the stories of enchantment are not all false…’”
  • Finic(k) is also featured (from The Spell) (Douro’s servant).
  • details about Douro’s talents and birth are provided; because he is only 19 years old, we are given more insight into his early days.
  • Douro’s wife’s name is Julia…who on Earth is she?!
  • note states that Lady Zenobia Ellrington is Alexander Rogue’s wife = Alexander Rogue is Douro’s enemy and so I wonder if Zenobia loves Douro in this tale as she does in the others?
  • Charles Wellesley (narrator of The Spell) is abhorred, ugly and disliked. “‘that strange ape-like animal.’”
  • CORRECTION: Julia Wellesley is Douro’s cousin; auburn-haired girl is his wife = Marian Hume (of The Secret)?
  • Douro dances with Zenobia = the plot thickens! Okay, so she loves him and did before marrying Rogue = so why did she marry his enemy?
  • Zamorna = “He then took leave with…one of his smiles.” = his charm and intoxicating nature are widely recognized and are something he is famous for.
  • this story is full of poems = CB is exercising and testing her ability in different styles = the poems are very simply constructed, with basic rhyme scheme, and all treat the theme of love = not very risky!
  • at the end, when Rogue’s murder plot against Douro is revealed, things become VERY mystical and fantastical = a secret philosophers’ society in Verdopolis is revealed, and more layers are added to the nation’s history (and mystery).
  • BUT, Rogue is a villain precisely because he has no respect for this society and for the order and hierarchy established in Verdopolis = CB clings to hierarchies (which she will later challenge in Jane Eyre).
  • mystery man (40 years old) who will reveal Sydney’s identity resembles Douro = is it his father, the Duke of Wellington? Zamorna is constantly doubled. “‘Because your accent and manner of speaking are so exactly similar to his that I thought no two persons could own the same mode of utterance.’”

(Sidenote: This text would also have benefited from a List of Characters, like The Spell.)

  • narrator is ill-equipped to articulate some strong emotions of certain characters. “I will not attempt to describe his subsequent anguish. It was far too deep and intense for my feeble pen to venture upon.”
  • moment of Divine Intervention on the part of the Four Genii (Tali, Brani, Emi and Anni).
  • Sydney’s mother = “‘She had that rich dark cast of loveliness, that air of graceful majesty which chiefly belongs to natives of a sunnier clime than that of Britain.” = CB favours foreign, exotic beauty!
  • allusion to Arabian Nights and borrowing of its characters = CB adores exotic stories as well.

Overall, I have to say that The Foundling has been my least favourite of Charlotte’s juvenilia so far. The story seemed less coherent and memorable. There were too many plots and narratives mixed together (Sydney’s origin story, Sydney’s love for Julia, Douro versus Rogue and Montmorency, Douro’s strange relationship with Zenobia). None of these separate threads seem 100% properly fleshed out or treated, and I feel that each element could’ve been taken up in an individual story. However, I do have one more piece of Charlotte’s juvenilia left to tackle (The Green Dwarf), so it is possible that The Foundling will rise in standing after my reading of this last novella. Nevertheless, it feels like a privilege to see inside the young Charlotte’s mind, and so the themes and perspectives presented in The Foundling are valuable to establishing a complete picture of Charlotte’s character and preoccupations.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Pre-Currer – #JNGReads

The Spell is the writer before the writing.” – Nicola Barker in her foreword to Charlotte Brontë’s novella The Spell

If you’ve been keeping up here on the blog, you’ll know that I’m on a roll with my study of Charlotte Brontë’s works and texts inspired by her. I’ve recently reviewed the collection of poetry she published with her sisters Emily and Anne, the new biography of her life by Claire Harman, as well as the first in a collection of stories she wrote in her teenage years, The Secret. I’m not slowing down anytime soon though, and with Charlotte’s 200th birthday less than a week away (WOOO!), I’m still eager to get through the rest of her juvenilia and a very special set of short stories inspired by her most famous novel Jane Eyre before the month of April is through.

With that in mind, I finished a second work in Charlotte’s juvenilia, The Spell, a few days ago, and while I’ve already posted a detailed review of my impressions of the novella (you can read it here), I wanted to delve a bit more closely into the foreword that precedes the text. This foreword was written by Nicola Barker, and I was deeply interested in some of the comments Barker makes about the young Charlotte Brontë and about the act of reading works written by an author before she was famous.

The first quote from Barker’s foreword that was of interest to me is the one cited above. Barker talks a lot about the fact that Charlotte’s early texts were never intended to be published and were conceived long before Charlotte had any realistic plan for becoming a proper writer.

“This is Charlotte Brontë utterly without restraint.”

– Barker’s foreword to The Spell

For this reason, The Spell (and The Secret as well) is unlike any of Charlotte’s published, cultivated classics. What I think Barker means by saying that Charlotte is unrestrained in this text is that the work is less calculated. Charlotte is not writing for general approval, societal esteem or literary success – she is instead writing for her siblings, but more than anything for herself. As someone who has done extensive creative writing since I was in high school, I know for a fact that there is a significant difference between stories a writer creates for themselves and those that a writer intends to share with a broader audience. The stories that a writer assumes no one else will ever see have the liberty to be more experimental, less studied and perfected, more risky and random and fanciful. That is what The Spell is like: it’s a text full of impossible circumstances, muddled narratives, fantastical leaps through time and space, abrupt changes in narrative voice… The list of unusual traits of this small text goes on and on. It is Charlotte Brontë before she ever became Currer Bell, before she ever imagined the story of a plain and obscure governess with a remarkable sense of passion.

But, despite how nonsensical The Spell sometimes is, it is also wonderfully intriguing. Sure, it’s sometimes difficult to follow the threads of a story written for an audience (Charlotte’s brother and sisters) that would know the characters and setting intimately, but, as is expressed in my detailed review of the novella, the story is still fascinating and the fact that it is frustrating only inspires the reader to delve in and unravel its mysteries.

However, having said that, there is something that feels almost treasonous about reading The Spell and Charlotte’s other juvenilia. I truly felt, several times throughout the text, that Charlotte had not intended for me to see it, and it seemed like a kind of betrayal to be reading something so private and personal. Although the story itself doesn’t reveal anything shocking or inappropriate about Charlotte’s character, you can distinctly tell that she is a teenager, that she is growing and learning and feeling a whole bunch of different things. Her depiction of Zamorna is perhaps most notable – I mentioned in my previous review that he is similar to Mr. Rochester in so many ways, and I think that says a lot about Charlotte’s perceptions of men and her ideal male figure. Zamorna and Rochester are Byronic and mysterious and secretive, but oh so intoxicating and overwhelming. But, whereas to read about Rochester seems appropriate because he was carefully crafted by Charlotte as a male character to reveal to and attract the interest of the masses, reading about Zamorna instead feels a little awkward and uncomfortable, as if we are secretly rifling through Charlotte’s diary and gathering information about her crush. Charlotte never had the chance to revisit this text, to choose what the public would and would not see, and so, as someone utterly loyal to her, it seems wrong to “go behind her back” and look at things I’m not supposed to.

It’s impossible to stop once you get started though. A true fan of Charlotte, or any of the Brontës, will know how significant it is to be able to get into the mind of a young Brontë. Living 200 years after Charlotte was born, it’s hard to get a clear picture of what her life must’ve been like, and these texts from her younger years offer a snapshot of how Charlotte spent most of her days. So whether it is a betrayal or not, I believe that the opportunity to read a young Charlotte’s works is too important to pass up.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Spell – A Study of Young Charlotte, Part II

The Spell

On to the second part of my study of the young Charlotte Brontë – I’m really on a roll with this, aren’t I? 😉

This past week, I managed to finish another work in the collection of Charlotte’s juvenilia. This text, entitled The Spell, is different from The Secret in that it is a short novella, and so only one complete story is portrayed. While I do usually prefer longer stories because of their depth and complexity, as well as the potential for character and plot development, there were times throughout The Spell when I wished I could enter a different world just for a moment. I felt that I was slower getting through The Spell because it was a longer tale and I had to make sure that I was paying attention and following the threads as closely as possible. However, in The Spell, Charlotte varies her narrative voices periodically and writes as a young boy, a learned doctor and a female aristocrat, so there is a lot of variety in the way the story is told. Whether this makes it more confusing or not is hard to say, but at the end of the story, I was very pleased with it and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the mystery that was presented to me.

Here are my immediate impressions, documented while reading Charlotte Brontë’s The Spell. Keep in mind that these notes are not meant to present spoilers at all; rather they reflect my train of thought/theories and my “detective work” as I attempted to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand!

The Foreword (by Nicola Barker)

“and so you should find it as a friend and treat it just as indulgently and just as fondly.”

“This is Charlotte Brontë utterly without restraint.”

The Spell is the writer before the writing.”

(*many of these quotes will be analyzed in my second blog post of this weekend, coming soon…)

The Tale Itself…

  • same BELOVED characters of The Secret, but again, in different forms and circumstances (ex. Arthur Augustus Adrian Wellesley = Duke Zamorna; Marian Hume = Florence Marian Wellesley).  Lily Hart is even featured!
  • CB must’ve painstakingly kept track of the history, lineage and connections of each of her creations.

The Preface

  • book is not explicit, but the reader must use it to piece together aspects of Zamorna’s identity/personality = Is he insane or not?
  • quite like Rochester in that he broods, walks in the wilderness alone, contains and hides his emotions. “‘He is far too faithful to love her the less for any slight failure in that beauty which he once thought matchless.’” = Zamorna seems like an exacting and grave husband.
  • child’s funeral = it is rather difficult to keep track of each personage = CB had a vast knowledge of her characters and their relationships.
  • “‘You must be aware of the elf’s disposition!’” = supernatural = narrator has some sort of power.
  • impossible to tell how old the narrator is = he is treated like a child, BUT speaks and narrates as an adult = clearly not fleshed out by CB yet.
  • letter from Duchess of Zamorna (Duke’s second wife = married for 6 months) to her grandmother = so randomly placed (a tad jarring)! When in chronology is this exactly? Zamorna seems more Byronic (“so cold, so strange, so silent”) than ever! The Duchess idolizes Zamorna as a writer (celebrity) and a man.
  • Did Marian (Zamorna’s first wife) know of Zamorna’s lust/love for Mary (second wife)?
  • A mystery = the reader is a detective with clues = compelled to solve this situation.
  • Mary = “it has been my constant study, the business of my life, to watch the unfolding of his strange character.”
  • How many children does Zamorna have? The plot thickens!
  • Mina Laury’s speech to Mary is SO powerful, but Mary holds her own and is powerful right back = STRONG WOMEN!

ZAMORNA

            (1) Marian Hume (deceased)

                        (male child) Marquis Almeida (deceased)

(2) Mina Laury (nurse) (affair)

(3) Mary Percy (current Duchess Zamorna)

(4) Emily Inez (of Castle Orsonay)

(male child) Ernest Fitz-Arthur

(female child) Emily

                        Therefore, the Duke has 4 women in his life…maybe…?!?!

  • Zamorna is truly intoxicating = he is cruel and secretive and disloyal, but something about him draws the reader in!
  • perspective of Dr. Alford (scientific) = a third narrator = CB testing different voices and diction = but voices are not distinct enough yet to say that CB has mastered her craft = 2 male narrators (doctor and Duke’s young brother Charles) have almost the same voice.
  • Zamorna speaks just like Rochester = CB is learning how to write Byronic men.
  • Is Mina magical/a witch and did she heal Zamorna?
  • OR Are there two Zamornas??? He is at home sick and with the Earl of Northangerland at the same time. Is Zamorna a twin???
  • at times, it is impossible to tell who the narrator is, so I just assume it is Charles.
  • Zamorna to Mary = “‘Why did he, I – I mean…’” “‘But I’ll be even with him!’”
  • Mary is onto something = “‘Arthur…I begin to think that you have a double existence.’” “‘There cannot be two Zamornas on this earth; it would not hold them!’”
  • narrator (or perhaps, the writer?) is critical of the story = “Reader, pass to the next chapter, if you are not asleep.”
  • scene where Zamorna reveals Emily Inez as his “wife” is reminiscent of Rochester revealing Bertha to the priest and Jane = recycled scenes.
  • Zamorna’s speeches are over the top and full of many allusions and literary references = a bit heavy-handed at times.

Okay, I cannot go any further with my notes or, as a famous detective once said, the game is up! It’s up to you now to solve the mystery and discover Zamorna’s true secret…pick up a copy of this compelling, intriguing and fascinating novella and fall under Zamorna’s spell for yourself!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart