Posts Tagged ‘american civil war’

This is a sweet little movie from the late 1990s, elevated by two lovely central performances from Campbell Scott (always under-appreciated) and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Scott plays Scott Corrigan, a computer games designer, engaged to be married to Debra (Daphne Ashbrook). When he buys an antique writing desk and discovers a old letter written by a lady named Lizzie Whitcomb during the American Civil War, he jokingly writes a reply. He is stunned to receive a another letter back from Lizzie and realises that the desk must be some kind of portal between their lives, despite being separated by more than 100 years.

Scott tries to find out more about Lizzie and grows increasingly preoccupied with her, while Lizzie has her own issues to contend with, as her parents wish to marry her off to a man for whom she has no feelings. She is more attracted to the man who is somehow sending her letters from the future.

It is clear that Scott and Lizzie are meant to be together, but how can they ever be? Will either of them ever find happiness in their own times?

Now lets be honest – if realism is what you’re after, then you’re not going to find it in this movie. The premise itself is, on paper, ridiculous. However, if you are happy to just go along with it, there’s actually a lot to like here. As mentioned before, the two main actors both do a great job, and it’s a very sweet and inoffensive film. It reminded me quite a lot of the 2006 film The Lake House, which I have always loved, although The Love Letter is a made for TV film and obviously on a fairly low budget. But it’s charming, so if you like romance and don’t mind a bit of time travel, why not give this a try?

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This book tells the history of New York from the 1660s (before it was called New York) through to – almost – the present day. The last chapter is set in 2009.

It mainly follows the fictional Master family through several generations, but other families also appear throughout, with actual real life events as the backdrop. Not always a backdrop actually – the American Civil War and the War of Independence are both huge storylines which affect the main characters greatly.

The novel is over 1000 pages long, but thankfully very readable and not at all dry. If you were interested in learning the history of New York, then this would be an excellent book to read, and by inserting fictional characters who a reader can invest in, it is so much more than just a history lesson. If like me, you just love New York, then I think you would find plenty to enjoy about this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would have liked to have had something about World War II and the Vietnam War in there, but it would be impossible to include everything, and this is very much a history of New York rather than America.

It’s very clear that Edward Rutherfurd has researched his subject extensively and as a result the reader is rewarded with a vibrant and colourful history and love letter to one of the most exciting cities on earth. Highly recommended.

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This is one of the most famous films of all time, and probably needs no introduction!  It is the lavish and ambitious adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s epic, telling the story of the manipulative Scarlett O’Hara and the roguish Rhett Butler, during and after the war.

Some adaptations are disastrous, but I felt that this certainly did the novel justice; having recently read the book I wanted to see the film while the story was fresh in my mind.  There are some slight changes (for instance Scarlett’s first two children Wade and Ella are not in the film at all), but overall the film remains faithful to the original story.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are perfect in the two main roles (maybe I think this because they are forever associated with the characters and even when reading the book – having not seen the film at that time – I pictured them as Rhett and Scarlett).  It is certainly difficult to imagine Basil Rathbone – Mitchell’s original choice for the role – as Rhett.  Over 1400 actresses read for the part of Scarlett and 400 of those were given screen tests – but it’s hard to imagine that they could have picked a better actress for the part than Leigh.  However, the best performances in the film came from Hattie McDaniel as Mammy, one of the house servants at Scarlett’s home; and Olivia de Havilland as Ashley’s wife Melanie (McDaniel and Leigh received Oscars for their roles, while de Havilland and Gable were nominated for their parts).

I did lose myself in the movie – it’s very long at almost 4 hours, but it didn’t feel like it – but there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a a movie with a lot of sadness and tragedy – my emotions were certainly put through the wringer!  As when reading the book, I veered from dislike of Scarlett to a begrudging respect for her, and I found myself liking Rhett despite myself – but the real heroine of this story is surely Melanie – who was full of grace, kindness and forgiveness.

The cinematography is lush and vivid, considering that the film was made in 1939 – it simply looks fantastic and certainly immerses the viewer right into the story.

Well worth watching – but you need to put a whole evening aside for it, and it may be as well to keep something cheerful put by for afterwards!

Year of release: 1939

Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), Sam Wood (uncredited)

Writers: Margaret Mitchell (book), Sidney Howard, Oliver H.P. Garrett, Ben Hecht, Jo Swerling, John Van Druten

Main cast: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Leslie Howard


Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the film ‘Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War’.


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Such a famous tale probably needs no introduction, but in brief this book – set in the American South before, during and after the American Civil War, tells the story of headstrong, determined Scarlett O’Hara, the people she loves (and doesn’t), the downfall of the South during the Civil War, and of course, the relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett.

In many ways I absolutely adored this book.  Despite being over 1000 pages long, it never lost it’s pace or excitement, and skilfully wove the story of one woman and the people around her, with the story of a brutal war and the effect it had on the Confederacy.

Scarlett was certainly an interesting heroine, and I found my feelings towards her changing often as I read the book.  In many ways, she is thoroughly dislikeable; she is manipulative, cunning, avaricious and cruel.  But she is also prepared to work hard, shows great determination and has massive reserves of courage.  She is not above lying to people to get what she wants, and even marrying men she doesn’t care for, if there is something in it for her.  But there is one man who she can’t seem to get the better of – the handsome, charming, insolent Rhett Butler, who seems as ruthless and unfeeling as she is.

The story starts in 1961, when Scarlett is the belle of the county with most of the local young men wrapped around her finger – except for Ashley Wilkes, the one man who she really adores. But Ashley is due to marry Melanie, much to Scarlett’s horror.  Over the following ten years, Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melanie live through good times and bad as the war takes hold and causes poverty, heartbreak, unrest and unease.  This is a huge sprawling story, I am reluctant to give away more of the plot for fear of spoiling it for anyone who has yet to read it or see the film (I have never seen the film, but certainly intend to do so).

The characterisation for the main characters is excellent; Scarlett and Melanie in particular are extremely well drawn.  Rhett is also a fully fleshed out character, although he does not appear in the book as much as I expected.  Some of the more peripheral characters were less well depicted, but that didn’t hinder the story in any way.  My favourite character was probably Melanie, for her dear heart and caring nature, but I also had to admit to a grudging respect for Scarlett (even if I could never quite bring myself to like her).

However, there was one huge aspect of the story which did make me feel uncomfortable, and which I feel I have to mention – and that is the issue of slavery, which is a predominant theme throughout the story.  I felt that the author was probably at least partly sympathetic to the idea of slavery, and her own beliefs came through in the story.  The emancipation of slaves is depicted as a bad thing, and the Southerners who kept slaves were uniformly portrayed as kind and generous people.  The slaves who were given their freedom were either shown as layabout criminals, or happy to continue in their former positions.  The Ku Klux Klan features in the book, and even that organisation is shown with some sympathy.  It’s hard not to see some parts of the story as blatantly racist, even if the events described were happening in a different time and culture.  I can’t pretend that these parts did not make me wince.

Overall though, this is a big book, with a huge story contained within its pages.  Don’t be put off by the size – it doesn’t get boring, and I found myself feeling as though I knew the characters.  Certainly I was eager to find out how things would turn out for them.  A recommended read.


Click here for my review of the 1939 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the film ‘Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War’.


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A wife and four daughters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – are left behind when their father follows his calling as an Army Chaplain during the American Civil War.  A formerly affluent family, they have fallen on hard times, but despite this, they find ways to amuse themselves, and always strive to be better people.  They take their lonely neighbour Laurie under their wing, and he becomes practically another member of the family. 

This book was written for young adults, and I first read it as a teenager. However, upon revisiting it now some years later, I think I actually preferred it second time around. Due to the time it was written, some of the values contained within are somewhat outdated, and there are a few religious overtones which will probably be less relevant to most readers today, but despite this, it remains an endearing and thoroughly enjoyable book. 

I grew to care about all of the characters.  Each of the four girls is distinctive from the others and each of their personalities shine through.  Eldest daughter Meg is the elegant young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman, second daughter  Jo is a quick witted tomboy who cares little for fashion and decorum, third daughter Beth is gentle and thoughtful, always thinking of others, and the youngest child Amy is sometimes selfish and vain, but very caring and funny. Laurie is also a terrific character, by turns insolent and mischievous.  

Although the book is written in the third person, I felt that the character whose point of view was most closely shown was Jo.  This is unsurprising, as Jo was apparently based on the author herself.  Indeed, Jo seemed somewhat ahead of her time, with her passion for writing, and her desire to stand on her own two feet.

There is comedy and tragedy in this book, and while one chapter would have me smiling, I actually found myself crying at another chapter.

Some books are called classics with good reason – this is one of them.  Highly recommended.

(Note: The next book in the series about the March family is called Good Wives, and is often called volume 2 of Little Women.  This review relates only to Little Women, i.e. volume 1 of the story.)

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