Posts Tagged ‘society’


This was another audiobook (I’ve REALLY been getting into audiobooks this year), and it was narrated by Vanessa Coffey, who I thought did an excellent job. Admittedly, as this is non-fiction, she didn’t have to tackle different characters etc., but she kept it interesting especially during the parts where she was discussing statistics etc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by Jill Stark, a health reporter originally from Scotland but who has lived in Australia for many years. After one too many hangovers, on New Years Day 2011, Jill decided to give up alcohol for three months – this eventually turned into a whole year – and this is the story of how it was for her.

As well as the physical effects of not drinking, Jill concentrates a lot on the social effects – how for example her friends found it awkward to be around her, and stopped inviting her out on certain nights when they themselves planned on getting drunk. She was told that it wasn’t the Australian way not to drink, and people couldn’t understand why she would want to do it. Occasions when alcohol is not only normal but actually expected – birthdays, weddings, football season and first dates etc. are all navigated in due course.

A large part of the book discusses statistics surrounding binge drinking; how it is encouraged by the alcohol industry, however subtly, and the effects that it is having on families and society in general. Some of the statistics are frankly quite scary, and paint a picture almost of a timebomb waiting to explode.

To clarify – Jill Stark is not an evangelistic teetotaller – she understands the attraction of alcohol and has no desire to stop others drinking; indeed she hopes that after her sober year, she will be able to indulge in alcohol in moderation herself. However, she does have genuine concerns about the rise in binge drinking and the long term effects of this behaviour.

Overall, I found this a fascinating listen – my only niggle is that it is occasionally very statistic heavy. Nonetheless, it gave me a lot to think about, and there is no doubt that Jill Stark is an engaging and entertaining writer.

If you have any interest in the subject, I would definitely recommend this book.

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This mini-series adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel was a huge hit, and made a star out of Colin Firth, who played Mr Darcy.  It is a faithful retelling of the book, with Jennifer Ehle playing the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet to perfection (some viewers said that she looked too old for the role, and admittedly I did think that for the first episode, but after that I realised how wonderfully she inhabited the character of Lizzie, and enjoyed watching both her and Firth.  I actually thought initially that a few of the actors – mainly those playing Lizzie, Jane and Lydia – were slightly too old, but by the end of the first segment, I had no such misgivings).

The series does an excellent job of portraying the pride and prejudice of the title (traits which are in no way restricted to the two main parts).  There is a lot of humour throughout, and all of the characters are well drawn.

The rest of the main cast consisted of Crispin Bonham-Carter, who was a great choice to play Bingley, Adrian Lukis, who was the attractive but dastardly Wickham, Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet (one of the most IRRITATING characters ever written!) and Benjamin Whitford as the laid-back – possibly too much so – Mr Bennet.  Lizzie’s sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia were played respectively by Susannah Harker, Lucy Briers, Polly Maberly and Julia Sawalha.  The acting was top notch throughout, and having nearly six hours to tell the story was a real benefit.  (I found this far more enjoyable than the 2005 version, partly because I believe the casting here was so much better, but also because the story in the later film suffers from being squashed into just a couple of hours.)  There was chance for various minor characters to be fleshed out, and for subplots to be explored in depth.

If you are a fan of the book, and are looking for a well acted adaptation, I think you could hardly do better than to start here.  Well worth watching – and rewatching!

Year of release: 1995

Director: Simon Langton

Producers: Michael Wearing, Sue Birtwistle, Julie Scott

Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Adrian Lukis, Julia Sawalha, Alison Steadman, Benjamin Whitrow, David Bamber


Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 2005 film adaptation.


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Ginger Rogers stars as the title character in this 1940 film, for which she won an Oscar.

Kitty is a working class girl from Philadelphia, who falls in love with a Wynn Stratford VI, a young man from an upper class family.  However, his family do not think that Wynn and Kitty should be together – Kitty just isn’t from the same social class as they are, and they believe that she isn’t good enough for their family.  As their story is told through flashback, Kitty has a choice to make about her future.

This is the first serious role I have ever seen Ginger Rogers in, and I was blown away by her acting.  There’s no dancing here, and little comedy, so she is definitely not playing a typical role for her.  I’m not surprised she won the Oscar; people watching this film must have suddenly realised that there was a lot more talent in Ginger Rogers than they had previously thought.

I really liked Kitty as a character – she was feisty, and although she deeply loved Wynn, she could also see the social pressures they would face if they were together.  Wynn himself was brilliant played by Dennis Morgan.  He was a more naive character than Kitty, and couldn’t understand as well as she could, the kind of pressure they would be under (probably because he had never had to face such pressures himself before, being from a rich and privileged family).  Ultimately though, he is a weak character – and in one particular scene, where his family are insulting and patronising to Kitty, I was angry at him for not reacting in a stronger and more supportive way.

James Craig played Dr Mark Eisen, another man who loves Kitty – and who loves her for who she is, not where she comes from, or for what job she does.  But he suspects that her heart belongs to Wynn…

There’s tragedy in this story – grief, heartbreak, loss, helplessness – but there’s strength as well.  Kitty was resourceful and intelligent, while Wynn, nice man that he undoubtedly was – was neither resourceful (because he had never had to be) or really intelligent.  I don’t mean that he was stupid, far from it, but he never had to really think about his future because it was assured for him, and always had been.

I enjoyed this film a lot, and am surprised it isn’t better known.  If you get chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1940

Director: Sam Wood

Writers: Christopher Morley (book), Dalton Trumbo, Donald Ogden Stewart

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, James Craig

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Reta Winters has a nice house, a lovely common-law husband of 26 years, three daughters and a blossoming career as a writer of light fiction.  However, her world has started to fall apart since her eldest daughter Norah started living on the streets, begging in Toronto, wearing a sign around her neck that simply says ‘Goodness’.

Throughout the book, Reta tries to determine what happened in Norah’s life to cause her to drop out of university, finish with her boyfriend, and start begging on streets.  She also talks about her daily life, her struggle to write a sequel to her first novel, her constant worries about Norah’s health and welfare, and her relationships with friends and family.

Unfortunately this book didn’t really work for me.  It was narrated by Reta and she seemed to be a very self-absorbed character, who never stopped pondering life’s questions; nothing wrong with that of course, but she seemed to find questions everywhere, and the narrative seemed to get bogged down in her over analytical thoughts and navel gazing.

Obviously, the reader is seeing Reta at a desperately worrying time in her life, and I felt sympathy for her plight, but she never seemed like a believable character to me.  It also didn’t seem like the reader was given much of a chance to know her other two daughters, and certainly her partner Tom was never really described at all beyond having an interest in trilobites.  Throughout the book, Reta writes letters to people who have offended her – the authors of articles in magazines for instance.  These letters were all about Reta’s anger at women in general being ignored by men in society.  It seemed somewhat ironic that the male in Reta’s family was largely ignored as a character in the story.

It isn’t all bad – I was eager to find out what specific event, if any, had caused Norah to effectively give up on society, and there was a lovely scene near the end involving Reta’s annoying, pushy new editor.  The writing was usually very elegant, and this is a book that has had lots of very positive reviews.  I could appreciate the writing, even if I didn’t really always enjoy it.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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