Far From The Madding Crowd

03/30/2011 at 8:06 AM (Books, Classics, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , )

This is a story about one so-called independent woman Bathsheba Everdene (who seems incredibly dependent if you think about it), her three male admirers and her propensity for poor judgement. When we first meet her, she is a beautiful but high-spirited young woman with no fortune to her name. To top it all, she saves the life of Gabriel Oak when he falls asleep in his hut and almost dies of smoke inhalation. When Gabriel asks her to reveal her name, she challenges him to find it out for himself. Upon learning her name, he visits her aunt to ask if he can court Bathsheba but is informed she has many lovers. This woman then runs after him to declare her aunt lied about her. Suddenly the conversation takes a turn to discuss a marital union between them because Gabriel assumes she must be interested but she assures him that she does not love him. He, the silly fool, spends the rest of his life devoted to her while she indulges in all manner of follies.

Gabriel Oak happens to be a poor shepherd who loses his farm after an accident befalls all of his sheep due because of a rookie dog that misdirects them to fall off a cliff. Once this happens, he seeks new employment in the town of Weatherbury. It is not going too well for him until one day he helps fend off fire from a farmhouse. It turns out Bathsheba is the mistress as she inherited it from a deceased uncle. She offers him work as a shepherd.

Meanwhile she sends off a Valentine with the words Marry Me to neighbor Farmer Boldwood as a joke. The duped farmer takes this jest seriously and he becomes a relentless and persistent suitor much to her annoyance. He is also refused the offer of marriage he makes to Bathsheba because she does not love him. But he does get her to say she will reconsider her refusal.

On that night, she meets the third and most despicable of her three admirers. He is a handsome soldier known as Sergeant Troy. What Bathsheba does not know is that he impregnated a local servant girl called Fanny Robinson who had gone missing. She embraces his suggestion of marriage.

When Fanny returns, Troy arranges a time to meet her; he loves Fanny. Bathsheba comes to realise she has made terrible decisions. Fanny, overworked and exhausted, dies in childbirth on her way to meet Troy. Embarrassed and ashamed by his actions, Troy fakes a suicide and joins a performing circus.

Meanwhile Farmer Boldwood makes the best of his adversary’s ‘death’ by resuming his courtship. His repeated persistence secures him a result when he gets Bathsheba to promise she will marry him in six years if her missing husband does not return. Unfortunately, Troy chooses that night to reappear after hearing she is prospering. Enraged by his intrusion, poor Boldwood has his revenge by shooting Troy. This leads to a jail sentence for the misused farmer for whom you can’t help but feel sorry.

Finally there is an opportunity for hard-working and faithful Gabriel who has become a flourishing bailiff to reunite with Bathsheba and his devotion to her is rewarded when she finally says yes.

For a male, Thomas Hardy, the author of this work  is very intuitive about how the female mind works. It’s a shame he did not dabble in relationship counselling. I believe he would have done very well.  Even if Gabriel finds happiness with this undeserving trollop of a woman, it is a bit of a sting  she rejected him when he lacked any money and accepted him when he had it.

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Campaign Ruby

03/24/2011 at 1:02 AM (Books, Politics, Romance) (, , , , )

My recent fling with chick lit has made me succumb to more of it. In this case, it was Campaign Ruby written by Jessica Rudd, the daughter of the ex PM of Australia.

It starts out with the protagonist Ruby getting fired from her job as an investment banker in London. Used to being financially well off, she is devastated when her Louboutins – towering high-heeled pumps with signature red soles –  arrive on that very day and she is forced to return them. Snubbed by the email sent by the HR staff, she creates a cutting reply and without thinking of the consequences hits send. By the next day her email has gone viral even to the extent of The Financial Times. To drown her sorrows, she indulges in a case of Australian Pinot Noir. On waking up the next day, she realises in a drunken stupor she has booked a flight to Melbourne departing on that night.

Campaign Ruby Book Cover

With the assistance of her efficient sister, Fran, Ruby is sent to stay with her lesbian aunt in the Yarra Valley. Although she gets off on the wrong foot with Debs, her aunt’s partner who happens to be a lawyer with a good sense of style, they ultimately resolve their differences. Despite not having a working visa, Ruby is offered a job as a financial policy advisor to the Federal Leader of the Opposition by the Chief of Staff during an impromptu visit to a political fundraiser. So upon accepting despite having no background on party views and economic policies, she finds herself enmeshed in the election campaign trail and dubbed Roo.

Thrown headfirst into the field of Australian politics, she finds herself enjoying the hectic pace despite suffering wardrobe malfunctions, numerous media related faux pas and relationship mishaps with men of dubious character. Despite her rookie status, Ruby makes suggestions which work well when the Treasurer overthrows the current PM and calls an early election. This is eerie and reminiscent of the K -Rudd situation but the strangest thing is that this book was written prior to that. It gives meaning to life imitating art certainly!

While Campaign Ruby is humorous and uses brand names to a suffocating extent, it is still enjoyable. Just watch out for the peppering of clichés. But as political chick lit spin, it’s a great read.

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The Adjustment Bureau

03/16/2011 at 3:37 AM (Action, Books, Fable, Inspired, Movies, Mystery, Romance) (, , , , , , , , )

When I went to watch The Adjustment Bureau last night, my preconception of the film as the general suspense thriller flick was blown away. Based loosely on the Philip K. Dick short story titled Adjustment Team, the film starring Matt Damon as Dave Norris, a popular politician running for the US Senate and Emily Blunt as Elise the dancer he meets by chance after an oversight by one of the bureau’s case workers is a refreshing work with the year of the sequel phenomenon approaching.

The work of the adjustment bureau is to ensure life goes according to a plan which is traceable in a book written by the head of the organisation named the “Chairman”. It works out according to the plan, Dave and Elise were not meant to meet the way they did. So the case workers who ensure people follow their fates without diverging from their true paths do their best to put obstacles in the way of Dave. But a quick kiss in the men’s stall after Elise crashed a wedding and he was practising his concession speech connects them and manages to make their paths intertwine again because of their recurring chemistry for each other.

Thompson (John Slattery) who is built as the villain of the piece who is determined to thwart their relationship exposes the bureau to Dave and warns him that if he breathes a word of this that his will to think would cease. Interestingly, this movie raises a lot of questions about how much we have an affect on our individual fates and how much of it could be guided for us by a higher power giving it some repressed theological ground. When Dave is informed by Thompson, his chase of Elise would not only have a negative impact on his ambition but also on her dream of being a famous dancer, he abandons her feeling that he is making a sacrifice for her sake.

Later, he spots an article saying that she is to be married to her ex-boyfriend and feels in his gut something is wrong. Harry, a case worker more sympathetic to his cause than the others, provides him the use of his hat which allows him to open doors through New York without the control of his choices being affected. He finally reunites with Elise and when she is tested for her conviction in him, despite initial hesitation her trust in him is repaid with both of them allowed to use their free will.

While the film had an interesting storyline and it was directed well by George Nolfi who succeeds fairly well with his intention of creating it to raise questions but since it leaves a lot open to interpretation and deconstruction by the viewers themselves, it could either be a hit or miss depending on individual personalities and their takes on fate.

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Thanks for the Memories

03/09/2011 at 1:14 PM (Books, Movies, Romance, Romantic Comedy) (, , , , , , , , )

I bet you have heard of the saying don’t judge a book by its cover but sometimes in the cases of authors like Cecilia Ahern, it pays off to be seduced by cover art.  Armed with the knowledge that it was written by the best-selling author of PS, I Love You (which is an awesome chick flick tearjerker btw), the salmon pink, vermillion and peach yellow cover of Thanks for the Memories (also the title of a catchy Fallout Boy song) with a bottom border of white hearts captivated me despite screaming ‘fluff’.

The back cover blurb persuades you thus:

How can you know someone you’ve never met?

Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn’t. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair.

Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It’s the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time.

When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can’t figure out why …

Naturally you’re hooked – we’re all suckers for unknown phenomenons that cannot be explained although some of us are a little less communicative than others about it. In my opinion, stories by Cecilia Ahern seems like Disney distilled into content for adult women. Still, it’s a great formula for success as demonstrated by her penchant for successively making it into bestseller lists.

Thanks for the Memories Book by Cecilia Ahern

Image from: Wicked Little Pixie

Justin, on the other hand, can be a bit of a pain to figure out but you realise he’s not as selfish as he is made to look. The support and reunion orchestrated by the friends and families of the main characters is what infuses the book with that grown-up ‘magic’ and  combined sense of indecision and spontaneous adventure.

The near misses experienced due to the idiosyncrasies of Justin and Joyce manages the right balance of frustrating the reader without making it exasperating. Three of the characters definitely stand out and Joyce’s Irish father who ultimately gets Justin to think straight is a highlight as you realise how much the old man cares for Joyce while she seems to take him for granted. But given the emotional turbulences she was subject to, it excuses her  a little because her trauma was a deep one.

The only place I have recalled a similar storyline was in an episode of Neighbours when Rachel felt a connection with the donor who received the heart of her partner, Scotty, after he fell from a roof and later died from an aneurysm. Although other soap operas could have done this to death and I have no idea because I don’t watch them. That storyline didn’t work out quite as predictably as Thanks for the Memories. With this, you will get the icing on the cake you want when you read these types of stories.




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