The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Watchable Wednesdays

True to its name, every Wednesday I hope to share with you videos which I have enjoyed and think you might, too.  We all need a bit of cheering up to last until the end of the week, don’t we?

This is such a sweet animation, it will surely brighten up your day.

Found via The Happiest Cow! That blog is great.

STL.

The History of the English Language in 10 Minutes

Welcome to Somersaulting Through Life’s new weekly feature:

Watchable Wednesdays

True to its name, every Wednesday I hope to share with you videos which I have enjoyed and think you might, too.  We all need a bit of cheering up to last until the end of the week, don’t we?

To kick off, here is a thoroughly informative and entertaining cartoon documentary of the birth of the English language.  It is the first of a 10-part series by the Open University, which I highly recommend for all avid readers or any who are interested in the words we use on a daily basis.

The full length version (PG) only takes up 10 minutes of your time and is sure to make you chuckle.  The cartoons are rather “Horrible Histories”-esque and that is why I like them.  My personal favourite is Chapter III: Shakespeare – a perfect example of an educational diversion from the stress of weekdays.

I hope you enjoy.
STL.

Thoughts on Reading ‘Great Expectations’

Last weekend, one of my favourite screen adaptations from last year visited the televisions of those of you over the pond. Great Expectations continues on PBS this weekend, starring Gillian Anderson, Douglas Booth and others. After you have all finished watching the final episodes, I’ll post my review.  Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on the novel itself…

Miss Havisham

Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham in the BBC's Great Expectations. Photo: BBC

I read the book a few months ago and thought that it would make sense to post my reflections on one of Charles Dickens’ most famous pieces of work. I am no expert on Charles Dickens, nor do I pretend to be, so please read my thoughts with that in mind – these are simply my meanderings.

Great Expectations

Rating: 4 out of 5 somersaults.

Favourite character: Herbert Pocket

Least favourite character: Orlick

A favourite quotation:

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are the rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”

(Warning: Spoilers)

Although Dickens wrote about the grim skyline of London in the 19th century, he added sparkle and wit paired with mystery and suspense to make the novel an enjoyable read, despite the often strange and eerie atmosphere which was intentionally created. The narration was wonderful and I particularly enjoyed the humorous aspects of the dialogue; for instance, the cautious Mr Wemmick and Pip visiting his “castle” and the charmingly hilarious occasions when Joe and the young Pip were learning how to spell. I loved this moment when the young Pip, dreaming of becoming apprenticed to Joe, wrote a message for him on his slate:

“MI DEER JO i OPE U R KR WITE WELL i OPE i SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF XN PIP.” […]

“Astonishing!” said Joe, when I had finished. “You ARE a scholar.”

Towards the end, I admit that the protagonist, Pip, was starting to get on my nerves. I found his character frustrating because he simply could not see that Estella was manipulative, spoilt and abhorrent. He might have been blinded by love, but I thought he was just blind altogether. I found the villains of the story creepy and gruesome; however, they were the ones who kept me turning the pages as I needed to make sure that “the good ended happily, and the bad ended unhappily. That is what fiction means,” (to quote the omniscient Miss Prism).

After reading the novel, I felt extremely dissatisfied with the ending. Did Estella deserve Pip? No. My immediate reaction was that I wished Pip had fallen in love with Biddy and ended up marrying her; however, I gradually saw the flaws with this proposed ending. Firstly, Biddy was too nice for Pip, who was too materialistic and bad with money. Joe, although described as “the village idiot,” was at least honest and kind-hearted. The only satisfactory ending for me was the marriage between the colourful Herbert Pocket and the sweet (but boring) Clara Barley.

I have also read that the original ending was written so that Estelle married again and Pip was left alone and single. Would this have been more appropriate? I think it would. I do not believe that Estella deserved him, and in many ways, Pip did not deserve her. If they had married, things would not have ended well. Pip sees everything surrounding her as rose-tinted, and he fails to see reality. Estella, on the other hand, is too obnoxious and cruel. Ultimately, we are meant to feel that she has changed and moved on, but I am still left with doubts.

I realise that Great Expectations is not a romantic novel; it is a story full of villains, heroes, humorous storylines, twists and subplots. This is Dickens, not Austen. Yet, if they are definitely not going to marry ‘happily ever after,’ why does the author have to waver between a half-hearted marriage used as a simple plot device, and one which would be miserably depressing, yet more dramatic. Personally, endings have a bigger dramatic impact if they are definite, not ambiguous. Apparently, Dickens’ publishers complained that the original ending was too sad; however, Great Expectations is a sombre book in many respects and I think that it would have fitted in more with the novel as a whole.

I hope that you do not think that I am being too negative. Let me reassure you, although there were some things which I found frustrating about the novel, I read through it with great enthusiasm and animation. I have given it 4/5 somersaults because it is a brilliant work of fiction on a completely different level to other (dare I say, contemporary?) books. I loved it; however, I did not enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading Little Dorrit where Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam were more amiable characters than Pip and Estella, I found.

What were your thoughts? Have I got it completely wrong? (I might have.) I’d love to hear your opinions, too.

STL.

Edit: See here for thoughts on the BBC’s adaptation (2011).

Reading > Eating

Before now, I’ve never really counted how many books I read, except for when I used to keep a ‘reading journal’ at the age of six.  However, I signed up for a Goodreads account about a week ago and have already found it to be rather fruitful.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge

Somersaulting Through Life has read 7 books toward her goal of 30 books.

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I have decided to pledge thirty books to read this year.  Hopefully, I will surpass this number; but since I have never counted how many books I read per year, I found myself to be rather clueless as to how many to aim for.  Thirty seemed like a wholesome number.

If you endeavour to glance at my list of ‘read’ books, you will discover that I have a rather odd, eclectic taste, lacking in numbers.  Please bear in mind that I have only started to click off books, and gradually the list will accumulate.  It is rather hard to make a list of all the books that you have read in your entire life, and has left me slightly perplexed.  According to my recommendations which Goodreads puts forward, my favourite genres are: Classics (accurate – I am trying to immerse myself!), Historical Fiction, Chick Lit (I suppose if you count Austen and Gaskell…), Crime, Fantasy, Mystery (There’s nothing like a good spy thriller) and Romance…  Hmm…  To be completely honest, most of the books I have added to the ‘read’ list are from “my younger and more vulnerable years…”  (50 STL points if you know where that quotation is from!)  I just felt like adding lots of series of YA books which I read years and years ago, so that it looks like I’ve read more books…  (Guilty giggle…)  My literary taste has since matured (I hope)…

I have most recently finished The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clever, witty and intriguing…

I have a variety of books on my to-read list:

Or, in more physical terms, here is the pile of spanking-new books which are making me feel guilty:
 To-read
“READ ME,” I hear them cry at night.  I have bought all of these (Jane Austen’s Letters was signed by the editor, Deirdre Le Faye, whom I met!), or they were given to me; however, I will probably have to take a trip to my local Red Cross charity shop to see if I can spot the others on my ‘to-read list,’ or else borrow them from my local library.

I am currently reading The Paris Magazine (Published by the bookshop Shakespeare & Co., which I posted about here), Middlemarch (although, I have only read a page or two so far, so that perhaps shouldn’t count) and Wordsworth’s Poetry (which I have already posted about here).

Somersaulting Through Life is currently reading:

If you have any helpful recommendations, please let me know!  Feel free to add me on Goodreads, too.

STL.

P.S.  Yes, I agree.  These Goodreads widgets are rather delectable.  The charming little book covers will soon be added to my new right-hand sidebar