Books on TV

I’ve recently watched an adaptation of a book on television – Harry Price Ghost Hunter  –  and would love to know what other people thought of it. How did the book in your head appear on the screen and what about the casting? Was the story the same for example?

Harry Price – Ghost Hunter

I have to say first of all that this is a cracking story but it’s  not the one in the book. It’s about Harry Price and his attempts at debunking the myths peddled by those who claim to see ghosts and speak to spirits (Psychics for example) is a great real life character and I love the thrill of ‘living’ history in some way by reading and watching stories about someone who really existed.

The book

The haunting of the Borley Rectory in Essex is said to have started after a local nun and monk fell in love and attempted to run away and get married. However, they were caught and sentenced to death.  Years later there were rumours that the couple were still in the house as spirits and that they were angry as to what had happened to them.

I am a bit of a scaredy cat at times and this was a chilling read and then some! I really should not read these books in the dark. What I loved about it though was the interesting true story – the fact that the creator of Sherlock Holmes became so involved with spiritualism that he was buried standing up in accordance with his spiritualism beliefs. That Harry Price really did what is described in the novel. That Borley Rectory really was once the most haunted house in the UK before it was destroyed by fire.

The television version

I admit that I didn’t read the blurb of the TV version as I expected it to be the same as the book – the real life haunting of Borley Rectory in Essex and this is not it. The same characters are involved however and Harry Price was just as I imagined him so that was a nice surprise. In this case, he’s been called to a house of an upcoming politician as his wife is having delusions and will be placed in an asylum if  her problems can’t be solved. She’s found naked one day in the town square, wandering and hallucinating. She claims to hear things, see things and when she goes to play hide and seek at a party – blimey I remember that scene!

The cast and story were very good and it was nicely paced. I really wanted to know what the deal was. Was there a ghost and why was the politician’s wife being targeted in this way? The house is old and spooky, and has a rather interesting history in itself.

Harry was fascinating in the novel and so I really hoped to find out more about him which we did. His character and background were explored as was his relationship with his assistant. His ways of debunking the claims of those who claim to see ghosts (his attendance at a psychic show is classic Harry) is interestingly done and it was fascinating to see ‘behind the scenes’ of the man and what he stood for.

I wish they would make this into a series with Harry investigating more cases as this would be very interesting.

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Jane Austen comes to Northumberland

Well, this weekend has been steeped in sense and sensibility, sprinkled with a little  pride, but gladly no prejudice. And just the right amount of persuasion…..

I visited Belsay Hall in Northumberland with my copy of Pride and Prejudice in my hand and wandered about the halls and gardens of a wonderful castle and gardens to walk in the footsteps of Darcy, Emma, Mr Knightly and Elizabeth Bennet to name but a few.

I know the novels weren’t set here but the style , setting and atmosphere of the surroundings, they could have been.

With the costumes of the characters as worn by the actors who portrayed them just in the next room, you could almost see the language and stories of the books come to life before your very eyes

The poster announcing the Austen greatness awaiting you as you walked through the arch way of the main entrance into Austen world:

Darcey greeted me at the door...
Darcy greeted me at the door…

The shirt itself was only  a breath away…..

Could this be Pemberley House or indeed Hartfield?
Could this be Pemberley House or indeed Hartfield?

could this be Pemberley house?

Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. (Quote from Pride and Prejudice)

And inside, the costumes so cleverly displayed amongst the stunning library backdrop simply added to the literary thrill of seeing Mr Darcy, Mr Knightly and Emma come to life……

Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma

“Vanity working on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief” – Emma

Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet

“They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr Bingley’s large fortune” – Pride and Prejudice

Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh

I can wait no more………

Ooh Darcy....
Ooh Darcy….

And when Darcy marries……(I imagine me wearing this dress as I’m sure all other visitors here do)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

To find out more about the costumes and  to visit the stunning setting of Belsay Castle and Gardens, please visit their website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/costumes-from-austen-bh-25-may/

Well worth it for literary fans. The perfect setting to read your Austen novel in Austen inspired surroundings and one of the most magical gardens I have ever seen – perfect for losing yourself in whilst reading one of her novels. As Jane Austen herself once wrote in Pride and Prejudice:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

A literary moment – in a supermarket

I’m writing up the second part of my Barcelona book trail as we speak, but I felt I wanted to write about a little literary moment I had this week, whilst shopping with a friend.

The Prisoner of Heaven has arrived on many a supermarket bookshelf recently and I myself have bought it despite already having it in Spanish. I like to read the same book twice but wonder if I should or not really given that I could be reading something brand new. However, a good book can be read over and over again in reality otherwise I would not have had the pleasure of entering the world’s of Alison Weir and Kate Morton several times had  I not. And sometimes once just isn’t enough.

I read to enjoy, I read to escape and I read mainly to travel  – to immerse myself in that literary world with those people that I meet and the places that they take me. Everytime I go, I see something different so no literary journey is a wasted one. When I can read something in more than one language, that makes it all the more  unique and a totally different journey again.

So wandering into Sainsbury’s, whilst my friend waltzed off to shop for food, I said I’d catch her up and look at the books

photo-40

 

And there it was – one of the books that I have just been to Barcelona to explore further. The first in the series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was of course The Shadow of the Wind and this is the one I was most intrigued by in Barcelona. I read a little bit in the store and was immediately transported back to the heavy and dusty heat of the Barcelona streets. Looking up at the books shelves, I imagined I was in the Cemetery of Books amongst all the forgotten or forbidden texts and wondering which one I was going to pick. Which one was going to lead me on a journey of intrigue and sometimes danger. The right book would determine the characters I would meet and the streets I would walk down. I could feel the sun on my face and the piercing white light as I left the Cemetery of Books after I opened the heavy door to the world of mystery outside. Would I visit the Plaza Real? or just loose myself in the crevices of the city’s Gothic Quarter?

I must have spent sometime in my literary world as the next thing I know, my friend comes back to find me, wondering where on earth I’d got to. You’d been here all this time? she gasped.

I just shrugged but inwardly thought ‘No I’ve just spent a delightful time with some literary friends.’

Food shopping is a lot more fun this way!

 

A regional literary haven

A Literary haven in the North East of England
The North East of England – a real literary haven for writers

I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic literary event recently which brought together some amazing literary talent and experts in the literary field. The whole event was hosted by New Writing North – the writing development agency for the north of England.

 

NWN opened in 1996 and celebrates everything there is to do about literature, reading and writing in the North East.  I have written about their Read Regional Campaign on this blog before and I will do so again since I am so proud of my literary heritage. We have some fantastic talent in the North East and I am proud to be, an observer for now, and hopefully a writer amongst them in the not too distant future.

 

The list of speakers was impressive – all were very funny and provided some interesting anecdotes.

 

One such anecdote was from a literary agent who described the role of an agent as a ‘fun sponge’.  It was from her in particular that I learnt what an agent does, what they are looking for and what the literary process looks like from their side of the street. Their descriptions of their some time frustration and then pure joy at discovering a story that speaks and resonates with them was insightful on so many levels. Writers take note – this is not just about us, it’s about them too – and the publishers – in fact we are but one part of a train but if all the carriages are lined up, we’re all in for one hell of a literary journey.

 

I realised that I had never really understood the greater part of the literary process – on Saturday I came away with a new found respect for it and thrilled that I had met some amazing people with interesting stories to tell.

 

It inspired me one day to want  to tell my own.

 

Thank you New Writing North and thanks to all the speakers on the day. I hope every region has the opportunity to value and nurture its talent in this way.

 

 

Read regional

READ REGIONAL CAMPAIGN

Read regional
Read regional

Readers of this blog will know that I love to visit places that I’ve read about in  books and to read local authors when in  a new city or country in particular.

The read regional campaign in the North East of England is an issue dear to my heart since it connects readers and authors in the North East with each other. There are a series of meet and greets and other events in libraries and bookshops around the region where you can go and meet authors. Authors who are from or who have written about familiar sites and issues are of particular interest to me.

I know it sounds funny but I have discovered a lot of interesting places in Sweden by reading Scandinavian crime novels. So, via a renewed interest to find a new side to my home region of the North East, I discovered a new dark gothic side to the Newcastle’s Quayside by reading The Murder Wall by local author Mari Hannah.

The locations where you can meet the very person whose printed words have entered your mind and formed your world for  a while is a great experience and when they write about sites and sounds that you’re familiar with and maybe the odd character or two then the experience is a fully developed one.

At a time when libraries are closing down or funding being stopped then events like this are excellent at putting readers and writers in close contact with one another. Its gets people to visit the books and as well as books visiting the readers.

It’s helped me branch out too by making an effort to read regional writers in my own country and home region as there are so many books to read, so many literary places to visit but so little time in which to do it all. By visiting a library or bookshop, I feel that by visiting these events, that I am helping in a small way to keep the local literary trail alive and that the authors themselves are really putting our literary region on the literary map.

Its also a snub to the powers that be that seem to think that arts funding is not a valid way to spend money. The ability to get inside a book or write one is priceless and there is simply no price to be put on language and imagination. They can open up so many worlds and adventures that you wouldn’t have had access to any other way.

read more here via the website : http://www.readregional.com/

 

Jane Eyre, Haworth, England

The home of Jane Eyre
The home of Jane Eyre

You may have read the book Jane Eyre. If not you should as it’s perhaps one of the best books I have ever read, so much so that I have several editions in several languages and have seen various  film versions.

But the original English version is always the best and I have my copy purchased from the bookstore attached to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth, not far from Leeds.

When you visit  the area, its like stepping into a Bronte novel. There are many towns and landmarks around the area that that continue to fascinate Bronte enthusiasts and scholars above all.

The language and the novel’s setting are like a perfect marriage and you have to visit Haworth to really see what I mean. The novel is structured around five separate locations, all supposedly in northern England: the Reed family’s home at Gateshead, the horrible Lowood School from Jane’s childhood, Rochester’s manor house Thornfield and Rochester’s rural retreat at Ferndean.

I also see examples of  Bronte locations  in other places I visit: there are old ruins of a house near Gibside in Gateshead (The Main House – home to the Bowes-Lyon family) and this to me could have been Thornfield Hall. I see Jane returning to the house as it lies in charred ruins very time I go there. I can almost see Rochester on his black horse with Pilot the dog running across the field.

Another link I love about The Bronte sisters is that they were well travelled women for their day and travelled to Brussels, living there for a time in order to improve their French. I took myself off on  a Brussels Bronte guide when I was there and discovered a city hidden from the majority. And its such a treasure, it’s a rare treat for the real fans of these fantastic writers.

Brussels and  Ferndean manor will be featured in upcoming blog posts since they really do confirm that the Bronte sisters, in my opinion, really were some of the luckiest authors that ever lived due to the richness they created out of the richness of their surroundings.

Books to read in the snow

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you are enjoying the snow! Here’s a little friend I met recently……

snowy literary journey

I know it’s been a while but I got that many books for Christmas I just tucked myself away and done hardly anything else but read. Well work too obviously but since I write for a living, I don’t really think about it as work.

But as for the reading……well I received crime novels, victorian mysteries, period dramas, modern day stories of a friendship with hidden secrets and my favourite historical dramas. I also treated myself to a history book on the wars of the roses – thanks Alison Weir! The only one that has held my interest from start to finish  and I can actually say now that I understand that period of history better than I ever did.

So tucked away – the snow battering on the window whilst I unfurl the pages of the latest literary journey and sip my hot chocolate – I started on my quest to read more widely and more randomly than ever before. This is not just my new year’s resolution but my literary resolution. I am going to judge a book by its cover (I’ve just bought Gone Girl Gone by Gillian Flynn for the cover alone!) an am going to read not only on recommendation but on a gut instinct. Books have always taken me on journeys and my world is going to widen.

I’ve been quiet as a result – immersed in my own little world. But I’m back on the blog with more literary journeys to describe and even more to go on. In addition to these English language novels, I got some books out of storage that I have collected from Spain, Canada and other countries on my travels. Some like old friends I had forgotten but was so glad to see again. More to revisit on this blog…..

I hope you all have had a lovely literary Christmas and that Santa has left lots of books and stories your way. I once read that a book was the ultimate gift as it was something you could open again and again. And I am so glad that is true.

A merry literary Christmas with Charles Dickens, England

A Christmas Carol

 

 

Why Should I read a Christmas book just because it’s Christmas? I’ve never been one to read so-called festive or Christmas novels as they tend to be chic-lit which I’ve never really ‘got’ but what I really look foward to is re- reading Dickens. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Dickens in my opinion and so I have decided to choose one to read now.

But my problem is which one? I’m going to see the latest adaptation of Great Expectations at the cinema so that rules out that one.  But I have read it again since I first studied it at school and its amazing how different a book is the second or third time round. The images thta I d carried in my mind since then were still as vivid as I re-read the lines again, whilst also adding to them in my adult brain.

Yet, I had also forgotten parts of the book. Parts such as how tragic and sad the novel is in places and the complexity of the ‘relationship’ between Pip and Estelle. Its a lot more graphic and scary than I remember – the ghost like images and the threats made by Magwitch in the early days

I’ve loved every one of Dicken’s books – and his social commentary such as that of Oliver Twist where the failure of charity is apparent as is the city as the source of all ill in society.  Much better than the musical version for staying favourable in my mind.

David Copperfield is perhaps my favourite given the  way in which the central character  David narrates his story as an adult, he relays the impressions he had from a youthful point of view. We see how David’s perception of the world deepens as he comes of age. We see David’s initial innocence in the contrast between his interpretation of events. Much like how I read the novel the second time as an adult.

But having thought about my initial question to myself. Why should I read a Christmas book just becuase its Christmas? Bah humbug. Actually that gives me an idea in itself. Why don’t I read Scrooge and then the Christmas theme and the Dickens theme are all wrapped in one go.

Like a lovely Christmas present to myself.

Voices from the Titanic

At about the same time as the anniversary of the Titanic sinking in April this year, I came across a book called ‘Voices of the Titanic’ in a second hand bookshop. Its topicality was not the only reason that I picked it up, but rather its  promise on the back of wanting to tell a story that had not been told before. Having read the book, I wanted to express my thoughts on what it meant to have been allowed to take a personal tour into this piece of history.

Now I immediately thought, like probably you are doing now, that the story of the Titanic must be one of the most well known if not infamous stories of its time. This book however  reads like a journal stuck in the past, with its entries from the ship’s various travellers, building up a picture of the human side to the story.

And essentially that’s what the Titanic was about. forget the fact of why the  ship sank, those who made the decisions about the ships speed, design and concept. The Titanic story is about those who were aboard – whether it be those dripping in diamonds or those in third class hoping for a new life. They were all human, all people with similar hopes and dreams of going to America on the most amazing ship  of its time. Devastation following the sinking affected all equally irrespective of money or background.

The port of Southampton and the site where it sank are not the real places associated with this story. The many birth places of the travellers are the real locations of ‘Voice of the Titanic’. Told in each single voice of those who travelled, the stories within are both from those from survived and perhaps most poignantly those who didn’t. The latter were taken from postcards and letters sent out to loved ones from the ship or before they sailed.

These stories are made all the more treasured as they are from the people who were there and for whom the Titanic’s fate was not just a big news story but a part of their story. And I feel that they were talking directly to me. And sometimes I felt really sad but on the whole the book was an amazing account of some remarkable and unforgettable people. Turns out the story of the Titanic is not about a ship at all.