Sunday, 27 April 2014

Discovering the Secrets of Walter Mitty

Driving into London just before Christmas, I spotted the poster of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty rushing across the sky, and I had to see the film!
We studied the original short story by James Thurber for 'O' Level in Modern Short Stories (which is still available).
'Modern' is quite a misnomer, because the stories were all written around the first half of the twentieth century, but the authors are famous, and the stories have lingered in my mind over the years, such as Peaches  by Dylan Thomas, Tickets, Please by D.H. Lawrence, and The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is only seven pages long! So it's amazing that two full length feature films have been made from it. ( The other in 1947, starred Danny Kaye.)
Mitty and his bossy wife are on a shopping trip. She gives him some errands to run whilst she has her hair done. 'Buy some overshoes!' 'Get some puppy food!' No wonder this meek little man lives in a fantasy world, pretending he's Commander Mitty, commanding a US Navy hydroplane, or Captain Mitty going over the top in the First World War, and it is fitting in the end when his wife pops into a drugstore, leaving him outside in the sleet, that he lights a cigarette and imagines he's being shot by a firing squad!
The film, however, is a feel-good movie. Mitty is in charge of the photo negatives for Life magazine, he's not married, but is in love with Cheryl, a new employee, but can't even bring himself to give her a wink on eHarmony. He still has fantasies of impressing her, but when Negative 25, which is to be used on the cover of the last ever issue of the magazine goes missing, real life becomes just as exciting!
The film has great special effects, photography and music and is well worth watching.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Don't Forget To Read Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes!

If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I love books by Jojo Moyes, but I've only just read Foreign Fruit which won the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) Novel of the Year Award in 2004. How did I manage to miss this fabulous book?
It's another one of those engrossing stories that Jojo writes so well with a great cast, and begins in the 1950s in Merham, a sleepy East Anglian seaside town. Celia and Lottie (not her sister, but a child that the Holden family took in during the war) are entranced by Adeline and her Bohemian friends who move into Arcadia, an Art Deco house on the seafront.
The girls get drawn into the circle of people, including the androgynous Frances, an artist who is in love with Adeline, and Adeline's husband of convenience, Julian.
Eventually, Celia goes away to London, leaving Lottie at home with her family. She writes fabulous letters, but Lottie feels that she can't always believe her especially when she writes about this gorgeous man, Guy, because she's always exaggerating. However, when she does bring him home, Lottie falls hopelessly in love with him, and he with her, even though he's now engaged to Celia. Lottie can't tell him that she's now pregnant with his child, in loyalty to Celia, and their marriage goes ahead. Leaving Lottie with Joe who's a poor second best to Guy.

In the 1950s the town was very against the Bohemian crowd, and now in 2003, the town is against Arcadia being sold to be developed into a hotel for Jones, the owner of a club in London. Jones has hired interior designers, Daisy and Daniel to oversee the work, but when their child, Ellie, is born, Daniel can't cope and leaves Daisy to do the work on her own.  Mrs Bernard, the previous owner of Arcadia, comes in every day to help look after Ellie, but she won't talk about how she came to own the house or what it means to her.
It's when a builder uncovers Frances's mural on the terrace wall, depicting the people that spent the summer there in the 1950s, that secrets are revealed and the characters have to face their past and look to their future.
If you like Jojo Moyes too, don't forget to read this book!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Travelling back to the South Pacific with James A. Michener

Apart from Pippi Longstocking, (see last blog post!) I wanted to read something more about the South Seas on my trip, so I bought Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener for a penny on Amazon, and was impressed that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.
Michener was posted to the South Pacific as a Naval Officer during the Second World War, and this inspired his stories based on the men waiting for the inevitable attack, including the women they fall in love with, and the action when it happens.
Some of the stories may seem familiar as they were made into the musical, South Pacific, such as Our Heroine which introduces us to U.S. Nurse, Nellie Forbush, who falls in love with the French plantation owner, Emile de Beque, whom she hardly knows and then finds he has two children. She sings I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair in the show, and well she might because in the book, he has eight!
You might also remember Bloody Mary singing Happy Talk to Joe Cable in the film. In the story called Fo' Dolla', she's nothing like the lovely lady, Juanita Hall, who played the part on stage and screen, and has rivers of red betel juice running down the sides of her mouth which led to her name.
Throughout his stories, Michener takes us to a world of hot sun, lush vegetation, blue seas and coral islands. It's hard to believe that such a beautiful paradise could have been the scene of such terrible fighting, but it was interesting to find out more about those times in his book.