After reading the advance press on Dark Angel – the new period drama starring Joanne Froggatt as Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton – I was seriously considering skipping my weekly MASTERPIECE appointment with my television. Multiple murders by a woman who successively kills her husbands and children by poison for their life insurance sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me – something way beyond my comfort zone. The fact that it featured Froggatt, an awarding winning actress who I adored as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey, Emmy award winning director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and acclaimed screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes (Miss Austen Regrets) softened the blow a bit, but I was still not convinced.
My tipping point was my love of English history and my curiosity. Life in lower-class Victorian England was harsh and bleak, however, many wives and mothers did not become serial killers. What was Mary Ann Cotton’s story? What pushed her beyond despair and made her a mass murderer?
“Why don’t you let me make you a nice cup of tea?” – Mary Ann Cotton
Screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes had an extraordinary true-life story to draw from. It is estimated that Cotton poisoned with arsenic up to 21 people including: three of her four husbands, fifteen children, a lover, a friend, and her mother – collecting life insurance for many of them. Continue reading
“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love” … with Downton Abbey all over again. The final season starts in less than one month on Masterpiece Classic PBS on January 3, 2016. My anticipation of another season of great drama, romance and witty retorts runs high.
I am, of course, paraphrasing The Christmas Waltz; the famous 1954 holiday song written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne for Frank Sinatra. There is nothing like listening to Christmas carols to make me sentimental. Coupled with the fact that this will be the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey, one of my favorite period dramas on television, and I am ready for a double shot of brandy in my eggnog.
Despite my melodramatic angst over the conclusion of the Crawley family and their servants’ story, fellow Downtonites can revisit the fabulous plots, locations and characters by reading the final companion volume to the series, Downton Abbey – A Celebration, by Jessica Fellowes. This is her fourth large and lavish book spotlighting the phenomenally popular, award winning television series. And, it truly lives up to its title—a jubilant fête worthy of her uncle Julian Fellowes’ vision of portraying the changes in the British aristocracy through the Crawley family and their servants from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 to the Jazz Age of 1925. Continue reading
Will we ever be able to explain the phenomenon that is the television series Downton Abbey? Watched by millions and showered with awards, I find the reason for its success as elusive to pinpoint as Jane Austen’s lasting appeal. It means so much to so many. In two hundred years time will people be watching and reading about this period drama as passionately as we do Austen’s novels?
Quite possibly so. Their common link is the witty writing. Clever bon mots and cheeky retorts never go out of fashion. They make us smile, laugh-out-loud and reflect upon what makes us tick as humans. They are a window into our souls.
The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes is a collection of those fabulous zingers that make this series so “light, bright and sparkling” to Austen fans and the bazillion other viewers around the world. Creator and writer Julian Fellowes must love Austen as much as this Janeite. He certainly recognizes how her prose can sing with humor and social reproof using the same technique in his own dialogue. Whenever anyone complains about anything I am tempted to use a little Lady Catherine, oops, Lady Violet on them… Continue reading
It’s time to announce the giveaway winners of the first two novels in the Poldark Saga: Ross Poldark and Demelza. The lucky winners drawn at random are:
1.) Eight (8) trade paperback copies of Ross Poldark
- lex6819, who left a comment on June 22, 2015
- Bookfool, aka Nancy, who left a comment on July 13, 2015
- Ladycrumpet, who left a comment on August 05, 2015
- Trudystattle, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
- Veronica Sweet, who left a comment on June 7, 2015
- Patricia Barraclough, who left a comment on July 19, 2015
- Elizabeth, who left a comment on August 3, 2015
- BeckyC, who left a comment on June 10, 2015
2.) Eight (8) trade paperback copies of Demelza
- Debraemarvin, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
- grace2302, who left a comment on July 7, 2015
- SeldomKate, who left a comment on August 3, 2015
- Sofia Guerra, who left a comment on June 22, 2015
- Missyisms, who left a comment on June 11, 2015
- Greta, who left a comment on June 9, 2015
- monicap79, who left a comment on June 11, 2015
- Maureen M., who left a comment on August 5, 2015
Congratulations winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 12, 2015 or you will forfeit your prize! Mail shipment to US addresses only.
Many thanks to all who left comments, and the good folks at Sourcebooks Landmark who contributed the giveaway copies of Ross Poldark and Demelza.
Cover images courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com
Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS
Last week in episode 6 of Poldark, we had the “Pride and Prejudice Poldark Edition,” in which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounded with snappy repartees and witty retorts, in true Jane Austen style.
This week in episode 7 of Poldark, it’s just another day in Cornwall when an epidemic strikes the community, tragedy befalls the Poldark family and a rip roaring shipwreck sends more than a ship to the bottom of the sea, in the thrilling and heartbreaking 2 hour season 1 finale.
Side Note: Masterpiece Classic chose to combine episodes 7 and 8 of the UK broadcast into one episode. This will be confusing to some. Do not be alarmed. Both episodes are included.
(Fair warning. There be spoilers ahead)
“Where’s Verity?”—Elizabeth Poldark
While George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) reminds Ross Poldark’s (Aidan Turner) business partner Sir Jonathan Tressider (Mark Seaman) where his true interests lie in light of the debt that he owes to Warleggan Bank, Verity (Ruby Bentall) makes her move (finally) and elopes with Captain Blamey (Richard Harrington). Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller), the narcissistic cad that he is, does not take the news well. He is convinced that Ross aided them in their plans. His wife Elizabeth (Heida Reed) questions his rash accusations, defending Ross proclaiming, “I stand up for no one, but it’s the merest justice not to condemn people unheard.”
Jud (Phil Davis) and Prudie (Beatie Edney) leave Nampara in Poldark. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS
“Don’t bend ye brows at me girl. You ain’t nothin’ but a trull from Illugin.”—Jud Paynter
Image of Demelza Poldark (Eleanor Tomlinson) at the Warleggan ball in Poldark (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd for Masterpiece PBS
Last week in episode 5 of Poldark everyone was reckless and bold—gambling on their future and love. Miner Mark Daniel married a questionable woman, Ross began a copper smelting company, Demelza played defiant matchmaker and Francis had a meltdown after losing his mine in a card game.
This week: The Pride and Prejudice Poldark edition. In which talk of frocks, balls and beaus resounds with sparkling repartees and retorts, echoing Jane Austen’s prose.
(there be spoilers ahead)
Francis (Kyle Soller) scythes. Image (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd. for Masterpiece PBS
“You’ll never get it Ross.”—Francis Poldark
“Justice for all.”—Francis Poldark
“Fair wages would be a start.”—Ross Poldark
With the image of the shirtless and buff Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) scything his field in episode three still fresh in our minds, the scene of his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) attempting the same sends an entirely different message. Moral fortitude vs. weakness has won the day. Taking the initiative and rebuilding your life has paid off for Ross. Will his cousin rise to the challenge? The omen that Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) foretold of the dark and fair Poldark, “The stronger rises as the weaker falls,” has flipped in the five years since Ross’s return. The only ammunition that Francis has left to wound his cousin is sarcasm and doubt. Continue reading
Captain Ross Poldark in His Majesty’s 62nd Regiment of Foot regimentals (c) 2015 Mammoth Screen, Ltd for Masterpiece PBS
Getting the historical details correct is so critical in period drama today. Gone are the days when Greer Garson could wear a hoop skirt in the 1940 Pride and Prejudice and get away with it. The production team of the new BBC/PBS Poldark, at Mammoth Screen Ltd., have stepped up to the mark depicting late eighteenth-century Cornwall, warts and all. Advising them in this monumental task is lecturer, author and historian Hannah Greig who joins us today to answer a few questions about her role in the production of Poldark and the historical context that it is set in.
An illustration “A Beauty in Search of Knowledge” derived from a print by John Raphael Smith, 1782 (c) British Library
LAN: Welcome Hannah. One has visions of historians entrenched in musty library stacks secretly pining for their favorite reference librarian! Besides teaching and writing, you have carved out an interesting niche as Historical Advisor for films, television and theatre. This seems like a very glamorous job. Can you share with us what your duties are, what a typical day would be like, and what kind of questions are asked by the production team? Continue reading