There’s a reason why it’s called GREAT Britain: in my opinion, it should be called Fantastic Britain, but maybe I’m getting carried away. If you don’t believe me when I say there are millions of reasons to love the UK, then check out this awesome infographic from the CityBase Apartments blog. This lists only twenty reasons, but they’re some of the best! You can check out the original post here. Let me know in the comment section why YOU love Great Britain!
As the end of summer simmers down and autumn approaches, you may be looking forward to some quiet afternoon reading. Just the thing for a relaxing bookfest on the sofa, London Road: Linked Stories by Tessa Smith McGovern is a group of short short stories taking place in my favorite of all places: England.
The scene opens on an unusually hot morning outside, of all places, Chorley Prison. We meet Janice Bailey, recent inmate, as she sets off on a journey to London to restart her life. All she has to go on are a few pounds and a friend’s recommendation to a halfway house in the city. Having been in prison for manslaughter in self-defense, she doubts that anyone will ever take her in or give her a shot.
This lovely group of stories is essentially about second chances. Janice has a second chance to live again, with new friends, a new job, and new purpose. With each story, we meet a new character, someone linked with the rest. All the characters have come together in the city to find a new way of life, pulling the past’s baggage along with them. We meet Mandy, known for petty theft, on probation in a literary reading group. We meet Isobel, who’s on antipsychotic drugs and has a difficult relationship with her mother. We meet women who are obsessive, afraid, lonely. What do they have in common? They all come to this boarding house in London where life throws them one more chance to stay alive and keep going.
With the montage-feeling of Love Actually. London Road is written to lift your spirits and show you the hope that follows tragedy. Each character has been through life’s worst, but by the end, they find resolution and something to help them along. I suppose this is what the title could refer to: the journey each character takes from bad to good, from hopeless to purposeful.
Because of this forward-looking perspective, I recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy, uplifting read. Each story is quite short, and the entire book could be read in an afternoon.While at times I would have like a more in-depth look at the characters’ lives, it’s good to remember that these stories are purposed as flash fiction. McGovern manages to combine good storytelling and conciseness in London Road. I especially recommend this book to my fellow Anglophiles as the book also includes references to the Queen, afternoon tea, and pubs. What’s not to like?
You can find the e-book for free or $0.99 (depending on your Amazon membership) here!
Thanks to BookTrib for providing me with London Road to review.
Boulogne, France. 1915. The world has cracked apart in devastating war. Soldiers eat, sleep, and die in muddy trenches dug across Europe. Those who aren’t killed are often injured and taken away from the front line to recover. They are not even taken to a full hospital but to an open-air camp on the French seaside. More importantly, however, they are taken care of by a group of healers: the nurses and doctors, military and civilian, who dedicate every moment they can to getting these wounded men back on their feet.
The Crimson Field gives an inside look on the lives of the nurses caring for British soldiers. With only a few months training, the three main characters start out on the job naïve as they have obviously grown up with the finer things of life, but they quickly gain experience with injuries, blood, and death.These girls prove their strength parallel to the millions of men fighting on the front.This may be France in the middle of World War I, but the doctors and nurses have claimed this tiny spot of land as British, hence the china teacups.
One of the things I enjoy the most about The Crimson Field is how the show looks into the complex dark side of World War I. History (told by the victors) likes to keep the story of the war as clean for the winning side as possible. The war was seen as a fight of good against evil in the world. But what this show brings out is the personal psychological trauma that war brings to those involved. Mental illness was highly misunderstood at the time and often equated with cowardice or lack of manly loyalty. We see one soldier, Lance Corporal Prentiss, sent back to the front when he is obviously suffering a form of post-traumatic stress. This has devastating effects on his health and well-being, and he is only one example of the many who suffered hell.
Kitty Trevelyan (played by Oona Chaplin of Game of Thrones fame) at first has trouble with the standardized rules of the hospital, but soon she wins her way into the hearts of soldiers and doctors alike. As the show progresses, Kitty’s secret past is revealed bit by bit, leading the viewer more into her world of pain and regret.
Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham) is a less likable character, but still relatable. It seems that she has never married and reached the age which her society defines as “old maid.” Her volunteer work is an escape from a kind of social prison, and she only “wish[es] she’d been braver sooner.” Unfortunately, her inexperienced past has grown a deep fear inside her, and fear can be mistaken as self-righteousness.
Flora Mashall (Alice St. Clair) is young-hearted and still innocent enough to be surprised by ugly side effects of battle and surgery. Though she at first seems like she will be the first sent home, she manages to show her innate strength when under stress. Soon after her arrival, Flora boasts about her skill with bandages, and the matron promptly sends her to boil, dry, and roll a hideous pile of bloody post-surgery cloths. She doesn’t complain though and gets to work.
Two other nurses who play important roles are Matron Grace Carter (Hermione Norris) and Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones). Grace is head of the rest of the nurses, which means she makes the difficult decisions and bears the greatest burden for the sufferers who have come to the hospital. With her understanding and compassion, she is a good nurse, and with her resolve and strength, she is a great leader.
Sister Joan arrives shortly after the three volunteer nurses. She has more experience at nursing and is welcomed as a pair of expert hands. But she also has secrets in her past, and the war that rages close by haunts her in a way no one knows.
Of course, these are not the only important characters, as we have dashing doctors in Captain Thomas Gillan (Richard Rankin) and Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne (Alex Wyndham), as well as an exemplary leader in Lieutenant Colonel Roland Brett (Kevin Doyle of Downton Abbey). But The Crimson Field is essentially about the women on the front, who may not have been fighting the battles but were winning the war by saving soldiers from death or comforting them in their last moments.
The Crimson Field is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution. Thank you to PBS for providing me with a copy for the review!
Do you love Masterpiece: Poldark? How does a free Blu-ray disc set of your latest English obsession sound? Thanks to our friends over at PBS Distribution, I am honored to host a giveaway for 5 copies of Poldark on Blu-ray. Could it get any better? If you are new to Poldark, be sure to check out my review here.
To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) By leaving a comment on this post, you are agreeing to the following rules:
- No purchase necessary
- One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post.
- Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
- Giveaway entries will be accepted from Friday, July 10 until 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015
- 5 randomly selected winners will win the Complete First Season of Masterpiece: Poldark on Blu-ray, including extra bonus features. The run time of this program is approximately 480 minutes on 3 discs. The Blu-ray SRP is $49.99.
- 5 winners will be selected at random from the comment section on this post. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015 will be entered. Winners will be announced Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Winners will have one week to claim prize.
- Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
- By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
- If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
- Neither Rose West nor PBS Distribution is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
- Prize is provided by PBS Distribution
- Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
- Void where prohibited by law
So comment away! And don’t forget to share this post with your other Anglophile friends. Even if you don’t win, Poldark is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution! So be sure to get in on the fun!
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For over forty years, PBS Masterpiece has been good to us Anglophiles. As our main importer of many of BBC’s classic television series, Masterpiece has given us such memorable visual feasts as Jeeves and Wooster; Upstairs, Downstairs; Agatha Christie’s Poirot; and Sherlock. If you, like me, thought Downton Abbey was the peak of Masterpiece’s best programs, then think again. Poldark, the latest English drama to invade America, has been sending its fans indoors every Sunday night to enjoy the most recent episode. With the release of Poldark on DVD and Blu-ray this week, those of us who missed it on television can catch up. (Follow the link at the end of the post to enter my giveaway of 5 Blu-ray sets of Poldark!)
Episode One opens on unusual territory for BBC: the thick woods of Colonial Virginia, 1781. We are introduced to Captain Ross Poldark (how’s that for a hero’s name?), a British soldier who seems dissatisfied with the American Revolution and his own lot in life. After two years and an injury that leaves a scar down the side of his face, Poldark returns home to his family estate in Cornwall, England. Only, neither his family nor his estate is the same as when he left.
His father having died in his absence, Poldark’s only family left are his uncle and cousins who live on an adjacent property. They at first welcome home the man they thought had died in battle, but when Poldark learns that his former love interest, Elizabeth, is now engaged to his cousin, his family relations start to decay.
If coming home to a dead father and unrequited love isn’t enough, Poldark returns to his inherited estate which has been essentially abandoned to the decay of dust and rodents. Poldark, worn down by combat and the corrosion of his entire life, works to restore his home, a difficult task considering the poverty-stricken economy Cornwall has acquired since the war. His two current servants being next to useless, Poldark does much of the work of rebuilding walls and upkeep himself. His lack of funds and food eventually drive him to seek investors in order to reopen his abandoned copper mine, in the hopes that his luck will turn.
Meanwhile, Poldark, whose local reputation is slightly less than respected, takes an interest in others who have likewise nothing to lose. He meets Demelza, a red-headed girl dressed as a boy to escape her father’s abusive supervision. Despite his inadequate money for food, Poldark takes her in as a kitchen maid and even fights off a hoard of brutish relatives when they arrive to claim her. As Poldark struggles to survive, we see him grow into his circumstances, helping those around him in his community.
Captain Ross Poldark, played by Aidan Turner (known for his role as Kili in The Hobbit trilogy), is our complicated hero. Known as the gambler that he was in his youth,, Poldark has been changed by his experiences in the war. His life has been darkened by tragedy, and he approaches life’s uncertainty with a calm, confident demeanor. He is not just a likeable hero; he is lovable. We love him because of his determination in the face of loss, his compassion on Demelza, and (of course) his sexy, brooding charm.
Elizabeth, the girl Poldark left behind, is played by Icelandic actress Heida Reed (from the film One Day). Although at first we find her attractive and pitiable (how could she know Poldark was still alive?), before long, we realize that she ties herself to her circumstances by obeying her culture’s rules of decorum and going through with the marriage to Poldark’s cousin Francis. She still feels something for Poldark, however, but this only makes matters worse when she risks reputation-damaging gossip by seeking his attention in public.
Demelza, the red-headed girl who transforms from being dirty, afraid, and dressed like a boy, into a clear-eyed, beautiful, and supportive companion to Poldark, is played by Eleanor Tomlinson, who is no stranger to English television drama, having played in The White Queen and Death Comes to Pemberley. Demelza provides a refreshing contrast to Elizabeth: she tackles life’s hardships head-on and stays by Poldark’s side no matter what. Over time Demelza comes into her own and we can quickly imagine her
Three-cornered hats off, if you please, to playwright-screenwriter Debbie Hosfield for her adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels. It’s been forty years since the first television adaptation of the series, and Hosfield, together with directors Edward Bazalgette and William McGregor, has refreshed modern television with a renewed old story.
I’d also like to note the gorgeous score by Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley. The soaring violins run along with the dramatic views of cliffs and ocean swells, adding that extra dimension to film which deserves to be recognized in its own right. The scenery itself is absolutely breathtaking as the show was filmed on location in Cornwall. Overall, Poldark shouldn’t be missed as it captures all the elements that make a great Masterpiece!
Poldark is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution. I’d like to thank PBS Distribution for providing me with the material I needed for this review.
If you would like a chance to win your very own Blu-ray set of Poldark, enter our giveaway here. But hurry, the end date is midnight EST on Monday, July 20th!
At the southwestern tip of England lies a sea-surrounded county called Cornwall. Lined with coastal towns and cliffs, this small yet beautiful corner of the United Kingdom provides the setting for PBS Masterpiece’s latest hit, Poldark. As is often the case with my ritual (some might say addictive) viewing of BBC and Masterpiece, I have become a little bit obsessed with my newly discovered English countryside. Although I have yet to watch Poldark, I’m looking forward to it soon, so I’ve been doing my research. The result: Cornwall has been added to a very lengthy list of places I need to visit in the faraway land of England.
Gunwalloe Church Cove, Cornwall ~ image by Tim Green via Flickr
This view of Church Cove in Gunwalloe, Cornwall has the romantic tangling of open ocean and vivid green cliffs that I associate with the English coastline. This beach on the Lizard Peninsula was used in filming Poldark.
The harbour town of Boscastle was once a home for Thomas Hardy. Not only did the landscape inspire some of Hardy’s literary endeavors, but Hardy also met his first wife here, according to cornwall-online.co.uk.
Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, called Mousehole “the loveliest village in England.” And one can see why: the small harbor filled to the brim with fishing boats, the village houses arcing the water and spreading up the hill. It looks like a lovely Saturday afternoon spot.
This piece of land looks almost like it is floating on the Atlantic. Cape Cornwall looks peaceful in this photo, but I imagine it could be a dangerous place in a wild sea storm.
Land’s End seems to be just that: as far as you can go southwest in England. I would love taking a rambling hike along this coastline.
Chun Quoit, Cornwall ~ image by Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons
These ancient stones were built as a Neolithic tomb. The dolmen of Chun Quoit is evidence of the long and eventful history of England. It must be amazing to witness that connection across thousands of years.
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall ~ image by Maniple via Wikimedia Commons
Tintagel Castle looks like it has emerged straight from the mythical past. Indeed, legend has it that King Arthur of the Round Table was conceived at this location, prior to the construction of the castle.
Land’s End, Cornwall ~ image by Chris Combe via Flickr
Like other English places, Cornwallt has that magical mix of historical significance and natural beauty. You could spend days hiking the cliffs, swimming at the beaches, and exploring the quaint villages. Maybe someday I’ll do just that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual tour of Cornwall. Stay tuned for a review coming soon of Poldark!
Sam walked up and down the grocery store aisles, a plastic basket crooked over his arm. “Not like the good old days,” he said, scratching the top of his graying head with his empty pipe. “This country’s gone to rot. Where in the name of Gandalf is the bleeding pipe weed?” Sam stopped and stared with red eyes at a wall of freezers. Everything from frozen ready-to-roast meals to ale popsicles stocked the shelves.
“Did you call on me, Master Samwise?” said a very tall person who was stepping out of one the freezer doors. “So nice to cool off a bit. They call it climate change, but honestly I feel like we’re virtually melting nowadays.”
“Gandalf?! I haven’t seen you in what, fifty years!”
Gandalf stroked his newly trimmed goatee. “Has it really been only fifty years? Seems like an eternity. Yes, well, the Grey Havens were getting a little grey, if you know what I mean. Too many elves. They sing constantly – after a while, an old wizard like me would like to wake up naturally, not to a multitude of conceited angels shrieking to the sunrise.”
“But what are you doing here?” asked Sam. His empty basket had crashed several moments before on the tile next his sandaled feet.
“Just checking up on things. Looking around. Taking a vacation, of sorts.”
“Well, things have changed quite a bit. All these new aboveground boxes selling everything under the sun. Everything but pipe weed, apparently.”
“If you must know,” said Gandalf, looking behind him before continuing, “all the pipe weed has been either smoked or burned since the government ban several weeks ago. It looks as though it has finally taken effect in the Shire.”
“Just what we need – another ban! We’ve only had to wear these blasted shoes indoors for a couple weeks, and already I’ve had hundreds of blisters!”
“Really, Sam, you’ve always been so prone to exaggeration. But you are right, the Gondorians have become rather overprotective.”
“To say the least! I can’t even grow my own vegetables without registering with the bloody Minister of Fruitation!”
“Eh-hem…” A smallish person with big round glasses and bulging beer-belly-in-progress emerged from the next aisle carrying a very large pumpkin and a six-pack of butterbeer. “Pardon me, but I couldn’t help but overhear. I’m a bit ashamed really, but I’ve always wanted to meet you. You know, you were always my favorite character, Sam. May I call you Sam?”
“And who, might I ask, are you?” Sam asked, growing more agitated the longer he went without pipe weed.
“Oh, sorry. Thought you would know me. My name’s Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived and all that rot. Me and the Sorceror’s Stone, Me and the Chamber of Secrets – oh, and my personal favorite, Me and the Goblet-”
“Right-o! Of course I know you!” said Sam, a smile breaking out on his wrinkled face. “I’ve read your books to my grand-hobbits. Maybe you could sign a copy for me-”
“Oh, I don’t really do that anymore. Publicity isn’t good for my health, you see. But I’m very glad to meet a fan.”
Gandalf eyed the pumpkin suspiciously. “What do you have there, boy? Not delving into Black Magic, are you?”
“Of course not – why does everyone keep asking that? Actually it’s more like Purple Magic – very freeing and individualistic. I’ve never felt more accepted than when I hang out with Purple Magicians.”
Gandalf cleared his throat and arched a crooked eyebrow. “I see,” he sneered. “I really must be going; so very nice to chat, Master Samwise. You should consider retirement – Gray Havens has quite a vacancy!”
Sam watched as Gandalf skipped down the aisle and disappeared.
“Damn it all to Sauron, I meant to ask him about Frodo!” Sam said, quickly recovering his agitation as he remembered that he was no nearer to getting more pipe weed.
“Oh, haven’t you heard?’ whispered Harry, as if covering up a juicy secret. “Frodo’s left the Grey Havens. Joined the Sith, so they say.”