Romantic Outlaws: A study of the intrigue of Romanticism

I recently finished the spellbindingly good Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, which I bought impulsively whilst browsing in Cambridge.

I read it almost as fast as I would read a fiction book, which is an idea of just how well-written the narrative was. But this is not a review.

I think that the reason Romanticism is still just as intriguing to us today as the main people involved in it  were to their public at the time because it is still scandalous.

It is still rather outlandish. The antics of Lord Bryon and sometimes Percy Shelley (and Mary of course, considering the time period she existed within) still grab attention today. They are oftentimes ridiculous, but, more importantly, they leave us wanting to know more. 

From whether Mary had sex with Percy for the first time on her mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave  to whether Claire Clairmont did have a child with Percy and of course, the numerous lovers the changing group were rumoured to have taken, the antics of the intertwined Romantics stirred up so much speculation that a good deal of it is still considered to be the stuff of great dramas (or, in modern terms, a ridiculous convoluted soap opera!)

These original Romantics have provided a wonderful aesthetic for the Romantics of today and a solid foundation for many biographers to try and tackle the tangled web of their lives. In short, it is sensationalism that has allowed the Romantics to live this long. And may they live on for a while yet!

– Rhan

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Thoughts On Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Disclaimer: All judgement reserved until I have actually seen the play live. These are just my thoughts on the physical copy of the play. This is not a review. Spoilers obviously.

A lot of these have probably been mentioned before but it’s always nice to put your own take out there and to see if they change when I re-read it. I’ve split this into positives and negatives.

Positives:

  • Friendship/possible relationship between Scorpius and Albus – I thought this was such a sweet friendship that most definitely had the potential to turn into a relationship, as others had noticed too. I mean, Scorpius looking after Albus heartbroken? Not liking seeing Albus with a girl? More on this later.
  • Relationship between Dumbledore and Harry being explained more – I really liked and appreciated this aspect of the story, because I always felt as though Harry should be angry at Dumbledore. Dumbledore constantly ignored Harry’s questions and manipulated him many a time, not to mention leaving him in an abusive household (the Dursley’s) for all those years with full knowledge of the way they treated him. Their confrontation thus felt refreshing and was gave the play an extra star in my opinion.

Negatives:

  • Delphi – I’m sorry, but who even thought a girl like Delphi would be a good idea and why would Albus like her? She had no real character development, and Albus suddenly has a crush on her? That just felt forced to me. Also, Voldemort having a daughter at all? I genuinely cannot imagine Voldemort either wanting or needing to have a child considering he still had some horcruxes at the point of Delphi’s birth.
  • The major heteronormativity – Especially concerning Scorpius and Albus. Scorpius’s supposed crush on Rose fell completely flat and felt nonsensical to me, just as Albus’s crush on Delphi felt very much enforced, probably to overshadow the clear connection and strong feelings Albus and Scorpius have for each other.
  • Lack of positive female representation/severe undermining of female characters – Poor Rose, Ginny and Hermione. Rose was quite honestly jut a plot device as mentioned above, and her obvious dislike of Scorpius made no sense. Hermione and Ron may have disliked Draco, but surely they would not tell their daughter to essentially exclude his son purely because of his parentage? Ginny had little to no proper scenes or significant lines, which is really strange considering she’s always been a headstrong character. Also, that weird alternate reality where Hermione was a horribly mean professor, which is fine until I found out she was acting that way because she and Ron were not together. Hermione has never seemingly needed someone else to make her happy, so that part just felt like lazy writing to fit the plot, which brings me on to my next point.
  • No coherent plot – Things like Voldemort Day, the Trolley Lady ‘twist’ and the Blood Ball were silly but I went with the flow of it all in the hopes the plot would eventually come together. It didn’t. At the end of the play I felt unsatisfied and there was a lot of loose ends and plot holes that I picked up on just in my first read. As a large majority have pointed out, it did just read like a plethora of randomly picked bad fanfiction tropes.
  • Ron being reduced to comic relief as he generally was in the movies – Poor Ron. He was basically there for comic relief. His character had no real substance, and this annoyed me, because Ron is so much more than someone who tells ‘lame jokes’ for people to enjoy their ‘lameness’. Maybe once or twice he could be comedic, sure, but it felt as though that was honestly all he was there for in the entire play. There is already debate about whether Ron deserved Hermione etc, and this goofy caricature of his character only serves to emphasise that he does not.
  • Albus kissing his aunt – Maybe this is nitpicking, and I get this is probably quite funny on stage but it came across really weird to me – surely the writers could have thought of another way for ‘Ron’ to distract Hermione.
  • Harry saying he wished Albus weren’t his son – This was a crazy red flag for me. I understand it was in the heat of the moment and Harry is very hot-headed but in my opinion Harry would never ever say a thing like that because he knows how miserable it is when you’re unwanted and unloved and I’m pretty sure he would want his children to feel the opposite of that no matter how upset he was.

– Rhan

Favourite Historical Figures: Part One

Side note: this list does not include figures from Ancient Greece/Rome or mythology because that’s a whole other ballpark.

This is a pretty random list with no discernible order as far as I can tell, and I missed a whole lot out to make it short and sweet. Here goes!

  • Marie Antoinette – I really don’t know what is so fascinating about Marie Antoinette but I am instantly drawn to anything regarding her or history during the period she ruled. I just find her and the history/culture that surrounds her so wonderfully engaging (and I will admit that I simply adore the 2006 Coppola film and had to include the picture above!) Perhaps it’s because of the intrigue surrounding Versailles, also one of my favourite palaces of all time, which brings me on to:
  • Louis XIV (and his brother Philippe, Duke of Orleans) – I recently binge-watched the BBC show Versailles over a course of two nights, and, while a lot of the show is probably over-exaggerated and it does mingle rumour and fact, its sheer opulence reminded me of why I have remained interested in Louis the Sun King and his brother. In fact, when studying Charles II A-level history, I spent most of my time waiting for Louis to pop up (sadly, he was only ever relevant to my course once.)
  • Lord Bryon – Anything to do with the Romantic movement I love, and I was originally going to put John Keats/Percy Shelley on this list, as they were who introduced me to Bryon, but Bryon comes first because of the ultimate sensationalism that must have surrounded his name during his lifetime and the often hilarious dramatics that are recorded for people like me to read, enjoy and then steadily become obsessed with Bryon like so many people of his day were.
  • William Shakespeare – I mean, he’s Will Shakespeare. I honestly don’t know why I am so interested in Will other than I have had to study so many of his plays and there is not much recorded information about him. The intrigue probably helps, but there is just something about Shakespeare that is so interesting and makes me want to find out more.

– Rhan

 

 

 

What-I-Read Wednesday: Wolf Hall + Bring Up The Bodies

I am a huge history fan, and so I knew I would simply have to review Mantel’s work when I finally got hold of the Wolf Hall series! SPOILERS.

Wolf Hall:

**** – At first, I was going to put this book down. I found it started rather slowly. However, after the first one hundred or so pages, I found it picked up and began to gain its momentum. Mantel is obviously a talented writer and her characterisations are fleshed out and interesting while not straying far from traditional historical interpretations. She remains obviously  respectful of her subject while embellishing the most captivating parts of the period she is writing about: 1520/30s Tudor England under Henry VIII. It is a long read, but a mainly engaging one (although I admit I did skip a few pages – sorry Hilary!) and I do recommend it. It is extremely interesting in its own right, and different in its own right from other historical novels I have read such as Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. 

Bring Up The Bodies:

**** – Having continued onto the sequel almost immediately after finishing the first, I was well aware of the cast of characters Mantel skilfully weaves through her novel. However, I do have to admit that even I had had not read the first novel, I would probably have picked up and understood who the characters were and their function – Mantel is very good at introducing characters pretty subtly. The book is shorter than its predecessor, and I say it is better for that, more succinct. The description of Anne’s death was striking, and I found Mantel’s description of how Anne believed her ladies should be around her even though the reader was well aware many had essentially signed her death warrant by giving evidence to Cromwell particularly touching. Mantel managed to make sure Anne, Cromwell, and in fact, all of her characters remained human to the reader – no easy feat for historical figures.

In short, I definitely recommend both of these books if you are a fan of historical fiction without the chunky cliches and wooden writing so many seem to unfortunately employ.

– Rhan

Spotlight: Harry Potter

For the last few days I’ve been swept up in Harry Potter world once more with the release of Cursed Child (the good and the bad reviews). Because of this,  I thought I would do a post on one of my favourite literary characters of all time: Harry James Potter!

Now of course I’m focusing on Harry from the books and not from the movies and definitely not the play (I have heard what sound like some very legitimate grievances about Harry’s characterisation, although I won’t fully judge until I’ve read the play myself.)

I love Harry because he, for all intents and purposes, is not afraid to stand up for himself. This later develops into a protection that involves defending his friends from the rest of the world too (for example; the scene where he angrily defends Luna and Neville against Romilda in Goblet of Fire) I love the fact he is bold and hot-headed (which, by the way, is completely justified considering his life circumstances by Order of the Phoenix – which is my favourite book of the series!)

I love Harry because he can be foolish and spontaneous and makes so many mistakes but he has so much love to give out, even though for the first eleven years of his life he received hardly any. I love him because he is honest and frustrated and normal, not at all like the heroes of many YA novels today who appear to have no flaws other than their own hubris. Harry loves so much and willingly risks his life several times for others, not to mention his deep mourning and distress over Cedric Diggory, which brings me on to the fact that Harry has been through so much in his life but he empathises so much with everybody and would probably never, ever wish the same on anybody else (like when he shortly informs Dumbledore about how people don’t like being locked up in regards to Sirius.)

In conclusion: I love Harry James Potter for everything that he is, and you should too.

– Rhan

What-I-Read Wednesday: Rebecca

While I was suffering many, many train delays upon my trip to Oxford last Sunday, I managed to start and finish the entirety of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier during this time! Therefore, I thought I would do a review for this weeks ‘What I’m Reading Wednesday’!

*** – I gave this book three stars because, for the most part, it was engaging. I wasn’t sure about the writing style at the beginning but it certainly kept me hooked about midway through the book and became a real page-turner, just as my train should have been racing towards Oxford.

A major thing that annoyed me about the book was never finding out the narrator’s first name, because I am a person who loves to know details about a character, especially when they’re the narrator! However, I understand that Du Maurier probably left the narrator nameless in order to add to the sense of mystery and confusion as events unfold at Manderly.

As for Manderly itself, I thought the mystery of Rebecca was definitely a gripping tale, although the narrator’s constant reference to her youth and her general ‘wet-blanketness’ for want of a better term did begin to annoy me, even before she got to Manderly. Although, of course, this could be down to the narrator’s anxiety, which I did find myself sympathising with, particularly when the narrator was faced with the bitter and twisted Mrs. Danvers.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and I am glad I read it. If it were not for the non-existent backbone of the narrator, the (in my opinion) rather slow beginning and perhaps underdeveloped characters, I would have probably given it a higher rating.

– Rhan

Favourite Translations: Les Mis Edition

Hi! Sorry for the long gap between posts, it’s been a busy few days and will be for the next week or so! Because of this, I’ve decided to just do a casual, easy, chatty post about one of my favourite books ever: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo! I included the photo above because I just love the way it’s designed.

I own six English translations of Les Mis. Not that I’m satisfied, I would still love to collect more editions of the novel.

The first edition I received was the Penguin Classics version, aka the translation by Norman Denny. I received this copy as a bribe from my sister so that she could borrow my favourite skirt for a party and I read it over and over, not even realising there were other translations out there.

Then I believe I bought the Hapgood translation, which is my favourite translation for style of language and characterisation, and I’d say my favourite translation overall.

The other translations I own are:

  •  Lee Fahnestock and Norman McAfee (1987)
  • Julie Rose (2007)
  • Christine Donougher (2013)
  • Charles E. Wilbour (1862)

Out of the above, I’d say Julie Rose’s translation is the easiest to read –  but at a cost of losing a lot of the beautiful language of Hapgood and a lot of updated modern language in its place. Donougher does much the same, although it is to a lesser extent. Wilbour’s translation is, in my opinion, rather heavy going, probably because it was appealing to a long-ago generation when published, and Fahnestock and McAfee’s is a nice, engaging version.

– Rhan