10 movies/series as good as, if not better than the books.

  1. Death in Venice – I read the short story, but oh, that wonderful movie!
  2. Gone with the wind – again, unforgettable movie.
  3. The Godfather – I read the book decades of years ago. I couldn’t read it now but the movie is still terrific.
  4. The Forsyte Saga: I have this (in three volumes) three times over the years, but I have to admit that the very first series, with Eric Porter as Soames, was tremendous.
  5. Brideshead Revisited – who could forget that wonderful series, so rich and deep and colourful, every character perfect.
  6. A Room with a View. I have read all of E M Forster’s books, and I have seen the movies but this one in particular is an absolute joy and delight.
  7. Misery. I find it almost impossible to read Stephen King – he’s too much for me – but Misery was a great movie – I’ve never trusted Cathy Bates since!
  8. The Shining – again a great movie. Who could ever forget Jack Nicholson?
  9. The Shawshank Redemption. I think I’ve seen it three times, I’ve only read the short story once.
  10. Brokeback Mountain. When I first read this book, I thought it was the loving-est love story I had ever read and I made everyone I knew read it too. I worried about a movie coming out but it was great, the two guys were marvelous and it looked lovely too.

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The loving-est story I ever read.

“The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.”

And:

“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”

The most loving story I ever read; I made family and friends read it too – years before the movie, which I also enjoyed.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN by Annie Proulx

A review of “Blood in the Valley” by Jean M Roberts

I was sorry to come to the end of this book. Although it finished in exactly the right place I was loathe to leave behind all the characters I had come to know. This is a story about the birth of the United States, and although I briefly studied the American War of Independence at school (a long time ago), it was so interesting to read about it in a novel, and to see what it must have been like for the families who lived through it.

When we first meet Catherine, the main character, she is minding her baby brother, so we see her first as a loving, caring and kindly girl and as she grows to womanhood her personality doesn’t change – although during the war she taps into parts of herself she didn’t know existed! Her husband, Samuel, is a decent, hard-working man who loves his family, and when the war begins he proves himself to be brave, steadfast and intelligent and plays an important part in the outcome of the war. The other characters, their family and friends, are people anyone would like to spend time with.

The narrative drive in this book is very strong and I was drawn into it straight away. The writing is clear and precise – there is no padding here. You can see the families and hear them talking and you understand how they feel. There are also some beautiful descriptions of the countryside:

“The falling water sparkled like gems reflecting the early morning sunshine. The river flung itself over the falls, cascading seventy-five feet or more into a boiling cauldron before rushing away in swirling eddies toward the Hudson.”

God, religion and the community is of extreme importance and the base of all social life for these pioneers and settlers. It’s where Catherine met Samuel, and there are some romantic occasions, which I loved, and which make you aware of how different life and language was then. Samuel says to Catherine:

“Miss Wasson, I have had a delightful day . . . I hope you will allow me the pleasure to call on you.”

At the advice of Catherine’s uncle, three related families decide to move to New York where land is “plentiful and cheap“. These are big families with a lot of children, many of whom bear the same names. I could easily imagine the family gatherings with all ages present; the feeling of belonging to a clan; everyone with the same objective – to live and love and farm and bring up their children in peace and safety.

The journey to New York is long, dangerous and arduous, by land and sea. But they make it, and eventually Samuel builds a wonderful house in Cherry Valley where they settle down and run their farm. But there is now the threat of war and I’m aware that some of these familiar and well-known characters are going to die. I read on with trepidation . . .

The families are separated by the war but for me this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the book – so many letters going forwards and back, so full of love and hope and encouragement. There is a fantastic occasion (referred to above) when Catherine takes to the ramparts of the fort where they are staying, with a rifle, an unheard of thing for a woman to do, and she earns herself a place in history.

And so, to a perfect ending when the war is over: The United States comes into being and American citizens can rebuild their houses and their lives and their families again.

I  would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical novels and family sagas, and a book with a strong narrative drive. The pace and shape of the book is so good; there is no slump in the middle, no part is too long or too short.

I give this book 5 Stars.  

Elizabeth Merry

09/06/20

5 Best Opening Lines

  1. “Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames.” Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
  2. “All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklike limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.” Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor.
  3. “While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.” The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
  4. “‘All good things must end,’ said Frances Price.” French Exit by Patrick de Witt.
  5. “It was love at first sight”. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

A review of “Iron Lake” by William Kent Kreuger

So, I was looking forward to reading this book as it had been highly recommended, and I did like it, but not as much as I expected. To begin with the main character Cork O’Connor is interesting and likable. He is part American Indian and there are quite a lot of American Indian characters in the book, known collectively as “the people” which interested me very much as I know nothing of their culture.

The story is gripping from the off – incomprehensible murders, a wealthy politician, a crumbling marriage, a sweet love story – and secrets and silence everywhere. An occasional mention of a supernatural element adds to the whole but doesn’t intrude. There’s an easygoing quality as well, and many back stories, but they are so engaging – and easygoing doesn’t mean slow.

However. nearing the end of the book I found that some situations were very contrived to allow the hero to unravel the mystery. Also, the denouement is very drawn out and quite boring. It was disappointing after so good a story.

There isn’t any quotable dialogue here but the pace and shape of the story is good.

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20 Authors no one reads any more!

Taylor Caldwell – many great big books – “Dear and Glorious Physician” might ring a bell.

Denis Wheatley – quite a few dealing with the supernatural – “The Devil Rides Out” had me terrified for months!

James A Michener – his books were huge; many of them were made into movies; “Hawaii” being one of them. They were huge family sagas, involving many generations.

Wilkie Collins – the first author to write detective stories, notably “The Woman in White” and “The Moonstone”. Himself and Dickens were friends but he has been forgotten now.

James Clavell – I read and loved all his books; they were big books; I mentioned “Shogun” in the Large Books list. But they contained whole other worlds to get lost in and were so readable.

Somerset Maugham – he wrote many books and some became movies too – “The Razor’s Edge” and “Of Human Bondage” come to mind straight away. His short stories were unforgettable.

Graham Greene – again, many of his novels were turned into movies but no one seems to read the books any more, and they were great.

Frank Yerby – historical, colourful, and great fun, set in America’s deep south.

Maurice Walsh – the Irish writer from Kerry, responsible for one famous movie – “The Quiet Man”. It was a short story in a collection called “Green Rushes”. He wrote many books, all very romantic and all set in Ireland or Scotland.

Evelyn Waugh – who wrote “Brideshead Revisited” which was made into that wonderful, beautiful series. He also wrote many very funny books.

Henry James – I love Henry James; he’s old-fashioned of course but the novels are so good. Also made into many films – “Portrait of a Lady” “Washington Square” and “The Turn of the Screw”.

E M Forster – it’s becoming difficult to find an author whose books were NOT turned into movies! I’ll only mention my favourite one of his – “A Room with a View”.

D K Broster – no movies! He was a Scottish writer who wrote a trilogy of historical novels, all set in Scotland – very romantic!

I’ll just mention a couple of romantic novelists from my youth – I’m quite sure today’s young ones would find them hilarious: Denise Robins, Ethel M Dell, Barbara Cartland.

And a couple of detective writers – Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie – does anyone read her books any more? So many glossy movies.

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The first page of Catch 22 by Joseph heller, to remind everyone how wonderful it was, and still is, with the best first line ever!

It was love at first sight.

The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.

Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn’t quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn’t become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.

Each morning they came around, three brisk and serious men with efficient mouths and inefficient eyes, accompanied by brisk and serious Nurse Duckett, one of the ward nurses who didn’t like Yossarian. They read the chart at the foot of the bed and asked impatiently about the pain. They seemed irritated when he told them it was exactly the same.

“Still no movement? the full colonel demanded.

The doctors exchanged a look when he shook his head.

“Give him another pill.”

Nurse Duckett made a note to give Yossarian another pill, and the four of them moved along to the next bed.

Well, you would just have to keep reading wouldn’t you?