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Monthly Archives: April 2016

#AtoZChallenge Letter Z

ivy-capital-letter-zis for Zuleika Dobson

 

Zuleika

I read Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm about 40 years ago.  It is an ironic satire on the life of undergraduates at Oxford University in 1911.  Into their lives comes the stunningly beautiful Zuleika.  All the young men fall in love with this femme fatale, but she resists all their charms, even when she falls in love herself.  At the end of the book after the young men have proved they were prepared to die for her, Zuleika sets out for Cambridge, where perhaps the students might have been less melodramatic.  This was Beerbohm’s only novel but it was very successful and established him as a wit whom George Bernard Shaw called,  “the Incomparable Max.”  Max was also admired for his caricatures of famous figures.  Here he shows the pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in their rooms in Red Lion Square.

Morris21042016

One last chance to view the choices of the other  AtoZChallngers

#AtoZChallenge Letter Y

Y   is for Yeats

In the following poem written in 1888 William Butler Yeats remembered the deserted island of Innisfree in the middle of Lough Gill in County Sligo which he used to visit as a child.

Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
W.B. Yeats

Lough_Gill._County_Sligo

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers

#AtoZChallenge Letter X

For this letter I have to cheat by using EX

One person you can count on to be depressing is Thomas Hardy.  Here is one of his later poems.

EXPECTATION and EXPERIENCE

“I had a holiday once,” said the woman-

Her name I did not know-

“And I thought that where I’d like to go,

Of all the places for being jolly,

And getting rid of melancholy, Would be to a good big fair;

And I went.  And it rained in torrents, drenching

Every horse, and sheep, and yeoman,

And my shoulders, face and hair;

And I found that I was the single woman,

In the field- and looked quite odd there!

Everything was spirit-quenching:

I crept and stood in the lew of a wall

To think, and could not tell at all

What on earth made me plod there!”

Thomas Hardy

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh,_Dutch_-_Rain_-_Google_Art_Project

Rain by Vincent Van Gogh

#AtoZChallenge Letter W

W  is for Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was an artist who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, many years after the original  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had ceased to exist.  Today I am going to concentrate on his portrayal of The Lady of Shalott.

half-sick_of_shadows,

I Am Half Sick of Shadows

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the ballad set at the time of King Arthur, based on the medieval story of Elaine of Astolat.

Unable to look directly on Camelot because of a curse, she must content herself with the reflection in a mirror.

Looking_at_Lancelot

The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot

 

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.
John_William_Waterhouse_The_Lady_of_Shalott
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.
With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look’d down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Link to the other A to Z Challengers

Death at the Theatre by Celina Grace

Theatre

Miss Hart and Miss Hunter Investigate

Death at the Theatre takes us into the world of a fashionable London home in the 1930s, but not to the salons above, rather down to the kitchen below where Joan Hart assists the cook to prepare meals for the household.  Her escape from drudgery, accompanied by her friend, lady’s maid Verity Hunter, is a visit to the theatre where Verity’s uncle, an actor, has given them tickets.  But they are plunged, once again into investigating a crime, when a murder occurs, almost in front of their eyes.

 

There are several likely culprits amongst the cast of the play, but most were on stage when the murder occurred up in the “gods”.  Joan and Verity become well acquainted with the actors and backstage staff and Joan’s wish to solve crime is reactivated when once more she meets Detective Inspector Marks, who treats her with kindness and respect.  Meanwhile Verity is embroiled in concerns about the behaviour of her Mistress, Dorothy, who seems bitterly unhappy.

 

There are several red herrings within the plot and the perpetrator is finally revealed only when Joan helps Inspector Marks by her private investigation.  This cosy mystery is very much part of the continuing story of Joan and Verity’s lives and their wish to leave a life of servitude, but it also keeps the reader guessing by an inventive plot.  The context of theatre land in the 1930s is well created and Joan especially is an empathetic character.

 

#AtoZChallenge Letter V

V is for Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter of domestic interior scenes of everyday seventeenth century life.  Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is noted for his skillful portrayal of light.  He was a reasonably successful painter in his lifetime, but he left his wife and children in debt at his death.  Nowadays Vermeer is most famous for his painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer

This simple picture of a woman with a milk jug inspired this poem:-

Vermeer

As long as the woman from Rijksmuseum

in painted silence and concentration

day after day pours milk

from the jug to the bowl,

the World does not deserve

the end of the world.

Wislawa Szymborska

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers

 

 

 

 

The Black Orchid by Celine Jeanjean

black orchid

The second adventure of the Viper and the Urchin finds these two disparate characters relocated to the warehouse of Cruikshank, engineer to the Marchioness, no longer an assassin and a pickpocket, but officially employed by the Old Girl, as the Marchioness is affectionately called.  But their services have not been required and they are feeling aimless and redundant when at last they are summoned to investigate a mysterious death by exsanguination in the insalubrious Bayog district of the city of Damsport.

 

Rory’s knowledge of the criminal underworld of the Rookery make her indispensable but Longinus occupies his time investigating the unexplained shortage of the black silk he needs urgently for his new elegant suit.  A link between these two events is discovered in The Black Orchid, a newly popular brothel.  Rory and Longinus find themselves in great danger again, not just from their enemy but also from threats to their relationship.  As they become estranged, the future looks grim.

 

Like the first book, The Black Orchid engages readers by the strong, vibrant women who never give up against all odds.  An old relationship between the Marchioness and stunningly beautiful Mizria may be reawakened, Rory seems to be becoming closer to Varanguard, Rafe and Longinus continues to send anonymous poems to Lady Martha, daughter of the Old Girl.

 

Celine Jeanjean has written another thrilling adventure which is hard to put down.  The grubby streets of the city come alive in the fast moving plot and each character has substance and complication.  Alchemy and steam driven vehicles play their part but heroism shines.  In conclusion the scene is set for further adventure involving characters who have come to mean a great deal to their readers.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

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