Tag Archives: film

First Edition: ‘1984’ by George Orwell #oldbooks #firstedition

A novel which needs no introduction, 1984 by George Orwell [below], first published in the UK in 1949, has populated modern culture with its terms. Big Brother. Doublethink. Thoughtcrime. Newspeak. Room 101. Memory Hole. It regularly features in Best Of lists.

A first UK edition green jacket is for sale at Peter Harrington [above] for £4,000; the first impression was issued in either green or red jackets. Another UK first edition is also for sale, £9,750, owned and inscribed by friends of Eric Blair [Orwell], Eleanor and Dennis Collings.
George Orwell The current UK Penguin edition [above] dates from 2004. Buy

The story
The year is 1984.  Airstrip One is a province of Oceania, one of three totalitarian super states that rule the world. It is ruled by the ‘Party’, its ideology is ‘Ingsoc’, its leader is ‘Big Brother’. The people must conform to the system, spied on by the ‘Thought Police’ using two-way telescreens. Winston Smith is a member of the middle class Outer Party, he rewrites historical records to conform to the state’s vision. Winston has an affair with Julia, something which is an act of rebellion as the Party insists sex should only take place for reproductive purposes. Winston suspects his boss, O’Brien, may be a member of a secret underground resistance called the ‘Brotherhood’.

The film
Not an easy film to watch but, at the same time, impossible to turn away from. In the 1984 film, Winston Smith is played by a young John Hurt with Richard Burton, in his last screen appearance, as Inner Party member O’Brien. George Orwell It remains chilling to this day. Watch this scene, the first meeting of O’Brien [Burton] and Winston [Hurt].

Other editions
Although I read Orwell’s Animal Farm for the first time as an eleven-year old, I didn’t read 1984 until university when the year itself was rapidly approaching. I still have my copy, it’s the 1974 Penguin edition [below]. George Orwell

Read the first paragraph of 1984.

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding
‘Jurassic Park’ by Michael Crichton
‘The Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkien

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First Edition: The Secret Garden

First published as a US serial in The American Magazine beginning in 1910, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett [below] was first published as a book in 1911. The American edition by Stokes [below] featured illustrations by Maria Louise Kirk, while illustrations in the British edition published by Heinemann were by Charles Heath Robinson. Burnett was born in Manchester, England in 1849 but after the death of her father, she emigrated with her family to the Knoxville, Tennessee, USA in 1865. Frances Hodgson BurnettRead more about the Stokes first edition at Bauman Rare Books.

The story
Mary Lennox, born at the turn of the twentieth century to wealthy British parents in India who do not want her, is cared for by servants. After the death of her parents she is sent to England to Yorkshire, to live with her Uncle Archibald at Misselthwaite Manor. There she is bad-tempered and dislikes everything about her new home until Martha, a maid, tells her the story of Mrs Craven who loved her private walled garden of roses. When his wife died, Mr Craven locked the garden and buried the key. As Mary wonders about the secret garden, her humour and behaviour improves and she makes friends with the gardener. When she finds the key, Mary’s brother Dickon helps Mary to learn about gardening, plants and wildlife. Then one night, exploring a cry in the night, she discovers a boy living in a hidden bedroom. This is Colin, her cousin, who has a damaged spine. She tells Colin of the secret garden and when they visit it together, Colin finds his weak legs can stand after all.

The film
The 1993 film The Secret Garden starred Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, John Lynch and Maggie Smith. Exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor were shot at Allerton Castle in Yorkshire, internal scenes at Fountains Hall near Ripon. Watch the film trailer.

Other editions

Read here why The Secret Garden is the ‘Porridge & Cream’ comfort read of novelist Laura Wilkinson.

Frances Hodgson Burnett


‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett [UK: Virago] Buy now

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘An Ice Cream War’ by William Boyd
‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles
‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams

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First Edition: The Hobbit

My worn copy of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein was published by George Allen & Unwin – the edition dates from 1966 – and cost 50p/10s. I’m not sure of the date it was bought for me, I remember reading it when I was about 11 or 12, which corresponds with the dual pricing on the back cover [the UK adopted decimal currency in 1971 and for a time, goods and services had dual prices]. I particularly love the cover, which is an early sketch by the author. The HobbitThe story
This is a quest, a journey both geographically and of personality, undertaken by a quiet unassuming hobbit called Bilbo Baggins. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know the story? The themes of personal growth and bravery are rooted in Tolkein’s experiences during the Great War. Never out of print, The Hobbit appears not only as book and film editions, audiobooks and games, but also stage adaptations and video games and countless merchandise. Forget all of that, and go back to the book.

The film 

Tolkein’s novel was taken by Peter Jackson – director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – and turned into a trilogy, although for much of its development it was planned as a two-film project. Be-set by problems – change of director, union disputes – the first film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in 2012.

See the preview of the first film of The Hobbit trilogy at You Tube.

Watch this clip on You Tube about the filming of The Hobbit.

The first edition 

Three firsts for this old edition – first edition, first impression, first issue jacket – published September 21, 1937. The first printing of 1500 books sold out by December. This edition is particularly valuable – priced at £35,000 at Peter Harrington – due to a hand correction to ‘Dodgeson’ on the rear inside flap.

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
Watership Down’ by Richard Adams

JRR Tolkein


‘The Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkein [Harper Collins Children’s Books]
Buy at Amazon

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Book review: Me Cheeta

James LeverThis book by James Lever was something of a word-of-mouth hit, a spoof autobiography by the chimp which played Cheeta in the Tarzan films of the Thirties, and was recommended to me by my husband. It sat on my to-read shelf for a long time, until I had a tired day when I needed something easy to read.

It had me laughing right from page 1. “Dearest humans, So, it’s the perfect day in Palm Springs, California, and here I am – actor, artist, African, American, ape and now author – flat out on the lounger by the pool, looking back over this autobiography of mine. Flipping through it more than reading it, to be honest…”

Okay, the laughs don’t come every page, and the section where Cheeta journeys from Africa to New York then Hollywood could perhaps have been shorter. But it made me laugh. The portrayal of some Hollywood stars is wicked, and there are very familiar names: Flynn, Niven, Dietrich, Rooney, Sanders, Chaplin, the Barrymores, and of course Johnny. Johnny Weissmuller. All fictional of course.

At times, I forgot it was a spoof, so delicious were the laughs. “It would be true to say that I spent at least sixty-five per cent of 1935 masturbating in a cage. But, you know, a cage is a cage is a cage, as Gertrude Stein might have said.”

Click here to watch the Channel 4 news announcement about the death of the real Cheeta.

If you like ‘Me Cheeta’, try these other fictitious autobiographies:-
‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf
‘Nat Tate’ by William Boyd
‘Papillon’ by Henri Charrière

‘Me Cheeta’ by James Lever [UK: Fourth Estate] Buy now

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Book review: The Queen of the Tearling

the queen of the tearling by erika johansen 17-7-14 (2)Neither when I chose this book to review, nor when I started reading it, did I know that this was the next best thing. That David Heyman [producer of the Harry Potter films] and Emma Watson [Hermione] are already in pre-production with the film for Warner Brothers. That the author signed a gazillion dollar deal for the seven-book series. I didn’t know. And I loved it.

It’s a ripping adventure story which feels like a medieval tale except for the occasional references to plastic surgery, Harry Potter and mascara. For a debut, it is skilfully handled. This is a dystopian society, post-something [an un-named event] which caused people to feel their homeland [an un-named country] in The Crossing [across an ocean, as a boat was lost] to their new land of the Tearling [on an unspecified continent]. Behind them they left science, books, medicine, education, art, television, you name it they left it behind. They fight with knives and swords.

Into this context is thrown a 19-year old girl, raised in secrecy by an elderly couple in rural seclusion. She must become queen of her mother’s nation or it will be lost to the evil ruler of the neighbouring state. Kelsea Glynn had a studious childhood, learning history, mathematics, languages, and how to trap and skin a rabbit. She reads a book a day [including The Lord of the Rings], not something your usual heroine does. Add treachery, slavery, corruption, prostitution, child exploitation, and all sorts of other dastardly deeds, and you will see why this is a page turner. Kelsea, the girl-turned-Queen is thrown into the middle of this and expected to fail.

But she doesn’t.

[photo: Cultura/Corbis]

[photo: Cultura/Corbis]

There is more to this than just a thriller, the world of the Tearling has been meticulously constructed by Erika Johansen [above] with its own history, myths and customs. It has the makings of a classic fantasy series. I just want to know when book two will be published.

To watch the official book trailer for The Queen of the Tearling, click here.
‘I wrote Kelsea for women who wanted a heroine like themselves’ says Erika Johansen. To watch the interview on You Tube, click here.
To read more about plans for the film, read this report from The Guardian.

‘The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen [pub in the UK by Bantam Press]

Book review: Allegiant

Allegiant by Veronica Roth 12-2-14This tone of this book, the third in the story about Tris Prior, is different. Influential in this, I think, is the point-of-view which is split for the first time: between Tris and Tobias [Four]. Getting a male perspective is interesting, and I guess Veronica Roth took this approach to add more tension to the storytelling. It certainly highlights the lack of communication between the two. But at times, I lost track of whose thoughts I was reading: not a good sign.

The book is full of strong female characters, but not strong in a good way. Evelyn, head of the factionless; Edith Prior, Tris’s ancestor, whose mystery hangs over this third book. The world Tris knew in Divergent and Insurgent has been shattered by violence so she and Tobias set out, beyond the fence to find a new world. Except this is a book, so the new world is not going to be green fields. It is going to be violent and unequal too.

Unfortunately this reads to me like an author struggling to string her story idea out across three books, because publishers like publishing YA trilogies and Hollywood likes making film trilogies for teens. Allegiant could have done with some serious editing and sharpening-up. A disappointing book.

The first in the trilogy is Divergent, click here to read my review
… and the second is Insurgent, click here to read my review
Listen to an excerpt from the audio book of Allegiant here
Watch Veronica Roth interviewed by The Guardian here about Allegiant
‘Allegiant’ by Veronica Roth

Book review: Gone Girl

gone girl by gillian flynn 24-4-14I feel like the last person to read this book. I don’t know why I didn’t read it earlier, I like clever thrillers, but somehow I just didn’t get around to it. I was partly put off by the range of reviews of Amazon, I must admit, from 5 stars to 2 stars. This is definitely a Marmite book: love it or hate it. But then the publicity for the film started and I always like to read the book before I see the film, so… I got it from the library.

Gone Girl is about the fracturing of a five-year old marriage. We get both points of view: Nick the husband, Amy the wife. Basically one day, Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle in the house. Nick goes predictably quickly from being lost husband to prime suspect. I have to admit. I did not like Amy from page one of her diary, her language is so OTT and flowery. “I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm.” Ugh. Neither was I overly keen on Nick, I guess overall I found it overwritten and both characters seemed self-indulgent.

It’s impossible to review this book without spoilers, so I will stop there. Suffice to say, I raced through it, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it enough to read more by the same author.

Gone Girl practically spawned a new genre: twisty marriage thrillers. To understand the genre, you have to start with this book. I bet Gillian Flynn [below] didn’t know what she was starting.

[photo: gillian-flynn.com]

[photo: gillian-flynn.com]

Click here to visit Gillian Flynn’s website. gone girl - film poster 24-4-14To watch the new trailer for the film [above] starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, click here. Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay.
‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

Great opening paragraph 23… ‘The Last Tycoon’ #amwriting #FirstPara

F Scott Fitzgerald“Though I haven’t ever been on the screen I was brought up in pictures. Rudolph Valentino came to my fifth birthday party – or so I was told. I put this down only to indicate that even before the age of reason I was in a position to watch the wheels go round.”
‘The Last Tycoon’ by F Scott Fitzgerald 

Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:-
‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy
‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier
‘Goldfinger’ by Ian Fleming

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A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE LAST TYCOON by F Scott Fitzgerald #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-eM via @SandraDanby