Monday, 25 August 2014

A Quick Announcement

I'm going to Ireland this Wednesday and I won't be back until next Monday night :) I won't be checking my emails or blog during this time but you're still more than welcome to leave comments. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

'Tess of the D'Ubervilles' by Thomas Hardy (1891)

Synopsis: Tess Durbeyfield is the beautiful, eldest daughter of a poor West Country family. At the beginning of the story, Tess's father is informed by a local parson that he is descended from an aristocratic Norman family called the D'Ubervilles. After the unfortunate death of the family horse, his wife manages to persuade Tess to seek out a wealthy widow called Mrs Stoke-D'Uberville. They mistakenly believe this woman to be their relation. Tess's mother believes that if Tess "claims kin" that she'll be put in the way of genteel folk and will be bound to marry a gentleman. The very first person that Tess meets at the house is Mrs Stoke-D'Ubervilles's son, Alec. Tess's beauty immediately captivates Alec so he arranges for Tess to have a job at the family estate. Tess feels uncomfortable with Alec's attentions but is too innocent and naive to know what Alec really wants from her. Alec then takes advantage of Tess in the most shocking way possible: he takes her out into the woods one night and rapes her. Tess returns home and gives birth to Alec's child. Several months later the baby dies. Tess is then able to find work at a dairy farm. The farm is on the other side of the county where her past is unknown. Tess then meets a handsome and liberal-thinking young man called Angel Clare. Angel is a parson's son and is in training to become a gentleman farmer. Tess and Angel soon find themselves falling in love with one another and marry, but Tess is torn. Should she follow her mother's advice and keep her past a secret from her new husband or should she confide in the man that she loves?

About five years ago I read Tess of the D'Ubervilles for the first time and then watched the 2008 BBC adaptation. I was deeply moved by them both and they even me cry. In spite of its bleak and depressing tone I genuinely loved the story. I love books that stir my emotions and make me feel. Now that I've read the book for a second time I wasn't as impressed by it. It could just be that I wasn't quite in the right mood for it but by re-reading the book I found that there were a couple of things about it that jumped out at me. Re-reading this book for a second time I found that there was sometimes too much melodrama and that the pacing sometimes meandered. There are also moments when Hardy seems downright obsessed with Tess's appearance. I get it, Hardy! Tess is beautiful! Can you stop with the excessive descriptions of her lips, eyes and hair please?! These things annoyed me. However, even though I can't say I love Tess as much as I used to, I still have a great deal of respect for the book.

Readers who dislike this book tend to do so because of the tragic nature of the story but, even though I don't think Tess of the D'Ubervilles is a perfect book, I really do believe that it's a powerful, moving and thought-provoking story. Hardy's writing is rich and beautiful and full of symbolism. Yes, the book is very tragic and things don't end well for Tess but then things don't exactly end well for the bad characters in this book either. Also, the reason why this book is a tragedy is because Hardy is using it to draw attention to the plight of women and to attack the hypocrisy of Victorian sexual politics. After Tess is raped by Alec she's no longer considered to be a pure woman by the people around her but how can Tess help losing her virginity to a man who abused her? Because the story has a very obvious point to it I find the tragedy easier to handle. Tess of the D'Ubervilles was a very controversial novel at the time of its publication and I have a lot of respect for Hardy for having the nerve to write it. We need books like Tess of the D'Ubervilles in our world just as much as we need comforting, feel-good books like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

I will admit that Tess of the D'Ubervilles can be a very hard read at times though and that the characters make me feel very angry. Tess's parents are stupid, selfish and irresponsible. Alec is an evil, manipulative rapist. Angel Clare is... argh! This might seem very strange but the character that I hate the most in this book isn't actually Alec. It's Angel. Alec might be a terrible person but at least he knows it! Angel is such a self-righteous hypocrite! Even though Angel finally learns the error of his ways at the end, and tries to make it up to his wife, I simply can't forgive him for what he did to Tess. Easily the most aggravating part of the book for me is when Angel abandons Tess and runs off to South America after he finds out about her past. This is in spite of the fact that he'd just confessed to spending two days of drunken debauchery with a woman in London that was completely consensual and which Tess had already forgiven him for! I didn't even like Angel all that much even before he walked out on Tess - as some of his beliefs seemed extremely weird to me - but his abandonment of her made me despise him. Alec abuses Tess physically but Angel abuses Tess emotionally. It's utterly tragic that Tess is unable to see Angel for who he really is.

Tess is by far and away the most sympathetic character in the entire book but even she irritated me at times. I found some of her actions more frustrating this time around than I did previously. Although Tess is in some ways very spirited and independent, she never ever calls her parents or Angel out on their treatment of her. She's too passive. And whenever Tess is with Angel she seems to completely lose herself in him. I find that very annoying in a character! But then, as frustrating as this is, Tess is still an extremely sympathetic character and I do feel that she's supposed to be flawed. I like that. I suspect that a lot of writers in Hardy's time would have probably made Tess a one-dimensional, angelic victim but Hardy doesn't do that. He even specifically points out Tess's flaws. "Well, if Tess hadn't been too proud to have gone to Angel's parents for help..." Er, that's not an exact quote!

Tess of the D'Ubervilles is by no means a perfect book and at times I do find it rather aggravating. On reflection I don't think I can call it one of my favourite books any more. But at the same time I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for it. And I thank God that women enjoy freedoms today that Victorian women could only have dreamed of.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My Thoughts on Some Upcoming Shakespeare Movies

Since there are quite a few upcoming Shakespeare adaptations in the works I felt like giving my take on them all :)

Cymbeline (2014)
Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays and is mostly set in Ancient Britain (in the area that is now Wales). This film adaptation has changed the setting to modern-day New York and it will depict a "grudge war between corrupt cops and a drug dealing biker gang". The trailer is below:

Will I see it?
No. Cymbeline isn't a play that I know, I'm not a great fan of anyone in its cast, and the trailer doesn't interest me.

Enemy of Man (2014)
There are two upcoming Macbeth adaptations in the works. This film really doesn't seem like it's going to be a traditional take on the story. Apparently it's going to be "stripping back the dialogue and cranking up the action". Ah yes, because that's exactly why Shakespeare's works have endured over the centuries. Because of all of the breathtaking action scenes.

Will I See It?
Maybe because I do really like some of its cast (Sean Bean, Charles Dance) but at the same time I am very sceptical!

Macbeth (2015)
This the second of the two Macbeth films (obviously!) It seems like a much more traditional take on the story and there's already a bit of an early Oscar buzz about it. Michael Fassbender is playing Macbeth, which makes him the fourth X-Men actor to take on the role (after Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and James McAvoy), and Marion Cotillard is playing his wife. There's no trailer yet but there have been some released images:

Will I see it?
Yes, I'm really looking forward to this one! I haven't read Macbeth since I was in Year 8 but I did like the play (I think I was about the only kid in my class who did!) and I love Fassbender and Cotillard. Also, a lot of the film was actually shot in Scotland which is really nice.

Rosaline (2015)
There isn't a lot of information about this film yet but it's going to be based on a YA novel called When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle. It's a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet and, as you've probably already gathered, it tells the story of the play from the perspective of Rosaline. Felicity Jones will be playing the title character and the film will be scripted by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter (who wrote 500 Days of Summer and the adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars).

Will I See It?
Maybe. The premise doesn't really interest me but I loved Felicity Jones in the ITV adaptation of Northanger Abbey and I thought Weber and Neustadter did a terrific job with The Fault in Our Stars. I'll reserve judgement until I see the final trailer.

Caesar (2015)
I haven't been able to find out very much about this film outside of imdb but it's going to be an adaptation of Julius Caesar. It will star Sean Bean as Caesar (man he really does die in everything!) and Samantha Barks as Portia. It will also feature Indira Varma, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Mackenzie Crook and John Bradley. That's a lot of Game of Thrones actors! And also John Boyega who will be starring in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Will I See It?
Yes. Julius Caesar isn't a play that I know but I love the cast! I'll have to give the play a read before this film is due.

The overall verdict
Two "yes's", two "maybe's" and a "no". It looks like I might be seeing quite a few Shakespeare movies then!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

War Horse (Book, Play and Film)

Back in 1982 the children's author Michael Morpurgo wrote a novel called War Horse. This was then adapted into a hit London play in 2007 which then led to a film adaptation of War Horse being made in 2011. Since I'm now familiar with all of these versions of the story I felt like reviewing them all in one post. My introduction to War Horse was back in 2011 when I saw the film version. I got to see the play version of War Horse last October when it toured the UK, and a few months ago I re-watched the film and finally got round to reading the book.

The book, play and film versions of War Horse all follow the same basic story. It begins in 1912 when a young foal is bought on impulse by a drunken farmer. The horse is then brought up the farmer's loving son Albert who decides to name the horse Joey. Albert rides Joey daily and trains him up for work on their Devonshire farm. Over the next couple of years Albert and Joey become deeply attached to one another but then Albert's father sells Joey to the British army at the start of WWI. Joey is then taken over to France and becomes a cavalry horse. His rider is a kind cavalry officer called Captain Nicholls but, when Nicholls is killed in battle, Joey is then taken by the Germans. Joey then finds himself serving the German army in addition to spending some time on a French farm. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Albert vows to find Joey again as soon as he's old enough to enlist in the army.

I really like the story of War Horse. I wouldn't describe the story as being one of my all-time favourites or anything but it's a very touching tribute to the animals who lost their lives whilst serving mankind. It has a lot of heart and the scenes between Albert and Joey are lovely. Although it's often sad the ending of the story is uplifting.

Even though the book is the original War Horse it's easily my least favourite version of the story. Unlike the play and the film, the book is told entirely from the perspective of Joey the horse. The premise of the book is obviously good but as an animal story it doesn't really work for me. Why don't the horses talk to each other?! Joey has companion horses called Old Zoe and Topthorn in the story and yet he never communicates with either of them apart from neighing at them every now and again. Why?! I suppose Morpurgo might have thought that animals talking to each other would be cheesy or unrealistic but if you're going to make a horse the narrator of your story then you should go all the way! The horses not talking to each other in this book made the story feel half-hearted and wishy-washy to me - and it's probably the reason why I found it harder to care about the horses than I did when I watched the play and the film. Another issue that I have with this book is a quote that occurs almost near the very end. Albert is talking to Joey about one of his former Sunday school teachers from back home and he says ' "God helps those who help themselves" she said. She was a mean old devil but she knew her scriptures well enough'. Erm... except that that phrase isn't at all scriptural :S

Rating: 2/5

The play version of War Horse was adapted by Nick Stafford and it initially ran at the National Theatre. The play won two Olivier Awards and later transferred to the West End. Some readers might be interested to know that the role of Albert was originated by Kit Harington who would later go on to play Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. This review of the play isn't going to be as detailed as I would have liked because it's been so long since I last saw it - but I can recommend it! If you're only ever going to seek out one version of War Horse then this is definitely the one that you should go for. It really is a fantastic production. It was very moving and the horse puppets and puppeteers were amazing. Within five minutes I'd completely forgotten that I wasn't watching actual horses! The puppets act just like real horses. They snort, they gallop, they breathe. They even show emotion. I love the songs in the play too, especially The Year Turns Round Again and Only Remembered. War Horse isn't actually a musical but it makes use of a "Song Man" - a narrator who occasionally sings songs that act as background music to what's going on on stage. This is actually hugely effective and the songs are very lovely and folky. As you've probably gathered the play version of War Horse is my favourite :)

Rating: 5/5

The 2011 film adaptation of War Horse was directed by Steven Spielberg with a script by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis. Although the film was my introduction to War Horse it isn't my favourite version of the story now that I've seen the play. The film simply doesn't have the same power and impact of the play, and although I would usually love an epic orchestral score from John Williams I actually prefer the play's simple folky music. Having said that I still think that the 2011 version is a really good film. It's touching, it's beautifully-shot and as much as I love those puppets it is nice to see real horses. The film has a great cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Celine Buckens and Niels Arestrup are all excellent in it. *This is off-topic but I'm dying for Hiddleston and Cumberbatch to do another film together at some point because they don't get a huge amount of screentime in this.* The 2011 film isn't the best version of War Horse but it's still well worth a watch. Even though it's a war film the violence isn't excessive or graphic and it was PETA approved. No animals were harmed during the making of the movie. My ranking of War Horse (from best to worse) is first the play, then the film and finally the book.

Rating: 4/5
Film Certificate Rating: 12

Sunday, 10 August 2014

10 Adaptations That I Love

We bibliophiles tend to be very critical of literary adaptations. We sniff and we sigh and we feel the need to say "But the book is better!" To be fair most books are. But that being said there are some truly fantastic adaptations out there! I love to watch adaptations whether they're miniseries or films or plays/musicals. To me it's fascinating to see a story I love being told in a different medium. I love period drama adaptations and I love modern-day updates. I think that with any adaptation it's important to bear in mind that it's never going to please every single fan of the book. People often talk about "definitive adaptations" but I'm really not convinced that they exist. All an adaptation can ever manage to do is to reflect the personal vision of its director. There are some adaptations out there that I know a lot of people love and which I can't stand, and equally I've read vehement criticisms of adaptations that I absolutely love. Below are just 10 of my favourite adaptations. I'm not going to write detailed reviews for them. For some of them I've done that already on this blog and for others I have yet to do that. But know this, I recommend them all highly :)

Les Miserables (Both the stage musical and the 2012 film)

The Lord of the Rings (2002-04)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Little Women (1994)

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-13)

Emma (2009)

North and South (2004)

Sherlock (2010-)

The Prestige (2006). A rare example of an adaptation being better than the book it's based on.

*Two posts in one day? You can tell I'm bored :D *

Saturday, 9 August 2014

My Favourite Song From 2014 (So Far)

Well, since I'm currently bored and I've been playing this song pretty much non stop then why not make a post about it? It's OneRepublic's "Love Runs Out" and I love it! Ryan Tedder's voice is great on it. It's a killer dance tune. And even the video is awesome! I love how colourful and arty it is. I just really love this song okay! :)

Thursday, 7 August 2014

'Heart's Blood' by Juliet Marillier (2009)

Synopsis: Heart's Blood is based on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale and is set in medieval Ireland. A beautiful 18 year old girl called Caitrin finds herself in a isolated, mist-shrouded village called Whistling Tor after fleeing from her abusive relatives. Caitrin quickly discovers that Whistling Tor is a very unusual place. The village innkeeper and his wife inform her that there are evil "presences" in the surrounding woods and that there is a terrible curse on their chieftain. Their chieftain Anluan is a crippled recluse who lives in an imposing, mysterious fortress on the top of a hill. All of the villagers hold Anluan in contempt because they don't feel he's doing enough to protect them from the threat of the invading Normans. Caitrin needs money and a place where she can be sure that her relatives won't find her so when she hears that Anluan is in need of a scribe she quickly offers herself for the position. Caitrin's eccentric father saw no reason not to educate his daughter so he taught her to read and write in both Latin and Irish. As Caitrin gets to know Anluan she realises that there's much more to this man than there first seems. As the weeks pass, she begins to fall in love with him and becomes determined to break the curse and set him free.

Heart's Blood is the third Beauty and the Beast retelling that I've read and is the loosest take on the story that I've yet come across. Whereas the two Robin McKinley books that I've read followed the original fairytale fairly closely, this particular book only keeps in the story's key token elements. I found out about Heart's Blood on an online list of recommended fairytale retellings and I thought it sounded really interesting. Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairytale and, as I'm going on a short break to Ireland at the end of this month, I was very much in the mood for a story with an Irish setting. The reviews for this book were really positive too. But mine won't be. Heart's Blood does start off extremely promisingly, the overall premise of the story is really good, and there are some spooky and atmospheric descriptions - but I still found it rather boring and predictable. The pacing often drags and I skim-read it towards the end. Caitrin is clearly supposed to be an intelligent and observant heroine but it's screamingly obvious who the villain behind the curse is from the moment the character shows up! Caitrin just seemed incredibly dense for not being able to work it out and it robbed the book of any suspense. I couldn't bring myself to care about Caitrin and Anluan's characters and their romance because they didn't even talk to each other all that much and I felt no chemistry between them. And finally the big themes of this book are HOPE and BELIEVING IN YOURSELF. Obviously these are good messages but they were laid on very thick and it got tiresome. I feel that this book could have been brilliant in the hands of a different author but ultimately I found it very disappointing.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, 2 August 2014

'Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier' by Charles Spencer (2007)

Whilst I can't claim to be any kind of a history buff, a period of history that I've always found especially interesting is the English Civil War. Not many people share this with me. The periods of history that Brits tend to have the most interest in are the Tudor era, the Victorian era, and World Wars I and II. The English Civil War is a very neglected part of our history and isn't even that widely taught in our schools. Why is that even the case?! The English Civil War is a fascinating time in our history! It had political machinations and espionage. It had action and drama and heroism and tragedy. And it had some fascinating characters: characters like Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince Rupert isn't a very famous figure these days but it seems that those people who have actually heard of him are big fans :D I spent two weeks volunteering at a music library last year and got very excited when I discovered that two of the librarians there both had huge crushes on Prince Rupert. We had such a fun conversation! Ah, good times, good times... Anyway, my New Year's Resolution for the past two or three years has been to start reading more historical biographies but I've never got round to it. Which period of history do I start with?! But in the end I went for this biography and I'm glad I did. Up until now my entire fondness for Prince Rupert has been down to the famous portrait by Gerrit Van Honthurst see above, isn't it gorgeous? and the fact that he was a dashing Cavalier who fought against Oliver Cromwell (who I can't stand). But by reading this book I learnt so much more about Rupert and I can honestly say that he's one of my favourite historical figures :)

Prince Rupert was born in Prague on 17 December 1619. His mother was Elizabeth Stuart. She was the granddaughter of Mary Queen of Scots, the eldest daughter of King James (VI of Scotland and I of England), and the sister of Charles I. Rupert's father Frederick was a German Protestant prince. Rupert's parents were genuinely in love and were married on Valentine's Day. Shakespeare wrote his play The Tempest as a wedding gift for them. Rupert was the fourth child of thirteen children. Shortly before Rupert's birth, his father was invited to accept the throne of Bohemia after a rebellion. However, this decision infuriated the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II and he then sent a massive army after them. The family had only a few hours to pack up all of their things and flee the city. In their panic they almost left Rupert behind. The family now had to live in exile. Because Frederick was part Dutch the family were granted sanctuary in the Netherlands and Rupert spent the rest of his childhood there. With their kingdom lost the family had to rely on handouts from the Dutch and English courts and often had to sell their valuables in order to get by. Nevertheless Rupert's childhood seems to have been a happy one. He was fiery, passionate and very inquisitive and bright. He could speak English, French and Czech by the time he was three. He found maths easy and he would do chemistry experiments for fun. He and his sister Princess Louise were gifted painters. Rupert was handsome, athletic and tall. Very tall! When he got to 18 he was 6'4" which was nine inches taller than the average height for men at the time. As a child Rupert's dream was to become a soldier and he achieved this at the age of 14 when he fought for the Netherlands against the Spanish. Two years later Rupert visited England for the first time and met his uncle Charles I. Rupert completely fell in love with England and felt a deep spiritual connection to his mother's country. On a hunting trip with his uncle he even said that if he died right there and then he'd be happy because his bones would be buried in England forever.

Prince Rupert (right) with his brother Charles Louis

Rupert returned to the Netherlands at the insistence of his mother and then fought in various military campaigns until he was captured at the Battle of Vlotho in 1638. He was then held as a prisoner of war in Linz for the next three years. This period of captivity was extremely irksome for Rupert because he had to constantly resist his enemies' attempts to get him to convert him to Catholicism and join their side. But this period of captivity wasn't without its compensations. He was allowed to practise his military skills and took up tennis during this time. He was later described as the fourth best tennis player in England. He acquired some pets. He managed to tame a hare and was given a pet poodle for company. Rupert called the dog "Boy" and it became his constant companion. In the Civil War Rupert would even take it into battle with him. Rupert also fell in love with a girl called Susan who was the daughter of his captor.

Charles I was eventually able to get Rupert released and Rupert then went back to England to try to help his uncle win the Civil War. He became a Royalist cavalry general and then a senior commander. Rupert must have made a strong impression, what with his extreme height and his riding around in flamboyant clothes with his pet poodle scampering around the battlefield. But in battle, Rupert was also bold, brave and daring. He gained a fearsome reputation and won some great victories. His greatest achievement was the Storming of Bristol in 1643. Sadly Rupert's reputation was so fierce that it resulted in some truly vicious Parliamentarian propaganda. A Parliamentarian who surrendered to Rupert was so touched by Rupert's kindness and graciousness towards him and his troops that he actually sent a letter to the Parliamentarian pamphleteers which begged them to stop writing lies about him. But one of the funnier pieces of propaganda about Rupert involved his dog Boy. The Parliamentarians claimed that Rupert's skill on the battlefield could only be down to witchcraft and wrote pamphlets which claimed that Boy was a demon from Hell who'd been sent to earth to protect Rupert on the battlefield. The Cavaliers thought this claim was hilarious and mocked it relentlessly. They produced pamphlets of their own which claimed that, yes, Boy did have supernatural powers. He could predict the future, could find buried treasure, could catch bullets in his teeth, and would spy on the Parliamentarians by turning invisible. Boy was eventually killed at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644. Rupert must have decided that this battle would be too dangerous for Boy because he left him tied up by a tent but Boy escaped and chased after Rupert into the battle. He was then shot and Rupert was left devastated.

Rupert spent four years fighting in the Civil War and as the war continued he eventually lost all hope of a Royalist victory. He became deeply frustrated by the lack of discipline within the army and in the king's sycophantic advisors. Rupert had no patience with those he disliked and he made some powerful enemies within the Royalist camp. The fact that he was a foreigner also made him an easy target for blame. These enemies managed to drive a wedge between Rupert and Charles I which resulted in Rupert being dismissed. Eventually Rupert and Charles I were reconciled but, after the Parliamentarians captured the city of Oxford, the war was lost and Rupert was banished from the country.

After the loss of the Civil War, Rupert and numerous Royalist exiles escaped to the Continent and established a court-in-exile in France. Rupert was still only 26. He fought in the French army against the Spanish for a year before he decided to become a pirate on the behalf of the Royalists. Yes, Rupert became a literal pirate prince! :D He sailed around the Caribbean, capturing Cromwellian ships and treasure. Rupert only gave up on this life of piracy under deeply tragic circumstances. He was caught up in a hurricane which sank one of his ships and took the life of his beloved younger brother and best friend Maurice. Rupert was absolutely devastated by this loss. He then went back to Europe. During this time, Rupert went to live in Heidelberg with his older brother Charles Louis for a while and accidentally got caught up in a bizarre love square with his brother, his sister-in-law, and his sister-in-law's companion Louise von Degenfeld.

Rupert wouldn't visit England again until the Restoration of the monarchy when he was invited back by his cousin Charles II. Rupert joined the Royal Navy and fought in several campaigns against the Dutch in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. He eventually became the Naval commander. Rupert then became the Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle. Rupert was much-loved by the citizens of Berkshire and he made many improvements on the castle. Rupert used this time at Windsor to devote himself to his lifelong passion for science. He became one of the founders of the Royal Society and set up several laboratories at the castle. He invented a new kind of mezzotint, prototypes for the machine gun and torpedo, a new kind of gunpowder that was 10 times stronger than its predecessor, an improved quadrant for use at sea, a brass alloy, and a diving engine that was capable of reaching the sea bed. Rupert also became the driving force of the Hudson's Bay Company which played a pivotal role in mapping out Canada. Had it not been for this company Canada would have probably been placed in the possession of America rather than England. There's a town near the Canadian/Alaskan border that's named after Prince Rupert. Rupert died in 1682 at the age of 62 and was buried at Westminster Abbey. He was survived by Peg Hughes, his mistress for 14 years, their daughter Ruperta, and a son from a previous relationship called Dudley Bard.

This book is packed with many brilliant stories from Rupert's life that I haven't even touched on. Although I wouldn't describe this book as being "unputdownable" I still found it to be an immensely interesting read. Spencer's writing is quite academic but I never once found this book stuffy or dry. Since I've never read another biography about Rupert before I'm obviously not the best person to speak on this book's historical accuracy but it always seemed like an accurate read. The book chimes with information that I've been able to find on the Internet and there were never any details that didn't quite make sense or add up to me. Also the book has an extensive 10 page bibliography at the end and Charles Spencer, who's probably best known for being the brother of Princess Diana, was given permission by the Queen to access the royal archives at Windsor Castle. In his prologue Spencer explains that he consciously chose not to spend more a third of the book on the Civil War because, as exciting as this period was, it only took up four years of Rupert's life and Rupert went on to do plenty of other things. Although the Civil War period and Rupert's pirate years were the most interesting parts of the book for me I completely respected Spencer's decision.

Prince Rupert had his flaws. He could be stubborn, tactless and overly impulsive. He was very sarcastic and contemptuous towards those he disliked and in his younger years his temper could be explosive. In the later years of his life he was probably fairly promiscuous. Rupert was always very discreet but we know he had at least two mistresses and it's possible that he had more. I wonder how Rupert was able to reconcile this with his devout Calvinism? But I still think that it would be extremely difficult for a person to not develop a liking and admiration for Rupert after reading Spencer's book. Rupert was passionate, intelligent, dashing, decisive and brave. He was extremely loyal to the people that he cared about and he inspired deep loyalty and affection from the people around him. Rupert was creative, determined, and had an extraordinary amount of energy. He had epic adventures and was ludicrously accomplished. He was very attractive in his younger years. Rupert deserves to be so much more famous than he is and I really can't understand why there hasn't there been a biopic about him. Seriously, someone in Hollywood or at the BBC or at HBO or whatever really needs to get on this! Rupert's good looks, combined with his exciting life and personality, would create an army of fangirls! It would be so wonderful if someone made a biopic about Rupert's life with Spencer's book as the basis for the script!

Rating: 5/5

P.S. I've recently discovered that the Channel Four miniseries The Devil's Whore featured a brief performance from Harry Lloyd as Prince Rupert in one of its episodes. The miniseries really doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy - but I do appreciate the gifs of Prince Rupert that I've been able to find on Tumblr. Very nice!

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr