Books to films: Lady Macbeth

Shakespeare’s plays aren’t just read and studied at school, college or university. Reading groups, extension courses, lifelong learning, theatre workshops, before going to see a play at the theatre – and more.

Shakespeare has inspired the work of so many creative people: from Mendelsohn, Britten, Shostakovich to Lou Reed, Dire Straits and Arctic Monkeys. From Herman Melville, John Keats, Charles Dickens to Aldous Huxley, Iris Murdoch and Ian McEwan. From Kurosawa to Polanski. From the Pre-Raphaelites to Gillian Wearing. Every age, indeed every generation seek to make Shakespeare their own.

Walk into any library and if you are prepared to explore, you can find his influence everywhere. This can be seen in the countless films based on his work.

Lady Macbeth 2017 

This is a film based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District , itself inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. The film is set in the north of England during the nineteenth century, whereby the Lady Macbeth character is brought centre-stage in this alternative narrative to the Shakespearean text. Gone is the witchcraft from Shakespeare’s Macbeth – the only ‘spirits that tend on mortal thoughts’ – here in William Oldroyd’s film, arise from the emptiness of a bourgeois life, in which Lady Macbeth finds herself trapped and powerless in a male dominated environment. There are also parallels here to Flaubert’s, Madame Bovary.

As the subject of an arranged marriage deal, acquired by the father for his son, along with a small piece of land, that he describes as ‘not fit for a cow to graze upon’, Lady Macbeth is installed into a stifling and austere household, where she is abandoned for long periods of time by a callous husband. She is left to maintain the house and servants following the demands of the father, who expects a submissive and obedient daughter in-law. There are no books to be seen and many of the early film shots see her peering out of the window onto a barren landscape, or asleep for long periods on the sofa. She appears completely isolated in this new situation.

Within this repressive and patriarchal environment, we are left to speculate as to the kind of character she is and how she will respond. Her responses at first are reluctant obedience and boredom, but the performance of Florence Pugh as Lady Macbeth is captivating in that as time goes on, we witness signs of insolence: mocking facial expressions and a contemptuous intonation in her voice, when addressing her husband and father in-law. The husband then departs for an extended period, in order to sort out problems at the family colliery and Lady Macbeth is left alone with the servants. At this point, her authority is challenged by an incident among the servants, and then we see her take control.

She begins a passionate love affair with the groomsman. As time goes on, like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, her ‘vaulting ambition’ leads to a murder – in this case, the husband. Again, there is excitement in Pugh’s performance, never being quite sure if she is a victim of circumstance, responding perhaps naively as the repressed bourgeois housewife to events spiralling out of control, or whether there is a more psychopathic vein running through her actions. This loss of control is something we witness in Shakespeare’s Macbethwas he (Macbeth) ever really, ‘full of the milk of human kindness’? or have circumstances conspired around him to bring about a tragedy? – a key concern in Shakespeare’s play. Here too, innocence and guilt seem to play out, side by side. Casting a black maid who, rarely speaks and a mixed-race actor as the groomsman, adds a racial tension to the power dynamics of repression and rebellion that are described by the shifting loyalties among the principal characters of the film.

The visual look of the film focuses on textures: the tactile feel of starched fabrics on soft skin, rain on slate and stone and naked wooden floorboards sounding to the pressure of impatient male footsteps. There is also a clearly defined soundscape to the film, that captures the rustle of fabrics, the chink of chinaware and the howling winds on the heath outside the house – all these effects build a formal language that serves to emphasize common themes of vulnerability and violence, power and submission.

In addition to this film, you can find other adaptations on Shakespeare’s work in our libraries and of course most of his plays and poetry including some of the literary criticism that goes with them – Shakespeare is, of course, a huge industry. The children’s library also has some of his plays translated into short stories, Manga comics etc.

Richard, Brompton Library

Advertisements

Books to films: The Little Stranger

This month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger which has just been released as a film and will be read and discussed by the library’s reading group in November.

The book

Set in post-war rural Warwickshire, Dr Faraday is called to attend a sickly maid at Hundreds Hall who believes that the house is haunted. Faraday has a sentimental attachment to the house as his mother had been in service their as a maid and once took him there when he was a child to a garden party where he was presented with a medal by the lady of the house, Mrs Ayers. As Faraday gets closer to the Ayers family, events start to unravel. Strange and inexplicable happenings that suggest a ghost from the past is haunting the family and as their financial situation worsens and the house starts to fall apart around them, the “haunting” intensifies.

Behind the story of the house is also a love story between Caroline Ayers and Dr Faraday and behind all of it is the story of post-war Britain, the introduction of the NHS and how that changed the lives of ordinary people. There is a strong contrast between the lives of the Ayers family at Hundreds Hall where, in the decaying house, guests dress formally for dinners served to them by a maid while local people, still wary of modern medicine, are dying young from curable ailments and too poor to be able to pay the doctor.

The book is a gripping read. I read half of its 500 pages on a flight and was completely engaged by the writing, the atmosphere and the story. The relationship between Caroline Ayers and Dr Faraday is beautifully written and touchingly awkward and I liked the way the book dealt with several themes at once while remaining a really good story well told, and very creepy in parts. At one point, Dr Faraday says “All this house needs is a dose of happiness”. You get a sense that they are both so lonely in their different ways and that everything could change for them if they could make it work. I felt that the more a I read the book the more I also wanted the house to be rescued and saved from ruin as the Dr does. It works really well that Waters does not use tricks to build up the adrenalin of the story and the overall pace is one of gradual decline, so if you are wanting to read a ghost story this may not be for you, and the end has a twist that creeps up on you so quietly that you almost can’t quite believe it.

The film

The film brings the book to life visually. It really captures how I imagined the house to look – its interiors are perfectly done and the view of the house from the road leading up to it were very evocative of the book. The house is very grey and you get a sense that the seasons change outside while the house is stuck in time. Although billed as a horror, the film leaves out much of the references to ghosts that are made in the book, but is more like a ghost story. As the film is much shorter than the book, the suspense builds much more quickly and there were some chilling moments, but on the downside it meant that we didn’t spend much time with the characters or see their relationships develop.

Charlotte Rampling is perfect as Mrs Ayers while saying very little, she appears icy and fleeting throughout the house. Ruth Wilson is great as Caroline Ayers, bringing to life the earthy and practical daughter of the house who holds the story together. The casting of Domhnall Gleeson let the film down a bit for me. Dr Faraday is in his 40s in the novel which lends a fatherly aspect to the middle-aged, unmarried doctor that would not be possible between Gleeson and Wilson as they are of a similar age (he may even be younger than her). He came across as cold and remote at the same time but lacked the warmth and drive of the Dr Faraday of the book and I wasn’t rooting for him like. Overall it’s not a bad adaptation with some great acting, a few chills and shocks and is visually very true to the book.

Brompton Library’s reading group will be discussing the book on Tuesday 6 November so why not join us? You can borrow a copy at any of our libraries.

Fiona, Brompton Library

 

The adventures of a reading group

A researcher working for a BBC World Service series, The Why Factor, contacted us to meet a book group for their latest programme “Why we forget the things we have learned“.

The Why Factor is a BBC Radio magazine programme, a series of 25 minute shows that mixes vox pop and academic specialists, brought together by a presenter.

We arranged for the show’s producer to talk to local book group members (who kindly agreed to participate), and we all met in Brompton Library’s Meeting Room .

Rather shyly, members of our group answered questions fired by the producer who held a huge microphone attached to a tiny recorder. A couple of us (blink and you miss us) were edited into the first couple of seconds of the programme before the show segued into the main essay.

ReadingAdventure
But what was most important, Brompton Library got a mention – and the programme itself was quite interesting.

I was greatly encouraged by some of the observations about forgetfulness made in the programme. Apparently forgetfulness can be the result of a creative brain flying around taking in all sorts of sensory information which can later be selected from, unless it has been forgotten …. When we are in our book group, reading novels, we are turning over the plot and sharing feelings about the characters, etc., but we are also using our creative brains, employing our memories to add snippets of our own knowledge and experience. We are finding new ways of seeing – being curious. In this way, though discussion, people can renew their interest in the novel, go back and re-read it or, if they had not quite got to the end, decide to try again and even finish it!

Quite often a good book encourages interest in the author. For example, recently, having read Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop, members of the group were able to take their interest further by accessing and reading Hermione Lee’s fascinating account of Fitzgerald’s personal and literary life – which is available from our wonderfully maintained biography store at Kensington Central Library.

With a good public library service everyone can be a researcher! Please try to remember that ….

To find out more please visit the BBC website 

Penny, Brompton Library

Interview with Andrew Cartmel: part 2

Andrew Cartmel will be at Brompton Library on Monday 24 September, 6.30pm taking about his career and work and signing copies of his Vinyl Detective crime novels – Written in Dead Wax, The Run Out Groove and Victory.  You can book a place here on Eventbrite 

This is the second part of our interview with him; you can find the first part here

The fourth book is on its way, tell us about that.

It’s called Flip Back and it deals with the British psychedelic folk scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Among my research for that I read an excellent book called White Bicycles by Joe Boyd.

What were some of your musical inspirations from the 60s and 70s?

Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell.

I read in another interview with you that each of the Vinyl Detective novels has a spirit animal.  How does that help you with writing the novels and why is this important to you?

It’s just something that arose without me thinking about it. I am fascinated by animals and wildlife, and very fond of them, and appalled by their treatment at the hands of humans. So that just sort of naturally wove its way into my writing. When I became aware of what I was doing, I made it more deliberate. And started referring to it by that ‘spirit animal’ malarkey… though it’s certainly malarkey I genuinely subscribe to.

Are there any plans to make the books into a TV series or film?

My agent regularly gets enquiries, which have so far led to one serious meeting but nothing further than that.

And finally, we can’t leave without mentioning Doctor Who.  You worked as a show runner and script editor on the TV series, and have since written many of the Doctor Who comics.  What was it like to work on such a classic show?

It was a privilege. It was also the gift which keeps on giving, in the sense that it’s given me a calling card which never expires, and has led to me meeting a lot of interest people and travelling all over the world.

Were you a fan before you worked on the show?

No.

You have written novels, audio dramas, television scripts, graphic novels and also several stage plays.  Which genre do you prefer?

Each has its own particular appeal and its own unique challenges. I like switching from one to the other. But my two favourites are the novel, for its intimacy and clarity of expression, and the stage play for the magic it conjures up through taking place in real time, with real people, in a shared space.

The graphic novel Sabrina by Nick Drnaso has been longlisted for the Booker Prize this year.  How easy or difficult do you think it might be to judge a graphic novel against a traditional novel?

I don’t see how you can compare the two forms.

 What three pieces of advice would you give any aspiring writers out there?

Keep your covering emails very brief. Give your characters interesting names. Have your work read by people you know, whom you can trust to be ruthless — or at least honest — and seriously consider their feedback before you send it out and waste the time of an agent or editor.

What’s next for you?

Finishing the fourth Vinyl Detective, then rewriting a stage play, then writing a new stage play, then writing a graphic novel for the Rivers of London series, which I co-write with Ben Aaronovitch.

Thank you for your time Andrew and very much looking forward to meeting you on 24  September at Brompton Library.

Our graphic novel reading group

On the second Monday of every month, our graphic novel reading group meets at Brompton Library.

The group is run by David at Brompton Library, and he spoke to three of its members to find out what they like about the group and their favourite graphic novels.

Mike 

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

In this my first year , what impressed me was the range of the graphic novel form. I started reading comic books as a kid and then came back in the 1990s by discovering the subculture with its fairs and cons, trying out books like Joe Sacco’s Palestine and manga like Akira. The diversity I discovered through the group is reflected in members’ choice of works and how we discuss them. Other readers’ focus on imagery has certainly advanced my appreciation of how to discuss sequential art.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My joint favourite works this year were both mentioned in the group: Democracy by
Alecos Papadotos, Abraham Kawa and Annie DiDonna, which is historical fiction, and
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, a teenage novel.
Democracy tells the story of one turning point in the history of ancient Athens. It satisfies both as a story and as an introduction to the subject. It has an art of strong colours with an edge of blackness but it’s no lecture. Ghost World is a narrower canvas with smaller panels and is the tale of a friendship in a small town – two girls growing up and growing apart. It seems that as well as mind-challenging futures, like Ghost in the Shell, a ‘graphic’ can tell a simple story like this with all its resonance in pictures and character. Reading it on the tube seemed more involving than sheer prose, even though it’s not fantasy as such.
Lastly, my time in the group has convinced me that the ‘graphic’ still has great possibilities which haven’t yet been fully explored.

Lara

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

I’ve really enjoyed being a club member for exactly that reason; it’s helped introduce me to great reads that I would have never have investigated on my own, as well as giving me access to comics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Plus, it’s been really fun getting to know the other members too. Before I joined, I was apprehensive about not being accepted, as I didn’t have much knowledge about certain comics. But now, I really look forward to and enjoy spending at least an hour a week discussing our thoughts on the comics we’ve read together, especially because we’re all from very different comic-reading backgrounds so everyone can have very different perspectives and opinions.

I was also happily surprised at just how many graphic novels and manga titles the library has to offer. I can really recommend a lot of the available manga, but one in particular that we read with the group was, 20th Century Boys written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa; This was a series I had really wanted to read for a while. It’s an incredibly gripping conspiracy drama with cleverly thought out engaging characters and a cliff-hanger ending with every volume so it was great to get the opportunity to read a lot into the series using the library’s copies.

All in all, joining the group has been one of the simplest, most rewarding things I’ve done in 2017, and I really recommend to anyone interested in comics or graphic novels, to join us in 2018!!

20th Century Boys

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite read this year has been Transmetropolitan written by Warren Ellis and co-created and designed by Darick Robertson. I usually read manga/Japanese comics, and joined the library’s graphic novel group to expand my reading into more western-style comics. Transmetropolitain is a great mix of weird, surreal, pseudo-political, futuristic sci-fi that I really enjoy. I think it has a great script, strong and funny characters and fabulous artwork to give depth to the whole universe, and I probably never would have discovered it without the group.

Transmetropolitain

Tari

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

What I like about attending the reading group is that we get read things I wouldn’t necessarily want to read myself, but it allows me to hear from from other perspectives what resonates with them about the books. Because there is no standard format for comics in terms of art style or presentation, people tend to gravitate to different elements of a graphic novel, and it’s nice being able to see what types of art have the most impact on people. I like that a couple members of the group are also interested in other social events related to comics and it’s a good opportunity to learn more about what wider comics events are happening around London, and who is involved. It’s a great starting point to open you up about the possibility of involving yourself with other comics events.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite graphic novel that we read at the library’s reading group this year was Miracleman by ‘the original writer’ aka Alan Moore. The story really drew me in as it explored some ideas I didn’t expect to see come up. I could see the beginnings of how Alan Moore would approach deconstructing the concept of the superhero and the world they live; an idea that he would take even further in Watchmen. But honestly I felt that of the two books, Miracleman was the easier to digest. It was more of a personal journey and transformation of one guy discovering what it means to be a superhero in the real world. Delving into the toll that the title of ‘supehero’ would take on you and the ones around you. Including the sacrifice of one’s humanity, and being forced to ascend into something more. Which came with its own questions of how the world would regard such a being. I read ahead onto the further volumes and appreciated how the story evolved into something grander each time. It focused on the progressively wider circle of influence Miracleman had on people in life, the world around him, and the possible utopian or dystopian futures he could bring about.

Miracleman

Many, many thanks to Mike, Lara and Tari for sharing their thoughts with us. They’ll next meet on Monday 12 February at 6.30pm and they’ll be discussing The Flintstones by Mark Russell. Like to get involved? Email david.bushell@rbkc.gov.uk for more info.

We’d also like to thank Gosh Comics and the London Graphic Novel Network for their support.

Author Katherine Arden to visit Brompton Library

We are very excited to announce that in April author, Katherine Arden will visit Brompton Library. Katherine is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, the first two books in the Winternight trilogy. She will read from the third book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, which is due to be published in August this year. The trilogy is inspired by the fairy tales and folklore of medieval Russia that Katherine read while living there, and set in its snowy landscape.

To celebrate her visit, we will be reading the first two Winternight novels during February and March. Join us on Thursday 8 February when we will be discussing The Bear and the Nightingale which has been described as haunting, lyrical and a beautiful deep-winter story full of magic and monsters.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya, these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

These books are suitable for children aged 14 years plus. Katherine says:

“My absolute favorite thing to hear from a reader: ‘I read your book and then I gave it to my daughter.’”

To get your copy, please visit Brompton Library, or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk to get a copy sent to your local library.

If you’d like to attend the special reading group meeting in February, please book a place via Eventbrite

Edited to add – the next meeting of this special reading group will be on Thursday 8 March where they’ll discuss the second book in Katherine’s trilogy, ‘The Girl in Tower’. For more info or to book your free place, please visit Eventbrite

Fiona at Brompton Library

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group – July

For July’s session (Thursday 7th, 6pm), we will be discussing the graphic novel behemoth that is ‘WATCHMEN’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons:

WatchmenGN

“In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect. ”

Watchmen begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy.

In the mid-eighties, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created Watchmen, changing the course of comic history and essentially remaking how popular culture perceived the genre. Popularly cited as the point where comics came of age, Watchmen’s sophisticated take on superheroes has been universally acclaimed for its psychological depth and realism.”

If you have any other suggestions for the reading list then please let me know and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

So far we have the following for consideration:

  • Ghost World
  • Transmetropolitan
  • Sandman
  • 20th century Boys
  • Promethia
  • Fight Club
  • Swamp Thing
  • Democracy
  • Trees
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Miracleman
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Pride of Baghdad
  • The Bad Doctor
  • Y: The Last Man

The reading group takes place on the first Thursday evening of every month.

See you there! Bring snacks!

David Bushell
Customer Services Assistant
Brompton Library

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group

Hello and welcome to the Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group

As most of you know, at the next group meeting (Thursday 5 May, 6pm) we will be discussing ‘Killing and Dying’ by Adrian Tomine.

KillingandDying

Here is a review:

From the master of the small gesture, this collection of stories and characters comprises a fraught, realist masterpiece about the weight of love and its absence, the pride and disappointment of family, and the anxiety and hopefulness of being alive in the 21st century.

For June’s session, we will be reading ‘The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye’ by Robert Kirkman, who wrote ‘Invincible’ which we read before, and Walking Dead is now a popular TV series.

WalkingDeadV1

Here’s the blurb:

“The world we knew is gone. The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility. An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months society has crumbled: no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, the survivors are forced to finally start living.”

 If you have any other suggestions for the reading list then please let me know and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

So far we have the following for consideration:

  • Democracy
  • Trees
  • Watchmen
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Miracleman
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Pride of Baghdad
  • The Bad Doctor
  • Y: The Last Man

See you all soon!

David Bushell
Customer Services Assistant, Brompton Library

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group – Assemble!

From Christian Stevens & David Bushell at Brompton Library:

On Thursday 3rd July Brompton Library hosted its first ever Graphic Novels reading group. We were discussing the frankly crazy yet genius fantasy graphic novel Saga (Volume 1) by Brian K Vaughan. The heat of the day was tempered by the special occasion refreshments and good company, some of whom we knew, along with some surprise visitors from elsewhere who shared our enthusiasm for the art form.

The first ever Graphic Novels reading group at Brompton Library, July 2015
The first ever Graphic Novels reading group at Brompton Library, July 2015

It was easy for the flow of conversation to get started as we laughed about the very adult themes in the book and the funny content, as well as a collective admiration for the artwork and storytelling within, along with our own personal stories of discovering the joys of graphic novels.

Chew by John LaymanIn the end it was all good fun and the feeling of something more regular and established was begun, with us looking forward to the next event – which is today, Thursday 6th August.

If you’re interested please come along! Don’t be shy. We will be discussing Chew by John Layman.

 

Brompton’s March round-up

Our Brompton Librarians write:

Hello to all our lovely readers!

Well, it looks like spring has finally sprung around town. Without wishing to jinx it, let’s hope the rain stays away for a while because everything looks so much nicer in the sunshine!

On the 8th March we celebrated International Women’s Day, and made a display for it that included books by important female writers such as Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood and non-fiction titles that explored the history of women’s rights. We also have a current display on historical fiction that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel, so come in and check it out!

Christian Stevens

Historical Fiction
Historical Fiction

Chatterbooks  

Chatterbooks is a huge success with the children in Brompton library; always buzzing with creative children wanting to share their ideas. This reading club encourages them to read books, write reviews, recommend the books to each other and on top of everything chatting a lot (hahaha!).

Most of the time the children will select a theme for their next meeting. This month the group decided to write about favourite books/authors/characters on the paper leaves and stuck them on a paper tree. They were so enthusiastic that they drew the pictures of their favourite characters as well. Then they displayed it on the Chatterbooks wall in the children’s library.

For the next Chatterbooks session in April, the children will be bringing one friend along and discussing Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Oh how noisy it will be? But we love it!!!! (to find out more, or to join our Chatterbooks group, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Babita Sinha

 Brompton Library Reading Group

 On Tuesday night (after a lively discussion about what West-End productions everyone had seen) we chatted about ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki. An author, living on a remote island in the States finds a washed-up Hello Kitty bag on the shoreline. Thinking that this must have come from the time of the tsunami, she opens it up to discover some documents and diaries inside. These include the diary of a Japanese teenager, a bright and vibrant girl whose family is really going through the ringer. Nao is very inspired however by her 106 year old great-grandmother -a Buddhist nun- and by the diaries of her great-uncle who details his training as a kamikaze pilot.

 Short-listed for the Booker Prize last year, Ozeki really drew praise from the group with regards to her creativity of story-line and her prose (particularly one member remarked) of Hiroshima and her great uncles animosity to serve for his country. We all loved the character of Nao and her great-grandmother especially, we felt this was much stronger than the author and her husband (maybe this was intentional).

As gruelling as it was in parts, it was a very inspiring read and it was great to see how Nao and her family’s characters evolved, hopefully for the better. The quantum mechanics section at the end let it down slightly, however we would still highly recommend this book (to find out more about our reading groups, or to join, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Katie Collis