Little Women?

Three eras and three very different types of women, or are they?

We are only offered glimpses of the women in 1066 as the story is dominated by the men and the Battle of Hastings. However, the glimpses that we do see, are of women who have been forced to endure harsh physical and emotional conditions as they struggle to survive and protect their families from the atrocities of war.

“You men sleep longer and work less, and you think somehow you are better. How is that possible? Ridiculous!” Leala, Algernon of Colville’s wife, complains as she goes about the daily tasks long before the cockerel has crowed. Her words offer us a truth which the other wifemen of the village would have echoed. They know that they are resilient and strong, emotionally if not physically. These are the women who keep the home fires burning while their menfolk are away and some bear the burden of constant pain, knowing that they have lost love ones. Many have even witnessed their slaughter.

We are reminded of the brutality through Hilda, who suffers torture at the hands of the thane of Bocheland Manor. However, through strength of character she manages to become a gentle and caring mother and to trust her husband, “Hilda relaxed the moment she heard him swear to tell her everything. His word was his bond and she had never known otherwise.”

In the 1930’s we see a different kind of suffering, not one caused by poverty, but by wealth. Lady Isabella of the Manor feels trapped by the duty that her position entails. Although the Depression of 1929 to the mid 1930’s was a difficult time in British history, many rich households never fully suffered its effects and a busy social calendar continued to dominate their lives. Although this may initially seem glamorous, we soon realise that the price Lady Isabella has had to pay is her freedom and sense of self, “I feel as if I am walking in the footsteps of ghosts.”

Her husband tells her that they are “hardly the Bloomsbury Group,” reminding us of Virginia Woolf who had just published A Room of One’s Own (1929). Lady Isabella may even have read this book and this may have added to her sense of unrest.

Moving on to Zara and Iona our 1980’s protagonists, we see strong, confident young girls who are happy to get involved with boisterous games and are certainly not afraid of dirtying their boots. Their introduction into the story is gradual and Bentley is initially uncomfortable in their presence, unsure how to react at times, “He put his head down, trying to stem the blush that was beginning as he remembered the confused feelings he had felt when Zara had last smiled at him.” However, they soon become important members of the group and hold their own when it comes to the adventure. They are girls who are aware of their power and of those who may try to quash it, “You’re not a misog… misodge… mysoggn… you know one of those that hates women?” Zara asks Bentley. Although she is still young enough not to be able to pronounce the word properly, she clearly understands its meaning.

The women of The Last Treasure of Ancient England are separated by eras, each era with its own culture and expectation. However, although vastly different, they share two qualities which the passing of the years can never change: inner strength and determination.

If we could fast forward the story to today, then Zara and Iona would be women in their forties, probably bringing up daughters of their own who are proving to be even stronger than they were.

“I believe in strong women. I believe in the woman who is able to stand up for herself. I believe in the woman who doesn’t need to hide behind her husband’s back. I believe that if you have problems, as a woman you deal with them, you don’t play victim, you don’t make yourself look pitiful, you don’t point fingers. You stand and you deal. You face the world with a head held high and you carry the universe in your heart.”

– C.JoyBell C.

Book vs. Movie

I think on balance, and it is especially evident from the many comments posted on blogs, that books offer far more depth and also allow a more personal interpretation of characters and locations. With a film there is no imagining what the place looks like, there it is… right in front of you. What are the striking features of the protagonist? Gone in an instant is your question, because you have the guy standing before your eyes.

However, if an image is worth a thousand words then how many tomes should a film be worth with its on average 144,000 frames? In that respect, films fail to meet the mark, but then literature and celluloid are not scientific disciplines and cannot be measured as such.

Where I have found films certainly underperform consistently is in the area of YA books, I cannot, however, help but notice more high-brow books, which one would assume could never be matched by film, do not have such one-way traffic.

For example, Angela’s Ashes is a beautiful book but what an artistic portrayal by the director Alan Clarke! They are on a par for me. So is the Shawshank Redemption where the screenwriter has taken a central theme only hinted at in the original story and made it triumphant on the silver screen, namely the ideal of Hope. Magnificent script adapatation, with all of Stephen King’s eternal lines kept safe within its body and then the music score on top. Both works are victories. It is one of the greatest films and arguably the greatest novella.

Where I enjoyed the film far more than its masterpiece of literature was The Name of the Rose. Which for some, if not many, will be seen as a sacrilegious declaration. There is no doubting Umberto Eco’s genius as writer and historian, but the novel was overflowing with Latin and I gained a greater sense of medieval melancholy in the movie than in the book, which gave it a more sympathetic tone. That said both treatments of the story inspired me greatly to write my first novel, The Last Treasure of Ancient England, and include Latin riddles and cyphers, but not too many.

And one ‘book’ that can never, ever, be equalled in film is anything on Sherlock Holmes. TV series have come and gone and entertained us all, but none, not even major features have come close to submerging the viewer wholly into the menacing smog of Victorian London and immersed us fully in the turmoil of Holmes’ eccentricity.

But what if we were to turn the tables? Consider this dilemma: could the book version of Amélie ever be as good as the film? I sincerely doubt it. And why is that?

One thing is certain though, no matter how much we loved the book, we are drawn helplessly like moths to the silver screen as soon as it is released at the cinemas.