Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

The Happy Reader

A few weeks ago, watching either Jen or Sanne on their book vlogs, I learnt of a wonderful new quarterly magazine all about books (or Bookish Quarterly as it says on the bottom of the front cover) appropriately called The Happy Reader. I had to get my mitts on it and did forthwith super swiftly. Now two issues in and read, with a third having just arrived I thought I would report back on what has instantly become my new favourite quarterly so that you don’t miss out on it.

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The Happy Reader is a collaboration between Penguin Books and the brilliant magazine Fantastic Man and what they have come up with is a cool and quirky magazine that comes in two halves. The first half is an interview with a well known reader about their reading life, and through the books they have read getting more insight into their life in general. The second half of the magazine is dedicated to a particular Penguin Classic and a host of features based around the book that either enhances your reading of the book or makes you want to go and read the book. Having read one book featured in one issue and not having read the other I can say that the idea behind the second works as planned in both cases.

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In the first issue we were given the treats of both actor Dan Stevens and one of my favourite books of all time, Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. The first half of the magazine sees author Naomi Alderman interviewing Dan Stevens about judging the Man Booker, Downtown Abbey, his latest film The Guest etc. Initially I was thinking is this just going to be him plugging his movie but actually what unravels, because they are talking about their mutual love of books, is a really insightful interview about all of the above plus his being in adaptations of famous books, working on audio books and discussions on books I now want to read like Iron John by Robert Bly. I was sold on the books and sold on Dan, plus I loved the insight into the Man Booker judging and what he read during filming of Downtown Abbey and how he concealed books on set. You will have to read the interview to find out all…

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In the second half of the magazine it goes all things The Woman in White. We have a fashion shoot of, erm, women in white clothes and also some really, really fascinating and quirky articles that connect to the book in various ways. Each month editor Seb Emina introduces the book in a way that magically refreshes the memory of anyone who has read it, yet doesn’t give anything away if you haven’t, just the desire to go and buy it. As it was a book that was serialised Henry Jefferys looks at how people of the time became addicted to it, like they might a substance, and Lilie Ferrari discusses how you write a serialised gripping drama as she used to on Eastenders.

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If that wasn’t enough there is also an article on women associated with colours (lady in red, woman in black, etc) by Emily King which is brilliant, the history of some of the iconography of the book and its adaptations, a map for The Woman in White walk around London and a recipe for Count Fosco’s favourite chocolates. Brilliant.

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Issue two focuses the first half on an interview with rock star Kim Gordon, who I have to admit (the shame) I had not heard of until I read this though I recognised the bands she had been in, by the end of which I wanted to read her memoir Girl in a Band. Interestingly she talked a lot about the memoirs she has read, or in some brilliantly honest cases half read and got bored of, as well as what she likes to read on tour and the reading of her informative years. She also talked about her love of The Good Wife which I have recently started and become addicted to and so felt she was a kindred spirit. She also recommends seven corking books (Dan Stevens also does this) at the end of her interview all of which I want to go and read from a wide spectrum of authors and genres. Again you need to read the article to find out what they are…

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The book that The Happy Reader focuses on this time is The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura which I have never heard of before but thanks, again, to Seb Emina really want to read as it seems a book that defies genres. There are some more wonderful articles (bar one which was interesting though about floristry not tea) that look at tea in some unusual ways. Nicholas Lezard looks at ‘Teaism’ which in Japan is a formal ceremony, a chain of specialist tea shops I am so going to in September in Washington D.C and in the UK is the great debate on how tea should be prepared and poured. (I am a milk after not before man!) There are also articles on the designs of original/formal tea rooms, Japanophilia (cultural obsession not something rude), the importance of tea in prisons as well as a guide to some of the finest teas by Jeff Koehler.

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So as you can see lots and lots and lots to love about The Happy Reader which does as it says on the tin and will have you happily reading away. I am very excited to read Issue 3 which features comedian Aziz Ansari and the travel writing classic Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington which has not long arrived. I haven’t managed to read that book yet (or even get it) but I might try and get M.P. Sheil’s The Purple Cloud in time for Issue 4 this autumn.

If you would like to get your mitts on The Happy Reader or subscribe then head here (it is a bargain for what you get). Have any of you already subscribed and if so what do you think? Have you read any of the books mentioned in the issues so far? What are your thoughts on literary magazines and the like anyway?

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Adaptations

Since reading ‘Jane Eyre’ and going to the theatre this weekend to see ‘Wicked!’ once again, which ties in more with Thursday’s post, I have had adaptations on the brain. In fact since I have put Jane Eyre’ down I have actually been itching to start it all over again, however with a rather large TBR and long lists to re-read and book group choices to fit in I cant really justify an instant re-read. I shall simply have to make do with knowing I have a joyful re-reading to look forward to in a year or so. I do have the BBC adaptation on DVD though…

However can an adaptation, be it a TV series, play or film, ever really do the original justice? My mind instantly falls to the amazing and epic BBC version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ staring Colin Firth which I introduced The Converted One too a few weeks back and we both thoroughly enjoyed.

The irony of that choice by me as a great adaptation is of course that I have never read P&P so how would I know if it was a good version or not? I do have friends who are complete P&P lovers (see Rose Roberts for one) who say it is an exemplary adaptation. I will read it one day and find out I swear I will. I loved ‘Bleak House’ as well when that was on, haven’t read that either, but do we have to have read the book to say if an adaptation is good or not?

Any TV show can appeal just because the directing, acting, production etc, etc is so good (the same with a play or a film of course) or because it has one of your favourite actors in it so of course this can apply to an adaptation. Some may say the best adaptations come because the stories are so good but I think we could all think of a few adaptations which a quarter or half way through we have had to turn off or run from the theatre/auditorium screaming. Ok, maybe not screaming – you get my drift.

I myself need to have read something first, well if I know it has come from a book that is for sometimes we don’t. I did actually ask on twitter if ‘Downton Abbey’ (which is a marvellous new period drama starring Dame Maggie Smith we have here in the UK) was originally a book, it seems not its something wholly original and new though having watched the first episode I do wish there was a book. Some people can never be pleased can they? Anyway as I need to read things before I see them (on the whole) I have started ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro after seeing the trailer for the film which looks very good even if Keira ‘Pout = Acting’ Knightley is in it.

I have also lined up ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks as it has not long opened as a play in London and its something I really, really want to see and I book I have been meaning to read for absolutely ages and ages. Everyone I know who has read it has loved it and said that they think I would too. Do any of you have opinions on that as a book choice for my future reading?

So which is my favourite adaptation? Well for me it would have to be Hitchcock’s version of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’. It could actually have gone horribly wrong for me as it is my favourite book, however Hitchcock did it superbly, and I think he and Du Maurier had an affinity on this particular project I have to say. My worst? Well, that would be the recent film of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ actually I didn’t think anyone except from Mrs Bennett  could act in it, and that horrid final scene at Chatsworth Pemberley after the wedding on the terrace almost made me reach for a sick bag.

So which adaptations do you love and loathe? Do you think an adaptation can only truly be judged or enjoyed by those who have read the book? Are there any adaptations you are eagerly awaiting? Which books do you hope never get adapted? Have you seen any adaptations that were better than the books (such as ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ for example – ha)?

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