“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Thursday, 31 May 2012

TBR 6# 7# and 8# The Regeneration Trilogy

I made this: BookElf at 1:00 pm 0 comments
The Regeneration trilogy was publishing in the early-mid 90s, and immediately received great critical acclaim, with the second, The Eye In The Door, winning the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1993, and the final book, The Ghost Road, winning the Booker in 1995. When I mentioned I was reading them on Twitter I instantly had dozens of responses from people happily reminiscing reading them when younger, many of whom had studied them for A Level, and had an overall positive reaction.

I bought the three books for £4.99 on thebookpeople about three years ago, when I was going through a thebookpeople phase (they come in big red boxes! They are really really pretty!) and over the years have picked up a Pat Barker whenever I’ve seen one, despite having not actually read any of them, because they’re all a similar size, all really funky matched covers, and one day I thought I’d get round to them (I must have put Regeneration in the Book Club Tankard about three times, and I’m gutted it didn’t get picked as I reckon a book club would eat these books).

I started Regeneration last Tuesday in bed, finished The Eye In The Door on Monday night, and would have finished a lot earlier if I hadn’t had a weekend off reading Jilly Cooper, and finished The Ghost Road last night. I loved these books.

The trilogy begins in Craiglockheart military hospital, just outside of Edinburgh, in 1917. Seigfreid Sassoon, war hero, has just been declared unfit for service, after protesting rather publicly against the continuation of the war. Sassoon is not a pacifist, he is a leader of men who has seen too many of them die, and rather than risk him being court-martialled and lose an excellent officer, his friends connive to have him briefly sent for treatment for shell shock, hoping this will explain away his otherwise baffling belief that the war in which millions of people have died is somehow a bad thing.

Reading these books with modern non-violent lefty hindsight it is quite unbelievable to me that 100 years ago, more or less, it was considered so insufferable to disagree with war. My years of Stop The War and Ban the Bomb parenting have left me believing that people who think it perfectly permissible to blow up other people in the name of a country are the mad ones, not those who like me think this is an awful thing and should be stopped forever. After about a third of the book though, hindsight falls away; Barker’s pace and sense of place are so well observed and easy to fall into you not only feel that you are in the 1910s, you are from the 1910s, and what to a naughties girl seems absurd seems perfectly reasonable in 1917.

Sassoon is sent to Craiglockheart and put under the care of Dr (Captain) Rivers, who is an anthropologist and Freudian psychologist caring for many different patients introduced throughout the novels. Amongst them are Wilfred Owen, who becomes particularly attached to Sassoon, and one of the few fictional characters in the novel, Billy Prior, who becomes central to the trilogy.

Now because I’ve foolishly read all the books without pausing for breath and to review them, it’s quite hard for me to talk about Billy Prior in the context of this book alone. He is a working class lad made good because of a scholarship and pushy parenting, who is an officer without being a gentleman. Sex-mad, arrogant and severely damaged, not just from his experiences in France but with issues from his adolescence and childhood which we find out in the later books, in Regeneration I really didn’t like Billy. He meets and falls in love with a local factory girl, Sarah, but apart from that I thought he didn’t really add much to the novel whose main focus seemed to be on Sasson and his relationship with Rivers.

Psychology is an odd beast. I’ve read a bit, but not enough, on the subject to know that frankly Freud was talking out of his arse most of the time in my opinion, but the early developments in how people believed the mind worked are fascinating and this book combines the horrors or war (said in Movie-Trailer-Guy Voice THE HORRORS OF WAR) with serious consideration into how people thought that you should behave, vs how people actually behave. Barker somehow manages to cram everything into this trilogy, sex, gender, class, race, pacifism, socialism, colonialism and feminism. But it is psychology that really stands out, as Rivers re-evaluates his beliefs through his relationships with his patients.

Regeneration is an excellent, stand alone book, however the characters journey’s were obviously not over, so I eagerly started The Eye In The Door

The Eye In The Door is definitely my favourite of the trilogy. I started the book on the train to work one very sunny Thursday morning and the first chapter contains an incredibly graphic gay sex scene. Excellent. A lot more ‘political’ than Regeneration-which is amazing considering Regeneration was dealing with the whitewashing of dissent amongst the officers by the government in order to maintain the status quo of the War.

The Eye in the Door looks at pacifism, feminism and socialism and how the three were linked with homosexuality by a propaganda fuelled conservative hawk-like ruling class aiming to bring down left wing thought that was apparently ruining the Great British Public. That was seeing millions of its men being needlessly slaughtered. Again, Barker makes one aware of how much different modern thinking is, how much we rely on Captain Hindsight for our moral conscience. We know that the First World War did absolutely no good whatsoever, apart from breaking up some aspects of colonialism, it indirectly brought about Hitler’s rise to power and subsequently the Second World War and all the horror that went with that. Nowadays being homophobic is a hate crime, but this book made me really aware of our precarious our modern day thinking is, and how so many people’s lives were ruined before.

Billy Prior, who turned very rapidly into my favourite character in this book, is now working in Military Intelligence along with another of Rivers’ patients, Charles Manning, an acquaintance of Sassoon’s mentioned briefly in Regeneration who is being ‘cured’ for his homosexual impulses after being caught soliciting by the military police.

Prior is a fascinating character, not only by virtue of his dual nature-a working class grammar school boy and an accomplished officer, a survivor of abuse and former rent boy, and a loving boyfriend who seems to shag everyone in sight. His loyalties towards the people he grew up with, and the explorations of the slums of Salford, really made this book stand out. Although most of it wouldn’t make much sense without Regeneration, for me, this was the book it was worth reading the trilogy for (you know when people go ‘the first season isn’t really good but by season five it really picks up’ and you’re thinking ‘why did you spend 48 hours of your life getting to that point’? Yeah, totally get that now. Even though I’m still giving five stars to Regeneration).

The Eye In The Door is probably one of the best structured books I’ve ever read-up there with The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Barker isn’t writing this book, she is conducting it-she’s got the sheet music in front of her and knows exactly where to indicate a crescendo or a diminuendo. I properly properly sobbed at a chapter of this book, and yet at the end, by God I was hearing the theme music! I know there has been a film made of Regeneration, but DEAR TV PEOPLE, ADAPT THIS. And Shardlake, and Half of the Human Race. Stat.

I whizzed through this book, and know full well I’m going to have to re-read them all again properly, but I immediately started on The Ghost Road, because I couldn’t’ wait any longer to find out what happened to Billy.

The Ghost Road is a very different book. For the first time, the action is, well, in the action, set partly in Scarborough (hooray!) and partly in France. Interspersed throughout are the memories and dreams of a disillusioned and unhappy Dr Rivers, now working in a London hospital with his old partner Dr Head, with whom he performed the Regeneration of the Nerves experiments after which the trilogy is named. Rivers’ memories of his time as an anthropologist in the Pacific Ocean (I think, geography was never my strong point) were beautifully written, but I was constantly thinking ‘jog on, Bruce Parry, I want to know where Billy Prior’s at’.

The Ghost Road does however have the most comedy rushed-sex scene in the world in it, and brings back Wilfred Owen, whose poems I did at school (like everyone else ever) and loved. The last half of the novel also is written in diary format, which although is markedly different from the rest of the trilogy, also adds a certain pathos, as the reader is counting down the days until the end of the war. I did properly sob on completing the novel, but I wouldn't bother reading The Ghost Road on its own and to be honest I don't get why that, and not The Eye In The Door, was the one that won the Booker.

I loved reading this trilogy, even though it covers pretty hard hitting subjects, it taught me a lot and, along with Half of the Human Race, brought a more 'human' element to a time that can be written off as 'the past'. With the centenary of the First World War next year I can see this being a subject that is going to get a lot of press, and the Regeneration trilogy would be a great introduction to it, as well as to historical fiction in general.

5/5 to Regeneration, 5/5 to The Eye In The Door, 4/5 to The Ghost Road.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

#WTFBC - Details of our second choice!

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Venur:   Twitter

Date:    Sunday, 1st of July 2012

Time:    7pm

Book the Second:

Killer Angels 
by Michael Shaara

The Whedon Connection - The book that inspired Joss Whedon to create Firefly!


Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #WTFBC.

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

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Book Club - Table of Contents
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WSwanLBC - Book 3 - Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut

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White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 11th March 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing: Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

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Our third meeting at the White Swan! Once again, we mede a few new friends - most of whom had the been able to finish the books, so we jumped right in! 

THE BLURB (from The Paperback Club)
Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know. 
THE BLURB (from Google Books)
Vonnegut's wildly imaginative, witty and affecting novel tells Billy Pilgrim's story in just that fashion. It spins back and forth through time, layering in the elements of Billy's life, which begins, chronologically, in 1922 in the upstate New York town of Ilium, and ends over 50 years later, when he is a successful middle-class optometrist with a wife and two grown children. Like Vonnegut himself, Billy was a World War II draftee and a prisoner of war in Dresden when the Allies firebombed the city early in 1945. All of these facts are significant, and the novel emerges as a powerful anti-war.

This was a HUMONGOUS discussion, lively and with a built in piano soundtrack!
We ended up going forward and back on a number of different tangents, so this has been a particularly tricky one to write up. 

So it goes. 

This book made many of us feel as though we were at home, in the middle of the night, drunk as a skunk, watching a film backwards. 
The non-linear narrative flow is sort of mesmerising. You cant help but be trapped in the sticky mire. Unusually, almost everyone enjoyed the experience! 

It all starts very well. An author - granted a somewhat idiosyncratic one - writes about his attempts to depict accurately the memories of the soldiers of the Dresden campaign - a sort of  definitive guide to that event. So far so great. I for one was thrilled at the instant tension between the author and his friend's wife. 

Then it all changed dramatically. A whole new protagonist...well...more of an observer really appears in the form of Billy Pilgrim. We are taken on a quick journey of his life and discover three things about him. Billy is not the most interesting creation in fiction. He is also frequently abducted by aliens. Oh and he regularly travels through time, space and the universe at large. 

His story is therefore woven along two time lines - each one a reverse of the other. 

(I don't know whether it was a symptom of the book itself, or the piano playing in the pub, or just the way the night was going but our conversation became as surreal and frantic as the book itself. I have 8 pages of notes to work off. I'll do my best to keep this brief.) 

We discussed the war - the way it's depicted; the repercussions for the primary character and those of soldiers around him. We went from post-traumatic stress disorder to Vietnam, to the Gulf to the current day conflict. 

We spent a little while discussing the brief moment that the author appears in Billy's story - as the soldier who had the runs(!) and found it hilarious that Kilroy Trout actually has produced a book. We assume that it's not the fictional character but who knows! Where Vonnegut dances; though angels fear to tread; we seemed to willingly follow. 

The way each character was portrayed seemed to be very significant and we tried to perceive some of them from different perspectives with varying results. This seemed to be of especial importance with regards to Billy's wife and daughter. Their behaviour was so  We also particularly enjoyed the scenes with the actress and the coincidences revealed in the porn shop. 

Obviously we dwelled on the 'unstuck in time' concept for some time. It's a great idea - certainly here most uniquely presented. Seeing everything as occurring everywhere, all at once, is rather exhilarating. From there we naturally wandered into the lands of ancient Greek philosophy (I know, it doesn't sound like us either!) - everything is already there. Then it was only a short leap away from 4th dimensionality and back this time to Homer's ideology. Comparing and contrasting with the present day. 
Of course. 

On the whole, this was an unexpectedly amusing book. Not unexpected in that we didn't expect it to be - more that we didn't expect it to be funny in the way that it was. Macabre, deeply weird and told with an unashamed bias (for the authors own perspective); this book embraces all those aspects of war often left out of narratives as they are regarded as taking from the nobility of those engaged with fighting for freedom. The author seemed to relish the fact that there was no dignity throughout any of the characters lives - a trait especially prevalent in the more-frequent-than-you'd-expect-even-with-it-being-a-'war'-book death scenes. The death of Billy's wife is particularly grotesque and yet almost heroic. Far more so than with the majority of the soldiers. 

Another of us mused that - while not an expert on modernism - she felt that this book was a part of that movement. It starts with a disruption, then creation emerges out of terrible events. This felt like a new way of telling stories, with intangible ways of looking at the war. We really enjoyed the way something that large was depicted here. There is a certain fatalism that leeches through. All the events have been and will be again. What's a person to do?
This led naturally enough to the idea stressed in the book that 'free will' is a human construct and what that means in terms of our own lives. We also noted a palpable lack of guilt - Billy for example goes through his post-war life with a quiet certainty that all things are: right now: everywhere. That is beautifully realized no one disputed but it was also terribly difficult to relate too. 

Time began to escape us so we only briefly considered whether there was a gender bias throughout the novel and reflected on the honesty between the courting of Billy and his eventual missus - finding something strangely romantic in their ability to accept each other as they are, requiring no changes. 

* * * * *

We would recommend this book to others, but not blindly. A lot of people would find the narrative to be nonsensical or sea-sick inducing. For anyone who prefer straightforward linear tales; I'd avoid this like a plague. Similarly, the difficulties in relating to any of the characters would provide another block for a lot of even the most enthusiastic readers. 
One member in particular found the story particularly hard work after the 'leap' and definitely wouldn't read it again.  

The repetitive phrase that runs throughout the book (106 times according to wikipedia) 'So it goes' was in constant use during our conversation. And boy did that never get old.  
Not at all.

Score - 9/10

This month those who had a set soundtrack primarily listened to the Planets by Holst and the Dresden Dolls.  

Read it? What music would you pick? 

If this book were a cake...
First though - spaghetti bollonaise!
Actual suggestion was Rocky Road with marshmallows.

I'm sure we had something - but I didn't write it down! darn my inefficient note-taking (8 PAGES PEOPLE, 8 PAGES!!). If you're memory is better than mine, please let me know and I shall update and thank!

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

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17 - Jun - The Fire Gospel - Michel Faber
16 - May - The Eyre Affair - Jasper FForde
15 - Apr - The Waterproof Bible - Andrew Kaufman GUEST
14 - Mar - The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak GUEST
13 - Feb - Weight - Jeanette Winterson GUEST
12 - Jan - Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

11 - Nov - Lighthouse Keeping - Jeanette Winterson
10 - Oct - Winter's Bone Daniel Woodrell
09 - Sep - The Wind Up Bird Chronicles - Haruki Murakami 
08 - Aug - The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
07 - Jul - American Gods - Neil Gaiman
06 - Jun - The Travelling Hornplayer - Barbara Trapido
05 - May - Atomised - Michel Houellebecq - GUEST

I'm just full of good ideas...WSwanLBC  

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Book Club - Table of Contents

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Monday, 28 May 2012

ArcadiaLBC Book 15 - 1984 - George Orwell

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Arcadia LBC

Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date: Sunday, 20th May 2012
Time: 5pm - 7pm

Discussed: 1984 - George Orwell

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LeedsBookClub would like to thank @CultureLEEDS who was kind enough to provide the following brilliant review of our meeting!

THE BLURB (from Penguin Website)

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101... 
Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.

It was hard to judge an overall feeling for Nineteen Eighty Four; the book has so many themes, nuances and points for discussion that it felt as if we bounced around from point to point, never quite reaching a conclusion but always uncovering different points of view and endless food for thought. Opinions ranged from effusive enthusiasm (most people) to general indifference (the picker of the book) to a strong dislike (um… just me, I think. I won’t let that influence my write up, honest)[I'll be the judge of that thank you! LBC].

Opening comments on the book in general touched on its mood; it was described as brutal, violent, ruthless, negative, heartbreaking, overwhelming and lacking in hope. We said it got inside our minds and admired the way it had changed language. In general we thought Orwell used language very selectively and sparingly, but to impressive effect, as Winston’s world was painted for us quickly and vividly.

When trying to articulate what it was that was so crushing about the book, we seemed to keep coming back to children. We discussed the way the characters were dissuaded from nurturing their children, and we were pretty much unanimously creeped out by the children of Winston’s neighbour. Their eagerness to go to a public hanging, their enthusiasm for guns and their obsession with thoughtcrime clashed with our ideas about the innocence of children. We knew logically that the children were too young to be blamed for the way they behaved, but the way the children dominated their parents made it difficult to blame their upbringing.

This led to a discussion about whether, were we born in Nineteen Eighty Four world, we would rather be born as proles or as Party members, and what role we might have played were we adults during the establishment of the Party regime. We acknowledged that we don’t really get an insight into proletariat life, given that we only see them through Winston’s eyes, and he alternately sneers over them, or admires their blissful ignorance. 

After a minor wander down the ‘is ignorance really bliss?’ road, we generally agreed that it would be a bit self-flattering of us to pretend that we would have kicked against the regime, or led a bloody revolution. In fact, one member (*cough* LeedsBookClub! *cough*) confessed that she enjoyed structure, and responded well to authoritative guidance, thus making her (probably) the perfect Party child.[OI! Am I going to need to institute a 'what happens in book club stays in book club!' rule? LBC]

We also thought the closing chapter played a large part in the tone of the book. The ending – Winston’s memory of his sobering final meeting with Julia, the images of his sparse, miserable life and the final, awful moment where Winston finally gives in – leaves such a depressing taste in one’s mouth that it’s kind of hard to shake it off. It’s probably one of the most affecting endings in twentieth century literature, and it’s completely miserable.

Despite the majority of us finding the book depressing, one group member did point out that there is a glimmer of hope at the end: the afterword (very reminiscent of the one in The Blind Assassin) discusses Newspeak in a past tense, suggesting that the regime does eventually collapse.

The overriding interest in the book for most people seemed to be related to its application to our society. Once we got on to this, I’ll be honest, we took some pretty outlandish detours, but the main point that came through is the way the novel has spoken to so many generations. We loved Orwell’s insight, and admired the way that he had pinpointed universal fears about information, and control that went on to become so significant.

We briefly discussed the short scene where Winston hears proles having what seems like an intense, important conversation, but when he approaches, he realises they’re simply discussing lottery numbers. We likened this to people talking about sport and TV programmes in the same way: as if they’re terribly important, when in fact so many more important things are happening. We also discussed the way the Party would ‘change history’, and drew parallels with the Leveson enquiry and banking scandals.

As far as the characters were concerned, we all saw Winston as quite weak, pathetic and cowardly. He kept trying to rebel in small ways but then talking himself out of it. He came across as quite pitiful in the way he destested Julia at first (or claimed to) but then completely changed his opinion once he realised she was interested. We did feel for him, though as we thought his cowardice made him quite real, and a bit more relatable.

Meanwhile the group seemed split over Julia. Some saw her political disinterest and deviousness as unpleasant and unintelligent, where others saw it as believable, and thought it made her more real.

We also spent some time discussing whether, were we born in Nineteen Eighty Four world, we would rather be born as proles or as Party members, and what role we might have played were we adults during the establishment of the Party regime. We acknowledged that we don’t really get an insight into proletariat life, given that we only see them through Winston’s eyes, and he alternately sneers over them, or admires their blissful ignorance. Anyhow, we did think that it would be fascinating to read stories from the point of view of a prole, or other people at different levels of the Party.

Generally, this book seemed to be a bit of a hit! Despite two low marks, it still scored well and most people said that after they had recovered from the emotional trauma, they would read more of Orwell’s work.


Again, huge thanks to Isobel. This is a fantastic read and I look forward to totally making you do all the ones you possibly can in the future!!

Book the Next: 

Cry the Beloved Country - Alan Paton

Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday 17th June 2012
Time:  5:00pm - 7:00pm

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @ArcadiaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #ArcadiaLBC!

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Arcadia LBC

21 - Nov - Hard Times - Charles Dickens
20 - Oct - The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster GUEST - @CultureLEEDS
19 - Sep - The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins GUEST - @CultureLEEDS
18 - Aug - The Princess Bride - William Goldman
17 - Jul - A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini GUEST
16 - Jun - Cry the Beloved Country - Alan Paton
15 - May - 1984 - George Orwell GUEST - @CultureLEEDS
14 - Apr - BloodChild and Other Stories - Octavia Butler
13 - Mar - The Year of the Hare - Arto Paasilinna
12 - Feb - Heat Wave - Richard Castle
11 - Jan - The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint - Brady Udall
10 - Nov - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

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Book Club - Table of Contents
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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Much Ado About Whedon Book Club

I made this: Unknown at 7:33 pm 0 comments
For the three people out there who maybe haven't picked up on this; I'm a huge fan of the varied works of Joss Whedon. 
Yup, I go to cons and everything. 

About a month ago, a few of us Browncoats were chatting on twitter about the shows we love and the huge variety of pop culture references that appear in them. We reflected that a lot of books are mentioned and before you can say 'Bad Horse, Bad Horse' we had somehow set up a book club that will be focused entirely on books mentioned in, about or inspired by Whedon shows and films. 

As I mentioned here, a future release Joss Whedon project is a film version of Much Ado About Nothing by that underrated and oft ignored English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. 

Seemed like the perfect choice for our first discussion! 

If you fancy joining us for our chat this evening, have a look at #WTFBC on twitter. 

That totally stands of Whedon The Fabulous Book Club. 

Find versions of Much Ado About Nothing for nowt below!
Much Ado About Nothing - Project Gutenberg
Much Ado About Nothing - Kindle (also on PG as free!)
Much Ado About Nothing - iBooks

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #WTFBC.

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

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07 - Nov - Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
06 - Oct - The Joss Whedon Companion - Comics and Films
05 - Oct - The Joss Whedon Companion - Dollhouse and Dr Horrible
04 - Sep - The Joss Whedon Companion - Angel and Firefly
03 - Sep - The Joss Whedon Companion - Buffy
02 - Jul - Killer Angels - Michael Shaara
01 - May - Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare

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Book Club - Table of Contents
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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Guest Post - The Tenth Kingdom - Part Five

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* * * Do you believe in Magic? * * * 

* * *Part Five* * *

A friend of LeedsBookClub (say hello on twitter here!), Marie is writing an EPIC review of The Tenth Kingdom!


Continued from Part Four!
(Quick recap - Virginia and her father Tony have fallen through a magic mirror from New York into the nine Magical Fairy Kingdom.    
In the company of a Wolf and an enchanted Prince - currently a Dog - Virginia and Tony must travel through the Kingdoms, seeking the evil Queen. She is the Prince's step-mother and has hidden his real body.  
It is only by helping the Prince that they will be able to find another Magic Mirror to take them home...)

The Queen is now ensconced in Wendell’s castle when she hears a tapping from one of her mirrors. It’s the Troll Stooges!

They wanted to let The Queen know they are back and if she can tell their dad they are okay. She tells them he’s dead and that Virginia poisoned him. (Ooh, she’s evil).

Tony, Virginia and Prince have made their way up Dragon Mountain and have come to a
cave with a Dragons head opening. (Spooky).
They enter the tunnel and after what seems like hours to them (about a page to us) come to a sign telling them they are in the 9th Kingdom Royal Dwarf Mines.

Shortly after discovering this sign they enter a chamber filled with Dwarves and they see a magic mirror being made. As luck would have it Tony’s bad luck gives them away and the Dwarves aren’t very happy for outsiders to see the birth of a mirror! The penalty for entering
their mines is death and also the dwarves discover that they broke 1 (yes 1) of the great travelling mirrors they’re even more annoyed. So they decide to throw them down an old mine shaft, until they pass a truth mirror and it reveals Wendell’s true form.

They change their minds about killing them and instead decide to give them a tour. The Librarian shows them many types of mirror but can’t help them locate a travelling mirror and suggests asking Gustav (who is a very old mirror). Through much cajoling and rhyming (yes old mirrors talk in rhyme, very helpful) they discover that one mirror was smashed by an idiot, the other lies at the bottom of the sea and the other was stolen by The Queen who he tells them is hiding in Wendell’s castle.

Unfortunately they can’t find out more information as Tony picks that moment to knock over all the mirrors in the room. (Oops). So it’s back to wanting to kill them again. 

So they flee for their lives.

Tony, of course, causes more problems for them along the way by first breaking his wrist and then falling and breaking his back! 

So this forces Virginia to try and find an exit and help all on her own. After travelling for a while she comes to an ice cave, and in the centre of the cave lies Snow White buried in an ice coffin. 

She’s examining the coffin when a voice behind her
says “Hello Virginia”. (You would so shit yourself wouldn’t you)! 

Virginia on the other hand turns round and asks who the person is. Obviously it’s Snow White who reveals she has been
guiding their way and shielding them from The Queen.

She goes on to tell her tale and says that Virginia stands on the edge of greatness and will one day be an advisor to other lost girls. (#Sequel, #Sequel, #Sequel).

She gives her a mirror that will show her what she does and does not want to see and tells her that The Queen will strike with poison and it is also the only way to defeat her. In order to do
this Virginia must find the poisoned comb that the Stepmother tried to kill Snow White with.
(The words needle and haystack spring to mind).

Snow White tells Virginia to embrace the dark and grants her wish of ending Tony’s bad luck and fixing his back. She then tells her she must go to him.

It’s very lucky she did as The Huntsman has found Tony and is about to torture him for V’s whereabouts. Luckily she arrives in time to prevent this and bashes him on the head with the

Virginia tells Tony to get up, that his back is no longer broken. He’s amazed to discover he can move. Virginia leads him to the ice cave only there’s nothing there now. (Strange, almost
like magic). They find the way out and Virginia pulls out her new mirror. She asks it who the fairest in the land is and The Queen appears in the mirror. They’re both shocked to discover
The Queen is Virginia’s mother.

Part 4: The Prince Formerly Known as Dog.

Virginia is unbelievably shocked to discover her Mother isn’t living in Miami as Tony had told her (it turns out to stop her asking where she was). She’s also a bit miffed he threw her
mirror away but as he points out if they can see her, she can see them.

The Trolls are hot on their trail and have found The Huntsman they decide to team up in order to find Tony, Virginia and Wendell quicker. Tony and Virginia are chatting about her Mum when all of a sudden they’re hit with troll dust and knocked out.
They come too in the back of a wagon chained together. Their only choice is to jump out and leave Wendell. Tony’s not sure why they jumped out if they’re still going to the castle but Virginia says they need to find a weapon.

They come to a sign indicating that there’s two ways to Wendell’s castle 1 is 39 miles and the other is 13 miles. Guess which one they take (and it goes through a swamp, get through there no problem)!

They’re trekking through the swamp when three girls appear telling them that everyone who enters the swamp ends up with the swamp witch. They must remember three things to make it through the swamp; don’t drink water, eat the mushrooms or fall asleep. 

They then disappear, but not before telling them they’re doomed. (What cheerful girls).
They eventually come to an island and decide to have a rest and some food. But before they can eat anything they fall asleep.
Luckily for them Wolf (sigh) is hot on their trail and arrives at the island in time to rescue them from the vines that are dragging them into the water.

Virginia is so pleased to see Wolf (as would we all, am i right ladies)? And walks by his side as they carry on their journey. They come to a shack surrounded by what looks like a mirror
graveyard with mirrors all babbling away to themselves. They realise it’s the swamp witches house and attempt to creep past but she sees them. 

Only lucky for them it’s not a witch it’s
Clayface the Goblin. He invites them in and removes Tony and Virginia’s chains. He then tells them the story of the swamp witch who was actually the original wicked Stepmother. Turns out she’s buried in the cellar (basement to those in the US).

Virginia decides that what she seeks is in the cellar so goes down to look at the body. It’s like an evil version of Snow White’s ice tomb. A horrible voice asks Virginia if she’s lost and then sucks her into a vision.

She sees her Mum running through Central Park crying, and a voice asking her if she’s lost. She turns and see’s The Stepmother in a doorway hanging in midair. Christine (The Queen) sees a gnarled hand reach through. The stepmother promises her if she takes her hand and comes with her she will forget her pain forever. 

So she steps through and The Stepmother says that if she continues her work for her she will give her all her power.
Virginia snaps out of the vision and notices clutched in The Stepmothers hand the poisoned comb she needs to defeat The Queen. (Good job they took that shortcut).

After a meal they leave Clayface’s and continue onwards. Virginia asks Wolf how he found her and he says he could follow her scent across time (sigh, whimper). She says that she didn’t mean to chase him away and she thinks she loves him (Aw).

At the castle The Queen finally has both Wendell’s but she is not pleased they let the girl get away.

The gang are now within sight of the castle and Tony decides it’s time for a cup of tea before going any further. So Wolf volunteers to look for firewood and Virginia unable to leave him
goes too.

The air is electric between them and it’s obvious what’s going to happen, yep Wolf wants to play hide and seek!
When he finds her they play fight and start kissing and then you know what happens. 

(Now it’s at this point I’m thinking this would NEVER happen. Films, TV shows and books get it
so wrong sometimes. Like the classic scene, couple wake up together and start kissing, erm
help what about the dreaded morning breath?! So i find it hard to believe Virginia would have sex with Wolf after she’s been roughing it for days. Come on ladies - admit it things have got hot and heavy with someone and in the back of your mind your thinking “need to stop this not shaved my legs for at least a week”. So unless Virginia has packed really well she needs a good shower, probably needs to shave her legs and pits, brush her teeth etc. It just would not happen; you ladies out there know what i mean.
Okay rant over, apologies on with the review).

Wolf and Virginia finally make it back to Tony looking very dishevelled and Wolf’s tail is sticking out the back of his trousers!

They have their breakfast and see carriages rumbling past so decide it’s best to wait till dark before entering the castle. Virginia tells Wolf The Queen is her mother, but he admits he
knew from her scent. (Urgh). Tony’s concerned about what they’re going to do all day but Wolf and Virginia are going to sleep.

To be concluded...

The Tenth Kingdom

Listen to the Tenth Kingdom Soundtrack on Spotify here!
Or watch the videos on YouTube here!

The Tenth Kingdom - Part Six
The Tenth Kingdom - Part Five
The Tenth Kingdom - Part Four
The Tenth Kingdom - Part Three
The Tenth Kingdom - Part Two
The Tenth Kingdom - Part One

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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

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