Books · Witterings

Persuasion and the Navy

When I was undertaking my history degree, I recall being referred to the works of Austen in relation to the presence of the Navy. My dissertation was on the Dockyard workers of the eighteenth century and with obvious reference to the naval ships that they built and those who served upon them. I took a quote out of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, but I still admit to having never read the whole novel, and will have to rectify this.

Some years later, I find myself not as a dockyard worker but as a contractor working for the Royal Navy and it was with some amusement when I came to the passages in the Persuasion that I thought so much has changed but oh how so much has not.  The Navy of Austen’s time worked on a seemingly different principle to the one of today, when it seems when at war the Navy were making their fortune when not at war they were making very little but living off their spoils and going about the business of finding a wife.   Captain Wentworth was considered not worthy of Anne because he had not made his fortune, upon his return some 7 years later it seems he suddenly is more of a better looking prospect.

The position in society of Naval officers in Persuasion is an important one. Upon looking for tenants for his house Sir Walter, is given the idea that

“they will all be wanting a home. Could not be a better time, Sir Walter, for having a choice of tenants, very responsible tenants. Many a noble fortune has been made during the war. If a rich admiral were to come our way…”

Oh how things are different today, the officers of today (from my experience)have no compunction in jumping up and down on beds and breaking them, removing door spyholes, handles, being ill (I will leave this to imagination) on their sheets and hiding them in drawers and in some cases living a general squalor. I think Sir Walter would certainly not want them as tenants today.

“I have known a good deal of the profession;and besides their liberality, they are so neat and careful in all their ways!These valuable pictures of yours, Sir Walter, if you chose to leave them, would be perfectly safe.”

I am reminded here of a picture of Lord Mountbatten who after one such night developed a rather black moustache. The culprits were never caught, the story goes down in history for those that work there.

The adage, work hard, play hard can probably be applied and some might think I am being a trifle unfair, but I think basic manners and respect of property our things that are a given should not be reminded of.

“Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must all allow”

Anne Elliott is a great supporter of the Navy, very early on in the book or is it her overwhelming desire to be reminded of Captain Wentworth that makes her so?

Anne’s father, Sir Walter has differing views about the Navy and would hate to see anyone he was close to and certainly not a male family member called into such a profession.

“…two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their father and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man’s youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I have observed it all my life.”

I think Sir Walter has seen a rise through the ranks, as a bad influence of those of a more upper class upbringing. There are a lot of officers who come straight in as such, after going through university and do not perhaps have the wise or not so wise experience from those who have come up from an ordinary able seaman. Then again, there are those who have risen who have a chip on both shoulders because they have risen from nothing. It is a very fine line to find an officer nowadays who has perhaps the same morals and principles of those of Austen’s time. Though I am sure they exist.

The fascination for all things naval, still exist today with documentaries of the fly on the wall variety and a rather weak and cancelled tv drama series from a few years ago In Persuasion it is the fascination of the “two Miss Musgroves” in all things naval.

“There was a very general ignorance of all naval matters throughout the party; and he was very much questioned, and especially by the two Miss Musgroves, who seemed hardly to have any eyes but for him, as to the manner of living on board, daily regulations, food, hours &c.,”

That is what seems people want to know about it, they know they have a purpose but it is how they ‘live’ that seems to fascinate and I can say it still interests me as I have seen changes as well. For those who are classed as ‘living on board’ whilst ashore i.e. not on a ship were charged a daily rate of food regardless of whether they ate it or not. Now they have some called ‘Pay as you Dine’ and it does what it says on the tin – pay for what you eat. But there are restrictions, if you want an extra sausage or bacon at breakfast then you will have to pay for each individual item. “Dining Rooms are being turned into motorway caffs” is a moan comment I hear often. Strangely enough it was the Navy that wanted to do this after many trials decided it would work – therefore do not blame the contractor look to those who you work with; they made the decision. And yes you will still have to pay 50 pence if you want a piece of fruit with your breakfast!

As the Navy of today, starts to cut back through its strategic defence and security review, this Friday sees many people rethink a career in the Navy as their redundancies are issued. Would such a thing have happened in Austen’s time and would Captain Wentworth still have been a good or bad prospect for Anne Elliott. I would like to think, that she would have chosen him, and her family would have to accept her choice, a choice that would make her happy in her life.

1995 Film Adaptation (Amanda Root as Anne, Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth)
Books

Nothing but Trouble – Rachel Gibson

This is the first Rachel Gibson book that I have read, and now having read it and found out more about the author, I understand this one of many books from this author’s pen.

Nothing but Trouble is an easy, predictable read. Mark Bressler, a famous Ice Hockey Player injured badly in a car crash that has ruined his escalating career as one of the best players has turned into a more arrogant, grumpy man and his slowly going through carer’s as he makes it his mission to cope on his own and scare them into leaving within hours if not minutes of meeting them. Enter Chelsea Ross a bit part actress who needs to make some money takes on the role and if she can survive three months with Mark then she also gets a bonus. Mark has met his nemesis, Chelsea has just met another ‘celebrity’ amongst many she has worked as assistants for whilst she looks for the big break in Hollywood.

You know what is going to happen but so what, this was whilst being predictable, light humoured, romantic and overtly sexual in parts but it is pure escapism in fact rather Mills and Boon esque. Enjoyable read but the reason I have only given it 3 stars is a lot of the references, colloquial sayings was geared to the American audience and also I know absolutely nothing about Ice Hockey and so much of this was lost on me. I would not buy another book by this author but if I stumbled across one and needed something to read I would know what I was getting. Nothing but Trouble is part of a series of books called in the ‘Chinooks Hockey Team’ but you do not need to have read any of the others to read this one.

I read this as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge. Not my normal choice but I thank them for giving me the opportunity to read it. Reading books that you would not normally pick up, sometimes makes you appreciate the books you do normally pick up to read! This was the third book in the challenge and I am looking forward to receiving the final book, as I cannot remember what I asked for! I hope Transworld give me the opportunity to review some more books in the future. 

Books

74 Seaside Avenue – Debbie Macomber

We rejoin friends at 74 Seaside Avenue which launches us straight into some of the characters we met in the previous novel and before. Teri is still very much in love with her new husband Bobby Polgar the world famous chess player but someone is trying to stop Bobby from being the World Number One in chess and the way they seem to be doing it is by getting at Bobby’s other favourite number one – Teri.

As Teri’s colleague Rachel is still trying to come to terms with the fact that her naval boyfriend has now had to move to San Diego and that if she wants to be with him she will need to move herself. Rachel has doubts; about Nate’s family, Nate’s sudden interest in politics, moving away from everything she knows, Jolene who has adopted her as a surrogate mother figure and Jolene’s father, Bruce who cannot make up his mind what he wants. It takes Rachel to see that the future is not always a thousand miles away but will she be able to convince everyone else.

Maryellen’s manicures used to be done by Rachel, but Maryellen has no time for them now, with the arrival of her baby after an agonising pregnancy and the prospect of managing her husband, Jon’s photographic career luck has changed her prospects but the gallery where she first showed Jon’s pictures is set to close. Maryellen does not want to see all that work go to waste, but is there anyone willing to take it over? Bad Luck can bring good and when a past face comes back to Cedar Cove it looks like they gallery might be saved but some relationships might also be damaged.

Maryellen’s mother Grace Harding and her new husband Cliff, finally get round to holding a wedding reception after eloping to get married in a previous book. Everyone is together, and despite faces from the past that could cause trouble, the present and the future does not look so good for some.

And so the goings on and gossip of Cedar Cove meanders seemingly into another book. They can be read separately, but they make a great series read and although each book starts with a list of characters and all their relations and connections, it is surprising how much you can remember from previous books. In turn they will all have their ‘turn’ in the spotlight, as others lives just happen seemingly in the background building the opportunities for future storylines.

Reading this book was like putting on a comfy pair of slippers and losing in yourself. It was just the sort of read I needed because I wanted to know what was going on in Cedar Cove. And having come late to this particular series, I have a few more to go until I catch up with how fast Debbie Macomber writes her novels! 

Books

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Anne Elliot, is the middle daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Elliott. When she falls in love with Frederick Wentworth a young naval officer, her father and elder sister, Elizabeth along with a long standing family friend Lady Russell do not think it is an engagement to be encouraged, he is not a man of position, status or money and listening to their advice is persuaded to break it off with him. Some seven years later their paths cross again as Wentworth now having made his fortune and promoted to Captain comes to stay with his sister at Kellynch Hall. the home Anne Elliott’s father has had to rent out because of his lack of financial knowledge and his extravagance in trying to maintain some sort of face amongst polite society and actively encouraged by his elder daughter Elizabeth.

Although Wentworth seems to have not forgiven Anne for her untimely break up of their relationship, they are forced together in many situations through friends, neighbours and acquaintances.

Anne is to spend time with her younger sister Mary, the only one married of the daughters whilst her elder sister and father move to Bath. Mary Musgrove is a delightful character and I loved her for her silly ways. She often feigns illness to grab attention and ensures that if there is something going on at the neighbouring estate which her husband will inherit she is fully apart of it. Headaches and illness can be suddenly forgotten if there is fear of not being the centre of everything. Only Anne can seem to temper Mary and cure sudden bouts of illness or borderline hysteria.

Whilst with her sister, she is acquainted with her sisters in-laws the Musgroves and in particular the two young sister Henrietta and Louisa. With these women she sees what perhaps she is missing. When both their attention is drawn to Captain Wentworth, there is speculation on which will persuade Wentworth to choose. It seems to be Henrietta although she is promised to cousin Charles Hayter a clergyman but it could just be Louisa. Who when on a days outing to Lyme (Regis) behaviours becomes excitable that she falls and suffers concussion when in Wentworth’s company. Believed to be dead by the hysterics of others Anne Elliott steps in and asks for someone to seek help whilst she administers some sort of first aid.

The resulting actions, mean despite Wentworth’s guilt for what has befallen Louisa, the strength of character of Anne is suddenly uppermost in his mind. Louisa remains at Lyme where she has a slow recovery which has somewhat changed her outgoing exuberant personality to one of quiet reflection and she is soon engaged to Wentworth’s old friend Captain Benwick who lives in quiet reflection.

Anne eventually joins her father, Sir Walter and her sister Elizabeth in Bath along with Mrs Clay a companion of Elizabeth who seems to have an ulterior motive for this burgeoning friendship. In Bath they are all joined by William Elliot, the heir to Kellynch Hall. Anne dislikes and does not trust him. Elizabeth thinks he is going to propose. Lady Russell is sure that he is after Anne and persuades her as such but Anne has started to find her own conclusions. Anne’s fears are confirmed when she meets up with a school friend Mrs Smith, recently widowed, ill and in financial difficulty who was once friends with Mr Elliott and now since her circumstances have vastly changed is no longer considered in favour.

When the Musgrove’s arrive in Bath, all three sisters are reunited and all three could not be more different and it is shown at the small evening gathering that Sir Walter holds in less than perfect surroundings. Having gained courage Captain Wentworth writes Anne a beautiful letter and with only the persuasion of her own heart and head she accepts that they be re-engaged. Ironically now fortune has changed for them all, Wentworth is accepted into the family.

This is the first Austen I have read (I hang my head in shame at this point) as a voracious reader I berate myself frequently for not having read more of what I call the classics. As television fodder they were part of growing up and still watch to this day any ‘classic’ which is adapted for the small and big screen. 

Seeing something which could help focus me to read such a book I was inspired by Book Snob and her read-along so I thought I would take the plunge and get stuck in. Now I am berating myself for not having done it sooner! I confess to having read the book before the start date because I was hooked so quickly! I am going to hopefully do a few more posts about Persuasion as there is much more I want to say about how this book struck me.

Witterings

Top Hat

Besides all the other things I love doing, going out to theatre is certainly up there in the top ten! And I have a bit of a thing for musicals as well. My recent outing was to see Top Hat, the first ever stage production of the 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film of the same name. I confess to having never seen the film, in fact I cannot recall having seen many ‘Fred & Ginger’ films. However this did not stop me wanting to see such a show – I love the music of Irving Berlin and the main star Tom Chambers wowed many a fan with his dancing prowess on Strictly back in 2008 (yes it was that long ago!)

Summer Strallen as Dale Tremont,Tom Chambers as Jerry Travers.

An American dancer, Jerry Travers comes to London to star in a show produced by the bumbling Horace Hardwick . While practicing a tap dance routine in his hotel bedroom, he awakens Dale Tremont  on the floor below. She storms upstairs to complain, whereupon Jerry falls hopelessly in love with her and proceeds to pursue her all over London.

Dale mistakes Jerry for Horace, who is married to her friend Madge. Following the success of Jerry’s opening night in London, Jerry follows Dale to, where she is visiting Madge and modelling/promoting the gowns created by Alberto Beddini, a dandified Italian fashion designer with a penchant for malapropisms.

Jerry proposes to Dale, who is disgusted that her friend’s husband could behave in such a manner and agrees instead to marry Alberto. Fortunately, Bates , Horace’s meddling English valet, disguises himself as a priest and conducts the ceremony; apparently, Horace had sent Bates to keep tabs on Dale.

On a trip in a gondola, Jerry manages to convince Dale and they return to the hotel where the previous confusion is rapidly cleared up. The reconciled couple dance off into the Venetian sunset, to the tune of “The Piccolino”.

The stage adaptation stuck pretty much to this and as I did not know the storyline before  I went in, it was easy to follow and enjoy the humour, the romance and the music and of course the tap dancing. There is something so enthralling and enchanting about tap dancing and seeing it all just look so smooth, sophisticated and classic.

There is so much about it to like, Horace and his butler Bates made me chuckle but then the dancing made me smile and the dresses made me want to cry, so beautifully elegant. A very good adaptation and one I am glad I have seen. The sets were amazing, so many changes and you could not see the join, from hotel lobby, to bedroom suite, to outside and then back in again.

The evening was slightly spoilt as I sat down. The lady sat behind was talking to her neighbour saying she would have a good view if the lady in front (me) did not keep her head in that position, I was talking to my mum at the time. Said lady repeated this, and so I politely turned round and informed her that I would do my best to please her. One suitably embarrassed lady who also got a very large elbow dug in her side from her husband, saying she was rude and too loud!

Sadly the lady next to my mum fell ill during the performance, I think she may have had a heart attack, she seemed to lose consciousness and then was sick. Rather in a fast slow motion if there is such a thing, I elbowed my dad out the way and ran up the aisle to get some assistance. One of the granddaughters of the poorly lady followed me probably thinking no one was helping. I have to say how professional the staff were and I give them ten out of ten with dealing with it. We were moved to other seats, as could not sit where we were, because it needed to be cleaned up and it did smell not very nice.  I continued to enjoy the show right up to the end, but it did frighten me somewhat.

The Mayflower is a very different theatre to the one in Chichester, and it certainly creates a different atmosphere and having only within the last 4 weeks seen Singin’ In The Rain at Chichester, you could tell the difference. However, the sound, lighting and the acoustics were fantastic at Top Hat and despite playing musical chairs you could hear everything clearly. Delightedly I got to see Summer Strallen, who is the sister of Scarlett Strallen who played Kathy Selden in Singin’ In The Rain, very much alike and definitely a family talent! For those who have access to London theatres, Singin’ In The Rain is transferring to the West End from Feb 2012 with the original cast from Chichester, and I highly recommend it.

Nothing theatre wise planned for next month but plenty to look forward to in 2012. There is a couple of films coming up at the cinema soon, and I have yet to share my thoughts on the recent film I saw, Jane Eyre.

Books

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley – M.C. Beaton

You have Hercule Poriot, Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp thanks to Agatha Christie now thanks to M.C.Beaton we have Agatha Raisin, James Lacey and DC Bill Wong all in their own way providing us with more cosy crime solving.

The walkers of Dembley is the fourth novel in the series of Agatha Raisin books. Over in Dembley a group of ramblers have started gaining militant momentum through the power of Jessica who insists that they should ramble through fields and country estates because it is their right of way. When Jessica insists on going through the land of Sir Charles Fraith, another of the group goes out to meet him and see the ‘lay of the land’ if that cliché can be allowed. Sir Charles turns their immediate descent on is property by being civil and asking them to stick to the path but would they like to stay for tea? Jessica does not agree and when the rest of the group back away, she insists on going on her own and takes a path of fate that ends her life by person or persons unknown dispatched via a spade in a field of oil seed rape.

Enter the police but also Agatha Raisin as she asked by a local neighbour, Mrs Mason in Carsley to help with the investigation as her niece is rather taken with one of the potential suspects, Sir Charles himself. Agatha along with her neighbour James who seems to continual to blow hot and cold in their friendship let alone relationship investigates. Posing as a couple they to start to walk with the Walkers of Dembley, even Bill Wong the Detective is happy for them to play apart, he fears they are in no danger but then another body is found and he also was part of the Walkers. Agatha uses her intuition to come to a conclusion and they set off to protect who they think the next victim might be.

Causing damage, mayhem and destruction along the way they save a life and apprehend the murderer but it brings them both closer together and then things take a very different turn for Agatha? Will she soften and be less direct, forthright and outspoken or does the detective we love to hate remain the same underneath? Only reading the next book will tell us that!

This may be guilt reading of the lesser literary variety but it does not half cheer the soul from a bad week at work, having to deal with the prospect of telling someone they are not fit for the job to having struggled with my previous read and the guilt felt eating a whole packet of biscuits and some chocolate all in one day. Thank you Agatha you cheer my soul and for the fact that I have more of your books to read I am eternally grateful and I hope I never run out of them. 

Books

Far to Go – Alison Pick

Your religion is wrong now; even though you do not practice you are guilty by some remote association.  The only answer to this witch hunt is to change and then hope you are passed by. But for Pavel, Annelise Bauer and their son Pepik this is not possible.

It is 1939 and we are taken to Czechoslovakia where the Nazi threat is no longer becoming a threat it is becoming reality. The Bauers would be okay but they are Jews, non practising ones but still Jews. They have a lovely existence and nothing is a problem for them before the Nazi Threat, their son is looked after well by his governess/nanny, Marta who tells us the story of the Bauers and how they looked for ways of avoiding the inevitable. Now the Bauers are in danger, they try anything to stop the march to unknown. Changing religion and hoping that friends and family will be able to help them escape.  As the story progress we see the lengths they go to and reach to be able to escape.

The final choice is for them to save their son, through the Kindertransport and send him to safety. What a choice for any parent to make, sending their child away to another unknown country and family knowing that they will ultimately face death.

This is a book of many emotions, and I admit to struggling with it. It was inevitable what was going to happen to the adults and I think this inevitably was also known to them as well and they slowly throughout the book resigned themselves to this fact. The emotion is raw when Pepik is sent away on the train with hundreds of other children. This emotion is jarred somewhat by another storyline throughout not narrated by Marta but from someone unknown, this really did not make sense until at least two thirds of the way through the book, who this narration was from and I am not sure if it had its purpose being in this book. I had worked out the relationship developing between some of the other characters and how this was going to come out but the additional narration somewhat spoilt that for me.

This is a fascinating novel and from a historical point of view introduced me to something I knew very little about but not necessarily had connected it with other events of World War Two. It has been researched thoroughly well and on many occasions I did wonder if I was reading something autobiographical not a fictionalised account at all as it was that strong in its storytelling. However I was not completely addicted to the book and I cannot begin to tell you why, I struggled but stuck with it and I know by doing that I have not missed out on something I think probably lots of people should read.

It was only whilst reading this book that I realised that it was  long listed book for the Booker Prize 2011. Get me I thought but I also thought, I am really struggling with this and because it is long listed I should not give up! I did not give up but as I say in my review I did struggle and I do not know why. It was so emotional in parts but I think it was the structure of the story not the writing itself that I struggled with. I have provided some links to other bloggers thoughts about this book

Jackie at Farm Lane Books  admits to skim reading after 70 pages. 

Jane at Fleur Fisher was where I came across the book first off, and why I wanted to read it. 

 She Reads Novels (one of my favourite blogs to visit) also enjoyed it but found it a little confusing as well to start off with.

If you have not already give this book a go then do. If anything I am now interested in Kindertransport and the movement of 10,000 children who came to Britain alone. 

Frank Meisler's Kindertransport memorial stands outside Liverpool Street Station.