Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The King’s Speech”

Director Tom Hooper has many amazing films under his belt, but my favorite by far is The King’s Speech It is a period piece drama regarding Prince Albert Duke of York (Colin Firth) who, through family scandal and circumstances of succession, ends up becoming King George VI of Great Britain.

The conflict of this film is that Bertie (as his family calls him) has a severe speech impediment and detests the formality of public speaking that goes along with his royal duties. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) believes that a speech therapist might work whereas other doctors have failed. She sets Bertie up an appointment with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The two clash frequently, but soon Bertie warms up to Lionel and his inquisitive and eccentric demeanor. They soon become trusting friends as Bertie begins to improve, and Bertie also shares with Lionel his own doubts and stories about his troubled upbringing.

The film picks up as the seriousness of royal politics sends Bertie to the throne just as world politics witness the rise of the third Reich and Hitler to power. Finally, with the onset of World War II, Bertie must overcome his stammer and fear and address the whole of the British Empire via a radio speech.

The King’s Speech is a fantastic, inspirational drama with great wit and comedic elements that make it an enduring film. It has a positive message of overcoming adversity and becoming your true self.  Audiences agreed as it raked in over $400 million internationally. Critics also marveled at the film as it received twelve Oscar nominations and won four, including Best Picture. The film retains a 95% fresh rating on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

The King’s Speech is available at the Union University Library.

*Please note it is Rated R for strong language.

Book Review: “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

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*This post contains mild spoilers for Atonement

First things first: Atonement is a controversial book, but there can be no doubt that it is well-written. Ian McEwan gets inside the minds of his characters with a precision that is almost uncanny- how can an adult man so accurately capture the motivations of a dreamy (and judgemental) thirteen-year-old girl? Yet the story unravels in flowing prose that compels you to read more, and you believe the characters, as dysfunctional as they are.

To summarize without spoiling, Atonement is mostly about the connection between a  young man and woman and how it is dangerously misunderstood by a thirteen-year-old girl. This leads to a great injustice, tearing apart the family at the story’s center. McEwan also throws in a lot about WWII in the second half of the story and how simply trying to survive can alter one’s reality.

What Atonement gets right: the writing. To me, Ian McEwan’s style is like a mixture of F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern) and Jane Austen (Regency era). That’s hard to pull off, but Ian McEwan succeeds. His story is all about the characters and their inner workings, so the plot revolves around their reactions and decisions. Thus, the different events in Atonement make sense to the reader because we know what’s really going on with the characters (even if they don’t), giving us the satisfaction of being “in on it.”

What Atonement gets wrong: In the #MeToo era, it’s hard to read about a rape that essentially goes unpunished. The main witness to the crime (who is not credible at all) takes control of the situation, which leads to the actual victim essentially not even having to give a testimony. This is an obstruction of justice, and McEwan’s attitude toward the young girls involved is detached at best and coldhearted at worst. In fact, most of the adults in the book are extremely neglectful of the children they are supposed to be taking care of, and McEwan writes as if this is normal and expected (instead of, you know, wrong).

Who should read Atonement: I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys books about fictional crime, in-depth character analyses, WWII, nursing, literature in general, and very complicated romances.

Who shouldn’t read Atonement: People who like books where they can escape and be happy in that escape. This book isn’t light or positive.

 

Ian McEwan’s new science fiction book, Machines Like Me, is due out this year. You can find two of McEwan’s books, including Atonement, here at the library. 

 

Featured Author: J.K. Rowling

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Joanne (Jo) Rowling was born on July 31st, 1965, in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. Growing up with a love of books and studying literature at Exeter University, Rowling wrote pages and pages of notes about her own book ideas. Yet the series of jobs she worked and having her first child took up much of her time, and Rowling did not immediately get published.

When she sent her first manuscript out, wariness followed. Rowling has no middle name, and her world-famous pen name “J.K. Rowling” was actually conceived at the request of publishers, who were unsure if young boys would read books written by a woman. Rowling chose the “K” for “Kathleen,” the name of her grandmother. Armed with a new moniker and seven years’ worth of developing the idea, Rowling debuted her first novel in 1997. That novel was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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The rest is history.

 

 

 

 

Since then, the Harry Potter series has become an international success, both in books and film. Rowling herself has been featured in countless magazines and media, and the list of her awards is nearly too long to print:

 

PEN America Literary Service Award, 2016
Freedom of the City of London, 2012
Hans Christian Andersen Award, Denmark, 2010
Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur: France, 2009
Lifetime Achievement Award, British Book Awards, 2008
South Bank Show Award for Outstanding Achievement, 2008
James Joyce Award, University College Dublin, 2008
The Edinburgh Award, 2008
Commencement Day Speaker, Harvard University, USA, 2008
Blue Peter Gold Badge, 2007
WH Smith Fiction Award, 2004
Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, Spain, 2003
Order of the British Empire (OBE), 2001
Children’s Book of the Year, British Book Awards, 1998 and 1999
Booksellers Association Author of the Year, 1998 and 1999

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Rowling has written other books as well, including crime novels under the pen name Robert Galbraith, and several books for adults such as The Casual Vacancy. The library has the entirety of the original Harry Potter books and films, plus the recently released movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s easy to celebrate Rowling’s birthday today: just visit the Family Room, the Recreational Reading shelf, or the DVD collection. Her literary influence spreads across different media and cultures, and will continue to do so for, most likely, generations.