Thursday, 31 March 2011

After 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit'.

As a child I adored books about children in the World War II. I loved reading about children evacuees and those escaping from the Nazis. The very best were by Joan Lingard and Michelle Magorian, the former telling the tale of a family from Lativia, in a series of books, who ended up in America and the latter in 'Goodnight Mister Tom' and 'Back Home' writing of different child evacuees both before and after the war. But perhaps the very best book of all was 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' by Judith Kerr.

Kerr's book was magically evocative to me as a child and was so pitch perfect for me as a little ten year old who was both fascinated by the history of the war and intrigued by the lives of children other than myself. It told of Anna whose father was a prolific anti-Nazi writer in Germany before the war and who was blacklisted by the Nazis. The family managed to escape, leaving her pink rabbit behind en-route, and their attempts to create a life for themselves elsewhere. When I was about 15 or so I suddenly discovered that Anna's story was continued over another two books and eagerly rushed to buy them only to be horribly and crushingly disappointed. The second book depicts a young adult Anna who is in her late teens and sadly she has totally lost her sparkle just as the author has lost her flair. The book is deeply depressing in tone and although I can now (I am re-reading the second two out of nostalgia and also to give them a fairer read than previously) see that Kerr was attempting to write of Anna in a different style and one more befitting a young adult audience I still think she failed. The book is set during WWII, however, it could still have had cheerful overtones, or indeed have depicted young love in a more convincing and enjoyable way. I don't think it works as a book for young adults quite apart from the heroine losing all her panache.

The third book is the very worst of the lot. Horribly dull and depressing I am skimming through it quickly. Poor Anna... she was so very vibrant and fun and cheerfully delightful in the first book which is of course what made it so special. Hitler and the war crush all the fun and life out of her. Had the second book truly been written for young adults and the third for adults (it really doesn't work for young adults given its sombre tone) the trilogy would have been jolly interesting for I have never come across a series that did that. But the first is brilliant and the second two almost crush the memories one has of it for one grows up to find out that Anna has rather a ghastly life in the end, and that that wonderful joyeous girl grows up rather boring and dull. I really wish she had stopped after writing the first book.

Ultimately we don't want our heroine children to grow up, get married and become boring. Rather we want to remember them as the wonderful and interesting children they were, and also most importantly to believe that when they do grow up they will do amazing things with their lives. It reminds me so much of 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery. She started off as a young girl and although the books continued and took her into adulthood they still worked, until the fateful day on which she got married. For poor old Anne didn't continue to delight all around her and enrich the lives of many by continuing to be a schoolteacher, oh no she stopped working as soon as she got that ring on her finger and then went on to have about six children. She got old and worn down and dull, a far cry from the intelligently precocious firey red-headed young girl whose future was filled with endless possibilities.

I suppose I related to both Anne and Anna as a child and so anticipated relating to their futures also, only to be sadly disappointed in the banality of their grown up lives. Child heroes should never grow up, but should remain like the little Fossil sisters in 'Ballet Shoes' with strong hints about incredible futures yet to come.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The long wait of Lady Sybil Vimes.

Alas he said no... or rather he was probably saying no. Very odd reply which I originally took to mean he was turning me down, but has been interpreted by several friends as meaning that he didn't realise I was asking him out. But although I like this ego comforting theory I suspect said friends are just being nice and the delicious lecturer was trying to let me down nicely. Jolly embarrassing either way and I have found out how truly horrible it is to ask someone out and have them say no... actually this is the first time I ever have. Nasty stuff it turns out but I can at least console myself with the thought that I am jolly unlikely to ever see him again which is wonderfully good at overcoming my total sense of embarrassment and sorrow.

Sadly I did like him rather an awful lot, and although I had no reason to think he wanted to go out with me he definitely did enjoy my company. Gosh I miss him now... I really do feel a sense of loss, almost as though I have lost a good friend, for I am one of those people who likes to have a backup daydream, a storyline of sorts one can tune into when needed, like when waiting for a bus or during a dull lecture. And for the last two months or so he has been part of my daydreams. But now all of that is no more and though I am, or rather will be when I can stop cringing at the memory of asking him out, glad that I had the guts to ask him out (after all it was worth a shot and was the only way I could have ended up dating him), I still miss his presence in my life. It reminds me of the scene in 'Love in a Cold Climate' by Nancy Mitford where Fanny is asked if she is in love and replies in the affirmative. Her questioner answers that of course she is, for otherwise what on earth would she think about when alone?

I have not had much luck with men since splitting up with my ex and it makes me rather sad sometimes. I am attractive, slim and rather pretty, clever and interested in lots of things, but although men do seem to like me they don't ask me out... Apart from a boring tory boy only my cute friend in London has asked me out since last summer. Actually the latter is lovely but rather a flirt and though we could have some fun together, and indeed might well do over the summer, that will be all and no relationship or even real dating will come out of that. Meanwhile my flatmate is practically living at her boyfriend's house and my best friend's married lover has told her he is leaving his wife for her... Plus I did like the lecturer chap so very much...

I have several times expressed my desire to be like Lady Sybil and find my Sam Vimes, but I have just realised that Sybil lived alone and without love until her 40s (or possibly late 30s) before suddenly meeting Vimes. While their relationship is jolly romantic and certainly worth waiting for, all of a sudden I don't like the notion that I might have to sacrifice myself to a similar fate of being dateless and without a love life until I hit 40... Not a happy thought but not at all sure what to do to avert it. After all the only thing one can really suggest to combat that is not to wait for men to ask you out but to do the asking, and as I have just demonstrated that does not help things as the horrid men say no! Perhaps turning to the example of Becky Sharp really is the way to go... at least she didn't mind not being in love but focused instead on herself and having a wonderful time...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

My Benedick or Much Ado About Nothing?

I decided just to go for it and ask him out... He is my lecturer but we are reasonably close in age (I am not an undergraduate) and he is not going to be marking any of my work and the lectures have finished. I was planning to wait until after the exam but after my last lecture with him we had a long chat and he was so nice and seemed genuinely happy and interested in talking to me too so although I didn't have the nerve to ask him out then and there, which would have been the best thing to do, I emailed him shortly afterwards. The email was succinct and cute, and I just asked him out for coffee. It has been over a day now and I keep checking my email account but he has not yet been in touch... Have asked various people and they seem to all agree that there is a three day rule for this sort of thing and if he hasn't replied after three days then he is either jolly rude or is saying no without replying... I feel sick and very nervous which seems ridiculous!

I have never asked a chap out before and can now understand why more boys don't ask me out: it is terrifying and horrible! I am v nervous that he will say no because I like him so much and over the last few months he has rather become my fall back day dream man which has been lovely and totally made me move on from my ex. So I dread losing that which I will have to if he says no. I am also rather nervous about him saying yes as I think I will be sick with nerves before meeting up with him, silly but true! Also bit embarrassed at the thought that he might feel the need to check with his head of department that it is okay to date me, or even just tell him about it if he says no, that would be embarrassing... However, I am v pleased that I have done it and really I have nothing to lose as he won't be around next year so I wouldn't have to keep running into him or anything if he declines.

Dating is so difficult and I really feel like the world of fiction has not prepared me for it. If only I could be a glorious heroine and have men fall at my feet. Shakespeare though had rather a good line on it, I have been thinking especially of 'Much Ado About Nothing' recently for as he there showed there is nothing like finding out someone likes you to make you instantly find them much more attractive and like them back. Oh wonderfully handsome and horribly intellectual lecturer, are you going to be my Benedick?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Bridget Jones 3 and a Secret History.

Apparently the rumours are true and Helen Fielding is indeed writing Bridget Jones 3. I feel this is a huge mistake as dear old Bridget and her hapless guide to life epitomised the gloriously new days of singleton back in the 1990s and trying to drag her into the year 2011 and turn her into a yummy mummy (oh the horror!) scream out cash cow rather than literary endeavor.

Still at least Bridget has at least passing luck with men, I am still delightfully single though horribly and overwhelmingly in love with one of my lecturers... he is rather dishy and although ironically not a very good lecturer I do adore him. I am sure he has barely noticed me beyond very nicely answering all my questions, but then again who knows... Not entirely a desert on the man hunt as did have a jolly lovely time with a beautifully blonde boy at a party last week, most yummy and from Denmark I believe. Also been asked away by an old love interest to spend the weekend with him, but not so sure how I will reply to him. The idea of a fun weekend is most appealing but am not personally a great fan of one-night stands.

Busy with uni stuff recently but have just read the almost excellent 'Secret History' by the very badly named Donna Tart and the disappointing 'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro which has just been made into a film starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan. The latter was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize several years ago and I had heard terrific things about it, but I found it to be written in such a plodding dull way that although the central idea was most interesting I found it quite hard to stop myself skipping chunks of it. While the characters were all irritating, especially the narrator who seemed far too nice and forgiving of everyone else to be real. I suspect I found it so tedious largely due to having read a review of the film which gave away pretty much the whole plot. Roger Ebert is a fine film reviewer (in fact I think him the very best) but he did spoil this book for me.

On the other hand I got totally engrossed by 'Secret History'. It is about a group of elite students at a prestigious university who are all linked by a dark secret. That description makes it sound a bit slushy but it is very well written and the characters are all amazingly realistic and wonderfully flawed because of it. The students are all studying classics as am I and so I particularly loved all the little classical references and quotations in ancient greek.

Not sure what to begin next... I think perhaps 'The Chrysalids' by John Wyndham. 'Never Let Me Go' was likened to it by one of the reviewers and I can only hope that Wyndham made a better job of it!