Ross Poldark

RossPoldark-cov“Returning home from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark is reunited with his beloved Cornwall and family. But the joyful homecoming he had anticipated turns sour; his father is dead, his estate in derelict,  and the girl he loves has become engaged to his cousin. However, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home — an act that will change the entire course of his life.”

“Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham’s sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers for over seventy years.”

I first discovered this story through the TV series (the 2015 BBC adaptation with Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson, not the previous 1975 adaptation with Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees) which aired on PBS as part of the Masterpiece show. It is an excellent and beautiful historical drama, very well written and with great actors. It really shows all the aspects of the Georgian era’s society in Cornwall (the westernmost county of England): mostly the sentimental struggle of the main characters, of course, but how they manage to survive at a time when the local mining industry is starting to fail, and how the living conditions of the common people (miners, farmers, fishermen) could be so starkly contrasted with those of the nobility. It also subtlety talks about the political, moral or religious issues of the era. It was all fascinating and I couldn’t resist wanting to see what the books looked like (or at least the first volume).

The book series was written by Winston Graham, who based the story on many aspects of his own life. He was born in Manchester in 1908 but lived in Perranporth, Cornwall, for thirty years (1925-1960). He first met his wife when she was thirteen year-old and the character of Demelza is partly based on her. The series includes twelve volumes which were written in two periods. The first four volumes (Vol. 1: Ross Poldark, Vol. 2: Demelza, Vol. 3: Jeremy Poldark, Vol. 4: Warleggan) were written between 1945 and 1953. In 1973, after a long hiatus, he resumed the series and wrote eight more volumes (Vol. 5: Black Moon, Vol. 6: The Four Swan, Vol. 7: The Angry Tide, Vol. 8: The Stranger From The Sea, Vol. 9: The Miller’s Dance, Vol. 10: The Loving Cup, Vol. 11: The Twisted Sword, Vol. 12: Bella Poldark), the last one being published in 2002, just a year before his death. The first seven volumes are set in the eighteenth century (1783-1799) and depict the life of Ross and Demelza, while the last five volumes, set in the nineteenth century (1810-1820), are centred around their children.

[ WARNING: The following MAY contain traces of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing/reading the story themselves are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further. ]

The first volume starts as Ross Poldark (a young British army officer, member of the low and rural English nobility) comes back from fighting on the losing side of the American War of Independence. He has been wounded in the leg and his face is scarred. Unfortunately, he quickly learn that, during his two years absence, his dissolute father has died, their mine has been closed, his two lazy domestic have let his house and domain (Nampara, located near Truro) go into disrepair, and — worse of all — his young fiancé, Elizabeth, believing he had been killed, is now engaged with his cousin Francis! However, he has a strong character and doesn’t despair: he simply roll-up his sleeves, repair the house, plow the land and makes plans to get financing in order to re-open the mine. He is certainly not perfect and has a quick temper but he is a good man, and, seeing the plight of the local villagers, will do his best to help them and always fight for justice. His exceptional social position (privileged but still a gentleman farmer) allows him the move around flawlessly between the social classes, in both the peasantry, the mine workers on one side and the nobility on the other. 

Ross struggles to forget Elizabeth, his first love, and avoids meeting her. He helps his cousin, Verity, in her amorous affair with the captain Andrew Blamey, but it puts him at odds with his family, and deepen the rift with Francis. After the birth of their child, Geoffrey Charles, Francis is gambling too much at the instigation of George Warleggan and Elizabeth is seeking Ross’ help. The family more or less reconciles on Christmas 1787. His choice of Pascoe’s Bank to finance his business (and eventually some personnal enmities) will put Ross on a collision course with George Warleggan, the son of a blacksmith who became a banker and industrialist.

However, the most life-changing event will occur when Ross saves a thirteen year-old girl from a fairground brawl (started over the abuse of her puppy dog, Garrick). He takes her into his household as a kitchen maid and she grows up admiring Ross. But, at seventeen year-old, fearing that Ross could send her back to her abusive father, she seduces him. They will soon after marry despite all the gossips. Ross will slowly learn to love her. She is a coarse young woman but beautiful and, with the help of Verity, will quickly learn the manners of the nobility. She will always see Elizabeth as a rival, but, despite their tumultuous relationship, Ross will somehow be happy. This is as much her story as his.

Winston Graham’s writing is beautiful and easy to read. The story is not only captivating because of its drama, but also because of its description the Georgian society. However, there are substantial differences between the book and the TV series. For examples: Demelza has black hair and not a beautiful red mane like on TV; she boldly seduces Ross in the book while they simply “fall in love” in the adaptation. The book tend to be more realistic in its description, showing more violence and grit, while the TV series is more reserved. But that’s to be expected. On the other side, the TV adaptation shows more easily the beauty of the Cornish countryside. 

I greatly enjoyed reading this first volume (even if I already knew the story), but I am not ready to engaged in the long commitment required by such a large series. However, I strongly recommend it. Also, take note that I read the edition from the superb MacMillan Collector’s Library but there is another edition, the Pan Macmillan media tie-in edition [ Amazon / Goodreads ], which is probably more widely available.

Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787, by Winston Graham. London: Pan MacMillan (MacMillan Collector’s Library), 2016. 460 pg. £9.99 / $10.00 US. ISBN 978-1-909621-51-0. For readers fourteen year-old and above. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© Winston Graham 1945.

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Nous rêvions de robots

NousRevionsDeRobots-cov“De la terre fertile et tangible d’une enfance agricole ardue, rêveuse et sensuelle, à l’enfermement d’un futur dématérialisé à la suite de la Grande Captation numérique, une femme raconte ses transformations physiques et amoureuses, la persistance de sa nature humaine. Comment conserver la mémoire de l’être et des sensations sur le chemin de la post-humanité ? Comment résister à l’entreprise totalisante à l’œuvre derrière les machines ? Avec Nous rêvions de robots, quelque part entre Asimov et Volodine, Isabelle Gaudet-Labine propose un récit de science-fiction décliné en poèmes, duquel n’est conservé que le plus précieux, le frisson, la beauté et le secret, pour affirmer l’humain.

À l’envers de toi / Philéa-2 zéro-2 / je suis / ce que je ne sais pas…”

[Texte du site de l’éditeur et du rabat intérieur]

Un collègue avait suggéré hier de profiter de l’heure gagnée par le retour à l’heure normale pour lire un court roman. Je me suis dit que ce serait l’occasion idéale pour m’attaquer à ce court recueil de poésie dont j’appréhendais la lecture depuis l’été…

D’emblée je dois avouer que je préfère écrire de la poésie qu’en lire. Toutefois, lorsque j’en lis, je l’approche un peu comme j’approche l’art : je préfère de beaucoup l’art figuratif à l’art abstrait. J’aime comprendre ce que je vois/lis sans devoir constamment l’analyser comme un puzzle. Je préfère donc des poètes lyrique comme Beaudelaire ou Nelligan, dont la lecture évoque des sentiments, des impressions, des souvenirs, des rythmes, auxquels je peux facilement m’identifier, sans nécessairement avoir une trame narrative. Il s’agit d’évoquer des sentiments par allégorie, bien sûr, mais ce que l’auteur veux exprimer demeure tout de même relativement clair même si l’expérience personnelle de l’auteur qui génère ce sentiment ne l’est pas toujours. 

De nos jours, chez les poètes modernes, cette clarté est rarement présente, ce qui fait que j’évite d’en lire. Toutefois, la promesse d’une poésie de science-fiction était irrésistible pour moi et, envahit par la curiosité (et ayant rencontré l’auteure à Boréal l’été dernier), j’ai décidé de tenter l’aventure avec Nous rêvions de robots, par Isabelle Gaudet-Labine.

Malheureusement, malgré tout mes efforts, cette lecture fut ressenti comme une corvée. Les mots n’évoquaient pas de sentiments, et les images ne se formaient dans mon esprit qu’avec difficulté. Mais que veut-elle donc exprimer?

Le recueil est divisé en trois parties. J’ai réussi à apprécier un peu la première, où l’auteure relate son passé agricole, car je pouvais assez bien suivre ce qu’elle tentait d’exprimer. Le présent, envahit par l’informatique, était lui beaucoup plus difficile à déchiffrer et la lecture en était donc dépourvue de plaisir. Le futur robotisé quant à lui était plutôt amusant puisque l’auteure ici tente, non pas d’exprimer des sentiments, mais plutôt de raconter une histoire fictive, à l’aide de ses strophes et de ses rythmes brisées. “Qu’une fiction m’efface / de la Grande Capture / Je deviens fée / dans la forêt des machines

Je ne regrette pas d’avoir assouvie ma curiosité même si l’expérience n’a pas été aussi agréable que j’aurais voulu. Ce ne fut pas une heure perdue mais cela a confirmé ma méfiance envers la poésie moderne. Toutefois si, contrairement à moi, vous savez l’apprécier je suis sûr que vous passerez de bons moments avec Nous rêvions de robots

Nous rêvions de robots, par Isabelle Gaudet-Labine. Chicoutimi: Éditions La Peuplade, septembre 2017. 108 pg. $19.95. ISBN 978-2-924519-57-8. Pour lectorat jeune adulte (16+). stars-2-0

Pour en apprendre plus sur ce titre vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBAnQBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWorldCat ]

© 2017 Isabelle Gaudet-Labine • Éditions La Peuplade.

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Découvertes littéraires du moment

SDL2018

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 17.31.18D’abord, ne pas oublier que le Salon du Livre de Montréal se tiendra la Place Bonaventure du 14 au 19 novembre 2018. L’entrée sera gratuite le mercredi pour les détenteurs d’une carte de bibliothèque de Montréal ou de la BAnQ. J’y serai sans faute soit le mercredi ou le vendredi (journée des professionnels), pour faire mon survol annuel du marché du livre (et tenter de faire quelques contacts utiles pour le blog, comme glaner des services de presse ou rencontrer des collègues blogeurs), et sûrement le samedi (pour rencontrer mes amis d’Alire et de Solaris, dont ce sera le lancement du #208).

Au hasard des livres qui me tombent entre les mains au travail ou du bouquinage chez des libraires locaux, il m’arrive de faire des découvertes intéressantes qui vaillent la peine d’être ajoutées à ma (déjà longue) liste de lecture. Voici donc une quinzaine de titres (Eh oui! À une exception près, ce n’est que de la BD ou du manga…) que j’ai découvert récemment et que j’espère lire dans un futur proche (ha!):

 

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The Little Broomstick

LittleBroomstick-cov“Mary, a lonely girl at all times, is bored with the holiday she has to spend with her great-aunt in the rambling country house. Wandering aimlessly in the woods, she finds a cat, who leads her to a curious flower that she has never seen before. There is something odd, too, about the cat, and about a little broomstick in a pile of rubbish waiting to be burnt…

The cat, the flower and the mysterious broomstick combine to launch Mary into an extraordinary series of adventures involving spells, witchcraft and animals transformed… leaving her with a terrible choice to make and a frightening act to perform.

Mary Stewart brings to The Little Broomstick all the qualities for which she is so admired — excitement, fine description, humour, fascinating detail and sheer readability.”

[ Text from the book flaps ]

I have not commented on a book of fiction that is not a manga or comic in a very long time. And yet, this is just a short book of children literature… However, after commenting on the animated adaptation by Studio Ponoc, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, I felt compelled to read the novel. I was lucky to find in the library the very first edition of the book (1971, although it was a second impression, produced the same year). That edition is now rare, but the book has been recently reprinted. I guess it will constitute my official reading for Halloween!

Mary is bored. She tries to give a hand to Zebedee, the gardener, but she isn’t very helpful. She then goes for a stroll in the wood. There she meets a black cat and discovers a little clump of flowers such as she had never seen before. Later, Zebedee tells her that it’s called witch’s bell or tibsroot or fly-by-night. It’s rare as it blooms only once in seven years. And superstitious folks say it has magical power. He also tells her that the black cat is called Tib, and that he has a grey companion (his brother maybe) called Gib. But the grey one has not been seen in a while…

The next day, while trying to sweep up leaves in the courtyard with a broomstick too big for her, she discovers a little broomstick, just the right size for her. As she touches the little broomstick with her hands stained with the purple juice of crushed fly-by-night, the broomstick leap. Mary clings to it, trying to hold it between her legs, but it takes flight and bring her (and Tib) up in the sky, above the world so high! After crossing a thick fog, she finds herself in a strange place and lands near the Endor College for young witches. We meets Madam Mumblechook, the headmistress, and Doctor Dee. They think she’s a new pupil and she plays along (as “trespassers will be transformed”!). She visits the school, proves that she is a competent witch, steals a spell book and promises to come back for class the next morning. As she returns home, she realizes that Tib is missing.

Madam Mumblechook used a subterfuge to steal him in order to perform a transformation experiment on him. Mary goes back at night, finds Tib and use the Master Spell from the book she stole to restore Tib back into a cat (transforming back all the creatures and animals held captive by the school witches at the same time). She meets Peter, a boy from the village who is looking for his grey cat, Gib, and wandered in the magical world by accident while crossing some thick fog. They are discovered and escape on the broomstick, with Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee in hot pursuit. With the help of the animals that she had previously saved, they manage to escape and come back home safely.

The Little Broomstick offers a nice, simple story, beautifully written — as I’ve found it is often the case with British children literature. Strangely, when such stories are adapted into anime the story is usually simplified in order to fit the new medium, but it is the opposite in this case: the anime script-writers have added to the story to make it richer and more complex. In the original story it’s not Peter that is kidnapped, but the cats; there is no other nefarious use for the fly-by-night; no household member is involved in magic. The book is more straightforward and simple. And I like it that way.

Obviously, Mary Stewart is a skilled writer, although this is her first book for children. The language she uses is charming and her storytelling is full of rich descriptions. The book is a good thriller without being scary. It encourages kids (and here particularly girls) to be adventurous, to care, stand up for others and to do what’s right. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by kids, but with enough dept to also be appreciated by adults. All in all, The Little Broomstick is a nice, pleasant read wether you are a kid or not.

LittleBroomstick-illop35a

Illustration by Shirley Hugues

The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart (illustrated by Shirley Hugues). Leicester: Brockhampton Press Ltd, 1971. 128 pg. ISBN 0-340-15203-6. For a Middle Grade readership (age 8 to 12) and above. [The most recent edition is by Hodder Children’s Books, ISBN: 9781444940190, £6.99 / $10.75 US] stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWikipediaWorldCat ]

Text © 1971 Mary Stewart • Illustration © 1971 Brockhampton Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

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About [not] reading

GreatAmericanReadI just watched The Great American Read on PBS, a show that searches for the “100 best-loved books and explores the many ways in which these novels affect, reflect and connect us all”. People are invited to vote for their favourite book in the list. It made me want to read more and wonder why I read so little.

I used to read a lot. As far as I can remember I often read books (novels, comics, books about space, about lost civilizations, about extra-terrestrials; all sort of books). My parents always encouraged us to read. I was spending long nights reading (and sometimes writing), particularly in the summer, when I didn’t have school the next day. I remember going to the public library (first, the one in the basement of our elementary school, and then the city library on top of the fire station). In my last year of high school, I remembered reading over a hundred books, mostly cheap science-fiction novels (space opera that freed my imagination and made me feel that everything was possible). Why did I stop reading so much? 

I was still reading a lot in college and in university (undergrad and grad school). That’s when I started reading also in English (first with L. Niven’s The Ringworld Engineers and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings). Ironically, it’s only when I got busier with my publishing company that I seriously reduced my reading habit. Working hard (even at the library) takes much of my energy. Now I barely read twenty to fifty books a year, and it is mostly manga or comics. I guess I got lazy and life doesn’t leave me enough free time to read. I cannot read in the bus/subway anymore, I’m too tired. I read sometime on the weekends and more often than not before going to sleep. Mostly, I watch too much TV. It’s much easier to watch the movie version than read the novel; but it’s also an unfortunately diluted experience. A book is so much more than a movie. You can create your own visual of the story while the movie provide it for you…

On that Great American Read list, I’ve read only a dozen books: 1984 (G. Orwell), And Then There Were None (A. Christie), The Da Vinci Code (D. Brown), Dune (F. Herbert), Foundation (I. Asimov), A Game Of Thrones (G. R.R. Martin), The Grapes of Wrath (J. Steinbeck), Jurassic Park (M. Crichton), The Pillars of the Earth (K. Follett), The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (D. Adams), The Little Prince (A. De Saint-Exupery) and The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). There are many that I think I might have read, at least partially, or maybe I just saw the movie… I am not sure… But there are many, many more I just wish I had read. I will. I still have time. 

I just can’t wait to retire and I have the entire day to myself, with a nice cup of tea and a book!

I wish my entire life was only about books. Wait! It is: I work in a library and I write a blog (partially) about reading! Gosh! I should dedicated even more time to books…

Unfortunately, I cannot vote for the Great American Read. First, I am not American. Second, I haven’t read enough books in that list. And finally, I would have really a hard time deciding which book is my favourite… Each one has its own value and it’s difficult to compare one to another. They all had an impact on my life, because they all transmitted to me a valuable experience one way or another. But I have such a bad memory for those things… Maybe Dune, La nuit des temps (R. Barjavel), Neuromancer (W. Gibson), or Lord of the Rings ? I don’t know… Anyhow, you can follow my readings on Goodreads

And you, what are your favourite books?

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Boréal 2018

Boreal2018-banner

Boréal est de retour à Montréal pour son édition 2018! Le congrès québécois des littératures de l’imaginaire se tiendra du 4 au 6 mai 2018 au Temple Maçonnique de Montréal (2295 Rue Saint-Marc, près du métro Guy-Concordia). Le thème de la rencontre sera “Rétro/Futur” et les invités d’honneur seront Sabrina “David” Calvo, Martine Desjardins et Patrick Senécal. S’y ajouteront quelques invités spéciaux: Séléna Bernard, Jonathan Brassard, Isabelle Gaudet-Labine et Ariane Gélinas. Vous pouvez obtenir plus de détails et vous inscrire sur le site du congrès. Jusqu’au 1er avril, les inscriptions pour la fin de semaine complète sont en pré-vente à prix forfaitaire (Général: $35; Étudiant: $20; Soutien: $50; Enfants de moins de 12 ans: gratuit! Payable par PayPal ou carte de crédit). Au plaisir de vous y voir!

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Genres et littératures

(0) Introduction

Je trouve qu’il y a souvent de la confusion concernant la définition des différents genres littéraires que ce soit parmi les simples lecteurs ou même parfois parmi les libraires et bibliothécaires. C’est particulièrement évident quand on regarde les notices bibliographiques du catalogue des bibliothèques de Montréal (qui sont souvent créées à partir de données fournies par la firme SDM). C’est une lacune déplorable sur un sujet qui est pourtant enseigné au CEGEP. Cela peut sembler trivial — après tout un bon livre demeure un bon livre qu’il soit de la SF ou un roman historique — mais j’ai toujours trouvé que la compréhension des choses commençait avec l’utilisation de la bonne terminologie et une définition claire, précise et exacte. Je vous offre donc ici un petit guide sur les genres littéraires qui ne se veut pas exhaustif mais qui vise simplement à introduire les principaux genres.

Pendant longtemps, les puristes ont considérés que la véritable littérature se limitait aux grands classiques romanesque, de la poésie et du théâtre (classiques anciens — avec des auteurs tel que Aristophane, Aristote, Cicéron, Euripide, Hérodote, Homère, Horace, Ovide, Platon, Socrate, Sophocle, Thucydide, Tite-Live, Virgile, Xénophon, etc. — ou classiques modernes — avec des auteurs tel que Austen, Balzac, Baudelaire, Brontë, Dickens, Dostoïevski, Dumas, Flaubert, Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Joyce, Molière, Montaigne, Maupassant, Proust, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Tolstoï, Voltaire, Zola, etc.), et qu’elle excluait tout autres genres de récits. Puis on a tranquillement accepté que la littérature populaire était une littérature à part, une para-littérature, avant de finalement admettre que les littératures de l’imaginaire et autres genres de récits populaires étaient indubitablement de la vrai littérature et pouvaient être étudiées comme telle. Évidemment, plusieurs des “classiques” cités plus haut sont considéré maintenant comme de la littérature de genre. Et cela n’empêche pas que je rencontre encore souvent aujourd’hui des collègues qui me disent que ce que publient des éditeurs comme Alire, un des rares éditeurs spécialisés en littérature de genres au Québec, ce n’est pas de la “vrai” littérature.

Je vais commencer par diviser les littératures en deux groupes: les littératures rationnelles, qui sont ancrés dans le réel, et les littératures de l’imaginaire, qui se déroulent dans un monde entièrement ou partiellement créé par l’auteur. Pour chacun de ces groupes, je vais vous présenter les principaux genres, les définir, en expliquer les sous-genres majeures et donner quelques exemples d’auteurs ou de titres.

Poursuivre la lecture avec: (1) Les Littératures rationnelles

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