Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Last year, while leading a tour through England, my students and I had the opportunity to see a powerful, two-man play: The Woman in Black. I had never heard of it, and before leaving, I endeavored to do a little research. I found that the play was an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Susan Hill. The play was magnificent. It was so terribly frightening and thought-provoking that it had my three teenaged students talking about it for days afterwards.
I finally was able to find the novel and read it, more than a year after seeing the play. As I read, I could see the play replaying (no pun intended) in my head, mentally comparing one to the other. I know it appears that I read a lot of literature that has been interpreted visually, but I usually don't. Fortunately, I'm equipped with a vivid imagination, and it doesn't always take a movie to make me "see" the story. Still, when you have, you can't help it.

The novel was short, just 160 pages, and it was very stream-of-consciousness, which I normally don't like. But the story was also very personal and once again frightening. One of the nights I was reading it, I had to put it down because it was late, and I was more than a little scared.

Still, the climax of the novel was nothing compared to the climax of the play, and even a year later, I remember the screaming, the train, and the fear that the play induced in us all.


While there were no messages in bottles in the Nutmeg of Consolation, there was certainly a lot of intrigue, most of it, as usual, on Stephen Maturin's part. After being shipwrecked in the last installment of the series, Aubrey and Maturin were about to set sail on a small ship built from the wreckage of the Diane. Unfortunately, they are caught unawares and that chance fades.
Maturin, once again displaying both his cunning and his tenderness, he contrives their escape after meeting a group of children.

The men of the Diane have to endure plenty, including learning the ways of a new ship, the Nutmeg, pox-infected islands, and drunkenness (which is of course normal).

Fans of the series will be delighted to see the return of Maturin's gentle and giant lob-lolly boy, Padeen, who was sent to the Australia for breaking into an apothecary's. His return is short, since it happens near the end of the novel, but it promises to extend into the next book, if not the remainder of the series.

Often in my old book blog, I compared the movie with the books. I have never quite understood why people were so against Russell Crowe playing Aubrey. I think he was perfect for the part. As was Paul Bettany as Maturin. In fact, and here's my main point, I believe that the men cast as O'Brian's wonderful characters, from Aubrey to old Joe Plaice, were perfectly cast, so much so that because O'Brian rarely describes his characters in great physical detail, I see the men who played them onscreen as I read, and I have no problem with that. When I read the scenes with Padeen, I once again saw John DeSantis, the giant of a man who played him in the film.