Jane Austen Book Club: Sense and Sensibility

Sunday, 30 June 2013
In 1811, Sense and Sensibility became the first published novel "by a lady" whom the world would come to know as Jane Austen (1775-1817). Perhaps to maintain her privacy, Austen published all her books anonymously and no one, apart from immediate family, would know who the "lady" was until after her death in 1817.

Today Sense and Sensibility is often overshadowed by Jane Austen's other works, such as Pride and Prejudice, which was published next and coincidentally is The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club's book for July. However that doesn't mean Sense and Sensibility should be ignored. I found it a perfectly enjoyable read about two very different sisters and the social conventions of the time.

Jane Austen

Mr. Dashwood has died, leaving his wife and three daughters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret) with very little income. Inheritance went to the eldest son in those days and Mr. Dashwood hoped the son from his first marriage, John, would look after his stepmother and half-sisters. However, John Dashwood is a half-wit and is easily manipulated by his wife to believe his "family" will be perfectly fine without any contributions from him.

The Dashwoods are left to fend for themselves and  they find a little cottage at Barton Park, far away from their half-brother and the witch he's married to. This is not before they meet Edward Ferrars, their sister-in-law's brother. Elinor is quite taken with Edward and it is implied that he is with her, although you can't be sure because it's all looks and conversations about the weather. However his sister must see some sort of attraction between them because she is more than glad to see the back of Elinor, as Elinor is deemed not worthy of Edward's hand.

At Barton Park the Dashwoods are introduced to Colonel Brandon, a part played by Alan Rickman in the 1995 film adaptation - which I couldn't get out of my head! Colonel Brandon is an intelligent man in love with Marianne who is frankly young enough to be his daughter. They didn't care about that in those days though, then again they don't care much about it now, look at Hugh Hefner and his girls. I won't call them women as most of them have been too young to be classified as such.

Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility 1995)

Sadly for Alan Rickman, sorry I mean Colonel Brandon, Marianne's heart is taken by John Willoughby, the dashing and more age-appropriate choice. Willoughby is equally attracted to Marianne, or so it seems, and the two flaunt their affection for a couple of chapters causing mild discomfort for Elinor. She is the more sensible of the pair and finds their obvious attraction too flamboyant.

In the end, Willoughby exhibits classic bad boy behaviour and departs for London where we later learn he has married a wealthy heiress and Marianne is left devastated. Around this time we are introduced to the Steele sisters, most notably Lucy Steele who decides that she and Elinor are going to become BFFs. However the whole thing is a facade, as Lucy actually befriends Elinor so she can chase away her love rival. For it turns out Lucy is engaged to Edward!

I first believed this to be a misunderstanding, that Lucy was actually engaged to Robert, Edward's brother, and that Elinor had misunderstood. Or that Lucy had decided to say Edward to disguise her true fiancé. Well I was kind of right because in the end Lucy ends up running off and marrying Robert anyway. In the meantime, it turns out Lucy truly is engaged to Edward and Elinor is saddened. She doesn't stop eating like Marianne does over the loss of Willoughby but like I said she has more sense or is she sensible? Oh it's all too confusing.

After spending months in London, which is where they find out that Willoughby married and it all comes out about Lucy being engaged to Edward, the sisters begin their journey home. But before they return to Barton Park, they stop at the home of some friends to stay. It is here that Marianne gets gravely ill, causing both Elinor and Colonel Brandon to fear the worst. Yes, Colonel Brandon is still around even though he appears to have no chance with Marianne.

Colonel Brandon has been a loyal and honourable friend to the Dashwoods throughout the novel, and he offers to fetch the girls' mother from Barton Park and bring her to the dying Marianne. One who has been less loyal and honourable, Willoughby, also makes an unexpected visit to check on Marianne. He begs Elinor for the chance to explain himself and his actions to Marianne. Willoughby admits to just playing with Marianne's affections at first, typical playboy behaviour, but in the end he truly came to care for her. He is devastated about the possibility of her dying and basically admits she is the only woman he will ever love.

Sense and Sensibility illustrated by Jacqui Oakley
© Jacqui Oakley
In the end it's all sunshine and roses, it comes out that Lucy has run off with Robert, so Edward and Elinor are free to marry. In the end Marianne marries Colonel Brandon as well, for what reason I couldn't possibly say. I'm with their brother John Dashwood on this one, it seems Colonel Brandon and Elinor would have made a much better match. But no, Colonel Brandon marries Marianne who until the last chapter still doesn't like him. Come on Austen, why did you put these two together? Marianne should always have been with Willoughby. If this novel were set in modern times Willoughby would be getting a divorce and a fat settlement from his heiress wife and running off with Marianne! It just makes more sense that way!

Which brings me to one final point, what was the point of Margaret? Margaret who you might justifiably ask. Margaret, the daughter I mentioned in one of the first paragraphs and never mentioned again. Pretty much exactly what Jane Austen did with Margaret but worse, because Austen forgot to write about her for pretty much the entire book. Oh I'm sorry, you're right, there was that one line at the end in which she states that Mrs. Jennings is happy because now Margaret is of marrying age. Congratulations Austen, you could have saved yourself some ink for all the use she was in Sense and Sensibility.

Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility 1995)

Q: What did you think of Sense and Sensibility? Will you be joining us in July to read Pride and Prejudice?

Erin x

The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club

The White Queen Review 2 | The Burger King Wants His Crown Back

Monday, 24 June 2013
Sunday night now means two things in our house - the end of the weekend and another episode of BBC's drama series, The White Queen. However it appears The War of the Roses drama has not kept hold of all its fans as last night's episode saw a drop in nearly 900k viewers according to Digital Spy. Don't cry yet BBC One, it was still one of the most-watched shows of the night!

In last night's episode "The Price of Power" it is now 1465 and Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson) is about to be crowned Queen Elizabeth of England. The coronation is an extravagant occasion designed to silence critics of their marriage, although their loudest critics (Lord Warwick and Duchess Cecily) aren't easily persuaded. In fact the good old queen mother, Duchess Cecily, doesn't even attend! Like I said in my previous review, she's the mother-in-law from hell!

Elizabeth is crowned Queen Consort of England

Now Edward IV (Max Irons) and Elizabeth need a son to secure their reign. The line "What's the point of being king if I cannot have you naked all day." will remain firmly ingrained in my memory for days to come. Unfortunately this episode doesn't focus on Edward and Elizabeth's baby-making exploits (Edward IV had ten children by Elizabeth Woodville) but the tensions at court that escalate into outright war.

Remember you can catch up with episode 2 of The White Queen on BBC iPlayer! You might want to do so before reading any further, as here in my weekly recap of the top 5 unmissable things from last night's The White Queen episode.

5. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville got their crowns from Burger King. Overall I love the costumes and set design of The White Queen. Yes, it's too clean to be realistic but who wants realism when watching historical period dramas anyway! However, I can't be the only one who noticed during the coronation that Edward IV and Elizabeth's crowns looked like they'd just gone through the Burger King drive-thru and picked up two kids meals. I mean seriously, I expected that creepy king to come bursting onto the set demanding his crown back!

Behind the scenes of The White Queen episode 2 - Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson film the coronation scenes.

4. Return of Princess Leia Hair. Princess Leia's hair buns are pretty much as iconic as the Star Wars films themselves. Whenever you get a Star Wars parody I think Princess Leia's hair is one of the first things to be mocked, with her hair often being replaced by donuts. I'm pretty sure Carrie Fisher is still cursing George Lucas for that one. Imagine my surprise when Lady Jacquetta Rivers (Janet McTeer) walked on the screen sporting the exact same do! I think there needs to be a "Who Wore It Best?" segment in some magazine!

Princess Leia v Lady Jacquetta Rivers
Princess Leia v. Lady Jacquetta Rivers

3. A random puppet show from the kingmaker's daughters. In this episode of The White Queen we begin to explore the other characters a bit more including Lord Warwick's daughters, Isabel Neville and Anne Neville. Isabel is portrayed as a bit of a brat heavily influenced by her father's beliefs. Anne as the sweet and naïve one with a bit of a crush on Richard, Edward IV's youngest brother. Then Anne asks Isabel to once again tell her the story of the "Ice Queen" which Isabel does using shadow puppets. I assume this was written in to show first the Isabel really isn't all bad and is quite loving towards her sister and to give some background on the war in a "clever" way. However this display of shadow puppetry just didn't work for me.

2. The Earl of Warwick throws his dolly out of the pram. Poor Lord Warwick, things just didn't go his way this episode. First Edward didn't listen to him and had Elizabeth crowned Queen any way. The peace treaty from France that he had been working on for two years went to pot. His wish that his girls would marry Edward IV's brothers, George and Richard, are denied. You can't really blame the guy for being just a tad bit angry. Still it was bit excessive really to all of a sudden claim Edward IV a bastard child and start a war. I think Lord Warwick needs to be put in time out!

James Frain as Lord Warwick

1. A vision from God that appeared more like an orgasm. The Twitter-sphere went crazy last night when Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), a devout woman and Lancasterian, has her vision from God that her son Henry Tudor is destined to be on the throne. She made faces and moaned like a woman in the throes of passion. One couldn't help but giggle. I don't remember hearing of any other godly visions occurring in such a way. Lady Margaret then goes on to tell her son that God has told her that someday he will be king. Young Henry Tudor does in fact go on to become King Henry VII. He actually marries Elizabeth of York (the eldest daughter of Edward VI and Elizabeth), ending once and for all The War of the Roses. Yes the vision comes true but that doesn't stop Lady Margaret Beaufort from being absolutely bat-shit crazy!

Lady Margaret Beaufort played by Amanda Hale in The White Queen

Q: What was your favourite part of The White Queen this week? Do you like Lord Warwick? Lady Margaret? And most importantly... who wore it best - Princess Leia or Lady Rivers?

Erin x

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The Happiest Day of the Year

Saturday, 22 June 2013
According to some psychologists yesterday, 21 June, is the happiest day of the year. I'm assuming this has some correlation with it being the longest day of the year. We humans do love our vitamin D! I can't speak for all humankind but for me yesterday certainly WAS the happiest day of the year for two reasons.

1) My biometric residence permit has FINALLY arrived! This permit is proof of my right to live and work in the United Kingdom for another two years. Which means this chapter of my visa application saga is over. Next up is to take the 'Life in UK' test and apply for permanent leave to remain in 2015, but I'm not going to think about for a few weeks at least. 

The best part of receiving my biometric residence permit is that we can officially go to Pau! I'm so excited to return to the city where Luke and I met. We will be staying with my maman francaise, Domi, and petit frère, Yann, for the ten days we are out there. The reason we were so keen to go to Pau this specific time in July is our friend and Luke's former housemate, Paul, is getting married! Being back in Pau is going to be a wonderful trip down memory lane.

 Le Château de Pau (Pau Castle)
 Le Château de Pau

2) We spent the day at the spa at Whittlebury Hall. After my permit had arrived, Luke and I headed to Whittlebury Hall for some much needed relaxation at their day spa. Whittlebury Hall is approximately 10 miles from us and has an amazing day spa which includes a heat and ice experience. The heat and ice experience allows you to slowly heat up starting in the Caldarium before moving to the steam room and Sauna and then quickly cool down in the Ice Cave. A couple cycles of this process will leave you feeling like a new person.

After we felt sufficiently clensed we laid by the pool drinking smoothies and reading our respective books (Luke A Year in the Merde, and myself Sense and Sensibility). I'm so close to the end now and I'm really  enjoying it. I know some of you in the Jane Austen Book Club have already finished Sense and Sensibility so do tell me what you thought of it and remember July's book is Pride and Prejudice.

Whittlebury Hall Day Spa - Heat and Ice Experience

We returned home feeling rejuvenated and certainly happy!

Q: Was yesterday the happiest day of the year for you?

Erin x

The Visa Application Saga Update

Tuesday, 18 June 2013
I applied for further leave to remain back in April only to have my application rejected on account of my own stupidity. I forgot to check a box saying I hadn't committed any war crimes, you can read about it in my previous visa related post The Visa Application Saga. As you can imagine the whole visa application process has been very stressful for Luke and I. We were even preparing ourselves for not being able to go to Pau in July.

We were therefore a bit shocked when we returned home late yesterday evening to find a message in our post box that a packet had arrived for me and I needed to go to the local Royal Mail delivery office to pick it up. We assumed it must be the visa but it had arrived sooner than expected. I had butterflies in my stomach from the time I picked up the message that didn't subside during the whole mad rush to the post office. I was worried that my visa application had been rejected AGAIN!

However, I am pleased to announce it wasn't and I have my passport back! My biometric residency permit, which gives me the right to stay and work in this country will arrive in 7-10 days and as long as that is all correct this whole visa application saga will be over! Or at least over until two years down the line when I apply for permanent residency, but I'm not going to think about that just yet!

American Passport

My Visa Application Saga Timeline*

Thursday 4 April 2013 - Post my first visa application to the UK Border Agency and pay £561.00. Write Another Two Years, my first visa related blog post.
Friday 5 April 2013 - UK Border Agency receive my first visa application
Tuesday 23 April 2013 - UK Border Agency request my biometrics (fingerprints, etc)
Thursday 2 May 2013 - Get my biometrics taken (£19.20) and sent to the UK Border Agency
Thursday 9 May 2013 - UK Border Agency write to inform me my visa application has been rejected.
Monday 13 May 2013 - Receive my first application back.
Thursday 16 May 2013 - Post my second visa application to the UK Border Agency and pay £578.00 (The Border Agency did end up refunding my first application fee). Write The Visa Application Saga blog post.
Monday 20 May 2013 - UK Border Agency write to inform they have received my application.
Thursday 30 May 2013 - UK Border Agency request my biometrics again.
Tuesday 4 June 2013 - Get my biometrics taken  again (£19.20) and sent to the UK Border Agency
Friday 14 June 2013 - UK Border Agency write to inform me that my biometric residency permit is on it's way and should receive it in 7-10 days. Send my passport back!
Monday 17 June 2013 - I receive my visa application back!

*Please note that everyone's application timeline will be different, I've since met an American who didn't get her passport and biometric residency permit back for four months. I consider myself very lucky!

Thank you UK Border Agency!

Erin x 

The White Queen Review 1 | Birth of a Max Irons Fan Girl

Monday, 17 June 2013
Last night the first episode of BBC's The White Queen, 'In Love with the King' aired on BBC One. The ten-part drama series in based on Philippa Gregory's series of novels known collectively as The Cousins' War which includes The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker's Daughter. The Cousins' War series is set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses, a long and bloody dispute for the English throne between the Houses of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose).

The White Queen

Last night we were introduced to Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), a commoner by birth and widowed by the war. The story begins with her beseeching the newly crowned Edward IV (Max Irons) that her husband's lands be returned to her. Edward IV is struck by her beauty and seeks to make her his mistress to which she refuses although she is attracted to him. I mean obviously, he's sexy and he's the king.. but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Spoiler Alert: In the end Edward IV can take the anguish of being apart from her no longer and makes her his bride. This of course causes great uproar in the royal court because of her humble status and the fact that her family are from the House of Lancaster, although they do switch sides to York, which causes still further uproar.

I don't want to spoil the whole story for you and if you haven't seen the first episode already I urge you to watch it on BBC's iPlayer. Sorry America, it looks like you'll have to wait until 10 August to get your chance to see it on Starz. However here is a recap of the 5 best bits of last nights episode of The White Queen. Also known as the 5 top things you missed out on if you were unfortunate enough to not watch it!

5. The cleanliest 1464 that has ever existed. Let's be honest the 15th century wasn't known for being clean, most people didn't have a dental hygienist and indoor plumbing had yet to be invented. So the fact that all the actors had perfect complexions, waxed eyebrows and aren't surrounded by their own filth is not exactly realistic. However I say to hell with realism, give me a well groomed 15th century any day!


4. A lack of Yorkshire/Lancashire accents. Now I wasn't expecting every one to sound like they were from Lancashire or Yorkshire, but I did expect one or two to have a Northern accent.  With the BBC always striving to be politically correct I expected some Northern accents or at least some horribly put on Lancashire/Yorkshire accents I could make fun of. It seems that although a majority of the cast is British, with some exceptions, it appears no one from the North was up to scratch.

3. A Swedish woman is playing the Queen of England. Like I said, there are a few exceptions to the British cast, the most noteworthy is Rebecca Ferguson, a Swedish actress, playing the role of Elizabeth Woodville. I don't have anything against the Swedes, I mean they gave us IKEA with all it's flat-packed furniture. However, I would like a Queen of England to perhaps have not such a thick Swedish accent next time. It's hard to take her seriously when sometimes you just find yourself thinking about her eating Swedish meatballs and giggling.

Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville

2. The mother-in-law from hell. You think your mother-in-law is bad? I can guarantee she is nothing compared to Lady Cecily, Duchess of York and mother of Edward IV.  She greets her new daughter-in-law by exclaiming "I am not happy about this marriage." Lady Cecily then goes as far as telling Elizabeth she was disown her own son to put a stop to their marriage. Not exactly a warm welcome to the family moment.

#TheWhiteQueen Quote

And last but certainly not least, the number one best part of last night's The White Queen is...

Max Irons as King Edward IV

1. Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons, stars as the Yorkist King Edward IV. I swear you could hear the collective sighs of a nation when he walked on the screen. Remember when Twilight was all the craze and everyone was screaming "I'm Team Jacob!" "I'm Team Edward!" and I wept for today's youth. Well move over Twilight there is a NEW Team Edward in town and this is a Team Edward I am HAPPY to get on board of. When he said "Please let me send my page boy for you tonight" I couldn't stop myself from shouting at the screen, "Send your page boy to me!" even though I was watching The White Queen with my husband. There was some serious drooling going on last night in my house. I think I watched every moment Max Irons was on screen with my mouth open. Fingers crossed The White Queen becomes a bit more like The Tudors, because I could use some Max Irons nude scenes. (Sorry Luke I love you, but Max Irons might be my new pass.)

Q: What did you think of The White Queen? Am I justified in my Max Irons fan-girldom?

Erin x

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Curry - the nation's favourite dish

Saturday, 15 June 2013
If I were to ask you to name some quintessentially English dishes, I don't think curry would be the first thing to spring to mind. Fish and chips? Yes. Yorkshire puddings? Yes. Curry? No. But today English cuisine is influenced with flavours and ingredients from all corners of the world thanks to the Empire. A long history of conquering and immigration have brought new dishes to the English table.

Going out for a curry nowadays is pretty much as English as going to the chippy on a Friday night. They even say that Balti (a type of curry) originated in Birmingham. Ask any Englishman his favourite curry house and he will most likely be able to name it without thinking. The English are also fiercely loyal to their curry house. In Worcester, Luke and I had Pete's Indian. In Milton Keynes we have Bekash, which technically is in Stony Stratford, but we would never dream of going anywhere else for our curry cravings.

Curry Mile
I was first introduced to the glory that is curry in England while visiting Luke at his university house in Rusholme, Manchester. In Rusholme there is a street known as 'Curry Mile' because it is dominated by curry houses, as well as Asian fashion shops, grocers, and Shisha bars. In fact it is thought to be the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent. On a hot summer's night with the neon lights, exotic smells, and green grocers spilling out onto the pavements being on 'Curry Mile' is like being abroad.

While I love curry, I've never been able to make an Indian curry at home, trust me I've tried. Sure you can buy a jar of  Sharwood's Tikka Masala cooking sauce at the super market but it will taste nothing like a curry from the Indian restaurant AND even less like a proper curry. Enter Mira. Mira works with me and like so many British citizens comes from Indian ancestry. Her parents moved over from Uganda years before Mira was born. (Did you know they have a lot of Indian immigrants in Uganda, I didn't!)

Besides making me laugh on a regular basis with stories about her family (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but instead of Greek insert Indian), she has also taught me a lot about Indian culture, which I find fascinating. And the most important part of any culture is, in my opinion, the food! She's brought in lots of delicious treats to try from pau bhaji  (a thick potato-based curry on top of a toasted roll or pau) to thepla (a pancake filled with spices).

I've been begging Mira to teach me how to cook a curry for months and finally she sat down and wrote it all out for me which I am now going to share with you. Now curry is a sweeping statement as there are so many different types of dishes with different flavours. Most of them however have the same basic ingredients and you add different things depending on your taste to make them a Madras, for example.



  • 1 tsp. Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tsps. Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp. Chilli Powder
  • 1-2 tsps. Mustard Seeds
  • 1-2 tsps. Cumin Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Fresh or Tinned Tomatoes
  • Oil
  • Fresh coriander (Optional)
  • Lemon (Optional)
  • Your vegetables and meat if you so desire (Many Indians are vegetarians but lamb/chicken curries are also popular. Just don't use beef!)

Curry Spices



  1. Heat up oil in a pan.
  2. Add mustard seeds.
  3. When they have popped, add the cumin seeds. Other things can be added here like cardamom sticks, cloves, fresh basil, bay leaves, etc. Be careful it doesn't burn though because this cooks really quickly.
  4. Add the onions and crushed garlic. (Ginger can be added her too if you like it)
  5. When they have browned add your masala which consists of coriander powder, turmeric powder and chilli powder to taste (about a teaspoon, you can always add more later). Other spices like garam masala can be added here too - but Mira's family doesn't use it.
  6. If you feel it is sticking or gone a bit too dry or is burning then add a little water.
  7. Make sure you cook out the masala on a lowish heat, the oil will start bubbling out a little and when you stir you will see it changes consistency. The more you cook it, the stronger the taste but don't burn it.
  8. Add in your vegetables and meat. If you're using potatoes of any kind it's good to parboil them otherwise they remain hard.
  9. When these are nearly cooked, add in chopped or tinned tomatoes and let it cook out.
  10. Here's your chance to put it right. If you feel it needs anything else like extra salt or lemon if it's too spicy or needs a kick.
  11. If you want more sauce, depending on how tomatoey you make it then just add hot water and let it cook out. The sauce will thicken.
  12. Sprinkle fresh coriander on top and serve.


Q: So what do you think of this recipe? Are you going to try it? Send in photos of your curry creation to quintessentiallyenglish16@gmail.com! 

Erin x


Monday, 10 June 2013
Sense and Sensibilityby Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
It has been 10 days since The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club started with Jane Austen's first published novel Sense and Sensibility.  A few days ago I started thinking about when I used to read books for school and the teachers would pass around study guides and/or discussion questions Perhaps I was a weird child, but I loved those! They helped me look differently at the book and engage with the story in different ways.

For all you literary lovers like me, I decided to find and share some reading discussion questions. These can be used with any book, not just Jane Austen, but perhaps they could help you write your Jane Austen Book Club blog post. You'll probably see some of my thoughts on these discussion questions in my Sense and Sensibility blog post later this month. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, and Twitter using #JaneAustenBookClub.

  1. Does the book engage you? Do you want to keep turning the pages?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Explore the following:

  • Are the characters convincing? Do they come alive for you? How would you describe them — as sympathetic, likable, thoughtful, intelligent, innocent, naive, strong or weak? Something else?
  • Do you identify with any characters? Are you able to look at events in the book through their eyes — even if you don’t like or approve of them?
  • Are characters developed psychologically and emotionally? Do you have access to their inner thoughts and motivations? Or do you know them mostly through dialogue and action?
  • Do any characters change or grow by the end of the story? Do they come to view the world and their relationship to it differently?

  • Is the story plot-driven, moving briskly from event to event? Or is it character-driven, moving more slowly, delving into characters' inner-lives?
  • What is the story’s central conflict—character vs. character...vs. society...or vs. nature (external)? Or an emotional struggle within the character (internal)? How does the conflict create tension?
  • Is the plot chronological? Or does it veer back and forth between past and present?
  • Is the ending a surprise or predictable? Does the end unfold naturally? Or is it forced, heavy handed, or manipulative? Is the ending satisfying, or would you prefer a different ending?

Point of View
  • Who tells the story—a character (1st-person narrator)? Or an unidentified voice outside the story (3rd-person narrator)? Does one person narrate—or are there shifting points of view?
  • What does the narrator know? Is the narrator privvy to the inner-life of one or more of the characters...or none? What does the narrator let you know?

Imaginative Development
  • What about theme—the larger meanings behind the work? What ideas does the author explore? What is he or she trying to say?
  • Symbols intensify meaning. Can you identify any in the book—people, actions or objects that stand for something greater than themselves?
  • What about irony—a different outcome, or reality, than expected. Irony mimics real life: the opposite happens from what we desire or intend...unintended consequences.

Thanks to LitLovers for creating this handy 'Read-Think-Talk' chart and even more thanks for giving me permission to use it!

By the way am I the only one that keeps picturing Kate Winslet as Marianne and Emma Thompson as Elinor? I probably haven't seen Ang Lee's film version since it came out in 1995 but it is obviously still stuck in my head!

Erin x

A Weekend With Friends

Monday, 3 June 2013
I spent this past weekend doing exactly what one should do on weekends, hanging out with friends and relaxing! Saturday was not only the start of The Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club but an evening I've been looking forward to for the past month, Cluedo Night!

Cluedo (or Clue as it's known in America) is the perfect murder mystery board game, therefore making it the perfect theme for a murder mystery dinner. I had sent out invitations at the end of April, including randomly selected character descriptions I'd compiled from Wikipedia. With our outfits (I was Miss Scarlett, Luke Col. Mustard) purchased weeks ago from charity shops and the groceries purchased earlier in the week, preparations on the day were relatively relaxed.

In fact all we really had to do on the day was prepare the food and get ourselves ready. We decided to have our menu based on the naff party food you used to get in the 70s here in England but with little twists.

Our Menu

  • Pineapple & Cheese on Toothpicks
  • Stilton-stuffed Dates wrapped in Streaky Bacon  
        (My mom's delicious take on the traditional bacon-wrapped sausages)  


  • Roast Duck with cherry jus, potatoes, and asparagus

  • Eton Mess Trifle

Cluedo Murder Mystery Board Game
Unfortunately one couple had to cancel last minute, which meant that Mrs Peacock and Professor Plum were unable to attend the evening. However the evening was a huge success even without the two suspects. Our guests, or should I say Dr Black's guests (known as Mr Boddy in America) were Mrs 'Nadia' White, Reverend 'James' Green, and Buddy the dog. The food was a hit and we all had a great laugh playing our characters during the game. I can now exclusively reveal that in the end it was Reverend Green, in the kitchen, with the revolver! He accused himself in the end, but only after Colonel 'Luke' Mustard accused him with the wrong weapon. Reverend 'James' Green must have known we were close on his heals!

Cluedo Characters - Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlett, Mrs White, Rev Green

Full English Breakfast
Full English Breakfast by Antonio Ruiz García (Creative Common
The next morning we all woke early, some more willingly than others, and sat around watching Top Gear before sitting down to a full English breakfast (sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, beans, and mushrooms). After we were all pleasantly stuffed and Buddy could not take the torment of staying inside with the smell of cooked breakfast no longer we headed out for a walk in the countryside.

Dawning our wellies we headed across the fields next to our property and headed to Whaddon, the village on the other side. In Whaddon is a lovely pub called The Lowndes Arms with a beer garden that looks over the fields. On this particular occasion this field was full of cows and one rather amorous bull. With us watching he proceeded to take a keen interest in one of the cows in particular. They went on a date together (i.e. ate grass right next to each other) and he began shall we say paying attention to a certain area on her. I know it's immature, but there is something funny about animals mating in front of you. Or perhaps it was the little boy next to us that piped up "Daddy what is that bull doing to that cow?" that left us in hysterics.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
After our guests had left, I spent a lazy afternoon in bed reading Sense and Sensibility as part of #JaneAustenBookClub.  I'm only a few chapters in but already have a hatred for Mrs John Dashwood! She's a witch with a capital B to be sure. Perhaps she will redeem herself by the end, you never known with Jane Austen!

Hope everyone else had a good weekend! Happy Monday and happy reading Quintessentially English Jane Austen Book Club members! And non-members it's not too late to join in! You can read all about it in my blog post The Jane Austen Book Club.

Erin x

Save the Badgers!

Saturday, 1 June 2013
If you follow me on Twitter you've probably heard me harping on these past few months about the planned badger cull. The aim of the badger cull is to help farmers tackle bovine TB, of which badgers are carriers. Unfortunately the government's plan will kill over 70% of badger population* and despite overwhelming opposition the government has confirmed that they still plan to go ahead with a cull of badgers, which could start as early as today.

Badger sniffing some daisies
CC Tatterdemalion!

In an effort to stop the cull Team Badger (made up of RSPCA, IFAW, the Humane Society International (UK), Born Free, Dr Brian May’s ‘Save Me’ organisation, the League Against Cruel Sports and many others) have fought to demonstrate that "the near-extermination of the badgers will have little or no impact on reducing bovine TB in cattle."**

To this aim they started a petition with the government which as of this writing has 231,229 signatures, 1 of which is mine. If you haven't signed already, you can sign the petition here.

Dr Brian May Twitter Profile
Dr. Brian May's Twitter Profile
They also have an active social media campaign with both Facebook and Twitter accounts. I myself learned about the cull from Dr Brian May's Twitter. Yes, that's Brian May, the one from Queen. Did you know he's has a Ph.D in astrophysics? A rock god and a doctor... amazing! But back to Team Badger.

Their social media campaign helped get the message out there, share the facts, and even have a little fun. Such as the "Save The Badger Badger Badger" video, a remake of the "Badgers" video.

Team Badger Backing Badgers
After the government's announcement last week, Team Badger released a new report to expose the myths surrounding this cull. Obviously you can't contest a proposal without a solution of your own. And the solution is stop the cull and implement a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle, which is more sustainable and humane! This has led to one of the main myths perpetuated by pro-cull supporters that it is cheaper to cull than to vaccinate badgers. You can read Team Badger's take on this and the other nine myths in full report here.

Let's stop the cull and save the badgers!

 Erin x

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