The African Queen by C.S. Forester

bookshelves: winter-20142015, published-1935, re-visit-2015, radio-4

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 01, 1968 to February 26, 2015

BBC description: Samantha Bond and Toby Jones star in a new dramatisation of C.S. Forester’s classic World War 1 novel.

Set in 1915, Rose Sayer’s work as a missionary comes to an abrupt end when the village she and her brother, Reverend Samuel Sayer, live in is invaded by the German army. Samuel dies of fever and Rose blames the ungodly Germans for having ground him down and frightened off the entire village.

Patriotically, but naively, Rose conceives of blowing up a German warship thus helping the war effort. She convinces cowardly Cockney Charlie Allnut to lend his rickety steam-powered boat, The African Queen, for the cause. He has offered to give Rose a lift in his boat to get away from the village and the Germans, so reluctantly goes along with her plan. If they manage to survive German attacks, rapids, malaria and mechanical mishaps will they be able to survive each other?

The novel, The African Queen by C.S. Forester, was of course the basis for the highly popular Hollywood movie of the same name. Paul Mendelson’s dramatisation goes back to the novel re-instating Forester’s original ending and giving Charlie his Cockney identity back!

I read this so many, many years ago, and now it come to the radio. Why not jump aboard! Also remember a film, that again must have been eons past because it was on our black and white TV. Hear the youngsters gasp at the concept of black and white TVs LOL

The Saint Overboard by Leslie Charteris

bookshelves: winter-20142015, a-questing-we-shall-go, radio-4x, series, published-1935, arch, under-500-ratings

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 18 to 26, 2015

Description: Murder and Mystery Ride the High Seas With The Saint and:

A BEAUTIFUL BLONDE IN A BATHING SUIT who climbs on board his boat one night — under a hail of bullets!

A MILLIONAIRE PIRATE whose fortune had been made looting sunken treasure ships — operating under the noses of the salvage companies.

PLUS A strange invention which leads the Saint to a death-struggle at the bottom of the English Channel — with a fortune in gold bullion awaiting the winner!

BBC synopsis: The haloed adventurer goes to sea in search of deliberately sunk bullion ships. Stars Paul Rhys and Geoffrey Whitehead.

The Saint Closes the Case (The Saint Series) by Leslie Charteris

bookshelves: winter-20142015, arch, published-1930, radio-4x, sciences, series, under-500-ratings, suicide

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 18 to 26, 2015

Description: When Simon and Patricia stumble upon a government scientist testing a weapon of mass destruction, the Saint decides to put a stop to it. But when the Saint’s arch-nemesis Rayt Marius turns up, the Saint’s plans go astray, leading one of his friends to make the ultimate sacrifice.

BBC synopsis: Simon Templar tackles arch-villain Dr Rayt Marius in a deadly struggle to save the world from an evil weapon. Stars Paul Rhys.

The one with the death of a goat!

In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower

bookshelves: winter-20142015, radio-4, published-2014, newtome-author, sydney, australia

Read from February 13 to 26, 2015

Description: Internationally acclaimed Australian author Elizabeth Harrower’s novel was written in 1971 and is published for the first time now.

This tale of love, class and freedom, set set among the grand houses and lush gardens of Sydney Harbour just after WWII, follows the lives of Zoe and Russell Howard. Charismatic and confident, the children of affluent and loving parents, they welcome into their circle, Stephen and Anna, two orphans, whose lives until now have been very different from those of the Howards. But despite this, these four will spend the rest of their lives moving in and out of each other’s shadows.

‘Harrower evokes the waste and futility of a decadent class with all the bite and poignancy of F Scott Fitzgerald,’ Eimear McBride, New Statesman

Author: Elizabeth Harrower is regarded as one of Australia’s most important postwar writers, and is enjoying a recent literary revival. Born in Sydney in 1928, her first novel, Down in the City, was published in 1957 and was followed by The Long Prospect (1958) and The Catherine Wheel (1960). Her most well-known work, The Watch Tower, was published in 1966 to huge acclaim. Four years later she finished In Certain Circles , but withdrew it before publication for reasons she has never publicly spoken of. The manuscript was rediscovered recently by her publisher who felt it should be published immediately. Harrower has since received rave reviews, including comparisons with Emile Zola and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Reader: Penny Downie

1/10 ‘You only think of orphans in fairytales’: over a tennis match, the two orphans, Anna and Stephen, are welcomed into the rarified world of the Howard family.

2/10 ‘Just don’t develop a social conscience now’: Zoe struggles with her emotions when she discovers that Stephen is leaving.

3/10 ‘This is not my life’: Anna strikes out on her own, and finds a new life.

4/10 ‘He’s not easy’: after the death of her beloved mother, Zoe makes an unexpected choice.

5/10 ‘I’m marvellously happy’: the unlikely marriage between Zoe and Stephen continues to raise eyebrows.

6/10: ‘It was enough that he existed’: the bleakness of unrequited and of married love.

7/10 ‘No-one knows me’: while Anna remains defiantly single, Zoe regrets her own defiance in marrying Stephen.

8/10 ‘It harmed him’: Zoe realises that not everyone can bear to be loved.

9/10 ‘Something’s happened to Anna’: the devastating fallout from the arrival of an unexpected letter.

10/10 ‘You must solve yourself’: endings and new beginnings, as Anna and Zoe realise what love is.

The Saint plays with fire by Leslie Charteris

bookshelves: winter-20142015, published-1938, play-dramatisation, series, fascism, mystery-thriller, conflagration, radio-4x, arch

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 18 to 26, 2015

Story description: A peaceful moonlight drive in the English countryside is interrupted when Simon Templar and Patricia Holm listen to a disturbing radio broadcast from France by a would-be dictator who plans to make France the latest in a growing number of European dictatorships under a ruling party called the Sons of France. This broadcast disturbs Patricia, and Templar makes a dire (and, as events were to unfold in real life in the next few years, accurate) prediction that the future of Europe will be one of invasions and concentration camps.

The two adventurers are interrupted in their worries when they spot a house on fire in the distance. Rushing to help, Templar enters the burning building but is unable to rescue a man trapped inside. Later, he and Patricia learn that one of the occupants of the house is a known war profiteer who is expected to make millions off both sides should a new European war erupt.

BBC synopsis: Simon Templar uncovers a fascist conspiracy to seize power in France. Stars Paul Rhys, Kim Thomson and Fiona Fullerton.

My, what a camp matchstick saint! Arch fun!

Theme tune

Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

Description: Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great, crowned at the age of 10. A barbarous, volatile feudal tsar with a taste for torture; a progressive and enlightened reformer of government and science; a statesman of vision and colossal significance: Peter the Great embodied the greatest strengths and weaknesses of Russia while being at the very forefront of her development.

Robert K. Massie delves deep into the life of this captivating historical figure, chronicling the pivotal events that shaped a boy into a legend – including his ‘incognito’ travels in Europe, his unquenchable curiosity about Western ways, his obsession with the sea and establishment of the stupendous Russian navy, his creation of an unbeatable army, and his relationships with those he loved most: Catherine, his loving mistress, wife, and successor; and Menshikov, the charming, unscrupulous prince who rose to power through Peter’s friendship. Impetuous and stubborn, generous and cruel, a man of enormous energy and complexity, Peter the Great is brought fully to life…

Read this eons ago; this was the bio that turned me on and tuned me in to Massie in particular and Russian history in general. I loved it so much I went to Petersburg to stand in the wooden hut by the Neva just to see how the man lived as an ordinary family man with his beloved Catherine.


Poltava – It is widely believed to have been the beginning of Sweden’s decline as a Great Power, as the tsardom of Russia took its place as the leading nation of north-eastern Europe. The battle also bears major importance in Ukrainian national history: as hetman Ivan Mazepa sided with the Swedes, seeking to create an uprising in Ukraine against the tsardom.(wiki sourced)

5* Peter the Great
5* Catherine the Great
5* Nicholas and Alexandra

Athens: A Portrait of the City in its Golden Age by Christian Meier

Description: The definitive account of Athens in the age of Pericles, Christian Meier’s gripping study begins with the Greek triumph over Persia at the Battle of Salamis, one of the most significant military victories in history. Meier shows how that victory decisively established Athens’s military dominance in the Mediterranean and made possible its rise to preeminence in almost every field of human commerce, science, philosophy, art, architecture, and literature. Within seventy-five years, Athens had become the most original and innovative civilization the ancient world ever produced.

With elegant narrative style, Meier traces the birth of democracy and the flourishing of Greek culture in the fifth century B.C., as well as Athens’ slow decline and defeat in the Peloponnesian War. The great figures from politicians and generals like Themistocles and Alcibiades to the philosophers Socrates and Plato emerge as flesh-and-blood human beings, firmly rooted in their times and places. This is history in the tradition of Simon Schama and Barbara Tuchman: learned, accessible, and beautifully written.

I remember buying this in that cheap shop in John Frost Square just before meeting dear M and flitting away to Sweden. It must have been stored in mater’s garage as there is some water marking at the top but entirely readable.

Translated from the French by Robert and Rita Kimber.

Opening: The Needle’s Eye at Salamis: A Region Ventures into World Politics: In the late summer of 480BC, most likely towards the end of September, a dramatic, heartrending scene played out on the coast of Attica.

This book starts with its finish i.e. The Battle of Salamis, throws up some questions and then goes back to lead you through the centuries to give a build up to the battle. Pisistrates the tyrant (son of Hippocrates) was, well, rather like his name wasn’t he.

The Mabinogion Tetralogy

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, mythology, britain-wales, winter-20142015, dip-in-now-and-again, published-1980, tbr-busting-2015

Read from February 11, 2009 to February 25, 2015
Description: The Mabinogion is to Welsh mythology what the tales of Zeus, Hera, and Apollo are to Greek myth. these tales constitute a powerful work of the imagination, ranking with Tokien’s Lord of the Rings novels and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Evangeline Walton’s compelling rendition of these classic, thrilling stories of magic, betrayal, lost love, and bitter retribution include the encounter between Prince Pwyll and Arawn, the God of Death, which Pwyll survives by agreeing to kill the one man that Death cannot fell, and the tale of bran the blessed and his family’s epic struggle for the throne.

The Mabinogion is internationally recognized as the world’s finest arc of Celtic mythology; Walton’s vivid retelling introduces an ancient world of gods and monsters, heroes, kings and quests, making accessible one of the greatest fantasy sagas of all time.

Opening line : That day Pwyll, Prince of Dyved, who thought he was going out to hunt, was in reality going out to be hunted, and by no beast or man of the earth.

St David’s Day coming up so it’s this time of year where I searched for something complementary to read and this had occupied the ‘onhold’ shelf for far too long.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

bookshelves: published-2009, historical-fiction, lit-richer, autumn-2013, epic-proportions, re-visit-2015, winter-20142015, e-book, tv, tudor, booker-winner

Read from October 11, 2013 to February 25, 2015

Bettie’s Books

Re-visit via BBC2

Filmed at Berkeley Castle

Verdict after the first episode in the press is thumbs down but I enjoyed it.

1/6: Three Card Trick:

Thomas Cromwell’s patron Cardinal Wolsey is dismissed as lord chancellor and forced to flee his palace at York Place. The old noble families of England, jealous of their own right to advise the king, have long waited for this moment. His hopes of returning to the king’s favour lie with the ever-loyal Thomas Cromwell.

Eight years ago, when Cromwell started working for Wolsey, the cardinal made an enemy of Thomas Boleyn by chastising him for his daughter Anne’s far-from-virtuous reputation. As rumours circulated in court that Anne was secretly betrothed to Harry Percy, the cardinal insisted that no such match would be allowed.

Still lacking a male heir, the king is desperate for an annulment from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, claiming she was not a virgin on their wedding day. To Cromwell’s dismay, the cardinal’s efforts to persuade the pope to grant the annulment are fruitless. An alliance between the pope and Katherine’s nephew, the holy Roman emperor, diminishes the cardinal’s position even further.

As Henry grows impatient, the pressure increases on the cardinal. To add to this, rumours reach the cardinal that the king’s new mistress is Anne Boleyn, who has sworn vengeance on him over Harry Percy.

Cromwell visits Anne, urging her that only the cardinal can secure what she wants, but Anne is unmoved. The duke of Norfolk, nervous of the cardinal’s continuing proximity to the king, insists that Cromwell tell Wolsey to travel north to his archdiocese in York. A desperate Cromwell finally meets directly with Henry, but the king is nothing if not ambiguous. Will he recall the cardinal or turn on him?

BBC 2: Wolf Hall Episode 2 of 6: Entirely Beloved: Cardinal Wolsey has been forced out of court to travel north to his archdiocese in York. For Thomas Cromwell, this is only a tactical retreat; in time the cardinal will regain the King’s favour. Wolsey urges Cromwell to find a way to get close to Anne Boleyn for she is the key to persuading the King to restore him.

Crromwell visits Thomas More and his family at their home in Chelsea. More is amiable but the atmosphere is tense. He is determined to clamp down on heresy and is convinced that Cromwell has Protestant leanings.

Anne Boleyn summons Cromwell, wanting to know if she has an ally in him. She is aware of letters sent between Queen Katherine and the cardinal which are tantamount to treason and is becoming impatient waiting for Henry. Cromwell observes her taking her frustration out on her ladies-in-waiting, including young Jane Seymour who Cromwell takes pity on.

The King starts to take notice of Cromwell. Henry admires his loyalty to the cardinal and appreciates the honest and open way Cromwell talks to him. An intimacy develops and Henry comes to rely on Cromwell’s advice.

There is then news from the north. The cardinal is arrested for treason by Harry Percy, a vengeful act for denying his betrothal to Anne Boleyn eight years earlier. The cardinal’s health deteriorates rapidly and he dies on the journey south to the Tower of London.

At court, a party is held to mark the demise of the Cardinal. Cromwell closely watches those that celebrate Wolsey’s death and as Cromwell is sworn in to the King’s Council, he swears vengeance on those that brought the cardinal down.

Episode 3: Although he has no official title, Cromwell is relied on more and more in the running of the king’s affairs. Cromwell manoeuvres a bill through Parliament acknowledging Henry rather than the pope as head of the Church of England. This is the first step in Cromwell’s plan for Henry to grant his own divorce from Katherine of Aragon.

A major obstacle to Henry’s marriage plan arises when Harry Percy’s wife claims her own marriage is unlawful on the grounds her husband had previously made a binding contract of marriage with Anne Boleyn. With the cardinal now dead, the Boleyn family looks to Cromwell to fix Harry Percy, a task Cromwell approaches with relish, remembering how Percy helped bring the cardinal down. As Anne and Cromwell become allies, Anne secures him a formal position in the king’s household. The king and his court, including Cromwell, head to Calais to meet with the French king, expecting that he will pledge his support of the Bill and Henry’s marriage suit.

At a dance, Anne flirts with the French nobility to Henry’s evident fury. She and Henry argue violently, but when they are reconciled Henry finally pledges himself to Anne before witnesses. Henry marries Anne upon their return to England and she is crowned queen. Even in her moment of triumph, and as Cromwell congratulates her, Anne knows the old noble families hate her and will never accept her. Anne is pregnant and leaves court to begin her confinement. She has achieved what she wanted, but it has come at a cost. As Cromwell is all too aware, Anne must now produce a male heir or risk suffering Katherine’s fate.

Episode 4: The Devil’s Spit: Anne gives birth to a baby girl, Elizabeth, and Henry does little to hide his disappointment. Anne is aware that her power in court rests on producing a male heir and in her paranoia cracks appear in her relationship with Cromwell. The ‘Holy Maid of Kent’, Elizabeth Barton, has been prophesising that if Henry marries Anne Boleyn he will die within the year. Cromwell’s spies know that she is touting new candidates for the throne – the old Plantagenet families whom the Tudors displaced and supporters of Katherine who are loyal to Rome. Cromwell interviews the Holy Maid but counsels the king to show mercy to her supporters. However, until Henry has a male heir, the Tudor line remains vulnerable. Cromwell decrees that everyone in public life must take an oath to recognise Henry’s supremacy as head of the church and the legality of his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Thomas More advises his family to take the oath but, despite pressure from Cromwell, will not take it himself and is committed to the tower. More is tried, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Cromwell did not want him dead – he wanted to bend More’s will and make him take the oath, but More’s stubbornness left him with no choice. Recovering from serious illness, Cromwell plans the king’s royal progress to include a trip to Wolf Hall, the home of Sir John Seymour and his daughter Jane.

Episode 5: Crows: The Act of Supremacy has declared Henry supreme head of the church in England. But the Holy Roman Emperor, and his ambassador, Eustache Chapuys, have refused to recognise either his new title or his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Cromwell visits Katherine. She is growing frail and tired and she longs to see her daughter Mary. Cromwell pities Katherine and tries to persuade the King to allow Chapuys to visit her, but Henry refuses – until the Emperor acknowledges Anne as his lawful wife, Henry will not make any allowances on diplomacy.

With Anne pregnant again and away from court, Henry begins to take notice of Jane Seymour. The Seymours enlist Cromwell’s help in their dealings with the King.

Anne is aware that Cromwell is conspiring with the Seymours and reminds him that she made Cromwell who he is today. When Katherine dies, Anne celebrates – Katherine had always been blamed for Anne’s failure to produce a male heir and Anne is now certain her pregnancy will deliver a boy.

The King takes part in a jousting tournament and is nearly killed. Cromwell becomes acutely aware that he owes his position solely to Henry and that without the King’s support his enemies would destroy him. Mercifully Henry makes a full recovery but, in the shock at the news of his fall, Anne miscarries.

Henry fears that he will never have a son with Anne, convinced that she is cursed and that he was tricked into marriage by her. He wants a new wife and, as ever, Cromwell is tasked with delivering this.

6/6: Masters of Phantoms: Anne accuses Cromwell of betrayal when she finds out he tried to protect Mary and not Elizabeth at a time of crisis. But Anne’s power is dissolving rapidly and her enemies are gathering.

Anne argues with Jane Rochford but in her anger Anne divulges that the musician Mark Smeaton and the nobles Francis Weston and Harry Norris have all declared their love to her, a treasonable offence.

Jane Rochford takes great pleasure in reporting these events to Cromwell. She further insinuates that her husband George Boleyn’s unhealthy sexual appetite extends to his sister. Cromwell is dumbfounded by such accusations, but brings Mark Smeaton in for questioning. Smeaton foolishly boasts of his own exploits with the Queen, and under duress starts to spill other names including Norris, Weston and William Brereton. Cromwell now has enough information to act and these men together with Anne and George Boleyn are brought to the Tower of London.

As Cromwell visits each gentleman in his cell, he thinks back to Cardinal Wolsey’s demise and remembers how each of Norris, Weston, Brereton and George Boleyn had cruelly mocked his master. Cromwell has exacted the ultimate revenge.

Anne is also found guilty and sentenced to death. But with so many heads removed, who now stands between Cromwell and the King?

Thomas Cromwell Mark Rylance
King Henry VIII Damian Lewis
Anne Boleyn Claire Foy
Cardinal Wolsey Jonathan Pryce
Duke of Norfolk Bernard Hill
Thomas More Anton Lesser
Stephen Gardiner Mark Gatiss
Rafe Sadler Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Harry Percy Harry Lloyd
Jane Rochford Jessica Raine
Johane Williamson Saskia Reeves
Mary Boleyn Charity Wakefield
Richard Cromwell Joss Porter
Gregory Cromwell Tom Holland
Jane Seymour Kate Phillips
George Cavendish Robert Wilfort
Duke of Suffolk Richard Dillane
Henry Norris Luke Roberts
Thomas Cranmer Will Keen
Frances Weston Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
Sir Thomas Boleyn David Robb
Thomas Wriothesley Joel MacCormack
Mark Smeaton Max Fowler
William Brereton Alastair Mackenzie
George Boleyn Edward Holcroft
Writer Peter Straughan
Producer Mark Pybus
Director Peter Kosminsky

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

bookshelves: winter-20142015, fraudio, published-1981, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, tbr-busting-2015

Read from December 07, 2011 to February 24, 2015

Description: This powerful collection of stories, set in the Northwest among the lonely men and women who drink, fish and play cards to ease the passing of time, was the first by Raymond Carver to be published in the UK. With its spare, colloquial narration and razor-sharp sense of how people really communicate, the collection went on to become one of the most influential pieces of literary fiction.

Snippets of life where I imagine the sources are just a few frames clipped out of bigger films.

3* Cathedral
3.5* What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
OH Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?