Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron (2006)


"What's more, having never been in style, it can never go out of style"
"But mostly I go everywhere with my MetroCard bag. And wherever I go, people say to me, 'I love that bag. Where did you get that bag?' And I tell them that I bought it at the Transit Museum in Grand Central station, and that all proceeds from it go toward making the New York City subway system even better than it is already."

If there's anyone out there reading this, I must apologize for neglecting my blog for the past couple months. Life got busy and in all honesty, I got very lazy. However, Christmas has come and I've received a slew of great Meryl Streep related books. So I hope to be reading and reviewing much more than I have been and on the subject of Christmas, I will be politically correct and wish you a great holiday season and also happy 2013!
As for the book I am about to review, I know that this book is not related to Meryl Streep, but I became interested in Ephron after seeing Julie and Julia. Streep and Ephron have also worked together three times. 
Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and it was a quick read. I finished the book in a matter of hours and I was engaged until the end. This book is a collection of short essay pieces on topics related to being a female. As always, Ephron is witty and intelligent, but most importantly, Ephron is honest. I think that it is safe to say that Ephron, for the most part, has no filter. In most situations, we say that it's bad not to have a filter, but for Ephron, it really works in this book and everything else that I've read of hers. I don't actually have much to say about this book besides the fact that it's absolutely wonderful.  Granted I'm quite biased on this subject because I'm a huge Ephron fan, but I really did enjoy this book. I must say that I enjoyed her 2010 collection of essays better, but this one really speaks to the perils and perks of being a female. It's honest and perfect and I'm sorry for not shedding any light on this book because so many other people have reviewed it already. But I strongly recommend this book for basically any female between the ages of 14-120. And for the male population, I still recommend Nora Ephron because she'll tell you what other people won't.
*So there's my review, I'm sorry it's not very cohesive or original, but I'm out of practice at this and hopefully, the next book I review will have a better accompanying post. The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean is up next. 
**Also, I know that Nora Ephron unfortunately passed away over the summer and that I've written this post in a funny present tense but that's because Ephron is still alive for me. Ephron lives on in her work and we should keep her spirit alive as best we can. RIP Nora.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sophie's Choice, William Styron (1979)


Film: Universal Pictures, directed by Alan J. Pakula
Sophie's Choice by William Styron is a fictional, but historically based work that describes the unique relationship that ensues after aspiring Southern writer Stingo meets the beautiful Sophie, a Polish Catholic Holocaust survivor and her all-consuming Jewish lover Nathan after settling into Yetta Zimmerman's pink-painted rooming house in Brooklyn. At first, Stingo feels like a fish out of water in his far from home environment, but he finds comfort and inspiration in the company of his two new captivating friends. But as the trio grows tighter, secrets unfold and the painful truth in each of their lives is finally revealed.  Sophie's Choice, as previously stated, is fictional, but all the events that take place are highly plausible, especially because it deals with Sophie's memories of her time at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In all honesty, I've had this book for over a month and I'm just finishing it up now. I was very reluctant to actually get into this novel from the start, not because I was wary of Styron's writing style, but because I had an idea of what it would contain and obviously, of the subject matter. I understood that the novel would be utterly infused with tragedy as well as truth because the Holocaust did in fact occur. Despite how easy it is to look the other way, the Holocaust is an event that needs to be examined from all sides, and Sophie's Choice is a powerful examination of the profound impact that the Holocaust had on those who survived. Sophie's Choice also speaks to how lies can only carry one so far in life and in the world. Eventually, the truth must be revealed because there really is nothing but the truth.

There is one section of this novel that particularly illuminates the deep emotional impact that the Holocaust had on its victims. As Sophie remembers her time in Europe, she notes that she was one of the "lucky ones" or those who were "more privileged" because they had more "desirable" qualities. Initially, Sophie works as a secretary and a translator to Frau Höss. She lives and works as a prisoner in his lodgings, instead of in the main camp (where she is later sent). While working as a secretary, she is nearly raped by the female housekeeper Wilhemine. After the horrible episode, she is naturally shocked and appalled at what has just taken place. But even in all her shock and horror, she must also figure out how this attack will impact her fragile chances of survival. Instead of worrying about herself in terms of she feels, she must worry if others will judge her and blame her for being assaulted. "Was she better off now, after the episode with Wilhemine, or was she in greater peril?" (265).

Typically, after being physically violated, I assume, one does not even consider that it would be to their benefit, but Sophie's world revolves around on the perceptions of others. Her life depends on the whim of another because of course, if her actions align with those more powerful, she can live another stressful day, but if those in control do not approve, she is in real danger. In other words, Sophie is a victim of the assault and a victim of those who dictate her future. She is a victim in a victim's world.

Throughout the novel, more of Sophie's story is revealed as she replaces her lies with pieces of the truth until the audience finally learns her entire history before and after the Holocaust. Readers learn that her family was not perfect and that her father was anti-Semitic. The audience also learns that Sophie is not a hero. She has her imperfections, her flaws and her shortcomings. She does not step out or fight bravely, despite the fact that she had lived with members of the Resistance.

 She is an ordinary woman and yet her complex story is something that needs to be read, just as the Holocaust is something that desperately needs to be remembered for the horror that it was. In this world, so many times, one says "Never again", but when history repeats itself, one must continue their education. One must read and experience these intimate and personal stories. Sophie's story, although fictional, is very real because it is an account of the impact of others' choices on her life. Yes, granted, Sophie made her "Choice", which is noted in the title, but others also made a choice. In the case of the Holocaust, a very poor choice was made, and now one must remember the choices that were made that resulted in the Holocaust and it's prolonging. One can look at statistics and be appalled, but one should also see the emotions that followed the deaths that build up in number when something as horrific as the Holocaust occurs.

Anyway, to wrap this up: I can't say that I loved reading Sophie's Choice, because I really didn't love reading it. It wasn't a joyous, fun experience (obviously), but it was really well-written and it covered important subject matter. Sophie's Choice was also very fascinating because Sophie, the title character, suffered through the Holocaust despite the fact that she wasn't Jewish. Sophie's Choice gave readers a different perspective because I think that so often one focuses on the anti-Semitic aspect of the Holocaust. It is also important to look at the Holocaust from all sides because so many people were impacted and gravely harmed. William Styron's Sophie's Choice is tragic, powerful and touching. It speaks to life and the world as it was and as it still is today. Raging passions and violence still exist, and memories still have the power to haunt for all eternity. One still cries at the death of a loved one. The world is still imperfect. But one still has the power to make change. By reading Sophie's Choice, one truly realizes the impact of a single choice, the time in the world that is left, the tragedy that ensues following immense hatred and the power of compassion.

So as William Styron himself has put it: "A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted. You live many lives while reading." Highly recommended.

*As for the film version of Sophie's Choice, I will create another post on the comparisons because there is too much to say for right now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kramer vs. Kramer, Avery Corman (1977)

Film: Columbia Pictures, directed by Robert Benton (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer describes what no couple imagines at the beginning of marriage: divorce. It also describes the very painful happenings that occur post-divorce, especially when a child is involved. In the case of this novel, the situation is still entirely different from the standard. Kramer vs. Kramer  centers on Ted Kramer and his young son Billy after his wife Joanna abruptly leaves the two and moves to California. After Joanna leaves, Ted must find a balance between his social life, his bank account, his high-pressure career and all the while, learning to raise his son by himself. In the beginning, Ted struggles and can't imagine life without Joanna to care for Billy, but over time he learns to appreciate and embrace his new role as a caring and dedicated father. But just as everything seems to be going right, Joanna returns to New York City in search of custody of her 5 year old son causing a passionate custody battle to ensue, which leaves audiences to wonder what the final decision will be and whether it will be the right one. In Kramer vs. Kramer, love really knows no bounds between father and child.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Kramer vs. Kramer. At times, the novel seemed to stretch on forever and it seemed almost too long and detailed. However,  each of the characters and the situations that they were put in seemed timeless and relevant 35 years since it's first publication. This novel's relevancy is probably what is most enjoyable about reading Kramer vs. Kramer. Any of the events which occur in this novel could occur today with only a few slight changes. Marriage, love, loss and divorce still occur and somewhere in between it all, there are still child custody battles and what not.

Kramer vs. Kramer also speaks to what love really is and how love has no need to be conventional, standard or so called "normal." Ted learns to love his son, despite the fact that his role (during the late 70's) would have been to spend some occasional time while his wife was out of the house. Ted also learns to love and embrace the changes and struggles that come about, especially when he decides to fight for the custody for his son. He creates a list of Pros and Cons about why keeping Billy would be worth it, and his list of Cons is much longer than his Pros, but he still chooses to try to keep Billy with him. As for other kinds of love in Kramer vs. Kramer, it is evident that Ted still loves Joanna in some way, which makes reading the novel all the more painful and important because one realizes that love lingers even after divorce.

Kramer vs. Kramer is surprisingly insightful, touching and even humorous. As a reader, one feels connected to the characters because they are surely a reflection of the people who surround us in some way or another. This novel is at times tedious and slow, but the overall effect of the novel is quite nice because it speaks to real life and real problems that many people are surely facing. It isn't over dramatic, but rather it is even over realistic because it deals with relationships and illustrates how all things must change eventually. I would recommend this novel, despite its flaws.

In comparison to the film adaption, the novel was rather different. First of all, the timing is different. The novel goes into more depth (obviously) and it describes Ted and Joanna's relationship before and after Billy is born. It describes their first meeting and the birth of their son. It also explores Joanna's feeling and thoughts as she raises Billy in the early years. In other words, the novel gives the audience a more comprehensive look at the marriage and it's subsequent break-down following the first few years of Billy's life. In addition, in the film, Joanna comes back seeking custody of Billy, about 15 months later after she leaves. In the novel, Joanna returns a few years later. In the film, Meryl Streep portrays Joanna, while Dustin Hoffman plays her ex-husband Ted. (On a side note, Joanna has black hair in the novel, and blonde hair in the film.) The novel also had a much slower pace in comparison to the movie. For example, in the movie Ted loses one job and then gets another. In the film, Ted loses two jobs until he finds a third in time for the custody battle.

 This seems like a ridiculous thing to say, but how much time you want to invest in Kramer vs. Kramer should dictate whether you want to read the book or simply watch the movie (if you are at all interested). Of course, you could always read the book and watch the movie, but I digress...The film is much different from the book in terms of timing and how the relationship is shown. The book gives a more in depth look at everything sometimes to the point of one's boredom. On the other hand, the film is much quicker, but in the end, one might want something more. The film also ends slightly differently than the novel. (I prefer the film's ending). I recommend both the film and the book, but I suggest reading the book first.

*Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman and director Robert Benton each received an Oscar for this film.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hope Springs, screenwriter Vanessa Taylor (2012)

Okay, so I know what your thinking, since you are one of my many faithful, dedicated readers. I'm sure you're thinking "Oh gosh, [fill in my name], I can't believe that you are once again, straying away from the purpose of this blog!" Which, as you know, (being that you are so dedicated), is to write reviews of books that have been turned into Meryl Streep movies. But being the intense Meryl Streep fan that I am, I have just gone to see this new movie and I felt compelled to write down my thoughts on the matter.
But have no fear! I am currently working on two new relevant books to review. I have already finished reading Sophie's Choice and I'm nearly finished with Kramer vs. Kramer. So you, (you are out there, right? Somewhere?) can expect to be reading two new reviews that actually pertain to my original goal. So after that extremely long tangine, here we go!

I actually enjoyed Hope Springs, which seeing as I am a Streeper, you can imagine that I would enjoy a Meryl Streep movie. But in all honesty, I thought the movie itself was pretty good. In fact, I may go see it a second time. It wasn't a perfect, seamless, flawless movie for sure, but I found it quite enjoyable.
Naturally, the movie also had some awkward moments, but I suppose they are impossible to avoid especially when the entire movie centers around a older couple having marital and sexual problems. In case you are unaware of what you can expect from this movie, it's basically about an older couple that attends a week of intense couples therapy in Maine. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star as Kay and Arnold Soames, while Steve Carell portrays their therapist.

Overall the movie had a good overall message and it was most definitely a departure from what Hollywood normally presents to its audiences. And because it was a departure from "normality", so to speak, it could have been a total failure, because as I'm sure many people know, nothing is perfect. When you are leaving anything, in this case, the realm of what is accepted in main stream culture, things can go wrong.
 But luckily, the movie was charming and cute and it spoke to some important issues that I'm sure many people must deal with in relationships. Speaking of the issues that it raised, not many main stream movies these days involve older couples as the center focus. Although last night, at the movie theater, I was outnumbered by older people, I think the Hope Springs has universal appeal because it deals with relationships and the boredom that one surely encounters as time passes. Despite the fact that I'm sure teenagers aren't lining up to see this movie, it speaks to what we all will encounter sooner or later: love, loss and forgetfulness.

Specifically, the acting in the movie was pretty good, although probably not Oscar-worthy. It was nice to see Steve Carell in a movie, although the only other work that I've seen him in is The Office, so it was strange to see him being so serious. And of course, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones were cute and they had good chemistry and all that. I didn't particularly care for the music in the movie, but I can bear with strange musical interludes as long of the rest of the movie is okay.

All in all, Hope Springs  was very cute with great acting and a well-executed theme. It did have it have its flaws and there were some areas that could have been added to or refined. But I recommend seeing the movie, except for the fact that movie tickets are so expensive! ($10, granted I forgot my student ID once again...)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking Adventures with Nora Ephron

I've just finished reading Heartburn (see previous post) by Nora Ephron and I really loved it. The novel included a bunch of fun recipes scattered within the story so my sister and I decided to cook/bake our way through as many of the recipes in her book as possible this week. I don't want to make this blog too random and it is still dedicated to reviewing books gone Meryl Streep movies. However this was really fun and yummy, so here are some of the things we made!

Day 1: Cheesecake 
This picture is also in my Heartburn post, but I've put it here again anyways. This was our first recipe. It wasn't perfect because we ran out of regular sugar and we had to top the 1 cup off with some brown sugar. We also didn't make our own crust because we had a pre-made crust already. This crust was chocolate. We added the sour creme late also because we ran out and had to go get some more before we could add it in for the last 10 minute baking.
Chilling out in the fridge with sour cream on top. It didn't turn out exactly as expected because we waited longer than we should have to add the sour creme part. It tasted alright though: extra tangy!
*It tasted a lot better on the second day because the new layer of sour cream & sugar had a better consistency.

Day 2: Toasted Almonds

So this took all of 10 minutes to complete, but I had actually never done this because normally I a.) dislike nuts, except when they are in peanut butter and b.) have seen my family toast in the microwave. But today, my sister and I wanted to do something easy and quick so we just did these and counted it as a recipe for the day. We didn't exactly follow the instructions because we didn't have blanced (white) almonds. We used the regular brown kind so it was a little harder to see the burned parts. Anyway, so basically you just have to melt butter in a pan and cook the almonds until you can smell them or in the case of blanced almonds, see the burned parts. My conclusion on Ephron's toasted almonds compared to making them in the microwave is this: More butter, more better. 

Day 3: Key Lime Pie
Making Key Lime Pie was amazing because we didn't have to use the oven or the stove. After mixing everything together, you just have to let the pie freeze. Overall the pie was really simple & quick to make and very much worth it because it tastes so good! I recommend making Key Lime Pie any day, but it is especially perfect for the summer!

Day 4: Swiss Potatoes
Today we made Swiss Potatoes, which are just like potato pancakes. We made ours a lot smaller than the size that Ephron suggested, but they were still very good. However, they were very time consuming to make and I only suggest making them if you a.) really love potato pancakes (which I do) or b.) if you have a lot of time/patience. We had to wash and peel all the potatoes and then grate them, which took a while because we wanted to make a lot of them. You can use a Cuisinart Potato Slicer, but we couldn't locate one.  Then my sister fried the potatoes pieces in a hot frying pan filled with oil, which was difficult at first because the potato pieces stuck to the pan and were difficult to flip at first. The Swiss Potatoes were absolutely delicious and greasy and salty and unhealthy and wonderful. I really loved them, despite all the time they took to make!

Day 5: Vinaigrette 
We are planning on making Ephron's special vinaigrette later today. I'm sure it'll be amazing! As for the last 2 days of this week, we're not sure what to make next, but I figured this post is long enough as it is!

*Thank you to my wonderful sister for helping me out with this because I really have no clue what I'm doing when it comes to cooking/baking/anything in the kitchen.*

**And thank you Nora Ephron. I miss you! Here's to you and here's to food...**

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heartburn, Nora Ephron (1983)

Film: Paramount Pictures, directed by Mike Nichols (1986)
"And then the dream breaks into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice; you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool and dream another dream."

Heartburn is Nora Ephron's semi-autobiographical creation about the breakdown of her 2nd marriage after her husband Carl Bernstein (under the fictional name Mark Feldman) cheats on her with Thelma Rice (real-life Margaret Jay), a woman with "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb" (4). Ephron (under the name Rachel Samstat) is a food writer seven months into her pregnancy when she discovers the affair and now she must decide what she wants.

Although, there are countless books about marriage, infidelity and heartbreak, this novel is far from standard. Off the bat, this novel is hilarious, and while divorce and affairs are not, Ephron found a way to look at her situation and laugh about it. Ephron writes deftly and truthfully about the end of her marriage while inserting subtle jokes, reflections, anecdotes/stories and recipes that help carry the story along. The recipes are especially good because they add some interest to the story and they make Ephron's character, Rachel, a food writer even more believable. (This coming week, my sister and I are going to cook our way through her book. Cheesecake today!) In addition, her reflections and stories were consistently entertaining and relevant. Throughout the book, Ephron reflects on the past and talks about how good things once were, while remaining funny and light-hearted.

Most importantly, Ephron is insightful about her life, her experiences, and the roles of men and women in terms of how to deal with the end of a marriage. And yet, through it all, she doesn't take herself too seriously and she's not afraid to let herself go, which is a quality that not all writers have. Sometimes writers isolate their readers through their over-orchestrated, elaborate, far-fetched, embellished stories. However, as usual, Ephron's writing is simple, funny and very touching and insightful.

Although, Ephron advocated not using the pronoun "I" in one's writing, I often fall into this trap and I'm going to write this entire paragraph anyway (*I'm sorry!): I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It was actually, really wonderful. At first, I was skeptical about reading this novel because I figured it would be boring, but as it turns out, I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend this novel and as the Chicago Tribune puts it: Heartburn is "proof that writing well is the best revenge."
*I miss you Nora Ephron!

**I have not actually seen this movie, and I know it was a flop when it first came out, but I've seen parts of the movie and it looks cute. I must say, however, that the novel is probably better than the film, but the movie does look nice.

***Ta da! My sister and I made this cheesecake today from the recipe out of this book. My sister did most of the work because I really have no idea what I'm doing in the kitchen. But it was really fun, and I'm sure it'll be yummy, despite the fact that we ran out of regular sugar and had to use brown sugar to top the 1 cup off. We also started making the cheesecake before we realized we had no sour creme. Hopefully, we can add some later and it'll be okay. If not, oh well! Not bad for the first cheesecake that I've ever (sort of) made...thanks Nora Ephron: We'll eat this and remember you

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Update: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

Meryl Streep as Anna (right) and Sarah (left)

Film: United Artists, directed by Karel Reisz

In a previous post, I wrote about the novel The French Lieutentant's Woman by John Fowles. At that point, I had not seen the film adaption. Last night, I watched the movie and it's quite different from the novel in that it interweaves two different stories: the book's original story of Sarah Woodruff and Charles Smithson in Victorian England and the story of Anna and Mike, the two actors portraying them.

Overall, I thought that the film was pretty good, but I wasn't overly fond of the second story of the actors' love affair. It felt like the original story was far too brief for what the novel actually offered. Although the film is over 2 hours long, the film felt short because so much of the original story was cut in order to make room for the second story. The second story didn't seem neccessary, but I understand how it might add some appeal or interest to the film for some movie viewers. The second story gave the film a more contemporary twist.

Anyway, I wasn't a huge fan of the added story, but I did like the majority of the film. It had a nice balance of tragedy, drama, suspense and romance. Both Meryl Streep (Sarah/Anna) and Jeremony Irons (Charles/Mike) gave strong performances, and they had the right chemistry for the story. Many of the supporting actors also gave strong performances.

 The landscapes (i.e. the Undercliff and the sea) used in the movie were beautiful and they served the story well. Speaking of elements that served the story well, Carl Davis' score for the film was excellent, especially during the unspoken moments between Sarah and Charles. The score also added the right amount of drama to the story without being overdone or melodramatic. Davis' music carried the story along very nicely.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and much of it was well executed and beautifully done. I would recommend this film, but I suggest reading the novel prior to seeing the film because the novel goes into much more depth. I prefer the novel to the film, but I did appreciate the film.

*Also, the ending in the film is much happier than Fowles' ending. I liked the film's ending much better than Fowles' ending because the film's finish is much happier and brighter, although possibly unlikely.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, Nora Ephron (2010)

I Remember Nothing

Again, this book does not entirely follow the theme of this blog which is Meryl Streep related books/movies, but it did involve some somehwhat related Meryl Streep information:
  1. Ephron discusses the book and movie Heartburn, which Streep stared in.
  2. Ephron writes about Lillian Hellman and her book Pentimento. A story from Pentimento was turned into the film Julia, which starred Jane Fonda, Jason Robards and Vanessa Redgrave. Streep has a small part in this film, and it was Streep's first film.
  3. Ephron worked with Streep three times.
Anyway, I just finished this book, and I really loved it, with the exception of the fact that it made me miss Nora Ephron even more.

The book is really a collection of essays and Ephron's thoughts and reflections on life and how she couldn't remember anything anymore. She writes about everything under the sun from lists of things she will miss (i.e. Fall, waffles, walks in the park)/will not miss (i.e. technology, bras, dry skin) to the "Six Stages of E-mail" to going to the movies to the sequence of chicken soup (before or after?) the common cold. Some of the material in the book is slightly outdated because the book was originally published in 2010. Two years later, some minor details and current events have shifted. Nonetheless, the book was extremley enjoyable.

This book was a quick read, but it was funny, fun and engaging throughout. I got really angry everytime I had to stop reading. Naturally, everything Ephron wrote was hilarious, witty and candid, yet still very intelligent and insightful. Ephron is very honest in her reflections and she doens't hold anything back. I found myself literally laughing out loud during this book, much to the sheer confusion of those around me. This is a total cliché, but this book is pure joy. Only Nora Ephron could have written this.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
  • "My parents had drinks and there were crudités for us-although they were not called crudités at the time, they were called carrots and celery." (33)
  • "Heat up the Teflon pan until carcinogenic gas is released into the air" (70)
  • "One of the greatest things about this land of ours, as far as I'm concerned, was that we never fell into the dessert-spoon trap." (74)
  • The Six Stages of Email ("I have done nothing to deserve this...") (103)
  • Ephron's list of things she's refusing to know about (10). This list includes The Kardashians and Twitter.
*Overall, everything in this book is memorable and worth reading.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Update: The Hours (2002)

Film: Paramount Pictures (US)/Miramax Films (Worldwide), directed by Stephen Daldry

In a previous post/review of Michael Cunningham's The Hours, I mentioned at the bottom of the post that I had not yet seen the movie adaptation of the novel. Last night, I watched the movie, and I would like to add some more of my thoughts briefly.

Both the novel and the film were quite excellent. Both were wonderfully constructed, thoughtful and compelling. What I especially liked about the film was that, a lot of the same or similar powerful language/dialogue found in the novel was transferred to the movie. Of course, the dialogue was changed and somewhat different, but I liked that the movie still had a lot of the language that was so beautifully executed in the novel.

Often times, in movies, imagery and visuals have more important role, but in this film, the language was maintained along with the great imagery. The combination of the three stories was well sequenced in a way that the audience would not be confused.

 The film was also accompanied by a great emotional score by Phillip Glass, which realy helped the film along, while providing the right emotional notes for the unspoken and even spoken events taking place.

Overall, the film was excellent and complete with wonderful acting by the three main leads, skilled directing by Stephen Daldry and a great script. In addition to the acting by the three leads in the film (Streep, Moore, Kidman), all of the supporting actors had strong performances that really helped the main stories. In particular, I thought Ed Harris (modern-day Richard Brown), Claire Danes (Julia Vaughan), Allison Janney (Sally) and Jack Rovello (young Richard "Richie" Brown) delivered strong performances.

I highly reccomend the film, and once again, I highly reccommend the novel.

*Of course, the film is an abbreviated version of the novel and I did miss a few of the parts that were cut out of the film. (i.e. Sally's part in Clarissa's life is great minimized, less of Clarissa's history with Louis and Richard is explained)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Meryl Streep Movie Club, Mia March (2012)

Film: not a movie, but it discusses Meryl Streep movies (obviously) 

The Meryl Streep Movie Club tells the story of three estranged women-two sisters and a cousin-who must reunite at the family inn on the coast of Maine when they learn that their family matriarch (Lolly) has cancer. Interwoven within their stories is Meryl Streep Movie Night and its effect on each of the characters' transformations.

Eh. I wasn't crazy about this book. Of course, I bought it and read it because it's Meryl Streep related, but I didn't like it that much. Firstly, this novel describes three women (Kat, Isabel, June) and the novel alternates between each of their stories. Usually I am fine with reading a novel that has three different characters with separate stories (i.e. The Hours), but often times in this novel, it felt like the author was getting ahead of herself, which made reading confusing.

Also, I felt like this novel didn't do Meryl Streep and her body of work much justice. March selected 10 movies for the characters to view, which was fine. (Although I would have used a few different movies). But when the characters watched and discussed the movies, their discussions often felt simplistic, strange or juvenile. It also just felt awkward when all the characters would sit down and attempt to have deep conversations about the movies. It felt as if March was trying way too hard to make her characters sound profound. I understand that Meryl Streep movies are amazing and they really are. I love Meryl Streep and her movies (who doesn't?). But I didn't enjoy what March did with her characters and their dialogues about the movies, because their discussions didn't seem thorough enough to impact any of the characters' growth.

During their discussions, the characters primarily referred to the characters in the movie by "Meryl" and the other actors' names. (i.e. "But Meryl does...Because she knows Dustin Hoffman, knows her son") In my opinion, this was quite strange because it would be more natural to refer to the characters in the movies by the names of the characters, rather than the names of the actors portraying the characters.

There were also some plot issues. For example, the novel spans more than a month. It starts at the beginning of summer and it ends in September. But at the family inn, it's Meryl Streep Movie month. They usually watch a movie every Friday night. The author does note that they randomly watch movies whenever they feel like it, which is fine. But I think it would have been nice to add a piece about how amazing the movies were, which is why they just kept watching the films way past Meryl Streep Movie month. Of course, you can watch Meryl Streep movies all year round, but I was confused by the timing of the movies.

Anyway, I digress. I wasn't overly impressed with this book, but I suppose it is a nice fluffy beach read or something of the like. And the novel definetly had its strengths. I liked that the novel was based around Meryl Streep movies, because they are really amazing. And I liked that the novel illustrated the general power of art. In this case, it was the power of Meryl Streep's art, but overall this novel spoke to why we-people, anyone, continue to create art in all mediums. People in this world create art for various reasons, of course, but art is still alive today because of its profound effect on people of all kinds.

*I felt like I was really harsh towards this novel. I'm sorry.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Hours, Michael Cunningham (1998)

Film: Paramount Pictures (US)/Miramax Films (Worldwide), directed by Stephen Daldry (2002)

The Hours, which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, centers around the lives of three women on a single day. The story traces each of the character's individuals struggles which are interwoven as one is writing, one is reading, and one is living through horrors. The Hours  explores despair and the desire to still live as we all must live through every hour of our lives.The three women are as follows:
  • Virginia Woolf, 1923: as she is writing her novel, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Laura Brown, 1949: as she is struggling with the everyday tasks of being a housewife in post-World War II California
  • Clarissa Vaughan, end of the twentieth century: as she seems to be living through Mrs. Dalloway's life. In fact, her friend Richard has nicknamed her Mrs. Dalloway. When readers first meet Clarissa she is preparing to buy flowers. ("Mrs. Dalloway said that she would buy the flowers herself")
The Hours was a really beautiful, wonderfully constructed, emotional, touching book, and I highly recommend it. Cunningham is inventive and insightful through his use of the historical record concerning Woolf's life outside of London during the 1920s to create what Woolf's inner life might have been like.  Her struggles, however, are illustrated in a way that her story is still more about living than dying. In addition, the audience is not compelled to pity Woolf and her troubles. Instead, Cunningham makes the audience long to see who she truly was, as he expertly inserts segments of Woolf's writing into his modern phrases.  

Equally impressive to Woolf's well-crafted character is Cunningham's ability to fully create the lives of Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughan who are each connected to Woolf and to each other. Both Brown and Vaughan have struggles of their own, and yet both characters put others before themselves. Brown continues her role as a loving housewife and mother, despite her unhappiness. She dotes on her son Richie and she ensures her husband's happiness by standing by his side. Vaughan glides through her life as a lesbian in New York City as she concerns herself with trivial tasks such as throwing the perfect party to honor her friend Richard who has just won a major literary prize.

 Both Brown and Vaughan hide their sorrow and pain and they trudge through life as if nothing has happened to make them feel otherwise. And on the surface, nothing happens. Brown bakes a cake for her husband's birthday, talks with a neighbor and reads a book. (Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway). Vaughan buys flowers for her friend Richard's party, prepares the party and receives a visit from an old friend. No important striking action takes place, besides an incident between Richard and Clarissa (near the end). Beneath the surface, however, much action does take place. Both Brown and Vaughan struggle as they long to remain hidden, while they long to come out of hiding. Woolf also struggles tremendously as she longs to return to the bustling, city streets of London, receives a visit from her sister Vanessa, dodges her husband's remarks towards her health and embarks on a new writing journey as she puts Mrs. Dalloway's story on paper.  Much is actually felt, longed for, loved, lost and feared.

 Brown reads Woolf's writing and imagines what death would be like, but of course, she never brings an end to her life, despite the comfort that she finds in knowing that death is possible. Vaughan lives a life similar to Woolf's character Mrs. Dalloway. Vaughan cares for her gay friend and one-time lover, Richard who is on the verge of dying. She concerns herself with his well-being, instead of her own. She is shocked to receive a visit from Richard's former lover Louis. Clarissa also interacts with her daughter Julia, Julia's strange friend Mary and her current lover Sally. 

In other words, The Hours does not contain much action, but each character has their own set of complexities and complex relationships. Also, all three stories are connected, despite their different time periods, locations, family members, friends and situations. This connection is not fully revealed, however, until the end. Throughout the novel, Cunningham makes his readers hunger for more knowledge. Cunningham makes his readers search for the connection between the three stories. Cunningham uses his expertise in story telling by combining the three stories into a single, cohesive, beautifully constructed metaphor for life's repetitiousness. Life repeats. Pain can be found in each and every lifetime, despite what the times may suggest. Pain unites us all in some way or another. Pain breaks us all down in some way or another, and yet, we must keep living through each hour of our lives because after this hour comes another hour. 

"The time to live is hide is over. The time to to regret is gone. The time to live is now."

*I have not actually seen this movie yet, so I cannot compare it to the novel. However, I have seen portions of this movie and I think I can say that both the novel and the film are excellent in their own ways. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim" -Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron:


Last night, Nora Ephron, writer, director, author, producer, filmmaker extraordinaire died at the age of 71. She was well known for great works such as Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia.

I found out last night that she has passed away as soon as the story was released because I up late cruising the Internet. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was a mistake. My heart stopped. I couldn't believe my eyes. To be honest, I did not know that Ephron had cancer, but from my knowledge of her, I figured she would be the type of person to live forever. Of course, I never knew her and I have never met her, but she simply seemed like an all-around fun, genuinely kind person who loved to laugh and live life to its fullest.

She was also extremely clever and witty in her speeches and in her writing (see videos below). She was always willing to offer up genuine, heartfelt praise to others for their work. She was selfless. And of course, she always knew exactly what to say to get the crowd laughing. She must have been an amazing person.

I realize that often when people pass away, everyone has the tendency to really exaggerate on the deceased person's amazing qualities in order to preserve their memory. But when I write this, I feel as if it really holds true for who Ephron was as a person and as a woman in the male-dominated worlds of film making and writing.  She was truly spectacular. Most importantly, she wasn't afraid to be humbled by those she worked with. She must have had a great collaborative spirit, and she wasn't afraid to integrate new ideas in her writing. She has talked about adding Stanley Tucci's improvised line: "Stuff the hen until she just can't take is anymore" into the final Julie & Julia script by saying "When that happens, when you are the writer, it would be very stupid to say 'What have you done to my script?' I just wrote it down and put it into the final script." Ephron was willing to work with others and humbly share her incredible gifts.

Her work was not always loved by critics (who cares anyway?), but her work was well loved by audiences. I cannot speak for every person who has ever watched an Ephron directed or written film, but I love what I have seen of her work because it is very honest and true to real life. ("I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are" -Ephron) She doesn't beat around the bush. She is straightforward and she says exactly what she feels.

As for her romantic comedies, what would the world be like without them?

Ephron was funny, witty, honest, insightful and clever in everything she wrote. Her words will live on in our hearts, because she has captured our hearts through her writing and her work. I had an art teacher who once said "Words cannot just be spat into the air and forgotten."  Granted, my art teacher was speaking about bullying and how we have to watch what we say. But I think this holds true, Ephron words will still linger on, even though she has unfortunately passed away. Her work will live on. Her words and her presence in our lives will not be forgotten. She had a great spirit and she knew how to live her life to its fullest. A spirit like hers cannot die. So, here, today and now, in honor of Ephron: "Be the heroine of your life, not the victim" (Ephron).


*Of course I have to somehow bring this around to Meryl Streep. Ephron and Streep worked together three times on Heartburn (based on Ephron's novel), Silkwood and Julie & Julia. Streep says that "Nora looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought 'Hmmmm, how can I make this more fun?'" Streep also says that "You could call her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches or just a few jokes, and we all did, constantly. She was an expert in all the departments of living well."  More of famous friends' final words on Nora Ephron can be seen on USA Today's website (

Courtesy of one of the greatest websites ever: 


"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy."

"My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next."

--Nora Ephron

Here's yet another link: Nora Ephron's 27 best quotes:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (2003)

Film: 20th Century Fox, directed by David Frankel (2006)


The Devil Wears Prada tells the story of a young woman fresh out of college who finds herself working for a high-profile fashion magazine (Runway) with a horrible, demanding boss (Miranda Pristley). The stakes are high, and Andrea must decide how much of herself she is willing to give up in pursuit of success and acceptance in the cut-throat fashion world that she doesn't belong in.

When I first acquired this book from the library, one of my first thoughts was: "Wow, why is it so thick?" (It's 360 pages in length.) I had been expecting something much shorter, because in my mind, my knowledge of this book classified the novel as a "fluffy beach read" or something of the like. Anyway, the novel turned out to be much lengthier and more detailed than expected. Overall, the writing was acceptable, but I wasn't a huge fan of the book, especially after I had seen the movie. To me, the characters in the novel version were far more annoying than the characters in the movie.

Andrea, the protagonist complained and cursed a lot. Of course, her constant complaints allowed the audience to see how difficult her job was, but I was weary of her character by the time I reached the middle of the book. The novel seemed to drag on, and I felt that many of the pages were filled with the same action. The majority of the novel details Andrea's complaints/struggles as she must cater to Priestley's insane requests. The pages of this novel also include Andrea's breakdowns and her fall-outs with her friends/family. Andrea's character was very rough around the edges and straightforward in her writing/speaking. This character did not really appeal to me. Therefore, I found the novel difficult to work through.

However, some elements of the novel were much better than those in the film. For example, Priestley's senior assistant Emily, actually sympathizes with Andrea. In the movie, Emily is written as a much harsher character. It was nice to see that the two co-workers could function. Also, the reader was given a detailed inside look into the fashion world, which is often not seen through anything but glossy, air-brushed images. Although I did not personally enjoy the novel, Weisberger must have done something right because her novel is a New York Times Bestseller. I would recommend this novel to people with patience.

As previously indicated, I preferred the movie over the novel. The movie felt more concise and logical. It did not include Andrea's endless complaining. Also, Andrea (Anne Hathaway) was a kinder, sweeter character. Anne Hathaway's Andrea was much easier to sympathize with. The movie did also not put a spotlight on Andrea and her friend Lily, who often gets overly drunk. This was an improvement from the book. Overall, the movie version just seemed to have a better flow. Seeing the designer clothes on screen was fun and also helpful to understanding the glamour that accompanies the hard work. It was also easier for me to see the clothes rather than have to imagine the clothes as they were being described in writing. Finally, Meryl Streep's Priestly helped me, as a member of the audience, to really witness the evil that Weisberger wrote about.

All in all, the book and the movie were vastly different from each other, because the movie was such a loose adaption of the novel. I have compiled a long list of differences between the book and the movie which can be seen in my previous post.

Random Differences (The Devil Wears Prada): From Page to Screen

  •  Andrea Sachs is a graduate of Brown University in the book. In the movie, she is a graduate of Northwestern University. 
  • Stanley Tucci's character of "Nigel" exists in the novel as a combination of "Jeffy" and “Nigel”, who each play a smaller role in the story. 
  • Andrea smokes in the novel. 
  • Miranda's senior assistant, Emily, seems is more sympathetic in comparison to how she is portrayed in the movie. 
  • In the book, Andrea must get the latest Harry Potter book early. In the movie, she must obtain the Harry Potter manuscript. 
  • Miranda Priestley's physical appearance in the movie is different from how she is described in the novel. (silver/gray hair instead of a blonde bob) 
  • Miranda's twin daughters have black hair in the book. They have red/brown hair in the movie. 
  • Andrea first lives in an apartment with two girls (Kendra/Shanti). She later moves in with her friend Lily. She never lives with her boyfriend. 
  • When Andrea first goes to be interviewed for the position, she speaks to a series of girls before seeing Miranda. In the movie, Andrea only speaks to Emily Blunt's character, Emily before seeing Miranda. 
  • In the movie, when Andrea first drops "The Book" off, she is mislead by the twins and she places the book on the stairs. She drops "The Book" off alone in the movie. In the book, Emily goes with her for her first dropping off of “The Book", and Andrea speaks to Miranda while her family is eating dinner.
  • Andrea's boyfriend is Alex in the novel, while it is Nate in the movie. 
  • Alex is a school teacher in the novel, while he (Nate) is a cook in the film. 
  • In the novel, Andrea's parents play a larger role, while Andrea's father is only seen once in the movie and her mother is never seen. 
  • Miranda's twins have a nanny named Cara in the book. Andrea interacts with Cara on the phone. These interactions do not take place in the movie. 
  • There are more characters in the book, such as Uri (Miranda's driver), Eduardo (the annoying doorman type person at the Elias-Clark building) and Sebastian (a dedicated chef at the restaurant where Miranda gets her lunch.) 
  • In the novel, Andrea buys extra Starbucks coffee to give to people on the streets. This is not shown in the movie, but it is shown in the deleted scenes. Andrea also always gives her morning cab drivers extra money.  
  • At the party at the Met, Andrea is with another worker from the Met, not Emily. 
  • Emily does not go to Paris because she has mono in the novel. Emily does not go to Paris in the movie because Andrea is Miranda's preferred choice. 
  • While in Paris, Andrea is urged by her friends/family to return home because her friend Lily is in trouble. This encounter does not happen in the movie. Also, Andrea talks back to Miranda and is fired. In the movie, she simply walks off. In the novel, Emily fires Andrea. 
  • The presence of "Page Six" and the fear of paparazzi reporting on Miranda's workers' complaints is in the novel. 
  • At the end of the book, Andrea sells a story to Seventeen magazine and makes money by selling her designer clothes from Paris. In the movie, Andrea gives her clothes from Paris to Emily. 
  • Andrea and her boyfriend never get back together in the book. 
  • Andrea sees Miranda's new junior assistant at the end of the book, while in the movie, Andrea sees Miranda again across the street. 
  • At the end of the book, Andrea moves in with her parents, while at the finish of the movie, Andrea has found a new job already.
*Meryl Streep in character is pictured below. On the left is Anna Wintour, who is believed to be the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in the novel. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (1992)

Film: Malpaso Productions/Amblin Entertainment, directed by Clint Eastwood (1995)
I'm guessing that the consensus among most book lovers is that movie adaptations scarcely live up to the book. In the case of The Bridges of Madison County, however, I found that the movie was far better than the book.

The Bridges of Madison County details the brief 4-day love affair between world-traveling photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) and Iowa housewife and war-bride Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep).

I did not particularly care for the book, although it probably didn't help that my old library book smelled really foul and musty. Anyway, I found that the book had far too many long, drawn-out, boring descriptions of each character. It is always good to have well-developed characters, but in my opinion, it works better if the descriptions are spread throughout the exposition. It also didn't help that Waller decided that Kincaid should have a truck named "Harry." As the story progressed, little phrases like "Harry was hot" or "He loaded Harry up" came up in the writing, which just felt out of place. I also had to keep remembering that the middle-aged, male Kincaid named his truck and referred to it as Harry. Besides this, the book overall felt rather clumsy, sappy and awkward throughout. At its core, the plot and the message of the book was lovely, but I felt like the actual execution of the ideas presented in the book were not as refined as they could have been. But Waller does deserve credit for his lovely plot idea, and some execution on his part.

On the other hand, I have a different opinion on the film. From the transition from page to screen, the dialogue was edited and refined, which helped the conversations flow more easily, which is especially important because of how densely written the film is. It is mostly two people having a conversation. Therefore, the dialogue had better be good, which it was. Small changes in wording greatly enhanced the flow and the feel of the story. For example:

Book line from Kincaid: In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.
Film line from Kincaid: This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.

Both lines convey the same general message, but in transition from the book to the film, much of the dialogue was improved upon. As evidenced above, Kincaid's film line is simplified and it becomes less bulky, but it still carries the same idea. Of course, Kincaid's book line is lovely, but it is very dense.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, while I simply tolerated the book. The film was really lovely, and the acting from both principles was well-done. The musical theme composed by Eastwood was another nice touch. The film version had various other high notes in comparison to the book, but I will only note one more improved element: Location or setting is often an important "character" in order to tell a story. The Bridges of Madison County is set in rural Iowa, which appears to be vast, open and beautiful. The lushness and the simple beauty of the land itself provides the entire story with the desired romantic feel. The film features breathtaking cinematography, which draws the audience in, and makes the story more believable/understandable. (just watch the trailer, below) Of course, the novel couldn't have had the same visual power because of the simple fact that it is a book. I recommend the film, while I suggest the novel if you are interested in seeing the dramatic difference between the two versions.

*Meryl Streep on The Bridges of Madison County: "I read, not the whole book, to be fair, but I didn’t think it would be something that I would be interested in.”

The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles (1969)

Film: United Artists, directed by Karel Reisz (1981)

 The French Lieutenant's Woman follows a Victorian love triangle that ensues after Charles Smithson, a well-to-do, wholesome English gentleman falls in love with the mysterious Sarah Woodruff by a strike of cruel fate after many wanderings in the Undercliff. Woodruff is the novel's protagonist and the "Woman" in the title. She is also dubbed the unkind "Tragedy" or even worse "The French Lieutenant's Whore" after her tragic story becomes known to the close-minded British town. Due to her unfortunate history with a French Lieutenant (Vargueness) who did not turn out as expected, Woodruff is left in perpetual sorrow. However, she soon reaches out to Charles for assistance, which naturally results in complications because Charles is engaged to the shallow, but beautiful Ernestina Freeman. There is more that meets the eye in this tragic Victorian love story that explores the lengths that one will go to in pursuit of "love", as well as the constraints of one's society, desires, ambitions and pursuits.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. At first glance, the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but as the novel progresses, more information is revealed which adds considerable interest to the seemingly simple plot. While reading this book, I found myself consistently engaged in the story. This may be a cliché, but I felt as if I were in the story. The characters and their locations were thoroughly developed, and various character interactions were added to the main story to create a multi-layered story. For example, Fowles includes the relationships between Charles and his servant (Sam), the doctor, Ernestina's wealthy father, his uncle and the love story of Sam and Mary (Ernestina's maid). Every so often, Fowles would end a chapter with a cliffhanger involving one character and then switch to another character's tale, which of course, adds to the anticipation of what is yet to come.

Most importantly, Fowles writes about the Victorian sexual and social oppression with a 1970s outlook. Fowles adds anecdotes of his then-modern outlook upon the Victorian age. Although the 1970s have passed, this novel has perhaps improved with age. As a modern-day 2012 reader, I am given two time periods at which to marvel at because our society no longer holds the same 1970s perspective from which Fowles is writing from.

Above all, Fowles writing is intelligent and honest. He is not so much a narrator in the story as he is a writer. Fowles clearly lets the audience know that even he does not know all the solutions to each of his characters problems. He often remarks that his characters have "disobeyed his orders" or that he cannot say what they will do next. Fowles use of this writing technique makes his writing charming and even personal. One of my favorite lines from the book is this: "There are tears in her eyes? She is too far away for me to tell; no more now, since the windowpanes catch the luminosity of the summer sky, than a shadow behind a light" (466). Finally, Fowles kindly salutes other great poets, writers and thinkers such as Darwin, Thomas Hardy, G.M. Young and Matthew Arnold by inserting quotes and poems before each chapter begins.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was simply amazing. It is no wonder that this is a modern classic.

*As for the Meryl Streep movie, I have yet to watch it. Although this basically defies the purpose of this blog (not to mention within the first review), I plan to eventually acquire the movie. I will watch it and add my thoughts on how The French Lieutenant’s Woman went from page to screen.

The Purpose of this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to review books that have been translated and adapted into Meryl Streep movies.  Hopefully, I will also provide comparisons between the book and the film version of the particular work that I am reviewing. I will use a rating of stars with 5 stars being the highest ranking possible. The rating will be for the book. I will also review other books. I got this idea from my sisters and from a lovely display in Barnes & Noble dedicated to books that have become Meryl Streep's body of work.
Here is a possibly incomplete list of Meryl Streep movies that have gone from page to screen. The books have the same title as the film unless otherwise indicated. The author of the book is indicated in parentheses. Enjoy! :-)

  1. Julia (Pentimento, Lillian Hellman)
  2. Kramer vs. Kramer (Avery Corman)
  3. The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles)
  4. Sophie's Choice (William Styron) 
  5. Out of Africa (Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen)
  6. Heartburn (Nora Ephron)
  7. Ironweed (William Kennedy)
  8. Evil Angels/A Cry in the Dark (John Bryson)
  9. Postcards from the Edge (Carrie Fisher)
  10. The Bridges of Madison County (Robert James Waller)
  11. Before and After (Rosellen Brown)
  12. One True Thing (Anna Quindlen) 
  13. Adaptation. (The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean): This is almost an exception, but the film revolves around this book as it is being adapted into a movie. 
  14. The Hours (Michael Cunningham)
  15. The Manchurian Candidate (Richard Condon)
  16. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket)
  17. The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  18. The Ant Bully (John Nickle) 
  19. Evening (Susan Minot)
  20. Julie & Julia (My Life in France written by Julia Child, Alex Prud'homme and Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen written by Julie Powell)
  21. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) 
  22. The Iron Lady (Hugo Young) I'm not entirely sure about this one.