Tag Archives: Victorian age

Barnett, David: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl (2013)

“Darling Annie!” He took her in his arms and kissed her. Annie wanted to should it from the rooftops. She had a sweetheart, and he was a toff to boot.

Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett  introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.

At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. “Anybody else hear that?”

Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water.

Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean’s wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.

To have his father’s death be the impetus for his investigation  was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.

Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon’s cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws  conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.

Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon’s worry about a smuggler’s cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let’s face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.

In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.

I had fun. Lots of fun reading Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Definitely recommended.


Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl available at Amazon.com

Adina, Shelley: Lady of Devices (2011)

lady_of_devices_shelleyadina_cover_500x800Cover art by Ann Bui Ngyuen

Lady of Devices is Shelley Adina’s first novel in the Magnificent Devices’ series. This steampunk novel is set in an alternate Victorian era. As usual with steampunk novels, steam runs the world. Steam is the hot thing, the Power alternative that will last forever.

We meet Lady Trevalyan, a 17-year old with decidedly unconventional interests. No embroidery for this girl.

I’ve always liked spunky female characters. Women who dare defy whatever society deems as feminine behavior. Claire is one such lady.

When her father shoots himself because of bad investments, the family is left with a lot less money than they had hoped. Claire has to choose between waiting for her mother to find her a husband or try to make a living. She decides to make a living and sets out to explore her possibilities.

Claire soon discovers that the “real world” can be dangerous, especially if you are a woman. This is where her spunkiness comes in handy. This girl has grit. She just screams a bit in her head and gets on with whatever she has to do to survive.

What can I say, I am a sucker for these kinds of portrayals. There is no denying I want my female characters to be strong. I also want my authors to write in a manner that engages my interest and keeps it. Shelley Adina manages to do just that. Her sentences tie together wonderfully and her images are hilarious.

“Claire Trevelyan closed her eyes as a gobbet of reddish-brown foam dripped off the ceiling and landed squarely on the crown of her head. It dribbled past her ears and onto the pristine sailor collar of her middy blouse, and thence, gravity having its inevitable effect, down the blue seersucker of her uniform’s skirt to the floor.” It’s practically so I can feel the goo running down my head.

Pratchett, Terry: Dodger (2012)

Premerie of Terry Pratchett's Dodger - Adapted by Stephen Briggs
Studio Theatre Club presents “Dodger”

YES! I’ve read Dodger. Genius once again. Way to go Terry!

While reading Dodger, it is easy to see where Pratchett got his inspiration for the Discworld from. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the various fictional and real characters that have shown up in various forms in his novels.

I am certain there is a whole sleuth of People out there waiting to catch Pratchett and his Alzheimer out. Phooey.

Dodger from 22 to 26 January 2013

Terry attacks Dodger in the same way he has written most of his other books: With a great sense of humour and tons of warmth.

Pratchett’s portrayal of Victorian London leaves out nothing when it comes to poverty and the struggle for survival. Not everyone who came to London met with good fortune. In fact, most were probably on the wrong end of dark deeds done and would themselves have preferred to be on the other side of that act.

Stench, filth, disease and poverty were rampant in the less than lovely city of the 1800s. However, it does make for an excellent backdrop to Dodger’s dealings with fictional characters and characters from history books. Not all of them belong in the era portrayed, but Pratchett isn’t exactly known for writing historical novels. As the quote on his page states: “In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap, and much more difficult to find…”

Dodger is a delightful character (as well as being the title of the book). He ties the various stories together in his fight to keep the mysterious love of his life, Simplicity, out of the hands of her assailants. This tosher uses his place of work to aid in his heroic deeds. The sewers of London have never smelled better.


Stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs

Lear, Linda: Beatrix Potter: The extraordinary life of a Victorian genius (2007)

Linda Lear has done an amazing job with this biography about Beatrix Potter’s (1866-1943) life.

Here in Norway our national TV channel NRK has sent Potter’s tales from time to time on children’s television (barne-tv). One of the times was while my boys were still young enough to watch children’s television. Potter’s tales are absolutely darling and the artwork lifelike. While Beatrix Potter was a popular writer of children’s books, her influence is also still felt in other areas.

Beatrix Potter was born 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter. Both were Unitarians and they were both of merchant stock. There was a younger brother Bertrand. The whole family were artistic. Rupert was an amateur photographer.

As girls did not go to school, and the family was wealthy, Beatrix had the advantage of having governesses until the age of 18. Life as a child in a wealthy Victorian family was very different to modern life. Nature was in, and there were no serious protests when Beatrix and Bertrand brought a variety of animals and insects into their school room to study and draw (and have as pets).

During summer holidays the family would go away from London to some country house or other. Beatrix and her brother would roam the landscape, scetch what they saw and study the material. Both became quite good at natural history. But in Victorian times, as today, non-scientists were seldom taken seriously by the scientific community. In spite of the quality of the work that Beatrix would research, she found that being a woman and a non-scholar was greatly to her disadvantage. Her work with fungi (mycology) shows an eye for detail and an understanding of her study objects that has caused the continued use her work in academicae.

In 1902 Potter published her first book about Peter Rabbit, and it soon became immensely popular. Today you can get her collected stories through Amazon with the artwork that she made for her books. I think you will find that Beatrix really knew what her animals were supposed to look like. Along with the very real locations used in her stories, her work is incredible. This is one of the best children’s authors from this period. I cannot praise the quality of her work enough.

One of her great passions in life was the preservation of nature. Once the money started rolling in, Potter began buying up Lakeland properties, restoring them to past glory. Once she died she deeded all of her properties to the National Trust for preservation as far as it was possible. Hill Top was her first purchase and life-long love. Of all of her buildings, it is the one that has been kept as she left it, and Beatrix fans flock there.

Eventually Beatrix married William Heelis, her solicitor. There were no children, but both used all of their energies on the Lakelands, trying to keep it away from investors that they felt would destroy its beauty.

1971: The ballet film was released, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, directed by Reginald Mills. Set to music by John Lanchbery with choreography by Frederick Ashton and performed in character costume by members of the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House orchestra. The ballet of the same name has been performed by other dance companies around the world.

1982: the BBC produced The Tale of Beatrix Potter TV-series.

1992-1995: The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends is an animated television series based on the works of Beatrix Potter, featuring Peter Rabbit and other anthropomorphic animal characters created by Potter. It was originally shown in the U.K. on BBC between 1992 and 1995 and subsequently broadcast in the U.S. on Family Channel in 1993–1995. The series has also been released on VHS and DVD.

2004: Potter is also featured in a series of light mysteries called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert. The eight books in the series start with the Tale of Hill Top Farm (2004).

2006: Chris Noonan directed Miss Potter, a biopic of Potter’s life focusing on her early career and romance with her editor Norman Warne.