Saturday, June 26, 2010

North and South

North and South is a story about the North and the South of England, of industry, working classes, society, family, and friendship. The story follows Margaret Hale, a young woman who grew up alternately between her aunt's home in London and her parent's parish home of Helstone. Margaret's happy life amongst the yellow roses of Helstone is shattered when her father, a parson, announces that he is dissenting from the Church of England and moving his family to a dirty, industrial town in the North of England, called Milton (based off the city of Manchester). There, Margaret meets two entirely new classes of people: masters and workers. While befriending some of the workers of the local mills, she at the same time breeds a keen dislike for the mill-owners, particularly John Thornton, proprietor of Marlborough Mills and a pupil of her father's.

In a rather Pride-and-Prejudice sort of manner, Mr. Thornton develops a romantic interest in Margaret, who detests his ways of dealing with his workers and spurns him with her haughtiness. At the same time, the tension between masters and men increases, as the workers begin planning a strike. To make matters worse, Margaret must deal with difficulties within her family: her mother's failing health, her father's spiritual struggle, and her brother's precarious situation as a mutineer sought by the authorities. Will Margaret ever feel at home in the North? Will she find love and friendship? Can masters and workers, and Margaret and Mr. Thornton, come to the point of laying down their prejudices and choose to understanding each other? Can North and South be reconciled?

North and South, written by Elizabeth Gaskell and published in 1855, has been said to be the best of this authoress' works, and the heroine to be one of the most original in Victorian literature. Mrs. Gaskell was not perhaps the most expert writer of the 19th century, but her stories and characters are among of the best of her era. Margaret is a very real sort of heroine and the reader often finds herself right alongside her, laughing with her, cheering for her, crying with her, learning with her. Margaret's struggles in uprooting to a strange place, trying to hold together her family during times of distress, and feeling confused over her actions and emotions are very real and identifiable and make her a heroine to be admired.

A few aspects of the book might be considered deficiencies according to the reader's taste. The authoress tends to fall into the usual 19th century descriptions of "the curving lines of the red lips...glossy raven hair...smooth white neck...the smooth ivory tip of the shoulder" and other rather silly physical descriptions that personally drive me crazy-- but then, some people might not be bothered by that. :-) At times, a scene might take on a slow pace as it goes into detail about working situations and strikes, and sometimes some characters seem inconsistent to themselves, and the ending is a little too quick and sudden for my taste, but these are minor occurrences and details did not spoil the book for me.

For those of you who have watched the BBC miniseries based on this book, you will find a few differences-- the book contains a great deal of spiritual application and shows Margaret's, John Thornton's, and Mrs. Thornton's faith and walk with God in a way the movie does not, and it also sheds a little more light on the reason Mr. Hale left the Church.. It is very refreshing to see in the book that several of the characters are true Christians and that God's Word governs their lives and shapes their minds, convicts them when they do wrong, and helps them to move on. In the book, also, the reader gets a chance to see inside Margaret-- "Why did she say that?" "Why did she do what she did?" "How did she feel about this?" These questions are answered by glimpses into Margaret's thoughts that the movie chose not, or was unable, to show. The book also help the reader understand who Leonards is, why he was pursuing Frederick, and what Frederick did after he returned to Spain. In addition, several of the characters (though not all) are much more likeable in the book-- Margaret is not annoying like she sometimes is in the film, Thornton does not have such an explosive temper, even Mrs. Hale does not seem quite as obnoxiously fretful and sickly in the book.

At the same time, there are aspects of the movie that I think are better than the book (if I may be so bold to say the filmmakers improved upon the original). The movie shows you the mills at work several times and alternates scenes between Margaret, Thornton, and Nicholas more frequently to help you know better what is happening on all sides. (In the book, one does not know about Marlborough Mill's financial troubles or Thornton's and Nicholas' friendship until nearly the last chapter, or only by hearsay through letters that Margaret receives.) The movie also gave more color to characters like Bessie and Fanny, and Nicholas is more likeable in the movie than in the book.

I would have to say that reading the book North and South helped me to enjoy the movie better, and I think both are best enjoyed together. You can read North and South on Gutenberg press or buy it off of Amazon; the miniseries is also available from Amazon or from your local Barnes and Noble Bookstore.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For the Sake of a Post :-)

Yes, yes, I know. I am becoming a terrible blogger! My bad!

I have been writing nearly everyday, but not on blogger. Lately my main project has been The Marquis' Daughter. In order to ward of laziness and finish my book sooner, I have set myself the goal of writing at least 500 words every day of the week but Sunday. I started this on the 7th of June and have missed my wordcount "only" three days. ;-)

500 words really isn't very much. It's only about a page plus a paragraph. Therefore, it's slow moving and even at 500 words a day, I often don't feel like I got much done. Yesterday, however, I was in an incredible writing mood. I plugged myself up to my MP3 player (Soundtracks and Writing Music folder ;-) ) and wrote almost all day! Total wordcount added? 4,576 words. :-D It was SO FUN!

But today it is cloudy and muggy and dull, and I don't have much inspiration. :-P

Here are some "just for fun" pictures of Minorca, one of the settings in The Marquis' Daughter. :-) This is where the character Mark Sayers lives at the beginning. I think I'm gonna have to go visit there... :-D

I hope to post soon some reviews on books I've recently read, as well as some of what the Lord has been teaching me lately. He has been doing some great things and showing me so much about Him, and teaching me to trust Him!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thy God Reigneth

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet
of him that bringeth good tidings,
that publisheth peace;
that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation;
that saith unto Zion,
Thy God reigneth!"
(Isaiah 52:7)

These words of the Old Testament speak of the day of "the return of the Lord to Zion" (verse 8), and parallel with the message of Revelation. I have been reading the book of Revelation, and if there is one aspect of the book of Revelation that stands out to me more than others just now, it would be the fact that Jesus Christ is King and Conqueror.

"They shall make war with the Lamb,
and the Lamb shall overcome them:
for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings:
and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
(Revelation 17:14)

The fact that "thy God reigneth" covers the pages of this book. His eternality ("who is, and who was, and who is to come"), His power ("the Almighty"), His authority ("ruler of kings on earth"), His once-for-all sacrifice ("they have conquered [satan] by the blood of the Lamb"), and His glorious return in victory all remind me and give me assurance that...

...when times are rough,
...when evil abounds,
...when things seem to go out of control,
...when it looks like the only direction things have left to go is down,
...when you go through the fire,
...though satan attacks with all his forces behind him,
...though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea,
...though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,
...when all is said and done,

That gives me courage for a new day. The clouds of approaching trial do not look so deep and overwhelming when I remind the reign and victory of my King. Whatever happens, whatever happens, MY GOD REIGNS, and He will reign, and He will conquer. Nothing is out of control. GOD REIGNS.

Be still, and know that He is God.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Header!

Here's the old header, in case you want to look back at it:And here's the new:
What do you think? I'm not sure about the "Contemplations" line; does it look out of place? Any ideas for making this look...better?

Man's Great End

Lord Of All Being,
There is one thing that deserves my greatest care,
that calls forth my ardent desires;
That is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made--
to glorify Thee who hast given me being,
and to do all the good I can for my fellow men;Verily life is not worth having
if it be not improved for this noble purpose.Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind!
Most men seem to live for themselves,
without much or any regard for Thy glory,
or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue
the riches, honors, pleasures of this life,
as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment,
could make their immortal souls happy;But, alas! what false elusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them,
for all our happiness consists in loving Thee,
and being holy as Thou art holy.O may I never fall into the tempers and vanities,
the sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty nothingness;Time is a moment, a vapor,
and all its enjoyments are empty bubbles,
fleeting blasts of wind,
from which nothing satisfactory can be derived.Give me grace always to keep in covenant with Thee,
and to reject as delusion a great name here of hereafter,
together with all sinful pleasures or profits.
Help me to know continually
that there can be no true happiness,
no fulfilling of Thy purpose for me,
apart from a life lived in and for the Son of Thy Love.

~a Puritan prayer

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Quote

"Let us not cease to do the utmost, 
that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; 
and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments." 
~John Calvin

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eric Liddell: Pure Gold

Eric Liddell: Pure Gold is a stirring and detailed biography of the life of the Olympic Champion and missionary, Eric Liddell, who inspired the film Chariots of Fire. Written by David McCasland and published in 2001 by Discovery House Publishers, this book explores, in depth, the life and death of this extraordinary man of God.

Eric Henry Liddell was born in Tientsin, China, on January 16, 1902, to Scottish missionaries James and Mary Liddell. He lived with them there in China until he was six years old, when his parents enrolled him and his brother Robert at Eltham College of Blackheath, England, a boarding school for missionaries' children. His parents left them there and returned to China with his younger sister, Jenny.

While at Eltham, and later at Edinburgh University, where he went for a BS in Pure Science, Eric became noted for his athletic skill and sportsmanship. As Eric excelled in rugby and running, he made his way to running in the 1924 Paris Olympics, where his faith and strength of principle would be tested and where he would become a renowned British champion.

This is as much as most people know of Eric Liddell's life, mainly because of the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire. However, Eric's life was much more than that of an Olympic runner. David McCasland looks deeply into Eric's life after he returned to the land of his birth, China, and into his ministry there in the Anglo-Chinese College of Tientsin, his love for his wife and daughters, and his last days in the Japanese prison camp at Weihsien during World War II. The real Eric Liddell, his love for God, his humility, his patience, his giving spirit, come to life in the pages of this book.

The author put a great deal of study into the writing of this biography. While his writing style isn't the best I have read (I've been spoiled by Courtney Anderson ;-) ), his diligence and accurate portrayal of the life of my favorite missionary hero makes this book one of the best I have read. He interviewed a great many people who knew Eric and studied and quoted many letters, personal memoirs, newspapers, and so on; he also includes, in the latter part of the book, a great many excerpts of Eric Liddell's writings which really hit home. Some of these quotes can be found here. In addition, the book contains sixteen pages of photographs of Eric Liddell, his family, and his colleagues.

Eric Liddell was truly an amazing man. Many people remember Eric for his athletic reputation. However, the young people that he taught and befriended at Weihsien remembered him for his deep love for the Lord and his godly influence. They remembered him not only teaching on the Sermon on the Mount and the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13), but also living it out in his daily life. To read of his relationship with God causes me to ponder my own walk, and desire to be more like him, for he was like Christ. Eric ran his race through life well; his life-- and his death-- impacted so many people, and continues to impact people today-- myself included. I hope you will take the time to search this book out and read it for yourself. Let your life be impacted to by this humble man of God.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...” Hebrews 12:1,2