Readers and viewers seem endlessly fascinated by the English country-house genre. From classic and award-winning novels such as The Remains of the Day,
Howards End, or Mansfield Park, to the mysteries of Agatha Christie and P.D. James, to television epics such as Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey, they offer both the writer and the reader a concentrated glimpse into a rarefied social milieu, one that often prompts both romantic intensity and social commentary. Although many of these works are historical in nature, they nevertheless seem relevant to contemporary society, especially when (as in The Uninvited Guests) the author obliquely or explicitly comments on historical behavior and attitudes through a modern lens.
We might not see each other very often during the year but my friend Barbara and I always make it a point to go in to the Boston Book Festival together. Our kids are in the same grade in high school and Barbara and I share a love of books so the train ride in and back is a chance for us to reconnect, complain about the kids, and talk books. This year, Hurricane Sandy was a blot on the horizon but the day of the festival was a crisp fall day in Boston.
A few weeks ago, while visiting family in England, we took a long overdue visit to see a production at London's new Globe Theatre. Located in the heart of London's South Bank close to the Thames (just 750 feet away from the location of the original Globe), the Globe plays to a capacity crowd of 1600 twice a day and has, in the fifteen years since it opened, become one of London's most popular tourist destinations. Considering the pride that the British have in Shakespeare you might have thought that a reconstruction of the Globe would have been a "no brainer" project supported by people across the United Kingdom - but that was far from the case. In fact, I hope it will warm the cockles of BookBrowse's mostly American readers to know that the modern-day Globe Theatre would not exist if it wasn't for the vision and determination of one singular American - Sam Wanamaker.
I fell in love with vampires in the 1980's when I read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. The language, the romanticism, the concept of an entire vampire society who lived for centuries and were cursed with having to kill to live was enthralling. The sexiness of Rice's vampires also made them irresistible. What red-blooded American fan of paranormal romance doesn't fantasize about being ravished by Lestat?
The English language is a wonderful thing. For a whistle stop tour through it's 1500 year (or thereabouts) history, sit back and enjoy The History of English in 10 Minutes produced by Britain's Open University: