Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Arts Club production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” (photo credit: David Cooper)

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth but, being unintentionally ahead of the game, I was already paying homage to her yesterday.  I went down to Granville Island (which is always far more joyous in winter than in tourist-ridden summer) to my very favourite theatre to see the delightful “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon.

Set two years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, “Miss Bennet” reunites the audience with favourite characters as they prepare to spend Christmas together at Pemberley.  The family arrives in waves, with the BIngleys and Mary Bennet arriving first, followed by Lydia alone (Wickham, obviously, not being welcome), with Mr and Mrs Bennet and Kitty to follow on Christmas Day.

But soon it is not just Bennets descending on Pemberley.  Lady Catherine de Bourgh has recently passed away and it has been discovered that, due to the conditions of her late husband’s will, Rosings now passes to Arthur de Bourgh, his nephew.  Mr Darcy has invited Arthur to join them for Christmas and soon Anne de Bourgh, showing much of her mother’s determination, arrives as well.

Mary Bennet takes centre stage here and, as played by Kate Dion-Richard, is wonderful.  In the two years since her sisters married, she has matured but no one seems to notice.  Jane and Elizabeth, when reunited, barely acknowledge their younger sister is in the room.  They don’t stop to consider how Mary must feel, left at home with their ill-matched parents, expected by everyone to remain a dutiful old maid, content to be quiet and alone with her books and piano.   But Mary is not content and she wants more, even if she doesn’t quite know what that would be.

She is still Mary – socially awkward with her dedication to absolutely factual statements, absorbed by lengthy dense books that her sisters can’t begin to understand, and happier in a library than a ballroom – but she is far more interesting and energetic than Austen ever made her.

Arts Club production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” (photo credit: David Cooper)

Mary is saved from spending the holidays entirely alone in the library by the arrival of a fellow socially-awkward bookworm: Arthur de Bourgh, played absurdly well by Matthew Macdonald-Bain.  An only child who went from home to school to Oxford, Arthur has lived in an almost entirely male and almost entirely academic world.  He is in no way prepared for his role as master of Rosing – or for a Christmas among the lively Bennet sisters.  He is particularly not prepared for Mary Bennet, with whom he instantly feels a kinship.  Their shared joy in discovery and learning, and their general conversational awkwardness make for some hilarious and heartwarming scenes.  Everyone in the theatre spent the entire first act, as these two got to know one another, with a broad smile on their face.

There are, of course, comic complications but it is a Christmas play – and more importantly an Austen-inspired one – so all ends well.

The set was gorgeous, all the actors were excellent, and every theatregoer had a marvellous time.  It’s playing until December 30th and I’m already considering going again.  After all, it’s hard to have either too much Christmas or too much Austen in your life, especially when it is this much fun.

Advertisements

credit unknown

Life is getting very Christmas-y around here.  Last night was my office Christmas party, today I’m off to a concert, and the Christmas cookie reserves are steadily piling up.  But as the year draws to an end, I am also reminded that I never shared any photos from my trip to Germany and Austria in the autumn.  So, for anyone looking for something to do on a wintery Sunday afternoon, here’s a glimpse of how I spent my holiday.

We (my mother and I) flew directly from Vancouver to Munich and arrived during the first weekend of Oktoberfest.  We only passed through the city enroute to Austria but there is nothing like being surrounded by hundreds of people all dressed in lederhosen and dirndls to help put you in the holiday mood.

The first stop of the holiday was the village of Söll in the Wilder Kaiser region of the Austrian Tirol.  We spent 5 days there hiking and enjoying the beautiful scenery, and it was spectacular.  I would go back in a heartbeat.  We had ideal late September weather – if anything it was a little too hot – and the hoards of summer visitors had thinned out to just retired German tourists and us.  It was perfect.

Regretfully, we eventually tore ourselves away and headed to Germany.  We spent the next few days based in Stuttgart, which proved unexpectedly delightful.  The city was hosting its famous Oktoberfest-esque Bad Cannstatt festival and, as this was the 200th anniversary of the festival, there was a special celebration happening in the city’s historic centre the entire time we were there.  We would go out and spend the days exploring the suburbs and local hills and then come back to the city to enjoy the festival in the evening, taking advantage of the food stalls to enjoy a glass of local wine and some of the regional delicacies for our dinners.  We also managed to fit in an opera at the city’s famous opera house – the season opener, no less.

We were in Stuttgart over the weekend and on the Saturday we took the local commuter train to the suburb of Esslingen.  It’s a beautiful medieval city which thankfully survived the war relatively undamaged.  We had a lovely morning strolling about, enjoying the market and especially enjoying the wine bar at Kessler Sekt.  It was a popular stop for everyone after the market and the crowd overflowed from the courtyard out into the street.  I am not sure I have ever found a better definition of civilized life than friends and families drinking sparkling wine in the streets on a sunny Saturday morning, with children running around and babies dozing in their strollers.  Suburban life in Germany always looks good to me but this was particularly idyllic.

From Stuttgart, we headed to Heidelberg.  My mother has wanted to visit ever since her university days, when her German professor was forever reminiscing about the city where he had studied.  It’s a beautiful town but I’m happy our stay there was short.  It felt overrun with tourists compared to where we had come from.  Stuttgart was busy but it was full of German tourists who had come for the festival – the city doesn’t rely on them.  Heidelberg, on the other hand, felt tailored for visitors rather than locals.  Even worse, there was a football match taking place that had pulled in huge crowds of English fans.  There were local police stationed near every sports bar and Irish pub in town, looking confused by the rowdy public drunkenness of these visitors.  There were a number of them on our train the next morning and they were certainly in a great deal of pain by that point.  But the city was beautiful and I would not be at all averse if someone wanted to gift me one of the villas down along the river.  

From Heidelberg, we went south, back to my beloved Freiburg.  This was my 3rd time in the city and the first time I had entirely good weather.  It’s supposed to be the sunniest city in Germany so I knew eventually I’d get my timing right!  Freiburg is a vibrant university town and a wonderful base for exploring the Black Forest.  We went on some beautiful hikes in the nearby hills but also just enjoyed the city, with its lovely twisting streets, excellent shopping, and laid back atmosphere.  It was the perfect place to end the trip.

It was a wonderful two-week holiday and I’d recommend all of these destinations (even Heidelberg).  The highlight was Söll but Stuttgart was a very pleasant surprise and I will always, always take any excuse to return to Freiburg.

Now to start planning my 2019 trip…

credit: Kate Guinness (via Desire to Inspire)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I am beyond excited to announce that the new co-host of Library Loot is Sharlene from Real Life Reading!  I love her eclectic reading tastes and have gotten many great recommendations from her over the years.  She is an enthusiastic library user and a talented blogger and I could not be more delighted to have her as co-host.

She will be hosting next week but, for now, on to my loot!

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold by Tim Moore – I love an adventure travelogue and I love books about Eastern Europe so when they are combined life is rather wonderful.  I’ve wanted to read this account of Moore’s cycling trip along the old Iron Curtain since it was first reviewed in the Financial Times, which I now see must have been two full years ago.  Time flies terrifyingly fast.

Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada by Jan Raska – this year marks the 50th anniversary of the largest wave of immigration from Czechoslovakia to Canada (which included my mother).  To coincide with the anniversary, this fascinating new book looks at how the 36,000 Czechs who immigrated to Canada from 1945 to 1989 found their way here and established themselves in their new country.  This is the most absurdly niche book I could imagine, so I doubt it appeals to most of you but I couldn’t be happier to have got hold of it.

Apron Strings by Jan Wong – the daughter of a restaurateur and mother of an aspiring chef, Wong set out on a journey (accompanied by her son) to explore home cooking in three of the world’s great food cultures: France, Italy, and China.  A seasoned journalist, I always find Wong’s writing fascinating and am really looking forward to this.  (Also, if you haven’t read it, her memoir of workplace depression, Out of the Blue, is extraordinarily good and really helpful for understanding both how depression looks – or doesn’t – and how workplaces can improve the support they give their staff.)

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Jennifer mentioned this last week in her “Books to Read in the Winter” post and I couldn’t resist picking it up again.  Even as a child, I remember thinking it was by far the strongest book in the series but it’s been ages since I last read it.

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan – The most recent book in Colgan’s Mure Island series, this is published as both Christmas on the Island (North America) and Island Christmas (UK).  Colgan’s writing is getting stronger with every book and I’ve really enjoyed that the focus in this series has not stayed fixed on the heroine and her love interest – except to point out the shortcomings of the love interest. (I got really hopeful this was going to be a Little Lady Agency sort of situation, where the seemingly perfect love interest gets kicked to the curb after several books…but now I’m not so sure).  It’s not great literature but is very enjoyable to curl up with on cold nights.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh – another instance of dual titles: Ghosted for North America and The Man Who Didn’t Call for the UK.  I added this to my list when Sarra Manning included it in her June roundup of books but, to be honest, now that it’s here I’m not quite sure if I’m really interested in it.  But I will give it a try.  That is the luxury that libraries afford us – the chance to try – and reject – as many books as we like, all for free.

Perfect English Townhouse by Ros Byam Shaw – for when reading words is too taxing, I can always fall back on photos of absolutely beautiful homes.

What did you pick up this week?

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  

credit unknown

credit unknown