Frugal January: Victorian Gruel from Oliver Twist (1837)

Straight after the usual exuberance and abundance of the festive season one feels the urgency of going on some sort of detox diet, and my January has been particularly frugal. This month’s frugality has given new importance to breakfast in my daily routine and made me more creative in my re-thinking morning porridge: oats, rye flakes, quinoa, or buckwheat, are all the rage in my … Continue reading Frugal January: Victorian Gruel from Oliver Twist (1837)

Updating Miss Havisham

Summer is the time when my (Amy’s) social media feeds fill up with pictures of weddings and everyone seems to be talking about the bride & groom’s choice of venue, colours, food, music… This summer the theme seems to be DIY weddings involving hand-crafted invitations, favours, decorations and – of course – cakes. I can now write that I have made my first cake for … Continue reading Updating Miss Havisham

Happy 1st Birthday! With a Gingerbread House from Brothers Grimm’s Fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ (1812)

This year I feel the countdown to Christmas has completely slipped through my fingers: even with the aid of a beautiful advent calendar, a couple of trips to Christmas markets, and mince pies distributed to my students on the very last day of term, I feel I have reached Christmas rather unprepared: just the time to hop on a flight, with some gifts still to … Continue reading Happy 1st Birthday! With a Gingerbread House from Brothers Grimm’s Fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ (1812)

Feeling winter coming on? Time to read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1874) and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (1886)

I recently saw the 2015 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd in the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast (a quick plug for what might be the world’s most comfortable cinema), and was struck by Hardy’s obsession with the relentless ferocity of the natural world. More accurately, perhaps, I was reminded of being struck by this theme when reading Hardy’s novels. (The … Continue reading Feeling winter coming on? Time to read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1874) and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (1886)

Forbidden Fruit: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860) (Spoiler Alert!)

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I (Amy) love a good Gothic novel. Even in the height of summer (ok, so it’s 15 degrees and raining right now in Durham, but it is still August), I can’t wait to curl up on the sofa to lose myself in tales of mystery, murder, forbidden love, supernatural beings, multiple narrative voices, and the … Continue reading Forbidden Fruit: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860) (Spoiler Alert!)

Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)

The nursery rhyme sounds of Christina Rossetti’s most famous poem, ‘Goblin Market’, chimed through my childhood and were probably among the earliest sources of my interest in poetry. Yet this ambivalent tale is underpinned by darkness, rhythmic instability, and contradictory interpretations. The narrative is simple: two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, hear goblins calling them to buy mysterious fruit. But they know they shouldn’t eat it. Laura’s willpower breaks … Continue reading Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)

How to ‘keep Christmas well’: The Pickwick Papers (1836-37) and A Christmas Carol (1843)

  To paraphrase Dickens’s description of the four Pickwickian adventurers, over the past week I have been running around as brisk as a bee, if not altogether as light as a fairy, towards Christmas Day. I have left behind me a trail of opened envelopes, empty mulled wine glasses, cake crumbs, sheets of piano music, and receipts. Despite my rush, there is one aspect of Christmas … Continue reading How to ‘keep Christmas well’: The Pickwick Papers (1836-37) and A Christmas Carol (1843)

The ‘bitten macaroon’: Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879)

In the world famous Norwegian play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen has Nora, the protagonist, eat macaroons from the very first scene: Nora has just got back home from her Christmas shopping, and stealthily eats some macaroons — with this very small yet important action, the audience immediately understands that the macaroons hide more relevance than that they actually show. Our attention is drawn to … Continue reading The ‘bitten macaroon’: Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879)