Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Secret Sharer" by Joseph Conrad

In college I had to read The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad twice.  And write a paper on it both times.  I hated the novella.  Hated. It.  I wrote the first paper for an introduction to literary criticism class, and for the school of criticism that I chose I could pretty much write about how I got nothing out of the story and why I got nothing out of it, and that's what I wrote about.  Now I had to read The Secret Sharer for a graduate class for library school--just when I thought I would never, ever have to read another Joseph Conrad anything ever again.  So that's just a little background for this review for The Secret Sharer also written by Joseph Conrad.  I didn't hate The Secret Sharer as much I came to hate The Heart of Darkness, but that's not really an endorsement either.

In The Secret Sharer the unnamed narrator has been recently appointed to command a ship, but he doesn't know why (seriously?), and he doesn't know the crew, and he doesn't know the ship, and he just doesn't seem up to the task of commanding a crew and a ship.  Is this partially due to youth?  Inexperience?  Lack of confidence?  Who knows.  But dude better get with the program.

One night the narrator takes night watch to give his crew some much needed shut eye (an action that surprises the crew).  This is when he discovers a headless, naked corpse (you read that right) in the water.  Only the headless corpse turns out to be a (still naked) man who is very much alive.  Despite the man's sketchy appearance and shady questions, the narrator allows him aboard the ship without alerting the crew.  As soon as the man's aboard ship the narrator starts identifying with the naked man, Leggat, offers him a set of his own clothes, repeatedly refers to him as his "double" and his "twin," and slides into the decision to hide the man in his captain's quarters.

If Leggat's confessions of murder and escape from detention on his nearby disabled ship neither raise the narrator's suspicions nor alarm him, they sure do raise red flags all over the place for the reader.  Instead the captain inexplicably refrains from interrogating the stowaway and then hides the man in his cabin willfully keeping Leggat's presence from the rest of the crew. (And now the captain's acting sketchy.)  The ordeal with the double whom the narrator proceeds to actively aid, abet, and hide at all costs is oddly the circumstance that finally makes him assert his leadership of the vessel

I'm a little dumbfounded as to why the narrator would see fit to harbor a naked fugitive who confesses to murder aboard his ship after escaping the brig on his own ship.  WHY.  The narrator hides the man at all costs, risks the welfare of the ship and its crew and his own career to help a man he does not even know is telling the truth.  I don't know about ya'll, but I wouldn't trust the narrator as the captain of any ship I was on.  I'd take my chances on the lifeboat.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Crimson Field: Episodes 5 & 6

This is the conclusion of the reviews for the mini-series The Crimson Field.  By the conclusion of these two episodes, most everyone's secrets will be revealed to the audience if not to other characters.

Episode 5

This is the episode in which secrets are revealed for better or worse (for some it is definitely for worse).  Major Ballard is a rather unpleasant man with a secret that jeopardizes both his life and the men he serves with on the front lines.   Luckily the matron easily ferrets it out and turns him in to Lt. Col. Brett to confirm it.  Meanwhile Ballard rather enjoys taunting the matron in order to tease out her secret that was alluded to in the last episode by Sister Quayle.  Sister Quayle is mercifully absent throughout the episode having been suddenly and unwillingly dispatched back to England for a breather a.k.a. some soul searching to determine whether she can continue to serve under Matron Carter.  (If Sister Quayle cannot serve under matron without undermining her authority, matron says Quayle will be transferred; I vote for a transfer to the casualty hospital where Major Yellin is now serving, preferably before the bomb I ordered drops on it.)

In the wake of Kitty's ending of her romance with Gillan before it even began, Gillan has decided that Kitty is too much drama and gives her the cold shoulder throughout the episode.  Kitty guesses Nurse Livesey's secret and confronts her about it only to warn her to be careful.  And then Livesey's attempts to receive news of her loved one results in the worst possible person discovering it.  I don't know how this ends, but it won't end well.

Episode 6

It turns out that Livesey's secret is a German fiance who now serves (reluctantly?) for the German military.  His escape, aided and abetted by Livesey, means (really) bad things for Livesey, Lt. Col. Brett, Matron Carter, and the whole hospital encampment.  As Livesey's trial commences, Brett receives devastating news regarding his son serving on the front lines.  Meanwhile, Livesey's trial pits friends on opposite sides of controversy.  Also the colonel or whoever he is running the trial is callous, insensitive, and clueless.

Sister Quayle, called back to the encampment early by her new BFF the supply quartermaster who also incidentally discovered Livesey's secret and turned her in,  returns in time to possibly destroy Lt. Col. Brett's career with her hidden piece of evidence.  And yet despite her perfect opportunity to do so, Quayle instead inexplicably decides to hand over the piece of evidence to Matron Carter for destruction, accept the matron's terms and conditions of continuing work in the encampment, and puts the screws to the quartermaster for a cut of his black market sales.

My thoughts

Major Ballard can join Yellin (and Quayle) at the casualty hospital please.

The quartermaster and Sister Quayle deserve each other; also I'm sure the man will rue the day (if he doesn't already) of trying to forge an alliance with Quayle.

Sister Quayle has an inflated sense of her own intelligence and importance; and she's blind to the fact that this is one of the many reasons that she was passed over for promotion.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Crimson Field: Episodes 3 & 4

Episode 3

Major Yellin has it in for Captain Gillan because Gillan is Scottish, has a lovely accent, and is uncivilized and barbarous by virtue of his low, Scottish birth.  Yellin is so determined in his campaign of harassment that he interferes with the care of one of Gillan's patients, and the two men almost come to blows over dinner, but Yellin backs down and runs with his tail between his legs to file a complaint with Lt. Col. Brett, who runs the field hospital.  Luckily Capt. Hesketh-Thorne has Gillan's back and is waiting up at dawn for Brett at his office to defend Gillan.  Meanwhile, Matron Carter cares for a man headed for certain death following his court martial for cowardice (though it's uncertain whether his injuries actually were self inflicted).  And Nurse Livesey's secret is (half) revealed to the wrong person.  While Flora ferrets out the orderly corporal's secret and warns him to be careful.

Episode 4

Just when Captain Gillan finally arranges a date on the down low with Kitty, she's unexpectedly summoned to town on personal business, and she is forced to stand him up.  Kitty is in her own private hell while on tenterhooks leading up to this meeting during the car ride to town with Captain Hesketh-Thorne because the man won't shut up.  Sister Quayle's vindictive misdeed from episode 1 comes back to bite her in the ass with tragic consequences for the soldier caught in the middle of her power struggle.  Kitty's secret is revealed (mostly; I still have questions about what exactly happened because I don't believe her estranged husband's accusations of infidelity) when her domestic drama with dangerous overtones follows her to France and threatens to suck her back in.  It also torpedoes her not quite fledgling romance with Gillan because she cannot risk being sent home, which is what will happen if their romance is found out.

My thoughts:

I hope a bomb drops on the casualty hospital to which Major Yellin is transferred; and heaven help the poor souls who are now saddled with him.

Will Capt. H-T still be Gillan's BFF when he finds out about Gillan (and his typewriter) + Kitty = 4eva?  Also H-T may be a flirt, but he's a good bloke.

Flora isn't as naive as people think she is; she's got stones.

Everyone on this show has secrety secrets.  EVERY. ONE.

Finally H-T gives up on Kitty; but he's a good bloke so he still comes to her aid when she needs rescue from her abusive, arrogant, entitled ex which serves to form a (platonic) bond between Kitty and H-T.  Also I think there's more to Kitty's secret than meets the eye, but I don't think we'll find it out because this series got cancelled, and it did a crap job developing its regular characters.

Matron Carter is smart, and finally FINALLY grows some balls in her dealings with Sister Quayle.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Crimson Field: Episodes 1 & 2

Last week I introduced the mini-series The Crimson Field; please scroll down to catch up if you haven't already read it.  This week I'm writing (ranting) about the first two episodes.  If you've seen the mini-series, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought about it!

Episode 1

Rosalie, Kitty, and Flora arrive at the British Army field hospital outpost after a long journey.  The British Army nurses who welcome them are rather put out because these are civilian nurse volunteers with only a few months of training.  They need help, but they want Army nurse help that is properly trained not civilian volunteer help that isn't!  Kitty's immediately at odds with both Rosalie and the British Army nurse Matron Carter because Kitty has no patience for protocol, rules, or any other petty business, and she'll tell you so too.  Flora also runs afoul of Matron Carter, who, in order to save face in front of Sister Quayle, punishes Flora by assigning her to wash/boil/roll duty with the used bandages.  Relations and tensions are complicated between Sister Quayle and Matron Carter because Carter was Quayle's protege, but Carter got the promotion to Matron over Quayle despite the fact that Quayle, and she claims everyone else, expected to be promoted herself.  So of course, Quayle is humiliated and bitter that her protege outshines and outranks her now.

Kitty's mouth gets her in trouble in separate confrontations with Rosalie and Carter during which Kitty lashes out with some cruel, truth telling yet insightful, if insensitive, straight talk to which Carter responds by dismissing Kitty and ordering her to return to Britain.  However, a detour to make things right with Rosalie lands Kitty in a potentially life threatening situation with a dying soldier on the lam (or at least he's trying to be on the lam because he doesn't get far with his injuries).  Kitty's ministrations to and compassion for the soldier earn her a stay of dismissal and maybe some respect from matron Carter.

Episode 2

The nurses get ready for a convoy bringing in more than 200 injured soldiers while Major Crecy and his wife struggle to deal with his life changing injuries.   Kitty writes home asking for forgiveness, but she doesn't receive the reply for which she was hoping.  Captain Hesketh-Thorne, a surgeon, tries to start up a flirtation with Kitty again, but she's having none of it.  Also he's too late to the romantic sparks train because there are already some flying between Kitty and Captain Gillan, another surgeon and Capt. H-T's friend and tent mate.

My thoughts (with some rants thrown in for good measure):

Sister Quayle is on my last nerve before the end of episode 1; she's a bitter, conniving, scheming, moralizing, vindictive woman, and I fear what trouble she will cause when she realizes she no longer has passive control over her former protege because said protege got told by Kitty and is finally ready to cut the apron strings.

Kitty is an outspoken, independent woman who speaks the truth; consequences, tact, and others' precious feelings be damned.  Despite her abrasiveness and stand-offishness towards the other nurses, I like her.  Also it's obvious she's running from something, and it's all a facade to protect herself.

Captains Gillan and Hesketh-Thorne are the resident man eye candy.  But H-T needs to realize he doesn't have a hope in hell with Kitty because Kitty + Gillan (and his typewriter) = 4eva

Back to Sister Quayle: she's an old stick in the mud, and Rosalie will regret being pulled under her toxic, wrong headed tutelage.

Sister Q and the supply sergeant are two peas in a pod.  That sergeant is no good, and he's got everyone fooled.

Mrs. Weston is Mrs. Crecy!!!  MRS. WESTON FROM EMMA(2009) IS MRS. CRECY.  The whole second episode I know I know Mrs. Crecy from some other show, but I can't place where until I look her up on IMDb.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Crimson Field (DVD)

The Crimson Field is a British mini-series that aired on PBS recently.  The BBC commissioned the mini-series as part of its special programming in observance of the centenary of World War I.  Apparently the series did not receive good reviews in the British press.  And I guess it didn't get very good ratings either because it's not coming back for another season.  I've heard that some people have started a petition to get the BBC to bring it back, but I don't think that's going to happen.

I think I mentioned this program or other programs set during World War I in my review of ANZAC Girls.  At first I wasn't going to review The Crimson Field because I just reviewed another mini-series and also TCF is six episodes long.  However, after viewing the first episode, I had opinions, and I need to vent about some characters.  So now I'm reviewing it.  I'll be splitting it into three more posts, each of which will cover two episodes.

While ANZAC Girls focused on nurses from Australia and New Zealand who served in field hospitals in Egypt, Lemnos Island, and France during World War I, TCF tells the story of British nurses serving in a field hospital in France during the same war.  These particular nurses are at a busy field hospital in France.  In ANZAC Girls there was snobbery from British nurses towards their Australian counterparts.  In TCF there's snobbery from British Army nurses towards British civilian volunteer nurses.  Why are British nurses so snobby?  I don't like it.

Overall I enjoyed the mini-series.  I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on its main ensemble rather than giving so much screen time to the guest actors that portrayed each episode's injured soldiers.  If they had another season, maybe they could fix this.  You can look for reviews of The Crimson Field over the next few weeks!

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie