j. m. barrie

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence(s) come from A Kiss for Cinderella by J.M. Barrie.

DR. BODIE: …Kick away, Dick, but you needn’t pretend that you have no faith in me as a medical man; for when you are really ill you always take the first train down here. In your heart I am the only doctor you believe in.

MR. BODIE: Stuff, Nellie.”


Five Best Books: Hope

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Hope.

This week’s Top 5 is a more positive spin on last week’s Top 5 (Recovering from) Tragedy. It may infringe a bit on last week’s list. But overall in these books tragedy is kept to a minimum, hope is the dominating feature.

1.   Seryozha: Several Stories from the Life of a Very Small Boy by Vera Panova. This is one of my childhood favourites. A fatherless boy, Seryozha, grows apart from his mother after her remarriage. But little Seryozha is warmly embraced by his step father, Korostelyov and it is he who refuses to abandon him just because he is not his biological child. I couldn’t hold back my tears after reading about the troubles of a boy my age. I understood Seryozha’s bewilderment at the changes in his life and his pain wringed my heart. Every time I read the book I was so grateful to Korostelyov for understanding the little boy and giving him the love and care that he deserved. The last page especially filled me with hope that everything was going to be alright.

2.  The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. This is the story of four mothers and their daughters. The mothers try hard to maintain their Chinese heritage while the American born daughters fail to understand them. The lack of communication between the generations creates a deep chasm between them. I found the mother’s stories to be stories of hope. I was especially touched by Suyuan Woo’s story. Though there are many tragedies in their lives the four mothers and daughters ultimately find what they were looking for.

3.   A Kiss for Cinderella by J. M. Barrie. A Kiss for Cinderella is set during WWI. A poor and lonely young woman, ‘Miss Thing’, works as a maid and dreams that she is the fabled ‘Cinderella’. As the play progresses, ‘Miss Thing’ slowly becomes mentally unstable and nearly dies of hunger and cold. But in the end, the surly local policeman becomes her unlikely hero and even though the doctor makes a gloomy prediction about her health she does get her happy ending.

4.  Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings by Charles Dickens.

      Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy by Charles Dickens. 

Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings and Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy are two of Charles Dickens’s Christmas stories. The books describe a Mrs Lirriper’s experiences as a lodge keeper. Most of her experiences are light hearted and humorous. Sad events do take place (a young woman is ruined by a wicked impostor, a fire destroys a home; etc) but overall the tone of the books remain pretty hopeful. Everything turns out to be all right and even the misfortunes always leave behind a reason to smile.

5.   Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther.  This book is a collection of little observations that the eponymous characters makes about trivial everyday matters. The time is during World War II so the tone of the book is subdued but Mrs. Miniver manages to remain practical and cheerful. The book is said to have helped gain sympathy for the people in Europe.

A Kiss for Cinderella by J.M. Barrie

Not many today know that J.M. Barrie, famous for creating Peter Pan, also wrote a string of popular plays during the late 19th and early 20th century. A Kiss for Cinderella is a three act play by Barrie. It opened on Broadway in the December of 1916.

A Kiss for Cinderella is a fantasy/romance set in London. The time is during WWI. Food and genuine human affection are scarce. In this bleak time, a girl named ‘Miss Thing’ works as a domestic help. Hungry and alone most of her life, it is her imagination that helps lessen the pain. She believes that she is the fabled ‘Cinderella’ and waits patiently for her invitation to the Royal ball.

The play’s first two acts are sparklingly fresh. The first act introduces Miss Thing or Cinderella, her master Mr. Bodie, the artist and David, the policeman. The policeman wants to find out why Cinderella has been lifting wooden boards from her employer and what she has been doing with them.

The first act contains some witty exchanges between Mr. Bodie and the policeman. It is evident that Mr. Bodie has a great sense of affection for Cinderella. Also, the policeman is portrayed as a thoroughly unimaginative and unromantic man, a paradox to Cinderella’s imaginative and romantic nature.

The second act begins at Cinderella’s home. It is revealed that she is a jack of all trades of her poor neighbourhood. She works as a tailor, a doctor, a barber, etc, etc. all for a penny. The policeman follows her home and discovers the reason she needs the wooden boxes. It is to accommodate a group of war orphans she has been secretly taking care of. After a pretty festive supper with the policeman and the children, Cinderella goes outside to wait for her fairy godmother.

In the second part of the second act we witness Cinderella’s spectacular ball. It is complete with food and ice cream and above all, a prince. A prince who surprisingly looks a little like our policeman.

In the second act the policeman is slowly drawn in to Cinderella’s world. His transformation is remarkable. Also, Cinderella becomes more and more unbalanced as the act progresses.

The third act is set in Dr. Bodie’s country practice. Dr. Bodie is the sister of Mr. Bodie. Here we find out that Cinderella, whose real name is Jane, was brought to the hospital by the policeman after nearly freezing to death. Dr. Bodie makes a gloomy prediction about Cinderella’s fate but she does get her happy ending in the end.

The third act is, unfortunately, not as good as the first two. The introduction of the unnecessary characters of Danny, the wounded soldier and Charlotte, the probationer really dampens the mood of the story. Fortunately, these diversions don’t last for long.

Among the characters the children under Cinderella’s care are absolutely fresh and funny. They make their presence felt in just one act. The central figures of Cinderella and the policeman are good. The policeman’s increasing tenderness towards Cinderella is so moving. His eagerness to make her happy and comfortable really touched my heart. Mr. Bodie is an affectionate, if slightly narrow-minded, man. Dr. Bodie, I really admired. Such a strong female character is very good to see.

I really loved how Barrie portrayed Cinderella’s dream ball sequence. As an extremely poor girl, she has obviously never been to a real ball. Her perceptions are so well imbued in to her dream that not for one moment did I forget that this is Cinderella’s dream. The product of a poor girl’s imagination. Her dream is filled with the things she knows, things that are familiar to her. Only they are tinged highly with an unreality that comes with dreams. For example, she has never seen real royalty. So, the king and the queen in her dream looks like the king and queen from playing cards. Even her fairy godmother is seen wearing a Red Cross Nurse’s uniform, the only caring and kind elderly women she knows.

One thing that really bothered me was the way Dr. Bodie was derided for being a female doctor. It is implied that being a doctor is non-feminine. She needs to be reminded that she is, after all, a mere woman. I know it is a product of its time. But still the derogatory tone used to describe her really irritated me!

It was a little difficult to read the play because every little detail of how the play should be staged is discussed at length. Also, the way some of the minor characters may end up or how their lives are like outside of the time line of the play is really unnecessary.

What I really love about this play is that even though it is essentially a romantic fantasy, it never leaves reality. Especially, the scenes where Cinderella and the policeman converse. The policeman is so sincere in his love but is hopelessly tongue tied and inarticulate. That is what real life is like. People don’t have ready made dialogues for expressing their feelings.

The play is incredibly short. An hour is more than enough to finish it.

A Kiss for Cinderella certainly has its flaws. But the way Barrie provides the reader’s with a happy ending while retaining its closeness to reality is remarkable. I admire this play for that.

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Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Unconventional Heroes. Now, I for one love unconventional heroes. People who are not what they seem, who are insignificant in the eyes of the world but try to live their lives with dignity or become heroes inspite of adverse situations are heroes in my book.

.1.   Charles Chipping from Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – Mr. Chips is a mild mannered, very average man but he more than once rises to the occasion and shows courage. I especially love the scene where he reads aloud a list of the school’s alumni who have fallen in the battlefield. In spite of objections from everyone, he includes the name of a former master who died while fighting for the opposing side. He chooses to remember the man as a friend and not as an enemy; he decides to remember the friendship they once had.

2.  Severus Snape from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Even if Cassandra hadn’t mentioned him in her post, I still would have put him on my list. Ever since the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something unusual about the man. Of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, proved what a complex character Severus Snape was.  If ever there was an unconventional hero, Snape is the one.

3.  David, the policeman from A Kiss for Cinderella by J. M. Barrie – The character of the policeman is so unlike a romantic hero. He is an unimaginative, unromantic man. He couldn’t possibly understand ‘Cinderella’s imaginary world. But all the same he sympathizes with her and even ends up saving her life. His love for the poor, plain looking, possibly unbalanced ‘Cinderella’ makes him one of my top unconventional heroes.

4.    Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – A deeply unhappy alcoholic of a dubious character, Sydney Carton ends up overshadowing the more conventional hero Charles Darnay.

5.  Mr Harley Quin from The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie – One of the more unusual and underrated creations of Agatha Christie, Mr. Quin, is a friend of lovers, an otherworldly presence. He comes and leaves without any explanation, appears at the edge of a cliff or in an empty train compartment. He never does anything concrete but helps everyone in a most subtle way. A strangely unconventional hero, in my opinion.

Five Best Books: Love

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: LoveWe can use the standard interpretation of love and list our favorite romances or love stories.

I am not much into romance. Even if I have read some books that contain a romantic plot, it has always been a classic, nothing modern. Anyway, here is my top 5:

1. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. – The ultimate romantic story, in my opinion. A book with a very, very strong and assertive heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, one of the main reasons I love this book.

2.  Persuasion. Jane Austen. – The silent love between Anne and Captain Wentworth is enough to melt the heart of even a cynic like me. 

3.  A Kiss for Cinderella. J. M. Barrie. – A heartbreaking play by J. M. Barrie. Set in London during WWI, a poor young girl works as a domestic help. Hungry and alone, she imagines that she is the fabled ‘Cinderella’ and waits patiently for her invitation to the Royal ball. She is befriended by a policeman. A simple, unimaginative, unromantic man, he tries his best to comfort her. When he says ‘I wish I was a Prince’, I felt like crying!

4.  Wuthering Heights. Emily Brontë. – Set against the bleak backdrop of the Yorkshire moors, this is the story Heathcliff and Catherine and their obsessive love for each other. Their untamed, defiant natures destroy not only their own lives but also that of many others. Emily Brontë wrote about raw and unrestrained human emotions without the fear of meeting with the disapproval of the 19th century audience. I think she is probably one of the most honest writers I’ve ever come across.

5.  A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. – Just one name, Sydney Carton. A deeply unhappy alcoholic, he himself believes he is beyond redemption. But his ultimate sacrifice for Lucie and Charles proves him to be otherwise.