Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'Bright Star'

Reading many, many books for my English class here has backed up my reviewing time, as has my embarkation into the magical world of NaNoWriMo. Without further ado, two reviews for my pretty much non-existent followers!

The Book: Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

The Author: John Keats

How I Found It: Saw the movie, had vague memories of analyzing "La belle dame sans merci", and decided to use Keats for a poetry presentation.

The Review: I am nothing if not a romantic. Seriously, it's pathetic how bad it is. (Though I will admit the movie of The Notebook didn't make me cry-- much as I love Rachel McAdams, it was poorly acted and written. The book did make me cry once, because Alzheimer's is just depressing.) Anyway, love stories are my thing.

Admittedly, I have no clue about Bright Star until I saw a banner advertising it on IMDb. My first reaction was "Pretty costumes! Period piece! Must go!" (Yes, that is my thought process.) I noticed it was about John Keats-- the lives of writers in a movie means it is also a must-see in my book, even if I know barely anything about them.

So I went, and I loved it. It was a beautiful movie, and hearing Ben Whishaw recite "La belle dame sans merci" with Abbie Cornish made me go, "I remember that one!" So I ordered the book and started reading.

Half of the book is Keats' love letters to Fanny Brawne, the girl he loved for three years until his tragic death at twenty-five of tuberculosis. The second half is the poems he wrote during the time he was with Brawne.

Admittedly, a lot of poetry goes over my head. I've tried writing it and most of what I have written in that respect is crap. I did enjoy the poems, but I definitely need to have Sparknotes or something-- the language and imagery is a bit difficult to decipher, at least for me. My mom and I just don't get poetry. However, the poems I could understand were very beautiful :)

The real standout for me in this collection were the love letters to Fanny. One of my favorite books, Possession by A.S. Byatt, involves two poets involved in an affair, and when the man is on his deathbed, he requests his wife burn his personal papers so that posterity never roots through his belongings in search of intimate information after his death, as was done to Dickens. In a similar manner, Fanny Brawne had the letters she wrote to Keats destroyed, though late in life she revealed the letters Keats had written to her.

I can't express how beautiful I thought the letters were. As tough to understand as his poetry might have been, the letters really spoke to me and I could understand them perfectly. Keats describes missing and loving Fanny in terms any of us can understand: "As far as they regard myself I can despise all events: but I cannot cease to love you" (Letter VI). There were about a million passages I loved and wished I could share with somebody. It might sound cliched, but Keats was a passionate man, and it really shows here. The letters were just amazing expressions of his love; it was really a shame he died so young, without a chance to marry her.

I now sound like a pathetic romantic, so I will end my review here. I recommend the book to anyone with a romantic heart, anyone who's interested in poetry from the time period, or anyone who's interested in Keats himself and hasn't yet seen the letters.

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