I absolutely adore this book. It's like my desert island book. I've read it a couple of times, though I am sorry to say I am not able to read along with you all just now. I had one comment on the relationship between Prospero and the man in the grey suit. I have always read it as the devil vs. God. The circus competition is like the story of Job. All powerful beings making a rather glib wager on how much misery regular humans can bear.
I have watched the first five of the ten episodes and this series is wonderful. The costumes, as so many have noted, are gorgeous. The performances are fantastic. I have only two quibbles with the show thus far, one pretty minor. First, I think there is a little more explanatory dialogue than is strictly believable, but that is understandable given that this is being shown to an American audience who is perhaps not as familiar with the history and customs of mid-century Britain. Second, and perhaps a little more vexing, is that the show--at least thus far--seems more interested in the men surrounding Elizabeth than in the Queen herself. It's like they are not quite sure what to do with the main character, so we get lots of side-stories about what Churchill is up to, and who Prince Philip is arguing with today. In the coronation episode, for example, I would have preferred to spend far more time on how Elizabeth was processing such a monumental, sacred event in her life and far less on the self-pitying Duke of Windsor watching the ceremony on TV and feeling ostracized. I understand that conflict is the fuel of narrative, and each episode has to have some sort of narrative conflict, but Elizabeth's internal struggles to come to terms with her monumental duty to her country--thanks in part to Claire Foy's magnificent performance--are more compelling (at least IMHO) than watching old cabinet members battle each other for power.
I have watched this episode (in the context of the overall show) probably three times and I still have no idea what the heck is going on in the Skye plot. The whole thing with stealing the SUV, crashing it...who is that guy and how does breaking into his mansion help Skye locate Coulsen? I still have NO clue. And regarding the false conflict with May and Skye in this episode and the last...I always assumed the show runners were trying to create some sort of triangle dynamic, since Ward is sleeping with May but there is a hint that he is getting closer to Skye--and a certain segment of the viewers were very on board with that pairing. I always wondered if we were supposed to think that May was observant and astute enough to sense that Ward had developing feelings for Skye, and she was (reluctantly) jealous on some level, hence the apparently unprovoked hostility.
I was living in Dublin in the 1990s when the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch premiered and made Rufus Sewell a star. It was must-see TV. I was living with a family with four grown children and the entire family gathered in the parlor to watch every episode.
Hugs, @Alan_A. I am sorry things were rough in your life. And I am selfishly glad that you are back, because you are one of the most thoughtful, articulate writers on this forum--and considering this exalted company, that is saying something special!
@R. Zblewski, I jumped on to post the same thing. Here is the deleted Simmons/May scene, @Alastair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0pZ22Aq38Y I have never read Fitz in those preparation scenes as being puffed up with pride in himself. I think we are meant to see his interactions with Simmons as being reflective of his true state of mind, i.e. he is nervous, but he sees that she is even more nervous so he is trying to reassure her (and himself in the process) that he will be alright. The whole "less talk, more action" line reads to me as false bravado, particularly when capped by the lovely exchange of false smiles between him and Simmons before he walks out the door. And as regards next week's Thor: The Dark World episode...if you haven't seen this Honest Trailer, watch it. Totally hilarious.
Is everyone wrapped up at this point? I am not on Twitter; apologies if I am missing some part of the conversation. I believe I heard @Alastair mention in one of the podcasts that he was going to start reading, so I am super excited to hear his thoughts on this marvelous book. I have a question to throw out to the group. It is not particularly well formed, but I am troubled by something in the text and curious to see if you all have an interpretation of it. It has to do with female sexuality. We have three principal female characters. Ellen Ash is apparently--I believe the dismissive term at the time of publication would have been "frigid." She loves her husband but is unable/unwilling to engage in a sexual relationship with him over the course of their marriage. This is the justification offered by Ash (and apparently the text itself?) to excuse his extramarital affair. That is contrasted somewhat with Christobel LaMotte, technically a virgin when she has an affair with Ash, but we are led to understand that she shows a certain intensity during sex; Ash wonders if she has an understanding of her own body and desires because she has had a previous lesbian relationship. And finally modern Maude...I think we are meant to understand that she is also sexually unresponsive--see all the references to mental images of dirty beds and relationships being unclean, specifically as they relate to physical intimacy. In the final paragraphs of the book (sorry, I don't have the text in front of me), Roland and Maude get into bed together for the first time and as I recall, the language suggests that by the dawn's early light, she "cried out" or something like that. Are we to understand that she and Roland are well-suited because he "overcome" her sexual issues? My question is something like, why does a text that has fairly progressive attitudes (for the time of publication) about women's intellectual capacities as being equal with men's across time, also have rather repressive, old-fashioned views about their sexuality? Or something like that. I guess I am particularly troubled by Maude needing to be "cured" or "saved" by Roland's love (orgasm?) at the end of the novel. She has triumphed in every other way but her happiness/the narrative can't be complete until Roland satisfies her sexually. Perhaps I am over reading it?
I am 100% on board with @Lani. I have always interpreted Fitz's actions in this episode in precisely the same way she does. At the beginning he is trying to flirt with Skye and denying that he and Simmons have any deeper connection than as co-workers. I don't get any sense from the performance that he is meant to be taken as anything other than completely genuine. And then at the end, as he stares off into space, I have always felt that was the moment that he first allowed himself to realize how important Simmons is to him and really feel how close he came to losing her. From this point on, he stops flirting with Skye and by the very next episode, he is giving Simmons *meaningful* looks. I think FZZT is meant to be the turning point in their relationship, at least for Fitz.