Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: It was a Film, and Maybe a Book

Jan asks for your help with a film she saw and is pretty sure was once a book, too:

This one has been bugging me for ages, but I’m not sure it’s an actual
book. It’s something I saw on tv – but since it’s an historical I’m
pretty sure it was a book too. I surely hope it is.

I saw this movie some 10 years ago, probably more. I was a very young teen.
I’m not sure what period it was in, because I was so young all historicals
were still the same period for me. If my memories serve me right, the
costumes looked more like the ones from Clarissa (with the yummy Sean Bean
as Lovelace) than the ones from a Jane Austen movie. I was old enough to
read subtitles though, so it’s not longer ago than 15 years.

If I remember right the story was mainly told from the perspective of the
hero, or if it was the heroïne, the hero got a lot of attention when they
weren’t together.

I believe either or both of them were scientists or interested in science (I
think plants and animals and stuff like that) and they had lots of
intelligent conversation about that. However the hero falls (is tricked?)
for a prettier (and richer?) woman. They marry, and she gets pregnant soon.
Years pass and his wife turns out to be very cold, only letting him in her
bedchambers once a year. She gets pregnant every time. After years of being
married unhappily he finds out that the reason why all his children look
like his wife is because they are not his, but from her brother (eww).
He leaves then (I think to live with the heroïne – but I don’t recall the
end).

There’s also a scene where the brother rapes a maid, and the hero
interrupts (and saves her).

The evil family were blondes (and thus all the children too), but the hero
and heroine were darker in complexion.

I’ve been hoping it would be on tv ever since I remembered this story, but
it hasn’t. If this is some sorts of classic of English Literature I’ll
probably feel stupid, but I’m from Belgium, so my knowledge of the classics
is incomplete.

I really hope somebody knows what this is, if it was only a movie or also a
book, because I want to find out if he went to live with the heroine or not.

Jan tells me the film was in English with Dutch subtitles when she saw it, and she’s not 100% sure it’s a book. Sounds to me like the Hell Version of Flowers in the Attic. Anyone remember this… majestic plotline?

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  1. 1
    Ann says:

    I think that this would be Angels and Insects, based on a book by A.S. Byatt.

  2. 2
    Kathy says:

    Definitely Angels and Insects with Patty Kensit and Mark Rylance.  It’s an excellent, if chilling film.

  3. 3
    JamiSings says:

    You sure it’s not a movie about Lucretia Borgia?

  4. 4
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    Yeah, that’s definitely Angels and Insects.  Weird movie.

  5. 5
    Lauren says:

    The part with the children who are blondes because they’re the product of sister/brother incest is also a major plot point in George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which isn’t a movie yet (that I know of), but will soon be a HBO series.

  6. 6
    Sharon Taylor says:

    Shoot – I thought I might get this in first. Definitely Angels and Insects http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_&_Insects and a beautiful disturbing movie, even more disturbing book.

    If you liked this, you’ll love Possession with Jennifer Ehle and Gwyneth Paltrow (and some guys) – a cleverly done film of the book also by A. S. Byatt.

  7. 7
    Cakes says:

    *shudder* yes, I remember that movie. Tried to wash that vision from my eyes for weeks but no amount of bleach would save me.

    And why are the blondes always incestuous? I have white blonde, light blue-eyed children…should I be worried? ;)

  8. 8
    Melissandre says:

    The Sean Bean thing also made me think of Game of Thrones, since he’ll be playing the lead character when it comes to HBO.  Not really helpful, I know, but I’m all about spreading the love for Sean Bean (and also Game of Thrones).

  9. 9
    kari says:

    yep. Angels and insects it is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBBab1eOKxA&feature=related
    I remember zapping one lazy afternoon and thinking, “nice, an historical”. It started ok, and then… Yeah. Cakes is right. Not enough bleach in the world to wipe that out.

  10. 10
    Melissa W. says:

    This movie/book sounds disturbing! I can’t decide if I should try to track it down or not.

  11. 11
    Sybylla says:

    For once I knew it immediately!  Too late.  :(

    I’d second the recommendation for Possession, but for the book over the movie.  The book is remarkable – it takes place in the present and in the 1800s; some of it is straight narrative, some of it is journal-writing; there are a number of poems “written” by the characters that actually read like Victorian poetry; etc.  There are all different voices and styles of writing that really do reflect the character speaking/writing.  I think it’s by far the best thing Byatt’s ever written.

  12. 12
    Jan Oda says:

    Hey Gals!!
    THANKS heaps for the help! It seems to be Insects and Angels indeed, and I’m really glad you guys found it so fast. I’m also really glad it was indeed based on a book, so now I can hunt it down once I return from my holiday (Italian Icecream for everybody to celebrate!).

    I loved Possession, the book more than the film, though I’ve always been a Jennifer Ehle fan (who played Catelyn in the HBO Games of Thrones pilot episode, though she got swapped for someone else for the series now I think—EEP everything is connected!!).
    Yups I’m also an incredible George Martin fan, and I’m totally hyped that it’s becoming a series.

    I’m not a big fan of incest though, but it can be played well for evil characters I think. In general it’s just disturbing.

    I think the story stuck with me because it was mainly told from the perspective of the hero, which doesn’t often happen in Romance it seems. (Though technically, this probably isn’t 100% a romance story).
    Anyone have any other recommendations for hero POV books?

    Thanks again for finding it so fast! You guys are amazing!

  13. 13
    cead says:

    Genetically, wouldn’t it make more sense if the children and the evil brother were dark-haired, and the sister/wife and the hero were blondes?

  14. 14

    Damn, the Bitchery is smart…and FAST! So much for my one chance at nailing a HaBO. If the Bitchery could all fit into the back of the Mystery Machine, we’d definitely qualify as meddling kids.

  15. 15
    JamiSings says:

    @Cakes – Probably because many people say that Lucrezia Borgia was a blonde (at least in everything I’ve ever read where she’s mentioned she has blonde hair) – and she and her brother were accused of incest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borgia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucrezia_Borgia

  16. 16

    Sounds like something Beatrice Small would have written.  There was always some sort of incestuous/forced sex/deception theme goin on in her books..

  17. 17
    Amanda in Baltimore says:

    It’s a wonderful movie. The cousin/poor relation is played by the beautiful Kristen Scott Thomas, who spends most of the film looking plain and somewhat haggard. It is only when she declares her love and gets ready to break out of the prison of propriety she’s been living in that you see that she’s lovely.

    The movie is so worth watching for the details. Notice that all the serving maids are young and tiny. Apparently servants back then were often “undergrown” due to lack of proper nutrition and sunlight.

    The costumes of the women all make them look like fantastical insects and moths. When Patsy Kensit is pregnant she looks like a big fat white Queen Ant, whose only job is to breed.

  18. 18
    Spider says:

    Angels and Insects, and it’s a favorite of mine.  Very cerebral and visual.

  19. 19
    peggy h says:

    I’m a little embarassed to admit that watching this movie all those years ago was what introduced me to the writing of the wonderful A. S. Byatt, since I sought out the book after I watched the movie (actually this was a novella—this story was the “Insects” part of the two-novella Angels and Insects, if I remember correctly.)  But I agree that Possession is an even better book. 

    In terms of capturing the written word on screen, I think A&I was a greater success, mostly because so much of the beauty and enchantment of Possession was in the prose which couldn’t quite come through in the movie (at least IMHO).

  20. 20
    Sycorax says:

    I’ve read the book – had no idea it was a movie. I might hunt it down, disturbing incest notwithstanding.

    I have stayed away from Possession, the movie, because I can’t believe it could possibly do justice to the book, and I hated Paltrow’s attempt at an English accent in Emma . She sounded like she was talking through her nose.

    I read one and a half books of the George R. R. Martin series and couldn’t take any more, which was annoying, as I’d bonded to some of the characters.

  21. 21
    Deb says:

    Oh no!  I was so ready to jump in with letting everyone know this is A.S. Byatt’s ANGELS & INSECTS (the fact that “insect” is an anagram of “incest” is a small plot point) and I see that a bunch of smart bitches beat me to it.  Incidently, Byatt’s ANGELS & INSECTS is actually composed of two novellas—one is A&I, the other is called (if memory serves) MORPHO EUGENIA.

    POSSESSION remains my absolute favorite by Byatt—perhaps because of the happy/romantic ending for the 20th century protagonists (alas, not so much for the Victorian ones).  I also liked THE VIRGIN IN THE GARDEN—although there’s not much romance there.  I find Byatt incorporates a lot (and I mean, a lot) of science into her books.  Some of it, I can take; other times I just acknowledge that there’s a reason my degree was in English!

  22. 22
    Dishonor says:

    I was totally thinking A Game of Thrones too, except that most of it (besides the incestuous blondes) didn’t fit. XD

  23. 23
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    Yes! Yes! I remember that movie! I thought it was great! It has been on cable several times recently.  It makes sense that it was originaly a book, but I never really considered that before.

  24. 24

    As others have said, if you view Angels and Insects pay attention to the clothing.  The costume design highlights the “insect” aspect of the production and is amazing.

  25. 25
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    @ sycorax

    I have stayed away from Possession, the movie, because I can’t believe it could possibly do justice to the book, and I hated Paltrow’s attempt at an English accent in Emma . She sounded like she was talking through her nose./quote]

    Don’t stay away from the movie.  It has 1/10 of the charm of the book, but it works well on its limited level, especially the movement back and forth between the past and the future.  It doesn’t do justice, but it is a decent flick. Jennifer Ehle rocks.

    For the Bitches who like Byatt, may I recommend Iris Murdoch?  I think she was a big influence on Byatt, and her books are equally stimulating and challenging.

    larger92:  these authors loom larger in my imagination than 92 others whose names/books I have forgotten

  26. 26
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    @ sycorax

    I have stayed away from Possession, the movie, because I can’t believe it could possibly do justice to the book, and I hated Paltrow’s attempt at an English accent in Emma . She sounded like she was talking through her nose./quote]

    Don’t stay away from the movie.  It has 1/10 of the charm of the book, but it works well on its limited level, especially the movement back and forth between the past and the future.  It doesn’t do justice, but it is a decent flick. Jennifer Ehle rocks.

    For the Bitches who like Byatt, may I recommend Iris Murdoch?  I think she was a big influence on Byatt, and her books are equally stimulating and challenging.

    larger92:  these authors loom larger in my imagination than 92 others whose names/books I have forgotten

  27. 27
    Kate says:

    @Killian

    I love Iris Murdoch!! Byatt was indeed influenced by her—- one of Byatt’s first critical works was actually on Murdoch. BTW, Byatt’s sister, Margaret Drabble, is very good as well.

    I’m actually in graduate school and planning on doing work on Byatt, Murdoch, et al, so I’m excited to see them mentioned on one of my favorite websites.

  28. 28
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    @ Kate

    I’ve not read any Drabble.  What would you recommend as an introduction to her work?

    Who are the “et al” you include with Murdoch, Byatt, and Drabble?  I love the Victorians, and I’m finding Byatt & Murdoch equally exciting.  I’d like to give Drabble a try and anyone else mentioned in their company.

  29. 29
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    @ Kate

    I’ve not read any Drabble.  What would you recommend as an introduction to her work?

    Who are the “et al” you include with Murdoch, Byatt, and Drabble?  I love the Victorians, and I’m finding Byatt & Murdoch equally exciting.  I’d like to give Drabble a try and anyone else mentioned in their company.

  30. 30
    KinseyHolley says:

    Byatt is one of those authors whose books sort of envelope you while you’re reading them, and leave you a little drugged even after you put them down. It’s like they produce sensory overload or something – Byatt isn’t one I can read casually, a few pages at a time. I get sucked in, and ignore everything and everyone around me while I’m reading, and long after I’ve finished them, the senses and emotions stick with me. It’s been lots of years since I read Possession, but I can recall certain scenes, right down to the dialog, vividly.

    Rushdie does this to me as well, and a few others. Not many.

    Hair65: I’ve probably tried 65 different products on my hair, but nothing mitigates the humidity of a Houston summer. The frizz, it is unstoppable.

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