Sunday, August 25, 2019

Marlowe Benn's "Relative Fortunes"

Born near Boston, Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River. She holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley. A former editor, college teacher, and letterpress printer, Benn lives with her husband on an island near Seattle.

Here Benn dreamcasts an adaptation of Relative Fortunes, her first novel:
Relative Fortunes, my debut historical mystery, features two estranged half-siblings separated by ten years and a world of grievances. When the novel opens, Julia Kydd knows little about her half brother, Philip, other than that he’s abruptly challenged their father’s will—just as she’s about to turn twenty-five and receive her inheritance.

The pair have every reason to mistrust each other. Julia is the daughter of their father’s second wife, a young Swedish bohemian whom he married shortly after the death of his first wife, Philip’s mother. Before Julia was born, Philip was dispatched to a succession of boarding schools. The two siblings share no family bond and no physical resemblance: Julia has her mother’s fair Scandinavian coloring and Philip bears the dark Mediterranean features of his mother.

Thrown together as adversaries, they spar throughout the novel. Philip’s wry, provocative wit sharpens Julia’s perceptions and judgments, but their spirited repartee—crackling at times—also illustrates the gendered disparity of their positions. Unlike Julia, Philip is secure in his wealth. The “squabble” that is high sport to him is deadly serious for her. Should his challenge prevail and her inheritance be denied, she’ll lose her financial independence, and with it her dream of making a mark in the world.

For Julia I would cast Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Vikander could beautifully convey Julia’s discerning intelligence and natural elegance. I imagine Vikander reprising Kate Beckinsale’s performance in Cold Comfort Farm, based on Stella Gibbon’s 1932 classic novel. Vikander in the role of confident, resourceful young Flora Poste, who’s dashingly deft in the ways of the modern world, would embody Julia Kydd perfectly.

Casting Philip is easy. In developing his character, I was inspired by Rupert Everett’s performance in Oliver Parker’s 1999 film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Ideal Husband. Everett plays a scandalously charming and droll rake who delights in baiting his morally upright friends, provoking them into high dudgeon and, of course, trouble.
Visit Marlowe Benn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue