Reading Reviews for A Gilded Hell
10 Reviews Found

Review #1, by WitnesstoitAll Constructed Heaven

18th July 2012:
Oooh. Lily. Such a wonderful one shot. Everything about Umbridge/Dollie's life was so pristene and in place and very stark, I think. There was a lovely disonance between the name Dollie and the life she lives. I know this is a short review, but our electricity just went out and my battery has very little life left, so all in all, this was a wonderfully constructed portrait of the woman who becomes the Umbridge from canon.


Author's Response: bahhh well, thank you for reviewing even when your battery is dying :P i'm glad you liked this--there's obvious concern because umbridge is drawn so--um--specifically and certainly in canon, and i didn't want to make a joke of that, nor fully adhere to it.

i didn't want to give her an excuse--i wanted to make it quite clear she was doing everything on purpose, and just had skewed ideas of what was bad and what was acceptable behavior.

anyway, thanks again, i appreciate you taking time to let me know what you thought :D ♥

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Review #2, by academica Constructed Heaven

10th July 2012:
Lily! Back for TGS Review Challenge #7! :)

Whoa. You've done the thing I like to do, add depth to seemingly insignificant details related to minor characters, and done it with Umbridge, whom I have always been slightly afraid to touch. I love that you made her seem so feminine, not in a humorous way like she seems in canon but in a much darker, more dominating fashion. I love the way she learned sick lessons from her mother and found that they transformed her entire being. In particular, it was neat to see the symbiotic relationship between Dollie and her followers.

This was amazing. I thought about reviewing it ages ago and just never got around it. I'm certainly glad that this challenge reminded me to do so :)


Author's Response: Hello!! Thanks so much for choosing my stories to review for the challenges, I loved receiving them :)

I'm no good at real plot because I like to write character from an internal point; you've described it so well, to add depth to seemingly insignificant details. I'm not usually quick to criticize JKR's characterization, but I /really/ wish that we'd seen a bit more of Umbridge's real-life flesh, because, you're right, she did come off as comic, and to me she's a horrifying woman who was never accidentally anything. She calculated and had victories and was hugely changed by what the centaurs did to her--I can't imagine pre-centaur Umbridge being as shaky as she is in book seven during the trials. I wanted to look at pre-centaur Umbridge, then, for the powerful, sort of romantically evil lady she was. Which is a fun phrase.

I love mothers in stories, because they have such profound impacts on their children--we see it work for good in Harry, because Lily was good, and people tell him good things of her, and she gives him strength when he needs it.and so did, I imagine, Umbridge's mother, a single woman willing to do what she needed to do to climb to the top of a male-dominated society. In a way I haven't really produced anything outside of cliche, here, because we've all seen and probably written the stories where woman utilize their bodies and womanhood to get where they need to go.

I'm so grateful to your review, thanks so much for thinking of me and this weird little piece of writing!!

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Review #3, by dirtydeedsdonedirtcheap Constructed Heaven

1st May 2012:
Dollie! I have to say I felt rather slow I didn't catch on that Dollie was Dolores. Once I got to the end I had to read the entire thing over again because I wanted to read it with that in mind. Not really that in mind but I wanted to think more of Umbridge and her detentions with Harry and how awful she is. This kind of scared me actually because you really dug deep into who she is, twisted I would say, and broke her down where I'm shaking a bit behind my computer screen. You really have such a way with words.

You're an amazing writer.

Author's Response: To be honest that was the point of the nickname! I know that when I read stories about "evil" characters I'm always assuming things about where the story is going to go, mostly that they're going to provide some sob-story background that will make me forget I hated them, etc. Which doesn't do a lot for me. So I wanted there to be no expectations, in a way. I think giving somebody a nickname is an automatic way to give them a past, people who love them, a human aspect, I suppose.

I don't think it was my exact /intention/ to make her scarier, but I did want to perhaps expand what we know. JKR does a really good job with most of her characters but with Umbridge I felt besides her obvious insecurities I wasn't getting enough answers. That this exposition had that effect I think speaks to JKR's original characterization.

Thank you so much! I am pretty fond of this piece myself, but all the same it's more wonderful to hear other people can appreciate it :)

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Review #4, by charlottetrips Constructed Heaven

29th March 2012:
First of all, love that song. Love it to death. Really. But I know this story is going to be dark so gearing myself up for that.

You’ve captured Dolores’ twisted mind right from the start. It’s descriptive and almost pretty with the little details she captures but then there’s the whole thought about getting in someone’s marrow and I can’t help but be just a little shocked at her thinking. Which is a state of mind I kind of had about her throughout OOTP.

I like how you’ve dug into her, dug into where she came to think that pink and cats and tea could overlay such evilness as she’d been involved in. And we see how she twisted all her actions and her life into working for the “Greater Good”. It’s scary, that. You kind of got me to see the logic in her actions.

This was frightfully well-executed and the flow and pacing of it all was almost inexorable, leading up to that final moment where she accomplished the high point of her life. This was an interesting character read and you handled the subject well.


Author's Response: I love the song too! It is not a very dark/horror song itself but I was inspired by, first off, how one could twist the whole idea of stars guiding someone--like, not using your own brain but following something else--and the whole bones thing. And also that song is for someone in a very dark, dark place. It's so beautiful! I wanted to mirror that beauty here.

I personally really hate Umbridge. Like as close as I ever get to hating anyone, Umbridge has that in me. So, really, it was through writing this I came to terms with her humanity. And I know that here she seems a little inhuman. The scheming, mindless power plays. The marrow--it's something that as someone who reads/writes poetry isn't quite so striking at first as it should be till I really think about it. I see so many grand statements and make them, sometimes it's lost on me. It's a precious gift not to be desensitized to that imagery.

One of the things I remember my senior year English teacher telling us is that one of the most effective strategies a writer can take is to make a twisted, illogical mind move in a logical way through a story. I have not tried to do that explicitly with this piece, but, I think it happened in a way, and that's what you're responding to. And in a way I'm so grateful you've allowed yourself to get so involved with the story--that's all a writer wants from an audience, I think, to give her work a fair chance.

The idea of coming to the ending at her finest hour was at the root of this work. It wasn't to excuse her later actions; but maybe make you think about (and me, definitely) the sort of simultaneous glory and arbitrariness of her achieving that sort of evil goal. On the one hand--this could be the end-all of her small-scale bids for power. But knowing what happens to her, it's kind of like...but what's the point of it all?

Thanks so much for your review :)

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Review #5, by Beeezie Constructed Heaven

22nd March 2012:
Hey, this is Beeezie, here for our GS swap. :)

So I thought that this was absolutely brilliant. You don't make Umbridge an especially sympathetic character (at least not to me), but you do make her a three-dimensional one while taking absolutely nothing from her abhorrent behavior in the books. Where I think there's a little more leeway with characters like Draco or Snape, who really do show some remorse for their old behaviors and opinions, we never get that sense from Umbridge. In the books, she comes off as power-hungry and ruthless, and you portrayed that perfectly in this.

I also liked your depiction of what life in a pureblooded family would be like. I often feel like people overdo it, but you didn't at all - it didn't come across to me as abusive or destructive, just rigid, ambitious, and arrogant, which was perfect to me. I could also completely understand how pureblood beliefs so often perpetuate in this context - it felt very realistic in terms of how prejudice continues in RL, and I loved that.

Honestly, I really don't have have much to critique. Your prose is top-notch and made reading this a joy. The only issue I saw was that sometimes your sentences verged on run-ons, or simply too long - I'd be careful of that. However, that's really a very minor problem, and I didn't see much else that I felt didn't work or wasn't specific enough.

Excellent story. Thank you for writing it. :)

Author's Response: hello! i'm getting to your story later this evening, looking forward to reading it!

i'm glad you seem to understand what i was going for here, though i confess a lot of it /happened/ rather than me actually constructing it. i didn't intend to make anyone sympathize with umbridge. i do believe that she's fully responsible for her actions, as all characters are. however, i did want to treat her with a human hand. i don't believe that we get to see a lot of that in the series although there are huge hints at her insecurities and spite.

i am working on another, longer story about what it's like to have a pureblood past. i don't think the people are bad people or even, in reality, i don't think anyone really thinks that way besides in extreme cases. you see it a lot in movies where people know they're the bad guys or good guys or whatever. i think generally, especially where the "bad" people are concerned, they just have a different agenda and different needs, and they're looking for these things that define them and satiate them just like any other person.

i'm glad you pointed out the long sentences because i understand that for a lot of people they can be problematic. the thing is that i consider a sentence's length an aspect of style so i have never been too bothered to "fix" that. of course when something is unclear to the point of not being able to understand what it's saying then i understand it's more than a taste thing :)

thanks so, so much for reviewing! i appreciate your feedback and will get to your story right away!

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Review #6, by DracoFerret11 Constructed Heaven

14th March 2012:
Hello there! I found your story through the March SOTM thread in the Ravenclaw common room on the forums. I'm DarkRose over there if you'd like to say! :]

Characterization: wow! I've never read a story about Dolores before and this was awesome. I loved the subtle creepiness, but at the same time, there was a sense of...loss? The style here was beautiful and you really brought the character to life. I loved how you portrayed her. Very original and interesting.

Descriptions: ah, this was great! I loved how you talked about her "crawling in bones." So creepy, but so poignant. It really brought things together and fave this story character.

Plot: I loved the way you wrote about her maturation without going into too many anecdotes. It made for a seamless narrative and was a good way of handling this story.

Overall, this was awesome. I think you did a terrific job. Your style was great and it really made me love the story. This was very unique and I think you did well. Good luck on the SOTM!


Author's Response: Hi! I recognize your name :)

Dolores was hard to tackle. I like that people in reviews are even calling her that because to me she'd always been so evil that I could only call her Umbridge. Calling someone by their given name is a way of acknowledging their humanity, in my opinion.

Crawling through people's bones should probably be a sign of the neurotic but in a poetic mind I suppose it works and that might be why I did it :P Also, because of the song :)

Willa Cather writes about how one has to choose what details to include. I could have written a lot more and edited but I feel I sort of skimmed her life in the light of her greatest accomplishments; what made her want them, how she got them, how she would have received them.

Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know what you thought, and thank you ;)

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Review #7, by Snapdragons Constructed Heaven

29th February 2012:
Dollie. How have you managed to make Umbridge, of all people, seem halfway human? I would have thought that it'd be an impossible task, and yet... I still can't say that I like her, but I do think you added a whole new layer of understanding to her character. Even just calling her Dollie - threw me off for a moment in the beginning, and then all the sudden I understood and it was quite the epiphany, I assure you. :P

Your description is to die for. Sometimes, laying in the soft light like this, the hairs on her arms casting long thin shadows like tree trunks over the forest floor of her young skin, Dollie wonders what it is she really wants. It's very beautiful and the way you use it throughout the story is gorgeous. I love the way this was written - I don't know if I really know the right word to describe it, but I enjoyed it a lot, and I thought it was actually quite enjoyable to read! ^-^

The characterization definitely is the best part of this one shot. Again, it's the attention to little details, such as the pink, the importance of tradition, the desire to be strong and independent... It was a fascinating look at a character who's normally portrayed as completely evil or soulless. I really did enjoy seeing her backstory and what made her who she is - I've always been partial to character studies, I think they're the best. :P

Your ending was so powerful, too - ooh, I loved it. Just Educational Decree No 23. Nicely done! This is actually such an amazing one shot - you did an incredible job and I thoroughly enjoyed it! ♥

Author's Response: I suspect that it is partly because I'm a bit mental like Dolores herself; not in the same ways (i would hope haha) but a little bit all the same.

Halfway human is certainly a compliment for Umbridge; I chose "Dollie" for two reasons. One because I didn't want to call her Dolores the whole time because I imagine most young people have a nickname no matter how impossible their given one makes that seem, and two, because I think it really fits her creepy pinkness and obsession with cats.

Ah! I'm glad that you enjoyed the description through here. In my writing class we've focused less on this kind of detached, imagistic description and more on physical actual things so it was a bit of an indulgence for me.

And characterization is the one thing that usually doesn't feel like work to me--plot, well, that's another story! Perhaps that's why I can finish one-shots and stuff but my WIPs take me forever because they're run by actual things happening. For me JKR just didn't spend the time on Umbridge that I would have hoped for--which is understandable seeing as she sacrificed a lot for the main plot and none of us are really /too/ disappointed with the outcome of that I don't think ;) --so even though I always really detested her character when I read the books years ago I decided to sit down and have a go.

Thanks so much for your kindness and for letting me know what you think!! I appreciate it muchly :D

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Review #8, by Toujours Padfoot Constructed Heaven

28th February 2012:
Dolores! Dollie is Dolores! The whole time I was reading this I was wondering in the back of my mind who Dollie might be, since I was pretty sure she wasn't an OC. I kept thinking of people whose names started with 'D' and for some reason Umbridge never popped up. So it was a pretty huge surprise there at the end. And if you put her name in the story summary then I'm going to feel like a huge dolt, but I didn't read the characters you may or may not have listed because the banner was so pretty and it demanded my full ogling. Justified~

This was such gorgeous writing, Lily. Your imagery and descriptions and the crawling her way through people's bones to get to know them - holy wow. It was fascinating and looking back, yes, that could absolutely be what Dolores was like growing up. And you told it in such a thrilling, poetic, stream-of-consciousness way. I'm writhing in envy at your skills right now.

Author's Response: SARAH! HIII.III.III.III!!!

Haha no, not the summary, though I did list her in the characters. I'm glad that this all happened though because I wanted it to. There. You have fulfilled my wishes for this fic, be proud!

Ahh thank you so much! Your writing is something I admire muchly so I'm uber pleased that you enjoyed this. And I'm also glad that looking back it seems like it could be Dolores because the whole surprise thing can't really work otherwise, haha. All you need to do to get this is basically read poetry ardently for years as well as too much virginia woolf and plath for anyone's good, study some anatomy, chuck in the other random novels and stories along the way, shake, and pour. This is sort of what comes out.

Thanks so much for the review, O LOVO YOO (h)

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Review #9, by Violet Gryfindor Constructed Heaven

27th February 2012:
Oh my gosh what have you done?! You made her sympathetic. Frightening in her ambitions and love of pink, but still, I can understand her and all the things she's done in her life and somehow, that terrifies me far more than all of her schemes and powers. How you did this and created such a realistic, perfectly-suiting history for Umbridge, I don't know, but I wouldn't mind knowing your secrets. ;)

I love what you did with her character - you gave her far more depth and humanity than Rowling ever did. You deserve accolades just for taking Umbridge on as the main character above and beyond your ability to take this despised, mocked character and make her someone disturbingly real. I could say so much about her independent (but insane) mother and the whole brainwashed childhood; the way that she manipulates the system and others to get ahead, unafraid to use either mind or body to get what she wants; the way that, inside, she still seeks fulfillment of something she can't even name and how that leads her to the events of OotP... She did what she thought she had to survive, and while so much of it was wrong, after reading this, I have a lot harder time faulting her for her actions because, in many ways, she was made that way, created and shaped by an overbearing mother. There are great bits of feminism in this story, but at the same time, it's corrupted, horribly corrupted by her mother's strange system of beliefs. Yet it's all so believable. I can see these things happening just as much in the Potterverse as in real life.

My mind is blown. Sorry. Must contain my amazement, though that's impossible. Your stories have this affect on me, and this one is no exception... that's why it's going into my favourites. Who knew I'd love a story about Umbridge this much? You're a brilliant writer!

Author's Response: Bahhh it was so nice to wake up this morning to see this review! I honestly just sort of had a moment with this one-shot and I can't actually say what the process was, otherwise I'd offer up "secrets"...not that, you know, you need any help from me :P

I think that because JKR is dealing with an exceptional number of characters I sort of forgive her for showing us the surface of a lot of them, though I'm really loyal to the idea that every character should have equal chances. To me JKR's Umbridge was very creepy--to think of a woman who derives no shame in torturing students but wears pink cardigans and has kittens on her walls! It's horrifying but also really fascinating.

For a while I thought about the possibility that Umbridge's childhood could forgive her in a way, but then I decided that wouldn't work for me. There's something about her in the books that is so careful, like a balance, and it makes me think everything is on purpose. A lot of it, I found out writing this, was due to her mother's influence, but I sort of like that she fully embraced it. Like you say, it was for survival, because the way she learned she had to survive meant all this stuff.

I think that any "cause"-based philosophy is prone to become corrupted and while I think feminism is so, so important to have as a part of society I sort of see it as a creepy thing in the wrong hands. All of Umbridge's efforts (as I see them, anyway) to embody everything about a woman--the bows, the lace, the pink--seems like it could be the product of unrelenting idea, like feminism twisted in on itself. While a lot of the reactionaries wanted to dress like men and denied the woman's features, I can see this whole other brand of feminism that completely takes advantage of the charm and seduction and manipulation available exclusively through the female body and mindset. So that's that, then :P

I'm really flattered that this weird little--piece, I'll call it--seems believable. I sort of believe it. I think I wrote it because I believe it, if that makes sense. But thank you for saying so! I felt a bit like I was playing a fine line between asking for sympathy and blaming her for things...though mostly I was just writing, haha.

Ahh I'm so pleased you've enjoyed this; never saw myself before I started this as taking particular interest in Umbridge, but now I've been thinking about her a lot. And thanks so much for the compliments, I'm going to take them as I get them even though they probably come from more generosity than my skill should induce.

Thanks for the review, definitely made my day! :)

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Review #10, by SiriuslyPeeved Constructed Heaven

27th February 2012:
Whoa. This story knocked my socks off. Your descriptive writing is so, so beautiful.

Favorite passage:

"That day she had smiled and sipped her tea and thought about the constellations of her palms spread open on the cool golden sheets of her London and how wicked it would be to be good on purpose; to be rigidly, unyieldingly good, and to leave in her footsteps a hell gilded over."

I'm jealous I didn't write that ;)

I think you will have a very successful career in original fiction, but for now, please continue writing in the Potterverse! I'm far more terrified of Umbridge than I ever was before. What a pitch perfect ending as well. 10/10

Author's Response: Hi, Mary! I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it, and obviously I'm grateful for your generous compliments :)

I started this one-shot with that sentence in mind, funny it should stand out to you! Sometimes I do that; it's not the best strategy and I've gotten pretty comfortable with writing just for writing's sake, but sometimes I start with this sentence that sort of blazes in my head and I write it and a story or a shell sort of composes itself around it.

And thank you so much! It's basically my ultimate desire and dream, to be a successful OF writer, but I don't think I'd ever give up fanfiction! It's too fun and exciting and weird.

To me Umbridge is a really terrifying person! I think that especially at the end of book 5, JKR made her look more helpless and stupid than she probably really is. I didn't ever want to excuse her, like for example write about her tragic past or the way that her family could have forced this on her; I wanted to make her responsible for it somehow because I know she is. This is what resulted from that desire, and that first sentence :)

Thanks so much for the review, I appreciate it, and I love me some of your writing as well so it's double-meaningful.

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