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Tag Archives: Jane Austen

What to do this weekend: watch the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

I’m keeping this short and sweet, because I didn’t think to plan ahead. This is my favorite version of Pride and Prejudice.  I think that, in many ways, it is the definitive version. I found the 2005 movie… let’s say “disappointing”. If you want a version that celebrates Jane Austen’s witty writing and the regency esthetic,  this is the one for you.

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I was so happy when I walked into a Blockbuster on my 20th birthday and saw this on sale. It makes me feel sad for the younger generation, who will never know that pleasure.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Wednesday: The Jane Austen Handbook, by Margaret Sullivan

Aka, my favorite read of the week. A friend of mind grabbed this book for me at the library, and I might just pick up a copy for myself, because I really, really liked it.

Margaret Sullivan evaluates the complete work of Jane Austen, and mines it for information about the daily of the Georgian country gentry, supplemented by other material. Some of the information sounded more like a satire of Austen then like genuine reconstruction of the world of Austen. (The “how to indicate interest in a gentleman without seeming forward” chapter, especially, was entirely pulled from Pride and Prejudice, outlining the techniques used by Caroline Bingley to attract Fitzwilliam Darcy.) And as I’m not a big fan of satire as a genre, that bugged me a little.

Still, overall, it was a very informative and enjoyable read.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Wednesday: Dear Mr Darcy, by Amanda Grange

Jane Austen has only completed six novels, seven if you include Lady Susan, which I guess a lot of people don’t because it’s not often included in the Complete Jane Austen collections, and is more often than not put with the incomplete, Sanditon and The Watsons. And while it may take some time to read all of Austen’s work (I only read Emma last summer, and Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon last December, and I still haven’t read the juvenilia) and the work that is there is very re-readable, most Janeites eventually turn to derivative fiction.

While there are almost as many different kinds of derivative work as there are authors writing them, most of the time they can be grouped in one of three categories; the alternate timeline (the prequels and sequels), the alternate universe (Butterfly Effect stories, modernization, supernatural elements, and so on) or the alternate point of view.

Dear Mr Darcy, however, doesn’t exactly fit in any of those categories. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in epistolary form. It’s extremely clever and well-written and the new characters created by Ms Grange (the original characters need someone to write TO, after all) feel like a natural addition to the story. I only have one real problem with this book: the letter from Mr Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, the one that takes most of chapter 35 and turns the story on its ear, is missing. How can you write Pride and Prejudice in epistolary form and not include the letter?!

This one glaring omission notwithstanding (and wow, that is actually a word, the English language is weird), it’s one of the best derivative Pride and Prejudice work out there, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s read P&P and wants more.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Wednesday: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I know, I know. What a cliché, right? A fan of Jane Austen who favors Pride and Prejudice over all her other novels. One would almost think that is it a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is a favorite of all Janeites. Not only that, but we all wish to be Miss Elizabeth Bennet and marry Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Well, in my case at least, that’s not quite right. It is true that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Austen novel. I have re-read it many times. And unlike my slightly manic and obsessive re-readings of Emma in January, I’m not trying to pick up clues about a story untold: I’m simply enjoying the narrative and the writing. I have also re-watched my favorite adaptations – the 1995 BBC one starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, starring Ashley Clements and Daniel Vincent Gordh – many times.

But I’m not Elizabeth Bennet, quick-witted and arrogant. I do not wish to marry Mr Darcy, proud and reserved. If anything, I am more like Mr Darcy, and would need an Elizabeth Bennet equivalent. (Or I could be an Elinor Dashwood waiting for my Edward Ferrars, or a Jane Fairfax waiting for my Frank Churchill. The great thing about reading all of Austen is that it’s easier to find an analogy that fits you.)

Speaking of adaptations, I’ve yet to see one that depicts the first meeting of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy in a way that truly reflect the book. To give a bit of context, they are at a dance, Elizabeth is sitting down due to a lack of partner, and Mr. Bingley walks up to his good friend Mr. Darcy, standing nearby, and proposes to introduce them, so that Mr. Darcy can invite her to dance.

“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Emphasis mine. Now, I could be wrong, but this is how I’m interpreting that scene.

Darcy isn’t an idiot, he knows that Elizabeth is close enough to hear what he says. And he stares at her until she stares back, before he tells Bingley she’s not good enough for him. This isn’t Lizzie hiding somewhere and overhearing his private conversation like in the 2005 movie version. (And oh, don’t even get me started on that version!) This is Darcy going out of his way to insult her; no wonder she won’t believe he’s in love with her!

And it’s part of what I really like about Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both begin the story believing that they are better then everybody else, and they both have to change to get their happy ending. That’s pretty rare. Usually, in romantic literature, you have one character who needs to change and evolve and learn, and the other is already perfect, or at least perfect for the character they are matched with. Pride and Prejudice doesn’t follow that pattern, and maybe that is why it has been such a success in the time of Austen, and why it remains such a success to this day.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Wednesday: Emma, by Jane Austen

We all know this, we always hear it: don’t judge or dismiss a book (or a movie, or a tv show, or a type of food) without even trying it, because you might be missing out on a future favorite.

The subject of today’s blog was my last experience in proving the saying right.

Up until last summer, I had absolutely no interest in reading Emma. What I knew of the book was that Clueless served as a modern adaptation of it, and that Jane Austen had described Emma as “a heroine whom no-one but myself could like”. While I enjoyed Clueless when I watched it, it is not and has never been a cult movie for me. So read the other Jane Austen novels (the complete ones, minus Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan) and figured that was well enough for me.

And it might have been, but in August, Bernie Sue and the team behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a modern, vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) and Welcome to Sanditon (a retelling of Sanditon starring Gigi Darcy of the LBD) announced their next project: Emma Approved. You’ll never guess which book it tackles.

Because I made a vow to myself to read the book before I watch an adaptation, whenever I can, and because I loved the LBD and Welcome to Sanditon so much and wanted to support the creators in their new endeavor, I read Emma. My expectations were pretty low, so it would have been hard not to meet them, and indeed, the book did meet my expectations, and even exceeded them, thanks to the character of Jane Fairfax and her secret romance with Frank Churchill. But even then, I figured: “okay, this was all right, thank God for Jane Fairfax,” and I was all ready to move on.

Only, I wanted to see more of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. I started scouring the Internet for fan-fiction  of these two. I found some, but I also found some distressing blog entries and comments. Some people were arguing that Frank Churchill was the villain of Emma, that he was no better then a Willoughby or a Wickham. “That can’t be right!” I thought. “Why are those people wishing a Willoughby/Wickham on my Jane Fairfax? Did I read the book wrong? Did I miss something?”

So I went back and read again, and I discovered the genius of Emma as a novel. Jane Austen may, arguably, have reached her peak with this novel. I’ve heard Emma described as a detective story, and that is exactly what it is. It works in the way of the best detective novels, with little clues carefully planted throughout the text for the reader to pick up and pick apart, with something new to be discovered with every re-read. I should know, I’ve re-read the whole book at least 6 times, and various parts of it, especially volumes 2 and 3, maybe twice that.

So the next time someone recommends a book and I hesitate, I hope I’ll remember Emma, and give it a go. And if there’s anyone out there who wants to argue with me about Frank Churchill being the villain of Emma, I say Pull out your book and I’ll pull out mine; we’re going to have a chat. Also, to the team of Emma Approved, you have just begun the Volume 2 arc, and we know what that means. I hope you do this story more justice then Hollywood, or the BBC, have ever done. I am worried, but I have faith in you.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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