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Jane Austen at Home – Lucy Worsley

I pre-ordered this and have been waiting and waiting and finally it arrived.

Here is the blurb …

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

This is (currently) my favourite biography – easy to read, insightful (and the cover is beautiful). I have read several biographies and you would think there would be nothing new to say, but each author interprets things differently or writes from a different perspective. In this case, Worsley uses each of Austen’s homes as her starting off point. I learnt new things – for example, Mr Austen might have died from malaria.

If you are interested, you can watch this …

More reviews …

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jane-austen-at-home-by-lucy-worsley-and-the-genius-of-jane-austen-by-paula-byrne-wp7rvt5dl

Book Review: Jane Austen At Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley

First Impressions – Charlie Lovett

I felt a bit of trepidation about reading this one – I have been burned before (sometimes I even wonder if we are reading the same novels to start with!), however, this one is a pleasant surprise.

Here is the blurb …

A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale.

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

It is written in two different times – modern day and 1796 – one with Austen as the heroine and one with Sophie. It is a mystery (who is Richard Mansfield? and who can Sophie trust?), romance and historical fiction all rolled into one. It has a very interesting premise, which I won’t spoil for you, that I found to be plausible. The writing was lovely and swapped easily between the two time periods. My main issues were with plot – the villain was a tad too obvious and Jane Austen attended a funeral (women didn’t attend funerals in her day – pedantic I know).

It is an enjoyable to read and makes me want to read Pride and Prejudice again (not to mention Agatha Christie and several other novels mentioned in the text). It is a book for book lovers as well as Austen fans and would make a great movie.

More reviews

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett – A Review

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-first-impressions-by-charlie-lovett/2014/12/02/9e32ef4c-7038-11e4-8808-afaa1e3a33ef_story.html?utm_term=.f05f2da7025f

Female Maturity from Jane Austen to Margaret Atwood – Michael Giffen

I bought this at the Jane Austen conference in Canberra two years ago and have only just got to reading it.

Here is the blurb …

This book proposes a relationship between the novel that explores the heroine’s maturity (bildungsroman) and the spirit of her age (zeitgeist). Put another way, how an author of bildungsroman defines and measures maturity, and the process through which her heroine matures, changes between the neoclassical, romantic, realist, naturalist, modernist, and postmodernist periods, and continues to change in the post-postmodernist period. In demonstrating this proposal, Michael Giffin considers the trajectory bildungsroman has made during the 19th and 20th century, with reference to Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”, Henry Handel Richardson’s “The Getting of Wisdom”, Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell”, Muriel Spark’s “Robinson”, and Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace” (30,000 words).

It is actually very easy to read – each author has a chapter devoted to them, their novel is summarised and then Giffen makes his argument about the zeitgeist and bildungsroman, which essentially boils down to the zeitgeist of the time in which the author is writing affects the trajectory of the hero.

It was fascinating and made me want to read the novels again – I kept asking myself why I hadn’t noticed whatever point it was Giffen was making. At first I thought it might be too religious for me, but it wasn’t. Religion was certainly part of Bronte and Austen’s times (and even Eliot’s)  and therefore does need to be considered in this context, but I wouldn’t describe this book as religious.

Here is a link to the author’s website and an article her wrote on Emma.

Pride and Prejudice 1995

Pride and Prejudice 1995

I have been watching Pride and Prejudice while knitting. This might be my favourite P&P adaptation.

Jane Austen, the secret radical – Helena Kelly

I can’t remember where I first heard of this (or when), but, of course, I wanted to read it. Then there was a scathing review by John Mullan and I had second thoughts, but I had already purchased a copy by then.

Here is the blurb …

A brilliant, illuminating reassessment of the life and work of Jane Austen that makes clear how Austen has been misread for the past two centuries and that shows us how she intended her books to be read, revealing, as well, how subversive and daring–how truly radical–a writer she was.
In this fascinating, revelatory work, Helena Kelly–dazzling Jane Austen authority–looks past the grand houses, the pretty young women, past the demure drawing room dramas and witty commentary on the narrow social worlds of her time that became the hallmark of Austen’s work to bring to light the serious, ambitious, deeply subversive nature of this beloved writer. Kelly illuminates the radical subjects–slavery, poverty, feminism, the Church, evolution, among them–considered treasonous at the time, that Austen deftly explored in the six novels that have come to embody an age. The author reveals just how in the novels we find the real Jane Austen: a clever, clear-sighted woman “of information,” fully aware of what was going on in the world and sure about what she thought of it. We see a writer who understood that the novel–until then seen as mindless “trash”–could be a great art form and who, perhaps more than any other writer up to that time, imbued it with its particular greatness.

Ms Kelly has a warning at the end of chapter 1

If you want to stay with the novels and the Jane Austen you already know, then you should stop reading now.

and I think for many people that is good advice.

There is an introductory chapter, a chapter on each of the 6 novels and a concluding chapter. Each chapter begins with an imaginative excursion into Austen’s life – I must admit these sections annoyed me. The rest of the chapter is devoted to convincing the reader of Austen’s hidden meanings. Ms Kelly has an accessible style – no dense academic jargon – and reading this book made me want to read Austen again (surely a good thing).

Some of her theories I agreed with (Mrs Tilney dying from a miscarriage or ‘a disasterously mismanaged early labour’) and others I didn’t (Mr Knightley is my favourite hero, so I might be biased, but I refuse to believe he married Emma for her money and land).

Some of her arguments were of the type A relates to B, B relates to C, so A relates to C. It is impossible to know what Austen was thinking, so people need to decide if a series of coincidences are in fact coincidences or a code that Austen was using that contemporary readers would comprehend (do any contemporary reviewers comment on this stuff?). It reminds me of other Jane Austen conspiracy theorists, however, Ms Kelly has written her book and put her ideas out in the world and I am glad that I read it even if I didn’t agree with everything.

Another review …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/30/jane-austen-secret-radical-review-helena-kelly-sublime-literary-detective-work

 

 

Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

This is the fourth novel of the Austen Project following Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, Northanger Abbey by Val Mc Dermid and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. I had high hopes for this one – how could I not? Curtis Sittenfeld was the selected author.

Here is the blurb …

From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today

I was concerned to see a quote by Mark Twain at the start – did Ms Sittenfeld not know the antipathy Twain had for Austen?

This

To me his prose is unreadable — like Jane Austin’s [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.

and this

Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

And then I read the rest and realised Ms Sittenfeld doesn’t like Austen and this is her revenge. I am sure she is laughing at Austen fans all of the way to the bank.

This Lizzie is rude not witty (and doesn’t appear to be overly bright) and the crisis (the equivalent of Lydia running with Wickham) is awful and such a non-crisis. Spoiler alert! I don’t understand how running away with a transgender man called Ham can be at all morally reprehensible. The Lydia in the original would have been cast out of society if Mr Darcy had not intervened. In this one, Mr Darcy reconciles Mrs Bennet to the elopement by describing Ham as having a ‘birth defect’.

Kate Fenton’s Lions and Licorice (published as Vanity and Vexation in the US) is a much better rewrite as is Pride and Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/21/eligible-curtist-sittenfeld-review-modern-retelling-pride-and-prejudice-novel

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/06cb9a3c-fcaa-11e5-b5f5-070dca6d0a0d.html

I have moved on to Sense and Sensibility. I forgot that I had a copy of the 1971 Sense and Sensibility, so I started with the 1981 version.

Sense and Sensibility 1981

Sense and Sensibility 1981

Like all of these older adaptations, it is not particularly beautiful, but this one at least has outdoor scenes. It consists of 7 episodes – each 30 minutes long – and it is quite faithful to the novel (they do get rid of Margaret Dashwood).

Marianne (left) and Elinor

Marianne (left) and Elinor

I thought Irene Richard’s Elinor was great, but Tracy Childs over-enunciated as Marianne (she had obviously had elocution lessons).

Edward Ferras

Edward Ferras

MrWill

Mr Willoughby

Colonel Brandon

Colonel Brandon

Robert Swann was a great Colonel Brandon, but Alan Rickman is always going to be the definitive Colonel Brandon.

Lucy Steele

Lucy Steele

Mrs John Dashwood (on learning of Lucy's engagement to Edward)

Mrs John Dashwood (on learning of Lucy’s engagement to Edward)

This was a good adaptation, but there is better available now. It is probably only for the die-hard Jane Austen fans.

More reviews …

Sense and Sensibility 1981 – A Review

http://felicelog.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/sense-and-sensibility-1981-review.html

Northanger Abbey 2007

Northanger Abbey 2007

Northanger Abbey 2007

I continue on my Jane Austen Adaptation Festival with the latest (2007) version of Northanger Abbey – I do prefer this one to the 1987 version. First, it has high production values – beautiful to look at, secondly Andrew Davies is the screenwriter and he always manages to be reasonably faithful to the novel, but ramps up the sexual tension a bit (Mr Darcy diving into the lake?).

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Henry Tilney (JJ Field)

Henry Tilney (J J Feild)

Catherine and Mrs Allen

Catherine and Mrs Allen

One of the Gothic Dream Sequences

One of the Gothic Dream Sequences

Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan)

Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan)

Miss Tilney

Miss Tilney

Mr Thorpe

Mr Thorpe

general_tilney

General Tilney

See what I mean

See what I mean about it being a bit ‘sexed up’ – Isabella wondering if her and Captain Tilney are now engaged.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation – even the extra bits added by Andrew Davies – I thought it was well cast (the two leads in particular). It is short (93 minutes), but manages to get across all of the important plot points.

More reviews …

Do you only ask what I can be expected to tell? A review of Northanger Abbey 2007

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/04/06/the-three-northanger-abbey-films/  – this one is worth reading!

 

Jane of Green Gables

Jane_Gables

It is always interesting what you find when clicking links indiscriminately while browsing the internet.

I came across this interesting article Jane of Green Gables: L. M Montgomery’s Reworking of Austen’s Legacy by Miriam Rheingold Fuller, which links my two favourite authors.

I found this article via Sarah Emsley and I find her through the janeites email list ( it is worth being on the list for all of the controversy about shadow stories and conspiracies).

I have set my self the task of watching the adaptations in the order Austen wrote the novels :- Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. I have several versions of each so this should keep me busy for sometime.

First up this version of Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey BBC 1987

Northanger Abbey BBC 1987

This one has Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland and Peter Firth as Henry Tilney. This film is an interesting mix – period costumes and settings, but modern music.

It is quite faithful to the story – except for this character

New Character

New Character

who is General Tilney’s ‘friend’ – she apparently gives him all of the gossip.

Catherine Morland - looking very fetching

Catherine Morland – looking very fetching

Henry Tilney

Henry Tilney

Isabella Thorpe (on the left)

Isabella Thorpe (on the left)

John Thorpe

John Thorpe – suitably repulsive

Miss Tilney

Miss Tilney

Colonel Tilney

General Tilney

Although this adaptation is a bit dated (and a bit strange at times), it is still worth watching.

More reviews …

Jane Austen Centre

The Three Northanger Abbey films

 

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