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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

 

A Portrait of Jane Austen - David Cecil

A Portrait of Jane Austen – David Cecil

A number of Jane Austen related books was donated to my Jane Austen group (mine had a ticket – number 100 – to an ‘At Home’ for the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and the Officers of the Order of the Bath). I had heard of this book, but never came across it, so took the opportunity to snap it up for $2.

Here’s the blurb …

The late 18th century world in which Jane Austen lived was one that combined good sense, elegant manners, intelligence and piety with a liberal dash of spirited fun. Drawing on Jane Austen’s letters, novels, and other people’s memories of her, David Cecil sets out to “reconstruct and depict her living personality and to explore it in relation to her art”. The portrait that emerges is of a clear-sighted, observant, strong-minded woman whose witty and ironic representation of her own society has delighted millions of readers for centuries.

Not much is known about Jane Austen’s life and what little is known is not full of excitement and incident, so a bit of authorial poetic license is to be expected. This biography was first published in 1978 and part of the joy in reading it is to compare it to later biographies – this one definitely falls into the ‘Aunt Jane’ category. David Cecil, in his Foreward, tells us he is trying ‘to reconstruct and depict her living personality and explore its relationship to her art’.  It is split into three parts – Part 1 (five chapters – The Family, Early Years, Steventon Days, Bath and Southampton), Part 2 (two chapters – Life at Chawton and Fulfilment) and Part 3 (two chapters – Growing Fame and The End). In each section he writes what is known about Jane Austen from various sources and then interpolates her behaviour and reasons for her behaviour (whether you agree or not will depend on your own vision of Jane Austen). David Cecil has a lovely writing style – no convoluted academic sentences – I particularly enjoyed the section where he described the 18th century mind as apposed to the 19th century mind and how Jane Austen 18th century ideas and religion influenced her writing.

Although there is nothing new to be learnt about the facts of her life each biographer brings their own interpretation and therefore something new to the field of Austen studies.

 

 

Bitch in a Bonnet - Robert Rodi

Bitch in a Bonnet – Robert Rodi

I have to say this blog is in a decline a bit like Mrs Bennet after Lydia runs off with Wickham. Time, content and motivation are all my problems. Anyway, Bitch in a Bonnet, was recommended by one of the members of my Jane Austen group – I bought the Kindle version.

Here’s the blurb …

Novelist Rodi (Fag Hag, The Sugarman Bootlegs) launches a broadside against the depiction of Jane Austen as a “a woman’s writer…quaint and darling, doe-eyed and demure, parochial if not pastoral, and dizzily, swooningly romantic — the inventor and mother goddess of ‘chick lit.’” Instead he sees her as “a sly subversive, a clear-eyed social Darwinist, and the most unsparing satirist of her century… She takes sharp, swift swipes at the social structure and leaves it, not lethally wounded, but shorn of it prettifying garb, its flabby flesh exposed in all its naked grossness. And then she laughs.” In this volume, which collects and amplifies two-and-a-half years’ worth of blog entries, he combs through the first three novels in Austen’s canon — Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park — with the aim of charting her growth as both a novelist and a humorist, and of shattering the notion that she’s a romantic of any kind (“Weddings bore her, and the unrelenting vulgarity of our modern wedding industry — which strives to turn each marriage ceremony into the kind of blockbuster apotheosis that makes grand opera look like a campfire sing along — would appall her into derisive laughter”).
“Hilarious…Rodi’s title is a tribute. He’s angry that the Austen craze has defanged a novelist who’s ‘wicked, arch, and utterly merciless. She skewers the pompous, the pious, and the libidinous with the animal glee of a natural-born sadist’…Like Rodi, I believe Austen deserves to join the grand pantheon of gadflies: Voltaire and Swift, Twain and Mencken.” Lev Raphael, The Huffington Post.

I loved this book – it was like chatting to a rather acerbic friend about Austen. Although, I do disagree with his take on Fanny Price (I have a soft spot for Miss Price) I thought the rest was excellent – funny, insightful and easy to read. What’s more it made me want to go back and read the books again (surely that is the highest praise for a book on Austen?). I’ve bought the second volume and will get onto it as soon as I’ve cleared some of my (enormous) to be read pile.

If you are an Austen fan, then you will definitely enjoy this book (particularly if like me you think most people who write sequels etc have completely missed the point – they’re not romances people!).

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/bitch-in-a-bonnet-by-robert-rodi/

 

 

Sense and Spontaneity

Sense and Spontaneity - Esther Longhurst and Jessica Messenger

Sense and Spontaneity – Esther Longhurst and Jessica Messenger

I saw the last performance of Sense and Spontaneity (I know no good if you then write a review, but now I don’t feel so bad about taking so long to write this review!)

This show was hilarious – the two actors were brilliant (so quick witted).  With a series of hats and bonnets they created various different characters – you know a Miss Bates, a Mr Darcy, a Mr Collins, etc. There was much tea drinking and Austen-like dialogue. I would say the plot and action owes more to Austen film adaptations than the novels, but who doesn’t love an Austen adaptation? This was a fast-paced romp, which the actors seemed to enjoy as much as the audience and I would definitely see it again (well a different version as it is improvisation after all).

Jane Austen's Country Life -

Jane Austen’s Country Life -Deirdre Le Faye

This is a beautiful book – thick pages and stunning illustrations. It is worth owning for the illustrations.

Here is the blurb …

Jane Austen lived for nearly all her life in two Hampshire villages: for 25 years in her birthplace of Steventon, and then for the last 8 years of her life in Chawton, during which she wrote and published her great novels. While there are plenty of books describing her periods of urban life in Bath, Southampton and London, and the summer holidays in Lyme Regis and other West Country seaside resorts, no book has given consideration to the rural background of her life. Her father was not only the rector of Steventon but a farmer there as well, managing a property of some 200 acres. Her brother Edward, in addition, was a large landowner, holding the three estates of Godmersham in Kent, Steventon and Chawton in Hampshire. Agriculture, in all its aspects, was even more important to Jane than clerical life or the naval careers of her younger brothers. This book fills a gap in the Austen family background, discussing the state of agriculture in general in the south of England during the wartime, conditions which lasted for most of Jane Austen’s life, and considering in particular the villages and their inhabitants, the weather conditions, field crops, farm and domestic animals, and the Austens’ household economy and rural way of life. Apart from these obvious sources, there are other Austen family manuscripts, as yet unpublished, which provide particular and unique information. Richly illustrated with contemporary depictions of country folk, landscapes and animals, Jane Austen’s Country Life conjures up a world which has vanished more than the familiar regency townscapes of Bath or London, but which is no less important to an understanding of this most treasured writer’s life and work.

There are seven chapters – Hampshire (as I mentioned in a previous post, I needed a map to understand the relationships between the places), A Year in the Country Side, The Hardships and Pleasures of Rural Life, Crops, Livestock and Pleasure-Grounds, Urban Interlude and Life at Godmersham and Chawton. This isn’t an academic book it is really to help a modern audience understand and appreciate life in Austen’s time. For example, peas at Christmas is quite an extravagance! Not something that I had thought about, but it reveals information about the characters that a contemporary reader would appreciate.

It was a very easy read and makes me want to go back and read Austen’s novels again taking notice of the time of year, the weather and the food.

More reviews …

http://austenprose.com/2014/08/28/jane-austens-country-life-uncovering-the-rural-backdrop-to-her-life-her-letters-and-her-novels-by-deirdre-le-faye-a-review/

http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?library_blog=jane-austens-country-life-book-review-by-mary-besada

2014 in Review

2014 in Review

2014 in Review

It is summer holidays here – which means super hot weather and school holidays – so not a lot of time to get anything done.

For me the highlights of last year were Val McDermid’s remake of Northanger Abbey (much more successful than either Emma or Sense and Sensibilityand Austenland  – I know other people hated this, but I thought it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously.

Currently I am reading Deidre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Country Life – this is a beautiful book, but I wish there was a map rather than a wordy description of where things are in relation to Steventon. For example,

To the west of the lane running from Steventon to Dean was the village of Ashe …

A map, even a very simple one, would make it all so much simpler.

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