Most of us are ordinary in our day to day lives. We go about our business until the day when we shuffle off this mortal coil.
During her lifetime, Jane Austen was an ordinary woman. But in our lifetimes, she is considered to be extraordinary. She is of the creators of the modern novel, a proto-feminist, a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind and an all around bad-ass.
Tomorrow is the 202th anniversary of her passing. She died at the young age of 41, with only four published books to her name and a modest success as a writer. Every time I read one of her books, I find myself asking what if she had lived a little longer or even into old age? What books and characters might she have introduced to the world?
Wherever she is, I hope that she is looking down on us and smiling, knowing that her name will live on for eternity.
Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen‘s heroine in the aptly title novel Emma, is introduced as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich”. In her world, Emma Woodhouse is the queen bee. She thinks that she knows everything about everything. Emma Woodhouse is in for a shock.
In 2013, the YouTube web series,Emma Approved (2013-2018) transferred the world of Emma from regency era England to modern-day. Emma Woodhouse (Joanna Sotomura) is a lifestyle coach and matchmaker. She is completely confident that she can help her clients to achieve their personal and business goals. Her long time friend and business partner Alex Knightley (Brent Bailey) is tries to burst Emma’s bubble as gently as he can, with a hint of sarcasm.
Emma Approved was the follow-up to the successful Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Though it was not as well received as LBD, I enjoyed Emma Approved with the same level of enthusiasm that I did LBD. Last year, Emma Approved came back for a short revival, which to my mind was just as enjoyable as the original series.
Not only did I appreciate the color blind casting, I personally think that it’s adorable that the two lead actors are together IRL.
When it comes to creating well written fanfiction, a good writer knows how to balance their narrative and their voice with the narrative and voice of the original work.
Christina Boyd’s new Jane Austen inspired anthology, Rational Creatures, was published back in October. Containing 16 new stories from well-respected JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction) writers, the focus of the stories of Austen’s female characters. The question that each story asks is if the heroines are the standard romantic heroines or strong, capable women who are able stand on their two feet in spite of the era that they live in?
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Boyd for the last few years, I enjoyed her previous anthologies, The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. This book is well written and an easy read. I would caution, however, that this book is not for the newbie Jane Austen fan. It requires a level of knowledge that comes with multiple readings of Austen’s work and a deep knowledge of the fictional worlds that she created.
On this day, in 1775, a young lady entered this world. The circumstances and the family she was born into did not give any hint as to what she would become as an adult. Her father was a man of the cloth, her mother had successfully brought into the world six previous children and would bring one more into the world after her. In infancy, she was known as Jenny.
On the surface, Austen wrote love stories. But a deeper dive reveals that she was an astute observer of her world. Weaving her observations into her six completed novels, her books were much more than the standard boy meets girl, boy gets girl narrative. She wrote about politics, she was a proto-feminist and she mocked/revealed the inconsistencies that were part of the world she knew.
Most of all, she inspired and continues to inspire female writers not just to write, but to question the inconsistencies of their own worlds.
Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley have known each other their entire lives. They are even related, due to the marriage of his younger brother and her elder sister. Emma is described as handsome, rich and clever in the opening passage of the novel. She is the queen of her world and she thinks that she knows it all at the age of twenty-one. Her newest enterprise is playing matchmaker, an endeavor that may not end as neatly as she predicts it to be. George Knightley is her neighbor and sixteen years her senior. He tries to guide her in the right direction, but Emma rebuffs his guidance.
Neither knows that the other has the hots for each other. Will they get together or will their differing views of the world keep them apart?
I’m going to put it out there, because there is no other way to say it. It’s Emma with sex scenes. The thing to remember about Jane Austen is that she knew how to slip in sexual tension between her romantic leads without being obvious. When it comes to modern writers adding the sex scenes, it has to feel organic, especially when the writer decide to stay in the early 19th century instead of adapting the story in a more modern era. Ms. Persell succeeds at organically adding the sex scenes without causing a major disruption to the narrative. My only criticism is that there were sections of the novel where she could have added additional sex scenes instead of keeping those specific sections as Jane Austen wrote them.
But overall, it’s not only one of the better published fanfictions that I’ve read.
Reboots of 80’s and 90’s classics are the rage these days. Television and movie executives are banking on the nostalgia factor to bring in audiences.
The latest reboot that will soon be coming to the movie theater is Clueless.
While details of the production and casting have not be released, my initial reaction can be explained in one word: why?
Clueless is perfection in a film. Amy Heckerling’s screenplay is quotable, incredibly funny and does not need a reboot. Though Emma (like all Jane Austen novels) can be easily transported to another era and time period, in the wrong hands any Jane Austen reboot can come off as just plain awful and heretical to some Jane Austen fans.
Until we know more about this upcoming reboot, I remain skeptical. I loved Clueless when it premiered in 1995, that love has not died and will probably never die. I just hope that this reboot, whenever it hits theaters, does not destroy the reputation of it’s predecessor.
One of my favorite aspects when it comes to Jane Austen’s novels is that her stories still ring true to readers in the early 21st century as much as they did in early 19th century. This has led to the explosion of Jane Austen fanfiction, for better or for worse.
In 2016, Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love, was published. Each of her six completed novels is condensed into modern short stories that are set in and around summertime and summer vacation. I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I felt like the writers achieved the delicate balance of being true to Jane’s novels while letting the modern version of the characters shine.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is the classic middle child. She is neither beautiful like Jane, witty like Lizzie or outrageous like Kitty and Lydia. Like her sisters, she knows that she must marry well to survive, but without looks or fortune, she knows that the chances of marrying well, if at all are slim to none.
This is the premise of the new novel, Mary B: A Novel: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice.Written by Katherine J. Chen, the book tells Mary’s story before, during and after the events in Pride and Prejudice. As she watches three of her sisters marry, Mary knows that she will forever be the spinster sister dependent on others for her needs. Her only solace is her books and the story in her head that she begins to write.
Then life begins to imitate art and Mary’s voice as a smart and independent woman begins to shine through.
I had high expectations for this book. In terms of Pride and Prejudice characters, Mary is often given the short shrift. It was nice to hear her perspective on the world. However, I had two points of contention that I have no choice but to bring up. The first is that there was language and certain phrasing that was too modern for Georgian England. The second was Colonel Fitzwilliam. Without giving away the plot, I felt like his narrative and specific character arc did not ring true when compared to how he was portrayed in the original novel. In Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Fitzwilliam is outgoing and jovial. His cousin, Mr. Darcy, is perceived in a good chunk of the novel as surely and anti-social. In this book, Colonel Fitzwilliam is closer to Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Churchill in Emma than he is to how Jane Austen introduced us to in Pride and Prejudice.
In her lifetime, she published four completed novels: Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice, Mansfield Park And Emma. Persuasion, her last completed novel and Northanger Abbey, her first completed novel were published posthumously.
I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of her pending immortality. Though her mortal bones have long since returned to the Earth, her name lives on. She is as famous as any contemporary author. Her books are read for pleasure and for academic purposes. There have been more than a few film, television and stage adaptations of her works (some which are better than others) and while many modern authors have tried to replicate Jane’s style as a writer, only a handful have succeeded in doing so.
Her work lives on because they still speak to us 200 years later. Above all else, she wrote about the human condition and the ordinary experiences that we all live through.
Jane Austen and her novels continues to be read and discussed for good reason.
Jenny Davidson’s new non fiction book, Reading Jane Austen, basically explains not only why her novels are timeless, but why we are still reading them 200 years later. While talking about the formal structure of the novels and how Austen created new techniques to develop her narrative and her characters, Ms. Davidson also talks about themes such as the rules of society and how women were seen treated.
This book is well written and enjoyable to read. I will however warn that it meanders towards academic writing at several points and new Janeites may not understand the writing as well as Janeites who are well versed in Jane’s novels.