Category Archives: Jane Austen

Thoughts On the New Emma Trailer

In Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma, the novel’s titular heroine, Emma Woodhouse is introduced as “handsome, rich and clever”. She thinks that she knows the ways of the world, especially when it comes to love and marriage. Thinks is the keyword in the sentence.

The latest film iteration of this beloved novel will be released into theaters in February. Stepping into the well-worn shoes of Miss Woodhouse is Anya Taylor-Joy. Starring opposite her as George Knightley, Emma’s neighbor/verbal sparring partner is Johnny Flynn.

This is one movie that I am looking forward to seeing. Austen’s comedy of manners is more than the story of who will hook up and when they will hook up. It is the story of a young woman who learns that she does not know everything, but it is written in such a way that the reader does not hate Emma.

I hope that this version will make Jane Austen proud.

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defending mansfield park: a series of rebuttals

She read my mind. It’s about time that Fanny Price was appreciated.

coffee, classics, & craziness

Image result for mansfield park book cover(source)

I recently reread Mansfield Park for the first time since 2016 and found that many of my thoughts about the novel had changed.  I’ve always liked it more than most other Austenites do (not trying to sound prideful or anything – it’s just the way my tastes go) but I found myself enjoying it even more this time around.  I feel as though I’ve matured into it; it’s become a novel that speaks to me even more than it entertains. 

I wanted to write a post defending Mansfield Park from some of its usual criticisms, while sharing why I love it as much as I do.  It was hard to figure out a format though because Mansfield Park is such a dense read – there’s so much to discuss!  I ended up deciding to list several of the most common complaints leveled against the book and its characters and…

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A Life of My Own Book Review

Writing about your own life requires introspection, honesty and the ability to examine what you have or have not accomplished.

Claire Tomalin is known as the author of quite a few successful biographies. Her new book, A Life of My Own, is her autobiography. Born in 1933 to a French academic father and an English musician mother, Tomalin used books and reading as an escape hatch from her tumultuous and painful life. As a child, she watched as her parent’s marriage crumble.

In her adult years, her own marriage was far from picture perfect. Her late first husband was not exactly loyal to his wife or his vows. Her son was born disabled and she lost one of her daughters to suicide. But she was able to maintain a respected literary career and find love again, even after her disastrous first marriage.

I have to be honest. I love Ms. Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen. It is brilliant and as perfect as a biography can get. However, I found this book to be on the boring side. I should have been inspired by how she overcame what stood in her way. But I wasn’t.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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North and South Book Review

Love at first sight is cheesy, predictable and boring. Hate at first sight is fun, interesting and when done well, has the ability to suck a reader or viewer into the story.

Elizabeth Gaskell‘s 1854 novel, North and South, starts with the standard hate at first sight narrative with issues of politics, wealth and worker’s rights thrown in. Margaret Hale lives a comfortable life with her parents in the south of England. When her father is forced to leave the Church because of a disagreement with his bosses, the Hales move to Milton, a town in the north of England.

While Mr. Hale is employed as a tutor to the mill owner John Thornton, Margaret begins to explore. She is quickly disgusted by the poverty, the dirt, the grime and an obvious distinction between the mill owners and the mill workers. She is also disgusted by her father’s pupil, who she believes to be cold and emotionless.

Then Mr. Thornton proposes marriage. The battle of misunderstood messages, a polar opposite world view and the fight to hide their mutual attraction begins.

Though this book is set in the mold of Pride and Prejudice, Gaskell takes it to another level. She is telling the story of the working class in 19th century mill and factory communities that often seen and not heard in these kind of stories. I have seen the miniseries, but up until recently, I had not read the book. I loved the chemistry between the lead characters and the brilliant way that the author highlights the real issues of working class characters.

I recommend it.

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The Song of the Jade Lily Book Review

Jane Austen once wrote the following about friendship:

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

The new book, The Song of the Jade Lily, by Kirsty Manning is about the power of friendship during difficult times. The book is set in two different eras. In 1939 Shanghai, native born Li and Jewish refugee Romy are best friends. Like millions of others across the world, the girls are unaware that the coming war will forever change their lives and their friendship.

In 2016, Romy’s granddaughter Alexandra leaves London with a broken heart and takes refuge in her grandparent’s home in Australia. Her grandfather is dying and the secrets of her grandparent’s past are slowly being revealed.

After her grandfather passes away, Alexandra moves to Shanghai for work. But she is also curious to see if the city can reveal the secrets of her family’s past. What she discovers will finally reveal what has been kept locked away for decades.

This book is amazing. Ms. Manning tells the story of friendship that remains strong, even when war threatens to tear the friendship apart. She also tells the story of Shanghai, the only port that would take Jewish refugees who could not obtain visas. It is a narrative that in the overall Holocaust narrative, that does get the spotlight that it should.

I recommend it.

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The Jane Austen Society Book Review

Today, Jane Austen is everywhere. 200 years after her passing, she is one of those authors who is as popular as an author whose book is on the New York Times Best Seller list.

But it was not always this way. It is thanks to the original members of the Jane Austen Society that Jane Austen is alive and well in our culture.

Coming out next Spring, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner tells the story of the founding of the Jane Austen Society. Just after World War II, Chawton, the village where Austen wrote and/or revised her six novels is a sleepy little English town. There is a trickle of visitors to Chawton House, the ancestral home of Jane’s older brother, Edward Austen Knight, but not enough to call it a tourist attraction.

Through their love of their local celebrity, the original members of the Jane Austen Society are able to preserve the memory of Austen’s name and work for generations to come.

I really liked this book. Though the characters are fiction, they embody why Jane Austen is still one of the most popular authors today. The characters in this book are all different, but what brings them together is the love of Austen and the beloved fictional worlds that she created.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Ayesha at Last Book Review

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most well known novel, is more than story of hate turning to love. It is the story of seeing someone beyond the initial impression that one has of a new acquaintance.

Uzma Jalaluddin’s new Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Ayesha at Last, is set in Toronto’s Muslim community. Ayesha has a dream of being a poet. But the reality of paying her wealthy uncle back forces her to earn her bread as a teacher. At the age of 27, Ayesha is confronted by the fact that she is single, especially when she is compared to her younger cousin Hafsa. Hafsa is on track to reject nearly 100 prospective spouses and is proud of it.

Then Ayesha meets Khalid. Khalid is the traditional type who believes in arranged marriages, in addition to being socially awkward. Though Ayesha finds him physically attractive, she is repelled by his cold personality and his adherence to the strict interpretation of their mutual religion.

When it is announced that Khalid and Hafsa are engaged, Ayesha is forced to confront her own feelings and how she sees both Khalid and her own family. As she goes on this emotional journey, Ayesha begins to see Khalid, her family and herself in a different light entirely.

I’ve read many Pride and Prejudice adaptations. This book is one of the best adaptations I have ever read. The author holds true to the original work while fitting it to the world she knows. It was funny, it was charming and it made me think. Ms. Jalaluddin opens the door to a world and a community that many of us would see only within a stereotypical light. She also writes head on about racism in a way that hits the reader over the head without requiring an academic style lecture or a dry news story.

If I had to pick my favorite aspect of this novel, it would be that the reader is in Khalid’s head. In the cannon Pride and Prejudice, the reader is in Elizabeth Bennet’s head. We only see Mr. Darcy through her eyes. In seeing the world through Khalid’s eyes, the reader not only understand his perspective, we understand his motives and his desires. This choice by the author adds another layer to the novel and is one of the reasons why I think it stands out as one of the best Pride and Prejudice adaptations to hit the market.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Jane Austen: Ordinary in Her Time and Extraordinary in Our Time

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.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition Review

The title of the Duke of Devonshire and his family holding, Chatsworth House, is one of the most revered and awe inspiring aristocratic country houses in all of England.

The new exhibit, Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition, is a showcase of 500 years of contemporary art that the members of the Cavendish family have collected and owned for generations.

Containing multi-media, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, clothing, furniture and drawings, the exhibit shows the respect and appreciation that this family had and still has for art.

The exhibit is different among exhibits in New York City, but it is worth a visit. It appeals (at least from my perspective) to art lovers, to history lovers and someone who is looking for something new and different to see.

There is a nod to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, which was partially filmed at Chatsworth.

I recommend it.

Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition will be at Sothebys until September 18th. It is free and open to the public. Check the website for schedule and location.

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The Monk Book Review

Love (or lust, couched as love), can change us in unexpected ways. Add in religion to the mix and trouble is likely to be on the horizon.

In the 1796 novel, The Monk, by Matthew Lewis, is set in Madrid. Ambrosio, the Abbot of a Capuchin monastery is known his community as a pious, respectable and chaste man. That is, until he meets a teenage girl who gets the snake out the cage. Lust and desire for this girl takes over, which leads to rape, murder and a whole host of unsavory activities.

Jane Austen fans, especially those who have read Northanger Abbey, will surely be familiar with this book as Austen satirizes The Monk and other Gothic fiction that was popular in her day.

I will say that The Monk is not an easy read for modern readers. It was published in the style that was standard for the genre and the period. However, I found myself lost in the story and I almost put it down. That being said, there are underlying themes and narratives which still resonate today, which I suppose is one of the reasons why we keep reading this book.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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