Category Archives: Jane Austen

Mr. Malcolm’s List

The intrigue of love and romance never gets old.

One of the newest entries into this basic narrative is Mr. Malcolm’s List.

This short film, directed by Emma Holly Jones and written by Suzanne Allain (who also wrote the book of the same name) is absolutely brilliant. Written in the spirit of Jane Austen with a multi-cultural cast, this piece is sure to delight fans of Jane Austen and British Period Dramas.

Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) is the most eligible bachelor of the season. Miss Julia Thislethate (Gemma Chan) is sure that she is the future Mrs. Malcolm. But Mr. Malcolm has an extensive list of qualities that he is looking for in a wife. His friend, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen (whose character is nameless for the short film) is trying to tempt Mr. Malcolm into matrimony. Enter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), Julia’s friend. Julia plans to use Selina as revenge against Mr. Malcolm for his rejection of her suit, but in doing so, she may ruin her friend’s chance at happiness.

I adore this film. It has all of the hallmarks of a BPD (British Period Drama), with the biting satire of Jane Austen. But at the same time, but it feels entirely new. Not only do I love the color blind casting and the completely female production team, but I also love it is also going to be made into a feature length film.

There are only a handful of films where I gladly pay for the movie ticket well before the movie hits theaters. Mr. Malcolm’s List is one of these movies.

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Flashback Friday-Emma Approved (2013-2018)

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.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Flashback Friday-The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013)

Pride and Prejudice remains a favorite book of many a bookworms for multiple reasons. This love opens the door to new and different variations on Jane Austen‘s classic tale of class, money and will they/won’t they.

In 2012, Pride and Prejudice entered the digital world when The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013) premiered on YouTube. Told vlog style in 5 minute long episodes that were released every week, Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements) is a grad student living at home. When her sister Jane (Laura Spencer) starts hanging out with the new boy in town, medical student Bing Lee (Christopher Sean), Lizzie is forced into the presence of businessman William Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh), Bing’s best friend. 

Needless to say, love at first sight is hardly the way to describe the initial relationship between Lizzie and William.

I adored and still adore LBD. It was funny, it was charming, it was entertaining and it was enough cannon Pride and Prejudice to appeal to the most loyal fans.

I recommend it.

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By the Book: A Novel Book Review

Among the Janeite community, Persuasion regularly lands on the top spot or near the top spot when it comes to ranking Jane Austen‘s six published novels. The story of love, loss and second chances has resonated with readers for more than 200 years for a reason.

By the Book: A Novel was published last year.  Written by Julie Sonneborn, the novels follows the story of Anne Corey. Anne has a lot on her plate: a book to write to ensure tenure at the university where she is employed, her aging father whose health is fading and a new boyfriend who is her college’s the writer-in-residence. The last thing she wants or needs is her ex-fiance, Adam Martinez. Recently hired as the new President of her college, Adam’s presence is a reminder of what was and what may never be again.

Anne is trying to focus on what she needs to do, but Adam’s constant presence brings up old feelings. Will Anne and Adam have a second chance at love or is their relationship fated to be referred to as past tense?

I really enjoyed this novel. Ms. Sonneborn successfully marries Persuasion with the modern world. Anne Corey is still Anne Elliot and Adam Martinez is still Frederick Wentworth. From my perspective, the best thing about this book was that I knew what was coming in terms of the narrative, but I was still surprised by the end of the story.

I recommend it.

 

 

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Unmarriageable: A Novel Book Review

There is more to adapting a classic novel to the modern era. In theory, transferring the characters, narrative and setting from the original novel to a new novel sounds relatively easy. But the reality is that it is easier said than done.

Soniah Kamal’s new novel Unmarriageable: A Novel, was released last month. Based on Pride and Prejudice, the book is set in Pakistan. Alys and Jena Binat come from a family of five sisters. Both are in their early 30’s and neither are married, much to their mother’s chagrin. In their world, social status, connections and money play a role in where one lands on the social hierarchy. Once upon a time, the Binats were high up on the social hierarchy. But a family squabble has forced the Binats into the middle class.

At a wedding, the Binats are introduced to a pair of young men. Fahad “Bungles” Bengla takes an instant liking to Jena, while his best friend Valentine Darsee is quick to dismiss Alys. In response, she hates on him like her life depends on it. Will these two couples end up together?

I loved this book. It has the spirit of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, but it feels new and exciting. I appreciated that Ms. Kamal did not simply translate Pride and Prejudice from early 19th century England to modern-day Pakistan. She added new layers and expanded the characters in a way that did not feel like an utter destruction of the characters that Austen fans know and love. There is also an Easter egg in regards to Austen’s own life, but I will not tell you where it is in the novel. You will have to find it.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Thoughts On the Anniversary of the Publication of Pride and Prejudice

It has often been said that first impressions are lasting impressions, even if they do not tell the whole story of the person we have just met.

First Impressions was the initial title of Jane Austen‘s immortal classic, Pride and Prejudice.

Today is the 206th anniversary of the book’s initial publishing.

Elizabeth Bennet is far from the simpering, fainting “save me” heroine who is waiting for a version of prince charming to sweep her off her feet. She is lively, intelligent and not afraid to share her opinion. Unlike other women of the time, she is not going to just marry the first man who asks her because it is her only option in life. Marriage in her eyes is about compatibility and affection, not someone’s income or family connections.  But even with her strengths, she is thoroughly human and learns that judging someone based on a brief first impression is not the best way to figure out who someone is.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is equally imperfect. I have to admit that there are moments in the first few chapters when I just want to smack him or call him a very unladylike name. But the genius of the character is that as the book goes on, Elizabeth and the reader learns that Darcy is not a snob. He is responsible for many people’s happiness and security, especially his much younger sister. He also finds large parties and social gathering difficult to maneuver socially. There are some people for whom they would rather stay home than go to a party where they know almost no one.

The thing that strikes me every time that I read Pride and Prejudice is that Elizabeth Bennet is a modern heroine. In a time when women had no rights, no voice and were basically chattel to the men in their lives, Elizabeth Bennet is not afraid to stand up for her rights. She is caught between a rock and a hard place. In Jane Austen’s world, marriage was more often about family, status and income than love, companionship and affection. She could remain single, but given her meager inheritance, she would likely be beholden to the generosity of others. She could marry her cousin, Mr. Collins and stay in her childhood home, but that marriage would be extremely unhappy.

I keep going back to Pride and Prejudice not just because it is one of my favorite books, but because I find reassurance and comfort in the book. When I am feeling down or unsure of my voice, Pride and Prejudice gives me strength to move forward. For that reason, among others, I keep coming back to this treasured masterpiece.

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Books Of 2018

I’ve read quite a few books in 2018. Below is the list of the best books of 2018, at least from my perspective.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama: Mrs Obama’s autobiography is insightful, down to earth and one of the best autobiographies that I have read in a long time.
  2. House of Gold by Natasha Solomons: House of Gold was described by another reviewer as a Jewish version of Downton Abbey. I couldn’t think of another description if I made it up myself.
  3. Pride by Ibi Zoboi: A modern-day Pride and Prejudice set in New York City, this Jane Austen adaptation feels old and new at the same time.
  4. We Are Going to Be Lucky A World War II Love Story in Letters by Elizabeth L. Fox: The story of a marriage during World War II told in a series of letter that will make you believe in love.
  5. My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher: When Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds departed this world two years ago, no one knew them better than their brother and son. The book is a love letter to them by one of the people who knew and loved them best.
  6. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: A young girl growing up in the wilds of Alaska learns some hard truths about life, love and marriage.
  7. American Tantrum: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Archives by Anthony Atamanuik and Neil Casey: Based on the character created by Anthony Atamanuik on The President Show, it is a what if story in regards to the fictional Presidential library of you know who.
  8. Not Out Kind: A Novel by Kitty Zeldis: Just after the end of World War II, two women from vastly different worlds meet in New York City and forever change each other’s lives in the process.
  9. Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux: 150 years after the publication of Little Women, the book still resonates with readers across the globe and across the cultural landscape.
  10. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: Behind every genius is a supportive and loving spouse. But what happens when the spouse is denied her own genius because she is a woman?

That’s my list, what are your favorite books of 2018?

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Happy Birthday Jane

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.

Today, we know her as Jane Austen, a literary giant that many have imitated, but few have duplicated. Her six completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, are beloved the world over.

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.

Wherever you are, dearest Jane, Happy Birthday.

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Emma: The Wild and Wanton Edition Book Review

Sometimes, the deepest loves start out as a friendship.

This is the case of Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley in Jane Austen’s 1815 classic, Emma.

Putting a new spin on Emma, Micah Persell published Emma: The Wild and Wanton Edition in 2013 with the help of Jane Austen.

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.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts On The Clueless Reboot

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.

 

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