Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd, was released earlier this year. The fourth book in a series of five Jane Austen inspired anthologies, this edition contains a series of short stories inspired by Austen’s most famous heroine.
Like it’s predecessors, I loved this book. I could feel the presence of Austen’s voice and point of view as a writer, which in the world of fanfiction, is not always present. Balancing Austen’s original narrative and their vision of Elizabeth Bennet, the stories reminded me of why I continue to adore the novels of Jane Austen.
I absolutely recommend it.
P.S. The royalties from these anthologies go directly to Chawton House. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks to Jane Austen and to those who are keeping her legacy going.
It may be simplistic to say that reading the books listed above or any book will help to solve our issues. However, I believe that by at least beginning to understand another’s perspective, the doors to communication, understanding, and diversity may truly start to open.
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I initially heard about the stay at home order, I though that it was going to be a break from my busy life. But after three weeks of only going out for the essentials, I (like I suspect many of you) are starting to go a little stir crazy.
That’s when creativity and social media comes into play.
Over the past few years, actor and playwright Kate Hamill has adapted several beloved novels into stage plays.
Her most recent adaptation is Dracula. Based on the Bram Stoker novel, the play adheres to the narrative in the book. Jonathan Harker (Michael Crane) is sent on a business trip to help sort out the business affairs of the mysterious Dracula (Matthew Amendt). But there is something off about Jonathan’s host.
Back in England, a mysterious illness starts to affect the residents of the coastal town of Whitby. With the help of Doctor Van Helsing (Jessica Frances Duke), Jonathan’s wife, Mina (Kelley Curran) has to solve the mystery of this illness and the appearance of what may be an unholy visitor.
I’ve been of Hamill’s for the last few years. Her adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Little Women were fantastic. This adaptation is no less fantastic than it’s predecessors. I went in with the question of how she was going to adapt Dracula. Unlike her previous works, this book is not exactly what one would label feminist. But Hamill adapted it in such a way that the play retains the narrative of the book while highlighting the issues of women during the 19th century and in our time.
I absolutely recommend it.
Dracula is playing at the Classic Stage Company in New York City until March 8th. Check the website for showtimes and tickets.
To say that I am a bookworm is an understatement. As you might expect, I’ve read quite a few books this year.
Without further adieu, my list of the best books of 2019 is below.
The Women of the 116th Congress: Portraits of Power: This book is #1 because it represents how far American women have come and how far we need to go before we are truly equal. In celebrating the success of these female politicians, the authors are paving the way for the next generation of women to represent their country.
On December 16th, 1775, a remarkable woman was born. Her name was Jane Austen.
In her time (and to a certain degree, still in ours), a woman’s path in life was clear. She was to receive an education that was considered to be appropriate for a woman. Upon reaching adulthood, she would marry, bear children (i.e. sons) and live the rest of her life in the quiet dignity that was expected for a woman.
Jane could have married. His name was Harris Bigg-Wither. He was the younger brother of her friends. By the accounts of the day and family members, he was not the most attractive of men. But he had one thing going for him: he was the heir of a wealthy and respected family. At that time, those facts were all that was needed to determine if someone was a good match.
He proposed when Jane and Cassandra were visitors to the Bigg-Wither home. On paper, they were a good match. She was in her late 20’s, nearly impoverished and without a marriage proposal in sight. Upon his father’s death, Harris would inherit a stately home and a comfortable fortune. He proposed in the evening. Jane said yes, but something was not right. In the morning, she took back her yes and changed the course of her life forever.
As a single and childless woman of a certain age, I look to Austen as a role model. She could have easily folded into the preordained path that was expected for a woman. But she didn’t. She chose her own path and in doing so, pave the way for future generations of women to do the same.
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.
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.
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.
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.