Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.
In theory, dating should be easy. You go out with a number of people until you find someone you are compatible with and let fate take it from there. But in practice, it is not as simple.
Christina Lauren‘s new book, The Soulmate Equation, was published last month. Jessica Davis has been through a lot in her nearly 30 years. Her father is a mystery and her mother abandoned her when she was a child. Raised by her grandparents, Jessica has a seven year old daughter whose father is absent from their lives. Earning her bread as a freelance statistician, she is doing everything she can to stay afloat. To say that dating is the last thing on her to do list an understatement.
When she hears about a dating service that uses DNA to match up their members, Jessica is intrigued. The tests determine that the man who is right for her is Dr. River Pena, the company’s founder. The problem is that River is a first rate asshole. When the company gives her a financial offer she can’t refuse, Jessica agrees to spend some time with him. When the fake relationship begins to turn into a real relationship, she has to re-consider how she sees herself and the people around her.
I loved this book. There is a Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy like dynamic to Jessica and River’s relationship. It could have been stale and predictable. While there are certain narrative beats that are expected, the story is dynamic and exciting. The chemistry between the lead characters is first rate. I don’t read romance novels too often, but this one is pretty good.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Charm has its uses. It can get us places that being curt or direct cannot.
The new play, Being Mr. Wickham premiered worldwide (via the internet) this past weekend at the Theatre Royal St. Edmunds Bury in the UK. In this one hour, one man play, Adrian Lukis brings his 1995 Pride and Prejudice character, Mr. Wickham back to life. It’s been 35 years since the book ended. Wickham is now 60 and contemplating how his life has turned out. His marriage to Lydia Bennet is still somehow thriving after what looked to be a rocky start. Sitting in his library and enjoying a brandy while his wife sleeps upstairs, Wickham tells his story as only Wickham can.
This play is such a treat for Austen fans. Though it has been 26 years since Lukis played Wickham, it feels like no time has passed at all. He is still the charming, smooth talking rogue that he was in his youth. But age and experience has mellowed him out a bit. Co-written by Catherine Curzon and directed by Guy Unsworth, it is an intimate look at one of the most infamous characters in classic 19th century literature. I feel like wherever she is, Austen would approve. It is fanfiction of her work in the best sense of the word.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Up until the recent past (and in still in some parts of the world), a woman’s only option was marriage. If she was lucky, the backbone of the relationship would be love. But for other women, the choice of a husband is a pragmatic decision.
The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley, was published last December.
The book takes place three years after Pride and Prejudice has ended. Charlotte Collins (nee Lucas), the best friend of Elizabeth Bennet, has a busy life. Completely aware that she did not marry for love, she is juggling being a wife, a young mother, and her responsibilities to her husband’s parishioners. Her husband, William Collins is not the brightest bulb in the box and. His patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh is not afraid to speak her mind. She balances it all with an ease that many would envy.
Then she meets Mr. Travis, a local farmer. For the first time in her life, Charlotte feels like she is more than her myriad duties and the self perception that she is plain. The question is, does he feel the same way and if he does, do they have a future together?
I like that the author chose to use Charlotte Lucas as her main character. It is rare that she would be given the spotlight in a JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction).
The problem is that I did not feel the chemistry between Charlotte and Mr. Travis. I wanted to believe that for the first time in her life, she was the romantic heroine who had a chance at true love. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once said the following:
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Reading Jane Austen is deliciously easy. Her books are full of characters that seem as real as you or I.
As any writer will tell you, writing is not as easy as it seems. The work and effort that is required feels nearly impossible to accomplish sometimes.
Jane came from an era in which women pursuing any career was frowned on. Her primary responsibility was that of a wife and mother. Initially publishing her books under the pseudonym of “A Lady”, public recognition of her as an author came later on.
One of the things I have learned as a writer is that sometimes you sometimes need to put your work away for a while. Recently, I have been going back to pieces that have been sitting on my hard drive. Delving back into those particular pieces (with the help of a handful of keen eyed fellow writers), I have been working on them with a level of excitement and energy I have not felt in a long time.
Her first three completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice were initially written when Austen was still a young woman. Like any budding author, she eagerly sent out her manuscripts to publishers, hoping for an eventual publication. The response was a decided no.
The next few years were an emotional roller coaster for Austen. After her father’s retirement and subsequent passing, Jane, her sister, and her mother moved frequently. It was only after finding a permanent home in Chawton House did she had the space and comfort that she needed to write again.
She didn’t know it, but she is one of the writers who paved the way for so many of us. As both the mother of the modern novel and a female novelist, she continues to delight readers and inspire fellow writers who want to follow in her giant footsteps.
Happy Birthday Jane, wherever you are.
The world of dating and romance can sometimes be cutthroat.
Mr. Malcolm’s List, written by Suzanne Allain was originally published in 2009 and re-published this year. Jeremy Malcolm is the younger son of an Earl in Regency Era England. Handsome and wealthy, he is considered to be the ideal husband. Though he is ready to marry, he will not marry just anyone.
To throw off any woman who would marry him for less than honest reasons, Jeremy compiles a list which contains the qualities that his future wife must have. Rumors of this list and it’s contents have spread. Julia Thistlewaite is one of the many women who has tried and failed to become Mrs. Malcolm.
Angry at being rejected, she invites her old school friend, Selina Dalton to spend some time with her in London. Selina reluctantly agrees to join Julia on her plan of revenge. When Jeremy starts to judge Selina based on this list, she decide to judge him back based on her own version of the perfect husband.
I loved this book and I think my fellow Jane Austen fans will as well. Mr. Malcolm was created in the image of Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), creating a love/hate relationship with the reader. I appreciated the satire, the humor, the charm, and the reverence for the era.
I recommend it.
P.S. I recommend that you watch the short film that came out last year based on the book. It is the perfect companion to it’s literary predecessor.
If we lived in an ideal world, we would all live to old age. But we do not live in an ideal world. If one is lucky enough to see the golden years of their lives, then perhaps, they have come close to an ideal world.
In Gone with the Wind, she played Melanie Wilkes, the Jane Bennet to the Elizabeth Bennet of the book, Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh).
In The Heiress, she played Catherine Sloper. Catherine is torn between her emotionally abusive father and a suitor who may be interested in her for the wrong reasons.
In addition to her storied career, she was an activist. The De Havilland Law is named for her, giving actors greater freedom in choosing their roles.
May her memory be a blessing. Z”l.
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 has been said that we can never know how another person sees the world until we walk a mile in their shoes. But books have a way to providing that perspective.
As our country and our culture once more grapples with racial tension and the troubled history of our mutual past, books may be one of the keys to bringing us together.
The Yellow House by Sarah Broom
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Proud: My Fight For an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad
Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane
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.
She starting reading chapters from Pride and Prejudice and posted them to her Instagram page. Since yesterday, she has been uploading the videos to YouTube.
There is a lot to be obviously concerned about these days. It is extremely easy to dwell on the negative.
But there is also happiness and joy to be found. Jennifer Ehle reading from Pride and Prejudice is puts a smile on my face like few things can.
Thank you Jennifer, you have made this home confinement just a little easier.
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