Tag Archives: Elizabeth Bennet

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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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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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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Pride Book Review

For over 200 years, the unexpected courtship and hate turned to love relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has thrilled readers.

Ibi Zoboi is one of the newest writers to update Pride and Prejudice to the modern era. This year, she published Pride, set in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick.

Zuri Benitez has lived in Bushwick her entire life. The second of five daughters of Afro-Caribbean parents, Zuri is proud of her neighborhood, her family and her heritage. But her neighborhood is changing. The Darcys have just moved across the street from Zuri and her family.  They have purchased and renovated what was a rundown building and have two teenage sons. Zuri’s elder sister, Janae starts dating Ainsley Darcy, but Zuri develops an immediate dislike for Darius Darcy. Will they ever get along and find common ground or are they destined to hate each other?

I really and truly enjoyed this book. It still felt like Pride and Prejudice, but felt modern at the same time. Though the book is set in modern-day Bushwick, I could still hear Jane’s voice as a writer. When adapting Pride and Prejudice or any other classic novel for the modern era, some writers are unable to keep of the voice of the original writer while adapting the story and the characters. Ms. Zoboi is able to balance the world of her characters with the narratives and characters that Jane Austen fans know and love.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Story Question AKA Why Should Someone Else Care About Your Story

Of all of the basic elements that make up a successful narrative, the most important one to my mind is the story question.

Today I started reading a book and by the beginning of the second chapter, I felt like I couldn’t go on. The writer had yet to ask the story question.

In a nutshell, the story question grinds down the narrative down to a sentence or two.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: Can a small band of rebels destroy an evil empire?
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet must marry because she has a small inheritance and no brother to inherit directly from her father. But she will give into the pressure to marry or will she marry for love?
  • Jane Eyre: Can an orphaned young woman remain true to herself and not change to please others?

But, even with a great story question, the key is to ask the story very question early in the story.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: The opening scene is that of the Empire’s warship closing on a ship they believe belongs to the rebellion.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters in a family that is without a direct male heir. Her mother is crowing about their new neighbor, a young man who is single and reputed to be wealthy.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre is an orphan, living with relations who abuse her. She is reading a book and trying to hide from her cousins who frequently mock and bully her.

In creating my own fiction and critiquing fiction by other writers, I have learned that the story question is the most important question that is not only asked by the writer, but by the reader. In my experience, if the question is not asked properly and early on, it is likely to be lost in the narrative. If it is lost in the narrative, the reader or audience may never find it and walk away.

That is the last thing any writer wants.

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Thoughts On The Anniversary Of The Publishing Of Pride and Prejudice

*Warning: this post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations.

There are some books that continue to speak to us on a broad cultural level, regardless of the era when they were published.

Pride and Prejudice is one of these books. Written by Jane Austen and published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice continues to be one of the most popular and relevant books in our culture.

While on the surface, Pride and Prejudice is the story of the rocky courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzilliam Darcy, it is much more than that. Austen was an astute observer of her era, using her novels to subversively point out the human foibles of her characters and the social misfires that are as relevant today as they were in 1813. Whether it was the disenfranchising of women (the Bennet girls automatically disqualified from inheriting the family home because they are women), the snobbery of the upper classes (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) or the foolishness of marriage for marriage’s sake (the not so happy marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet), Austen was not afraid to use her writing to reveal some hard truths about her world.

In addition to Pride and Prejudice, Austen published five other novels in her lifetime. She died at the age of 41, not knowing that her popularity would last centuries after her death.

I am going to end this post with Thug Notes edition of Pride and Prejudice because, I can’t think of a better way to honor Pride and Prejudice.

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The Darcys: New Pleasures Book Review

The fanfiction genre is a genre that has never gone out of fashion. Readers and writers are always eager to know what has happened to their favorite characters after the original book ends.

The Darcys: New Pleasures is the third sequel of a series of Pride and Prejudice fanfictions by writer Linda Berdoll.  It’s been 25 years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy repeated their marriage vows. Their children are now young adults and going through everything that young adults go through. The problem is that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, like all parents of children who are of similar ages, can’t exactly reconcile that their children are on the way to growing up. While this is happening, Elizabeth is dealing with a thorny medical issue and their son, to his father’s chagrin, is not only crushing on a village girl, but spending his time with his uncle Wickham’s son, who is becoming more like his father everyday.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Taking Mr. and Mrs. Darcy 25 years into the future was an interesting choice for Ms. Berdoll to take as a writer. I also liked her previous books in the series. I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason this book didn’t do it for me, as much as I hoped it would.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Pride and Prejudice Play Review

Pride and Prejudice is the book that Jane Austen is most famous for. It is the story of the rocky courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Published in 1813, it remains a beloved classic more than two centuries after its initial publishing.

Recently, a stage version of the book premiered at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City. Written by actor/playwright/Janeite Kate Hamill (who also stars as Elizabeth Bennet), the play is the story of the middle class Bennet sisters who are in need of husbands. With no brother to directly secure the family estate for the next generation and very small dowries to call their own, they have only one choice and that is to marry well. Eldest sister Jane (Amelia Pedlow, who also plays Miss De Bourgh) catches the eye of the newest bachelor in town, Mr. Bingley (John Tufts, who also plays Mary Bennet).  Elizabeth is unhappily introduced to Fitzwilliam Darcy (Jason O’Connell), Bingley’s best friend. They don’t exactly get along.

This play is nothing short of brilliant. Using a small stage, actors playing multiple characters and Austen’s text (for the most part), the play is well worth a few hours of your time. I will warn that Ms. Hamill did make some changes that do not exactly adhere to the cannon, but the changes were well worth it.

I absolutely recommend it.

Pride and Prejudice is playing at The Cherry Lane Theater at 38 Commerce Street in New York City until January 6th, 2018. Check the website for showtimes and ticket prices. 

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Mr. Darcy’s Proposal Book Review

Proposing to one’s (hopeful) future spouse is never easy. The question is, how does one frame the proposal? Does one try to convey the unending love and respect that one has for their beloved or does one use their income and societal status as temptation while basically insulting the one they love? In Pride And Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is unfortunately the latter.

Writer and Janeite Susan Mason-Milks imagines a different narrative for the second half of Pride and Prejudice in Mr. Darcy’s Proposal. Just before Mr. Darcy is to propose to Elizabeth while she is staying with Mr. and Mrs. Collins in Huntsford, she receives a letter from home. Her father is extremely ill and may not be long for this world. Knowing full well that her cousin and her father’s heir, Mr. Collins may turn her, her mother and her sisters out of Longbourn as soon as her father is cold in his grave, Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

While Mr. Darcy is thoroughly in love with his bride to be, Elizabeth initially sees this marriage as a marriage of convenience. She respects him and acknowledges that he is an honorable man, but she is not in love with him. Will this marriage become one for the ages or will it be in name only?

I wanted to like this book, I truly did. The initial chapters were fine. But then, the editor in me started to speak up. When I am reading a book, I don’t want to be thinking about the writing and editing choices that I would have made. I want to just enjoy what I am reading. That in a nutshell, is the problem with this book.

Do I recommend it? Maybe not.

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