The reputation of an on-screen adaptation of a beloved novel is based on the response from the fanbase. It can also be a generational thing. While the original audience may adore that version, future generations may have another opinion.
Anyone who follows this blog (or knows me), knows that I have nothing but adoration and admiration for Jane Austen. Her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, is literary perfection. That being said, I cannot stomach this movie. The problem is twofold. The first is that I am missing Austen’s famous sardonic wit and sarcastic observations that elevate her stories beyond the standard romantic comedy or drama. The second is that the costumes are closer to the Victorian era than the Regency era.
I get that it was made during World War II and movie-goers at the time needed a pick me up. But I wish that the creative team had not taken as many liberties as they did.
There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.
I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.
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.
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 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.
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.
Based on the E.M. Foster novel, Howards End is the story of the intermingling of three families in the early 20th century in England. The Wilcoxes are upper class, the Schlegels are middle class and the Basts are lower class. With a cast led by Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, this story of cross-class differences and secrets is bound to delight audiences.
I have a confession to make: I have heard of the book, but I have never read it. That will soon be remedied. In the meantime, I was completely taken in by the first episode and as of now, I plan on completing the series.
Sanditon was started by Jane Austen just months before she died. An eleven chapter fragment of a novel, respected television writer Andrew Davies continued where Austen left off. Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) is part Elizabeth Bennet and part Catherine Morland. The daughter of a large landed gentry family from the country, Charlotte is young and eager to spread her wings.
When an offer comes her way to visit Sanditon, an up and coming seaside resort, she immediately says yes. But Sanditon is a different world than the world she grew up in. One of the people she meets is Sydney Parker (Theo James, who played the infamous Mr. Pamuk on Downton Abbey), the brooding and sometimes rude younger brother of the couple who she is staying with.
For many Austen fans, Sanditon is a what-if experience. With only eleven chapters completed, we can only guess what the completed novel would have looked like. As an adaptation, so far, I have to say that I am impressed.
Like his previous Jane Austen adaptation, Davies knows when to stick to the script and when to add a little something extra.
What I liked about the series so far is that unlike most Austen heroines, Charlotte’s main reason for going to Sanditon is not to find a husband. Most of her heroines (with the exception of Emma Woodhouse) are motivated to marry because of family pressure and/or financial needs. Charlotte goes to Sanditon to see the world and experience life outside of the family that she grew up in. She is also curious about the world and shows interest in certain subjects that would not be deemed “appropriate” for a woman of this era.
I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It is a love letter to Austen fans and contains plenty of Easter eggs if one knows where to look.
I recommend both.
Howards End and Sanditon air on PBS on Sundays nights at 8:00 and 9:00 respectively.
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.
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 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.
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.