Tag Archives: Jane Austen

RIP Olivia de Havilland

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.

Veteran actress Olivia de Havilland died earlier today. She was 104.

Two of her best known roles are Gone with the Wind (1939 and The Heiress (1949).

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.

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RIP Jane Austen

203 years ago yesterday, Jane Austen took her last breath.

No one in her time could have predicted that two centuries later, she would be celebrated as a groundbreaking author, an early feminist and an astute observer of humanity.

On the surface, her books follow the predictable path to marriage. But a deeper dive reveals how smart Austen was. Her books are about politics, the foibles of being human, and complications that come with being with others. Her characters (for the most part) are not Lords and Ladies, Generals or Kings/Queens. Her stories are not about war or the adventures of one who is far from home. They are about ordinary people, living ordinary lives.

That I believe, is the reason why she continues to speak to readers. In writing about John and Jane Doe’s of the world, her characters and narratives become timeless and universal.

Wherever she is, I hope she knows how much she is adored and respected.

RIP.

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Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl Book Review

If one were to ask readers who their favorite character is, I would suspect that Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice would rank near the top of the list.

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.

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Same Hypocrite, Different Day: The Photo Op That Was Just That

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Jane Austen super fan. If someone were to ask me to describe a character or a scene, I could do so with a reasonable amount of detail. The same could be said for anyone who has regularly the Bible, or any book that is the foundation of a religion.

While on the campaign trail back in 2016, you know was asked to refer to his favorite passage in the Christian Bible. As he often does when asked a direct question, he found a way to not answer the question.

Yesterday, in response the protests in front of the White House and around the country, he did not address the nation as any other President would. Sending police to clear the crowd, he took a walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church. The church has been a site of Presidential worship for over 200 years.

Instead of speaking of the multiple crises that the United States is experiencing in a meaningful manner, he picked up a Bible and used it as a prop. There was only one reason for this, a photo op and a message to his base.

He is not the first, nor will he be the last to invoke the name and image of G-d (in whatever form G-d takes) for questionable purposes. But given what this nation is going through, the last thing we need is a hypocritical President who says one thing, does another, and only prefers those who blindly support him.

America is at the moment of reckoning. This nation has two choices. We can vote for Joe Biden and move forward. Or, we can vote him in for another term and go down a rabbit hole that I don’t want to think about.

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And Now For Something Completely Different: Jennifer Ehle Reads From Pride and Prejudice

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.

Actress Jennifer Ehle (beloved by Jane Austen fans for playing Lizzie Bennet in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice) found a creative way to fill up her time.

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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Emma. Movie Review

When Jane Austen introduced Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous title character in her 1816 novel Emma, she wrote the following:

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”

The new adaptation of Emma. was released into theaters this weekend. Stepping in the shoes of Highbury’s queen bee is Anya Taylor-Joy. Unlike Austen’s other heroines, Emma is not hard up for cash and is not looking for a husband. She spends her days tending to her hypochondriac father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) and arguing with her neighbor and long time friend, George Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

She also thinks that she is a matchmaker. When one of her matches lead to a successful marriage, Emma starts to believe that she has the magic touch when it comes to marriage and romance. She will soon find out how wrong she is.

I loved this adaptation. Director Autumn de Wilde adds delicious looking pops of color while screenwriter Eleanor Catton kept as close to Austen cannon as she could have gotten. It is a joyful, hilarious and absolutely wonderful film.

I absolutely recommend it.

Emma. is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Emma, Feminism, Jane Austen

Sanditon Book Review

When someone dies young, there are questions of what this person might have accomplished had they lived longer.

When Jane Austen died in 1817 at the age of 41, she left behind grieving family members, six completed novels and fragments of other novels. One of these fragments is Sanditon. Where Jane Austen left off, write Kate Riordan stepped in to complete the story.

Charlotte Heywood is a young woman who has never traveled far from home. Her fate changes when the carriage carrying Tom and Mary Parker turns over. After their carriage is repaired, Charlotte travels with Mr. and Mrs. Parker to the small seaside village of Sanditon. Tom’s goal is to turn this sleepy seaside village into the must-see vacation spot. Charlotte’s world expands in multiple ways, especially when she meets Tom’s brother Sidney.

Jane Austen is one of those writers who is often imitated, but never properly duplicated. Ms. Riordan was able to perfectly match Austen’s tone, dialogue, voice and narrative in such a way that I was not sure where Austen ended and Ms. Riordan began.

Among those of us who know and love her novels, we know that Austen is subversive when it comes to her opinion of the world around her. In this book, her opinion is in your face. Unlike other unmarried young people, Charlotte’s reason for traveling to Sanditon is not to find a wealthy spouse. It is to see the world and expand her horizons. She also included her first character of color. Georgiana Lambe is a bi-racial heiress who is fighting for her own identity and her own choices in a world that would deny her both.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Dracula Play Review

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.

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Filed under Books, Broadway Play Review, Feminism, Jane Austen, New York City, Pride and Prejudice

Howards End/Sanditon Review

Classic and beloved novels are easy targets for stage and screen reboots. The question that fans have to ask is if these reboots hold up to the text.

Last night, the new adaptations of Howards End and Sanditon premiered on Masterpiece.

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.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, Jane Austen, Television, TV Review

Best Books of 2019

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between: This compelling and true story of one small town and it’s Jewish residents during World War II is as compelling as any fiction novel of the Holocaust.
  3. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II: Telling the story of Audrey Hepburn‘s childhood during World War II, this book is a must-read for both movie junkies and history nerds alike.
  4. Summer of ’69: History is not just facts in a book. It the lives and experiences of those who lived through that period. In telling the story of one specific family, the summer of 1969 comes alive.
  5. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators: The revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s actions two years ago was appalling and world-changing. In bringing his actions to the light, the authors are giving his victims what should have been theirs in the first place.
  6. Unmarriageable: A Novel: This adaptation of Pride & Prejudice set in Pakistan proves why Austen’s novels are universally loved and rebooted time and again.
  7. The Mother of the Brontes: When Maria met Patrick: The previously untold story of Maria Bronte (nee Branwell) is a fascinating story of the women who would bring Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte into the world.
  8. Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman: It takes guts to be yourself. It takes even more guts when being yourself means that you are no longer part of the community you grew up in.
  9. She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement: The reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal knew what they were up against. They also knew how important it was for the public to know the truth.
  10. The Winemaker’s Wife: Love and betrayal are enough to handle. Add in war and you have this marvelous novel set in France during World War II.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movies, Pride and Prejudice