Tag Archives: Jane Austen

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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Jane Austen: Ordinary in Her Time and Extraordinary in Our Time

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.

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Filed under Books, Emma, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

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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The Monk Book Review

Love (or lust, couched as love), can change us in unexpected ways. Add in religion to the mix and trouble is likely to be on the horizon.

In the 1796 novel, The Monk, by Matthew Lewis, is set in Madrid. Ambrosio, the Abbot of a Capuchin monastery is known his community as a pious, respectable and chaste man. That is, until he meets a teenage girl who gets the snake out the cage. Lust and desire for this girl takes over, which leads to rape, murder and a whole host of unsavory activities.

Jane Austen fans, especially those who have read Northanger Abbey, will surely be familiar with this book as Austen satirizes The Monk and other Gothic fiction that was popular in her day.

I will say that The Monk is not an easy read for modern readers. It was published in the style that was standard for the genre and the period. However, I found myself lost in the story and I almost put it down. That being said, there are underlying themes and narratives which still resonate today, which I suppose is one of the reasons why we keep reading this book.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Mr. Malcolm’s List

The intrigue of love and romance never gets old.

One of the newest entries into this basic narrative is Mr. Malcolm’s List.

This short film, directed by Emma Holly Jones and written by Suzanne Allain (who also wrote the book of the same name) is absolutely brilliant. Written in the spirit of Jane Austen with a multi-cultural cast, this piece is sure to delight fans of Jane Austen and British Period Dramas.

Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) is the most eligible bachelor of the season. Miss Julia Thislethate (Gemma Chan) is sure that she is the future Mrs. Malcolm. But Mr. Malcolm has an extensive list of qualities that he is looking for in a wife. His friend, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen (whose character is nameless for the short film) is trying to tempt Mr. Malcolm into matrimony. Enter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), Julia’s friend. Julia plans to use Selina as revenge against Mr. Malcolm for his rejection of her suit, but in doing so, she may ruin her friend’s chance at happiness.

I adore this film. It has all of the hallmarks of a BPD (British Period Drama), with the biting satire of Jane Austen. But at the same time, but it feels entirely new. Not only do I love the color blind casting and the completely female production team, but I also love it is also going to be made into a feature length film.

There are only a handful of films where I gladly pay for the movie ticket well before the movie hits theaters. Mr. Malcolm’s List is one of these movies.

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Flashback Friday-Emma Approved (2013-2018)

Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen‘s heroine in the aptly title novel Emma, is introduced as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich”.  In her world, Emma Woodhouse is the queen bee. She thinks that she knows everything about everything. Emma Woodhouse is in for a shock.

In 2013, the YouTube web series, Emma Approved (2013-2018) transferred the world of Emma from regency era England to modern-day. Emma Woodhouse (Joanna Sotomura) is a lifestyle coach and matchmaker. She is completely confident that she can help her clients to achieve their personal and business goals. Her long time friend and business partner Alex Knightley (Brent Bailey) is tries to burst Emma’s bubble as gently as he can, with a hint of sarcasm.

Emma Approved was the follow-up to the successful Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Though it was not as well received as LBD, I enjoyed Emma Approved with the same level of enthusiasm that I did LBD. Last year, Emma Approved came back for a short revival, which to my mind was just as enjoyable as the original series.

Not only did I appreciate the color blind casting,  I personally think that it’s adorable that the two lead actors are together IRL.

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013)

Pride and Prejudice remains a favorite book of many a bookworms for multiple reasons. This love opens the door to new and different variations on Jane Austen‘s classic tale of class, money and will they/won’t they.

In 2012, Pride and Prejudice entered the digital world when The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013) premiered on YouTube. Told vlog style in 5 minute long episodes that were released every week, Lizzie Bennet (Ashley Clements) is a grad student living at home. When her sister Jane (Laura Spencer) starts hanging out with the new boy in town, medical student Bing Lee (Christopher Sean), Lizzie is forced into the presence of businessman William Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh), Bing’s best friend. 

Needless to say, love at first sight is hardly the way to describe the initial relationship between Lizzie and William.

I adored and still adore LBD. It was funny, it was charming, it was entertaining and it was enough cannon Pride and Prejudice to appeal to the most loyal fans.

I recommend it.

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By the Book: A Novel Book Review

Among the Janeite community, Persuasion regularly lands on the top spot or near the top spot when it comes to ranking Jane Austen‘s six published novels. The story of love, loss and second chances has resonated with readers for more than 200 years for a reason.

By the Book: A Novel was published last year.  Written by Julie Sonneborn, the novels follows the story of Anne Corey. Anne has a lot on her plate: a book to write to ensure tenure at the university where she is employed, her aging father whose health is fading and a new boyfriend who is her college’s the writer-in-residence. The last thing she wants or needs is her ex-fiance, Adam Martinez. Recently hired as the new President of her college, Adam’s presence is a reminder of what was and what may never be again.

Anne is trying to focus on what she needs to do, but Adam’s constant presence brings up old feelings. Will Anne and Adam have a second chance at love or is their relationship fated to be referred to as past tense?

I really enjoyed this novel. Ms. Sonneborn successfully marries Persuasion with the modern world. Anne Corey is still Anne Elliot and Adam Martinez is still Frederick Wentworth. From my perspective, the best thing about this book was that I knew what was coming in terms of the narrative, but I was still surprised by the end of the story.

I recommend it.

 

 

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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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Best Books Of 2018

I’ve read quite a few books in 2018. Below is the list of the best books of 2018, at least from my perspective.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama: Mrs Obama’s autobiography is insightful, down to earth and one of the best autobiographies that I have read in a long time.
  2. House of Gold by Natasha Solomons: House of Gold was described by another reviewer as a Jewish version of Downton Abbey. I couldn’t think of another description if I made it up myself.
  3. Pride by Ibi Zoboi: A modern-day Pride and Prejudice set in New York City, this Jane Austen adaptation feels old and new at the same time.
  4. We Are Going to Be Lucky A World War II Love Story in Letters by Elizabeth L. Fox: The story of a marriage during World War II told in a series of letter that will make you believe in love.
  5. My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher: When Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds departed this world two years ago, no one knew them better than their brother and son. The book is a love letter to them by one of the people who knew and loved them best.
  6. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: A young girl growing up in the wilds of Alaska learns some hard truths about life, love and marriage.
  7. American Tantrum: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Archives by Anthony Atamanuik and Neil Casey: Based on the character created by Anthony Atamanuik on The President Show, it is a what if story in regards to the fictional Presidential library of you know who.
  8. Not Out Kind: A Novel by Kitty Zeldis: Just after the end of World War II, two women from vastly different worlds meet in New York City and forever change each other’s lives in the process.
  9. Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux: 150 years after the publication of Little Women, the book still resonates with readers across the globe and across the cultural landscape.
  10. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: Behind every genius is a supportive and loving spouse. But what happens when the spouse is denied her own genius because she is a woman?

That’s my list, what are your favorite books of 2018?

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movies, New York City, Politics, Pride and Prejudice, Star Wars, Television