No one goes through life without making mistakes or having regrets. It is part of being human.
200 years after, Jane Austen‘s final completed book, Persuasion, was published posthumously with Northanger Abbey, the first novel she completed.
It’s been nearly a decade since Anne Elliot saw Frederick Wentworth, her former fiance. At the time, Anne was 19 and living with her sisters and her emotionally bankrupt, but spendthrift aristocratic father. Frederick was a penniless sailor, not exactly an appropriate match for a daughter of the aristocracy. Lady Russell, who was a close friend to Anne’s late mother and acts as a mother figure to Anne and her sisters, convinces Anne to break off the engagement. Anne does as advised.
Cut to the present time. Anne’s father has bankrupted the family and they must leave their ancestral home, Kellynch Hall, for more financially feasible lodgings in Bath. Before going to Bath with her father and sister, Anne spends some time with her married younger sister, Mary. Among the visitors to Mary’s home are the Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who have signed the lease on Kellynch Hall. Frederick Wentworth is Mrs. Croft’s brother, he too is welcomed into Mary’s home. The tension between Anne and Fredrick is palpable. Can their relationship be repaired and move forward or will they both be stuck in the past?
Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. Not just because of the maturity of Austen’s voice as a writer, but also because the narrative contains a maturity that did not exist in her previous novels. Their breakup weights heavily on the mind of both lead characters and colors how they see themselves and their world for most of the novel. That breakup and that unspoken anger/grief feels very modern, even though the book was published 200 years ago. Austen was writing this novel at the very end of her life. It almost feels like she was using this novel as a way of exploring her own regrets, especially when it came to the question of how her life had turned out, had she made a different set of decisions.
Persuasion is beautiful, heartbreaking, romantic and simply one of the best books ever written. If you have not read this book, do yourself a favor and read it. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss Jane Austen’s novels as just another series of romance novels. The key with Austen is to look deeper, to find the subtle and subversive message that Austen has left for her readers, if they know where to look.
In Lies Jane Austen Told Me, by Julie Wright, Emma Pierce thinks she has it all. A solid career and a boyfriend named Blake who is about to propose. But the proposal does not go as Emma though it would. Heartbroken and angry, Emma throws herself into work. Then Emma finds out that her boss is hiring Blake’s brother Lucas as a consultant.
Emma is determined to keep the relationship as professional as possible, but Lucas is the polar opposite of his brother. He also has his own secrets. Emma will learn that romance and relationships are as complicated in real life as they are on the page. Can she create her own happy ending from the chaos that is her life?
There are two types of modern fiction writers who use Austen’s characters and narratives for the backbone of their novels. One type of writer only skims the surface without truly understanding what Austen was writing about. The other type of writer not only understands Austen, but finds a way to integrate her work into their own without making the reader feel like there is a disconnect. The problem with this book is that Ms. Wright is the first type of writer.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
*The videos below contain spoilers. Read and watch at your own risk if you have not read the books or watched any of the dramatizations.
One of my favorite things about Jane Austen’s novels is that her narratives and characters are universal. Despite being set in a specific time and place, it doesn’t take much to grasp the worlds she created in her books.
One of the more unique examinations of classic literature is the video series Thug Notes. Their latest video is an examination of Emma.
The thing that I take away every time I see one of these videos is that I am reminded why certain books are still read and cherished. These videos are also very funny, illuminating and well worth watching.
P.S. if you liked the video above, you should check out their Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice videos.
It’s hard to be a single woman, even in 2017. Though our accomplishments are astounding, two questions always come up: when are you getting married and when are you having children?
Actor Tracee Ellis Ross, star of the sitcom Black-ish and daughter of music legend Diana Ross is a single woman. At the age of 45, she has neither a husband or a child. Recently, she spoke at the Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit about being a single woman.
Her speech is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. The truth is that for most of human history, from the time a girl was born, she was told in every way possible that how she is viewed depends on whether or not she has a man. Being single is a fate worse than death.
In Emma, Jane Austen made the following comment about single women:
“Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony.”
The fact is that doors that were unquestionably open to men in regards to education, career and opportunities to go beyond the boundaries of hearth and home have only recently been kicked open by women. But there is still one more door to kick down: the idea that a woman’s worth, despite who she is and what she has accomplished, is strictly based upon if she has a ring on her finger and a child at her feet. A man’s worth is not judged by these factors, why must be women be judged by these factors?
14 years ago today, Love Actually hit theaters.
Set in London a month before Christmas, the movie is about eight couples whose narratives and lives are loosely entwined. Daniel (Liam Neeson) has recently lost his wife and is trying to figure out how to raise his stepson. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with Juliet (Keira Knightley). Juliet is married to Mark’s best friend Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Karen (Emma Thompson) and Harry (the late Alan Rickman) are a long time married couple. Harry’s eyes are starting to wander towards his secretary. Karen’s brother, The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) has a crush on his assistant. I could go on, but I will let the trailer speak for itself.
What I love about the movie (besides the fact that part of the cast have been in Austen adaptations) is that this movie is neither overly romantic, overly corny, nor does it bash the audience over the head that it’s Christmas. It’s about love, relationships and the need for a human connection, none of which are confined to the Christmas season or to those who celebrate Christmas.
If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It is one of the few Christmas movies, that in my opinion, are worth watching.
It’s not uncommon that women and men are still judged differently. Men have friends, have pals. They have an easy comradery. There is no backstabbing, no “frenemies”, no one clamoring to steal their friend’s spotlight or significant other. Women on the other hand, have been accusing of backstabbing, of gossiping and basically tearing their so-called “friends” apart.
The new book, A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney is about four legendary female writers whose friendships with other female writers helped them to succeed in the world of literature. Jane Austen palled around with Anne Sharp, who was the governess in her wealthy brother’s house. One of Charlotte Bronte’s lifelong best friends was her schoolmate, Mary Taylor. George Eliot spoke of writing and life with fellow controversial Victorian novelist, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of the then infamous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin). And finally, Virginia Woolf had a co-writer and friend in Katherine Mansfield.
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because not only did it remind me of the power of female friendship, it also reminded me of the power of female friendship when it comes to writing. I will warn, however, that to truly appreciate this novel, the reader needs to be aware of the life and work of the book’s subjects.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
A good writer has the ability to create narratives and characters that transcend the original format in which they were introduced to audiences. Jane Austen, is obviously one of those writers as her stories have been adapted time again over the last 200 years.
The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood, by Paula Byrne, traces the influences of Georgian era theater on Austen’s novels, the history of the numerous adaptations and why Austen continues to be an inspiration to modern-day filmmakers and screenwriters.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I appreciated the research that Ms. Byrne put into the book, especially the theatrical narratives and characters that were popular in Austen’s Day. I just wish the book was less like a college textbook and more engaging. While I forced myself to finish the book, it was difficult at times to keep reading.
Do I recommend it? No.
There are two kinds of tea in this world. There is the ordinary bland, factory made tea that can be purchased at any deli or grocery store. Then there is the tea that from the moment you open the bag to the last drop going down your throat wraps you in tea heaven.
This is Bingley’s Teas.
Named for Charles Bingley from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this delicious, loose tea made with a variety of ingredients offers a delectable range of teas to choose from. Opening a bag of Bingley’s Teas is akin to being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day. Whether it is a black tea to help you get up in the morning or a green tea to sooth the nerves after a long day of work, this tea is far and away one the best tea brands I’ve ever had.
And of course, their Jane Austen tea line is sheer perfection. My personal favorite is Lizzie Bennet’s Wit.
If you must buy tea, I absolutely recommend Bingley’s Teas. It will forever change the way you drink and appreciate tea.
There are more than enough books, both fiction and non fiction about Jane Austen and her work to fill up multiple libraries. The question is, which book stands out from the pack and which book remain on the shelves?
Devoney Looser recently published her newest book, The Making Of Jane Austen.
When Jane Austen died in 1817, her genius as a writer, satirist and observer of the human experience had yet to be fully appreciated. Writing about the artists, dramatists, activists and academics who spread the word of Jane Austen over the years, Dr. Looser expands upon the legend of her subject and explains how Austen has become this giant of literature and pop culture that we know her to be today.
I loved this book. Dr. Looser was also one of the keynote speaker at this past weekend’s 2017 JASNA AGM, but to me, that is the cherry on top. She writes in a way that speaks to both the newbie Janeite and the Janeite who is thoroughly entangled in everything that is Jane Austen.
I absolutely recommend it.
Imagine if you will, an academic conference, but with a twist. Add in a dedicated fandom with lots of goodies to bring home (and a good amount of attendees playing dress up) and you have the 2017 JASNA AGM.
Held in Huntington Beach, California, the title of this year’s conference was Intimations of Immortality. We remembered Jane on the 200th anniversary of her passing as we celebrated her life, her books and her legacy.
The AGM is more than my vacation. This year it was a chance to visit California, spend time with my friends and celebrate anything and everything relating to Jane Austen. It is a chance to thoroughly geek out and know that the people you are with understand why you geek out. It was a chance to dress up, dance and spend three days thoroughly immersed in Jane.
While I enjoyed the AGM (as I do everytime), it was the company (and the heavenly beach in Southern California) that always makes an AGM worth it.
Next year, Janeites (as we are commonly known) will congregate for our next AGM in Kansas City where we will be celebrating Persuasion and hopefully not fangirling over Amanda Root (Anne Elliot in the 1995 Persuasion).
I hope to see you all there.