Tag Archives: Janeite

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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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fanfiction, Jane Austen, Persuasion

Thoughts On The 2018 JASNA AGM

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

For many Janeites, the highlight of their fall the JASNA AGM. It is an opportunity to spend a weekend with hundreds of other Janeites, immerse themselves in everything that pertains to Jane Austen and forget about the rest of the world for three days.

This year’s AGM was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The theme was Persuasion and the title was 200 Years Of Constancy And Hope.

For many Jane Austen fans, reading Persuasion is a bittersweet experience. We love this novel and its main characters, Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Unlike her previous novels, there is a mature feel to the work, a what if question when it comes to love, mistakes and second chances. Anne is the oldest of the Austen heroines. She is in her late 20’s while the other heroines are either in their late teens or early 20’s. For his part, Frederick Wentworth is unlike any of Austen’s other heroes. He has had to pull himself up by the figurative bootstraps instead of being born into a wealthy family and automatically inheriting a fortune. He also feels, to me, at least more human than let’s say, Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Darcy is almost like a too good to be true Prince in a fairy tale, a rich man who learns to tame his pride to win the affection/heart of the lower born woman that he loves. Frederick Wentworth is also proud, but he learns to understand Anne’s feelings over the course of the novel. He also realizes that their separation was not simply a one sided separation. His anger kept him from returning to Anne and renewing their relationship at an earlier juncture in their lives.

While every AGM has it moments, there are two of them that made this AGM amazing.

In 1995, a big screen version of Persuasion hit theaters. In the film, Amanda Root played Anne and Ciarian Hinds played Captain Wentworth. Attendees this past weekend were blessed to have Miss Root join us for part of the weekend.

 

She is gracious, warm, down to earth and I think she was a little surprised by the reaction from those in attendance.

There are many who have written about Jane Austen. There are few who can write with warmth, humor and speak to the reader without the academic feel that comes with the subject of Jane Austen. John Mullan is one of those people.

In this crowd, he is a rock star. His book, What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, is one of my favorite books about Austen and her novels.

And, as usual, the high point of the AGM is the ball on Saturday night. While not everyone dresses up and dance, it’s fun to do so if one wishes.

All in all, it was an amazing AGM and I look forward to next year in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Filed under Books, Fairy Tales, Jane Austen, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

RIP Alan Rickman

*Warning: the post contains minor spoilers about the narrative and characters in Sense and Sensibility. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have watched any of the adaptations. 

Two years ago today, the world lost of one this era’s greatest actors: Alan Rickman.

My favorite Alan Rickman performance will always be Colonel Brandon in 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Playing opposite Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, his character (as it was faithfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Jane Austen), was a man who held the proverbial cards to his chest. When the audience meets Colonel Brandon in the film, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. A bachelor in his mid 30’s,  he is amiable and a gentleman, but his character and his past are a mystery at that juncture in the narrative.

Over the course of the story, Colonel Brandon is revealed to be a man whose past is filled with grief and heartbreak. Rickman played the part with nuance and sensitivity, elevating the character to a new level, reminding Janeites why Colonel Brandon is one of the favorite leading men within the Jane Austen universe. Rickman himself became a fan favorite, gaining new fans and a new level of respect from the Janeite fan base.

RIP Sir. While your physical remains are gone, your spirit and your body of work will live on forever.

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, Movies, Sense and Sensibility

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

The Making of Jane Austen Book Review

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.

 

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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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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fanfiction, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography Book Review

The womb to tomb narrative is the standard format for a biography. While it’s fine for a standard format, it can, depending on the person writing the biography, be as dull as a college text-book or as alive as if the reader was watching a film of the biography’s subject.

Earlier this year, historian Lucy Worsley released Jane Austen at Home: A Biography. While Ms. Worsley goes over the basic facts of Austen’s life that any Janeite would be familiar with, she focuses on the places that the Ms. Austen lived throughout her 41 years and the possessions in those houses colored her world.

I’ve been fan of the author for a short time, and I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because there is life, color and vibrancy to what could be a very dull narrative. There are also Easter eggs, connections between Austen’s life and her novels that a newbie Janeite might miss, but a Janeite who is well steeped in Austen lore would understand.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Emma, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

Jane Austen, The Secret Radical Book Review

On the surface, Jane Austen seems to write typical romances. It had the same overall narrative as every story in the genre: the meet cute, the ups and downs, the will they or won’t they and finally, the happily ever after. But Jane Austen was writing far more than fluffy, predictable romances. She was writing about human folly and the injustices of the world around us.

Published last year, Jane Austen, The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly dives into the subtle and subversive that only a seasoned reader of Austen will understand and appreciate. Using her pen and her imagination, Austen deftly and quietly writes about the injustices of slavery, the treatment of women in her era, the anxieties of going to war, the power of the Church, etc.

This book is not for the newbie Austen fan or someone who has simply read one of her books because they’ve heard of it. This book is for the hardcore Janeite who has read her books many times and finds joy in discovering something new with every read. I really enjoyed this book because it points out things that even I didn’t know of. That above all, made this book a joy to read.

I absolutely recommend it.

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

Pride And Prejudice Character Review: Charles Bingley

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There is always something fascinating about the new boy or girl in town.  The aura of their newness and mystery brings out the detective in everyone, eager to find out the details on their new neighbor.

In Pride and Prejudice, the book really gets going when the rumors in Meryton start to fly about the newest member of the community, Charles Bingley.  He is young, handsome and rich, as Mrs. Bennet crows in delight to her husband.

  “What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

The readers and the characters are fully introduced to Mr. Bingley at a local ball. Bingley is amiable, friendly and quickly develops feelings for Jane Bennet, the eldest of the five Bennet daughters. The feelings are mutual, but his best friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sisters, Caroline and Louisa would prefer that Bingley look elsewhere for a wife. Though Bingley is smitten with Jane, he is convinced to break off the relationship even before it has begun.

The end of the book is not unexpected. While Jane is silently pining for Bingley, he is regretting that not only did he walk away from her, but that he let others make his decision for him. He returns to Meryton (with Mr. Darcy in tow, whom he will soon call brother-in-law), proposes to Jane and they all live happily ever after.

Often, when Pride and Prejudice is referred to, most people outside of the Janeite (the nickname for Jane Austen fans) community think of Mr. Darcy. But while Darcy gets the attention, Bingley quietly slips into the background. While he is not the romantic hero and needs to grow a pair, he is amiable, friendly and unlike his best friend, not judgmental or snobbish. Despite his second nature story line, Bingley’s character arc and growth throughout the novel is equal to Darcy.

To sum it up: Sometimes the quieter character growth is more important than the bombastic one. In learning to stand up for himself and his needs, Mr. Bingley grows from a young man who loses himself in other’s opinions to a man who is not afraid to speak up when someone else is trying to make his decisions for him.  Character growth, in whatever direction it takes, is the most important job of a writer, regardless of whether the character is in your face, or waiting in the wings for it’s moment to shine.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Happy Birthday, Dearest Jane

jane%20austen

241 years ago today, George Austen, an Anglican Rector from Steventon, Hampshire and his wife, Cassandra welcomed into the world their 7th child and second daughter, Jane to the world. They had no idea that their daughter would become immortal.

Jane Austen was one of the most extraordinary writers in the history of the English language. Only William Shakespeare stands beside her as an icon of literature and language.

Her novels are full of unforgettable characters. No matter who you are you or where you come from, there is always a character to love, a character a hate and the character you relate it. Some may call her books romance novels, but they are so much more. They are coming of age stories, stories of love, both romantic and familial and stories of what it is to be a human being.

I have been a Janeite for nearly 10 years. It has been a pleasure to be fan.

Happy Birthday dearest Jane, wherever you are. I raise my glass to you.

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