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.
When Jane Austen died in 1817, she ascended to the status of legend. While we talk about her in terms of her as a giant of literature, she was also a human being.
Published in 2013, The Real Jane Austen, by Paula Byrne, extend’s Austen’s legend while at the same time speaking of ordinary things that made her human. Ms. Byrne writes about the ordinary aspects of Austen’s life: a gold chain, a hat, a notebook, etc. Interweaving aspect of her life with her novels and her characters, the book speaks to Austen fans whom have cravings to learn about the minutiae of her life and only come to appreciate her more once they have read the book.
I’ve read a lot about Jane Austen (as anyone who knows me and/or follows this blog). She is one of my writing heroes and never fails to inspire me. What I truly appreciated about this book is that not only is the mostly non-linear narrative, but there is a life to this biography. By writing not just about the large accomplishments, but about the tiny details of Austen’s life, Ms. Byrne has only increased my appreciation for Jane Austen.
I absolutely recommend it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the BDP (British Period Drama) genre, like most genres is mostly bereft of characters of color.
In 2013, the movie Belle finally broke the color barrier for the BPD genre.
Paula Byrne’s 2014 book, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, is not just about Belle, but the events that led her uncle, Lord Mansfield’s ruling on the Zong massacre.
I adore the movie Belle. It is much more than the standard BPD. It speaks to a modern audience about race issues, women’s issue and other human rights issues that are just as relevant today as they were in the 19th century. That is reason I read the book. The book and the movie, however are vastly different. The book reads like a college textbook and not like the entertaining movie that subtly speaks to the audience about issues that 300 years later are still being discussed.
Do I recommend it? No.