Art does not come from nothing. It comes from the world around us and the experiences that have shaped our lives.
Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics by Tom Keymer, was published last year. In the book, Keymer walks the reader through the Regency era and how that world had a hand in developing her voice as a writer. He goes into the politics of the period, the complete disenfranchisement of women, and how a strict, but slowly fading class system played a role in her work.
I loved it. It was short, concise, and a reminder as to why Austen’s work continues to be timeless and universal. I will say, however, that it is aimed at two specific and different groups of readers. The book can be read in an academic setting, but it is neither dry nor stuffy. It also squarely falls into the Janeite camp. My one warning is that to truly enjoy it, the reader should be well versed in her life and work. Otherwise, they may not understand the nuances and the details that a long-time Jane Austen fan can easily identify.
Towards the end of Jane Austen‘s novel, Persuasion, there is a conversation about books and the portrayal of women within the world of literature. This conversation ends with the following statement that is as true in Austen’s time as it is in ours.
“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”
The new non fiction book, Mad and Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency, was published in the fall. Written by Bea Koch (co-owner of the Los Angeles area bookstore, The Ripped Bodice), the book tells the story of women who did not fall in the White/upper class/Heterosexual/Christian category. It shines the spotlight of women of color, Jewish women, female members of the LBGTQ community, and women who actively chose to step out of the boundaries of what was considered to be appropriately “feminine”.
I wish that this book had been around when I was younger. It is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. It is educational, entertaining, and a reminder that there have always been women who have been willing to buck tradition to follow their own path.
A good romance has the power to metaphorically sweep the audience off their feet.
The new Netflix series, Bridgeton premiered on Friday. Set in Regency era England, the program follows the romantic trials and tribulations of the eight children of the widowed Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). Her children are named in alphabetical order, from A-H. It is based on the book series by Julia Quinn and the first book in series (The Duke and I). The female protaganist is Lady Bridgerton’s eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), who is entering her first Season.
The initial response to Daphne, according to the unseen narrator and gossip Queen, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), is that she is the one to watch. But before Daphne can enjoy the spotlight, she is downgraded by Lady Whistledown to persona non grata. On the flip side, the husband that every match-making mama wants for her daughter is Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Having recently come into the title after the death of his father, Simon has made it clear that he is content to remain a bachelor for the rest of his days.
Simon and Daphne have a plan. They will pretend to court. He will appear to be spoken for and she will have more suitors than she knows what do with. But like many plans, there is a hitch. Somewhere along the way, their relationship begins to change.
Bridgerton is easily the best new television program of the year. In a nutshell, it is Jane Austen meets Shondaland. I love the diversity, I love the characters, and I love the smart and capable women who populate this world.
This Regency nerd is ready for season 2. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The world of dating and romance can sometimes be cutthroat.
Mr. Malcolm’s List, written by Suzanne Allain was originally published in 2009 and re-published this year. Jeremy Malcolm is the younger son of an Earl in Regency Era England. Handsome and wealthy, he is considered to be the ideal husband. Though he is ready to marry, he will not marry just anyone.
To throw off any woman who would marry him for less than honest reasons, Jeremy compiles a list which contains the qualities that his future wife must have. Rumors of this list and it’s contents have spread. Julia Thistlewaite is one of the many women who has tried and failed to become Mrs. Malcolm.
Angry at being rejected, she invites her old school friend, Selina Dalton to spend some time with her in London. Selina reluctantly agrees to join Julia on her plan of revenge. When Jeremy starts to judge Selina based on this list, she decide to judge him back based on her own version of the perfect husband.
I loved this book and I think my fellow Jane Austen fans will as well. Mr. Malcolm was created in the image of Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), creating a love/hate relationship with the reader. I appreciated the satire, the humor, the charm, and the reverence for the era.
I recommend it.
P.S. I recommend that you watch the short film that came out last year based on the book. It is the perfect companion to it’s literary predecessor.
Using noted figures of the period such as writer Jane Austen, aristocrat, poet, and politician Lord Byron and French statesman Napoleon Bonaparte, Professor Morrison deconstructs the period and changes that would forever affect Britain as we know it to be today.
I liked this book. It was a deep dive into a period that I thought I knew a lot about. I was wrong. This book took me into the intricacies and details of the Regency era that would only be known to someone who lived in that time or a modern historian who had done their homework.
I will say, however, that this book is not for everyone. It is for someone like me who wants to know more about the period outside of the novels of the era. Or, it can be used for academic purposes. But it does not read like a dry college textbook. Professor Morrison writes in such a way that the reader is quickly absorbed and taught about the Regency era without feeling like they are in a lecture hall.
In Cindy Anstey’s 2017 novel, Duels & Deception, Lydia Whitfield has laid out her life at the young age of 17. Her late father not only named Lydia’s Uncle as her guardian, but has also chosen her husband. She expects to marry her chosen husband and life as a woman of high society in the Regency era ought to. But this heiress will soon learn that her plans are about to change.
Robert Newton is a young law clerk who works for the Whitfield family solicitor. Lydia has asked Robert to write out the marriage contract between herself and her future husband. Then both are kidnapped by someone who not only want’s Lydia’s fortune, but also wants to sully her reputation. As Lydia and Robert work together to find the culprit and the reason for the kidnapping, they start to become more than an heiress and a law clerk. Now the question is, will Lydia go through with her carefully laid plans or will she choose another path?
I really enjoyed this book. It’s not exactly intellectually heavy, but that’s ok. It’s light, romantic and a fun read. I especially appreciated that Lydia is not the average romantic heroine. She is smart, has a sharp tongue and has no problem taking charge when push come to shove. While there was some phrasing that was a little too modern for my taste, the author does an excellent job of telling the story while staying true to life in the Regency era.