Friday, July 14, 2017

My 7/14/17 post for Austen Authors! Check out the original to join the conversation:  http://austenauthors.net/poesy-and-parody/

My new book, Darcy in Wonderland, come out tomorrow! Well, the ebook does (paperbacks to follow soon). Next month we'll have a giveaway and release party, but today I just want to step back and reflect on how much fun I had writing this book! Though the book is both a Pride and Prejudice sequel and an Alice in Wonderland mashup, I've filled it with references to other Austen novels, some more obvious than others. In particular, I had an amazing time taking the poems that occur throughout Alice in Wonderland and parodying them with a twist of Austen thrown in. Lewis Carroll's poems are parodies themselves of verses that would have been quite familiar to his Victorian audience, so it felt like a very natural place to go a bit wild. Here is a couple of my favorite. Do you recognize the references? Also get a glimpse of some of the original illustrations by K. Wiedemann featured in the book. Share your thoughts and insights on both in the comments!


‘Tis the voice of the Lobster: In tones not muted,
‘Take no pleasure in novels? Intolerably stupid!’
Like a lady when shopping for muslins and lace,
Our minds shout agreement, even as our hearts race.
‘Little boys and girls should be tormented,’ he said,
But only so long as it is good for their heads:
‘To torment or instruct: words found synonymous.’
All precision of language has now simply gone amiss.

I passed by his garden, and to my surprise,
Something shocking indeed was happening inside.
‘Indeed! Of what nature!’ The questions were fret.
‘More horrible than anything we’ve met with yet.’
‘Good heaven! A riot? Give me peace of mind!’
‘I expect murder and everything of that kind.’
 Laughing, ‘The riot is only in your own brain!
The confusion there might drive anyone insane.’

Know the scene and place? Well this one is a bit more tricky:

They told me you had writ to her
And mentioned me to say,
Good things about my character:
That she should hear me play.

She then sent word that I should come
And be her governess.
The offer like a cherry plum.
Refusal, stubbornness.

I gave her one, and then two more,
And yet three more in time,
Excuses, each that she ignored,
And yet I still opined.

We learned through hearsay, during tea,
Just after I gave in,
A sickly woman ceased to be   
To no one’s great chagrin.

This obstacle now done away,
He only needed come,
To Mrs. Suckling’s great dismay,
I passed the cherry plum.

In wedded bliss I soon shall bask,
At Enscombe, a few miles hence.
Not of you shall I ever ask,
Nor give you recompense.

And let's wrap up with an easy one. Everyone should get this:


“You are old, Lady Catherine,” the young girl said,
“And your hair has become very white;
Yet you improved Rosings alone, you swellhead!
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Lady Catherine said to the girl,
“I’d command someone else to do it;
But since the first time that I gave it a whirl
I know no one more equal to it.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “as I mentioned before,
And your bones have become quite brittle,
Yet you goad your relations, prompting uproar —
Don’t you fear it will end in committal?”

“In my youth,” said her ladyship, a frown on her face,
“I’d lambaste you for speaking so shrill;
But now that death and I shall so soon embrace
I’ll simply write you out of the will.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “and your jaws are too weak
For little else other than pudding
Yet you told off the Rector, the Cook, and a Sheik —
Why so disagreeable, woman?”

“In my youth,” said the Dame, “I knew it my call,
And argued with all and sundry.
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw
Allows me to keep speaking bluntly.”

For more fun, order the book from Amazon today: https://www.amazon.com/Darcy-Wonderland.

And check out more of my sister's amazing artwork as www.wiedemannillustrations.com and katywiedemann.com.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Finding Solace in Austen, today at Austen Authors

View the original post at austenauthors.net.

Did you know that during World War I, Jane Austen's novels were recommended as an antidote for soldiers coping with shell-shock? And during the Second World War, sales of her works in England tripled? If you are unfamiliar with it, I highly recommended reading Rudyard Kipling's short story The Janeites, which provides insight into the importance Austen held to soldiers in wartime. It is believed that when Kipling's own son, John, died in WWI, that it was the writer's reading of Austen's books aloud to his grieving family that helped them to overcome their grief. I know in my own life, whenever tragedy strikes, I immediately turn to Austen for escape. She led me through my first and most agonizing miscarriage, helped me conquer the debilitating bouts of depression I suffered in my 20s, and provided a much needed outlet in 2014, forever in my mind branded as the year of death (I lost three beloved grandparents within six months of each other, as well as a host of other relations and friends). There is no doubt in my mind that Austen's books provide solace and comfort when little else can, but what is it about her stories that endows them with this extraordinary power to heal?



Jane Austen herself lived in a time of massive upheaval. Revolutions were changing the world, and England was at war for almost her entire life. Uncertainty about what the future might bring was rampant and justified. In many ways, it was a lot like our own time, when her popularity and devotion to her has reached unprecedented heights, yet such chaos rarely makes an appearance in Austen's books. Many believe it is precisely this almost blithe dismissal of the world's dangers in which lies her appeal: allowing readers to escape present angst and replace it with drawing-room etiquette, witty observation, and timeless romance. But are Austen's novels so very void of turmoil? Certainly, the Dashwoods' entire existence is thrust into uncertainty with the loss of their home and financial security, and the Bennets' live beneath the specter of the same real threat. Only Emma Woodhouse, of all Austen's heroines, lives a truly charmed existence. Nevertheless, despite the fragility of her characters' financial status, it is inarguable that Austen rarely confronts the horrors of war that permeated her world. Yes, most of the books contain a fairly strong military presence, but the dangers these soldiers and sailors face in the line of duty are barely addressed. There is almost no acknowledgement that they might die, or be maimed, yet we know from primary sources that limbless former soldiers littered the city streets, begging for the assistance that the government refused to provide. Of course, Austen knew the very real consequences her naval brothers faced when she saw them off to sea, but nothing of that concern is imparted to sensitive and intelligent Fanny Price, when she says good bye to William, her own sailor brother. Indeed, Fanny's sorrow in seeing him off seems all based in selfish concern for her own comfort, which is really rather bizarre in a character as selfless and sacrificing as Fanny:
Before the week ended, it was all disappointment. In the first place, William was gone. The Thrush had had her orders, the wind had changed, and he was sailed within four days from their reaching Portsmouth; and during those days she had seen him only twice, in a short and hurried way, when he had come ashore on duty. There had been no free conversation, no walk on the ramparts, no visit to the dockyard, no acquaintance with the Thrush, nothing of all that they had planned and depended on. Everything in that quarter failed her, except William's affection. His last thought on leaving home was for her. He stepped back again to the door to say, "Take care of Fanny, mother. She is tender, and not used to rough it like the rest of us. I charge you, take care of Fanny." 
William was gone: and the home he had left her in was, Fanny could not conceal it from herself, in almost every respect the very reverse of what she could have wished. It was the abode of noise, disorder, and impropriety. Nobody was in their right place, nothing was done as it ought to be.


Typically, the military is highly glamorized in Austen: dashing men, handsome in their uniforms, off to make great names for themselves while exploring the world. Pride and Prejudice gives us some inkling of the nuisance the military (particularly a militia) can prove, but generally it is all pomp and circumstance. Indeed, it is only in Persuasion that Austen gives us some true inkling of the dangers associated with war. We receive a sense of uncertainty in Captain Wentworth's future in chapter four, when Anne's recalls the arguments used to persuade her to break off their engagement, yet these can be interpreted as fear of financial insecurity rather than of the possible loss of life. Wentworth rather flippantly jokes about the possibility of his death when dining at Uppercross, but even this might be read as merely a way to poke at Anne for her abandonment of him and test her sensibilities: "Four-and-twenty hours later, and I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth, in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me."

It is only in the very last lines of the novel that the true perils inherent to Captain's Wentworth's career are seriously expressed:
His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less, the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.
There are two casualties of war in Austen, both in Persuasion:. The first is Richard Musgrove, lost sometime, somehow, at sea. However, his death is little lamented:
The real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year; that he had been sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before. 
He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him "poor Richard," been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
Doesn't exactly evoke sympathy, does it?

The other casualty is Captain Harville, a fully developed and relatable character, but his injury acts more as a plot device than anything else: "Captain Harville had never been in good health since a severe wound which he received two years before, and Captain Wentworth's anxiety to see him had determined him to go immediately to Lyme."



Yet even though Austen never fully confronts the realities of war, she does give us the tools, modeled in her best heroines, to cope with such shattering anxieties: Elinor Dashwood's stoicism while her relations fall apart, Elizabeth's determination to follow her heart despite external pressure, and, more than any of the others, Anne's philosophical approach to loss, resignation, and survival. I think this is why Persuasion has always been my favorite of the six novels. Anne imbibes the reader with strength when all seems lost, and gives us hope that we may triumph in the end, even when the future appears immeasurably dark. I think not just of her advice to Captain Benwick, or even of her moving words to Captain Harville on constancy (so often overshadowed by "the letter," which immediately follows), but the unwavering example she provides in her conduct of humanity's ability to endure sorrow with grace and resilience. Yogis would call her zen. Many ask, "What would Jane do?" But in my mind, the question is always, "What would Anne do?"

How has Austen's writing provided solace to you in times of sorrow? Which characters galvanize you the most? Please share your stories in the comments. Like Austen's novels, they might prove just the inspiration another needs to carry on.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Darcy in Wonderland Cover Reveal, Today at Austen Authors

Join the conversation at Austen Authors.

My next book, Darcy in Wonderland, will be published this summer - assuming I can focus long enough to get the final draft to my editor! The book is part Pride and Prejudice sequel, set twenty some years after the Darcy's marriage, and part pure mashup with Alice in Wonderland. I'm super excited because this project has given me an opportunity for which I have long yearned: to work with my incredibly talented little sister, Katy Wiedemann, who has created beautiful illustrations for the book. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I am able to reveal the cover, featuring one of her drawings, here today. She based her image of Darcy on David Rintoul, who played the role in the 1981 BBC mini-series. Isn't she incredible?
One of the great challenges I've encountered in writing this story is trying to combining the styles of two very different writers. This proved a particular problem when it comes to the thorny issue of contractions.
Over the years, I've been told by more than one person that Jane Austen never used contractions. This is not exactly true, though her use of contractions is very limited. Lewis Carroll, on the other hand, uses contractions nonstop. I compromised between the two by limiting the characters from Austen's world to her contractions, letting Carroll's characters pretty much run wild (it would have been impossible to fight this, as that is just what Carroll's characters do), and I split the difference on Alice. As a result of this process, I produced a rather handy list of contractions Austen did use in her six major novels and those she did not (several do appear more frequently in her earlier works). Let's start with those she definitely never uses:
aren't, couldn't, could've, didn't, doesn't, hadn't, hasn't, haven't, he'd, he'll, he's, how'd, isn't, it'd, it'll, it's, let's, mightn't, might've, mustn't, must've, needn't, oughtn't, she'd, she'll, she's, shouldn't, should've, that'd, that'll, there's, they'll, they're, wasn't, we'll, we're, weren't, we've, what's, where's, who'd, who'll, who's, wouldn't, would've, you'd, you'll, you've
Now let's discuss what is far more interesting: those contractions Austen does utilize and why.
There are only three she uses fairly regularly: don't, 'tis, and won't (note that 'tis never occurs in Persuasion, while making a regular appearance in all five of the other novels).
There are a three more that appear a handful of times in the novels: can't, I'll, and shan't/sha'nt (note that the latter is only ever used by Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Bennet, and Miss Bates).
Then there are those that appear very infrequently. Word geek that I am, I find this highly compelling. Usually, these contractions reflect a character's lack of education or refinement. Let's take a look at them in context.

An't

This archaic contraction occurs a bit more frequently than the others on this list, but really only in Sense and Sensibility, in which it is used five times.
Anne Steele (she uses it twice - also see notes below on "I'm"):
"Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least astonished at it in the world, for I have often thought of late, there was nothing more likely to happen."
Mrs. Jennings:
"Mind me, now, if they an't married by Mid-summer."
and
"The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my word for it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I sha'nt go if Lucy an't there."
And, curiously, Fanny Dashwood:
Perhaps Fanny thought for a moment that her mother had been quite rude enough,--for, colouring a little, she immediately said,
"They are very pretty, ma'am--an't they?" But then again, the dread of having been too civil, too encouraging herself, probably came over her, for she presently added,
"Do you not think they are something in Miss Morton's style of painting, Ma'am?--She does paint most delightfully!--How beautifully her last landscape is done!"
Fanny is a far more socially elevated character than the other two, and I think Austen very deliberately puts this contraction into her speech in order to display Fanny's internal coarseness, despite her fashionable trappings.
The only other time "an't" occurs is in Emma, where it is used by Mrs. Elton when speaking to Jane Fairfax. She is a character rather like Fanny, when you stop to consider their personalities. Both are petty and self-absorbed. It is also possible that both ladies saying 'an't' is some kind of affectation, perhaps a modish slang. If so, I think it is clear Austen does not approve of such verbal laziness.
"Now I say, my dear, in our case, for lady, read----mum! a word to the wise.--I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I want to set your heart at ease as to Mrs. S.--My representation, you see, has quite appeased her."

I'd

Toni Collette as Harriet Smith, 1996.
Used four times, and in a rather broad set of circumstances. Anne Steele, who uses more contractions than any other character in Austen, says it once:
"Good gracious! (giggling as she spoke) I'd lay my life I know what my cousins will say, when they hear of it. They will tell me I should write to the Doctor, to get Edward the curacy of his new living. I know they will; but I am sure I would not do such a thing for all the world.--'La!' I shall say directly, 'I wonder how you could think of such a thing? I write to the Doctor, indeed!'"
It occurs twice in Mansfield Park, and always by the Portsmouth Prices. First by William:
"I should like to see you dance, and I'd dance with you if you would, for nobody would know who I was here, and I should like to be your partner once more."
And then later in the story by his father, who uses courser language than any other character in Austen:
"But, by G--! if she belonged to me, I'd give her the rope's end as long as I could stand over her. A little flogging for man and woman too would be the best way of preventing such things."
It is also used once in Emma, by Harriet Smith:
"Will you read the letter?" cried Harriet. "Pray do. I'd rather you would."

I'm

Austen only uses it three times, and just in her first two novels. Anne Steele says it in Sense and Sensibility: twice in the same sentence! Anne's frequent use of contractions is definitely a reflection of her lack of education and low status, and this paragraph is loaded with them:
"Nay, my dear, I'm sure I don't pretend to say that there an't. I'm sure there's a vast many smart beaux in Exeter; but you know, how could I tell what smart beaux there might be about Norland; and I was only afraid the Miss Dashwoods might find it dull at Barton, if they had not so many as they used to have. But perhaps you young ladies may not care about the beaux, and had as lief be without them as with them. For my part, I think they are vastly agreeable, provided they dress smart and behave civil. But I can't bear to see them dirty and nasty. Now there's Mr. Rose at Exeter, a prodigious smart young man, quite a beau, clerk to Mr. Simpson, you know, and yet if you do but meet him of a morning, he is not fit to be seen.--I suppose your brother was quite a beau, Miss Dashwood, before he married, as he was so rich?"
Lydia Bennet is the other character to utilize "I'm":
"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I'm the tallest."

   

I've

Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Jennings, 1995.
Only used once by Mrs. Jennings, another great peddler of contractions:
"Oh, Lord! I am sure your mother can spare you very well, and I do beg you will favour me with your company, for I've quite set my heart upon it. Don't fancy that you will be any inconvenience to me, for I shan't put myself at all out of my way for you. 

How d'ye

Bit of a weird one, and akin to our modern "how'd." I definitely think she is representing colloquial speech with this contraction. It is always used in greeting. John Thorpe says it in Northanger Abbey:
"Make haste! make haste!" as he threw open the door-- "put on your hat this moment -- there is no time to be lost -- we are going to Bristol. --How d'ye do, Mrs. Allen?"
It is how John Knightley greets his brother in Emma (love this quote, by the way):
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley made his appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
Miss Bates also uses it:
"How d' ye do?--how d'ye do?--Very well, I thank you. So obliged to you for the carriage last night. We were just in time; my mother just ready for us. Pray come in; do come in. You will find some friends here."
And Admiral Croft says it in Persuasion, when he is walking with Anne:
"But here comes a friend, Captain Brigden; I shall only say, `How d'ye do?' as we pass, however. I shall not stop. 'How d'ye do?' Brigden stares to see anybody with me but my wife."

 

That's

Romola Garai & Johnny Lee Miller as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley, 2009.

This one is very interesting. It only occurs twice in Austen. Both times are in Emma, and both occur in the same chapter (12). I have to wonder if this wasn't an editing oversight on Austen's part, because instead of the "that's" being dropped by side characters of questionable educational background, here it is used by our hero and heroine. The other theory I have is that both characters are flustered when they use the contraction. Perhaps it reflects their state of minds? First it is used by Emma:
"That's true," she cried—"very true. Little Emma, grow up a better woman than your aunt. Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited.
And then later by Mr. Knightley, when he is trying to redirect the dinner conversation away from the subject of Mr. Perry's medical opinions:
"True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with most ready interposition— "very true. That's a consideration indeed.—But John, as to what I was telling you of my idea of moving the path to Langham, of turning it more to the right that it may not cut through the home meadows, I cannot conceive any difficulty."

They'd

Only appears once in Austen, in Sense and Sensibility. Servants don't usually have much of a voice in Austen, but the Dashwood's Thomas has quite a speech at the end of the novel, in which he drops the "they'd":
"I happened to look up as I went by the chaise, and so I see directly it was the youngest Miss Steele; so I took off my hat, and she knew me and called to me, and inquired after you, ma'am, and the young ladies, especially Miss Marianne, and bid me I should give her compliments and Mr. Ferrars's, their best compliments and service, and how sorry they was they had not time to come on and see you, but they was in a great hurry to go forwards, for they was going further down for a little while, but howsever, when they come back, they'd make sure to come and see you."

We'd

Daisy Haggard as Miss Steele, 2008.

We wrap up where we began, with Anne Steele:
"Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we'd join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did."
So what have we learned from all this? While some contractions are broadly used by all manner of characters in Austen, her use of them is highly selective, usually chosen to highlight lack of education or some other character fault. I hope this exercise is useful to my fellow writers, and that it provides a heightened awareness in readers of Austen's careful choice of language.
Thanks for joining me on this exploration into some of the less obvious aspects of Austen's writing style.
More information on Darcy in Wonderland coming soon!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Old BBC Austen Adaptations, Today at Austen Authors

It's my turn again! This month I'm reviewing the old Austen adaptations I love so well. Please join me! http://austenauthors.net/old-bbc-austen-adaptations/


I have long championed the old BBC Austen adaptations, produced in the 70s and 80s. I was so fortunate as to receive the pictured box set several years ago as a Christmas gift, and since I have watched these films time and time again. Now, if you require beautiful cinematography and have no tolerance for this style of old, made for TV literary adaptation, which admittedly tend to be long, move slowly, and are hampered by unfortunate production quality, then no amount of praise from me will help you find enjoyment in these movies. You will lose your patience. But for me, it is precisely such attributes that make these versions feel a little more true to Austen. There is a quietness to the old adaptations, incompatible with the glossy and dramatic versions made over the last quarter of a century, that better conveys the atmosphere of her books. Not that I don't adore the newer movies - they're (mostly) phenomenal - but these are excellent too, and should not be forgotten. In some cases, I have yet to see a version I prefer. So here is a brief intro to and scene from each film. When I've written them, I've included links to reviews. Unfortunately, the quality issues sometime appear worse than usual in the clips, due to the quality of the recordings, but they still provide a taste of each film.

Sense and Sensibility, 1981

I believe Sense and Sensibility translates to film particularly well, and all the versions I have ever seen of it are quite good. I'm not sure why this version was included in the box set instead of the 1971 version (it features Joanna David as a wonderful Elinor, familiar to Janeites from her portrayal of Mrs. Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice, 1995, and a fabulous performance by British TV icon Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings). Both versions leave out Margaret Dashwood entirely out of the script, which I find problematic.
The 1981 adaptation stars Irene Richards as Elinor Dashwood (also Charlotte Collins in the 1980 Pride and Prejudice), Marianne is played by Tracey ChildsBosco Hogan is Edward Ferrars, and Robert Swann is Colonel Brandon, but none of these actors are in the clip below. Instead, I have chosen a scene dominated by Amanda Boxer, who portrays Fanny Dashwood. She is my favorite actress in this role. Throughout the film she is odiously smug and collected, and to see her lose it on Anne Steele (Pippa Sparkes) is hysterical. Often film makers forget that Austen is, first and foremost, a comic writer, and I really appreciate it when they pay homage to her love of absurdity and amusement in human folly. Also featured are Julia Chambers (who is fabulous) as Lucy Steele, and Peter Gale as John Dashwood.


Pride and Prejudice, 1980

I think it is fair to claim that this is the most beloved film in the collection. Many Janeites continue to prefer this version of Pride and Prejudice to the more acclaimed, recent versions. I think that's because Elizabeth Garvie is so good as Elizabeth Bennet, and David Rintoul, while a bit stiff, just looks perfect as Darcy. Also, because the story has been less, um, sensationalized (no wet shirts here), it comes off as the coziest of the Pride and Prejudice adaptations available.
The scene below is the party at Lucas Lodge and features Irene Richards as Charlotte (since we missed her in action as Elinor). We also get quick glimpses of Tessa Peake-Jones as Mary Bennet (my favorite Mary!) and Priscilla Morgan as Mrs. Bennet


Mansfield Park, 1983

This is by far and away my preferred Mansfield Park, and for that reason alone is enough to make it my favorite film in the boxset. There are only three versions of Mansfield Park, and both the more recent films make the fundamental mistake of trying to fix the novel. This is the only one that honestly attempts to capture the true story, and Sylvestra Le Touzal (who also played Mrs. Allen in the excellent 2007 version of Northanger Abbey) is the only actress to have portrayed the real Fanny Price on screen. She is supported by Nicholas Farrell as Edmund Bertram. Both are in the featured clip, along with Bernard Hepton as Sir Thomas (he was also Mr. Woodhouse in Andrew Davies' 1996 Emma), and my favorite performers in this production: Anna Massey as Aunt Norris and Angela Pleasence as Lady Bertram. This clip has fun with both, in which Fanny has been invited to her first dinner party at the Grant's.


Emma, 1972

I really love this one, despite the fact that I think all three of the more recent versions of Emma are better. For whatever reason, I've consistently watched it more often than the other films in the boxset. Part of it, I think, is that like Sense and SensibilityEmma works very well on film. Highlights of this version include Mollie Sugden (best known as Mrs. Slocombe on Are You Being Served?) as Mrs. Goddard, and my favorite Mr. Woodhouse, Donald Eccles, who is fabulously nervous. The below clip shows Emma (Doran Godwin) and Harriet Smith (Debbie Bowen) paying their first, introductory call on the new Mrs. Elton (Fiona Walker). This moment is only mentioned in the book, and the dialogue actually comes from Mrs. Elton's return call on Hartfield. The end of the scene isn't in Austen at all, but it is quite amusing, nonetheless. Mr. Elton is played by Timothy Peters. Mr. Knightley, unfortunately not featured here, is excellently captured by John Carson.


Persuasion, 1971

This is my favorite Persuasion adaptation. It isn't perfect, but unlike both more recent versions, it does not rely on Austen's cancelled chapters of the story for plot. This really bothers me! It pains me there isn't a better, yet still accurate, film adaptation of my favorite Austen novel. So when I want to watch Persuasion, this is my go to, for it causes the least frustration.
Anne Elliot is played by Ann Firbanks, and Bryan Marshall is Captain Wentworth (though it appears to be Robert Swann - Col. Brandon from Sense & Sensibility - on the DVD cover. Such quirks I suppose to be part of the experience). The moment is when Wentworth writes and Anne receives THE LETTER. I chose it because it is almost verbatim from the book, giving viewers the opportunity to relish the complexity of the scene as Austen wrote it, and because Anne (thank goodness!) does not take to the streets of Bath and run about like a madwoman. I find that immensely gratifying. Also featured are Georgine Anderson as Mrs. Croft, Noel Dyson as Mrs. Musgrove, and Michael Culver as Captain Harville.


Northanger Abbey, 1987

Easily the strangest Austen adaptation ever made, the 1986 version of Northanger Abbey doesn't really fit with the other films in this boxset. It is by far the shortest (only 78 minutes), and it wildly diverges from the novel, playing up it's gothic aspects. A source of both outrage and fascination for fans, it is something you should really see at least once, if for no other reason than to join the debate. Also, Northanger Abbey has only ever been made into a movie twice. For those long horrified by this version, the 2007 film is so magnificent that they might like to forget this one ever existed. I think that's a mistake. Especially now that we have a much more accurate adaptation to cling to, I can appreciate this film for just being so darn bizarre.
The below scene is an example of this outlandishness. Instead of the Pump Room, it takes place inside the King's Bath (read my review for more history/explanation on the craziness here portrayed). You only see Mr. Tilney (Peter Firth) for a moment at the very beginning. In the baths are Catherine Morland (played by Katharine Schlesinger), Mrs. Allen (Googie Withers), Miss Tilney (Ingrid Lacey), and a most skin crawling duo: Cassie Stuart and Jonathan Coy as Isabella and John Thorpe. If you thought they were bad in the book, they are absolutely revolting here. The 80s-gone-18th century coiffures are marvelously awful. Actually, the whole film might be worth watching for the crazy head gear alone, which is on incongruous display below.


Have you seen and enjoyed (or hated) these films? I'd love to read your thoughts. Do share them.

Friday, April 7, 2017

First Impressions Birthday Giveaway WINNER!

And the winner of the three paperback and ridiculously adorable Easter ornaments is ...

The Anglophile

Congratulations! An email is coming your way to confirm mailing details.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Now that I know how popular my Swiss goodies are, I'll be sure to include others in future giveaways.

And just a heads up: most of my books, including the Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice trilogy, are now available on Kindle Unlimited. Enjoy!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

My deeper relationship with Austen began when I was in college. We were reading Persuasion in a Romantic Literature class (the first and only time I encountered Austen on a syllabus), and I began to imagine Anne Elliot walking beside me across campus or sitting in a lecture hall, and what she might have to say about our modern world. This was long before I knew anything of fan fiction, other than that it existed. These memories came back to me with sharp clarity when I read this scene:

They continued in silence for some distance, though both of them cast a meaningful stare at No 4 Sydney Place as they passed, but as they reached the Beckford Road and began the ascent, Rose turned to Jane again. 

"Does the noise bother you? The road? This is a main route to Warminster and beyond and has such heavy traffic." 

Jane smiled. "Much is altered." She looked around and gestured with her arm. "Naught but open fields bordered the Gardens." Her expression sobered. "My disinclination for our removal to Bath was much compensated for by our pleasing situation in Sydney Place. One does not feel - did not - feel so confined be the city on its outer edges." 

"Then shall we walk along the canal?" Rose pointed to the gap through which the towpath could be seen, winding its way towards Bathampton. It was a route she had often trod in the summer months when still living at home. 

"As you wish." 

They fell into step again, continuing to walk side by side at first for the width of the path permitted it. 

"I did not answer your question." Jane glanced at her, and Rose frowned. "Noise emanating from these modern conveyances does not trouble me, for it is merely different. The constant rumble of wheels over cobbles, the clatter of hooves is not so much lower in volume than your modern conveyances. 'Tis why I prefer the country; the disturbance of silence has a more natural source: birdsong, flowing water over stones, the bray of a lamb... these things I miss more than any other." 

Rose glances around. It was peaceful by modern-day standards on the towpath, with a few ducks swimming in the canal and very few people about, but just then a light aircraft came overhead, it's engine chugging away, and she glanced at Jane as they walked. 
"And what do you make of our 'modern conveyances'? You must have seen the trains passing through Sydney Gardens, too, if you've been here a while, and noticed the planes flying overhead?" 

Jane looked up as the small plane sailed out of view. "If I may fly through time, why should man not have discovered how to fly though the air?"

A few months later, I myself was wandering over the streets and paths so meticulously detailed in The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton (visit them at TabbyCow.com), at the 2016 Jane Austen Festival in Bath. I sighed just now as I wrote those words. They are a vivid reminder of how much blogging I have neglected. I never got passed the National Portrait Gallery (got a bit bogged down there, I know, but it was so awesome!), and failed to share anything of my fabulous stay in Bath here. Nor did I ever write this book review. I am a big believer in better late than never. Good thing, too.

Anyway, when I was in Bath last fall, this book was like a mental guidebook: its scenes reenacting themselves before my mind's eye. It was my first time in Bath, and when I got lost a few times, this ability was quite useful! If you have long yearned to make the pilgrimage to the Festival, as I did, than this book is honestly the next best thing. It takes place during the festival. The main character, Rose, walks in the promenade. How eerie was it for me, following in her footsteps, and knowing that one of the authors, Cass Grafton, was somewhere in the crowd! I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ms. Grafton over the past two years, as she lives not far from me in Switzerland. Her presence was just another layer adding to my glee in being where I was, when I was. The only thing missing was the fair weather Rose and her friend Morgan enjoyed during their promenade (fortunately, like Captain Wentworth, I had "equipped myself for Bath" and purchased an umbrella).

The story is one of time travel, friendship, and not taking anything for granted. Thematically, it reminds me in many ways of my own Being Mrs. Bennet, the second draft of which I was completing when reading this novel, though on the surface they are wildly different stories. Rose Wallace has always lived in Bath or its environs. Her future is there, even if a few demons from her past still haunt the ancient city. Her encounter with a time traveling Jane Austen, in whose adventure she becomes totally enmeshed, teaches her many of the same lessons hard-learned by an Austen heroine (or two).

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is such a great title for this particularly charming novel. It has such a mix of things going on: an homage not just to Jane Austen, but also to the fantasy genre. Other reviews I have read of this book compare it to a wild variety of other stories, and that's because there are so many influences informing the action. It's apparently clear that, just like Jane Austen, Ms. Bright and Ms. Grafton share a passionate love for books of all sorts. This novel is not fan fiction, but I think it is no less a book for fans. The enthusiasm of fan culture permeates it. To me it felt like the authoresses had taken Hermione Granger's time turner and transmuted it into an amber cross (there is an awesome moment in the book when Rose gives Jane a copy of The Philosopher's Stone to read). Such fun! I do hope there will be a sequel. The end leaves an opening for one. I feel like the adventure has only just begun, and I definitely want to be on board when it continues. Highly recommended!