Tag Archives: Austen

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict – Laurie Viera Rigler
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010
3.5 out of 5 stars

Many of you know I am a Jane Austen addict. Or well, I go through periods in which the word addict applies. And so when I feel ill, and I can’t quite handle reading, I often turn towards my pile of DVD’s that contain Austen adaptions, because I need something that’s familiar enough for it to allow me to lose focus every once in a while and that will cheer me up at the same time. I also often become quite obsessive about these stories around times of illness. Having watched two versions of Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth, I want to feel like I felt when I discovered Austen for the first time all over again. And so I turn to Jane Austen’s book, or, like I did last week, I turn to one of the books that touch on Jane Austen’s novels. I had Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict on my shelves for a few months, but I didn’t really feel the need to pick it up. There’re only so much adaptations I can take and I need long breaks in between reading them. However, when you’re suffering from a cold and there’s nothing else to do but lie down on the couch all day, these sorts of novels are perfect for keeping you company without requiring you to commit to reading all day long. And so, while being ill I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict one chapter at a time, often falling asleep in between chapters. And I have to admit, it was quite enjoyable for its genre. I often come to these books prepared to be disappointed and that was wholly unnecessary in this case.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is about Courtney Stone, a 21st century American who lives in Los Angeles, but one day wakes up in the body of Jane Mansfield in the England of Jane Austen. At first she struggles to come to grips with the new situation. She especially resents the unequal treatment of woman and the lower classes and longs to return to her former life. However, she slowly starts to feel more at home in 19th century England. She even starts to remember Jane Mansfield’s memories. However, these memories put her in an awkward situation: she doesn’t know whether she should trust her suitor, Mr. Edgeworth.

There is one thing that bothers me in all of the books that feature contemporary characters meeting characters from Jane Austen’s time and that is the lack of explanation given as to why this happens to them. It always feels like it is simply plot devise and that the authors themselves don’t particularly care to answer why it happens, because they don’t have any idea on it either. And yet, I would personally prefer it if authors, instead of choosing the simple way around these questions and remarking something along the lines that it “must be something magical that she didn’t quite understand”, would put a little more thought into it and come up with a more believable plot. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t like the idea of time travel because it isn’t realistic, I would simply enjoy these novels better if the author had put more thought into this aspect of the story.

Greatest Love: Letter

Because of Valentines Day I decided to make this a monthly feature: The Greatest Love Scenes/Letters/Couples, etc. It wasn’t hard to choose my first post in this regard and it doesn’t need many words of introduction or reflection, since it is perfect the way it is. The letter from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot at the end of Persuasion. It is, in my opinion, the best love letter to appear in fiction. And what women wouldn’t dream of receiving such a one someday?

To Miss A. E.–,

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.


Watching Emma (2009)

Emma is not the easiest Austen-heroine to love. Unlike others she is rich, spoiled, from a family of consequence and she knows it. She is interfering with other peoples business with her (disastrous) matchmaking and she’s a gossip when it comes to Miss Fairfax. Worst of all she flirts unrelentlessly with Frank Churchill. Who can help but feel a little annoyed at her? Then again, slowly realising her mistakes, Emma redeems herself towards the end of the story.

Due to the little stir in Austen-land concerning the broadcasting of BBC’s Emma 2009 in the US, I decided to rewatch the series. And I have to admit that I loved it. It might not be completely true to the book by Jane Austen, in that the dialogue has been modernized, but I do not mind that generally if it’s done in a proper and fitting way. And this recent adaptation succeeds in doing just that. The story gets a good amount of time to develop (four hours) and the scenery and overall feel of the adaptation is amazing. It is so colourful and beautiful! It may not be absolutely period-accurate, but then again, I do not mind so much.

Romola Garai as Emma grew on me. I thought her more believable than Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale (both 1996). She did have an awful lot of facial expressions that looked as if she was practising emotions such as “shock” or “wonder” for actor-class, but I had the feeling that the obviousness lessened throughout the series. Or maybe I just got used to it, who knows? Somehow, I thought her acting fitted the part of Emma and even her over-the-top facial expressions contributed to that somewhat.

Then there are some of the male actors. First of all, Michael Gambon did a very good job playing Mr. Woodhouse. (But then, being the silly girl I am, I couldn’t help but smile when I finally thought of where I knew him from, Dumbledore!). I wasn’t sure about Johny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley at first. But in the end I think he made a lot of sense. He does fit the role of being someone who’s serious and always there for everyone, but who is often overlooked when it comes to matchmaking. And then, Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton. Can I just say that I thought he was the hottest Mr. Elton ever? Of course, I already knew that he looks great in costume, having played, what I dubbed “emo”, Edmund in Mansfield Park (2007). Yet, in Emma he managed to combine it with the slitheriness of a snake which made me dislike him in a way Mr. Elton should be disliked.

Overall, very satisfying adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, which made me realise once again why I should reread the original.

A Gothic Take on Pride and Prejudice

Vampire Darcy's Desire - Regina JeffersVampire Darcy’s Desire – Regina Jeffers
4 out of 5 stars 

Austen adaptations usually fall in one of two categories. They either contain 90% or more Austen material, with some lines in between that are supposed to show the story from the point of view of another person, or they are complete rewrites, usually with a lot of nonsense thrown in, that only lift the names from the Austen-original. Vampire Darcy’s Desire is a little bit of both, which makes it a better book than most Austen-based books I’ve read.

Regina Jeffers turns Pride and Prejudice into a gothic novel, in which suspense and sexual tension play a large part. Darcy is now a dhampir (In Jeffers’ words: the product of a union between a vampire and a human) that has sworn never to marry or have children, to stop the family curse that turns every male first-born into a dhampir. Enter Elizabeth Bennet, who soon dominates his thoughts and feelings. While their romance unfolds, both get entangled in a fight to stop the arch enemy of Darcy: the vampire George Wickham.

Having read Austenprose’s preview of Vampire Darcy’s Desire a few weeks ago, I knew I had to read this book sometime or other. I don’t regret ordering the book as soon as I could. While the book starts out with some of the scenes that would seem familiar to any reader of Pride and Prejudice, Jeffers didn’t simply copy out the story while adding the elements of Wickham being a vampire and Darcy a dhampir. Instead, this is a true original story wrapped up into the world of Pride and Prejudice, with some of the original Austen dialogue.

Having read Jeffers’ preface, I couldn’t help but feel she did a good job at recasting Pride and Prejudice into a gothic novel. It’s interesting to see how that works out. Especially since Austen lived during the times that gothic novels were immensely popular, as her making fun of the genre in Northanger Abbey shows. Vampire Darcy’s Desire is never too over the top or ridiculous, like the recent Quirk Books retellings are. Instead it’s a highly enjoyable story that combines both Twilight and Austen in a way that I think will make many Austen fans like it, although there are probably always some purists around that had better stay away.

A Monstrosity of a Book

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters – Jane Austen en Ben H. Winters
1 out of 5 stars

Giant lobsters, terrifying swordfish, London converted into a giant dome on the bottom of the sea and a man suffering from a curse by a sea witch. All form the background of the new book by Quirk Classics in the monster mash-up genre: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. One thing’s for sure: it’s a monstrosity of a book.

After the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the publishers must have wanted to cash in on this new hype. Granted, who could blame them? The combination of Pride and Prejudice with zombies was funny. It’s not for everyone, it’s over the top and the idea of zombies certainly got a little old close to the end of the book. Still, it gave a funny twist to the story. More publishers must’ve noticed that the public seemed to like it, because currently there are books appearing everywhere that combine classic Austen with freaky super natural monsters. Quirk must’ve thought that they’d better be quick with their own follow up. That’s why, a couple of months ago, a trailer appeared for “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”.

Sadly, the book doesn’t live up to the trailer. And that’s saying a lot, because the trailer wasn’t all that great to begin with. Except, it was still funny and the book isn’t.

This is Sense and Sensibility in a world in which every animal that lives in the sea has turned against mankind and wants to eat every single human there is. Strangely, this doesn’t mean that the British all move inland and stay away from the water. The Dashwood family goes to live on a small island that is on the most dangerous coast: Devonshire. And instead of visiting London halfway through the book, they visit Submarine Station Beta, which is below sea level. Both of course, set the stage for disaster.

It’s just all a little too farfetched. To make it worse, Ben Winters thought it necessary to change most of the characters around. Margaret, instead of being a happy child turns into a member of some sect. Mr. Palmer had his own experiences with this sect, because apparently he can’t behave like he does in Sense and Sensibility for no reason other than his character and bad marriage. All the characters are less sensible in that they usually ignore the dangers or attacks of sea monsters that happen in front of their nose for reasons of decorum. The worst change was made, however, to Colonel Brandon. He was hit by a curse which changed him into a half-squid and makes him utterly unlovable from the start. I love the character of Colonel Brandon in the classic Sense and Sensibility, but was unable to feel anything but disgust in this book. Of course, mostly this was disgust for whatever Ben Winters was thinking.  Readers have to struggle through pages in which Colonel Brandon has to pin his tentacles to his ears to be able to eat, is regularly covered in slime and worst of all: his tentacles are linked to that other part (or parts, apparently in his case) of his body that deal with sexual arousal. How, if ever, could you want to read a book based on Austen that features the sentence:

‘She noticed that his appendages at times seemed to stiffen a bit when he chanced to glance upon Marianne, as if excess blood were flowing into them.’

Not even the semi-critical look at colonialism helped the enjoyment of this book. If you want to voice your objections to Britain’s colonial past, why insist on giving Lady Middleton, Mrs. Palmer and her mother (in this story all forcibly abducted from a faraway island) so many characteristics that are basically ethnocentric prejudices from the colonial period?