Monday 31 May 2010

Journal of the 5th meeting or ... on disappointment

(look at my good am I  at pretending? failed! )

Since last Saturday afternoon I have been in a very strange mood. Blue? I didn't want to write about it. It hurt. BuI kept on wondering : "how would Jane (Austen) react to such an unpleasant situation"? Writing, of course. Wit, irony and satire. She would brilliantly made it laughable. But I'm not Jane. I haven't got her stingy wit and her genius for writing. But I think that to tell about it can help me.
So, to the point.
The meeting of the reading club to discuss Emma. Can you believe it? What I feared most last time for Mansfield Park (do you remember the Vicar of Dibley video I used as warm-up?) came true this time for       " my beloved Emma". None of the present had read or re-read the book. Precisely:

  • some  had read the book long before

  • some  had watched the 1996 film long before and never read the book

  • 2 never read the book, nor watched any adaptation or didn't even know what the story was about

(watching fragments from BBC Emma 2009)

Everything was so strange, but I didn't understand at first. I asked how they had enjoyed Emma and ... nobody  dared answer. The first to say something ( more than something ) was Sig.ra Letizia (do you remember Miss Bates?) : she had read the book long ago and never liked it. "That Emma is insufferable!" And she started reciting , almost by heart,  the introduction to her Italian edition of the book, the only pages from that book she had read for the meeting .  The girls started chatting and laughing but none of them,  invited,  wanted to join the conversation. They didn't know what to say, they remembered very little or just didn't know what we were talking about!
I was puzzled, disoriented and could hardly count on  my usual patience in these situations. I 'm pretty much used to that at school where students are very often  not motivated to read or analyse what I propose but ... from the members of a reading club, who joined it willingly and voluntarily,  I just didn't expect such behaviour!
So darling ladies and girls, what are you supposed to be in a reading club for?
To meet new people ? To socialize and have an excuse to leave home and escape routines?
To spend time in a beautiful library pleasantly chatting? To see fragments of my several Austen adaptations at the end of our meetings? All of them very good reasons but ... what about reading?

( At the end of the meeting, watching Mr Knightley's proposal )

So... there I am ... I can just imagine my face,  trying to pretend smiling and to disguise  my disappointment. Suffering deeply  inside, but going on asking and answering.
The worst had yet to come. It was with a question, a simple freezing one, from one of the youngest readers, Valentina (16): "But why do we have to read Jane Austen? Can't we read anything else?" And there I was , worse than before, gasping speechless at the most incredible question. Why do we read Jane Austen in a JA Book Club? What did she believe we would read in a JA Book Club? I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Instead,  I started asking about what she liked reading and an interesting discussion about books, reading for learning or for entertainment, reading contemporary writers or the classics came out.

(Thanks goodness, it was over ...)

Then,  again Valentina asked me: "Why do you like Jane Austen so much? She only wrote six novels and they are all alike: balls, courtship, marriage. Once you've read one, you've read them all! Please, tell us why you like them so much" . I felt as if I were on a trial , I was the accused.  I had to defend myself but from what? From my love for Jane Austen and Regency stuff or  Victorian literature? I actually read and have read lots of very different books in my life but Jane Austen  and Victorian novels are what I love reading most. That is what I tried to tell them , about reading books for fun or as a duty, to learn or to escape. Reading the books I really love is for me,  as I already wrote quoting Tolkien, "recovery, escape and consolation". We mentioned Pavese, Pirandello, Kundera, Dante and many others. You can learn a lot from their books but you can't escape reality, you have to dive into it,  and , often,  you find no consolation, no positiveness,  no hope.
After this animated discussion, I asked whether they wanted to see the fragments I had prepared from BBC Emma 2009 (with Italian subs) and they agreed. They seemed to like them but I went home feeling so confused and uneasy that ... I wondered: "Do I want to read and discuss  my favourite Austen, Persuasion, with these reading group? Does it have any sense?
So dear friends, all of you Janeites I met online, I'm so happy you exist and I can share with you. Thanks for being there! Before leaving you I just wanted to ask you:
- How would you answer Valentina ? (By the way she is one of my students, she's in the third year, she came to the club invited by other girls) Why do we so much love Jane Austen?
- Do you think I was wrong ? And in what was I wrong? (Because, you know, I go on feeling a bit guilty)

Friday 28 May 2010


Tomorrow is Emma's day so I'm putting  order among my several notes and materials and wanted to share some other bits with you.


Reviewing Emma for the Quarterly Review (1816), Sir Walter Scott characterized its strengths and weaknesses:

The author's knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting. The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they are finished to nature, and with a precision which delights the reader....
Her merits consist much in the force of a narrative conducted with much neatness and point, and a quiet yet comic dialogue, in which the characters of the speakers evolve themselves with dramatic effect. The faults arise from the minute detail which the author's plan comprephends. Characters of folly or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are ridiculous when first presented, but if too often brought forward or too long dwelt upon, their prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction as in real society.


1. Emma is clever but continually mistaken, kindhearted but capable of callous behavior. Austen commented that Emma is a heroine “no one but myself will much like.” Do you find Emma likable? Why or why not? How can a character as intelligent as Emma be wrong so often?
2. Emma experiences several major revelations in the novel that fundamentally change her understanding of herself and those around her. Which revelation do you think is most important to Emma’s development, and why?
3.Emma is filled with dialogue in which characters misunderstand each other. How does humor work in the novel?
4. Emma both questions and upholds traditional class distinctions. What message do you think the novel ultimately conveys about class?
5. In what ways, if at all, might Emma be considered a feminist novel?
6. Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley represent two different sets of values and two different embodiment of manhood. What values  does each of them represent? How does the novel judge these values?
7. Is Mr Knightley a father figure to Emma? Are they a perfect match?

8. In Emma we have - just hinted at - the stories of two children separated from their families for financial difficulties, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Then Emma and her father's relationship, Miss Bates and her mother's. How are family ties depicted in this novel?
9. Love courtship and marriage are among the main themes in this novel too. After reading 4 novels, what else do we get about these issues in the 5th, Emma?
10. If compared to the disappointing quick ( or skipped)   final declarations and proposals in the other novels, Mr Knightley's eventual revelation of his feelings is really detailed and touching . What do you think about these scene which can be considered rather unusual in Austen so far? Is the ending as genuinely happy as it is presented to be, or does Austen subtly inject a note of subversive irony into it?


1/11 What do we deduce from the fact that, in twenty-one years Emma has not met the Martin family?
The Martins live in the adjoining Donwell village/parish, not Highbury, hence Emma is likely to see them on a daily basis. And, as she explains to  Harriet, they are prosperous farmers, neither poor nor gentry. So on the one hand there is no reason for her to think of them as possible recipients of her charity, and on the other hand she cannot know them as social equals. They, of course, know her by sight.

1/12 Who did Miss Nash's sister marry (very advantageously)?
A linen-draper.

1/13 Who is the best whist player in Highbury?
Mr Elton. He is not, we deduce, 'high church'.

1/14 How large a contingent of servants and cattle does it take to get the five-strong Woodhouse party three-quarters of a mile to Randalls, on Christmas Eve?
Four servants and four horses.

1/15 What piece of land separates Randalls from Hartfield?
The  'common field', symbolically enough.

1/16 How long is it since Jane Fairfax was in Highbury?
Two years—about the same time that Mr Elton came and, presumably, the old vicar died.

1/17 Who was Jane Fairfax's father?
Lieutenant Fairfax, an infantry officer, who married Mrs Bates's youngest daughter. He subsequently died in action abroad. She followed with a consumption.

1/18 How much money did Miss Campbell bring to her marriage, by way of dowry? And how much are the other eligible ladies in the novel worth?
Miss Campbell brought her lucky husband £12,000. Augusta Hawkins (later Elton) is worth £10,000 and Emma, most desirable of all, £30,000. These sums can be multiplied fifty-fold to reach approximate modern-day values.

1/19 What is Mr Elton's first name? And Mr Knightley's? And Mrs Weston's? And Mr Woodhouse's?  Philip, George, Anne, Henry

1/20 What does Mr Knightley do with his last stored apples of the year?
He gives them to the Bateses—more particularly to the visibly ailing Jane. Vitamin deficiency was known, if not by name, then by the sufferer's pallid complexion (the blemish in Jane which the duplicitous Frank points out to Emma). The apples furnish the only lie we catch Mr Knightley in when he reassures the Bateses he has plenty of the fruit left—something later indignantly contradicted by his steward, William Larkins, who evidently disapproves of Donwell's bounty being given away.

1/21 With whom did Augusta Hawkins principally reside at Bath?
Mrs Partridge—chaperone and (genteel) boarding-house keeper. The name suggests hunting: not, of course, for game, but marriage partners.

1/22 What is the name of Mrs Elton's cook?
Wright. Mrs Elton is assiduous in collecting 'receipts' (that is, recipes) for Wright from the Highbury families. She intends to entertain in style. One assumes that when she served the bachelor vicar, life was easier for Wright.

1/23 Who is whose caro sposo and who is whose caro sposa?
Mr Elton—his wife (or possibly Jane Austen, or possibly some proofreader at John Murray's) is not sure about Italian gender.

1/24 What is Mrs Weston doing when she breaks the news of Frank's duplicity to Emma?
She is at 'her work'—seven months pregnant, she is sewing in preparation, we may assume, for her soon-to-be-born child. Knitting was considered somewhat low class and would have been less likely for someone of Mrs Weston's station. Specifically, she is sewing her 'broad hems', that
is, dresses for the baby with a large turn-up at the hem, so that it can be let down as the child grows. She has also, we learn, made a first set of caps.
1/25 How long has Mr Knightley been in love with Emma?
'Since you were thirteen at least'. Presumably he found Isabella toostupid (and like her father) for his taste and let John take her.

Thursday 27 May 2010


Mr. Knightley can be considered as the novel’s model of good sense. But, please lets's not go on considering him a fatherly figure. Isn't he more a very  tender passionate lover? The fact that he is much older than Emma has produced this stereotype of him , that of  a father figure to Emma who has always had a weak real one in Mr Woodhouse. Mr Knightley scolds her and rebukes her when she 's wrong, he tries to make her understand her mistakes,  but more as a dear affectionate friend, an older admirer , than a fatherly presence. When he finally declares his love to her he finds even the word "friend" unacceptable: "Emma,that I fear is a word ... - no I have no wish." 

Knightley’s love for Emma is the one emotion he cannot govern fully. It leads to his only lapses of judgment and self-control. Before even meeting Frank, Knightley decides that he does not like him. It gradually becomes clear that Knightley feels jealous. When Knightley believes Emma has become too attached to Frank, he acts with uncharacteristic impulsiveness in running away to London. His declaration of love on his return bursts out uncontrollably, unlike most of his prudent, previous well-planned actions. Yet Mr Knightley’s loss of control humanizes him rather than making him seem like a failure.


 From his very first conversation with Emma and her father in Chapter 1, his purpose—to correct the excesses and missteps of those around him—is clear. He is unfailingly honest but tempers his honesty with tact and kindheartedness. Almost always, we can depend upon him to provide the correct evaluation of the other characters’ behavior and personal worth. He intuitively understands and kindly makes allowances for Mr. Woodhouse’s whims; he is sympathetic and protective of the women in the community, including Jane, Harriet, and Miss Bates; and, most of all, even though he frequently disapproves of her behavior, he can't stay away from Emma, he never deserts her.

Like Emma, Knightley stands out in comparison to his peers. His brother, Mr. John Knightley lacks his unfailing kindness and tact. Both Frank and Knightley are perceptive, warm-hearted, and dynamic; but whereas Frank uses his intelligence to conceal his real feelings and invent clever compliments to please those around him, Knightley uses his intelligence to discern right moral conduct. Knightley has little use for cleverness for its own sake; he rates propriety and concern for others more highly.

Is Mr Knightley a Mr Perfection meant to mild Emma's imperfection? Is he too perfect to be true? I like him very much for his temper and for his wisdom, for his kindness and his generousity. Impossible to find a Mr Knightley in real life? Well, who cares? We can find one each time we leaf through Jane Austen's Emma.  Isn't this the reason why we love reading so much? Isn't it because  we can find "recovery, escape and consolation"? And, especially, a Mr Knightley, a Mr Darcy, a Captain Wentworth ....

Tuesday 25 May 2010


4 days to go. Next Saturday afternoon , I will be discussing Emma at the reading club. The more I read it, the more I like it. I know most readers prefer Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but I also know  many critics generally regard Emma as Austen's most carefully crafted or skillfully written novel. So I do not feel lonely in my sympathy for Miss Woodhouse and her  story, though I'm not a scholar or  a critic.
Austen herself acknowledged that Emma might present a problem for readers, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." And much about Emma is indeed unlikable; she is snobbish, vain, manipulative, power-hungry, self-deluded, often indifferent to the feelings of others, and on at least one occasion terribly cruel ( at Box Hill , to Miss Bates).

But do these traits necessarily make her unlikable? Do her admirable traits redeem her, such as her love for her father, her wit,  her sense of social responsibility, and her gradual admission of error? Maybe. But, honestly, what I really love in her is the fact that she has flaws. She is really imperfect, so human.

Does the comedy of watching Emma the Egoist get her comeuppance through a series of errors and admit she deserved her comeuppance make her likable? Although Emma knows what the right thing to do is, she still behaves badly; does this all too common human trait make her sympathetic because readers can identify with her?
I can't identify with Emma, though I can sympathize with her,  but being more an Elinore or an Ann Elliot, I actually admire Emma , Marianne or Elizabeth Bennet. I even envy them!

The attitude of the narrator is another consideration in evaluating Emma. Though most of the novel presents Emma's point of view, an omniscient narrator tells the story. Do the narrator's choice of language, her tone, the details she adds, and her comments upon both Emma and the action affect the way we feel about Emma? The narrator clearly presents Emma's faults and her misguided behavior and unsparingly identifies them as such, but does the narrator also suggest a sympathy or even an affection for Emma that helps to moderate the reader's negative response to her? Or is even the narrator's attitude unable to overcome the negative effect of her faults and irresponsible behavior?
Clever  question... but I can't feel any hostility in the narrating voice, I do not think she is leading readers to dislike Emma. I'm sure the narrator likes Emma a lot when she smiles ( mind you, smiles not laughs) at her defects:

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very
little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection .
( ... ) The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.
Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow--but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness.--Miss Taylor married." (... )

Another question I would like to raise about the reader's response to Emma is this: even if Emma is unlikable or unsympathetic ( which I do not think) , is the novel automatically unlikable or flawed?
I find this novel so entertaining for many a good reason: The Eltons, Mr Woodhouse, Miss Bates, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, Emma & Harriet's relationship... It is  pure fun!

Which of the other Austen heroines most shares with Emma?
Though I find her quite peculiar and unique in a brief overview of  fiction heroines, I think she shares much with Catherine Morland. Catherine doesn't have Emma's social background (Miss Woodhouse is  the wealthiest among Austen female protagonists, isn't she?) , not her intelligence nor beauty, the first is younger than the latter, but they have the same approach to reality. In which sense? They very often tend to  misinterpret reality or misjudge people, they have got a naive nature easily deceivable because they have very little experience of the world. They are rather impulsive and can't cope with their own sentiments. They try to "manufacture" events in their lives but often juxtapose what they think or reckon to what really happens. They finally understand and regret their mistakes helped by very intelligent, wise, sensitive and good-sensed partners they fall in love with and are loved by. They are very lucky indeed. Aren' t they?

But  Mr Knightley, this month's hero,  will be the subject of another blogpost in the next days. He deserves a post of his own.

So I'll leave you to the answers to some of the questions I posted few days ago.
The first 10. OK?

I / I The first sentence o/Emma—as of all Jane Austen's novels—is epigrammatic and memorable. The first epithet ascribed to Emma in it is 'handsome'. What is the overtone of the term?
That she is less than beautiful, that she is self-possessed, that she is more powerful than a mere 'Belle' (like her sister). The first description of Mr Elton is that he is 'a very pretty young man'. How different our initial impression of the heroine would be if the first sentence began: 'Emma Woodhouse, pretty, clever, and rich . . .'

1/2 How long has Isabella been married? Where does she live, and what do we deduce from these facts? She has been married seven years and is six years older than Emma. John Knightley, a younger son, could not inherit the Donwell estate so he married early and married rich—the elder Miss Woodhouse, with her thousands in the Consols. The John Knightleys live in Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury, in what is now central London, but which in their day was the northern limit of the capital.

1/3 What game do Mr Woodhouse and Emma play of an evening, at Hartfield?
Backgammon—a board game which nowadays has suggestions of the sinful casino. They apparently (from later references) play for 'sixpences' when visitors come. The point being made is that theirs is not an evangelical household.

1/4 How old is Mr Knightley?
He is 37 or 38. Why, one goes on to wonder, has he never married? Either because he is waiting for Emma, or he has had to get his estate in order. It is not excessively far-fetched (if rather un-Austenish) to suspect that Mr Knightley has a respectable lower-class mistress tucked away somewhere; not, obviously, in Donwell, to offend the neighbours; but maybe some innkeeper's wife/widow or similar, whom he visits when he goes to Richmond or Kingston markets.three years older than Frank, and twelve years younger than Mr Knightley. Mr Elton would have been ordained for three or four years, and done a first curacy before getting the living of Highbury. He has it, presumably, by virtue of his ingratiating manner, excellent character, and 'pretty' looks: he seems to have no family connections or 'interest' around Highbury.

1/6 How often does Frank see his father?
Once a year, in London. He did not attend his father's wedding.

1/7 Who was the widowed Mrs Bates's husband?
The Revd Mr Bates—a former vicar at Highbury. He was not, evidently, the vicar immediately before Mr Elton (who has just taken up the living). Talkative as the Bates household is, they never talk about him.

1/8 How old is Harriet, what distinguishes her from the other forty pupils at Mrs Goddard's, and who are her parents?
She is 17, a beauty, and 'the natural daughter of somebody' (a somebody in 'trade', as we eventually discover). She has, as the novel opens, been recently raised from 'the condition of scholar [that is, ordinary pupil] to that of parlour-boarder' (that is, she lives, as one of the family, with Mrs Goddard). Harriet evidently knows nothing of her father (nor her mother). Mrs Goddard may (but vouchsafes nothing to Emma). Harriet is, one presumes, not of local origin—otherwise gossip would supply the name of her parents.

1/9 What colour (precisely) are Emma's eyes? They are of 'the true hazle' and 'brilliant'.

1/10 How many children does Isabella have, and what are their names?
Five. In descending order: Henry, John, Bella, George, and baby Emma, aged eight months. She has been married seven years or so. Emma sketched them all two years ago, when there were just the four children. Emma is a fond aunt, we deduce.

Saturday 22 May 2010


Have you read or heard of Laurie Viera Rigler's Austen based novels? The first one is CONFESSIONS OF JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and the latest is RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT? ( which I read and reviewed last summer on FLY HIGH!  - HERE) It was great fun reading about a Regency girl' s time travelling in our time. And now I'd like to complete the journey reading Confessions. I know I should have done the opposite but , never mind!
Now I'd like to spread the news that amazing Laurie has created an amazing original script for a 20-episode web series based on her two novels: SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL.

Two young women, COURTNEY STONE of present-day Los Angeles, and JANE MANSFIELD of 1813 England, inexplicably switch bodies, time periods, and lives — one from Regency England, the other from 21st-century Los Angeles — debate the pros and cons of life and love in today's world vs. Jane Austen's world.

Watch the first episode

"Meeting men ",  HERE .


1. After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?
Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condom-less seducers, and marriages of convenience.
This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however. There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?

(from Laurie Viera Rigler site

2. Part comedy, part love story, part time-bending social commentary, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is the story of Jane Mansfield, a gentleman’s daughter from Regency England who inexplicably awakens in the body and life of twenty-first-century Los Angeleno Courtney Stone. Jane had long wished to escape the confines of a life where she could not live alone or travel alone, and where her only career options were marriage or maiden aunt. But leaving 1813 England behind and awakening in a high-tech, low-morality world is not what she had in mind. Nor is Courtney's tiny urban box of an apartment in Echo Park, complete with bars on the windows and graffiti on the gate. Gone are the rolling lawns and hovering servants of Jane's family estate. Nothing—not even her own face in the mirror—is the same. The only thing that is familiar, and the only thing she seems to have in common with the strange woman in whose life she has mysteriously landed, is a love of Jane Austen.
Not everything about the twenty-first century is disagreeable. Such as the delightful glass box in which tiny figures act out scenes from her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. Or the machines that give light, play music, cool food, and even wash clothes. And Jane may have become a woman of no rank and little fortune, but she has her first taste of privacy, independence, even the chance to earn her own money. Granted, if she wants to leave the immediate neighborhood on her own she may have to learn to drive the roaring, horseless metal carriage. And oh what places she goes! Public assemblies that pulsate with pounding music. Unbound hair and unrestricted clothing. The freedom to say what she wants when she wants—even to men without a proper introduction.
There are, however, complications. Such as the job she has no idea how to do, a dwindling bank account, and a growing pile of bills. Then there are the confusing memories that are not her own. Most confusing are her feelings for Courtney's friend Wes and ex-fiancé Frank, both of whom, she is told, have betrayed her. Although she finds herself falling for Wes, what is she to make of a world in which flirting and kissing and even the sexual act itself raise no matrimonial expectations?
With only the words of Jane Austen and a mysterious lady to guide her, Jane cannot help but wonder if she would be better off in her own time, where at least the rules are clear—if returning is even an option.

(from Laurie Viera Rigler site 

A new episode of SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL posts every Monday on


Emma was written between January 1814 and March 1815. The setting of the narrative's action would appear to be recent: 1813-14. By this period, Austen was a known and successful writer. Like Sense and Sensibility, the work was published on commission by the distinguished house of John Murray. It was published ('by the author of Pride and Prejudice, etc.') in December 1815 (dated 1816 on the title page). The novel was dedicated to the Prince Regent, at the request of the Carlton House Librarian, the Revd James Stanier Clarke.

As usual, here are some questions from John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye, SO  YOU THINK YOU KNOW JANE AUSTEN! Quizbook 2005
I usually choose the easiest ones, that is level one, brass tacks. Do  you think they are easy?

I / I The first sentence of Emma—as of all Jane Austen's novels—is epigrammatic and memorable. The first epithet ascribed to Emma in it is 'handsome'. What is the overtone of the term?

1/2 How long has Isabella been married? Where does she live, and what do we deduce from these facts?

1/3 What game do Mr Woodhouse and Emma play of an evening, at Hartfield?

1/4 How old is Mr Knightley?

1/5 How old is Mr Elton?

1/6 How often does Frank see his father?

1/7 Who was the widowed Mrs Bates's husband?

1/8 How old is Harriet, what distinguishes her from the other

forty pupils at Mrs Goddard's, and who are her parents?

1/9 What colour (precisely) are Emma's eyes?

1/10 How many children does Isabella have, and what are their names?

1/11 What do we deduce from the fact that, in twenty-one years, Emma has not met the Martin family?

1/12 Who did Miss Nash's sister marry (very advantageously)?

1/13 Who is the best whist player in Highbury?
1/14 How large a contingent of servants and cattle does it take to get the five-strong Woodhouse party three-quarters of a mile to Randalls, on Christmas Eve?

1/15 What piece of land separates Randalls from Hartfield?

1/16 How long is it since Jane Fairfax was in Highbury?

1/17 Who was Jane Fairfax's father?

1/18 How much money did Miss Campbell bring to her marriage, by way of dowry? And how much are the other eligible ladies in the novel worth?

1/19 What is Mr Elton's first name? And Mr Knightley's? And Mrs Weston's? And Mr Woodhouse's?

1/20 What does Mr Knightley do with his last stored apples of the year?

1/21 With whom did Augusta Hawkins principally reside at Bath?

1/22 What is the name of Mrs Elton's cook?

1/23 Who is whose caro sposo and who is whose caro sposa?

1/24 What is Mrs Weston doing when she breaks the news of Frank's duplicity to Emma?

1/25 How long has Mr Knightley been in love with Emma?
Enjoy your reading or re-reading and , if you feel like and are interested in, have a look at these posts of mine about EMMA and its several adaptations:
(1996 movie - Gwyneth Paltrow & Jeremy Northam)
(ITV Emma -1996 Katie Beckinsale & Mark Strong)

(BBC EMMA 2009 - Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller)

1. Waiting for the new Emma or ...the ambiguous pleasure of liberty
2. Emma 2009: You will not ask me my secret? Yes, you're wise. But I cannot be. I must tell you...

Monday 10 May 2010


I’ve been having such frantic days recently that I really needed an escape into romance and optimism. I definitely found the delight and relief I was looking for in the pages of this lovely novel by Beth Pattillo, MR DARCY BROKE MY HEART. For those who have made Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy their model hero, it may be a bit disappointing. But beware you haven’t got your Mr Darcy near you already , without realizing that . Watch carefully around you instead of dreaming about meeting one!

My review
It was like reading two books in one.
In the first one , set in our time, Claire Prescott needs a break from her ordinary disappointing routine in Kansas City.
“For more than thirty years, I’d always been exactly who people needed me to be. A dutiful daughter. An even more dutiful big sister. A hard worker … A devoted aunt to my twin nieces”. (p. 6)
She has got a boyfriend, Neil, who neglects her a bit being a sports fanatic; a married sister, Missy, and two twin nieces she tries to help as much as she can; a tragic shock in her past to overcome, since both her parents were killed when she was only 19. She has just lost her job as a Pediatrics Office Manager and is really depressed, so her sister decides to send her to Oxford University for a summer seminar about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Claire will have to present Missy’s essay on sisterhood in the novel. Claire, though not a Janeite, accepts her sister’s invitation to substitute her. She has never understood Mr Darcy’s appeal. Not until she meets James Beaufort from New York City in Oxford at that seminar.

“Whoever he was, he was the handsomest man I’d ever seen in my life. …I lowered my gaze again. Just looking at him made my teeth hurt, he was so yummy. How unfair that such a beautiful man couldn’t be more pleasant…” (pp. 6-8)

In the second book, perfectly interwoven with the first one, Beth Pattillo imagines a completely different first draft for Pride and Prejudice. She has in fact added to her Mr Darcy Broke My Heart, an imaginary version of First Impressions with a very different but plausible story respect to the one we very well know. Claire, once in Oxford, finds herself holding a lost version of P&P, one scholars thought destroyed centuries ago by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Claire finds and reads the precious manuscript at old Mrs Dalrymple’s cottage. She will discover that Jane Austen didn’t always have Darcy in mind for Lizzie Bennet and…much, much more about herself.
“So that was it then. First Impressions. Not the equal to  Pride and Prejudice, but a small jewel in its own way, and perhaps a guide for how I might mend my own life. Perhaps the hero wasn’t born, but made. And perhaps a true heroine learned the difference only by having her heart broken along the way” (p.245)

Did I like it?
I was completely caught in the story and read it with great pleasure and in very little time. There are so many gripping features: a woman in search for her real identity who has difficult choices to make, who experience a breathtaking summer romance in a romantic environment, who has to protect a mysterious priceless manuscript, suspended between literature and real life. The story is told in a convincingly, amusing style with delightful moments of comedy and magic moments of romance. A great fun read. If you fancy something light and enjoyable and Austenesque, this is perfect for you. May I add a shallow note? What first attracted me to this book was …its beautiful cover! I just love the elegant, charming,  red-dressed lady thoughtfully walking in a meadow … though I can’t imagine Claire Prescott like that now I’ve read the book.

I read this book for my Jane Austen Challenge

Saturday 1 May 2010


I don't know why but I both feared and expected something not very enthusiastic for today meeting. However I was also convinced that it depended on the fact that I  had a troubled time at trying to love this novel more than I actually did. You know I try to be honest, even blunt sometimes, and I was worried I could negatively influence my mates at the club. Instead, re-reading the novel and searching for essays and articles about it I got more and more convinced that Mansfield Park is very interesting and rich in threads for discussion, different in several ways from Austen's other novels, and you needn't love Fanny or Edmund to get caught  in it.
Anyhow,  fearing a less enthusiastic participation I had prepared a special warm up acitvity with a special message: one can have fun in a book club meeting though s/he hasn't read the chosen book, even if none of the present have read  it!

(you can see the clip I showed in my previous post)

Well, very few of us had really read the book, one had stopped in the middle, some had read about it or seen one of the adaptations (!!!) Incredibly, I had chosen the perfect beginning for such an afternoon. Geraldine and the bunch of her odd friends made some of us laugh ( those  who understand English) and some others smile (only after my translation) , and after that, we were ready to start.

We were just 8 but we discussed longer; some were absent, one had to go away after a while, but  Sig.ra Letizia ( the Miss Bates of the first meeting? ) came back after a long absence. And I was happy about it,'cause  she had much to say, interesting points, since she had  carefully read and reaserched about Mansfield Park. Then, last but not least, she brought a delicious home - made cake.

We discussed about
- Love & Marriage (reading the beginning of the novel about the 3 sisters)
- Fanny as the model heroine of good principles and good  manners
- the different beginning of 1999 and 2007 adaptations (little Fanny's leaving home and arrival at Mansfield)
- Country life - city life
- The role of the theatrical performance
- Fanny's feelings for Edmund & Edmund's for Fanny
- The Crawfords
- Role of family and education
- Comedy (Mrs Morris, Mr Rushworth)
- Edmund compared to  Edward Ferrars/Henry Tilney
- The figure of the rascal in Austen: Willoughby/Wickham/ Captain Tilney/ Henry Crawford

Sig.ra Pina was astonished, shocked by the final marriage between the two cousins which she considered deeply immoral, incestuous. None of us could convince her that  those characters were living in a different historical and social context , when and where it was not considered as such. Imagine that she is convinced that Austen is quite immoral, she has been convinced of that since the first meeting when she said she was shocked by Marianne's decision to follow Willoughby unchaperoned for an entire afternoon. Can you believe it?
She was the only one to express admiration for Edmund , the reason for that is  his convinced vocation to be a clergyman.

Sig.ra Letizia instead convinced me that I was completely wrong in considering her our Miss Bates. She is quite talkative indeed, but always says very interesting things and ... she bakes delicious cakes!
The girls were quite interested in the threads I proposed but too shy to interact with sig.ra Letizia. I was the only one who managed to cope with her.
We finally watched the end of 2007 adaptation (because the clip I had cut from  1999 film didn't want to work!) but Mara and Sig.ra Letizia had to leave before that and didn't eat the cake either nor are they among us in the pictures we took in the end.
Last meeting about Pride and Prejudice has been  the most crowded and the most exciting so far. However we had a pleasant afternoon today, too. Didn't we?
May is EMMA's month. We are discussing about Miss Woodhouse's story on the last Saturday of the month.