Sunday 29 August 2010


I so wanted to watch  this film and  now my disappointment is undescribable. On one hand, I’m glad I saw it because I had heard about it and it was one of the few Austen-based movies I had never seen.  But I even added it to my DVD collection and that is …too much,  I think: definitely not worth re-watching.  
In this Merchant Ivory ‘s   absurdist “romance” Jane  Austen in Manhattan (1980, U.S., 111 minutes),  past meets present and flamboyant egos collide as two modern-day theatre companies compete to stage a literary gem:  a lost play by one of Britain’s best loved authors. This film tries to blend the artifice of Jane Austen’s 18th century charming creation, tracing the seduction of an innocent  girl by a devious rake, with the thrusting , ambitions  and sexual  mores of 1970s New York. The result is one of the quirkiest and most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen.

The two theatre companies , anxious for the kudos of giving the play its world premiere, must vie with each other for the theatrical rights, which are owned by an artistic foundation. One is led by the traditionalist  Lilianna Zorska (Anne Baxter), the other by her former protégé and lover , charismatic Pierre (Robert Powell) who runs an avante-guarde off-Broadway troupe. Complicating this situation is Ariadne (Sean Young) a beautiful young actress Pierre is determined to seduce away from her husband, Victor (Kurt Johnson) . Modern day events begin to mirror the themes of seduction and salvation in Austen’s play as Lilianna strives to thwart Pierre and save Ariadne from his clutches.
The inspiration behind Jane Austen in Manhattan lies in an actual event: the sale at Sotheby’s  in London of the manuscript of a piece of Jane Austen's  juvenilia, a play based on Samuel Richardson’s SIR CHARLES GRANDISON. The manuscript was passed to Merchant Ivory Production. Although the company considered the play too slight to warrant a production of its own, it was deemed  ideal material as a “play within the play”.
They missed a good occasion, I think. The idea of the play within the play was not bad at all. But I would have set the story in Jane Austen’s house with her and her family home-staging this short play. Not that original but a good chance for a good costume film. James Ivory has a wonderful period film among his credits, “A Room with a View” , based on E.M. Forster 's novel. I love that adaptation. So maybe that was what I was expecting from him as a director and, not finding a bit of that poetry an beautiful photography,  I felt sort of betrayed. 

 This is my third task completed for the Everything Austen Challenge II 

Thursday 26 August 2010


Jennifer was born in Washington, DC, and moved to the South as a child. She fell in love with books at an early age, and mysteries by Agatha Christie and other novels such as Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen greatly influenced the course of her life.
Next September 1st Jennifer Becton will see her first novel, a Pride and Prejudice sequel, released. She is very excited, of course, and I'm happy to talk with her about her CHARLOTTE COLLINS and to introduce them to you! As always in this space you'll have the chance to win an autographed copy of the  book leaving your comment and e-mail address. The giveaway is open worldwide and I'm going to announce the name of the winner next Wednesday 1 September. 
Good luck to you all! Now it's time to welcome and thank Jennifer Becton.

As the title of your upcoming novel clearly states, you’ve chosen Charlotte Collins as your heroine. Can you tell us why?
At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth had Mr. Darcy, Jane had Mr. Bingley, and all the other characters seemed to get what they deserved, but poor Charlotte, whose marriage was a product of prevailing matrimonial theories of the time, ended up with the odious Mr. Collins. To quote Mr. Darcy, I found it “insupportable.”

Charlotte Collins revolves around the Jane Austen quotation that opens it: “I consider everybody as having a right to marry once in their lives for love, if they can.” Charlotte had married Mr. Collins to remove herself as a burden to her parents, but it was now her time to find the love that she did not believe existed.

My goal was twofold: to allow Charlotte to grow and change based on her circumstances at the end of Pride and Prejudice but also to bring her back to the philosophical point where she started and allow her the chance to make a different decision. I wanted her to achieve the independence that she desired in Pride and Prejudice, but I also wanted her to see the truth of love. In order to do that, she had to lose everything: her husband, her child, her friend, and the independence she had so greatly desired. Only then would Charlotte be able to open herself to new possibilities.

Are Elizabeth and Darcy characters in your novel too? Do you tell anything of their story from Charlotte’s point of you?
 As you can guess from the title, Charlotte is the focus of my novel. Of course, one can’t tell a continuing story of Pride and Prejudice without mentioning Elizabeth and Darcy. At the end of Austen’s novel, Elizabeth and Charlotte’s friendship has been strained by Charlotte’s decision to marry Mr. Collins, and they are no longer on the amicable terms they once were. While the Darcys are not central to Charlotte Collins, one of the subplots that weaves its way through my novel is the rekindling of their friendship as Charlotte comes to understand and experience Elizabeth’s understanding of romantic love.

I am also planning a serialized online companion piece chronicling Elizabeth and Charlotte’s correspondence throughout the action of my novel. This will offer a bit more of a view of Elizabeth and Darcy’s life after Pride and Prejudice and provide a more in-depth look at the rekindling of Elizabeth and Charlotte’s friendship.

Charlotte Lucas, Mrs Collins, has always been depicted as unattractive . What about your heroine?
 Charlotte remains as she ever was: plain in appearance. However, I have always believed, though Austen gives only the barest hint of it, that Charlotte’s personality more than made up for any physical lack. After all, as Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend, she would have to possess wit and intelligence in good measure, and I have tried to bring that out in Charlotte Collins.

Without revealing too much about the plot, is your Charlotte’s marriage to Mr Collins a mere marriage of convenience?
 I have always viewed Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins as one solely of convenience. In Austen’s novel, I saw no evidence that Charlotte would fall in love with her husband. In fact, I imagined the match caused unhappiness all around, or it would have if Mr. Collins had the wits to understand his situation completely. Mr Collins! Is he still a caricaturesque country clergy-man or did you improve him , at least a bit?
 I am sorry to report that Mr. Collins meets his demise quite early in my novel. Although every reader of Jane Austen has their own interpretation of the characters and may very well disagree, I view Mr. Collins as irredeemable as a romantic lead. Austen gave us virtually no sense of him as anything but a silly man concerned with material goods and pandering to his proprietress.

As such, over the course of their marriage, I believe Charlotte, whom Austen always portrayed as practical and intelligent, would have grown away from Mr. Collins and not more like him as some movie adaptations seem to hint. I imagined that Charlotte would become sensitized by her husband’s repeated social gaffes and would, therefore, become more of a stickler for good manners and propriety.

      Among the Mr Collinses we’ve had on screen, who is your favourite one, the funniest one?
David Bamber was my very first exposure to Mr. Collins as a character. Even before I read the novel, David Bamber was my Mr. Collins, and he will likely remain my favorite. He seemed to capture the character’s simpering and fawning awkwardness perfectly. He was at once repulsive and pitiable, a difficult balance to achieve.

Did you re-write the scene in which Charlotte confesses to Lizzie her intention to marry Mr Collins?
If you did, what does poor Charlotte feel being treated like that by her best friend?
 Charlotte Collins begins five years after Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins, so while I summarized the pertinent action from Pride and Prejudice, I did not rewrite any scenes. I just couldn’t presume to rewrite Jane Austen that way! I did, however, go into some detail about Charlotte’s regrets regarding the disintigration of her relationship with her friend.

 As a young Janeite, I’ve always thought,  if I had been Charlotte,  I would have never married Mr Collins. No sympathy, I almost despised her. Growing older, it seems to me, I can understand her reasons and pity her? What’s your attitude to Charlotte’s choice?
 Charlotte was very much a product of her time. In her historical and financial context, marriage was less about love and more about securing one’s future and that of one’s family as well. Her parents expected her to make a wise financial match, and she did not want to disappoint them. She wanted to be a good, dutiful daughter who did not burden her family. Even if I cannot fathom marrying for anything but love, I can certainly understand the desire to please one’s family and the need for security. Therefore, I never blamed Charlotte for her decision to marry Mr. Collins, but I did feel quite sorry that she felt she had no other choice

What do you think of the typical Austen happy ending? Has your novel got one?
This is my favorite question!

 I am an unrepentant fan of happy endings, and frankly, I have always been flummoxed by the modern literary establishment’s preference for tragedy over comedy. I know that depressing conclusions are supposed to reflect the human condition—life is difficult and then we die. But I have a different theory. I believe that tragedy is the easy way out. It is ever so much easier to write a tragedy than a comedy.

Why do I think so? People are naturally pessimistic; it takes work to remain optimistic. Just look at bookstore shelves, and you’ll find thousands of books about how to be happy and none about how to be a pessimist. Most people have no trouble finding the negative, but it takes great effort to transcend the trials and tribulations of the world. It is the human condition to find the negative, but it is the divine condition to transcend it. According to Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, comedies were more highly valued in the ancient literary world because they were reflections “of a revelation more complete. The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.... Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.” I think the ancients had it right.

That is not so say that Charlotte Collins does not include its share of tragedy or that the plot is wrapped up too neatly. At the beginning of the novel, Charlotte has lost everything: her husband, her child, her best friend, her security, and her independence. She is a lonely, unhappy woman, but she has the chance to redeem herself. As do all the characters in my novel. But not all of them make the right decisions by its conclusion.
Are you planning to write another Jane Austen spin-off or sequel? What is it about?
Jennifer and her Darcy
 I have one more Jane Austen-inspired novel in mind, but it will only make its way to the page if there is sufficient interest in sequels about her minor characters. If all goes well, I intend to write the continuing story of none other than one of Pride and Prejudice’s villainesses: Caroline Bingley. She is another character with whom I felt—dare I say it?—a bit of a connection.

Along with my Austen-inspired works, I have also written a literary novel (with a happy ending, of course) and am in the process of writing a series of mystery novels. In addition, I am collaborating with Laura Daley ( on a nonfiction book about overcoming horseback riding fear. I hope to publish each book in due course.

If you had 3 wishes to change the destinies of 3 Austen characters, what would you ask and for whom?
 If I could rewrite the fates of three characters, I would give Charlotte Collins the opportunity to experience true love. That, of course, has to be my first choice. Second, I would follow Caroline Bingley after Mr. Darcy threw her over for Elizabeth Bennet. I’ve always wondered if she learned anything at all and changed as a result. And third, I must admit that I’d like to make Frank Churchill suffer just a bit. He behaved terribly throughout Emma and experienced no repurcussions. Jane Fairfax should have at least whacked him on the head with a pot for being such a cad.

  You and your love for Jane Austen, when did it start? How?
 Like many people of my generation, my affinity for Austen began with the BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 1995. I watched it in my college dorm room between bouts of study, and afterward, I immediately bought and read as much Austen as I could. I had finally found my literary idol: a woman whose work had endured for almost 200 years and didn’t end tragically.

Which is your favourite among her 6 major novels?
My two favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. I adore the characters of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth was surrounded by such amusing companions, and I felt as if I knew them by the end of the novel. But I am drawn more to the plot of Persuasion. I love plots in which characters have the opportunity to redeem themselves and make the right choice, as Anne Elliot did at the end of the novel.

Since I’m a period drama addict and I really like Austen adaptations, I ‘d love to know if you like watching them, if you’ve got (a) favourite one/s.
I love Austen adaptations, and my favorite is the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, but I must admit to having liked Clueless, a version of Emma, which was the first modern adaptation I’d ever seen
Alicia Silverstone in Clueless - my review here
 Now, Jennifer, that’s all for now. I'll wait for you on the 1st of September when you will present Charlotte Collins yourself to my readers on Fly High and we will reveal the name of the winner of a signed copy of your book! Till then,  thanks and good luck!


Jane Austen Sociedad do Brazil today features My Jane Austen Book Club. I'mhonoured and flattered, of course! Thanks to their host lady: Adriana Sales Zardini. Obrigada! The blog is written in Portuguese but is worth the "effort". You must visit it! (I don't speak Portuguese but since I am Italian and studied Spanish it's not difficult to understand the language while reading) . You'll find a link to this beautiful site among the links in Jane Austen Online (right column) .If you want to have a look to their post about me and this blog,  just CLICK HERE!


Wednesday 25 August 2010


If the Lizzie in your mind has Keira Knightley's vivacious expressions, she's up to many things! Three films are due to be released in a few months, between the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Here they are.
15 October 2010 (UK) - London Boulevard
"London Boulevard" is the story of a man newly released from prison who falls in love with a reclusive young movie star and finds himself in a duel with a vicious gangster. Based on the book by Ken Bruen, London Boulevard was directed by Oscar-winning writer of The Departed William Monagan, and boasts a brilliant British cast that includes Colin Farrell , David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Ben Chaplin and the inimitable Ray Winstone.

Colin Farrel from London Boulevard
5 November 2010 (Italy) -  Last Night
 The story follows a married couple, apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague to whom he's attracted. While he's resisting temptation, his wife encounters her past love. (with Sam Worthington and Eva Mendes)

14 January 2011 (UK) - Never Let Me Go
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.
In the cast also Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins and Andrew Garfield.  The film is directed by Kazuo Ishiguro (see my previous post on Fly High!)


If instead in your mind Elizabeth keeps Jennifer Ehle's dreamy eyes and sweet smile, the news is that she's back on screen with her Mr Darcy, Colin Firth, in The King's Speech. The film is due to be released on 26 November 2010 in the USA. In the cast also Helena Bonham Carter (as Queen Elizabeth) and Michael Gambon (George V).

A signed copy of EMMA has been sold by a bookshop in Henley-upon-Thames for £325,000. Jonkers Rare Books sold the only known presentation copy to a British collector. Published in 1816, it was presented by Jane to Anne Sharp, the model for Mrs Weston, and has a handwritten inscription. Christiaan Jonkers, from the shop, said "The important thing is the signature of Jane Austen to her friend. That's what moves it from being a £20,000 book to a £300,000 book".


"And This Our Life, Chronicles of the Darcy Family" was C. Allyn Pierson's first sequel of Pride and Prejudice. It  has been purchased by Sourcebooks and a revised version will be released September 1, 2010, and titled "Mr. Darcy's Little Sister."  This revised version concentrates on Georgiana Darcy's story and, in addition, contains an exciting new plot line.  The original "ATOL" will still be available until January 1, 2010, when it will be withdrawn from circulation. "Mr. Darcy's Little Sister" is available for preorder now on and Stay tuned for a giveaway and and my interview with the author. Coming soon!

The Plot. Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, introduces readers to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy's painfully shy sister, Georgiana.  Miss Darcy is more than ten years Darcy's junior and has lived a sheltered and lonely existence with governesses and companions since the death of her parents.  When her brother marries the vibrant and witty Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Georgiana's life is suddenly changed and it is not long before the two young women are friends.  There is a major roadblock to Georgiana's happiness, however: over the first six months of her brother's marriage she must prepare herself for her coming-out and presentation at court, and then attempt to attract a husband who loves her for herself and not just for her large dowry.  The prospect is horrifying to the nervous young woman, but her new sister-in-law is determined to help Georgiana find her way to womanhood through the maze of ritual, tradition and marital politics that is Regency-era England. However, the story plays out rather differently than any of them expect.........  


Have you commented TALKING JANE AUSTEN WITH LYNN SHEPHERD PART I & PART II? You've got few hours left to win an autographed copy of Lynn's debut Austenesque mystery, "Murder at Mansfield Park" . The deadline is tomorrow, 26 August! Follow the links, you still have got time. You can comment both posts to have a double chance. Don't forget to add your e-mail address!
 The author's recommendation in about 50 words:  
"it’s a Jane Austen murder mystery, written with complete faithfulness to her style, but with the added excitement of an intriguing murder. If you like Austen, I hope you’ll enjoy a new version of one of her great novels, and if you’re just looking for a good mystery story to read on the beach, I hope it works just as well!"

Sunday 22 August 2010


 A group of Austen Authors have decided to unite forces and start a new promising site. It'll be ready on September 6th. If you follow this link  you'll read "Thanks for stopping by! We're not quite ready for prime time, but if you come back on or after September 6, we'll be in full swing with posts by many of your favorite Austen-related fiction authors, as well as contests, information, and lots of fun stuff. Whether you like Regency historicals, contemporary fiction, sequels, mysteries, variations, or just plain love Jane Austen, you'll find plenty to interest you here. Don't miss our first month which will be chock full of giveaways!
If you are a traditionally-published author of Austen-related fiction and would like to join in the fun at Austen Authors, just drop us a line. We'd love to have you!"

Austen Authors Blog will feature
Cindy Jones
Abigail Reynolds   
C. Allyn Pierson

Jack Caldwell

Jane Odiwe
Kara Louise
Kathryn Nelson
Marilyn Brant

Marsha Altman
Sharon Lathan
Skylar Burris
Susan Adriani

 Keep in touch with these Austen Authors and don't miss their upcoming releases through their new blog . I'll see you there .

Saturday 21 August 2010


Love triangle and Sensibility

Do you know that Emma Thomson nearly lost out to her fellow actress Kate Winslet in a love triangle with her now husband, Greg Wise?
The three actors were filming Sense and Sensibility16 years ago when Wise, who was then 28, was told by a fortune teller that he would meet his future wife on set. At the time Emma Thompson, who is 8 years senior, was still married to Kenneth Branagh, so Greg Wise thought it was better to persue 19-year-old Kate Winslet before eventually realising his attraction wa actually to Thomson.
After Emma Thomson's divorce from Branagh in 1995, she and Greg Wise got together. They married 7 years ago.

Winchester's Austen Exhibition

Winchester Cathedral, the final resting place of Jane Asuten, is hosting an exhibition dedicated to her lifeand work that runs until September 20. It includes items that have rarely, if ever, been displayed publicly before, including her burial register, first editions and fragments of her own writing.

P&P on Stage

A touring  production of Pride and Prejudice is visiting dozens of open-air venues around Britain this summer. Chapterhouse Theatre Company is taking the show, which has been adapted by Laura Turner, to many idyllic garden settings. Details at
Pride & Prejudice: the Musical was  instead staged in Chicago in February. It is written by Lindsey Warren Baker an
d Amanda Jacobs and featured in JARW n. 36
Number from the show can be heard on the musical's new website

A new Pride and Prejudice sequel, Charlotte Collins

Jennifer Becton decided to write a sequel to P&P but her heroine is neither Lizzie Bennet nor Mrs Darcy. Jennifer's heroine is instead Charlotte Lucas after her marriage with Mr Collins, hence CHARLOTTE COLLINS. I'm so curious to read this new book! It'll be released on 1 September. Jennifer Becton will be my guest next week on My Jane Austen  Book Club and we will  talk about her debut novel and Jane Austen's work. There will also be a giveaway. Stay tuned!

Thursday 19 August 2010


Lynn Shepherd, author of the lovely Austen-based MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK,  is here again to talk Jane Austen with me. Check the first part of this long interview and don't forget to comment both posts. You'll have a double chance to win a signed copy oh her Austenesque murder mystery.
This week my questions are on Jane Austen in general, her works and their adaptations, teaching Jane Austen to teenagers nowadays and we even played at ... "Dream cast for a dream adaptation"!
Read through Lynn's interview. Leave your comments and e-mail addresses and good luck! The giveaway is open worldwide and ends next Thursday, August 26th.

1. What is the appeal of Jane Austen’s world to contemporary audiences according to you?
Part of it is about the enduring appeal of any good romance – her novels are wonderful escapism, and reassure us that all’s right with the world. Some of the rest is the sheer beauty of her writing, and the strength of her characterisation. As well as the chance to immerse yourself in another, more civilised period.

2. When did you meet Jane Austen  and start loving her work?
I read Pride & Prejudice when I was about 15, and loved it, and then went on to Mansfield Park for my school-leaving exams. That novel has pretty much been following me about ever since!

3. As you know I teach English Literature to Italian teenagers. Introducing Jane Austen is not always that easy. It is easier with girls, but not with all of them. Boys instead tend to be prejudicial, considering her work “girlish stuff”. How would you cope with their objections? Any suggestion?
It’s funny you should mention that, because an English teacher in the UK has asked me whether I could talk about Murder at Mansfield Park to her class, because it has the sort of story that appeals more to boys! To be fair, Austen has always been a predominantly female taste, even though some of my closest male friends love her work as well. Perhaps what I’d say to a boy is that reading Austen will give him an unparalleled insight into how women’s minds work, and what women really want from a man!

4. What do you think of the many Austen adaptations we’ve had so far both on TV and at the cinema? Have you got a favourite one? One you don’t like at all?
I like some of them very much, others much less. I love the BBC Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root the best – beautifully done, very moving, and shot with an understanding of important things like contemporary lighting. I quite like the Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice, though David Rintoul is the best Darcy I’ve seem. But I really can’t bear the Mansfield Park with Billie Piper. She’s a good actress, but very wrong for that role. In fact most recent screen versions of Mansfield Park have failed, in my opinion, because they don’t stick closely enough to the original. They just can’t resist the temptation to make Fanny a more modern and energetic heroine, when her meekness and passivity is the whole point.

5. Jane Austen’s use of language , irony and wit was superb but your faithfullness to the language in use at her time is stunning. How did you prepare yourself at that hard task?
Thank you for the lovely compliment! I have studied Austen a number of times in the past, and have a partly academic background, so I always wanted to do this aspect of the book properly. Thank goodness for computers, because I was able to download all her novels and check my vocabulary as I went along. And after a while it got easier, as I felt I was ‘inside her mind’. It was hard work, as you say, but a real labour of love, and I’m thrilled by how many dedicated Austen fans have praised the way Murder at Mansfield Park is written.

6. Let’s play a bit. If you had the possibility to get lost in one of Jane Austen’s novels (like Amanda , the protagonist of LOST IN AUSTEN) , which one would you choose? Why?
The easy answer is Pride & Prejudice, but I think I would enjoy being in Emma too (as long as I didn’t have to be Miss Bates!)

7. Let’s go on playing. Thinking of the perfect match among Austen characters. Which is the happiest couple among the ones Jane formed? The least happy couple?
Least happy couple is definitely Edmund and Fanny, though they’re so dreary I’m not even sure they’d realise how miserable they were! And I’m afraid I never really believed in the Brandon marriage very much either (though the exception is the screen version, as I’m sure any ‘Marianne’ would be quite content with Alan Rickman!). As for the happiest - perhaps the Darcys, but I think the Wentworths have a relationship built on very sound foundations.

8. Now let’s start dreaming. I’ve asked this question several times before but …I’m really curious to know. If they asked you to adapt your novel for a film or a TV movie would you accept?
Yes – like a shot! I’d love it!

9. Who would you cast in the main roles?
As I’ve said before I’d adore Philip Glenister as Maddox – he has just the right combination of charisma and danger. As for the rest, how about Helen Mirren for Mrs Norris? Now wouldn’t that be fun!

10. For the final question let’s go back to your novel, MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK. What would you write in about 50 words to convince people to read it?
It’s a Jane Austen murder mystery, written with complete faithfulness to her style, but with the added excitement of an intriguing murder. If you like Austen, I hope you’ll enjoy a new version of one of her great novels, and if you’re just looking for a good mystery story to read on the beach, I hope it works just as well!