Wednesday 31 August 2011
Tuesday 30 August 2011
Cora Harrison fell in love with Jane Austen when she first read Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve. She has published many novels for children and adults. She and her husband live on a small farm in the west of Ireland. After working in education for many years, she dedicates her writing also to spreading the love for Jane Austen. She says: “As a teacher I am realistic enough to know that girls won’t automatically read Jane Austen unless their interest is awakened and I hoped to do that…”
‘I hate Jane Austen! I really hate her!’
I stop. I know that voice.‘Oh, Lavinia, Mama says that Jane Austen is just a vulgar, husband-hunting, affected little minx. She says you are to take no notice of her.’I know that voice too.It’s Lavinia and Caroline Thorpe. I remember them well from the time when Jane and I were at boarding school at Southampton. They had made my life a misery there. I can still hear them chanting ‘Look at Jenny Cooper’s muslin – it looks like a rag.’ ‘Jenny Cooper has the snub nose of a servant girl, she’s such a little dwarf, isn’t she?’; or else, to the owner of the school, ‘Mrs Crawley, Jenny Cooper has broken a school rule!’And now here they are at the Assembly Rooms at Basingstoke.I hesitate at the door of the ladies’ cloakroom. One curl has come loose from its knot at the back of my head during the hectic pace of the Boulanger dance, but it will have to stay like that. I can’t go in there and face the two Thorpe girls. I turn to go, but then something stops me and I turn back. Before my courage ebbs away I burst through the door, say to them icily, ‘Jane Austen is my best friend’; I’ll thank you not to gossip about her.’I push past them, examine myself in the looking glass, trying to look calm. I pretend to look at myself, but I can see them sneering, shrugging their shoulders as if I were not worth a reply. I carefully pin up the stray curl, and then decide to leave it lying there on my neck – it looks nice, I think. I half-turn and with my head over my shoulder survey my gown, pure white and sprigged with tiny silver flowers. The train is beautiful. A hundred tiny deep blue beads have been sewn to it and they twinkle in the candle light. I smooth my long white gloves, making sure that they fit snugly over the elbow and then I sweep past the two Thorpe girls without another glance. As I close the door behind them I hear Caroline say,‘Anyway, we’re going to Bath for the season; he’s bound to be there.’ She raises her voice a little and says ‘And the Austens and their beggarly cousin won’t be there to interfere.’When I get back to the Assembly Rooms, the new dance has not yet been called, but Jane is already hand in hand with Newton. No wonder Lavinia is so upset. The Honourable Newton Wallop is the second son of the Earl of Portsmouth and it’s rumoured that he will be the heir to the Portsmouth estates as the eldest son, John, is strange and, according to Jane, it is feared that he is a lunatic. Newton has been a pupil at Mr Austen’s house at Steventon and he and Jane seem great friends, joking and laughing. They’ve been dancing together for most of the evening.‘Your very humble servant, ma’am,’ says Newton, and Jane replies in very affected tones, ‘la, sir, pray do not be such a tease,’ And then she laughs as Newton reminds her of the time that she and he made an apple-pie bed for Jane’s prim sister, Cassandra. Lavinia would be furious if she could hear how friendly they sounded.I don’t waste any more thoughts on Lavinia. I can see Thomas coming towards me. I don’t push my way through the crowd to join him. I just stand and look at him.Captain Thomas Williams, the youngest captain in the Navy – brave, handsome and noble – and in love with me! Tall – taller than most people at the ball; broad shoulders; black hair gleaming like a blackbird’s wing under the candlelight from the chandeliers above; dark brown eyes, so piercing and yet . . . I think back to the little damp woodland and the bluebells and tiny forget-me-nots at our feet and how those eyes were so soft and pleading then. And still I can’t believe that he has asked me to marry him.He has reached me now.‘You look so beautiful,’ he murmurs in my ear and I smile and know whether my curls are pinned up tidily, or escaping down on the nape of my neck, it makes no difference to him. He loves me as I am and no matter what I do or say. We go and stand beside Newton and Jane.‘Oh, la, sir, you make me blush,’ she is saying to him and Newton instantly responds with a deep bow and says loudly, ‘Madam, your beauty overwhelms me. No poor words of mine are enough to describe you.’‘Dearest Newton,’ Jane begins in a very lofty way, her voice so loud that several people turn to listen to her and then she spoils it by hissing ‘You’re on the wrong side, Newton. You are such a ninny. Go and stand beside Jenny. Quick, the music is starting.’I smile at Newton as he joins me. He’s quite handsome – not handsome in the same manly way as my Thomas, but he is large-eyed,, curly-haired and fresh-faced. He stretches out his hand to Jane and Thomas takes my hand and we whirl around as the last dance of the evening begins.I can see Lavinia and Caroline Thorpe now. Neither is dancing. They are standing in front of their mama and Lavinia is half twisted towards her, saying something. I can guess what she’s saying. When she turns back her face is full of rage, eyes narrowed as she looks at Jane.
‘Jane,’ I whisper. ‘Look at Lavinia Thorpe, over there by the fireplace. She’s furious with you.’Jane looks over her shoulder, a lightning look, but that is enough for someone with Jane’s quick wits. Newton dances back and Jane puts up her hand to hold his. She smiles sweetly into his face and drops a demure curtsy and then they are off dancing rather closer than is usual, both of them laughing as the two rows of dancers clap them energetically.‘Jane ,’ I say when we are back in our bedroom at Steventon, ‘I think that you have made an enemy.’‘Don’t care,’ she says, carefully hanging up her ball gown.‘She’ll gossip about you,’ I say, hanging my gown beside hers.‘Who cares about Lavinia Thorpe?’ Jane’s voice is scornful as she sits on the stool in front of our little looking-glass and begins to take the pins from her curls.‘Not me,’ I say, taking up the hairbrush. I will brush her hair a hundred times and then she will do the same for me. I don’t care about Lavinia Thorpe, either. All I can think of now is that my uncle, Mr Austen, will be coming back from Oxford tomorrow and that Thomas will ask for my hand in marriage.And then we will live happily forever after.
"Most definitely! Teens may not realize it, but they can truly relate to her characters and their predicaments. Austen’s protagonists deal with problems of love, identity, friendship, family, economic hardships, and reputation – all issues that modern youth have to contend with. Plus, she’s funny! I think there is a misconception among those who haven’t read Austen that her stories are all polite tales about manners and society. Although she does address class struggles, her storytelling is playful and gently mocking, and she always populates her stories with hilarious individuals"
Sass and Serendipity (2011) is her latest publication inspired to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Here's a sinopsis from the author's site:
For fifteen-year-old Daphne, the glass is always half full, a dab of lip-gloss can ward off a bad day, and the boy of her dreams—the one she's read about in all of her beloved romance novels—is waiting for her just around the corner.
But Daphne's older sister Gabby wishes Daphne would get real. In Gabby's world, everyone's out for themselves, wearing makeup is a waste of time, and boys only distract you from studying before they break your heart. The only boy Gabby trusts is her best friend, Mule, who has always been there for her.
Both Gabby and Daphne are still reeling from their parents' divorce, though in very different ways. While Gabby will never forgive her unreliable father for failing her mother, Daphne idolizes her daddy and is sure that everything would work out fine if her cranky mom would just let him back into their lives.
When a crisis leaves the girls and their mom homeless, help comes from an unexpected source, and both girls are courted by surprise suitors who shake up their views of the world. Suddenly the glass isn't so clearly half empty or half full… and love seems a lot more complicated than they ever could have imagined.
Then, what about the original six re-told in a simplified manner?
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Emma and Persuasion retold for young readers by Gill Tavner. With charming colour illustrations throughout, character introductions and large font it is an enjoyable and fun way to introduce children to classic literature. Paperback, 64 pages, published by Real Reads. You find all of them at here.
Bennett's Jane (known as Jenny to her family) is 17 when we meet her. Fiercely devoted to her entire family, but especially to her only sister, 19-year-old Cassandra, Jenny continually wavers between two poles: Should she marry and find love (and financial security) in the arms of a husband? Or should she pursue her writing, composing fiction that mirrors the real-life concerns of herself, her family and her acquaintances? When love --- through betrayals, deaths and misunderstandings --- continually evades the people she cares for, Jenny's choice seems clear, only to be thrown into question again by an unexpected proposal.
Monday 29 August 2011
I'm glad to announce that random.org has just decided that the lucky winner of this new Austenesque novel is
Friday 26 August 2011
1. A BOOK
Perfect Happiness , The sequel to Jane Austen's Emma by Rachel Billington , Hodder and Stoughton, , London 1996
"Emma Knightley, handsome, clever and rich, with a husband whose affection for her was only equalled by her affection for him, had passed upward of a year of marriage in what may be described as perfect happiness: certainly this is how she described it to herself as she sat at her writing desk from which she had an excellent view of her father, Mr Woodhouse, taking a turn rould the shrubbery on the arm of her beloved Mr Knightley".
2. A MOVIE
Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges) - 2010
Émilie (Audrey Tautou), the beautiful but brusque owner of a seaside beauty salon who receives a very romantic anonymous love letter from Jean , her handyman (Sami Bouajila).
Émilie is not at all impressed by Jean's words and decides to forward the romantic letter to her depressed mother, Maddy (Nathalie Baye) . What's better than a love letter to improve self-esteem and self-confidence in her fragile mother abandoned by her father for a new partner, younger than Émilie herself? Émilie wants to play deus ex machina but her tricks will make all of them suffer, while setting in motion a train of misunderstandings and complications. Happy ending? YES!
If you like French comedy and romance, you'll like this film. It is light, tender and funny.
Wednesday 24 August 2011
Monday 22 August 2011
When I first sat down to write The Darcys of Pemberley six and a half years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. I’ve since discovered that creating a sequel to a much-loved novel, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is quite an adventure – one filled with great delights … and some major challenges too.
The delights were easy for me to envision, and my main motivation for writing. I’d come to know and love the characters of Pride and Prejudice. By continuing the story, I’d be able to spend many more weeks and months in the company of the Bingleys, the Bennets, and all the others. I would get to vicariously enjoy the idyllic life of the three Darcys (don’t forget Georgiana) at that mythical paradise called Pemberley, and to guide them safely down the path ahead. How lovely! But, I soon realized that three hundred pages of happily-ever-aftering would not make a very interesting novel.
Every story needs conflict. So, despite my reluctance to torture such dear friends, I had to do it. Mr. Collins was an easy mark, and I thought Colonel Fitzwilliam’s situation offered possibilities. With very little encouragement from me, surely
, and Lady Catherine would be willing to stir up some trouble. And I could see that the courtship of Miss Georgiana might prove a rocky road. But what about Darcy and Elizabeth? Well, since no marriage is perfect, they would have to face some adversity in their relationship too. And all this had to take place within the boundaries left by Jane Austen in the final chapter of the original novel, for I was determined not to contradict anything she’d written. Wickham, Lydia
In addition to having to unravel the ending that my predecessor so carefully knit together, I faced a second unique challenge as a sequel writer: how to keep Pride and Prejudice fans happy. Janeites, myself included, feel passionately protective of her story and characters – our own vision of them, that is. The problem is we don’t all see things the same way. An example of this is the debate over who’s the true Darcy – Firth or Macfadyen (I’m solidly in the Colin Firth camp btw). More evidence: a sequel I read and personally disliked (“That’s not how Jane would have written it!”) has been praised to the skies by other Austen fans.With no way to please everybody else, I followed my own vision. The Darcys of Pemberley has been called a purist’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I take this as high praise indeed, since my intention was to be true to the original story, and to Jane Austen’s style, characters, and sensibilities. But another author’s interpretation may be just as valid; it will simply appeal to a different segment of Jane’s enormous fan-dom. There’s room for everybody – even zombies, I suppose.
After fine tuning the book, the final hurdle was getting it published. Not an easy task under the best of circumstances, let alone in tough financial times. One editor said, “It’s been done.” Another rejected it with, “I don’t like the third person narrative style.” (I would have loved to have been allowed to point out that Jane Austen always wrote in third person.) Fortunately, the NY publishing giants are no longer the only game in town. Technology has paved the way for small, independent publishers and e-publishers to enter the market, giving writers (and readers) more options. That’s what opened the door for me.
Producing The Darcys of Pemberley has not only been the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s also been a labor of love and the most fun I’ve had in my life. The cherry on top is the satisfaction of now being able to share it with readers.
Saturday 20 August 2011
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY BICENTENARY CELEBRATION : SETTLING FOR THE COMPROMISE MARRIAGE. GUESTPOST BY REGINA JEFFERS + GIVEAWAY
Enjoy Regina's post and join the discussion!
What hope was there for the dowerless daughters of the middle class during Jane Austen’s lifetime? Such is a topic Austen explored repeatedly in her novels. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet sought men of a like mind. The Dashwood sisters found their choices limited by their financial situation. Fanny Harville and Captain Benwick could not marry until he earned his future. General Tilney drove Catherine Morland from his home because of the lady’s lack of funds. Charlotte Lucas accepted Mr. Collins as her last opportunity for a respectable match. The intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly of partner selection, and the conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property are repeated themes.
|Watercolour painting by Jane Odiwe|
Marriage provided women with financial security. Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey explains, “… in both [marriage and a country dance], man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal: that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each.” Women of Austen’s gentry class had no legal identity. No matter how clever the woman might be, finding a husband was the only option. A woman could not buy property or write a will without her husband’s approval.
If a woman was fortunate, she would bring to her marriage a settlement – money secured for her when she came of age – usually an inheritance from her mother. The oldest son or male heir received the family estate, and the unmarried or widowed females lived on his kindness.
The ladies of Sense and Sensibility have this reality thrust upon them when Uncle Dashwood changes his will and leaves Norland to his grandnephew. In Uncle Dashwood’s thinking, this change will keep Norland in the Dashwood family. However, the four Dashwood ladies suddenly find themselves living in a modest cottage with an income of £500 annually. As such, they have no occasion for visits to London unless someone else assumes the expenses. Their social circle shrinks, and the opportunities to meet eligible suitors becomes nearly non-existent. With dowries of £1000 each, the Dashwood sisters are not likely to attract a man, who will improve their lots.
Jane Austen, herself, lived quite modestly. The Austens lived frugally among the country gentry. The Austen sisters were well educated by the standards of the day, but without chances for dowries, Jane and Cassandra possessed limited prospects.
Jane met a Mr. Blackall the year Cassandra lost her Mr. Fowle. In a letter, Blackall expressed to Mrs. Lefroy a desire to know Jane better; yet, he confided, “But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.” To which, Jane Austen responded, “This is rational enough. There is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied.” Imperfect opportunities were Jane Austen’s reality.
In 1802, Jane Austen accepted an offer of marriage from Harris Bigg. With this marriage, Jane would have become the mistress of Manydown.
Yet, despite her affection for the family, Austen could not deceive Bigg. The following morning, she refused the man’s proposal. Whether she thought to some day find another or whether Austen accepted the fact that her refusal doomed her to a life as a spinster, we shall never know. In the “limited” world in which Jane Austen lived, she could not have known her eventual influence on the literary canon.
Austen held personal knowledge of young women seeking husbands in one of the British colonies. Reverend Austen’s sister, Philadelphia, traveled to India in 1752, where she married an English surgeon Tysoe Hancock, a man twenty years her senior. When the Hancocks returned to England a decade later, Reverend Austen traveled to London to greet his sister. However, Philadelphia and Tysoe were not to live “happily ever after.” Unable to support his family in proper English style, Tysoe returned to India to make his living. He never saw his wife and child again. Despite its tragic ending, this “marriage” secured Philadelphia’s future and the lady’s place in society. Only marriage could offer a woman respectability.
In Jane Austen for Dummies (page 134), Joan Klingel Ray breaks down the financial prospects of the Dashwood sisters. Converting the £500 to a modern equivalent, Ray comes out with a figure of $46,875. For the gentry, supporting four women, two maids, a man servant, paying rent, buying clothes, food, coal, etc., that sum would have meant a poor existence. I find in reading Sense and Sensibility that I am often disappointed with the eventual choices of the Dashwood sisters. Edward Ferras and Colonel Brandon have less of the “glitz and the glamour” that my innate Cinderella syndrome requires in a love match. However, if any affection did exist between the couples, then Marianne and Elinor, under the circumstances and the times, made brilliant matches. They settled for the “compromise” marriage common in the Regency era.
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