Austen & Me, Then & Now

So yesterday was Jane Austen’s birthday in New Zealand. And today is Jane Austen’s birthday in most other places. Therefore, this post is still valid.

Now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, we can move on. As a way of celebrating Austen’s birthday, I decided to write this completely self-indulgent post. I love looking back on books and authors I love(d) and see how my feelings have changed. Of course, I still adore Austen. She is the kind of aunt that everyone wants – witty, wise and totally ok with letting you have a bit of fun without ratting you out to the parents.

But my feelings for some of her characters have undergone changes over the years, and it always interests me how books do that. Or rather, I guess, it’s the books staying the same, and you changing. Anyways, without further ado, let’s flick through her novels, shall we? (Be warned, here be spoilers.)

Pride and Prejudice

Then: When I first came across P&P, I was maybe fourteen or fifteen. I found it boring and dull, and I’m pretty sure I called Lizzie silly. Also I remember proclaiming this very loudly in a library so I can’t believe I’m still alive to tell the tale. Not to mention I hadn’t even read the novel, yet. So this judgement was being passed with nothing to stand on. What a brat.

Now: I still think Lizzie is silly at times, but for completely valid reasons (I mean, taking the word of Wickham as truth when she barely knows him? Not thinking it was weird that someone’s willing to divulge their life story, dirty laundry and all, after you’ve just met them? Not to mention Wickham bailing on the Netherfield ball, despite his If-Darcy-wants-to-avoid-me-then-he’ll-have-to-stay-away-from-the-ball bravado). Of course, now I love this novel, and everyone in it. And if not love, then at least love to laugh at everyone in it.

Sense & Sensibility

Then: When I first read this, I admired Elinor and thought she was incredibly brave and selfless, hiding her feelings and taking care of her family. Also, I couldn’t fathom why she liked Edward Ferrars. He was so meek! So much so that I often referred to him as a Wet Rag.

Now: I don’t call Edward a Wet Rag anymore. Much. It took me awhile, but it dawned on me that it was Edward’s principles that made him stand by his promise to Lucy despite falling in love with Elinor later. Even when he realized what a cow completely different person Lucy was to the facade she presented, he knew she was relying on her. Abandoning women after he’s given them their word is just not what Edward Ferrars does.

As for Elinor, I now think that she was having a little too much fun in playing the martyr. Perhaps fun isn’t the right word. I still think she’s brave, but it helps to share your problems, at least partially, if you aren’t the type to confide in anyone. No one ever benefited from bottling anything up.

Also Elinor was far too lenient with Lucy. Surely there were ways she could have extricated herself from their little tête-à-têtes. It’s almost as if Elinor was a little masochistic. She says to Marianne, “I have enjoyed all the punishments of an attachment, and none of the advantages”, but it seems to me much of the punishment is invited by Elinor herself.

Mansfield Park

Then: I didn’t think much of this one other than that it was super boring, and that Fanny was incredibly dull, if to be pitied. Oh, and I couldn’t deny how brave she was.

Now: To be fair, my view point hasn’t changed all that much. But I can better appreciate Fanny’s resilience when it comes to sticking to her principles, especially with everyone she knows disapproving of her choice. I think I now understand more deeply how hard it can be to be true to yourself when those closest to you are trying to persuade you to do the opposite. It shows immense strength of character, and is certainly admirable. Still not convinced about that Edmund guy, though.

Persuasion

Then: When I first read this novel I was besotted with Anne and Frederick’s story. Young lovers separated for eight long years, throughout which they continued to love another? Constancy! That beautiful and rare thing, and it was all I saw.

Now: Well, now…I have to “tsk” at Frederick’s impulsive actions. After all, Anne wasn’t rejecting him, only suggesting that they postpone their plans until he was better situated. Granted he was young, and couldn’t take the sting of rejection. But then, to return later, and behave like a jerk of the highest order and shove every flirtation in her face? As if Anne had committed some heinous crime. I used to think he was my favorite romantic, but I’ve come to realize that while theirs is my favourite romance (I’m still a sucker for it, I admit), Frederick is far from being the ideal romantic hero.

Northanger Abbey

Then: I adored his story. It’s such a fun romp, and Catherine is a complete fangirl. Also, who can resist the devastating charm of Henry Tilney, whose hobbies including dancing, the science of smirking, and discussing muslin?

Now: I pretty much still feel the same way. Except now I wonder whether Henry falling for Catherine’s naivete and her unabashed adoration of him is enough of a foundation on which to begin a relationship. I suppose it’s a lot more than other couples at the time would have had to start with.

Emma

Then: I found Emma to be insufferable. At the start, she isn’t so bad, but as time goes on she become more and more … monstrous in a way. It’s like watching Frankenstein’s monster wreak havoc. If the monster was interested in matchmaking and manipulating the lives of those around them. I thought she was lucky to have someone like Knightley around her, who was perhaps the only one in her circle who wasn’t afraid to point out her flaws.

Now: I still find Emma insufferable, but I’m also a little fond of her. I suppose everyone goes through that stage where they believe they don’t need to be told anything, and that they know exactly what they’re doing. Emma’s just a much more forthright person, so all her opinions manifest into real-life catastrophes for those around here. In any case, it makes for an entertaining read. Plus, Knightley’s become my favourite Austen hero – there’s something to be said for the devastating combination of common sense and a healthy sense of humour.

~~

Looking back, I can see how my tastes have changed as I matured more. I think I’ve grown more understanding of the characters in some ways, but perhaps become more judgmental in other ways. What can I say? To judge is human.

Let me know about your Austen experiences. I’d love to hear them. She’s had such a wide ranging influence that it’s always interesting to hear how differently she’s interpreted. (And don’t worry, I can handle criticisms.)

Austen Made Me Do It, I Swear

   So I’m a little late on the uptake. I mean, I knew that this year marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Pride & Prejudice”. What I didn’t realize was that the actual date was the 28th of January. Today, to be precise. 

   The Austenite in me won’t allow the day pass by without commemorating it in my own small way so here we are. I figured I‘d just post one of my favorite scenes – if not the favorite – from the novel. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of Lizzie’s and Darcy’s life together and confirms all our beliefs that these two do belong with each other. 

x

    Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness gain, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. 
   
   ‘How could you being?’ she said. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?’

   ‘I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.’

   ‘My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners – my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?’

   ‘For the liveliness of your mind, I did.’

   ‘You as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and, in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There – I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you know no actual good of me – but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.’

   ‘Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?’

x

   ‘Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teazing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last? What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?’ 

   ‘Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.’

   ‘But I was embarrassed.’

   ‘And so was I.’

   ‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’

   ‘A man who had felt less, might.’

   ‘How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it. But I wonder how long you would have gone on if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect – too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? For I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.’

   ‘You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for an opening of yours. My aunt’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing.

   ‘Lady Catherine has been of infinite use which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed – or had you intended any more serious consequences?’

   ‘My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister was still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made.’

   ‘Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?’

   ‘I am more likely to want time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to be done; and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.

   I love this passage for the ease and familiarity between Darcy and Lizzie that is on display. There is none of that rigidity from their days of hating each other – or I should say of Lizzie hating Darcy. And there’s none of the romantic, ‘dearest, loveliest Elizabeth‘ stuff either – which is all great! I mean, as a “P&P” lover it’s very gratifying to reach that bit and be present for when everything comes into the open. But my preference is for the moments that come after the great declaration has been made.

    It puts a sappy smile on my face to read Darcy saying Lizzie’s first name with such normality – after that huge struggle, here they are, teasing and being teased, discussing their past  mistakes and just generally enjoying each other‘s company. And it makes me so happy to read it! None of the screen adaptations that I’ve seen include this particular dialogue, but I would love it oh so incredibly much if someone were to capture the warmth, the playfulness, and the the way in which both Darcy and Lizzie are so obviously relishing feeling out each other’s characters in this scene. We’ve watched them struggle throughout most of the novel for each other‘s love, so I say give us more of a chance to see the delicious rewards they’ve earned.

x


     I absolutely love this picture of these two! It captures that playful side to their relationship which I can’t help but find appealing, especially considering that Darcy seems as stiff as the proverbial upper lip to begin with . Lizzie obviously finds something funny and Darcy seems to be verging on the beginnings of a smile (because an actual smile would be too much, wouldn’t it Darce? Am I allowed to call him that? Does that make me as bad as Mrs. Eton?) Ah, my P&P fangirl’s showing  and it’s all Jane Austen’s fault.

   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain       

A Belated Birthday Letter

Dear Miss Austen,

       I doubt you even considered the possibility that years after your death people all over the world would be celebrating your birthday. Celebrating the day that brought your brilliant literary self into the world. 

   When I first came across you I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s not my proudest moment, I’ll admit. I remember picking up “Pride & Prejudice” and thinking it was boring. Yes. I was a stupid child. 

   But it seemed your presence would be an inevitable part of my life, because soon after my ridiculous snubbing of you my dad gifted me with a hardback copy of the exact novel which I had snubbed. 

   I suppose enough time had passed since my first rejection that I decided to give you another try – as if it would be an ordeal! But no sooner had I read the first sentence I was blissfully submerged in your world. I chuckled and cringed and swooned throughout the entire book. You were brilliant. Here was a book you had written in the nineteenth century and it was playing out like a film in my mind. Characters you had penned to life within the walls of Steventon in the eighteen hundreds seemed inherently familiar to me – an extension of the very people I knew in my own life. 

   How could you do it? How did you know? I was happily in awe. I spent whole days curled up in the sofa, content to let your words wrap around me. You impressed me with every page – your wit, your humor, your sharp execution of characters! I was quickly falling in love. Lizzie’s and Darcy’s story flamed the romantic in me. Mrs. Bennet’s and Mr. Collins’ antics left me alternately chuckling and shaking my head. I cringed at Lydia, bristled at Caroline and longed to give Mr. Bennet a good whack over the head. There was no doubt that you’d created a literary world in which I loved to live in. Loved it because, despite the distance of time, manners and custom, it was so believable. 

   Years ago you breathed life into your novels, penning your characters, and now, after so much time, those characters have become whole entities – they’re beings who have become so real to me  – real to a lot of your readers. So many of your characters are more real, more vibrant than the ones in my own life. Your keen eye for observation left me seeing my own relatives, friends and acquaintances reflected in the pages of your novel. 

   It wasn’t long before I eagerly hunted down the rest of your novels – yes, the girl who snubbed you – and devoured them as if they were an elixir. And in a way they are. Every year, every time I revisit a story of yours, I wish so badly that you had lived longer, written more, so that we could have more of your brilliant wit to enjoy, more of your wonderful characters to love. Even so, I’m glad that we Janeites have at least these novels to bring us such joy and entertainment. Your six masterpieces through which we come to know you a little better with every reading. 

   You are simply brilliant and the sixteenth of December is a day close to all Janeites’ hearts.

   Sincerely, 
     Lady Disdain

Persuasion 1995

    Park me in front of a television playing the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion” and you can be assured that I’ll be reduced to a sighing, heart-clutching, swooning, sappy mess. And I’m not even ashamed to admit it. 
 
Proximity excites me.
   
   You wouldn’t be either if you knew the story of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Estranged after Anne is persuaded to reject Frederick’s proposal, the couple meet again after eight years only to find that the feelings which they thought to be so strong in their past have yet to go away. Ah, constancy! How you make me swoon. 
Anne Elliot
    And this film captures all that is swoon-worthy about this Austen novel. The chemistry between the two leads is palpably sizzling. The air around the screen crackled with it.
Amanda Root plays the quietly strong Anne Elliot. Following her rejection of Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), she has not given thought to marrying anyone else. With that desire, her ‘bloom’ in life also fades, apparently, and so she is relegated to the background of everyone’s lives, forced to tolerate their snubs and attempt to right their wrongs. Root is great at portraying Anne’s infinite patience and ultimate resignation when it comes to the way the Elliot family treat Anne. Respect is something that is utterly foreign to them, and, if anything, Anne is viewed at best as a lady’s maid. Anne, too, has accepted her position without question and goes about her tasks without any contempt or bitterness. It’s evident in every word, look and movement delivered by Root that Anne views this as her punishment for having turned on the one man who was willing to accept all of her. 
Frederick Wentworth
   Speaking of whom – Ciaran Hinds is impeccable  as Captain Wentworth. He dominates his role so well that he totally submerges himself in the character of Frederick Wentworth. Frederick’s attempt at indifference, his hurt at Anne’s rejection – still there after so many years, his inability to ignore Anne’s well being, are so masterfully portrayed by Hinds. The interaction between Anne and Frederick – and believe me when I say there aren’t many – were brilliantly layered, with the superficial niceties blanketing their painful history but never banishing it from the viewer’s mind. Also, Hinds cuts a very dashing figure in his navy coat. No wonder the Misses Musgrove were all over him. 
The most tantalizing shot in the entire film.
   Anne and Wentworth’s reunion following the letter is perfection – it weighs with all their unsaid words, and yet displays the joy that both undoubtedly feel at such an event. It is poignant and perfect, and, in my opinion, has yet to be topped (yes, I’m looking at you 2006 adaptation!). The kiss is a brief one, but the small gestures – Wentworth taking Anne’s hand in his, Anne weaving her arm through his and then looking up at him are subtle but very overpowering. All this occurs with some street performers in the background, a travelling circus that has captured everyone’s attention. Everyone’s, that is, except Anne’s and Wentworth’s. Yes, my inner Austenite is squealing.
   
  However, let’s not ignore the supporting cast, because it’s a brilliant one. Sir Walter Elliot is exquisitely portrayed by Corin Redgrave. I wanted to strangle him – I wanted to rip off his insufferable cravat, mess up his hair and tie him up with his own pantaloons. That kind of reaction must indicate a good performance, methinks. His arrogance and vanity were undeniable, but it was his almost indifferent attitude towards others that really caught my eye. Yes, it’s a given that he would be indifferent to Anne, but it’s pretty evident that he doesn’t care for anyone really but himself. 
Sir Walter Elliot & Hideous Outfit
   Lady Russell was played by Susan Fleetwod. My only real problem with her is a superficial one. What is going on with that hair? I had no idea they had that kind of fringe in the nineteenth century. Other than that she was a wonderful Lady Russell, portraying a compassionate and caring confidant for our heroine. There are some truly sweet moments between her and Anne. 
Lady Russell
   Mrs DurselyFiona Shaw plays Mrs. Croft, Frederick’s brother, and it warmed my old romantic heart to see her get on so well with Anne. The chemistry between those two was believable as well. There was a very clear wish on both sides to better their acquaintance and Fiona Shaw has this subtle way of acting as if Mrs. Croft knows what’s going on with Frederick and Anne. 
Anne & Mrs. Croft
   
   Sophie Thompson is utterly insufferable as Mary Musgrove, Anne’s youngest and most aggravating sister. She nothing but bitterness, arrogance and laziness. I couldn’t fathom why they chose the person they did to play Elizabeth, however. From what I remember Elizabeth is supposed to be the best looking of the Elliot sisters and this woman was definitely not beautiful. I know she is supposed to be arrogant and slightly short-tempered but she only came across as petulant and childish. Not my favourite portrayal.
 
Mary Musgrove
Elizabeth & Mrs. Clay
   
    Speaking of being miscast, Mrs. Clay seems to be another error. Sir Walter Elliot seemed to favour her so much due to her good looks – at least, that was the case with the novel. I’m not quite sure why he favours her so much here. All his barbed jokes regarding the navy’s lack of good looks seem to fall flat with Mrs. Clay laughing so heartily at them. Do I sound horrible? Yes, I do. But I’m speaking for the novel! And that‘s what the novel feels, apparently.

Mr. Elliot
   Mr. Elliot, Frederick’s ‘rival’, was played by the good-looking Samuel West. He‘s very good at portraying the subtle self-interest that propels all of Mr. Elliot’s actions. All of his smiles and words are lined with an artifice, while still appearing to be genuine.
   The cinematography was unexpectedly impressive. There are some beautiful shots, especially of the seaside – but also some visual metaphors and juxtaposition to keep your eyes peeled for. I feel as if the cinematography could have been better – especially with a story like “Persuasion” where there isn’t a swirling plot to reel the viewers in, but as I say it was better than expected. I would love for someone to give it the visual vibrancy that Joe Wright injected into the 2005 Pride & Prejudice. 
At Lyme
   
   I had one major problem with this film. People’s table manners seem a little ill-suited to their time period and class distinction. There’s a breakfast scene at Uppercross with Charles Musgrove vacuuming the table’s toppings and I was little disgusted at how did it. But even more unacceptable was the way in which Elizabeth chewed her sweets. I expected more from the daughter of someone who holds a baronetcy but I suppose that was mere foolishness on my part. 
   Aside from questionable table manners, however, the film is a thoroughly enjoyable one. It gives off a very ‘raw’ and real vibe; there’s a sort of tangibility there, a realness is created for a time that’s very far from modern-day viewers. The acting from everyone was spot on, and if you’ve read the book, very easily recognizable, too. 
Wentworth & Anne
    
   This adaptation makes for a very pleasant viewing and will leave you with warm fuzzies to last you for an entire day. Possibly more. And we could all of us use some warm fuzzies, don’t you think?
   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain

Being Lady Disdain Includes…

1) Meaning to write up blog posts on several things (some of which include comparing both Persuasion adaptations and episodic reviews of BBC Sherlock) but never actually finding the time to do it. This will change.

2) Walking into stores and finding life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Justin Bieber and resisting the urge to roundhouse kick them. 

3) Almost giving into the urge upon hearing the overhead speakers talk about “Bieber’s new perfume: a fresh and flirty mixture, combining the sweet scent of blah blah laced with a hint of lusty blah blah, a scent that Bieber himself fancies in a girl”. Then making this face:

Mark Gaitss as Mycroft Holmes, BBC Sherlock

4) Reading Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, having my brain addled and feeling, alternately, fascination and revulsion for the killers. 


5) Finding this awesome site and finding these pictures there and squealing like a deranged harpie. 

I challenge you not to drool.

Al Pachino & Christopher Walken

Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry
Roald Dahl & Ernest Hemingway
Albert Einstein & Rabindranath Tagore
Truman Capote & Harper Lee
Fred Astaire & George & Ira Gershwin 

So. Much. Talent. 

6) Only just realizing that there is soon going to be a performance of Much Ado About Nothing in my city and barely being able to control my excitement. It’s this Saturday!
 “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more…” Not long to wait now. 

7)  Envying bears and their caves. Autumn’s looking beautiful but she’s making the way for winter and the thought is filling me with dread. I would dearly love a cave in which to hide away for all of winter.


8) Not being able to get this song out of my head: 


9) And loving Meaghan Smith’s outfit in that song. Everything about it is perfect. 


10) Joining twitter for the simple reason of stalking following Mark Gatiss in the hopes he’ll let something drop about BBC Sherlock. Also he’s just plain awesome. 

That’s right, Mark Gaitss. I became a twit for you.
You better make it worth my while, sir.


Sincerely,
  Lady Disdain

"The Journey" by Jan Hahn

Dear Readers,

 I apologize for the long silence. Time management is not exactly my forte but I think I’m improving a little. At least, I hope so. In the midst of prolonged procrastination and last minute assignments I was able to get some reading done. Which, in the world of this lady, is always a good thing. As I’ve mentioned before, I read far too many books at one time – it’s a bad habit that I am trying to kill. Otherwise it will end up killing me. Especially when there are assignments. Seriously, that one word is enough to curdle the blood in my veins.



From Basil, the Great Mouse Detective



(Ok, enough rambling Disdain, on with it!) 


   As I’ve mentioned before I was lucky enough to win Jan Hahn’s “The Journey” on My Jane Austen Bookclub.  “The Journey” is a ‘what-if’ deviation on the original “Pride & Prejudice” story. Following Mr. Collins’ disastrous proposal, and unable to tolerate Mrs. Bennet’s rantings against his second daughter, Mr. Bennet decides to send Elizabeth off to London under the pretext of visiting her aunt and uncle Gardiner (while just buying himself some peace and quiet). Unfortunately for Lizzie, her father has also decided for her safety that she should accompany Mr. Darcy, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who are also fleeing to London. Lizzie resigns herself to a long and tedious journey with companions who, she is certain, will do their utmost in trying her patience. Luckily for Lizzie, she does not have to endure this torture for long. Because, unluckily for all of them, they are set upon by highwaymen. Amidst all the crass swearing, threats and panic that follows (and the leading highwayman, Nate Morgan, taking a fancy to Lizzie), Darcy declares that Miss Bennet is his wife and if Nate wants her he’ll have to take Darcy as well. Which is exactly what Nate Morgan does. He kidnaps them both for ransom (letting Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst go free) and imprisons them in a cabin in the woods (Isn’t there a horror movie of the same title?). 

  What follows is their trials as prisoners (which aren’t overly drawn out), their escape, and the scandal and court cases which follow upon their return to London and society. Lizzie’s reputation, unsurprisingly, is on the brink of being lost forever and her relationship with Darcy, too, proves to become only more mystifying to the poor girl as time passes. There is much to keep the reader occupied in this book.


  The story starts convincingly enough – we are thrown right into the midst of it all, with the captured Lizzie forced to ride on horseback with the highwaymen, thundering through the greenery. It then flashes back to the beginning of the fatal journey.  While I found the plot and the character’s actions at the start to be plausible, the writing was a bit jarring. It was a little  too long-winded and wordy and, I though, a little incompatible with the action taking place at the start. I was far too conscious of being told what was happening, instead of reading it for myself. However, I didn’t have any problem with the writing style once the characters had returned to society and were mingling with the ton. I wasn’t so conscious of it in the second half of the novel, and Hahn does manage to achieve the atmosphere of nineteenth century London. 


  The characters, too, were well portrayed. I thought Jan Hahn managed to capture the essence of the original Austen characters quite well. You get to see a lot more of the Gradiners in this story, and that was quite refreshing and very enjoyable to read. It still perplexes me that Mrs. Bennet was able to give birth to both Jane and Lizzie. Mrs. Gardiner is a much better mother. The misunderstandings between Darcy and Elizabeth are still present here – almost to the point of being a little frustrating and, at times, unbelievable. There are several instances when Lizzie assumes the worst of Darcy only to have that assumption contradicted – but when another opportunity offers itself to her to judge his character she takes the wrong turn again. I realize that a lot of it was to drive the plot along but after a point it just became unbelievable and you begin to question whether Lizzie is learning her lesson or not. 


  Having said that, it was  a pleasant read and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read this story. It also offers an extended view of Darcy and Lizzie’s married life, their children, and Georgiana’s life with them. Here Jan Hahn paints a very pretty picture. I can just see the children tumbling over each other on the grounds of Pemberley with their parents and aunt watching and laughing nearby. I just have to mention this: I loved Jan Hahn’s portrayal of Mr. Bingley. While he is still Austen’s Bingley, being persuaded by Darcy about Jane’s lack of love for him, his conduct later in the novel is… so satisfying for an Austen lover. His staunch loyalty in the face of the Bennet’s teetering reputation regarding Lizzie’s situation, his determination in the face of his sisters’ disapproval is heartening. I always felt Bingley had a lot of spunk (something that P&P screen adaptations tend to ignore), but Jan Hahn definitely managed to satisfy me on that point.


  So if you’ve recently finished “P&P” and are longing for more story with the same beloved characters, and a few new ones as well, then give this story a try. 


3.5 out of 5 curricles from me.

Sincerely,
  Lady Disdain

"Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen

via

Dear Reader,

It’s quite amazing, isn’t it, the difference a second impression can make?
The first time I read “Northanger Abbey”, I found Catherine to be a little boring, the plot to be a little forgettable and the Thorpe clan to be heartless little pricks, the lot of them.
Reading “Northanger Abbey” a second time left my feelings unchanged on that last point – on the first two, however, they had undergone a distinct transformation. Catherine no longer seemed boring – only endearing in her innocence, naiveté, and ingenuity. And while the plot wasn’t as intricate or well-developed as Austen’s other novels, I can wager that I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. The novel lacks the substance and polish of her other works, but it will still hold a place on my bookshelf as it only serve to reveal yet another aspect of Austen’s character. And what Austen fan can resist such temptation? Not this one, reader.
I’m always a little surprised at the change of feelings I undergo regarding Austen’s novels. It seems I’m always unimpressed with Austen the first time around, while the second reading leaves me fawning over her creations and execution. This is also true of “Pride & Prejudice.  I think I’ll just have to chalk that up to my slowly developing brain.
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I relished this reading of “Northanger Abbey” as it had been quite awhile ago I last read it. And as I wasn’t too impressed by Catherine and her story at the time, I’d forgotten much of the interactions that take place between the characters. I have to say that made for a novel reading experience for me; novel because it felt as if I was reading an Austen for the first time, and as any Austen fan knows that with only six of her novels to drool over, this is a rare experience and one to be cherished. 
It was so enjoyable for me, made even more enjoyable by Henry Tilney. Now he’s no Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth, but he’s oh so attractive in his own way and bless me if the man isn’t snarky! (A snarky Austen hero? Be still my beating heart!) He was by far my favorite character in the novel. I absolutely loved his sense of humor, and found myself able to relate to his general silliness and playful sarcasm. I had a smile on my face every time he walked onto the page.
As for Catherine, while she is not as impressive as Austen’s other heroines, she does manage to hold her own with a strength that is quite admirable. I spent the first half the novel cringing at Isabella and John’s ministrations, and Catherine’s blindness to them. And if I wasn’t cringing, then I was worried that Catherine wouldn’t be able to fend off the Thorpes and would allow their manipulations to estrange her from the Tilneys forever. I was so afraid for her! But, she managed to surprise me and stand strong against the combined forces of John, Isabella and even her own brother James (who by the way, displayed far too little sense to please me). Catherine is definitely the naive, fresh-faced heroine – not altogether a bad combination, except when she’s jumping to the most ridiculous conclusions based on the flimsiest of evidence. Her thought process when condemning General Tilney was a little painful to read – something which Austen intended, no doubt. There was a point when I wanted to whack the girl over the head and tell her to open her eyes. Thankfully Henry Tilney was there do that for me (minus, the whacking the head part). 
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The secondary characters are also present, in all their usual Austenian splendor. Ever wondered if there is a woman to rival Mrs. Bennet in ridiculousness? Then Mrs. Allen is the woman for you – that woman talks of nothing but muslins, and I found her very self-absorbed. At least, part of Mrs. Bennet’s silliness springs from her desire to see her daughters well-settled. Not so with Mrs. Allen; she is childless, and she might as well be husbandless and friendless for all the care she bestows them. She manages to manipulate any conversation so that no matter what you were discussing before, you always end up with MUSLINS. There. That rant alone should be enough to convince you how realistically Austen is able to draw her characters (realistic enough for me to start shuddering every time Mrs. Allen walks onto the scene).

Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read with plenty of opportunities for some chuckles, a bit of romance, and a dolloping of Austen’s snarky wit. Need I say more? 
3.5 out of 5 Japanese cabinets. 
Sincerely, 
  Lady Disdain