Monday, January 26, 2009

Amanda Grange....a woman who thinks like a man: a Regency gentleman

First off let me begin by saying I am concussed; I fell on the ice and hit my head quite hard so if I make any mistakes blame it on the head injury.

I am reading "Darcy's Diary" by Amanda Grange and must admit to loving it. I thought Janet Aylmer's "Darcy's Story" had been my favorite view of P & P from Darcy's perspective. In fact, you can even read "Darcy's Story" as you watch the 1995 Colin Firth Jennifer Ehle P & P and see how well it follows. There's even a seen where Darcy takes Elizabeth's hand and then drops it. His reasons why are in the book. (When Elizabeth is at Lambton and finds out about Lydia). I love Amanda Grange. I have all of her Austen hero diaries and am intrigued to read "Edmund Bertram's Diary" because I hate Edmund and am wondering if I'm going to like him now.

Grange gives life to the perfect hero. He is thoughtful and caring and is everything a woman could want in a Regency man....or any man for that matter. I know I may be old fashioned, but I hate it when other books have Darcy or one of the other men have a mistress or frequent brothels. I know it is not unheard of....I know it is common place and everything, but I like to think Austen's heroes are above that. Grange apparently believes so as well or at least does not let us know about their darker sides.

Grange keeps with the characters. Her next book is "Colonel Brandon's Diary" I will definitely buy it. I wish I had bought "Darcy's Diary" in paperback so all my books would match. The covers of the paperbacks are beautiful and look so nice on a bookshelf together. I will be interested to know if she is going to do an Edward Ferris Diary. This is the one I want to read. He had is engagement to Fanny for so long and then met Elinor. I'd like to see the conflict in his diary. His love for Elinor yet his promise to Fanny. Does anyone know if Grange has plans for this?

I think I'd also like to read the diaries of some of Austen's bad boys. Wouldn't it be interesting to see Willoughby's point of view? What sort of life Mr. Elliot led before he decided he wanted the baronet? What Wickham was thinking when he tried to elope with Georgiana and his thoughts on what he really intended with Lydia? These books might exist, but I have yet to come across them.

I would like to read Amanda Grange's other books. There is a list in front of "Darcy's Diary" that I shall try to find on I do highly recommend any Grange novel. She does her research and creates great characters. I am so glad she has a love of Regency England.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Jane Austen Drinking Game

Okay so watch a Jane Austen film adaptation and every time the hero asks if the heroine's family is well, do a shot! (I often wonder if this is the Regency equivalent of Joey from Friends "How you doin'? It seems like a Regency pick up line to me!) No, not really. I speak of another type of drinking game entirely.

As I am playing Austen I like to get the experience. So when I read that people back then drank port, sherry, and brandy I decided to take a trip to my local liquor store and buy a bottle of each to try it out. The man behind the counter quite laughed at my quest, but was helpful in directing me to what I should purchase. I purchased Hennessy cognac. He advised me to buy the flask. I was glad he did. While I imagine some people who read this will like brandy I believe it is best served in a Brandy Alexander. That is with ice cream and a lot of chocolate. I did not like it at all. So apparently I have a flask of brandy for anyone who is interested.

Next I went on to sherry. I bought Harvey's Bristol Cream and while I was told this was sweeter than normal sherry and not what would have been served in Regency England, I was informed that it was the most drinkable. I actually liked the sherry. I am interested to see what a drier form would taste like. I should mention I live in PA so my liquor purchases are limited because we do not have the variety of some other free flowing states so to speak.

Finally I bought port. There were several bottles available. A lot of gallon jugs, but I went for Cockburn's and I bought the more expensive of the two bottles. The liquor store man did tell me to only drink a little as it was concentrated. I love port. I know that women are not suppose to drink port. That it is a man's drink, but I love it. I completely understand why Emily in "And Only to Deceive" has laid claim to her dead husband's port. I support her and would join her if I could. So now my quest is to find a better port. I would like the name of a good brand of port. Not one that would run me hundreds of dollars, I am afterall with limited funds, but something that would maybe cost between $40-$60. So if anyone has ideas please let me know.

I believe there are some other beverages that were popular as well. Ratafia I have not tried, but have a recipe for....I understand that it is very sweet. I'd be interested if anyone had a recipe not found in the Jane Austen Cookbook.

Pride and Prejudice Revisionism

I see the Pride and Prejudice has become the favorite book of people who read the blog. And why not? It is very enjoyable and has been well done in movie adaptations and is probably the best known. So I would very much like to understand a new trend in Austen fan fiction, which is revisionism. What if P & P went like this? What if Darcy and Elizabeth met like this? What if this happened instead of this? My question: why mess with perfection? But I will look at some of these revisionists and let you know which are a good story and which to stay away from.

Abigail Reynolds has written the most revisionism of P & P. "Impulse and Initiative" "By Force of Instinct" "From Lambton to Longbourn" "The Last Man in the World" and "Without Reserve" are all by Reynolds and are all P & P revisionism. She has another book "Pemberley by the Sea" which is an update and quite enjoyable. Her revisionism on the other hand gets a little boring. I have read all five and the one thing they all have in common is Darcy and Elizabeth end up happily married at the end even though in each one they anticipate their wedding vows (i.e. They have sex before the wedding). After all the Darcy thinks of Wickham I cannot really see him anticipating his vows especially to Elizabeth. Although we are dealing with different circumstances and people who are not our beloved lead characters. Still I like to think I know Darcy and Elizabeth. In one book, Elizabeth almost commits suicide and Darcy admits that he almost did as well. I may not know everything there is to know about Regency England, but I know if Darcy had killed himself Pemberley would have been forfeited to the King as well as the Darcy monies. While suicide is unfortunately common today and did occur, thoughts and feelings on the matter were quite different. I think it sad that Elizabeth should become such a mouse and that the true effect of what would have happened to Georgiana and Pemberley would not be taken into account. Of course this is what happens when modern day people try to write about the past. I know there are some authors who are quite skilled and really research their books and create some truly wonderful pieces of fiction about a time period that I quite enjoy. But I do ask that you do the research and not add modern day sensibilities to something that was not so. So I say read the update with joy and pleasure as for the other five...don't read them back to back. Take some time between them otherwise parts will get stale. You may choose to not even read them at all.

For Christmas I received "Chance Encounters" by Linda Wells. It is revisionism and Darcy and Elizabeth meet in London prior to Darcy knowing anything about the Bennets. He falls for her because she showed him a kindness when most people were after his name and his money. Darcy and Elizabeth do marry although it is not a smooth path and the book follows their married life. It focuses on their early married life, but gives you a glimpse of their later married life. I enjoyed this novel. I felt the characters acted as they should and while it is not as good as the original, it is a good story and I believe you do not lose sight of who Darcy and Elizabeth truly are. There is perhaps a storyline involving Wickham that might be contrived and could be seen as a little silly, but overall the book has merit. The only thing that surprised me the most is how heavy the book is and I don't mean in theme I mean in actual weight. I do believe if you are reading it and you find yourself set upon by someone who claims Bronte is better you could sufficiently defend yourself with the book if need be.

"Pemberley's Promise" by Kara Louise has Darcy and Elizabeth meeting on a ship bound for America. There is also a secret marriage with the end result of an annulment (although it does not happen). Obviously this goes back to our previous post about modern sensibilities. It was very hard to get an annulment and Darcy should not have believed it so easy. Yet there is something about this book that I did really like. I enjoy the battles that Lizzy and Darcy face in the original and the love they find in the end, but for some reason I also like Lizzy and Darcy liking each other from the get go. At least in this version and in "Chance Encounters". Louise has written some other P & P books as well. An update in which Bingley and Jane die quite quickly which brings Darcy and Elizabeth together and a few that deal with the time after P & P. One has a quite strange section where Darcy is determined to start a school for the deaf. While this is very noble I am at a loss as to why Darcy would do this especially since he is newly married. I have read novels where women create schools and some men as well, but I just find this a strange Darcy trait.

I will admit that if you are a die-hard P & P fan you might not want to go out on a limb and read the revisionism. Your favorite book is taken from a completely different perspective and you may be dismayed with the results. I, on the other hand, have read quite a bit of crap and can set aside my love for the original to see what other people think should have happened. I do not know if I will pursue a doctorate in this one day and explore the changes or if I do this because I love Austen, but more than I love Austen (yes, I am wholly admitting to loving myself :) I love how she brings people together. I love how friendships are forged through a love of a similar novel or love of a movie adaptation. (Yes, Kristin, I mean you). I love how people want to make these characters their own. It is as if we all own a bit of Lizzy and a bit of Darcy. How many of us see ourselves as Lizzyesque? Smart, witty, not the typical woman and hope we will win or already have won a Darcy of our own? A man who should be superior to us in station, but loves us for our minds.

I will admit that I will talk about some of the crap I have read in another post. I do ask you to be prepared for a seven-foot detective, an exorcism and a trip to Georgia during the War of 1812. Oh yes and mirrors above the beds; because we all knew Colonel Fitzwilliam had a devious side. But that is for another post. As for today enjoy if you feel you can give it a chance.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Persuasion Fantasy Team

It is Super Bowl Season and this is not lost on me. So while other people make their fantasy teams for football, I'm creating a fantasy team of Persuasion players. This weekend I had the joy of watching the 1971, 1994, and 2007 versions of "Persuasion". I found each one had its own delights and if parts of them were combined they would make the perfect "Persuasion."

The main characters:
  • Anne Elliot: Ann Firbank 1971
  • Captain Wentworth: Bryan Marshall, 1971
  • Sir Walter Elliot: Anthony Head, 2007
  • Elizabeth Elliot: Julia Davis, 2007
  • Lady Russel: Susan Fleetwood, 1994
  • Mrs. Croft: Fiona Shaw, 1994
  • Admiral Croft: John Woodvine, 194
  • Mrs. Musgrove: Judy Cornwell, 1994
  • Mr. Musgrove: Roger Hammond, 1994
  • Charles Musgrove: Simon Russel Beale, 1994
  • Mary Musgrove: Amanda Hale, 2007
  • Henrietta Musgrove: Rosamund Stephen, 2007
  • Louisa Musgrove: Jennifer Higham, 2007
  • Mr. Elliot: Tobias Menzies, 2007
  • Mrs. Clay: Mary Stockley, 2007
  • Mr. Shepard: Michael Fenton Stephens, 2007
  • Mrs. Smith: Helen Schlesinger, 1994
  • Nurse Rook: Jane Wood, 1994
  • Captain Benwick: Paul Chapman, 1971
  • Captain Harville: Michael Carver, 1971

Julian Mitchell, who wrote the 1971 version, would be the writer; however, there are some other scenes I would like added. The 1971 version is already four hours long, what is a few more minutes?
  • I would like the scene of little Charles dislocating his collarbone from the 1994 version.
  • I would also like it if the Mrs. Smith West Indies property storyline would be included. It is not included in any of the versions and I believe it shows what kind of man Captain Wentworth truly is. He barely knows Mrs. Smith, but offers to help her because she is Anne's friend.
  • The scene from the 2007 version where Elizabeth gets angry with Anne for attracting the attention of Mr. Elliot should also be added. Elizabeth had hoped that Mr. Elliot would marry her and the fact that he preferred Anne did create some animosity.
  • In "Captain Wentworth's Diary" Wentworth wonders if he is staying in Anne's room. I think he should and this should be shown in the movie.
  • I enjoyed Anne writing in her diary about her feelings toward Wentworth from the 2007 version. I know Anne does not write in the book, but I thought it was a nice way to get some of her views across. In the 1971 version Anne had some Shakespearesque soliloquies that provided this information. I do think the diary is better.
  • In the 2007 version Captain Wentworth and Captain Harville are walking on the cobb and Harville comments on how Wentworth must be extremely upset to see his betrothed in such a state. Wentworth immediately says he is not betrothed to Louisa. I thought this was an important scene. It lets viewers know what people think will happen and what Wentworth is really feeling.
  • I would also enjoy it if the scene where Captain Wentworth makes a request on behalf of the Admiral from the 2007 version were included. It is not in the published version of "Persuasion", but is a scene that was deleted.
  • I would also like to see the scene from the 1994 version that shows Captain Wentworth being written into the Baronetage.
  • Finally for the end scene and I know it's not in the book, but I truly enjoy it, is the scene from the 1994 version where Anne is aboard ship with Captain Wentworth and they are sailing about. It is a tough decision though because in the 2007 version Captain Wentworth buys Kellynch Hall for Anne, which is also a nice ending.
Does anyone have a preference?

I am torn about costumes. I believe I prefer the 2007 version for the men although I like seeing Captain Wentworth in his uniform in the 1994 version. For the women I can scarcely decide. I don't like what Anne wears in the 2007 version; it seems too worn. I can't even remember what Anne wears in the 1994 version, but I believe it was very plain. I think for the women it would be the dresses from the 1971 version, but perhaps the bonnets of the 2007 version. However, Mrs. Croft, Admiral Croft, and Lady Russel should dress as they did in the 1994 version. I think the hairstyles from the 2007 version although I liked how the 1994 version had Anne's hair change when she went to Bath. Anne does change when she goes to Bath not because she really changes, but because Captain Wentworth's view of her changes. So I'd like to see that change in the all time version of "Persuasion."

For the sets, I think I would go for the 2007 version of the sets. I enjoyed its Kellynch Hall the best and also thought its other choices were nice. It also had beautiful sweeping views of Bath.

I believe that this group of actors would make for the best version of "Persuasion." My one friend belongs to a Regency group through Yahoo and when the 2007 version was released were in an uproar because Wenworth and Anne kiss on a street in Bath in public. This would have never been done in my age. However, in the 1994 version Anne and Wentworth kiss in public on a street in Bath and in the 1971 version Anne and Wentworth kiss at a card party in front of numerous guests. So it appears that after 8 1/2 years of separation no version can keep the two lovers from creating a social faux pas.

If I could only watch one version for the rest of my life it would have to be the 1971 version. Ann Firbank is a perfect Anne, but her hair in the movie is a little more Victorian than Regency; I have discovered though that Anne always has frightful hair. I wonder why. Bryan Marshall is a wonderful Captain Wentworth. He is rugged enough to be a sailor and yet handsome enough to inspire a lasting love. I would have liked to see him in uniform, but only the 1994 version does that. Bryan Marshall looks like a modern day Matthew MacFadyen and we all remember how he bewitched us body and soul. Although I believe no one made a better Mr. Elliot than Tobias Menzies. I enjoyed him immensely in the HBO series Rome and was glad to see he looked just a delicious in Regency garb as he did in a toga.

So this is my Persuasion fantasy team. It may not win the Super Bowl, but it would surely win any Janenite's approval.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Modern Day Mes

Imagine my surprise as I was looking at a book and it was described as such "If Jane Austen had written the Da Vinci Code this book is what would have been created." The book is "And Only to Deceive" by Tasha Alexander. And if I wrote about Victorian England instead of Regency England and about females sleuths instead of gentle females and about art theft (Ha! I knew I could work it in some how) instead of the trials and tribulations of marriage, then yes, I would have written "And Only to Deceive." Do not get me wrong; this is an amazing book and I was excited to learn it was a series. Emily is a great female character and Colin Hargreaves is a reason to love not only spies, but British gentlemen spies as well. I am eagerly awaiting the fourth installment and cannot wait for its release or even a hint of when it will be released.

Jude Morgan, however, is me only slightly more viscous and perhaps, dare I say it, more clever?! He wrote "An Accomplished Woman" his take on "Persuasion" and it is fabulous. All his books are fabulous. There are some that are even studies of character and manners, which I totally enjoy (after all didn't I create that?). I have not yet read a Jude Morgan book that I did not appreciate. His book on the Romantic poets is divine. Unfortunately "An Accomplished Woman" will not be available to the US until April 2009. I ordered a copy from the UK because I loved the idea and his writing so much. I do not believe he has reached much acclaim in the US, but he certainly should.

Stephanie Barron writes a series where I, yes, me Jane Austen, is a sleuth. I must say that I was quite shocked to find myself solving mysteries and even more pleased that I was good at it. The amazing thing is how well Baron actually mimics my writing style. For a second I thought I was actually reading my diaries. It was a remarkable discovery.

So for those of you who think that six books was not enough for my literary career, fear not. There are others out there who can carry on my tradition and quite well in fact. Do not be disheartened by bad imitators. Try these geniuses and I swear you'll be pleased.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Favorite Hero

I have read what my scholars have said about me and my works and I must disagree. They say if you are a true Janenite then you love "Mansfield Park" the best. I say if you are a true Janenite then you love "Persuasion" the best. "Persuasion" was my last novel. In fact I'm not entirely sure if I like how it was published. I had a few other scenes and was reworking others when I died. (hmm...I'm dead and yet I'm posting to a blog. I didn't know the internet had even made its way to Heaven. Perhaps it should be more than just the world wide web). Anyway I love Wentworth. He stays faithful to Anne even though she turned him away. He loved her for 8 years before they got together. A wiser Anne and a wiser Wentworth. I know that Hollywood has talked about my love life and made movies about myself and Tom LeFroy. The PBS movie "Miss Austen Regrets" was much better.

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

This is the letter Wentworth writes to Anne and I know of many women who would love to receive such a letter. Some have said I received such a letter from Tom LeFroy, but turned him down. Because my dear Cassandra burned my letters you will never know for sure. There are several "Persuasion" books that are very good. Most are updates although one takes place during the Regency period. Today we are going to look at "Persuasion" from Wentworth's point of view.

Amanda Grange has written a diary from each of my male characters. Each is excellent. "Captain Wentworth's Diary" explains "Persuasion" through Wentworth's eyes. It discusses their first meetings and then picks up when they meet again.

For another view, this one starting a little before Wentworth meets Anne for the second time, you should read Susan Kaye's "None But You" and its sequel "For You Alone." Unlike some of the Darcy perspectives, both of these are quite good and there are no crazy women sacrificing pigs and pretending they are babies. (Anyone who has read the Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman series by Pamela Aiden will totally understand).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dating Mr. Darcy

Most women would love to date Mr. Darcy. He's rich, he's handsome, he picks Elizabeth because he values her wit and intelligence, he saves Elizabeth's family by making Wickham marry Lydia. Who wouldn't want this knight in shining armor? Who wouldn't want to meet a man just like Darcy in this day an age? Most women picture him as Colin Firth, who played Darcy beautifully in the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice starring Firth and Jennifer Ehle. So who wouldn't want him? Alexandra Potter, that's who.

Potter wrote "Me and Mr. Darcy" a good story about a modern day woman who "meets" Darcy while going on a Jane Austen tour of England. Each meeting with the fictional Darcy takes place during a dream or while something else is going on, so we know Emily doesn't really meet the fictional Darcy, but we learn something else. Darcy is sort of a stick in the mud. He doesn't like Emily's modern clothes. He's shocked to learn she works. He can't believe she doesn't know how to ride and is amazed that she doesn't act like a proper lady. Is this really what we want? A man who expects us to live like they did in Regency England? A man, who if he married us and got bored with us could tie a rope around our necks and sell us at market to the highest bidder? (Men really could do this in Regency England). Probably not. So while Darcy is fun to dream about maybe we need to update him for our purposes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Melissa Nathan

Since the poll has a vote for P & P (Pride & Prejudice) and two for Persuasion we'll start with an author who has covered both.

Melissa Nathan wrote "Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Fields" and "Persuading Annie". It is obvious which book is based off of which Austen novel. There are no surprises. The books follow the story lines of their respective Austen novels and it's easy to see which character is which. The thing is the books are incredibly enjoyable. They take place in the 21st century and have characters you love just as much as Austen's. I have read "Persuading Annie" at least 30 times and I still love it.

The sad thing is Melissa Nathan died of breast cancer several years ago. She was only in her thirties. She has three other books which are non-Austen related, but still very enjoyable.

So check her out. I, as Austen, wholly approve of what she has done with my novels.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Introduction

Two years ago I dressed up as Jane Austen, the famous Regency author, for a library program. It sort of took off and now I go to high school as Austen and talk about her books and her life. To get me into character for my next round of schools I'm going to pretend to be Jane Austen as she reads the sequels, updates, and revisions to her six famous novels (Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, and Mansfield Park).

There are 100s of these books out there and I've read many of them. People always want to know which they should read and which they should stay away from. Hopefully someone will find this enjoyable.