Two years ago, Janeites celebrated the 200th birthday of S&S, and this year we are celebrating P&P.    Yes, today marks 200 years since P&P was first published.  The book had been rejected by a publisher in the late 1790s, but a much smarter publisher accepted it for publication on January 28, 1813.  And the world is a better place as a result.

I have been listening to the “readathon” at the Jane Austen Centre website.  It’s been a lot of fun listening to each chapter as read by a different person.  It was supposed to go from 11 a.m. — 11 p.m. GMT, but it’s now 1:30 a.m. GMT on the 29th and there are still at least  6 or 7 chapters left to go.

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Just over 2 years ago, I reviewed Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy.  It’s a movie I really like, and I watch it periodically because I do find it to be so entertaining.

I bought my copy from an LDS (Mormon) website and, as a result, I get emails and other promotions from that site to this day.  That site, DeseretBook.com, sent me an email this morning offering me the chance to buy the movie at the price of $9.99.  The email said that this price is good for today only (but the website itself doesn’t say that), and that it won’t ship for a couple of weeks.  But this movie is hard to find, so I wanted to make sure that everyone who wants a copy is able to order one for their own collection.

Good luck and, if you do buy a copy, please let me know whether or not you liked it.

 

Updated July 22, 2012:  the movie now costs $12.99.  It’s still less than the list price of $19.99 and less than Amazon’s price of $17.01.

I spent part of last weekend with the local JASNA chapter in Clearwater, where we watched a Latina version of Sense & Sensibility called From Prada to Nada.  It stars nobody I’ve ever heard of and I went into it with no preconceived notions whatsoever.  The group I was with had a lovely time, and we thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

With very few exceptions, the skeleton of S&S is still intact.  Nora and Mary Dominguez are the daughters of a rich man in LA.  One day, he suffers a massive heart attack and dies.  At the reading of the will, they learn 2 very surprising things.  First, that they are destitute, since their father was in bankruptcy and second, that he’d had an affair years earlier and they had a half brother named Gabe.  Gabe (= John Dashwood) and his wife, Olivia ( = Fanny Dashwood) buy and sell houses for a living, so they buy the Dominguez home and Olivia kicks out Nora and Mary.  The girls end up moving in with a maternal aunt (= Mrs. Jennings?) in East LA, where they experience massive culture shock.  They are Mexicans who don’t speak Spanish, so they are like the proverbial fish out of water in that part of town.

Mary is a college student, and she falls head over heels for a rich Mexican TA named Rodrigo ( = Willoughby).  He turns out to be married and buys Mary and Nora’s childhood home for his wife.  Nora falls for Olivia’s brother, an attorney named Edward Ferris (close, but no cigar to “Ferrars”), and ends up working for him at his law firm (she quit law school when she learned she was poor).  The Colonel Brandon character is a local gardener named Pablo; we do not get to know him well enough to learn if there is any young Eliza in his life. Mary almost dies in a car accident when she learns of Rodrigo’s behavior, but we never see him again, and he certainly never “apologizes” for what he did.  Nora drives Edward away because he does not fit into her “10-year plan,” but she realizes how much she loves him when he gets engaged to Olivia’s friend Lucy (who is not a villain here).  Of course, she gets him in the end, but the way this happens was a little awkward.

There is a subplot about Nora and Edward providing pro bono legal assistance to some Mexican janitors, but that neither adds nor detracts from the story being told.  One twist that is not from the original story is that Gabe realizes just how awful his wife is, so he dumps her and ends up becoming friends with his sisters.

So, yes it’s a modernized version of the story, and yes, the fact that it is less than 2 hours long means that much of the story is gone, but this is still a very entertaining movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and this time I’ll watch the various making-of features that are on the disc.

I just (finally!) finished Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  My mother even wanted to read it, so we bought a copy at Books-a-Million and, since I was still reading Major Pettigrew, Mom started reading Death Comes to Pemberley.  I went into it with high hopes — as you all know, Austen is my absolute favorite author, and P.D. James is brilliant in her own way, and the combination of Austen’s characters and a James plot was very, very enticing.

The reality, however, did not live up to my expectations.  Granted, it’s possible that my expectations were too high, but this book was not nearly as entertaining as it could have been.  I’ve read enough sequels, prequels, modernizations and retellings of Austen to know that they absolutely can be entertaining.  In fact, my favorite sequel of all (Pemberley Shades, by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt) has a mystery at its core.

As I said before, I am a fan of both Austen and James, and I found this book to be decidedly unsatisfying on both counts.  Elizabeth and Darcy weren’t instantly recognizable as Austen’s beloved characters. They were actually rather boring people.  Wickham ends up being a decorated soldier and Mrs. Younge turns out to be his sister.  The murder victim is Wickham’s friend, Captain Denny, and Wickham is arrested for the murder.  The real murderer is a dying man who lives on the Pemberley estate who thinks he is killing Wickham, the man who seduced his sister and left her with an illegitimate child.  The last few chapters, where first Colonel Fitzwilliam, and then Wickham, explained the whole story, were a muddle.  I did like how James brought in other Austen characters — Wickham’s employer was a Sir Walter Elliot and the people who end up adopting Wickham’s bastard are a Mr. and Mrs. Robert Martin of Highbury.  But overall I did not find myself emotionally involved in this story at all.  I kept reading because I hoped it would get better.  Unfortunately, it never did.  And, just for the record, Mom found it rather dull also.

Yesterday was Jane Austen’s 236th birthday.  I did not write a post on the big day itself because I was out with my local JASNA chapter celebrating it.  A good time was had by all.

I don’t need to repeat what I wrote last year, but the fact remains that Jane is still popular with a wide variety of people.  It’s still pretty amazing that the younger daughter of a country rector is remembered (and revered) for 6 novels and several unfinished stories 194 years after her death.

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Let’s fast-forward a little bit from the Regency era to the years after World War I.  Yes, the Downton Abbey Christmas Special is due to air on ITV in the UK at 21:00 (9 p.m.) on Christmas night.  Here is the press pack: http://www.itv.com/documents/pdf/DOWNTON_ABBEY_PRESS_S2_XMAS_Lores.pdf

As you will see, Sybil and Branson will not be around.  That makes sense — they’re not fabulously wealthy and can’t pop back and forth between Ireland and Downton on a whim.

Here are some stories about what may and may not happen:

http://www.digitalspy.com/british-tv/s183/downton-abbey/news/a352893/dan-stevens-teases-christmas-downton-abbey.html

http://www.cultbox.co.uk/news/headlines/2545-downton-abbey-christmas-special-story-details-revealed

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2073906/Dressing-Downton-Abbey-What-difference-80-years-makes.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2073828/Downton-Abbey-Christmas-special-Will-cast-crew-able-wraps.html

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/3997101/Downton-Abbey-Christmas-special.html

And here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tZVGdZoEM&feature=player_embedded) is a trailer for the Christmas special.  I am dying to find out what happens to Mr. Bates and, by extension, to Anna.

I just finished reading Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken.

As you know, I love Mansfield Park, although I do understand why it’s generally considered to be Jane Austen’s least popular work.  I did not appreciate it until I was around 40, even though I’d first read it at age 18.  I like and respect Fanny Price and, even though Edmund is not anywhere near the top of my list of favorite literary heroes, I really do think he’s right for Fanny.  An acquaintance of mine likes Henry Crawford and thinks that Fanny would have been better off with him.  She and I have had some spirited discussions on the subject, and we agree to disagree.

But I digress.

MPR takes place 4 years after the events of Mansfield Park.  Edmund and Fanny have 2 young children.  Mrs. Norris has died. Sir Thomas has died and Tom has inherited the title. William Price has just been promoted to Captain.  Susan Price still lives at Mansfield Park and her lazy, selfish Aunt Bertram still relies on her.

The book was OK. Fanny and Edmund are packed off to Antigua to clean up another mess on the family’s plantation.  Julia (the Honourable Mrs. John Yates) is in an unhappy marriage, so she and her children spend a lot of time at Mansfield minding other people’s business.  In essence, Julia has turned out to be a lot like Mrs. Norris.  She treats Susan like the hired help and does everything she can to convince her brother, the new Sir Thomas, to marry her sister-in-law, Charlotte Yates, who is a whiny, annoying woman.

And then there are the Crawfords.  Mary has made an unfortunate marriage and is now in very bad health.  She decides that the only place for her is Mansfield Park.  So she writes to Fanny to ask her advice about moving into the White House, but since Fanny is in Antigua, Susan gets the letter instead.  Susan’s only knowledge of the Crawfords is based on what she’s heard from Fanny, Edmund, Julia and Tom, and it’s not good.  Before she has a chance to speak to Tom about Mary’s letter, Tom announces that the White House has been rented.  Of course, we soon find out that Mary Crawford is the new tenant.

Anyway, it’s obvious that Aiken likes Henry and Mary far better than I do because a new character (Mrs. Osbourne, sister to the man who’s taking over Edmund’s duties at his two parishes) says that all of Maria’s troubles with Henry were her own fault, and that he’s innocent.  Mary and Susan become fast friends. Tom gets thrown from his horse and has to recuperate at the White House and he starts singing Mary’s praises.  As for Mary herself, she is now close to death, and tells Susan that her dearest wish would be to see Susan married to Henry.

Sounds familiar, right?

It gets even more familiar because, after Mary dies, Henry leaves the area when Susan doesn’t say yes to his proposal, and Tom — out of nowhere — declares his undying love for Susan. And she says she’s loved him since she first arrived at Mansfield Park when she was 14. We’ve never even had a hint of this love on Susan’s part, and certainly not on Tom’s.  I went into the book thinking she’d end up with the visiting clergyman.  But to have her end up with Tom in the last few pages just had me rolling my eyes and being glad the end was nigh.

I might have recommended it (even with Henry turning out to not be a slimeball) if Aiken hadn’t been so derivative towards the end, but now I can’t.  If it’s in your library, OK, go for it.  But don’t waste your hard-earned money buying it.  I’ve read amateur fanfiction that was more creative than this.

I’m about 1/3 through what I consider to be Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, and already have a couple of comments to share.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve spent the past year immersed in Austen, but the first thing that struck me about Jane Eyre is the writing. Austen rarely gives us a detailed description of anything — not people, and not places.  An awful lot is left to our imagination.  But Brontë gives us a lot more information.  We have a pretty good idea of what Jane and Rochester look like.  We have a pretty good idea of what Thornfield and the surrounding country look like.  Maybe that’s why I have had trouble loving Jane Eyre adaptations — Brontë has already given us so much detail that no adapter could possibly capture it all.

While Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are Austen’s most introspective heroines and we know quite a bit about their innermost thoughts, Jane Eyre is presented as an autobiography, so we know Jane much better than we do any of Austen’s characters.  Again, less is left to the imagination.  We experience everything as she does.  We know nothing that she doesn’t know.

Austen wrote books that some consider to be romances, but she was not a Romantic.  Brontë was a Romantic. We learn a lot about Jane’s emotions; she is far more open with her emotions than any of Austen’s heroines are.  I am not saying that one authoress is better than the other; I am only saying that, after a year of Austen, it’s been quite an adjustment to read Brontë.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Jane Eyre, and I still love it dearly.