Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’ Tag

Clueless but Not Hopeless   Leave a comment

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Late last year, a friend and I decided to reread Emma before seeing the most recent film version. We met twice to talk about it shortly after the movie was released, but hadn’t had a chance to see it once theatres closed in March. We’re optimistic about seeing it together – perhaps along with one of my daughters-in-law.

Among the beauties of a Jane Austen novel is the ease and comfort that accompanies revisiting it. It had been years since I’d last read Emma. The depth of the characters – or in Emma’s case her shallowness – along with the descriptive sense of place — made it fun to revisit.

Yes, Emma is intelligent, wealthy and beautiful. She’s also selfish, but has a kind heart. Thankfully, she has Mr. Knightly to try to open her eyes beyond the estate where she lives with her father. Mr. Woodhouse is a distressed man worrying about his health and attempting to project his mindset on others. Emma patiently caters to him.

Although the plot involving a free-thinking, independent young woman with friends representing different social stations and various  degrees of romance/matchmaking/unrequited love is familiar to Austen fans, Emma is simply  an enjoyable read. The 1995 film entitled Clueless is the perfect description of Emma. She is unable to correctly assess situations when it comes to relationships, whether for others or herself.

Yet, Austen ensures that Emma is an endearing character because her efforts to play a role in the happiness of others are sincere, even if misguided.

Emma
Five Bookmarks
Penguin Classics, 1996 (first published in 1815)
476 pages (includes Introduction, Chronology, Further Reading)

A Sequel for Jane Austen   Leave a comment

I imagine it’s entirely possible to enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley even if, heaven for-
bid, you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice; but I especially appreciate P.D. James’s latest
mystery because I do know about the Bennet and Darcy families. The novel begins six years
after Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy are married.

A few new minor characters are introduced, but James, for the most part, extends the lives
of those created by Austen in a completely believable manner: the Darcys have two young
boys; Jane and Bingley are regular visitors to Pemberley, the Darcy estate; and Wickham,
the troublemaker in the original work has a similar role, with his wife Lydia not far behind
in her ability to exasperate.

The story begins on the eve of the annual ball overseen by Elizabeth as she continues a
tradition started by Darcy’s mother. The preparations are interrupted when an uninvited,
hysterical Lydia appears believing Wickham has been shot nearby. The characters’ react-
ion to this news, subsequent discoveries, and a trial in London’s Old Bailey are sheer en-
tertainment. In James’s hands, the story is plausible. The characters react just as one
would expect of proper, early 19th century British gentry. Family obligations and public
perceptions dictate their behavior.

The numerous and recent spinoffs, including combining zombies with Pride and Prejudice,
even if only meant to introduce or reacquaint readers to Jane Austin, have never appealed
to me. However, James has created something completely original from classic literature
without diminishing appreciation for Austen’s writing.
Death Comes to Pemberley”
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
291 Pages