My Favourite Jane Austen Novel

My favourite Jane Austen novel

It probably comes as no surprise that this week’s “Friday’s Favourite” is the Great One herself, Jane Austen! What came as a surprise to me, however, is how hard it is to think of something to say about Jane Austen that hasn’t already been said. Read more

Will The Real Mr Darcy Please Stand Up?

When I say Mr Darcy, what, or who, do you think of? You’ve probably got a pretty specific image in your head right now as you read this. Is it:

Colin Firth, and a certain lake?

mr darcy1

maybe, Matthew MacFayden?

mr darcy2

Or even this guy?

this guy

Maybe you picture none of these men, you are probably still imagining someone tall, dark, handsome (and rich) though, am I right? That’s the way I think most of us probably imagine him, I know I do anyway. What struck me when I was re-reading the book recently, however, was just how little Austen actually says about what Darcy looks like.

When he is first introduced, for example, Austen offers only a basic, stock description.The room is drawn to his “fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mein”. There is no mention of specifics, no chiselled jawline, powerful thighs, masterful stare or even fashionably high collar points.

In fact, almost as soon as she offers us this lacklustre description Austen undermines it by stating “his manners gave a disgust” and proceeds to destroy any good impression his ‘noble mein’ might have afforded him. He is discovered to be “proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased”, not even his mammoth wealth, Austen seems to suggest, can save him from being, well, a bit of a prat.

If we are to take Mr Darcy’s introductory description, he’s not even as good as Mr Bingley, and he certainly isn’t a man who could inspire fan clubs all over the world. So far, so not the Mr Darcy we know and love. The truth is that the Mr Darcy of Austen’s novel is shrouded in mystery. If anything Austen builds a picture of a conceited, arrogant man who is full of flaws, hardly a dashing hero. In fact, he’s altogether far too human if you ask me.

So how have we built such a clear picture of Mr Darcy in our minds when Austen herself is so vague? I think this might just be the key, maybe it’s because because Austen is vague. Every time she doesn’t describe his features, or his clothes, or what he’s thinking, it makes us imagine him. Then, because we aren’t clouded by the unavoidable knowledge that he has a hunchback, or a peg leg, or even just blonde hair, we can build up a picture of our own perfect man, which makes him far more dear to us than any written description could.

Perhaps it’s Austen’s masterstroke, or maybe she just didn’t like describing people, either way it allows us to constantly reimagine Mr Darcy. He can be Colin Firth, or Matthew MacFayden, or any of the 17 other actors IMDB.com lists as having played him. Even better than that, it allows Mr Darcy to be all for you, and that’s why we love him so much!

How do you imagine Mr. Darcy? Have film adaptations changed the way you see him?

Happy 200th Birthday Pride and Prejudice!

p&p

Ok, I’m going to have to ask you to indulge me a bit here. I love Pride and Prejudice, I wrote part of my masters dissertation on this novel. I have read this novel, forwards, backwards, upside down and sideways. If I understood any foreign language enough, I’d try to read a translation of this novel! Seriously guys, I think I qualify for fan-girl status! So when I realised that today is the 20oth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice I knew that there was nothing else I wanted to write a post about, even better, I discovered a whole cohort of other bloggers who wanted to do the same thing, so without further ado, I would like to add my contribution the the “Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Blog Hop”

jane austen blog hop

 

All Marriages are Not Created Equally,

aka Don’t Let Me End Up Married to Mr Collins

pride and prejudiceJane Austen is, with good reason, considered the master of the romance novel. In her six published novels all the various guises of love and marriage are explored, both of which are prerequisites for a good romance. I believe, however, that it is in “Pride and Prejudice” that her genius for this genre is truly realised. It is in this novel, more than any of the others, that marriage (and getting married) becomes the primary theme and concern: its famous opening lines “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” serve to immediately highlight this. These are possibly amongst the most famous first lines in the history of literature and it is part of Austen’s genius, in my opinion, that she manages to capture so perfectly the core of her novel’s focus in one sentence.

 

For me, “Pride and Prejudice” works as a good example of the marriage plot because itlizzy and darcy is wholly invested in discovering the perfect marriage. Its main focus, as a result, is in finding a satisfactory way to bring Lizzy and Darcy together. What makes it even more special, and probably factors in its enduring popularity, is that Austen’s novel is so much more complicated than the basic boy meets girl chick-flick style plot we have become used to. Pride and Prejudice is as much a comment on the obsession with marriage as it is a love-story.  It exposes all the wrong reasons for marriage before showing the us how much potential marriage has, when the reasons for it are right. We believe that Lizzy and Darcy love each other, not because we are told at the very beginning that this is the case, but because the plot gradually progresses towards this revelation. Swept up in watching Lizzy’s movement towards recognising her own feelings, we are  drawn into, and invest in, her marriage to Darcy. As a result, in this novel, marriage feels like a natural progression and not an end.

One of the key factors in this is Austen’s creation of the wonderful, eliz and darcyffervescent, Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzy is independent enough to resist the more practical aspects of her society in order to marry the man she loves but not so lost to any sense of propriety that she can disregard it completely, as Lydia does by eloping with Wickham. By offering her readers such differing reasons for marrying Austen steps away from simply getting her heroine married, and instead seems to directly ask us the question “On what basis should a marriage go forward?” Simply getting married is not the object in “Pride and Prejudice”, for she shows by  examples, such as Lydia and Wickham, Charlotte and Mr Collins, that there are many inducements to enter the state, other than love and compatibility. Instead she is more concerned with finding the right match, and how to be sure once you think you’ve found it. The ultimate goal for Lizzy is to find her own identity and act in a way that is best for her and her future happiness. She doesn’t marry Mr. Darcy because she has to, she marries him because ,boy oh boy, does she want to.

Perhaps one of the reasons this novel has endured for two hundred years is because Austen taps into something that everyone understands, and is still relevant today, how to find it is all, health, wealthy, happiness and love. The circumstances we face may be different but ultimately everyone still wants a cocktail of all this and “Pride and Prejudice”, after all these years, still shows us one of the most perfect examples of it in Lizzy and Darcy.

miss bennet

Maybe you’ve read Pride and Prejudice to shreds, like me, or maybe you’ve never read it. Either way why don’t you make 2013 the year you discover, or rediscover, this novel?

Then come back and tell me all about it!!

Even better, if this has just whetted your appetite don’t forget to check back all week for more Pride & Prejudice related posts. Or why don’t you check out the rest of the “Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Blog Hop”

Friday’s Favourite: Gangster Squad

gangster squad

This weeks “Friday’s Favourite” is Gangster Squad. Let me tell you something, my brother and I never want to see the same film, ever. This causes major stress in our family and usually ends up with one, or both, of us flouncing dramatically from the room in a huff. He likes films along the lines of The Expendables, or anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it…and, well, I just don’t. So when we both wanted to see this film I knew that something miraculous had just happened. For this reason alone, it would warrant a place on “Friday’s Favourite”.

Anyway, we went to see it this week and it was SO good. The script was a winner for me, it was speckled with some really clever dialogue and just enough period slang to set the scene but not overkill it. I’ve said previously this is one of my pet peeves in any historical drama, there’s either not enough or too much. Gangster Squad had the perfect amount, in my opinion. There was a perfect balance between action and detail and the gore level was also not as bad as I was expecting. Yes there’s a couple of squeamish scenes, but they are relevant rather than just stuck in so Sean Penn (who is brilliant) can run around killing people. I would actually go as far as to say I was surprised by the restraint from gratuitous gore in this film. Gangster Squad also taught me some things about American history that I didn’t know before, which is always nice. I didn’t realise how “new” L.A was, for example, or that it had Gangsters. I knew about Gangsters (Thanks Bugsy Malone), but I didn’t know they ever got to L.A, so it gets points for that!

roxy

And, the costumes, can we please have a moment of silence to reflect on Emma Stone’s wardrobe in this film! Everything she wore went straight to my mental wish-list. I’ve heard that her red dress, which is in all the promo posters, was based on Jessica Rabbit, and I can totally see it. I just wish I had the occasions and the resources to dress myself like this. The men aren’t too shabby either, there’s something effortlessly stylish about a man in spats hunting down a King Pin, also in spats. Have you seen this film, or are you going to see it? If you have, what did you think? What’s your “Friday’s Favourite” this week?

I’ll leave you with this little treat, which I enjoyed, and seemed appropriate considering the theme of this “Friday’s Favourite”.

gangsters

A Little Love Song- Michelle Magorian (A Rainy Day Read)

a little love song

This books has a bit of a soft, special place in my heart. It’s one of the first books I read where I was really struck by how lovely the romantic story line is. This is a book, as you may guess from the title, that I return to on rainy days, when I want a bit of cheer.

It’s the story of seventeen year old Rose who is sent with her sister to a sleepy seaside town to escape London, and the Second World War. The thing I love about this book is that it ticks so many boxes. Like my last post, it’s a coming of age novel, it’s also a historical fiction and a romance all rolled into to one. This is definitely more of a “Young Adult” novel. However, what makes it different from so many of the other YA novels out there at the moment (apart from its significant lack of vampires), is that the love story Michelle Magorian develops is more of a quiet, slowly developing, and romantic one, rather than the “burning passion of a thousand suns” kind. The thing about Rose is that she has so many other things to learn about herself before she is ready for love, and what’s particularly nice is that Magorian allows her to make plenty of mistakes as she discovers what kind of person she is.

Another thing that really helps make this book good is the quality of the supporting characters and their sub-plots. Through them Magorian manages to show how displaced many women were by the second world war, but also that it was a time that really gave women the chance to do more with their lives.  Ultimately, I think the thing that keeps me returning to “A Little Love Song” is  the sweetness of the relationship between Rose and Alec, it’s one of those fictional relationships that I secretly wish I could have myself, especially because Alec runs a bookshop! So next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, why don’t you give “A Little Love Song” a try? I think you’ll be glad you did!

An Abundance of Katherines- John Green

an abundance of katherines

What is it that makes us choose a book do you think? It’s quite an important decision really, if you get it right, think of the hours, days, weeks, of joy you will get out of it. If it’s wrong, well let’s not dwell on that! If you are anything like me, then you’ll like to think you make this decision solely on the contents of the book, its pedigree, its life-changing message, and a whole list of other reasons that make you feel a lot more profound than you actually are. Maybe this doesn’t sound familiar to you and if not I salute you. I really do, because in reality, my decisions on what books I buy usually go more along the lines of; “Ooh! That looks pretty!” I’m a sucker for packaging, which is why penguin’s new cloth bound classics are right up my street, it’s a classic…but it’s pretty! See where I’m going with this? With “An Abundance of Katherines”, however, my reasoning was even more simplistic. It went a little like this;

“THAT BOOK HAS MY NAME ON IT!”

For anyone who hasn’t got a name with approximately 45630 different spellings, this might not mean anything to you. As a Katherine, not a Kathryn, Katharine or even a Catherine, however, it was enough to grab my attention. I didn’t even stop to read the blurb, I ran (ok that maybe an exaggeration) to the till and bought the book, hastily explaining to the cashier that it had my name on it, and that was why I was buying it.

That was a long preamble, but now we’ll get down to business.

I inhaled this book. Like, started this book on Friday evening and finished it around 10 am Saturday morning, kind of inhaled. You may have heard of John Green because of his novel “The Fault in Our Stars” but I highly recommend you try this book over that one. It’s not as heavy, but it still grapples with important coming of age problems like “Do I matter?” The story centres around Colin, an “anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy” and his best friend Hassan, who are in that awkward stage between finishing school and making the next step in their lives. You know, the “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” stage Britney warbled about…minus the cheesiness, and sweeping Grand Canyon shots. Both boys take off on a road trip, of undetermined destination, to help Colin get over being dumped by the 19th Katherine he’s dated, and in the process “find themselves”. It’s kind of like every teenage film you’ve ever seen, only in book form, and well written.britney

This book was funny, touching, quirky and all that you want in a coming of age type of book. It’s full of quotable lines, and as I read I found myself feeling that it would really translate well into a film. In Colin, I think Green created just the right mix of self absorption and little boy lost, to really get across the difference between being a child, and not being one any more, and how hard the transition can feel sometimes. Colin seemed like an exaggerated version of every teenager (in that he’s a child prodigy) but he’s still faced with the same problem of what comes next. It’s a modern day “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, if you will.  I feel an honourable mention must also be made to Hassan whose humorous one-liners really keep the novel going, he was complex enough to warrant his own book I think.

ferris

So, maybe it was serendipity that lead me to this book. Maybe books with the name Katherine on are just better than other books, who knows! But I’m glad I bumped this one to the top of my to-read pile.