Jane Austen Super Post

I thought I would start off my new blog with talking about my favourite author of all time, Jane Austen.   There are so many things to talk about when it comes to her and her works that this may end up being one of my longest posts ever.  Perhaps once we get to the end of it, we’ll know for sure.  I will start off talking about the novels themselves before getting into other book adaptations and unauthorized sequels.  Lastly, I will talk a little bit about some of the movies that are adaptations of the books or inspired by them.

Jane Austen Novels

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and SensibilityI can’t honestly say that this is one of my favourites, but it is far from my least favourite of Jane Austen’s novels.  It took a little time to get into the book at first but once we were brought into the thick of things, it became easier to read, following along with Elinor and Marianne as they navigate the waters of love in regency England.  I think my favourite part about this book is the relationship between Elinor and Marianne.  It comes across as such a real friendship between sisters that it is not hard to imagine that Jane Austen’s inspiration could have been her relationship with her sister Cassandra.

The story starts out with the poor widow, Mrs. Dashwood, essentially being kicked out of her home after her husband dies by her husband’s son, John, who was manipulated by his selfish and greedy wife, Fanny.  While they probably could have stayed, they would have been treated as unwelcome guests.  Mrs. Dashwood uses what little money she gets and moves to a little cottage near her cousin.  Despite the circumstances the Dashwood women find themselves in,  they really make the best of it.  Despite their heartaches, the Dashwood sisters have a good life together.

The biggest conflicts in this story come from the romances between Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood, and John Willoughby and Marianne Dashwood.  We get our happy ending in Elinor’s story when it turns out that Edward’s secret engagement to Lucy Steele ends when she marries his brother instead.  Marianne receives her happy ending with someone else after Willoughby marries another woman for money and security.  I believe that Willoughby had many regrets about his relationship with Marianne and had she had money, he would have married her as soon as could be allowed.  In the end though,  Marianne marries Colonel Brandon and presumably everyone lives happily ever after.

There are a lot of things to like about this novel, but I did find it to be a bit on the long side for the story that was told.  It could have been cut down and been a bit more streamlined but it was still a good story.  The sisterly love between the three Dashwood sisters was evident throughout.  While in ways Elinor and Marianne are very similar, they are also very different.  Elinor holds in her pain and heartache while Marianne wears her emotions on her sleeve.  In Elinor’s case, it could have easily led her to lose the love of her life had she not, in the end, made her feelings known.  In Marianne’s case, her openness almost affected her reputation with the way she carried on with Willoughby.  After he broke her heart, she learned moderation and no longer acted so recklessly.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and PrejudiceThis is probably Jane Austen’s most well known book and my second favourite.  I think nearly everyone is familiar with the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

One of my favourite things about this novel is the Bennet family.  They are very unique personalities; each one of them is their own individual person.  Mr. Bennet is the head of the household, but it’s very clear he takes a laid back approach to this and practically lets his wife and daughters run the show.  He is mostly found in his study, reading and avoiding the chaos of the household.  Mrs. Bennet is over the top, nearly always complaining about her “poor nerves” and is intense in her goal to find husbands for all of her daughters.  I found her to be overwhelming and overbearing and was quite thankful none of her daughters shared her personality.  I’m not sure I could have handled more than one Mrs. Bennet.

The eldest daughter is Jane, who is the most reserved out of all of them.  She is quiet and shy and only truly confides in her sister Elizabeth.  She is a bit naive and too easily believes the best in people while ignoring their faults.  Her reservedness is used by Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley to convince Charles Bingley that Jane does not care for him as he does for her.  The next daughter is Elizabeth, the main protagonist of the story.  She is fiercely independent for a woman in the 18th century and knows exactly what she wants.  She is determined to marry for love and will not accept anything less than that.  She is stubborn and prideful, and like her father, has a love of books and independence.  Her willfulness gets her into a bit of trouble, but she always stands her ground.

Mary is the middle child and probably the most ignored.  She lacks talent, though she tries her hardest.  She also comes across as quite pius, but is easily the least developed character in the family.  The second youngest of the family is Kitty, who, despite being older, follows her youngest sister’s every move.  She is silly and immature but ends up growing up a bit after being out from Lydia’s influence.

This brings us to the last Bennet family member, Lydia.  She is the youngest of all the sisters and the most reckless.  Naturally, this somehow manages to make her Mrs. Bennet’s favourite.  Perhaps it is because she is the youngest that Mrs. Bennet dotes on her so much and allows her far too many liberties.  Due to this, she nearly destroys her entire family by eloping with Mr. Wickham.  Lydia learned nothing from the experience and certainly did not grow as a character, unlike her sister Kitty.  She was too used to getting what she wanted and being spoiled to have any true growth after the debacle with Mr. Wickham.

There are many lessons to be learned in this book, which I think is part of the reason why it resonates with so many people.  In Jane’s story, the lesson seems to be that sometimes it is better to follow your own heart than let others dictate how you should feel.  Had Bingley not allowed himself to be persuaded by his sister and Mr. Darcy away from Jane, he could have found out her true feelings had he been honest with her about his.  True that etiquette in those days would have limited this a bit, a moment alone with Jane to ascertain her feelings such as near the end of the book would have solved that far sooner.  In Lydia’s story, the lesson there seems to be that caution should be exercised else you will end up in a less than ideal position.  While Lydia appears to be happy with Wickham, he on the other hand is now stuck with a silly, demanding wife.  It is very likely that their married life was not a happy one, and given Wickham’s character, he was very likely unfaithful.  God help any children those two would have had.

The lesson in Elizabeth’s story is very clearly that first impressions may not always be what they seem.  Wickham was charming and obliging, seemingly a nice, handsome man that would make any woman happy, but as we learned more of his character, we also learned that that was not the case.  He was good at hiding his true character.  Darcy on the other hand came across as rude, arrogant and cold.  While he certainly could be that way with those who had crossed him, as Elizabeth got to know him and he made up for the mistakes he made along the way, we learned that he was a very caring man who was only trying to do right by his friends and family.

As this is one of my favourites, I certainly recommend it.  For anyone who hasn’t read Jane Austen before, I think this one is probably the best to start with.  The plot is fairly straightforward and there is more action happening in the story than with Sense & Sensibility.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield ParkMansfield Park is my least favourite Jane Austen novel.  There is something about the character of Fanny Price that just didn’t connect with me.  Her character is unyielding and I felt like there was very little if any growth at all for her.  In her own way, it seemed as though she looked down on those around her as they made their mistakes and while she may not have been aware of it herself, seemed to feel as though she was better than them for staying true to her character.  As much of a cad as he turned out to be in the end, I really felt for Henry Crawford and believe that he could have been a good man.  It seemed clear to me that Henry did develop real feelings for this girl who had no money or anything else to recommend her except who she was.  The Bertrams were in no way likely to give her any kind of dowry, so for Henry to propose to this girl who came from nothing with nothing at all to gain from the match says something very highly about his regard for her.

I can’t say that Henry is a completely innocent party in all of his dealings.  He was flirting endlessly with Maria and his inconstant character gave Fanny legitimate concerns and doubts about him.  But one has to wonder what he would have been like had Fanny allowed herself to be loved by him.  Admittedly, it could probably be safely assumed that he may not have remained faithful to her.

Regardless of what possibly could have been, Fanny ends up with Edmund in the end as many of Jane Austen’s heroines do.  It was a decently satisfying ending, but I think my aversion to Fanny Price lessens the satisfaction of the happily ever after.

Emma

EmmaJane Austen’s Emma is by far my favourite novel.  Period.  There is something about the character of Emma, though she apparently is one of the least liked Austen characters, that I just love.  I think it is the idea that despite her failings and mistakes, she really just wants everyone to be happy and in love.  I also think that Emma is the one Jane Austen character that grows the most.  She starts out the story as a young girl who believes that she was key in orchestrating the matches between her sister Isabella and neighbour John, as well as Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston.  She is convinced that her orchestrations are what brings these two couples together, so she has made it her mission to pair up every young, single woman in Highbury to proper, young gentlemen.  She meets Miss Smith, a young woman with no known family.  The only thing that is really known about her is that whoever her family was, they left her to a moderate education with no plans to introduce her into society.  Emma takes it upon herself to match up Harriet with Mr. Elton, which ends up being the start of all of her problems.

Emma reads each situation and sign completely wrong, and where she thought that Mr. Elton was in love with Harriet, turns out that Mr. Elton was in love with her.  His rude rebuff of Harriet as a potential partner shines the light on his true character as well as the reality of the world in that time period.  Emma then fancies herself in love with Frank Churchill when he arrives in Highbury; however, after another absence, comes to the realization that she is not in love with him and endeavours to set Harriet up with him instead.  Harriet fancies herself in love with Mr. Knightley, causing Emma to realize that she herself has been in love with Mr. Knightley without realizing it.

In the end, Mr. Elton marries an awful woman from Bath, Frank Churchill marries Jane Fairfax, Harriet marries Robert Martin, and Emma marries Mr. Knightley.  It is by the end of the novel that Emma realizes that her meddling caused more problems than it solved and ultimately, the right people found their way to each other without help.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger AbbeyI know this one is not one of the most popular of Jane Austen’s novels, but I really quite enjoyed this one.  I think the character of Catherine Morland represents a lot of young girls who let their imaginations run wild.  In Catherine’s case, it leads her into some trouble.  Catherine’s naivety also has a large bearing on her story as she learns the ways of the world.

Catherine is taken to Bath by childless neighbours of the Morlands, the Allens.  They take her to balls and social gatherings that she may never had had the chance to attend had she stayed at home.  While there, she meets Henry Tilney, Eleanor Tilney, Isabella Thorpe and John Thorpe.  Given Catherine’s association with the Allens, who are quite wealthy, the Thorpes assume that Catherine is also from a wealthy family.  While in town, Isabella becomes engaged to James, Catherine’s brother, through which she learns that he is not very wealthy.  John Thorpe attempts to court Catherine while thwarting her plans with the Tilneys in order to sabotage Henry’s attentions to Catherine.  James and John end up leaving for London so that James may pick out a ring for Isabella.  While he is gone, Henry’s brother joins his siblings in Bath and Isabella flirts shamelessly with him, even once James has returned.  Catherine, now out from under John’s sabotage, is invited to Northanger Abbey with the Tilneys.  While she is there, she finds out about the death of their mother years ago.  Her chambers are locked up and it appears as though General Tilney is indifferent to it.  Catherine’s imagination gets the better of her and she imagines all kinds of horrid things, coming to the conclusion that General Tilney must have killed his wife.  After catching Catherine in Mrs. Tinley’s room, Henry corrects her assumptions and she is mortified and afraid she has lost his regard.

While she is at the abbey, her brother writes to her to inform her that his engagement with Isabella is off.  Her true nature came to light and Catherine finally saw the dishonest person she was.  While Henry is away, General Tilney arrives home and forces Catherine to leave, having heard from a jilted John Thorpe that the Morlands are nearly destitute.  Catherine heads home, nursing her broken heart and having had her eyes open that while imagination is a good thing, it is best to remember to separate fact from fiction.

Sure that she would never hear from the Tilneys again, Catherine goes about her life at home until Henry shows up, having separated himself from his father and declaring his love for Catherine.  Eventually, General Tilney came around once he learned that the Morlands were not so poor as he was led to believe and Eleanor had married a wealthy man.

I think what endeared me to this novel is the sweetness of Henry and Catherine’s relationship.  He was always a gentleman and it was very clear to me how very taken she was with him, despite others trying to get in their way.  While at the end of the book Catherine still has some growing up to do, she did a lot during the events of the story.  As it is Jane Austen’s shortest novel, it’s a good book for a quick read.

Persuasion

PersuasionI think that over the years, this one has grown on me.  It used to be my least favourite, but I now find myself enjoy the love story between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot so much more than I used to.  Before the start of the novel, a young Anne Elliot and a young Frederick Wentworth were very much in love, but Anne was persuaded to break off their engagement because, according to Lady Russell, he wasn’t good enough for her and had nothing to recommend himself.  Her family were also not pleased by the match.  When the novel starts, it is seven years later and the Elliot family are in financial trouble.  In order to save money, Sir Walter is persuaded to rent out their house, Kellynch Hall, and reside in Bath for cheaper.  While her eldest sister, Elizabeth, and her father move to Bath, Anne goes to visit her younger sister, Mary Musgrove.  While there, she spends time with her brother-in-law and his family, sisters Louisa and Henrietta, and parents.  They make the acquaintance of the people who have let Kellynch Hall, Admiral Croft and his wife, Sophia.  Anne learns that Sophia is Frederick Wentworth’s sister, who has since made a name for himself in the Navy, and that he would be visiting the area.

When the two meet again, Wentworth is cautious around Anne as she is with him.  Anne still loves him after all this time, but it is unknown to her how he feels, though his actions suggest indifference.  He is friendly and courteous to the Musgrove sisters and it becomes a topic of conversation as to which one Wentworth will marry.  Henrietta renews a courtship with Charles Hayter, which puts Louisa at the forefront.  The group later visits with Wentworth’s friends in Lyme.   The change does Anne some good, and she becomes more like her old self.  She engages in friendly conversation with Captain Benwick and catches the eye of Mr. William Elliot (the heir to Kellynch Hall).  Louisa has a fall and sustains a serious concussion as a result.  She stays in Lyme and Anne nurses her for a while before joining the rest of her family in Bath.

When she arrives, she finds that William Elliot has mended the rift between him and Sir Walter since the death of his wife.  He showers his attentions on the family and Elizabeth presumes that he wishes to marry her, when he is more inclined towards Anne.  News reaches Anne that Louisa has become engaged to Captain Benwick and Wentworth arrives in Bath to find Mr. Elliot courting Anne.  It becomes apparent to Anne that he is not pleased with this development.  Anne visits with an old friend from school, Mrs. Smith and is updated with the Bath gossip, learning of Mr. Elliot’s true character and possible motivations for spending so much time with the Elliots.  He is very likely attempting to prevent an attachment between Elizabeth’s friend, Mrs. Clay, and Sir Walter Elliot, as the marriage could produce a male heir, which would nullify Mr. Elliot’s claim on the Elliot estate.

When the Musgroves visit Bath in order to prepare for Henrietta and Louisa’s weddings, Wentworth overhears Anne speaking with Benwick about how women love longest when all hope is gone.  This gives Wentworth a renewed hope and in secret, he writes a letter to Anne, renewing his affections for her.  The two of them reconcile and renew their engagement.

In the end, Anne Elliot got her happy ending and the rest of them are left to the imaginations of the readers.  While it is clear some of them also get their happy endings, it is unclear as to what happened with Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay and William Elliot.  Perhaps that is the point though.  Anne prepares to settle into the life of a naval captain’s wife, so she no longer worries about the goings on of her family who never truly appreciated her.  The only reason her father objected to the first engagement was out of family duty and reputation.  I think this novel shows a maturity in the storytelling that some of the others do not display.

Lady Susan

Lady SusanThis is more of a short story than an actual novel, but I wanted to include it here because I did read it.  It is quite a departure from Austen’s other works in that the “heroine” of the story, Lady Susan Vernon, is a complete nightmare.  She is an older widow who is determined to marry a young, rich man.  She is selfish, scheming and a generally awful person.  She regards her only daughter as stupid and despises her; all she wants to do is marry her off to a rich man so that she can concentrate on her own life and marry an even richer man than her daughter.  She is a very attractive woman and is thus able to attract many men while using her good looks to get along in life.  While she is attempting to find a handsome, rich man to marry, she carries on an affair with a married man.  She is an easy character to despise.  The way she treats her daughter pushes the reader’s sympathies toward Frederica.

After Frederica, Lady Susan’s daughter, runs away from boarding school, she is taken in by her aunt, Catherine, and uncle.  While she is staying with them, she meets her aunt’s brother, Reginald.  Lady Susan eventually comes to visit and is determined to win Reginald for herself.  Catherine frustratingly watches as her brother falls for Lady Susan’s charms.  Eventually, Reginald wakes up to Lady Susan’s true character after finding direct proof of it.  It is implied in the end that Reginald is to marry Frederica.

The story is told through letters from one person to another except for the conclusion, which wraps everything up.  It was an interesting read and because it is so short, easy to pick up and finish quickly.  It was sort of middle of the road for me.  There is not much to recommend it, but I didn’t dislike it either.

Novels Inspired by Jane Austen

There are so many to choose from for this topic that I will simply focus on ones that I have personally read.  Some were great and some, not so much.  Here are some of the novels I have read that have been inspired by Jane Austen’s novels.  Once I have read some of the others, I will likely do a separate post on each one as I read them.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen AddictIn the novel by Laurie Viera Rigler, the main character, Courtney Stone, is recovering from a broken heart and engagement when she wakes up and finds herself in 1813 Regency England.  Originally from 20th century Los Angeles, Courtney needs to learn to adapt to her new surroundings as well as a new set of societal rules.  She is forced to pretend to be another woman, Jane Mansfield, living her life while trying to figure out how to get back to her old life.  As she continues to live another woman’s life, she starts to become the woman whose life she is living.  She meets Mr. Edgeworth, who fills her head with memories that are not her own.  When she finally accepts her new life, Courtney becomes Jane and finds her happily ever after with Mr. Edgeworth.

This was what I can a little “brain candy”; something that is entertaining but maybe not that intellectually stimulating.  It was a good read and being a Jane Austen fan, I did enjoy it, but I didn’t find the story of sending someone back in time through a dream and then becoming that person to be all that appealing.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen AddictRude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is a sort-of sequel to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by the same author.  In this book, we get the other side of the story in which Jane Mansfield is thrown into Courtney Stone’s life (the heroine from the previous novel), having to adapt to a modern world.  For her, it is a big change but gives her a taste of the freedom and independence she had been craving.  Navigating Courtney’s messy life is quite the challenge, including a job she doesn’t know how to do, bills and Wes, Courtney’s friend, and Courtney’s ex-fiance Frank.  In the end, Jane becomes Courtney and manages in the modern world just fine, finding love and the independence she had been craving.

I definitely didn’t like this one as much as Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.  I think it was harder to connect with Jane than it was with Courtney in the previous book.  Admittedly, it has been a while since I read this book, and I may have to go back and re-read it at some point, but I do remember that this one didn’t speak to me in quite the same way as the first one in the series.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes To PemberleyI have both read the book and seen the TV miniseries adaptation of this novel.  With this particular story, I liked the premise and adding a bit of mystery to the Jane Austen world.  I don’t feel that it is totally in line with the lessons and morals of the stories she wrote (Northanger Abbey was very much about how these sorts of things don’t very often happen in real life and not to let your imagination run wild), but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.  I will say though that I found the book to be a bit boring at times as it was hard for me to get into and didn’t always like the path taken, but I did find the TV adaptation of the novel to be infinitely better.  They tightened up the story and made changes to keep it interesting as the story went along.  I would still recommend picking this one up, but if you’re not that interested in mystery and crime, skip it.  Those who are particularly curious about the story can watch the TV adaptation.  Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin do a great job as Mr. and Mrs. Darcy respectively.  Matthew Goode’s portrayal as the cad Mr. Wickham was spot on, and Jenna Coleman hit all the right notes with her portrayal of Lydia Wickham.

Austenland

AustenlandThis is another book which I have both read and seen the movie adaptation.  For this one, I also found the movie adaptation to be much better story wise than the book.  It’s so rare to be able to say that but I felt the changes that they made for the movie made so much more sense than what they did with the book, or at the very least were more entertaining.  The character of Mr. Nobley was the best change in my opinion (and it didn’t hurt at all that he was played by J.J. Feild).  I didn’t like that he actually was one of the actors in the book.  It seemed far more genuine with him not being part of the cast of Pembrook Park.  There was also the addition of different package levels (I don’t recall seeing anything about that in the book) that added a bit of comedy to the story when shown the difference between Jane’s experience and those Amelia and Miss Charming’s.  I also liked that the movie had it so that Jane paid her own way, instead of it being a gift from her deceased aunt; however, I did enjoy that as well.  There were some things in the book that I preferred, such as the discussion about Jane’s age while at the resort, which was never actually brought up in the movie.  I found the movie characters to be much more likeable than their book counterparts.  I also liked the ending to the movie better where he showed up at her door instead of the plane itself.  The scene obviously played out better for the screen but there was something about how he cared about her so much that he actually tracked down her address to tell her and prove himself that was better than jumping on the same plane (even if he was scared to fly).

Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in AustenlandThis book is a sort of sequel to Austenland.  Nearly all of the characters are different except for the return of Mrs. Wattlesbrook.  In this book, the story follows a recent divorcée, Charlotte Kinder.  In need of a vacation, she leaves her kids with her ex-husband and his new wife for two weeks.  She’s a little different from Jane from the first novel.  Jane was a hardcore Janeite, whereas Charlotte had never read Jane Austen before.  Charlotte reads them before deciding to go on her trip, which is what ultimately leads her to Pembrook Park.  While she is there, Sir Templeton disappears and Charlotte is certain she saw a dead body.  There are a lot of questions and not very many answers.  I found the “behind the scenes” romance between Charlotte and the man playing her brother to be kind of odd.  True, they were not actually siblings, just playing the roles, but it almost seemed forced.  I didn’t particularly like this book, but I didn’t hate it either and that’s really the best thing I can say about it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones's DiaryThis one is the most well known updates of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It’s about 30-something, single Bridget, obsessing over everything from her love life to her weight.  She has a crush on her boss, Daniel Cleaver and has a brief fling with him until she discovers that he is cheating on her with an American woman.  She goes through a bit of a funk before quitting her job and finding a better one.  During all that, her mother is trying to set her up with the son of an old family friend, Mark Darcy.  She thinks he’s stuck up and uptight but along the way, through their various interactions, she gets to know him better and ends up falling in love with him.  The story mirrors Pride and Prejudice very well while giving it a modern twist.  It has been a long time since I’ve read this one, but what I do remember is that it is definitely worth picking up (and this one is better than the movie version).  I really enjoyed this one and its sequel, Edge of Reason (I haven’t yet read the new one, Mad About The Boy).  This book was also adapted into a movie starring Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that they were able to get Colin Firth to play Mark Darcy given Bridget’s obsession with the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Movie and TV Serial Adaptations

There have been many that fall into this category as well and I had a hard time choosing which ones to highlight here.  Ultimately, I’ve decided to do at least a little blurb for all of the versions I have seen.  For the updated versions, I truly believe that because the stories themselves speak to so many people, they are still incredibly popular, even when they become outdated such as Clueless.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Sense & Sensibility (1995)This adaptation by Emma Thompson is probably the best feature film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  I found it very well cast, though like Emma, the actors were a bit old for their parts, in this case, it was barely noticeable.  Emma Thompson did an excellent job in adapting the story for film and most of the cuts were not too noticeable.  I particularly loved Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon.  I think the only complaint I have with this one is that it was too short and would have loved to have seen more, but completely understandable being a feature length film.  I am not a fan of Hugh Grant in general, but he was excellent as Edward Ferrars.  If you are not wanting to sit through several hours that most TV miniseries are, this is an excellent Austen film that runs just slightly over the two hour mark.

Sense & Sensibility (2008)

Sense & Sensibility (2008)The 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility is probably one of the most accurate adaptations of this novel, but that should be expected given the length of the miniseries.  The only thing I wasn’t a fan of with this adaptation was the beginning and playing up the affair between who I assume to be Willoughby and Eliza.  I really enjoyed seeing many familiar faces in the cast (Mark Gatiss, Dominic Cooper and Mark Williams to name a few).  The only thing lacking for me was Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (it is difficult to imagine anyone else as Colonel Brandon).  The funny thing I noticed was that Hattie Morahan seems to have a very similar tone in her voice to Emma Thompson as does Dan Stevens to Hugh Grant’s voice.  I didn’t quite connect with David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon, though I am not entirely sure if that was because of my preference for Alan Rickman or if it was the performance itself.  Needless to say, it was a very good adaptation and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the book.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride & Prejudice (1995)Along with the book it was adapted from, this is very likely the most well known version of all adaptations.  I don’t think there isn’t a Jane Austen fan alive who hasn’t seen this version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.  I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Jennifer’s Elizabeth Bennet.  There was something that didn’t quite sit right with me, but I don’t think it took anything away from the series.  I almost feel like a combination of her portrayal and Keira Knightley’s portrayal would have been the best Elizabeth Bennet, as I didn’t feel either one of them got it quite right.  Though Colin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy, I can’t say that his portrayal was my favourite either.  There are things about his performance that I like and there were others that I felt other actors did better.  I don’t think there will ever be a perfect performance of this novel as it is so many people’s favourite and there will always be something that one person is happy with while another hates.  In the end, this was extremely well done and the most faithful to the book, which ultimately, in my opinion, makes it the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to date.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Pride & Prejudice (2005)The most recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy.  I really enjoyed both of their performances, and while not perfect, were really well done.  Because of the length of the film, it really only gives a taste of the novel (and admittedly, Elizabeth’s characterization is slightly off) and I would recommend the BBC version for anyone who wants the full story without reading the book.  However, for a feature length film, this one is well done regardless.  All of the major points are touched upon and the story is coherent.  I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Elizabeth and Georgianna and Elizabeth and Jane.  While not completely faithful to the book in the portrayal of the heroine, it is still an enjoyable film.

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Bride & PrejudiceThis may be one of the most charming modern adaptations to the Pride & Prejudice story.  It updates it from Jane Austen’s time period into modern day life moving the setting to India, where cultural aspects make the more dated aspects of the story more relevant.  To clarify, in England these days, very few men would be asking his girlfriend’s parents for permission to marry her.  It is also not as common for parents to stress and worry about whether or not their daughters will get married.  In a sense, marriage is not really as “important” as it used to be in modern day England or the states.  While people still want to get married, it isn’t something that necessarily has to happen, and parents tend to be less involved in their children’s love lives.  (This is of course just how I have viewed things and doesn’t necessarily equate to everyone’s experience).

The Bollywood treatment gives the story a fun flair and the music is catchy.  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this movie and I can still remember some of the music.  The adaptation keeps fairly close to the original story while updating where needed such as William Darcy being involved in his family’s hotel business rather than being a wealthy landowner.  The storyline involving Anne de Bourgh is dropped (for some obvious reasons) and changed his aunt to his mother.   I found this film to be an enjoyable change from the traditional 1800s period pieces without straying too far from the original material.  It’s bright, colourful and fun to watch.

Lost In Austen (2008)

Lost In AustenI think this may be one of the oddest Jane Austen adaptations I have ever seen.  In it, Amanda switches places with Elizabeth Bennet and proceeds to screw up the entire story of Pride and Prejudice, including Jane’s relationship with Bingley, causing her to become married to Mr. Collins.  Things obviously work out in the end, but in some of the most convoluted ways possible.  Jane divorces Mr. Collins and she and Bingley leave England together for the Americas.  We also learn that Caroline Bingley and Charlotte Lucas are actually gay.  I didn’t particularly like this miniseries as there was so much change to the story, though at times it was interesting.  It’s entertaining but just not Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park (1999)While I really feel that the character of Fanny Price was completely out of character in this adaptation, between the two that have been done (the other starring Billie Piper discussed below), I still think this is the better one.  I think the reason is that I actually like this version of Fanny Price, though she has very little in common with the book version of the character.  It’s very clear that they took Fanny Price’s character and substituted what they imagined Jane Austen would have been like.  In the book, Fanny is a very boring character, so by adding things from the author’s life, it makes her far more interesting to watch.  There was also a lot of commentary in the film regarding the slave trade which diverts from the book quite a bit.  As much as I enjoyed this film for what it was, it was not Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, but a distorted sort of retelling or fan fiction.

Mansfield Park (2007)

Mansfield Park (2007)Billie Piper, most known for her role as Rose in the Doctor Who series, stars as Fanny Price in this TV movie version of Mansfield Park.  I didn’t particularly connect with this adaptation and it’s certainly near the bottom of the list of Jane Austen adaptations.  Billie Piper’s portrayal of Fanny seemed a little too carefree than the reserved girl of the book.  At 1.5 hours, the story is also a bit rushed and some things that were left out were missed.  I didn’t think that Billie Piper’s portrayal of Fanny Price was very good (though, I loved her as Rose in Doctor Who).  Her style didn’t quite suit this period drama.  I also found the soundtrack to be quite off putting.  It was however amusing to see Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy in this though after seeing them in Agent Carter.

Emma (1996)

Emma (1996)Gwyneth Paltrow plays Emma in the 1996 version of the movie.  I felt that Gwyneth was a little too old (or at least came across that way) to play Emma.  Her Emma was more irritating than I had expected, and some of her line delivery was grating with its high-pitched, screeching tone.  Toni Collette, who I love in some of her other works, just felt like a really odd casting choice as well.  Her Harriet was just somehow… off.  I’m not entirely sure how to explain it except that it just didn’t fit right.  Also, as much as a love Alan Cumming, I didn’t love his Mr. Elton, though it was certainly one of the better performances in this film.  This film really missed the mark with so much of the story, it’s surprising that it gets such high reviews.  Some of the more important elements are missing, such as the story of Jane Fairfax, which is cut so drastically, she’s practically an extra.  The one thing that makes this adaptation even remotely bearable is the performance of Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.

Emma (2009)

Emma (2009)This is my favourite adaptation of the classic Emma story.  Romola Garai stars as the titular character and I think plays the role very well.  Whenever I am in need of an Austen fix, this is the adaptation I turn to nearly every time.  The pacing of this one compared to the 1996 movie version (discussed above) is obviously much better as there was more time given that this was a miniseries versus a feature film.  Because of that, very little felt like it was rushed and scenes that were cut for time in the film played out as they should.  I adored most of the casting in this one.  I didn’t feel that Johnny Lee Miller was quite the right pick for Mr. Knightley, though he still did an excellent job and had great on-screen chemistry with Romola.  I don’t think this miniseries gets as much praise as it deserves because of just how much Austen the industry keeps putting out.  There have, to date, been three fairly recent Emma adaptations, which may have burnt out viewers.  As a Janeite though, I couldn’t help being extremely excited about this one.

Clueless (1995)

CluelessThough this movie has become dated over the years (it screams 90s), it is still a very enjoyable story to watch.  Based on Emma, the story is about Cher Horowitz, the most popular girl in school and her best friend Dionne, making friends with the new girl, Tai and playing matchmaker to teachers and friends alike.  Much like the story of Emma, Cher’s plans all go astray when no one falls in love with who they are supposed to according to Cher.  The only couple she successfully pairs together is Miss Geist and Mr. Hall who sort of match up to the characters of Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston from the original book.  Most of the characters have a direct match to a book character (Cher is Emma, Tai is Harriet, etc.) and Dionne appears to be part of Miss Taylor in being Cher’s best friend.  The character of Jane Fairfax has been eliminated in favor of making Christian (Frank Churchill) gay.  It was an excellent adaptation and regardless of it’s age, I still watch it every now and then.  The story itself is a classic and it makes it easy to look past the outdated references and fashion.

Northanger Abbey (2007)

Northanger AbbeyThis is the only adaptation of Northanger Abbey that I have seen.  I’m really only aware of one other adaptation that was put out in 1987.  As it is Jane Austen’s shortest novel, and not overly popular with most people, I imagine that is likely why it is the least adapted.  It’s a cute little love story between Catherine and Henry and I really felt that Felicity and J.J. played their parts well.  Felicity played Catherine in such a way that made her naivety and youth very clear.  I have heard that the DVD version of this film was cut quite a bit from the original broadcast.  Here’s hoping that they put out the full version of it.  I would also like to see this one re-done in a proper full miniseries.  I have to admit that I do love the ending when Henry shows up, and the pure joy between the two when they finally confess their love to each other.  It was just such a giddy moment.

Persuasion (1995)

Persuasion (1995)This adaptation stars Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds as the two lead characters.  This one is my favourite adaptation of Persuasion between the two I have seen.  There is something about Amanda Root’s portrayal of Anne Elliot that I particularly love.  I also am a huge fan of how they wrote the ending to this one.  I very much liked how Captain Wentworth arrived at the party and declared his intention to marry Anne Elliot, leaving her sister perplexed and William Elliot and Mrs. Clay scheming something which we never really find out what.  We get to see Anne and Charles living their happily ever after aboard his ship.  Though there was much cut for time, I think it still played everything out very well and kept the story intact regardless of the cuts.

Persuasion (2007)

Persuasion (2007)I have to admit that I was not a fan of Sally Hawkins’s portrayal of Anne Elliot.  There was something about the portrayal that felt weak, though Anne is by no means a particularly strong character, she is in her own way.  I was particularly turned off of this adaptation by the scene of Anne running through Bath to find Captain Wentworth.  There was far too much running in this adaptation to be reasonable for the character.  Most of the other casting was well done, but I still prefer the 1995 adaptation.  There were some things about this adaptation that I liked in general, though not necessarily because it was accurate to the book.  I liked that we got a glimpse of what was going on with Captain Wentworth as Anne left the Musgroves for Bath, though that was not part of the book.

Becoming Jane (2007)

Becoming JaneBecoming Jane is the somewhat fictionalized story of the author herself, Jane Austen.  Her history is only slightly known through her letters with her sister and speculation.  There was rumour that she had a romance with a Mr. Thomas Lefroy.  Though this was never confirmed, it is the basis for the story behind the movie.  The characterization of Jane Austen also seems to borrow a lot from her character Elizabeth Bennet.  Though it is not impossible, as authors very often write what they know, there is no supporting evidence to suggest that Elizabeth Bennet is based upon herself.  It’s a charming little film, but should not be taken at all for fact.  Though there are some truths, such as Jane never marrying and having been engaged for one night, much of the film is inaccurate in terms of the historical components and timeline.

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

The Jane Austen Book ClubI put this one under movie adaptations because I haven’t actually read the book version of this one, but I have seen the movie.  I really enjoyed this movie and the parallels between the characters’ lives in the movie and the characters’ lives in Jane Austen’s novel.  Jocelyn is Emma, trying to set up her heartbroken friend, Sylvia with the young Grigg.  Sylvia’s storyline mirrors that of Fanny Price, loving a man who does not love her.   Allegra’s story matches up in a way to Marianne’s in Sense & Sensibility in her openness, recklessness and her relationship with her mother is a bit like Elinor and Marianne’s relationship.  Prudie’s storyline slightly mirrors that of Anne Elliot.  Prudie and her husband’s relationship hits the rocks and after a period of emotional separation, they come back together.

In the movie, we don’t really know much about the story of Bernadette, but it is very clear she is the leader of the group, much like Elizabeth Bennet.  Grigg was the only one I couldn’t really make a direct comparison with.  I can see how he sort of is like Henry Tilney, the gentleman courting a young lady he met by chance, but it is by far the weakest link.  One could also say that he was like Catherine Morland in his love of books.

I enjoyed watching these characters’ lives unfold as they read Jane Austen’s novels.  I have heard that the book itself has not been well received (I will very likely read it anyway because I’d rather have my own opinion of it), but despite the shallowness of the story, it was still a pleasant movie to watch.

Jennifer Lewis

The Jane Austen Super Post: Reviews of the books and movie by and inspired by Jane Austen

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