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Friday Favorite: Persuasion by Jane Austen

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

This week’s Friday Favorite category is “Favorite Classic.”

I actually like quite a few classics, but I wanted to review one that is less popular or read, I guess.  So I’ve chosen Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I love all of Jane Austen’s novels, but Persuasion is probably my favorite (after Pride & Prejudice, of course).

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

‘She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older – the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.’ Anne Elliot seems to have given up on present happiness and has resigned herself to living off her memories. More than seven years earlier she complied with duty: persuaded to view the match as imprudent and improper, she broke off her engagement to a naval captain with neither fortune, ancestry, nor prospects. However, when peacetime arrives and brings the Navy home, and Anne encounters Captain Wentworth once more, she starts to believe in second chances. Persuasion celebrates romantic constancy in an era of turbulent change. Written as the Napoleonic Wars were ending, the novel examines how a woman can at once remain faithful to her past and still move forward into the future.

It’s a story about second chances, ultimately.  And whether or not to take them.  The power of persuasion is an obvious theme as Anne considers whose advice and feelings she should consider when making decisions.

I have read a lot of so-called “sequels” or spin-offs of Jane Austen, and one of my favorites is a series called Frederick Wentworth, Captain by Susan Kaye.  It’s Persuasion retold from Captain Wentworth’s perspective.  I really enjoyed it because, frankly, it’s nice to hear that men get as caught up in love as women do.  And that they worry about some of the same things.

Give Persuasion a read or a re-read, as the case may be.  You won’t be disappointed.

Love Jane Austen.  Love sweet, dutiful Anne Elliot.  Love totally swoon-worthy Captain Wentworth (check out the 2007 BBC film adaptation to see what I mean!).

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith and Jane Austen

August 12, 2010 1 comment

Oh, Jane Austen.  I’m so sorry that your good name is attached to this bad book.

Here’s the basic idea:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Seth Grahame-Smith) was SOOOO popular that the publishing company apparently decided to cash in on it and write a PREQUEL.

(There is also a movie in the works starring Natalie Portman as Elizabeth.)

However, this book has a different author than P&P&Z who: a) is not as clever as Grahame-Smith and b) has obviously never read neither Jane Austen’s beloved original OR Grahame-Smith’s mash-up masterpiece.

I REALLY wanted to like this book, but… I just didn’t.

So.

I’ve decided to write a letter to the author.  (Which I will, of course, not really send, but leave here as a substitute for my review.)

Dear Mr. Hockensmith,

First of all, you decided to name the Bennet parents Oscar and Prudence?!?!  Really?!  There is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that their names are Oscar and Prudence.  And while I get that the whole book is supposed to be a joke, it’s supposed to maintain enough integrity of the original that you actually believe the characters are the same.

Which I do not, by the way.

Just drop the P&P&Z from the title and change the names of all the characters.  Let people think it’s an entirely new book– a horror story set in Regency England.  Historical horror– it could spurn a whole new genre.  As it is, this book only resembles Jane Austen’s in that the people and places have the same names.

EXCEPT for Purvis Lodge.  It’s Purvis in the original, but you kept referring to it as “Pulvis Lodge.”  Which, I have to say, bugged me way more than it should have.  Which is to say, a lot.

For the record, I really liked P&P&Z.  I liked it so much that I went out and bought it.  I recommended it to my friends, my mother…  I thought it was comical genius.  Seth Grahame-Smith did such an excellent job fusing Austen’s classic romance with monster horror that I believed it.  I. believed. it.  He sold me on the idea that yeah, sure, Elizabeth Bennet could have been a zombie slayer in her free time.

But Mr. Hockensmith, you didn’t write anything that even closely resembled that character.  And I get it, it’s a PREQUEL.  The Bennet sisters are young– Elizabeth is 17, Lydia is 12.  The girls only vaguely resemble their future selves.  You could excuse that by saying they haven’t grown up yet or what have you.  But they don’t even seem to be on the way to being those characters.

And the Bennet parents– they’re nearly brand new characters.  Mr. Bennet hardly laughed or mocked once in the whole book!  And say what you will about Mrs. Bennet, she’s utterly absurd of course, but she would never cheat on her husband.  ESPECIALLY not with a limbless Army captain.

(Which I have to say, was actually a really funny part of the book.  But you kind of went for the cheap laugh there.  I mean, how can you NOT laugh at a blustery, moustachioed captain with no arms or legs being pushed around in a wheelbarrow by a pair of soldiers he’s dubbed “Limbs”?! )

But the captain was really the only funny part.  And the whole book was supposed to be funny, wasn’t it?  I mean, it is a parody of some sorts, right?  I just spent most of the book thinking, “I don’t know these characters at all!”  and “Oh no, he didn’t!”

Fail, Mr. Hockensmith.  Actually, D+.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the zombie of Jane Austen is on her way to eat your brains right now.

One and a half stars for a great concept, poorly executed.  I mean, Seth Grahame-Smith made the first P&P&Z such a cultural phenomenon, he practically handed you a bestseller!  But you blew it, sorry.

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

July 26, 2010 1 comment

I first heard about this book just from perusing the lists on LibraryThing.  But then, I won it on the Early Reviewers page!  I was so excited 1) because I never win anything, and 2) because I read a lot of Jane Austen “fan fiction”– sequels, rewrites, and the like.  So I fancy myself knowledgeable about this particular genre.

I love the word “fancy” as a verb– it seems so Austen-esque.

By the way, don’t you just fancy the cover?  It’s lovely, I think.

Anyway, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

“Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park.” –Lionel Trilling

In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price–whom Jane Austen’s own mother called “insipid”–has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It’s only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime.

Combining genuine Austen elements—the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist—with a murder mystery scenario, and complete with romance, intrigue, and crimes of the heart, Murder at Mansfield Park is an irreverant new twist on an old classic.

Austen-lovers have long been debating Fanny Price.  She’s either loved or hated.  Some MP fans love her romanticism and respect her gentility.  Personally, I spent most of the original Mansfield Park want to throttle her and tell her to get up off her rear and take control of her life.

I didn’t like Fanny Price in this book either, but you’re not really supposed to.  She’s the spoiled, horrible, and mean one, while Mary Crawford is the heroine—more closely resembling Elizabeth Bennet than the original cunning, condescending character she’s named after.

I’m usually not a murder mystery reader, but I really enjoyed this one!  And it wasn’t obvious who the killer was.  (Although I must say, I’m not terribly observant when it comes to these things, and I don’t really try to hard to figure it out, either.)  If Jane Austen had written murder mysteries, this book is exactly what it would be like.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book.  I really enjoyed it and will be recommending it to all my Jane Austen-loving friends.

I also really enjoyed hearing Lynn Shepherd’s background about the book, which you read here.

Four stars = fabulous fun!  Well-written in Jane Austen’s own style, and much better than the original Mansfield Park.