Month: February 2010 (page 2 of 4)

Blame Jane

In Helen Fielding’s cheeky take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she had her heroine, one Bridget Jones, deliver a play on, arguably, Austen’s greatest opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” (A link to the original line for those woefully uninformed.)

When life does, on occasion, fall spectacularly to pieces, we mere mortals look for someone or something to blame. And in a pair of books from author Beth Pattillo, the respective heroines place the blame squarely with Austen herself. Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart are two different stories about two very different women, bound together by their experiences with Jane Austen and a mysterious group of women who call themselves the Formidables.

Emma Grant, the protagonist of Jane Austen Ruined My Life, is an Austen scholar whose life is suddenly turned upside down, first by finding her husband and teaching assistant together, then by an accusation of plagiarism. Left with little pride or dignity, Emma heads to London to meet with Mrs. Parrot, who claims to have undiscovered letters from Austen to her sister. Emma intends to use the letters as her way back into academia, but a series of tasks from Mrs. Parrot makes her question her motives, her decisions, and her own heart.

In contrast, Claire Prescott, from Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, knows very little about Austen. Yet she still finds herself attending a seminar on Pride & Prejudice, in Oxford no less, surrounded by Austen-loving Janeites and a Mr. Darcy doppelganger. When a chance meeting brings Claire into contact with the Formidables and a long-lost copy of First Impressions, an early – and quite different – version of Pride and Prejudice, Claire gets caught up in a game of intrigue and must reevaluate her own prejudices, pride and first impressions.

Both books are fun, quick reads that delighted this Austen fan. Pattillo includes a lot of historically accurate details about Austen’s life and her work, which adds to the depth of detail in the stories. She also writes very vividly about England and the places Austen lived and loved. As a reader, I could perfectly picture many of the towns and villages, imagining myself there with both the contemporary heroine and Austen herself. I also found myself relating to Emma and Claire, seeing aspects of my own life in theirs and it’s easy to understand why they would feel as if Austen let them down somehow.

There aren’t many surprises in the books and the few plot twists can be inferred from previous chapters. Some die-hard Janeites may be unhappy with the outcomes of Emma and Claire’s romantic quandaries, but neither ending felt forced or natural; indeed, it seemed each heroine ended up exactly where she ought to be.

If you’re an Austen fan and particularly if you like modern takes on classic stories, check out Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. After all, “I speak what appears to me the general opinion; and where an opinion is general, it is usually correct” (Mansfield Park).

[Photo Credits:]

Book News Round-Up

Happy Valentine’s Day, bookworms! My gift to you? Book news! (You’re welcome.)

  • Earlier this week, the British Library announced that it will make approximately 65,000 works of 19th-century literature, many of them first editions, available as e-books. Even better, the e-books will be free. That’s right – f-r-e-e, my favorite four-letter word. Works from Dickens, Austen (!!!) and Harding are among the books making the leap into the digital world.
  • Over on The Book Lady’s Blog, Rebecca has a guest post about the trials and tribulations that come from working in a book store. The post is hilarious, if only for the truly mind-numbingly stupid people who find their way into a bookstore. Having been there myself in a previous part of my life, I can say without hesitation that people like this really do exist. And that scares me.
  • First, Diablo Cody decided to take it to the big screen; now, St. Martins Press is reviving the Sweet Valley High series with a set of books about quintessential California twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, now 20-somethings in the “real” world. My 80’s nostalgia-loving inner child is jumping for joy.
  • Wired Magazine has a cheeky look at which literary classics would make good video games. Inspired by an upcoming video game version of Dante’s Inferno, the magazine offers up their take on which classics should be next, including Huckleberry Finn, Gulliver’s Travels and The Grapes of Wrath. Personally, I think we should have a video game version of The Hunger Games – fight to death on screen!
  • Speaking of the mega-popular series from Suzanne Collins, Scholastic released the cover art and title of the highly anticipated third and final book in the series. The book will be called Mockingjay (after the hybrid birds found on the other covers and spying on the rebels in the books) and features a somewhat little hued cover than the other books. Perhaps a nod to a happy ending? We’ll have to wait until August to find out, as Scholastic won’t be handing out ARCs this time around.
  • If you’re a blogger and/or a writer looking for a place to proudly share your work, consider the new online magazine Drop of Ink. Started by my Internet friend Kim, Drop of Ink is currently accepting submissions in just about any category of writing for the spring edition.
  • Lastly, I rarely promote my other blog (Ordinary Mer) here since the two are so different, but tomorrow, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting my favorite quotes on love and marriage from Jane Austen on OM. So you should check it out. Please?

Enjoy the long weekend!

Even More Great Literary Lovers

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is in the air. Last year, I commemorated Valentine’s Day on this blog by celebrating some of the greatest lovers in literary history. This year, I’m back for round two, with even more of literature’s most memorable lovers, from some of the greatest stories in history. Warning – I can’t promise that all of these lovers have a happy ending, but I can promise that their love was memorable.

  • Anne Elliot & Captain Wentworth (Persuasion) – The prime example of second-chance love; Separated callously by the prejudices of her family and friends, Anne and Wentworth met again years later, only to find that their love for each other was still strong. They are proof that true love lasts despite meddlesome well-meaning friends, separation and time. When you truly love someone, nothing can make it go away.
  • Tristan & Isolde (Traditional myths) – Before there was Lancelot and Guinevere, there was Tristan and Isolde. He was nephew to the king of Cornwall; she was the king’s wife. They were brought together once by fate, then torn apart over the politics of marriage. Their love for one another survived and thrived, despite the pesky detail of Isolde being married to someone else. Their passion overruled common sense and, eventually, the discovery of their affair threatened their country.
  • Odysseus & Penelope (The Odyssey) – After emerging triumphant in the Trojan War, Odysseus set off for home, only to be delayed by 20 years. Despite the uncertainty of his fate, his wife Penelope became the pinnacle of faithfulness, her love never wavering. As evidence: Penelope reportedly refused marriage proposals from more than 100 men during those 20 years! Considering that no one knew whether Odysseus was alive or dead, that’s devotion!
  • Daisy Buchanan & Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) – It’s difficult to love this couple. She’s a spoiled, pampered socialite who ignores her child for her own selfish whims; His actions amount to stalking the woman he claims to love and covering up a hit and run accident. Still, their love for one another is so consuming and obsessive, it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in it. Alas, their love was not to last, which is probably best considering the number of people hurt or dead as a result of their actions.
  • Beauty & the Beast (Fairy tales) – Whether you choose to believe the Disney cartoon version or the traditional fairy tale, the heart of the story is the same: true love is blind. Love isn’t about good looks or fancy clothes. It’s not about appearance, but rather your own heart. It’s about loving someone else for who they are on the inside and knowing that true beauty – and true love – comes from within.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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