I have had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing many of the Naxos AudioBooks classic recordings narrated by a variety of talented British actors, but collectively my favorite readings are those by award winning actress Juliet Stevenson—whose five interpretations of Jane Austen’s novels remain paramount in my personal audio collection.
Awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1992 and the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1999, Ms. Stevenson’s vocal talent is deeply rooted in her classical training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and her time with Royal Shakespeare Company. While a friend boasts of seeing her stage performance of Hedda Gabler in London in 1989, beyond her audio recordings I have only had the pleasure of her film and television career—and that alone could sustain any lover of finely measured and intimate interpretations of human nature. Some of my favorite Stevenson performances are her tormented, grieving Nina in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), a part tailored for her by screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella, her outrageously pompous Mrs. Elton in Emma (1996), Evie in Being Julia (2004), and the Oracle in Atlantis (2013-2015). Everything she touches turns to gold.
Juliet Stevenson and Alan Cummings as Mrs. & Mr. Elton in Emma (1996)
Narrating a novel is challenging work and I was curious about the process—how a classically trained actress such as Ms. Stevenson choses her projects, interprets nineteenth century language and prepares for multiple characterizations. Happily, she very graciously agreed to an interview via her producers at Naxos in England. The magic of the Internet reaps welcome rewards, and I think that you will be as mesmerized and enchanted by her insightful replies as I was.
• LISTEN TO JULIET STEVENSON’S INTERVIEW WITH AUSTENPROSE
I am particularly touched, in light of her largess, by her modesty—and for those astute Janeites—the similarity to Austen’s own comments about her lack of education.
“I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.” Jane Austen, Letters, December 1815
I am very grateful to Ms. Stevenson for her very educated replies, and to Naxos for satisfying my curiosity. I know that many of my readers will enjoy this interview and be motivated to listening to Ms. Stevenson’s fabulous audio work.
Discover Ms. Stevenson’s Naxos AudioBooks recordings:
Recording © 2015 Naxos AudioBooks;text © 2015, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com
Jane Austen fans, hold on to your bonnets. The new BBC/Masterpiece screen adaptation of Poldark will air on Masterpiece PBS on June 21st, 2015.
Based on the beloved novels by Winston Graham set in 1780’s Cornwall, many period drama fans will be familiar with the first screen adaptation by the BBC and Masterpiece from 1975-77 staring Robin Ellis (Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility 1971). It was a huge hit on both sides of the pond and remains the second most popular drama series only behind the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.
This new eight part series stars Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) as rebellious Captain Ross Poldark and Eleanor Tomlinson (Death Comes to Pemberley) as Demelza, a fiery young street urchin who he employs as a kitchen maid at his estate. Airing since March in the UK to critical and public acclaim, the new series sports a beautiful and talented cast and high quality production. Filled with romantic, passionate drama and swashbuckling action, this new series introduces new viewers to an unique, swoon-worthy hero that will win the respect of fans of the original and the hearts of everyone. Here is a preview for your enjoyment.
Be sure to mark your calendars, follow #PoldarkPBS on Twitter for the latest updates and check back here for reviews of the novels and each episode after they air.
Cheers, Laurel Ann
Image and film clip courtesy of Mammoth Screen Limited for Masterpiece PBS © 2015
It is pleasure to welcome author Jan Hahn to Austenprose today. Meryton Press has just published her latest Austenesque novel, A Peculiar Connection. Hahn has written several very popular Pride and Prejudice-inspired books including The Journey and An Arranged Marriage. Here is a brief preview and excerpt for your enjoyment.
DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)
Will a mysterious note from the past doom the love of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple?
A Peculiar Connection begins near the close of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Bent on preventing the engagement of her nephew to Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh declares that any union between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth would be “a sin against Heaven itself!” Her shocking revelation, along with a cryptic message written over twenty years earlier, thrusts the couple into a whirlwind of heartbreak and disbelief.
Could a deserted mansion in Derbyshire or a small church hidden in the wood hold the key to solving the puzzle? And why is Elizabeth inexplicably drawn to the portrait of three young boys in Pemberley’s gallery?
Determined to confirm or refute Lady Catherine’s accusation, Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to embark upon a twisted trail into bygone days and family secrets. All the while, they must endure the exquisite torture of denying the indisputable desire that still hovers between them.
For those who are in the doldrums after last week’s final episode of season five of Downton Abbey and in need of another English country manor house upstairs/downstairs story, Tessa Arlen’s debut novel could fit the bill. Set at the fictional estate of Iyntwood in the summer of 1913, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is a murder mystery in the grand tradition of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse. Here is a brief preview and review for your consideration:
DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)
Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.
Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.
In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life–a superb treat for those who love British novels.
Please help me welcome debut author Rachel Berman to Austenprose today on the first stop of her blog tour in celebration of the release of Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen published by Meryton Press. Inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s life, Rachel has generously contributed a guest blog sharing her thoughts about her writing experience.
If you are as curious by the title of this novel as I was, you might want to read this preview and excerpt that we presented last month, and then join the blog tour as it continues through March 18. There will be reviews, interviews and giveaways along the way. Continue reading
From the desk of Monica Perry:
When I first heard that some of the authors from austenvariations.com were planning a Pride and Prejudice: Readers’ Choice collaborative story wherein Mr. Darcy had a younger brother, I was all excited curiosity–a story with two Mr. Darcys? Yes, please! Would Mr. Theophilus Darcy be strong and stoic like his elder brother, a model of amiability like Mr. Bingley, or perhaps more of a rakish Mr. Wickham? Participating in the Readers’ Choice voting each week and having so much interaction with the writers was great fun, and I was eager to read this published version of The Darcy Brothers. Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds are authors whose works I’d read and loved in the past, and The Darcy Brothers was no exception.
From the very first page, as Theo and Fitzwilliam Darcy reluctantly make their way to Rosings Park for Easter, we see the way they typically interact (read: Theo pushes Darcy’s buttons and Darcy gets his trousers in a twist). In the wake of childhood tragedy and the more recent near-elopement of their young sister Georgiana with Theo’s friend Mr. Wickham, their relationship is strained and they’ve all but given up on getting along. Darcy is dismissive and distrustful of Theo, and Theo delights in vexing him because he knows he’ll never live up to Darcy’s impeccable standards anyway. When Theo makes the acquaintance of the charming Miss Elizabeth Bennet they form an easy friendship, and Darcy begins to feel that twisting sensation again, a little nearer his chest this time. Each brother’s affection for Elizabeth is noted by the other and although they don’t see eye to eye, each wants the other to be happy. How far would a Darcy go to make it happen, even if it goes against his heart’s desire? Bargains are struck and along with some meddling assistance from Georgiana, Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and a surprising series of events at Rosings, Darcy and Theo begin to see themselves, and each other, in a different way. Darcy realizes he has underestimated Theo, withheld the praise and affection a younger sibling craves, and used him as an easy scapegoat; likewise, Theo sees he’s had a childish understanding of Darcy’s responsibilities as heir. Can they overcome their pride and start again, and will it last? Continue reading