Blog Events, Book Reviews, Jane Austen Critiques & Analysis Book Reviews, The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece, by Susannah Fullerton – A Review & Giveaway

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my second selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Besides being trotted out for the opening of every news article containing anything vaguely related to Pride and Prejudice, its author, its characters, its plot or any other self-serving cause, I have seen this famous first line from the novel on T shirts, mugs, book bags and stationary. It is indeed a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is a phenomenon!

Exalted by scholars and embraced by the masses, Pride and Prejudice is indeed a literary treasure for the everyman. In this year of its 200th birthday, the outpouring of celebration in the press, online and in print confirms our longstanding love affair and addiction. We just can’t get enough of it.

Just in time for the year-long festivities is Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece, an in-depth exploration of Jane Austen’s classic novel by Susannah Fullerton. At 240 pages, it is packed full of text and many full-color illustrations—something for everyone from the novice reader to veteran Janeite. The volume covers a range of topics as the chapters are broken down by categories such as the writing of, the reactions to, the style of, the heroine, the hero, illustrations, sequels and adaptations, theatrical versions, and, of course a whole chapter devoted to the famous opening line quoted above.

My “first impressions” of this tribute to one of my favorite novels was the stunning cover resplendent with the plume of a peacock (the iconic symbol or pride) and appropriately in peacock blue! They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I do. If a publisher does not care enough about that “first impression” then why should I buy their book? Flipping through the pages the overall design is polished and each of the illustration is credited. Huzzah! And boy do the illustrations pop. Each page has something iconic or new, even to this die-hard Austen book collector who owns numerous illustrated editions of Pride and Prejudice dating back to the 1890’s!

Fullerton discusses every aspect of this novel imaginable, but one subject is of particular interest to me: Sequels and Adaptations. Are you surprised dear reader? Yes, I have read a few Austen-inspired novels in my day and can appreciate Fullerton’s keen eye for the sublime and the ridiculous and the “uses and abuses” by many. She does however look at the phenomena of the Austen spinoff with her tongue firmly set in her cheek; occasionally taking a painful stab.

There is only one Pride and Prejudice and for many readers, that is simply not enough. They want more! And if Jane Austen could imagine lives for her characters after the ending of her novel – a clergyman husband for Kitty and one of Uncle Philip’s clerks for Mary – why should not other authors do the same?” p. 155

Many could argue the point, and do, but Fullerton is celebrating Pride and Prejudice and its impact on readers and culture, warts and all. She goes on to enlighten us on the differences between mixed sequels such as Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil Briton (misspelled Brunton), continuations like A Match for Mary Bennet, by Eucharista Ward, “Jane Austen would surely have been the first to scoff at such Evangelical claptrap,” (ouch) and retellings and their variation the “what if” like Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man, by Brenda Webb. However, we were not amused when her historical outline turned into finger pointing and our eyebrows often reached our hairline over such statements as…

Abigail Reynolds has written “A Pemberley Medley of five variations of Darcy’s story, and Mary Simonsen has had at least three goes at making Darcy do what she wants him to do. Perhaps readers should pause over Mr. Darcy Takes the Plunge to ask what depths this hero must be further expected to plumb?” p. 160

The chapter continues with explorations of Austen-inspired mysteries, paranormal, children’s adaptation, chick lit and regencies, and pornographic novels. Fullerton states that no other novel has inspired so many prequels, sequels etc. than Pride and Prejudice. She bluntly asks if these other books are vital to the enjoyment of the original or “simply derivative rubbish we can all live without?” and then softens her blow in the last line of the chapter, “For with Pride and Prejudice it has turned out that “The End” was really just the beginning.” p. 173

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, by Susannah Fullerton (2013)Fullerton has supplied her view of a great novel and given us a volume to treasure and debate. I greatly enjoyed the details and images, and most of the observations in this tribute, yet I have come away feeling my heart divided between admiration and resentment for the author. Could it be that our “personal” Pride and Prejudice and its characters are so deeply entrenched in the hearts of many, and interpreted so differently by most, that others will be at odds with her choices too? Am I pulling a Lizzy Bennet and “not making allowance enough for difference of situation and temper”? Quite possibly, but I will not let it ruin my happiness. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice is a must read this year, if only to rejoice in our differences of opinion and laugh in our turn.

4 out of 5 regency Stars

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece, by Susannah Fullerton
Voyageur Press (2013)
Hardcover (240) pages
ISBN: 978-0760344361

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Enter a chance to win one hardcover copy of Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, by Susannah Fullerton by leaving a comment or your favorite Pride and Prejudice quote by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The winner will be announced on Thursday, February 21, 2013.  Shipment to US addresses only please. Good luck!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Book Reviews, Cultural Studies, Jane Austen, Regency Era

Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life Dilemmas, by Rebecca Smith – A Review

Miss Jane Austens Guide to Modern Lifes Dilemmas, by Rebecca Smith (2012)I am late out of the gate in reviewing this book. It’s been sitting here on my desk for months. Released on 25 October 2012, it has not garnered much attention and I don’t know why. Honestly, I am a bit burned out on Jane Austen advice books after two great submissions arrived earlier this year: The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After and The Jane Austen Guide to Life. We also missed reviewing Finding Mister Darcy: Jane Austen’s Rules for Love, by Diane Clark which arrived on 31 Aug 2012. And, gentle readers, there are more Jane Austen advice books in the queue: Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift: An Independent Woman’s Advice on Living within One’s Means, by Kathleen Anderson and Susan Jones will arrive on 3 April 2013. It’s a focused topic and quite amazing to see so many competing with each other.

Regardless of past releases, or future, this clever tome deserves your attention. First off, the cover will make you smile: the vintage image of a Regency-era lady holding an iPad is very apropos and the subtitle will pique your interest: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and what to wear) from the Great Novelist Herself. At 27 words, this book might have the longest title I have ever seen. Let’s hope that it is more succinct with the text!

Happily, it is broken down into six chapters: Love & Relationships; Friends & Family; Fashion & Style; Home & Garden; and Leisure & Travel. This is a good start—and I must state right up front that the writer Rebecca Smith brings an air of authority and distinctive pedigree to the subject and that few can boast: she is the great-grandniece of Jane Austen, four times removed. She was also the first official writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, England with previously published books: The Bluebird Café, Happy Birthday and All That, and A Bit of Earth. Brava Ms. Smith! Continue reading “Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life Dilemmas, by Rebecca Smith – A Review”

Book Reviews, Jane Austen, Literary Quotes

Jane-a-Day: 5 Year Journal, by Potter Style – A Review

Jane-a-Day, by Potter Style (2011)This charming journal completely missed my radar when it was released last November. Not surprising, really. Who would know from the title listed online that it was inspired by Jane Austen?

The actual cover is more helpful; it has a subtitle, 365 Witticisms by Jane Austen, that was unfortunately omitted in the online listings. Bingo! Janeites will also recognize her silhouette in the cover design, but the uninitiated will be clueless. Honestly, Jane-a-Day could be for any famous Jane, like Jane Eyre, Jane Marple or Calamity Jane! Regardless of this miss by publisher Potter Style, who have brought us a slew of beautiful Austen ephemera like Jane Austen Puzzle: 500-Piece Puzzle, Jane Austen Mini Journal, and Jane Austen Notecards, this is a gem that Janeites should be made aware of.

This classy new 5-year diary has a lot of pluses in its favor to make up for the title flub. Here is the publisher’s blurb from the back:

Let the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen guide you throughout the next five years. Each journal page features a memorable quote from the iconic author’s oeuvre that can be revisited each year. Created to help you make a time capsule of your thoughts, simply turn to today’s date and take a few moments to comment on the quote. When you finish the year, move on to the next section. As the years go by, you’ll notice how your commentary evolves.

Of course the best thing, besides the opulent binding, gold leaf on the edges and the prayer book size (how apt), is the selection of quotes. The unnamed editor who selected them from Jane Austen’s novels and letters did a superb job. Even this die-hard Janeite was pleased to discover a few that have not been featured in every Jane Austen quote book since time began. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man.” – Pride and Prejudice
  • “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” – Pride and Prejudice
  • “Women are the only correspondents to be depended on.” – Sanditon
  • “Where youth and diffidence are united, it requires uncommon steadiness of reason to resist the attraction of being called the most charming girl in the world.” – Northanger Abbey
  • “There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.” – Personal Correspondence
  • “His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than anything.” – Persuasion
  • “There are people who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.” – Emma
  • “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” – Mansfield Park

For those book lovers (like me) who would never think of defacing a book by writing in it, this journal may sit on your Jane Austen bookshelf looking pretty forever. If you are a doodler and want to keep track of your annual reaction to Jane Austen’s pithy quotes and quips throughout the years, I can think of no finer way than including Austen in your life every day for the next five years!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane-a-Day: 5 Year Journal: With 365 Witticisms by Jane Austen, by Potter Style
Crown Publishing Group (2011)
Hardcover (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0307951717

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Book Reviews, Cultural Studies, Jane Austen, Nonfiction

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane, by Amy Elizabeth Smith – A Review

All Roads Lead To Austen, by Amy Elizabeth Smith (2012)From the desk of Syrie James:

Amy Elizabeth Smith, an English professor at a private California university, uses her development leave to test a theory: how do Jane Austen’s novels resonate with readers in Latin America? Do people identify with her characters and storylines? In other words, does Austen translate across time, distance, and language? In All Roads Lead to Austen, Smith explores these questions and more in six different countries, conducting Jane Austen reading groups “on the road.” Along the way, she’s immersed in the local culture, history, and literature makes valuable friendships, and… meets and falls in love with the man she is going to marry.

Yes, you heard right! Smith hooks us Janeites right off the bat by revealing that her real-life adventure has a very Austen ending—and what could be better than that? She writes in a clear, personable style that is witty, intelligent, engrossing, and filled with interesting details.

Smith’s travels begin with a Spanish language immersion course in Guatemala, followed by a romantic stay in Mexico where, on the first day, she spends all her money on books instead of groceries. She (alarmingly) becomes seriously ill with a life-threatening tropical disease, thankfully recovers, feeds tame iguanas in Ecuador, flees the police in Chile, dines on delicious food in Paraguay, and encounters tango dancers on the street in Buenos Aires.

Amusingly (at least to this reader), it seems that everywhere she goes, Smith is hit upon by men looking for a hot date. She learns the hard way that her naturally friendly disposition is unintentionally giving the wrong signals. When she innocently accepts an invitation from a (married!) older man—the doorman of her apartment building—to “have coffee, just as friends,” to her shock and dismay, he grabs her and French kisses her. Later, one of Smith’s new female friends tells her:

“You’re pretty dumb for a smart woman… First of all, you can’t be friends with Chilean men. Period. Any Chilean man asking you anywhere, unless it’s strictly work related, is coming on to you… Second… university professors do not date doormen. I’m not saying this is right—I’m just telling you how it is. This Alberto knows that university professors don’t date doormen, so he naturally assumed that if you were willing to go out with him, it’s because you were looking for some fun. You know—something physical.”

Continue reading “All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane, by Amy Elizabeth Smith – A Review”

Critiques & Analysis, Jane Austen, Nonfiction

Five New Books about Jane Austen on Life, Love and Marriage in the Queue

Jane Austen Author by the pool

We have long believed that everything we ever needed to know about life and love, we learned (and are learning) from Jane Austen. She has been our life coach for over thirty years and has not failed us yet!

It appears that other authors think so too. We are happy to reveal five new titles in the queue to be published starting April to June of this year that all share in our belief: Jane Austen is a master of life skills and relationships if you are paying attention. And if you missed a few important insights, then they will happily explain it all in detail for you.

Each of these non-fiction and one fiction work peaked our interest and will be reviewed in their publication month here at Austenprose.

We have had the pleasure of reading two titles already and we think readers will be delighted with the insights, humor and solid sensibility that they offer. Here is a preview of each of the titles from the publishers:  

Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor (2012)The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor

Have you stopped believing in happily ever after?

Women today are settling for less than we want when it comes to men, relationships, sex, and marriage. But we don’t have to, argues Elizabeth Kantor. Jane Austen can show us how to find the love we really want.

In The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Kantor reveals how the examples of Jane Austen heroines such as Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Elliot can help us navigate the modern-day minefields of dating, love, relationships, and sex. By following in their footsteps—and steering clear of the sad endings suffered by characters such as Maria Bertram and Charlotte Lucas—modern women can discover the path to lifelong love and true happiness.

Charged with honesty and humor, Kantor’s book includes testimonies from modern women, pop culture parallels, the author’s personal experiences and, of course, a thorough examination of Austen’s beloved novels.

Featuring characters and situations from all of Jane Austen’s books (including unfinished novels, and stories not published in her lifetime), The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After tackles the dating and relationship dilemmas that we face today, and equips modern women to approach our love lives with fresh insights distilled from the novels:

  • Don’t be a tragic heroine
  • Pursue Elizabeth Bennet’s “rational happiness” —learn what it is, and how you can find it
  • Don’t let cynicism steal your happy ending
  • Why it’s a mistake to look for your “soul mate”
  • Jane Austen’s skeleton keys to a man’s potential
  • How you should deal with men who are “afraid of commitment” (from Jane Austen’s eight case studies)
  • Learn how to arrange your own marriage—by falling in love the Jane Austen way

About the Author: Elizabeth Kantor is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guideto English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Kantor has taught English literature, served as the editor of the Conservative Book Club, and written for publications ranging from National Review Online to the Boston Globe. An avid Jane Austen fan, she is happily married and lives with her husband and son in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Continue reading “Five New Books about Jane Austen on Life, Love and Marriage in the Queue”