As fans of Jane Austen, and therefore potentially fans of other authors whose stories are set in the early 19th century, you may or may not have had the new TV adaptation of Vanity Fair marked out as required viewing this weekend. Those of us at the Jane Austen News certainly had “Sunday 2nd September, 9pm, ITV1” written firmly in our diaries. If you did see parts 1 and 2 of ITV’s latest period drama this week, then you’ll already know what a fantastic job Olivia Cooke did as Thackeray’s rather flawed heroine Becky Sharp!
However, though Vanity Fair has stellar performances from the likes of Olivia Cooke, Michael Palin and Frances de la Tour in it, it also has incredible attention to detail by way of the settings and costumes. So what did the crew have to do in order to take modern London back in time to the Georgian era? Lots of green screening it would appear!
We hope you enjoyed seeing the transformations as much as we did.
Parts 3-7 of Vanity Fair will air over the coming Sunday evenings at 9pm on ITV1.
There’s not long to go now until the Jane Austen Festival begins in Bath! All preparations are in place for the costumed promenade on the 15th, and we’re especially looking forward to the discussion with Adrian Lukis (aka Mr Wickham 1995 and an old friend of the Jane Austen Centre) on the 17th, and later that same day, the talk given by Helena Kelly, author of Jane Austen The Secret Radical.
What really got us excited this week ahead of the main event however, was the first taste of the specially brewed, limited edition Persuasion beer. Local brewers The Bath Brew House have developed a commemorative beer especially for the festival, and to mark 200 years since the publication of Jane’s Persuasion. It’s not your usual pint – it’s a rum and raisin amber ale, but our Captain Wentworth certainly enjoyed it when he had the pleasure of being the recipient of the very-first pint.
The unusual flavour choice was inspired by the fact that rum and raisin were typical extras on board naval vessels around the 1800s. If you’re coming to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this year then you might like to try it.
We came across a new rare books dealer this week who we thought you might enjoy reading about.
Allison Devers started out as an arts journalist, but after visiting her first antiquarian books fair she immediately fell in live with the world of rare and antique books. However, she noticed that most of the sellers were male and there were very few female antiquarian book sellers around. This inspired her to start The Second Shelf, a rare books dealership and online store (coming soon) which champions women’s writing (although there are plans to open a Soho-based physical bookstore in October).
I want it to be modern. The books will be 90 per cent antiquarian, rare and modern first editions and 10 per cent new books by women that align with what we stand for. The new books will be a small, curated section and I’m planning on having events with conversations around the books.
The mission of The Second Shelf is to raise awareness about gender inequality in the literary sphere – as books written by women are, on the whole, not as valuable as books written by men. Devers hopes to help change this.
The specific reason why Devers came to our attention though is because she is the proud owner of a very special copy of Sense and Sensibility – she owns a second edition which was the copy of Sense and Sensibility owned by Jane Austen’s best friend (aside from her sister Cassandra), Martha Lloyd.
I love that it was her best friend’s personal copy. It illustrates the way that women talk to each other with friendships. This is a beautiful copy and it was well loved and signed by her.
What a book to own! We wish Miss Devers every success with The Second Shelf in the years to come.
This week at the Jane Austen News we came across a non-fiction book that we, as devoted bookworms, simply had to add to our reading list.
It’s called The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read, and with a title like that we simply had to know more.
The book explores the stories behind some of literature’s greatest mysteries, like whether or not Sylvia Plath’s widower, Ted Hughes, purposely kept one hundred and thirty pages from her second novel (which was about their marriage) hidden from the public. Its author, Stuart Kelly, investigates everything from Aristophanes’ plays and Socrates’ destroyed book of fables, to more modern works such as Vladimir Nabokov’s memoirs.
A book about books, what could be better? Then we discovered that, in addition to its brilliant title and subject, it also investigates Jane Austen’s unfinished writings within its pages! One to add to our “To-Read” pile.
Our next recommended read of the week won’t be for everyone, but the gender angle intrigued us.
New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz took Jane’s classic Pride and Prejudice and imagined what it would have been like had the roles been reversed for Darcy and Lizzy. In Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe (yes it is Christmas themed) de la Cruz retells Pride and Prejudice with Darcy as a female Darcy, and Lizzy Bennet as Luke Bennet. All other main details are much the same except for the modern American setting.
As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy’s only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she’s too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas… let alone to allow romance into her life.
It’s not a classic in its own right, but if you’re looking for a feel-good (and festive) retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a twist then it does the job admirably.
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