In the Jane Austen News last week we mentioned the upcoming film Colette, starring 2005 Lizzy Bennet actress Keira Knightley. Well since then we came across a brilliant TIME article which gave us a bit more background about the author, and we thought that you, as a fan of the pioneering author Jane Austen, might also enjoy reading a bit about another pioneering female author.
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born in 1873 in Burgundy in France. At the age of 20 she fell in love with, and went on to marry, Henry Gauthier-Villars, then aged 34, who was the owner of a ghostwriting enterprise which published novels under the pen name “Willy”. Colette became a member of the ghostwriting team and, when there was a bad case of writer’s block and a lack of money, Henry asked Colette to write about her school days. The result, published in 1900, was the book Claudine at School, which became a huge hit and turned into the first of a best-selling four-book series.
As the books gained even more popularity, Colette and Willy argued about adding her name as an author. Eventually the books were brought out with “Willy and Colette Willy” on the covers as the publishers wouldn’t remove his name from the series until a long time after his death. Although, on the positive side, after the couple separated (following many love affairs on both sides which led to an open marriage) Colette’s talent was better recognised and she became the first female President of the renowned Paris literary society, the Academie Goncourt.
This may not sound like Austen and Colette had much in common, but their books, although very different in tone and primary subject, do have a shared theme; that of inherent human nature:
Her uncanny feminine understanding, hearty physical sympathy for the internal workings of human nerves and glands, make her a writer who cannot avoid being labeled passionate but who never runs any danger of being cheap.
Hopefully you found this brief background on Colette as interesting as we at the Jane Austen News did. The full article on Colette can be found here.
Now from one film to two others.
It looks like the writers at Hallmark are fans of Jane’s books. Hallmark Channel has just announced its lineup of new holiday movies ready for Christmas (already?!) and more than one of them has a definite Austen influence.
Christmas at Pemberley Manor
This film will be premiering on October 27th (merry early Christmas) and tells the story of a New York event planner, named Elizabeth Bennett, who is sent to a small town to organise its holiday festival. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, a grumpy billionaire named William Darcy is trying to sell the estate which she wants to use for the party.
This one borrows some character and location name but that, apart from the initial dislike the main characters have for each other, is about as far as the similarities to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice goes. However, there is also:
Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe
First showing on November 23rd, this film follows independent-minded Darcy as she returns to her small hometown and falls in love with her old rival, and also rediscovers her love for working alongside her father.
So, good news for Austen/Hallmark movie fans.
Every year since 1969, the Man Booker Prize is awarded to an author who has published an astounding piece of literary fiction in the English language and published it in the UK. The prize was opened to writers of any nationality writing in English in 2014, while up until this point the prize was only open to authors from the UK and Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000, and each shortlisted author receives £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book.
This year’s shortlist has now been released and it contains a fantastic range of books.
Milkman by Anna Burns
In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous…Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Escape is only the beginning. From the brutal cane plantations of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-filled streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black is the tale – inspired by a true story – of a world destroyed and the search to make it whole again. When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black – an eleven year-old field slave – finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher ‘Titch’ Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him. Titch’s idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the prize)
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though — almost a lifetime ago — and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature. A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water — a canal thief? — swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother. Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. The deadpan absurdities of institutional living, daily acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike, allegiances formed over liquor brewed in socks and stories shared through sewage pipes. Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line — until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny. The Mars Room presents not just a bold and unsentimental panorama of life on the margins of contemporary America, but an excoriating attack on the prison-industrial complex.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Nine strangers, each in different ways, become summoned by trees, brought together in a last stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable, ranging from antebellum New York to the late-twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, revealing a world alongside our own — vast, slow, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world, and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
The Long Take by Robin Robertson
Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair. As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but — as those dark, classic movies made clear — the country needed outsiders to study and dramatise its new anxieties. While Walker tries to piece his life together, America is beginning to come apart: deeply paranoid, doubting its own certainties, riven by social and racial division, spiralling corruption and the collapse of the inner cities. The Long Take is about a good man, brutalised by war, haunted by violence and apparently doomed to return to it — yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and in himself.
The winner of the prize will be announced on October 16th.
Ibi Zoboi’s recently released book, Pride, is one that has an admirable premise. Zoboi has taken the story of Pride and Prejudice and re-imagined the novel with a diverse range of characters and given the book a more multicultural feel.
Pride tells the story of one working class and one wealthy family in modern-day Brooklyn. The Bennets are transformed into the Benitezs; an Afro-Latino family who are at the social centre of their close community. The Darcys on the other hand are a wealthy family who move into the up-and-coming Bushwick area having spent a fortune turning a dilapidated building into a mansion.
Both Zuri (Lizzy) and Darius (Darcy) are proud and sure of themselves, as the original characters are in Pride and Prejudice. The main storyline of Pride and Prejudice is kept too, only with the addition of street parties and a diverse community – which are depicted wonderfully and are a joy to read about.
However, not all reviews have been positive. The main criticism seeming to be that Zuri and Darius don’t seem to grow as people particularly as the book progresses. Nor are they especially likeable as characters. Zuri doesn’t come to see that there in worth in communities beyond her own and keeps a number of her prejudices in tact, while Darius doesn’t make much effort to learn about the history and to get involved in the community which he finds himself in.
It is, nevertheless, a joyful and charming multicultural re-imagining.
Reviews are mixed, so, if you’ve read Pride, what did you think?
Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Online Magazine.
Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and Jane Austen news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.