What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Lucy Worsley Films Jane Austen Documentary
On August the 3rd Lucy Worsley, who has presented programmes including The First Georgians: The German Kings Who Made Britain and If Walls Could Talk, was filming at Jane’s birthplace and childhood home, Steventon rectory, as part of a BBC2 documentary about Jane Austen’s life which will be aired next year as part of the marking of the bicentenary of Jane’s death.
While the rectory itself is no longer standing as it was flooded (which resulted in the entire village having to move somewhere less damp), an excavation in November 2011 revealed its foundations and the drainage system that failed in 1819.
As well as filming in Steventon, the crew have also been filming in Lyme Regis, Stoneleigh, Kent, Bath, Chawton, and other places which are connected to Jane. We at the Jane Austen News are very much looking forward to seeing the documentary when it airs!
Should Minor Characters Remain Minor…?
There’s a big market for new books based on Jane’s novels. There are the modern retellings of her novels (The Austen Project), follow-on novels about what happened next to the likes of Lizzy and Mr Darcy and Marianne and Colonel Brandon, and there’s also a big trend for writing books based on Jane’s more minor characters. Lydia Bennet is a popular character to write about, as are Mary and Kitty. However, this week Charlotte Jones writing for the Guardian has asked whether these characters should keep in their place – in the background.
As much as we enjoy modern stories based on Jane’s original works, we have to admit that Charlotte has a point. She argues that part of the reason we love Jane’s heroines, especially Lizzy Bennet, relies on the fact that they are shown to be so remarkable when in contrast with those around them. “Lizzy only has space in the book for a remarkable interior life because her sisters do not.” In some of Jane’s novels, especially Emma, if minor character’s voices were to be heard the strength of our affinity with the heroine may well be weakened. She also says that, in some cases, the character’s minor status is what makes them so effective as a comment on the portion of society who the represent.
The poignancy of Mary’s situation, for example, resides precisely in her effacement: neglected by her parents and unmarriageable, her silent and futile presence haunting the shadows of Pride and Prejudice is to me the best testament possible to the ranks of unremarkable women she stands for.
An interesting argument indeed for leaving Mary in the background. Having said that, we’re still looking forward to reading all the new novels about Mary, Kitty and Lydia that are due out soon!
…No They Should Not!
Talking of Mary, Megan Garber writing for The Atlantic has written an article arguing the case for rather than against giving Mary her own voice in new novels.
Megan says that the many novels based on Mary “assume something that Pride and Prejudice, via its narrator, refused to believe: that someone like Mary could have a rich interior life.” This new love of Mary is part of the trend for novels which are being written about supporting characters in lots of well-known stories – Wicked, which gives background to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, being one example of a run-away hit.
In that sense, the current renaissance of Mary Bennet is literary revisionism that suggests a more sweeping ethical project—one that celebrates the dignity of the marginalized.
It’s wonderful to read arguments for and against telling the story of Mary. Megan’s article can be found here.
Contemporary Recommendations Based On Austen Couples
Now from novels based on minor characters, to novel recommendations based on Austen pairings. One writer for Bustle has written a list of what contemporary Austen fans might enjoy based on who their favourite Jane Austen couple is.
For Emma and Mr Knightley the recommendation is Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes, whose heroine knows she is getting married thanks to a psychic, but she doesn’t know who to.
For Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy the recommendation is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, a workplace rom-com about the fine line between love and hate.
For fans of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth there is Lip Service by Susan Mallery , whose heroine Skye Titan, has a real hangup about pleasing her family — which is why she leaves Mitch Cassidy at the altar and marries a man hand-picked by her father. Now, nine years later, she’s widowed with an eight-year-old daughter and Mitch is back.
Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon lovers have Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas. Liberty Jones the heroine, like Marianne, falls hard for a man who isn’t really there for her, but then a Texas oil baron comes along who takes her under his wing. The trouble starts when her old flame returns.
If you’d like to read the full article and other recommendations based on other Austen couples click here.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies…And Historical Accuracy
While browsing through the programme for the upcoming Jane Austen Festival that will be held in Bath this September, we noticed something which we’d missed before.
The Regency etiquette workshop, a popular workshop in which you’re taught how to correctly act in a wide variety of common Regency social situations, is returning and includes anecdotes from John White. What we did not realise at first is that John White was the Historical Adviser on the film of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This has left us very curious to know what questions of historical accuracy came up on a set full of zombies… Which we’re sure aren’t particularly historically accurate themselves!
So, any questions you may have for John on marrying a set full of zombies with accuracy, and on what did and didn’t need to be historically correct, let us know in the comments below and the Jane Austen News will do it’s best to find out the answers when John comes to Bath.
My First Jane Austen Dance
We came across a lovely blog post this week from a young lady who has attended her first Regency dance.
She wasn’t too familiar with the costumes, music or etiquette before she went, so it’s a dance from the eyes of a relative newcomer to the world of English country dancing. We loved the way she looked at the dance from a modern viewpoint, and with plenty of humour!
Maybe Mr. Darcy, or at least a tall, eligible bachelor with an income of a kajillion pounds per year, or Colin Firth in a wet shirt would show up and whisk me away to a country manor in England. A girl can dream, anyway.
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