Posted on

Meeting Mr Bennet

"for what do we live"

 

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

 

Full of wit, humour and lackadaisical nature, Mr Bennet has to be one the most memorable Austen characters of all time.  This week I have been working primarily with Bob (our very own Mr Bennet!) on the last scene between Lizzie and her father. This scene is pretty much the conclusion of the story and moreover it emphasises the close relationship between Mr Bennet and his, lets be honest, favourite daughter.  We blocked the scene several times before adding the smaller, yet significant, details to the section.

Continue reading Meeting Mr Bennet

Posted on

Meeting the Pride & Prejudice Cast

 

Today was the day that every girl dreams of… meeting Mr Darcy.  Matthew Macfadyen set the bar pretty high, not to mention Colin Firth coming out of the lake with a soaking wet shirt on…  and then of course my favourite line of all ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Just perfection. So it was with no surprise that I was a little, well shocked, to meet my already-happens-to-be-married-with-two-kids-Mr Darcy. That’s not how the story’s meant to go?

Hello again! Yes, as you’ve probably figured out, today was the ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ for the cast of the Athenaeum Limelight Players’ Pride and Prejudice (https://www.janeausten.co.uk/austen-mania/ – read my first entry here). A great day was had by all and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other members of the cast, discuss plans for the rehearsal process …and eat Pride and Prejudice cake!

Here’s how I got on…

The whole group started with an ice breaker/warm up technique, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’; a very fun game in which you have to pass the clap or the ‘zip’ around the circle and then various rules get added to make it a simple (although it was quite tough!) but effective method to not only break the ice between new people, but to challenge our reaction times and cues. (This will in time help our reactions and cues on the stage.)

Heather and Adela made the rules more competitive, if anyone hesitated or made a mistake – you were out. We were dropping like flies and unfortunately I didn’t make it to the final 8.

 

Mr Bingley on the edge of his game…

After the boundless laughs we had with this, it was time to cut the Pride and Prejudice cake (cue the excitement!) and then we had the chance to properly meet and talk to one another.

Yum!

Once the very wonderful ‘Meet n Greet’, which directors Heather and Adela organised, had finished, I got the chance to ask them a few questions …

“WHY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?”

H: “For me the choice was easy. It is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and P&P was always my favourite story. The rags to riches story with a twist. A feisty heroine who in a time of little choice for women, knew her own mind. This story is a reflection on Jane’s own life. A woman who broke from the mould of society”

A: “It’s my favourite of all Jane’s novels with Emma and Persuasion close behind. I have read and re-read everything she has written, and my favourite Darcy is Laurence Olivier whom I saw aged 16 when I did P&P for O level English Lit.”

“WHAT CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?”

H: “I can’t wait to start this production we have the perfect cast but with a large cast there will also be challenges. Not to mention my first time directing anything!”

A:”My biggest challenge is having Heather say at the end that I was a colleague she enjoyed working with, who gave her every opportunity to learn directing, and a cast that has loved every moment of the process”

A Cast photo! Sort of…
This is our very own scaled down model of the stage, set design and cast!

That’s all from me, find out next time what went on in our first proper rehearsal!

Zoe May B

Posted on

Lizzy & Jane by by Katherine Reay

indexA review by Meredith Esparza

“Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.”

Lizzy – a thirty-three-year-old gifted New York City chef who seems to have temporarily lost her magic in the kitchen. Her restaurant isn’t packed, her dishes aren’t as focused and vibrant, and her financial backer thinks she is distracted by events in her personal life.

Jane – Lizzy’s older sister. A mother of two, who, at the age of forty-one, is battling the very terrifying and unpredictable disease known as cancer. While Jane’s cancer isn’t aggressive and was diagnosed at an early stage it has created a vast amount of tension and upheaval to every aspect of her life.

Lizzy and Jane – sisters who lost their mother to cancer fifteen years ago and still have emotional scars that have not yet healed. Jane left home at eighteen and never came to visit while their mom was sick. Lizzy, feeling abandoned by her sister, left home as well and the two now have a very distant and cold relationship full of unresolved issues and pain. But due to the situations in both their lives they are brought together for an extended visit…

With Dear Mr. Knightley, we’ve seen how skilled story-teller, Katherine Reay, can take a very serious and difficult situation like growing up in the foster system, and pen a heartfelt and honest story full of challenge, growth, and realism. She does the same with Lizzy and Jane. Cancer and overcoming fear and grief are very tough and sometimes off-putting subjects, but blended with Ms. Reay’s thoughtful and sensitive prose and accessible characters, these subjects are more inspiring and uplifting than they are depressing and dark.

As with Dear Mr. Knightley, my favorite part of the story was witnessing the main character’s emotional journey and growth. Their mother’s death affected Lizzy and Jane in so many ways; they lost a lot more than their mother when she died. I especially enjoyed Lizzy’s journey to find herself and discover what she was missing. When Lizzy traveled to Seattle to visit her family, she was hoping to solve her problems with cooking and find her magic again, but she ended up learning so much more, she ended up finding love, family, forgiveness, and a life.

It was so easy to fall in love with the characters in this story – my heart was engaged by each and every one of them and I thoroughly enjoyed observing how they grew closer together. Besides her relationship with Jane, I enjoyed seeing Lizzy’s interactions and friendships with Nick, a single father who feels guilty about a past mistake, and Cecilia, a nurse at the infusion center with so much heart and spirit. I enjoyed how so many characters connected to each other through Jane Austen and other authors; and I loved how Jane Austen was so full of meaning and history to both Lizzy and Jane (there are plenty of fun nods to Jane Austen for readers to discover!) And the food references and descriptions were so delectably tempting! Whether it was food Lizzy was preparing, eating at a restaurant, or purchasing at a market – my senses were tingling with all the fresh, vivid, and tantalizing ingredients described. (I think I may have learned a cooking trick or two, as well!) And while I loved how this tale integrated so many diverse elements, I did sometimes find myself wanting a little more attention and page time devoted to certain aspects of the story.

Profound, perceptive, and poignant – Katherine Reay once again delivers a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make your eyes well up with tears, and in this case, give you plenty of food for thought! An incredible read!

  • RRP: £9.99
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401689736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401689735

get-attachment

Meredith Esparza is music studio director and private piano instructor living off the coast of North Carolina with her very own Mr. Bingley.  She is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen and an avid reader.  For more than five years her blog, Austenesque Reviews has been devoted to the reading and reviewing of numerous Jane Austen sequels, fan-fiction, and para-literature.  She loves being able to connect with readers and authors online through a shared love and admiration for Jane Austen.  Visit Meredith at her blog Austenesque Reviews, follow her on Twitter as @austenesque and on Facebook as Austenesque Reviews.

 

Posted on

Jane Austen and Food, by Maggie Lane – A Review

unnamedJane Austen and Food, by Maggie Lane – A Review by Sarah Emsley:

Is it easier or harder to write if you’re also responsible for feeding and looking after your family? “Composition seems to me impossible, with a head full of joints of mutton and doses of rhubarb,” Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra in September 1816, after a period in which she managed the household at Chawton Cottage in Cassandra’s absence. Fortunately for Jane – and for us, as readers of her fiction – most of the time it was Cassandra who filled this role, freeing Jane to write. In her writing, she doesn’t mention food very often, yet Maggie Lane’s book Jane Austen and Food shows her references to it are significant because “she uses it to define character and illustrate moral worth.” Jane Austen and Food was first published in 1995 by The Hambledon Press, and it’s newly available as an inexpensive e-book from Endeavour Press. It isn’t a cookbook, but a discussion of food in Austen’s letters and fiction.

I’ve always loved that line from her letters about composition, and reading Jane Austen and Food helped me understand it better. I learned that “mutton” isn’t always just mutton, and that “rhubarb” isn’t what I think of as rhubarb. Mutton, says Lane, “seems to have become the generic word for meat – or for dinner itself.” She cites the example from Mansfield Park of Dr. Grant inviting Edmund Bertram “‘to eat his mutton with him the next day,’ without supposing, for a moment, that ‘the bill of fare’ as he calls it is actually mutton (in fact it’s turkey).” The rhubarb Austen refers to is “not the plant we think of, the stalks of which are eaten as fruit,” but “the medicinal rootstock of the species of rheum grown in China and Tibet,” imported in powdered form to be “used as a purgative by the overfed part of the population.” Lane points out that in Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland eventually realizes poisons are not as readily available as doses of rhubarb.

Jane Austen and Food begins with a discussion of “domestic economy” in Austen’s life and letters, outlining the historical context for subsequent analysis of meals, menus, manners, and morals in her novels. The book is full of entertaining facts, including the Austen family’s choice of turkey at Christmas (they reared their own turkeys at Steventon) while many other families ate beef; Jane Austen’s preference for the term “garden stuff,” instead of “vegetable,” a word she didn’t use in her writing until Sanditon in 1817; the rare appearance of similes in her work (“as White as a Whipt Syllabub” and “as cool as a cream-cheese” are both in Lesley Castle); and the importance of the hour at which a family had dinner.

Lane traces a progression from the “humble” Watsons, who dine at three, to the Dashwoods and the Woodhouses (four), to the Grants (half past four), to the Tilneys (five). Those who are fashionable or aspire to be considered fashionable dine late. At Netherfield, the hour is half past six, a full two hours after the dinner hour at Longbourn. Where characters eat is as important as when they eat and what they eat. Lane talks about why Mr. Knightley objects so strongly to eating outside – it’s thought to be “dangerous because of its tendency to break down those careful rules of behaviour which have been built up over generations to protect men and women from their baser selves.”

Who has control over food is also a key question in the novels, and Lane’s analysis is fascinating. We can learn a great deal, she says, about General Tilney and Dr. Grant from their obsessive focus on the quantity and quality of their food. While the former is “active and officious” and the latter is “idle,” Austen “shows how apparently very different styles of men can use food to manipulate and tyrannise over their immediate family.” Even characters with little or no control over the type of food or the time or place it is served find ways to exert control. Marianne Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Jane Fairfax all reject food at times of intense emotional distress. Lane writes that “the eating disorders of Marianne, Fanny and Jane may thus be said to mirror a degree of social disorder.” In contrast, Austen’s other heroines are indifferent to food. They “eat to keep themselves healthy, to be sociable, to conform. But not one of them ever anticipates or expresses pleasure in a meal, or admits to liking a particular food.” Whether a character is eating or not eating, talking about food or not talking about it, Austen’s choices are always telling.

The book concludes with not one but two interpretations of Emma, a novel “so replete with food that it requires a whole chapter to itself,” and a helpful index of food and drink in the novels, so you can look up references to cherries, chicken, and chocolate, for example, or parsnips, partridges, and pineapples. Food and housekeeping may be considered “mundane” by some, as Lane says in her introduction, but her excellent analysis demonstrates that both are central to the moral world of Austen’s novels. Writers must decide for themselves whether the care and feeding of a family distracts them from writing, or nourishes their creative lives. But food in fiction will continue to fascinate both readers and writers. Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen and Food entertains us with a wealth of information about historical context, and makes a compelling argument for the moral significance of food in art as well as in life.

Jane Austen and Food, by Maggie Lane
£1.99, Kindle Edition
Endeavour Press Ltd. (2013)
Digital eBook (218) pages
ASIN: B00GYJD9CC


Sarah Emsley is the author of Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues and the editor of  Edith Wharton’s novel The Custom of the Country. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is currently working on a novel. She spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, and later taught classes on Jane Austen in the Writing Program at Harvard University. She blogs about Austen and Wharton at www.sarahemsley.com, and to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mansfield Park in 2014, she’s hosting a conversation about the novel on her blog, with guest posts by Juliet McMaster, Laurel Ann Nattress, Syrie James, Lynn Shepherd, Margaret C. Sullivan, Deborah Yaffe, Devoney Looser, and many other wonderful writers. Follow Sarah on Twitter (@Sarah_Emsley), visit her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sarahlbemsley), and subscribe to the blog to receive updates about this exciting celebration.

This review orginally appeared on Austenprose.com and is used here with permission.