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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, read by Emilia Fox

A review by Laurel Ann Nattress

One is humbled to review a book considered a classic of world literature. What could I possibly say about Pride and Prejudice that has not been scrutinized by scholars, exalted by enthusiasts, or bemoaned by students who have been forced to read it and just don’t get what all the fuss is about? Plenty—and that is one of its enduring charms. It is so many things to different people. After repeated readings I still laugh out loud at Austen’s dry wit, wily social commentary and satisfying love story. It often tops international polls as the “the most loved” or “favorite book” of all time; numerous stage and screen adaptations continue to remind us of its incredible draw to the modern audience; and its hero and heroine, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, may be the most famous romantic couple short of Romeo and Juliet. High praise, indeed, for a novel written almost two hundred years ago by a country clergyman’s daughter, home schooled by her father, and un-exalted in her lifetime.

Set in the early nineteenth-century country village of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, the story revolves around the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters. They are the first family of consequence in the village. Unfortunately, the Bennet estate is entailed to a male heir, a cousin, Mr. William Collins. This is distressful to Mrs. Bennet who knows that she must find husbands for her daughters or they shall all be destitute if her husband should die. Mr. Bennet is not as concerned and spends his time in his library away from his wife’s idle chatter and social maneuvering. Elizabeth, the spirited and confident second daughter is determined to only to marry for love. She teases her beautiful and kind elder sister Jane that she must be the one to catch a wealthy husband to support them all. The three younger sisters: Mary, Catherine and Lydia, hinder their elder sisters chance for a good match by inappropriate and unguarded behavior.

When Mr. Bingley, a single man of large fortune, moves into the neighborhood with his fashionable sisters he attends the local assembly ball and is immediately taken with the angelic Jane Bennet. His friend Mr. Darcy is even richer with a great estate in Derbyshire, but he is proud and arrogant giving offense to all, including Elizabeth when he refuses to dance with her. She overhears him tell Bingley that she was only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him. This amuses and annoys her enough to repeat it to her friends and family. The whole community declares him the most disagreeable man, eaten up with pride.

And thus the famous love story begins. How Mr. Darcy’s pride will be humbled and Elizabeth’s prejudices dissolved is one of the greatest stories of all time. Austen’s astute characterizations and clever plotting never cease to amaze. Society has changed in two hundred years, but human nature—foibles and all—remain constant, much to our amusement and delight.

Naxos Audiobooks presents us with a professionally produced and finely crafted jewel in this audio recording of Pride and Prejudice. Narrated by British actress Emilia Fox, viewers of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle will remember her fine performance as shy Georgiana Darcy and be pleasantly surprised by her vocal range and emotional depth in characterization. I particularly appreciated her interpretation of Mrs. Bennet’s frazzled anxiety and Lady Catherine de Bourgh imperious resolve. Listeners will enjoy all thirteen hours of this unabridged recording honoring one of the greatest novels ever written and want to seek out the other six Austen novels that they have also recorded in audio format.

Naxos Audiobooks USA, (2005)
Unabridged, 11 CD’s (13 h 02 m)
ISBN: 978-9626343562


A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and Austenprose.com, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.


 

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Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

One regret I have in my busy life is the lack of leisure time I have for reading. Right now there are four stacks of books on the floor of my office, all waiting to be read. So many books! So little time. Given my schedule, I am glad I set aside the required hours to read Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Jane Austen-inspired stories by published Jane Austen sequel authors and edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.

I rarely read anthologies front to back, but flit here and there, landing instead on a story with an intriguing title or by a favorite author. In this instance I began with Stephanie Barron’s tale of Jane And the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery. I am so glad I did, for it prompted me to linger longer over dinner and read another short story. Beth Pattillo’s  When Only a Darcy Will Do was a delight, as was Margaret C. Sullivan’s Heard of You, which I read just before going to bed. The list of authors in this anthology is impressive: Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Brenna Aubrey • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan • Adriana Trigiani • Laurie Viera Rigler • Lauren Willig.

I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies. They allow one to pick and choose on a whim, and finish a story in a short space of time. Anthology stories serve as literary versions of amuse bouches, those tasty bites served at the start of dinner. Even the most the discerning reader is bound to find selections and authors they will love. (Or discover a new author!) Click here to read a short synopsis of each story.

I favored some stories over others, but won’t share them with you for the simple reason that some of the stories I disliked received rave reviews on other blogs. Anthologies appeal to a variety of tastes, and I found it remarkable how many in Jane Austen Made Me Do It captivated me.  If you decide to purchase this book, I can guarantee that you will discover new authors and stories that you will want to reread.

This is due, no doubt, to the hard work that editor Laurel Ann Nattress put into the project. As a blogger, I can’t imagine how much of her time was spent in contacting the authors and working with them, overseeing a contest for an  unpublished author (the honor went to Brenna Aubrey), working with her publishing house in editing the stories, and now publicizing the book. I tip my hat to Laurel Ann for overseeing this ambitious and very worthwhile project, for this is her first book.  I give Jane Austen Made Me Do It  five out of five Regency tea cups!

Ballantine Books
Trade paperback (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966
List Price: £9.99


Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs.

This article was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.