Thursday, June 22, 2017

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott and Laura Masselos

I didn't know it, but it looks like we have Anna Elliott to thank for bringing the Darcys and the Bennetts back to the stacks. I'm so out of it because I had no idea about this series of books and the first volume was published in 2014. Elliott has three volumes of P&P Lovers' books out there that take us back to 1814 Pemberley...exactly where we want to be. 

Big sister-in-law and new BFF Elizabeth is there. Our darling and lovable older brother Fitzwilliam is there and he is happy! Our beloved cousin and guardian Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam is there. We're beginning to appreciate Carolyn Bingley a bit, enough to wish a happy ending for her. Even our cousin Miss Anne DeBourgh is growing on us. It's good. It's right where we want to be.

Though I'm still reading the novel I know one thing: Anne Elliott loves Pride and Prejudice as much as I do. She knows the characters as well as I do. She's imagined Pemberley as often as I have. And Anne Elliott has taken these beloved characters and has grown them, not as Jane Austin might have done, but as a very good fan fiction writer might do. And we can enjoy that for what it is. Who wouldn't appreciate the moment when Elizabeth Darcy offers to take Lady Catherine DuBourgh to another part of the house to talk about putting shelves into an errant closet?

I don't know if non-Austin-Lovers would appreciate the many beloved features of the book, the repurposed phraseology, the familiar set ups, or even the continuation of sweet dialogue. Maybe the book would be a bit below-standard. Probably some readers might be unimpressed with the journal entries of Georgianna Anna Darcy but I enjoyed getting to know her better. I can honestly not judge in the way of a non-Austinite because I have swallowed P&P whole and I have savored it for many years. 

If you are an Austin Lover, you will likely enjoy this book for its easy read, it's feeling of being home. You will enjoy the surprise of Carolyn Bingley's story line, maybe even enough to forgive her rudeness and condescension to Elizabeth Bennett in the original. If you loved Austin you will probably forgive the few out-of-time anachronisms. And if you love Austin you will probably agree with my rating of seven stars, taking away three stars simply because that's about as high as fan fic can rate.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Just FYI, I couldn't and didn't read all of Poldark. Too much of a yawner. 
My friend loved it so much but I simply could not read another word. 
Maybe I'll pick it up again at some later date.

I don't know how it is that I have never read Jane Eyre before. It seems like one of those books that I would have devoured in my youth, yet I did not. This 500-page book caught me and held me, though the language was heavy and dense and Gothic. I can honestly say that it took me about two weeks to read the entire book...and that's saying something. Some of the language was incredibly ponderous; I'll bet I looked up 100 words that I did not know!

So what kept me reading if it was such a challenge?
It was Jane!

What a surprising character for the time period. At a time when female protagonists were fainting all over the place, Jane Eyre never so much as blanches at the many, many challenges that her sparse life presents to her. As a reader of many a Gothic novel, I found her rebellion as a child inspired and unexpected and surprisingly modern. In the dark and cold of her childhood in the orphanage of your nightmares, our Jane manages to actually develop and grow a sense of self that surprised me, Dear Reader. (I'll be referring to you, the reader, several times in this blog post because Jane frequently urges you, Dear Reader, to understand her points of view and choices.)

In the earliest chapters Jane is raised by an unloving and harsh aunt who has no affection or time for this small wisp of a girl. Jane is forever being misunderstood, blamed, and punished in this family of bullying and selfish cousins. Jane's aunt continually refers to Jane in such undeserved terms as deceitful and untrustworthy. Our hearts break as, again and again, in her efforts to win her aunt, little Jane is brushed aside or punished or even tortured in a scary, death-haunted room. When circumstances change and Jane is passed along to a boarding school/orphanage our hopes, Dear Reader, are high that someone will claim Jane and give her the love and affection that she is so desperate for.

Alas that charity orphanage offers an indifferent set of authority figures and a harsh reality for this young heroine. Jane and the other girls are subject to such nightmarish circumstances that I found myself completely hating England for about a week and mocking England for its false reputation of being cultured. Here Jane endures painful losses and continued deprivation.

Finally a welcome change when Jane chooses to leave the school and to seek a position as a governess for a child at Thornfield Hall. She is hired by a household with a child named Adèle Varens, a young French girl. Jane finds a home, a welcoming group of people, and a meaningful purpose for her life for the very first time. We are delighted as she learns better and better ways to interact with Adèle. Jane learns about herself and asserts her own sense of identity under this roof. I'm not at all sure why this section of the book moved me so much, but it did. I'm sure it had something to do with her resilience and her hope.

It is at Thornfield Hall that Jane meets Mr. Rochester for he is the guardian of Adèle. Jane seeks to understand the confusing social life of Mr. Rochester as well as the many events in the house that seem to be strange, mysterious, and secretive. But none of the mysteries of the house can stop her from maturing and falling in love with the enigmatic and unusual Mr. Rochester.

I won't report anymore on the story line, only to say that it worth the slogging. The purity of Jane's voice and her search for identity,  usefulness, and maybe integrity are quite refreshing and engaging. Because of the difficult language and writing style I'm sure the read is well wasted on most high school students who are required to read it.

It was news to me that a movie has recently been made based on the book. Can it hold up? Can Jane come across as likable and engaging when we don't read her autobiographical musings ourselves? How will we feel about the other characters? I have no idea. As for the book, I give it a strong eight stars.