Monday, February 25, 2008

The Jane Austen Handbook

I'm currently reading "The Jane Austen Handbook" by Margaret C. Sullivan. It's a beautifully produced little package--handsome paper, charming fonts and borders, and delightful illustrations. If you are new to Jane Austen's books and the Regency world, then this book is for you. It covers all the aspects of that society that will be new to you, and it will introduce you to this new world in a light-hearted, tongue in cheek manner.

I'm a little disappointed in the content however. Anyone who has read Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and/or a host of others will not find anything new in this Handbook. Still, all the information is laid out in an easy to find, easy to read manner. There are several useful appendices; a glossary should you still have any questions about Regency words, a short bibliography and other resources.

All in all, the Handbook is a charming addition to a Jane Austen bookshelf, though not a must-have reference book.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A beginning...and The Complete Jane Austen

This seems like a particularly good time to begin a blog about the Regency period because of Public Television's showing of The Complete Jane Austen.

PBS' decision to commission new versions of Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park was timely--new editions have been needed in my opinion. I'm less convinced of the need for Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility to be redone. I was disappointed by the new version of Persuasion, but that is because I think the Amanda Root version is the definitive one. Root plays Anne Elliott with insight and sympathy, and Ciaran Hinds is a brilliant Captain Wentworth. The captain in the new version is altogether too gentlemanly, in dress, speech and deportment. I really can't imagine him on the bridge, barking out orders! And Sally Hawkins does not blossom as Amanda Root does in the realization that Anne Elliott's future will be happier than her past.

I have not had time to watch my tapes of NA and MP yet; I'll report when I do.
Miss Austen Regrets I watched immediately and I thought it was brilliant. I was in tears at the end. I thought Olivia Williams interpreted Jane Austen with great sensitivity. The writing by Gwenyth Hughes was excellent, and for me, Jane Austen came alive in a way that she never had before. The person behind the caustic wit of her letters, her position within her family, her dealings with her writing career and her final illness all became real. The hint of a relationship between Jane and Brook Bridges was particularly novel to me. His appearances in Jane's real life were not frequent and not auspicious, but the movie relationship was very enjoyable. I look forward to watching this video again and again.

I also thought Miss Austen Regrets was a believable extension of last summer's movie Becoming Jane--there was even a similarity in look between Olivia Williams and Anne Hathaway. I'm looking forward to watching this movie again; it had some interesting portrayals of the young Jane and the romance with Tom Lefroy was convincing.

Must get back to my new manuscript, The Education of Portia. This new full-length novel will be released by Uncial Press in November of this year. They'll be releasing my latest short fiction 'Novel Byte' on March 14; it's titled Carolina's Walking Tour. I hope you'll watch for that.