Shelf Conscious [3]: Jane And Elizabeth

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In 2005, I discovered Jane Austen. I know, know. That’s fairly recent considering her books were published a couple of centuries ago. I saw this interview with Keira Knightley about a movie she was promoting at the time. I didn’t know what the movie was and frankly, didn’t really care. In the middle of the interview, they showed this clip:

 

I hadn’t a clue what they were going on about (the dialogue was too English and much too fast) but man, you can cut through the tension between them with a knife. She got my attention. I went on the internet and researched whatever I can about the movie. Since there was no way my husband would agree to see this period piece in the cinema, I knew I had to find another way. Again, this was pre-Goodreads era.  So when I found out about Pride & Prejudice was actually a novel, I knew I had to get it. But mostly, I was biding my time until I can get a copy of the movie. Thankfully, this was not a huge release so it was available just a few months thereafter.
Ever since then, I had to read all of Jane Austen’s books.  As far as literary heroes go, the dashing but recalcitrant Darcy was hard to forget. I thought for sure that it was going to be my all-time favorite. But I was wrong. Captain Wentworth made me forget Fitzwilliam Darcy’s existence almost in an instant.
Persuasion is probably the novel that made me fall in love with second-chance romances. Basically, Anne’s family was once rich who belittled Wentworth when he was a poor boy. Years later, the wheels have turned. He becomes a rich, decorated military man while Anne’s family is struggling to keep up appearances. Admittedly, the revenge wasn’t so sweet. Because for all the snobbery and attempts of hurting Anne, Wentworth suffered two-folds. And that is why Persuasion was my favorite of Austen’s novels.

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Ah, but nothing could’ve prepared me for Mr. Thornton and Margaret. Looking back, I don’t remember how I discovered North and South. If Elizabeth Bennett is your homegirl because she’s all, girl-power and whatnot, Margaret Hale is the leader of their girl band. She is fearless as she is kind-hearted; charitable but opinionated. She fought for the rights of the poor people, but she didn’t stand for the violence they incite. This is England on the cusp of  Industrial Revolution when the rich who owned factories were against unionization. She’s a daughter of a pastor who served God and their fellowman. But she’s far from meek, and she wasn’t afraid to tell a man off. Unfortunately, that role was filled by Mr. Thornton on more than one occasion. You can tell he couldn’t decide whether to kiss her or strangle her or both. But I love the romance because, in the end, Margaret saved Mr. Thornton.

How did you discover Jane Austen?

Have you read North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell?

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[642]: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Eligible

by Curtis Sittenfeld

Random House Canada | April 19th, 2016 | 4 out of 5 Stars


I can never say no to a good Pride & Prejudice retelling. In fact, I have a shelf dedicated specifically to P & P published fan fiction. I must admit that it has been a while since I’ve read one told in a contemporary era. The last one was so bad I never wanted to read another retelling after that. Eligible, thankfully, was a fantastic modern retelling of a well-loved book. Sittenfeld truly grabbed it by the horns and directed the story as she saw fit. But she stayed true to what we’ve come to love about the book.

Majority of us probably have read the book or seen the BBC series – or the films for that matter. In here, we find slight variations to each of the characters’ roles. Like Wickham for one. Oh, trust me, he was still a douchebag. But the difference here is, he’s been Liz’s friend for years. His connection with Darcy would’ve been inconsequential had Darcy not played a role in the reason for Wick’s hatred.

Liz is a writer for women’s magazine in a different calibre as say, Cosmopolitan. They tackled issues with social relevance affecting women. Which is why I had a tough time stomaching the way she let Wick treated her. She was a strong, independent woman who – unfortunately – fell victim to what she thought was love. Her strained interactions with Darcy were comical at best. Expect the usual, “I want to marry you despite your family being poor and screwed up” hi-jinx.

Speaking of Liz’s family, well, Lydia created a different problem for the Bennett matriarch. One involving an elopement with a transgender – which, in this day and age shouldn’t really matter. But because Mrs Bennett is the worst kind of bigot in this interpretation, dramatics ensued. Mary is as studious as ever with opinions of her own. Suspected of being a lesbian didn’t sit well with Mrs Bennett. She seems to disappear time and time again and they didn’t know where she was going. That is until Kitty tracked her down and exposed her secrets.

Then we come to Jane and Bingley –  which really is where I should’ve started with this review because the title of the book references a reality tv show (ala, The Bachelor) where Bingley was first discovered. He’s a doctor looking for forever. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pick one woman so at the kiss-awarding ceremony, he broke down and cried. Cried like a baby because he didn’t want either of the women left. So yeah. He’s rich, he’s a doctor. Looking for love and found one in Ohio, no less. Until his meddling sister, Caroline Bingley interfered.

I’m sorry that this review is going a bit longer than I’d like. But I have so much to say about this book. Overall, it’s a great retelling. It was funny. It was important. It subtly discussed some of the social issues relevant to the on-going problems facing the U.S. right now. I also love how intensely conservative ma and pa Bennett were while the kids are considerably liberal-minded. It’s a delight to see Ms. Sittenfeld update a most beloved classic –  to see how the Bennetts would fare in today’s society even if it’s just a supposition.

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