Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lost in Austen

I just realized that I might be one of "those" women... ummm... the ones who get just a little lost in Jane Austen books. I've read most of them (a few times), and seen various versions of the movies, but my favorite is Pride and Prejudice. It's nice to know that I'm part of club.

It's not just the romance of Mr. Darcy (and Colin Firth), but the female leads are about as "kick-butt princess" as you can get in these kinds of books. I really love a character I can relate to who suddenly realizes - Prince Charming is NOT coming - and she needs to rescue herself from the tower. And THEN she finds true love. Feminism is all well and good, but I still want a happy ending.

My love of Austen has been spreading to other books and movies that are based on Austen or the characters' love of Austen. Just as Clueless did such a wonderful job of updating Emma, Bride and Prejudice is like a bizarre, Bollywood marriage between Grease and Pride and Prejudice. If you need a dose of "life-affirming-goodness" watch that movie.

One of my favorites is Lost in Austen. Modern girl Amanda is so disillusioned with her current life and obsessed with Mr. Darcy, that she hides in her apartment and rereads Austen, rather than accept a proposal from her boyfriend. One night, hearing noises coming from her bathroom, she discovers the character Lizzy has stepped through a door from her world to Amanda's. When Amanda steps through to Lizzy's world, Lizzy slams the door, trapping her there. Amanda makes a real mess of the "story"... it is hysterically funny and also rather painful to watch. But the best part is seeing the story from behind-the-scenes. Not all the characters are really the way Austen wrote them!

I've always appreciated the movie versions of the books because I find it really hard to picture the time periods and understand the social customs and dress without the visuals. These modern interpretations are even better since characters like Amanda, are just as confused as we are. When they are actually IN the story, they have to help us understand as they learn too.

I recently read Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale and, yesterday, I finished the sequel, Midnight in Austenland. These books were a lot of fun to read - again, the modern character has screwed up her life (or so she believes) and gets to time travel to Austen's world. In this case, it is actually a mostly-authentic resort in England with actors playing the male characters and love interests. Just as Austen's women start with all kinds of misconceptions about their own worth and family value, these modern women discover their true characters through their fantasy personas. (It sounds more complicated than it is...)

I had seen reviews of the second book that were not very favorable - saying it was annoying to have the character talking and arguing with herself. I actually enjoyed that as I find I do that too. (blush) Although this is the same resort - Austenland - the main character is different and there is a really good mystery too. The main character, Charlotte, doesn't come to Austen's world looking for love, she's looking for life. She's gone through a messy divorce and her ex and his girlfriend-now-wife are watching the teenage kids while Charlotte is on vacation. She has learned to shut down her emotions and can't feel anything anymore. I could really relate to a lot of the mental struggles that Charlotte goes through! And near the end, even more satisfying than any love outcome is a scene where she confronts her ex on the phone. She lets him know exactly how she feels about him, his girlfriend, and the way he is treating the kids. Kind of made me want to write down the script, if you know what I mean...

While looking up links for this post on Amazon, I just discovered that there is a movie version of the first book, Austenland! Now I have incentive to get up in the studio and get some work done... if I can finish some of my list, tonight, I will pop some popcorn and watch Austenland with Emmett (the cat)!



  1. It's kind of a crazy movie - fun though. I watched it and then re-read Midnight in Austenland and thought it was even better the 2nd time. Shannon Hale's other books are fun too, if you haven't read them.

    1. It was definitely a silly movie. :-) I'm thinking of re-reading the second book too. I've read all of Shannon Hale's "Princess Academy" books! Those were a real surprise. I was expecting sort of a Harry-Potter of the Princess world - but was blown away by the Quarry-speak and depth of the characters. I'm open to recommendations for other books of hers?

  2. You may also want to check out A Jane Austen Daydream:

  3. sandy - based on what you've already said in this post - you are going to love Austenland. i homeschooled my daughter kali and in the homeschool realm, as well as the speech and debate world we were involved in, Jane Austen is an accepted part of life. i took kali to see Austenland in the theatre - she thought it was going to be a serious movie. it turned out to be great, hilarity! about halfway through she got over being appalled and just enjoyed the movie. you've already read the book (i didn't realize there was one, i'll have to check that out) i loved the over-the-top guest - you'll know her when you see her. have fun watching with Emmett, you're in for a treat!

    1. It was really fun - but the books are even better. They are still funny, but the fact that everyone actually takes the whole experience so seriously makes a lot more sense than the spoofing that happens in the movie. I agree - Miss Charming is great! But again, her character in the book is even better!! And she is in both of the books.

  4. Bride and Prejudice was my 'gateway drug, um film' to my Bollywood addiction. Beware! (And if you fall... I have a few films I could lend.

  5. These sound great!! I love the movie Emma with Gweneth Paltrow as well. And of course, Clueless. Have you read the mystery series by Stephanie Baron from the mid-nineties written from Jane Austen's perspective? The first one is Jane and The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manner. I've read a bunch of them and I love them. Stephanie Baron wrote them as unearthed long-lost journals of Jane Austen's found in the cellar of a Georgian manor. They are really fun.


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