Sunday, June 27, 2010

Emma - Jane Austen

"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." So says Mr.Knightley to Emma. If anyone were to ask me, I would say that this one line more than equals Mr. Darcy's impassioned proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. Yet, Emma is different from Pride and Prejudice in that, the protagonist comes in for a lot more censure than Lizzy Bennet ever did. Nor is Mr.Knightley's love so full of struggle like Mr.Darcy's. He too loves with a constancy, but with a touch of the benefactor, the concern of a father, the wisdom of a brother. Here, though, I must stop: this after all is not a comparison between these two superior creations of Ms.Austen, and I am rambling.

In the very first chapter, the diametrically opposite characters of Emma Woodhouse and her father Mr.Woodhouse are thrown into sharp relief. After many years with the family, first as Emma's governess and then as her companion, the family's beloved Miss Taylor marries! Emma, although regretting the loss of a companion that she has grown to love, rejoices in the fact that (according to herself) she has brought about the match between Miss Taylor and Mr.Weston. Her father on the other hand, a man who hates to leave his own fireside for anything, hates change of any sort and lives in the state of most pitiable agitation over the health of simply everyone he knows cannot find any comfort in Miss Taylor marrying and going away. Into this glum cheerless of an evening in the first chapter, Mr.Knightley infuses much good sense, warmth and cheer by taking a cheerful view of things. I have always felt that Ms.Austen has done a brilliant job in introducing all three characters at the outset. These three have much to do with each other, and once you have become acquainted with them, it is fun to sit back and enjoy their interactions as the story progresses. Emma, young, rich, beautiful, clever and slightly spoilt loves a project and her favourites are usually of the matchmaking variety. With this in mind, she takes under her wing a certain Harriet Smith, a girl that boards at Mrs.Goddard's. Harriet although beautiful, is a timid shy girl of seventeen, the daughter of "nobody", her parentage is unknown and she has neither money nor prospects. Emma's aim is to get her married favourably and establish her forever in good society. What follows is a series of sometimes comic, sometimes distressing errors involving a certain Mr.Martin (a respectable, though "poor" farmer and therefore deemed not "good enough" for Harriet) a Mr.Elton (who ends up proposing to Emma instead), a certain Frank Churchill (whom does he really like? Emma? Harriet? Or is there a third girl?) and incredibly Mr.Knightley himself! What really happens? Whom does Harriet finally end up with? And what about Emma, in her folly about rank and aristocracy does she get to know her own heart before it is too late?

This book is for and about only Emma Woodhouse. Many faults she may have, yet, you can't help loving her. Emma has none of the tempestuousness of Pride and Prejudice. It is gentler, it lets us examine the events in Emma's life at a leisurely pace and in its very portrayal of the protagonist as one for whom rank and birth are important, exposes the folly of such thoughts. Mr.Knightley provides the perfect foil for Emma Woodhouse and this is where the book scores.

Visit Highbury and Hartfield, get drawn into all the joys, sorrows, petty fights, the good people and the bad. Jane Austen is at her sparkling best and she absolutely does not disappoint.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Award - Premio Dardos

Thanks to Kate from Kate's Library for this lovely award! According to Kate's blog, "The Premio Dardos is a way to acknowledge the importance of bloggers committed to spreading cultural, ethical, literary and personal values, showing their letters and words."
I am passing this award to:
1. Kals
2. Whitney
3. Hannah
4. Shweta
5. Kate (back to you!)
6. Life Wordsmith

Thanks a lot for this lovely award Kate! I really appreciate it :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." These lines, which stand for everything Mrs.Bennet believes in, nay, depends upon, set the tone superbly for what is one of those most beloved novels of the English language. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was fourteen and I have re-read it many times since but was always hesitant of posting anything about it on my blog: there was this fear that I might not do justice enough. Jane in June hosted by Misty at Book Rat has given me the perfect impetus to reading this book again and plucking up the courage to write about it. So, this post is in homage to a most beloved book and a most beloved author.

From the very first line Ms.Austen leaves us with no doubts as to the plot of the book. Indolent Mr.Bennet Esq. of Longbourne Estate has a wife and five daughters. Mrs.Bennet is of poor understanding and restraint and the daughters display varying degrees of foolishness. Of this the elder two Ms. Bennets Jane and Elizabeth are an exemption: they are young ladies in whom sense and delicacy of mind are combined. The purpose of Mrs.Bennet's life is to get all her five daughters married. Into their little society in Hertfordshire comes Mr.Bingley (who is intended for Jane by Mrs.Bennet) with five thousand a year and rents the neighbouring estate of Netherfield. With Mr.Bingley's party there comes to Hertfordshire Mr.Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire, with ten thousand a year. Mr.Darcy though rich and dignified is thought to be arrogant and haughty. It is with him that our protagonist Elizabeth is soon caught in a sparring of words, manners and feelings that has made this novel one of the greatest in the English language.

Pride and Prejudice is on of those books that you can go to again and again and may never tire. Ms. Austen creates such a vivid and fantastic world, such unforgettable characters be it the protagonists or the dastardly Mr.Wickham or that perennially foolish man, Mr.Collins. Pride and Prejudice is gloriously indulgent, sharp as a razor and makes such a mockery of the aristocracy of Regency England. Mr.Darcy is all that one might hate only to desperately love later on. It is amazing, the kind of staying power with which Jane Austen has written Lizzy Bennet's character; even at those times when she is wrong, when she lets pride over power her, there is absolutely no resisting the magnetic force that she has and you are simply swept along on a tidal wave: you are Lizzy. So with Lizzy, you hate Mr.Darcy, hold him in the utmost contempt and then with Lizzy, you start admiring him, fall heads over heels in love with Pemberley and with him. One of Ms.Austen's greatest strengths is that she did not try to create characters that are above reproach. Her's are gloriously human and you love Lizzy and Darcy all the more for their owning of their faults and their attempts to remedy them. So, the question is, who has the pride and who has the prejudice? Or do they contain both in equal and confusing measures? Whichever the case maybe, Lizzy Bennet and Mr.Darcy will always remain one of the most powerful couples that grace the pages of any book for all time and Pride and Prejudice, a book that can never be read or loved too much. One thing though, I shall envy Lizzy Bennet Darcy on the strength of Pemberley alone all my life. Sigh!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

This book was lying in an obscure corner of a shelf containing among other books a collection of plays by Sophocles. "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict" seemed to beam up at me in its curly reds begging me to pick it up.

Courtney Stone, present day LA city girl wakes up one fine day in Regency England or more clearly Jane Austen's England in the body of Jane Mansfield and Courtney is instantly thrown headlong into the life of the gentry circa 1813. Jane Mansfield, thirty years old and in grave danger of going permanently "on the shelf" has an icy, over-bearing mother Mrs. M who is hell bent on getting her married to Charles Edgeworth, a wealthy widower who has just moved into the neighborhood. Into this life, Courtney finds herself involuntarily thrust into and she must learn the ways of a lady in Regency England or pay the price of being declared insane and committed to an asylum as Mrs. M threatens her. How does Courtney cope with Jane's life and Charles's attentions? Is Charles really as honorable as he seems? Like the book's synopsis says, is he Darcy, Wickham or a merely confusing distraction? Courtney finds herself in a dilemma, having left behind in her real life a cheating fiance that she has just dumped and her best friend Wes who has betrayed her by covering up for the cheating fiance. How does Courtney deal with Jane's life when her own is in increasing disorder? And more importantly where is the real Jane? Courtney desperately wants to get back to her old life but as she navigates 1813 England in the body of Jane Mansfield, she must ask herself, does she even want to? Fortunately or unfortunately, the destinies of Courtney and Jane seem connected and one has to fulfill it for the other.

I enjoyed Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict but in spite of it being a fun page turner, it didn't sit as well with me as I hoped it would. There were too many loose ends and the romance between Jane and Charles seemed too circumspect and just did not strike a chord with me. Whatever happened to James, the servant in Jane's house with whom Jane seems to have shared a strong albeit fleeting passion? I found the chemistry between Jane and James electric but there was hardly anything between Jane and Charles except about how she keeps extolling about his good looks. Also, I felt there was too much of retrospection and introspection on why Courtney was stuck in Jane's body. The references to Austen's England, Courtney's sarcasm on the out-dated anti-feminist world she finds herself in, the slapstick humor and the laugh-out-loud references to plumbing and personal hygiene in Regency England left me enjoying immensely, but for all that, I found the book somewhat lacking. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is not wanting in wit or humor but what it perhaps lacks is that X-factor. Nevertheless, it was a highly enjoyable read and I am hoping I get some satisfactory answers in the sequel which I will definitely be reading! Jane Austen enthusiasts will lap this one up.

You can read a wonderful review on this book at Kals's blog At Pemberley

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Love Letters - Katie Fforde

Laura Horsely lives a contented if drab life and would rather read a good book than do anything else. I could understand that about Laura; while I am nowhere near as people shy as Laura is, I frequently have moments when I happily forego the company of anyone in favour of a good book. Laura's life is an ordered one and she prefers to keep it that way, but she is thrown for a loop when Henry, the owner of the bookstore where she works decides to close. What will Laura do for a living? Enter Eleanora, super-agent and a giant of the literary world whom Laura meets at a book lauch at the store. Eleanora is taken with Laura and her vast knowledge of books and ropes her in as a volunteer for a literary festival hosted by her niece, deep in the English country side. Laura arrives there with bag, baggage and trepedition only to find herself among people who will become fast friends and with whom she feels terrific kinship. But Laura's ordered life is about to disrupted by Dermot Flynn, considered to be the greatest living Irish author (and Laura's favourite) who is as prickly and eccentric as they come. Laura is charged with the responsibility of hot-footing it to Ireland and bringing him to the festival: Dermot Flynn who has has had the worst case of writer's block for previous fifteen years, who has barricaded himself up in his village ready to bite anyone who dares to draw him out and Dermot Flynn who looks devilishly handsome. And when Dermot sees Laura, he is hell bent on having her. What does Laura do? Especially when she herself has an almighty crush on him?

Katie Fforde's Love Letters has everything I look for in a good chick lit. and I loved this book for many reasons: it was first and foremost about books and I enjoyed the bits about the literary festival immensely and descriptions of the Irish country side, I devoured because I have longed to go to Ireland for years now. I loved how Laura went from shy and colourless to fun and full of life and Dermot Flynn, well, hottie extraordinaire! I loved how Eleanora describes him: "When I saw him for the first time I thought, Darcy eat your heart out!" Dermot proved to be the perfect foil for Laura and theirs is a romance I had a riot reading about and so will you. Katie Fforde's Love Letters could be the perfect pick-me-up on a bad day, a book to while away your time with when you are bored, or simply just because.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jane in June

Thanks a bunch to Whitney on whose blog I came across this event/challenge:

Misty at Book Rat is hosting the Jane in June event where you watch/read all things Jane. She is without a doubt my favourite author (except for the little matter of Little Women and one Louisa May Alcott) so this is the first ever event I am joining! For the next thirty days I am going to forget my TBR pile, Nora Roberts and re-read all of Austen's books!

I thought I would read them in the order of my preference:

1. Pride and Prejudice
2. Emma
3. Persuasion
4. Sense and Sensibility
5. Mansfield Park
6. Northanger Abbey

As to whether I would do anything else, I am undecided though I would love to work schedule permitting. So, let's see..

Happy reading to me! Thanks a bunch Whitney and Misty :-)