Taking Charge of Your Own Narrative

Ok technically inspired by Austen – Jane gets the Fanny Price type character allocated to her and she’s not having it, so she takes charge of her own narrative.

Austenland is an adapted screenplay (no controversary unlike Barbie) from the book of the same name by Shannon Hale. Where the movie mocks Austenites, in the novel Jane isn’t even one of their number; her Aunt sends her on holiday. The book is infinitely better (and there’s a sequel) though the movie does have some redeeming features – just look at that cast!

In the book Jane is pushed into her adventure my her Aunt, in the movie she sends herself, but her decision to take control is due to the way she is treated as the “poor” character. So it’s the other characters that make her do it.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a “Read With Me” session

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Captain Wentworth caused Louisa’s accident…?

Controversial opinion but stay with me.

..yours is the character of decision and firmness… It is the worst evil of too yielding and indecisive a character, that no influence over it can be depended on… Let those who would be happy be firm… My first wish for all whom I am interested in, is that they should be firm. If Louisa Musgrove would be beautiful and happy in her November of life, she will cherish all her present powers of mind.”

Jane Austen, Persuasion C10

Captain Wentworth is still angry with Anne, so much so that he teaches Louisa to be “obstinate,” with disastrous results. He thinks Anne was too persuadable in ending their engagement but when he describes his ideal woman (“a strong mind, with sweetness of manner”) she is “not out of his thoughts” yet he is unaware that he is describing her.

The reader can trace a direct line from the conversation between Captain Wentworth and Louise in the Hedgerow, his jumping her down stiles to his jumping her down the stairs at Lyme. The visit itself comes about because Louisa “armed with the idea of merit in maintaining her own way” wears down her parents. She’s a young woman, excited at the dashing Captain’s attention, his unthinking words and actions encouraged her to her accident.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

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Book Review: What Would Jane Austen Do?

Review of the novel by By Linda Corbett

Of course I was going to pick up this book, it’s a phrase very close to my heart. (Have I mentioned my whole “Jane Austen as Life Coach” thing?) Despite the few things I point out that could have been better it was an excellent read and hard to stop thinking about till I finished it. A charming Austen / cosy /chick lit read.

Maddy has the coolest job ever, but like most in Romancelandia not necessarily one you could actually make a living from, she’s an agony aunt in the persona of Jane Austen. After a firing she never investigates (hello employment laws?) she takes an unexpected opportunity to move to the country when she inherits her long-lost-black-sheep-second-cousin’s house. As all small places in books have, quirky characters abound. There’s a Mr Darcy author character, he and his dog end up “lodging” with Maddy.

There’s a romance but all sex is off page, there’s a Wickham character but he doesn’t pack much punch, there’s a mystery but it doesn’t get fully resolved. Why her cousin was ostracised is never explained and his redemption wasn’t much of one either. This could have been explored further. It would have been lovely for her to work out why her cousin chose her to inherit, why he chose never to contact the family (which could have been explained if his reasons for leaving had). Honestly, I assumed he was gay and either he excommunicated himself knowing his parents would disapprove, or they kicked him out.

It’s unfortunate that the cover and even the blurb don’t entirely match the inside of the book, though not an unheard of occurrence in publishing, still disappointing. Equally disappointing is the main character apparently being a journalist but not understanding basic journalistic principles.

Also there were bodies found during a building project? Who cares if they’re ancient! Tell us everything!!

Lady Susan is a nightmare, dressed like a daydream

There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.”

Jane Austen, Lady Susan

Lady Susan is a character we love to hate but you can’t fault her logic. There is pleasure in making those who dislike us admire, respect or at least acknowledge you’re better than them at something. True, not many of us do it quite so intentionally or maliciously as she does.

I have seen this dangerous creature… She is really excessively pretty… I have seldom seen so lovely a woman as Lady Susan. She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark eyelashes; and from her appearance one would not suppose her more than five and twenty, though she must in fact be ten years older. I was certainly not disposed to admire her, though always hearing she was beautiful; but I cannot help feeling that she possesses an uncommon union of symmetry, brilliancy, and grace. Her address to me was so gentle, frank, and even affectionate, that, if I had not known how much she has always disliked me… and that we had never met before, I should have imagined her an attached friend.

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, Letter 6

Lady Susan runs on the philosophy of keep your friends close and your enemies closer, so long as they’re of use to you. The Vernon’s can currently give her a home so they make that list.

Pippa pointed out that it sounds like Mrs Vernon is discovering her same sex attraction. It’s surprising Amme didn’t also mention it when we discussed Letter 6 especially as she pointed out Catherine’s attraction to Isabella. (Extended versions of Pippa and Amme’s Lady Susan episodes are available on Ko-Fi.) It’s a good point, Mrs Vernon gives a lengthy and detailed description – I even cut a few bits.

Underneath her beauty and charm (daydream) is a callous, manipulative, revengeful centre (nightmare). She’s probably studied her Shakespeare (actually she would make a great Lady Macbeth).

Look Like Th’ Innocent Flower, But Be The Serpent Under ‘T”

Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 1, Scene 5

Blank Space is a tongue in cheek response to the media’s portrayal of Taylor Swift as an unstable man eater. Many of the lyrics could be about Lady Susan; she views love as a game, everyone’s heard rumours about her, she’s excellent at appearing to be someone’s ideal and is well aware she’ll leave the men behind her scarred.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

And then there’s Miss Crawford….

Note how often Miss Crawford appears in shades of red in this adaptation. I think it’s only when she turns up thinking Tom is dying that she’s wearing a different colour – black, appropriately.

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Austenism: Novels are good

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, C 14

Austenism: Life Advice From Jane Austen

This might be more of an observation than advice per se, but we can extrapolate some useful advice from it.

To be fair some people don’t possess the ability to create images in their mind so reading isn’t as enjoyable for them, but that’s the important point. Reading. Should. Be Fun.

Austen would probably laugh how her books are seen as Classic Literature and some consider them High Brow. She wasn’t writing for the elite or the academics. Her first audience was her family and famously an elderly hard on her luck neighbour, Miss Benn, who had no idea the author of Pride and Prejudice was reading her the novel.

Austen may be trying to say several things here:

  1. Don’t gatekeep
  2. Don’t yuck other people’s yum
  3. Associate with people who share similar values

1. Don’t Gatekeep

Fandoms are well known for trying to keep all but the purists out. Austen is literally for everyone btw, she’s well out of copyright. It might be difficult to hear someone say they love Austen when they’ve only seen the movies, let them. Austen is not only for people who can quote pieces of her novels or discuss intimate aspects of characters as if they’re real people (both of which I can do). If you don’t allow anyone in, how else will new people find something that brings you so much joy?

2. Don’t Yuck Other People’s Yum

Let’s be fair this is exactly what John Thorpe is doing. He thinks he’s superior to Catherine and must “neg” her as a flirting tactic. Catherine likes gothic novels, good for her! In a couple of chapters she’ll admit this with shame to Henry who accepts it. If she’d gone around believing what John Thorpe said (which we never should) she would have been miserable and hiding her delight. Allow people to like what they like, it’s not hurting you.

3. Associate With People Who Share Similar Values

If books are important to you, hang out with others who feel the same…just not those judgy ones who think everything has to be “literature” and turn their nose up at some good smut. Unless, of course, you’re one of them, in which case – find your people! (I’m not one of them)

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Emma never leaves well enough alone

Emma’s advice to Harriet may not be wrong, however, it doesn’t take into account the power differentials i.e. that Harriet worships her. Nor does it account for the fact that Emma has other motives, in the form of Mr Elton who she thinks is a more appropriate match for Harriet.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a read with me session

Audio and Video from Emma 2009

Audio from Me by Taylor Swift

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Mr Darcy had a speech, but ended up speechless

(as did Lizzy, briefly)

Video from BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice
Audio from Champagne Problems by Taylor Swift

Mr Darcy had a whole speech when he proposed to Lizzy (it’s related in the book rather than word for word, I think so the reader doesn’t hate him), she was initially speechless and her response made him speechless. How could a woman not like him? They were always chasing him, just look at Miss Bingley. Hadn’t he and Lizzy been flirting this whole time? Had he misinterpreted the whole thing?

Because of the manner of his proposal for a while love does “slip beyond (his) reaches.”

Problems, when compared to issues of poverty, natural disasters, and war, are not that big of a deal.”

Urban Dictionary, Champagne Problems

Champagne Problems is an appropriate title for Darcy too – he’s a rich guy who’s had things relatively easy (let’s ignore parents dying early and his sister being induced into an elopement….he doesn’t have to worry about his future like Lizzy, or deal with her embarrassing family, or be a female at any time on this planet).

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me one-on-one you can book a Read With Me session.

And Lady Catherine…

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Austenism: Wear Clothes For You

Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, C 10

Austenism: Live Advice from Jane Austen

Amme gives great advice: “Don’t buy the new dress, he won’t notice.” Austen points out women won’t like you if you’re dressed nicer than them…I’d like to add that it may give you a sense of confidence though.

I don’t dress for women
I don’t dress for men
Lately I’ve been dressing for revenge”

Taylor Swift, Vigilante Shit

Dressing for revenge feels to me like dressing from a place of power. Sometimes you put your big girl pants on or your armour, whatever you need to make it through whatever you’re going through.

You might like to try Dopamine Dressing; choosing your clothes (colour, pattern, feel, fit) to give you a boost.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Mr Darcy Parting the Red Sea

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C3

Though it’s unlikely the Netherfield party literally parted the dancing at the Meryton Assembly, like they showed in the 2005 movie, they did cause quite a stir. The difference between the two gentlemen is stark; Mr Bingley is lively and friendly whereas Mr Darcy is reserved. The reason for this becomes apparent when Bingley suggests that Darcy dance.

You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner… Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C3

Darcy finds dancing uncomfortable with people he doesn’t know well, the two women he does know are dancing with other people. He admits to Lizzy later he’s not good with new people and points out that he and Lizzy are similar; he is private because he’s anxious but she doesn’t share all of herself either.

I certainly have not the talent which some people possess… of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C31

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Catherine Morland doesn’t part the crowd…

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Mr Wickham Knows Places to Hide

Do you suppose them to be in London?”

“Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C48

Wickham has somehow managed to charm Mrs Younge to not only help him seduce Miss Darcy in the past but also hide himself and Lydia. Darcy pursues them and because he had “something to direct his search,” unlike Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner, he was able to bribe Mrs Younge to give up the “wished-for direction” of the elopers.

Mr Wickham knows places to hide to avoid his debts – shopping, gambling, matters of the heart.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Mr Crawford, another seducer, also knows places to hide…

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