Mrs Elton: The wedding was charming, if a little gauche

The final paragraph of Emma is devoted to a poke at Mrs Elton. Not only is she not invited to the wedding (not a “true friend”) she entirely misses the point that the couples happiness is more important than “finery or parade.”

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own.—“Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business!—Selina would stare when she heard of it.”—But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.”

Jane Austen, Emma, C55

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

Video and Audio from Emma 1996

Audio from The Last Great American Dynasty by Taylor Swift

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The Bingley Sisters Didn’t Come to Make Friends

They were, in fact, very fine ladies; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome; had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town; had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds; were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were, therefore, in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of others.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice C4

Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst burst onto the Meryton scene believing themselves to be above everyone. They conveniently forget their fortune was made in trade but are “anxious for (their brother to have) an estate of his own” to legitimise their wealth and status. Because they have more money than the Bennet’s, they consider themselves superior, even though the Bennet’s are landed gentry … however the behaviour of Mrs B and the younger daughters does give reason for pause.

They did not come to make friends. They came to legitimise their standing, to live off their brother and, in the case of Miss Bingley, scheme for Mr Darcy’s hand (another way of solidifying her position in society). Mrs Hurst is at least useful that her presence (married woman as chaperone) makes it possible for the Bennet sisters to stay overnight at Netherfield.

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

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Miss Bingley to Darcy: You Belong With Me

Anna Chancellor played “Duckface” (aka Henrietta) in Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994 and Miss Bingley in Pride and Prejudice the following year. You almost wouldn’t believe it was the same actress, she looks so different. Austen adaptations tend to be a who’s-who of English actors with familiar faces popping up across adaptations (eg. Sophie Thompson* in Persuasion 1995 and Emma 1996, who was also in Four Weddings) but what I found interesting was the similarity of two shots in these movies.

Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas, with similar vibes to Miss Bingley) comes up behind Charles (Hugh Grant) as he watches Carrie (Andi MacDowell), the character he loves, her head over one shoulder, hand on the other (Miss Bingley would never!). Anna Chancellor as Miss Bingley, appears on Darcy’s opposite shoulder while he’s watching Lizzy Bennet. Both engage the men in conversations about the women they’re watching.

The difference being that Fiona is in love with Charles and tells him so directly as this scene continues. Austen doesn’t indicate Miss Bingley is in love with Darcy; it’s likely she wants to marry him for his money and status. Miss Bingley never makes any kind of declaration to Darcy; it would be unseemly to do so. She does think she is a much more appropriate match for him than Lizzy. There is a shared pain of the person they want to be with, watching and wanting to be with someone else. Ordinarily it might be a stretch to say a modern woman wants to marry a man they love, but marriage is front and centre in Four Weddings, so it’s likely.

Bonus: Anna Chancellor is also distantly related to Austen. It’s a very small world

*Sister of Emma Thompson who adapted Sense and Sensibility and starred as Elinor in the 1995 film

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

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Hybrid Write/Talk sessions now available

Next year I’m starting my coaching training but I’ve been dipping my toes in with some long term writing clients. They’ve loved it so much that I’m publicly offering coaching sessions mixed with writing – hybrid wite/talk.

It could be a more focused writing session, like drafting a CV or cover letter. We could talk through dating or work issues, after “saging your brain” to help figure out the main concern.

Bonus: if you’re into Austen like me we can use the novels as a great tool for our work together.

Now is your chance to get coaching at a discounted price, catered to your needs. More details here.

Pride and Premeditation

The quotes that open this book assured me it was right up my alley – Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. It joins two of my great interests, Austen and murder (in a purely intellectual sense). The release of the latest book in the series reminded me to finally start reading it.

Purists (Austen or period) need not apply but there’s something for everyone else. Pride and Prejudice moves the physical location from rural Hertfordshire to the London legal scene but loosely maintains the era. Lizzie is desperate to work at her fathers legal firm and be appreciated for her brain rather than her reproductive abilities. In her attempts to prove herself she investigates an accused murderer, Mr Bingley, and battles his lawyer, Mr Darcy.

There’s underlying commentary on race, class, feminism and unexpectedly, justice. Lizzie Bennet has always been relatable because of her modern sensibilities and the new context allows her to shine. Tirzah isn’t restricted by Austen’s characters, interpreting them in new and insightful ways.

The ending is a satisfying rush to revelation but threads remain for future books to explore. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Bag A Boyfriend

My latest release

Imagine the tackiest dating show; everything is sponsored – even some of the contestants. Instead of a rose each week the bachelor replacement gives out handbags, hence the name Bag a Boyfriend.

Sound terrible? Wait, it gets worse.

The “boyfriend” is so unsure of himself they’ve given him an earpiece to tell him how to act. Each of the contestants is a type: funny, bitchy, beautiful, smart, serious and a party girl.

And the whole thing is compressed into one week of filming.

Add to that you didn’t want to be there in the first place; your mother is literally Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Sound like your kinda book? Check it out

Book Review: The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi

The Bennet Women is set in an American university residence hall amongst a diverse cast of women – Black, Asian and Trans. One of the lovely things about this representation is that these identities do not define the characters. Nor are their experiences used to traumatise the character or reader – we are all aware who they are, it’s constantly in the back of their minds. There is a very satisfying scene where EJ (Lizzy) clearly articulates exactly what life is like as a female engineering student; she views this speech as a failure but I wanted to applaud.

Adaptations, fanfiction “based on” and “inspired by” stories give us an opportunity to wonder “what if?” What if Lizzy was a black woman? How would this identity influence her life, her character, her actions? It’s a delight to revisit characters and plot points with the authors new twist. Lady Catherine seemed to be absent, I only recognised her when she confronts EJ.

A lot of the conflict from Pride and Prejudice is avoided and I like that. I’m not a fan of conflict. The characters actually communicate, they go to therapy, they assess situations maturely (most of the time). It’s a relief to escape the boring trope of characters not being able to be together because “reasons.” This awareness means that Wickham’s grooming young vulnerable women goes from sub text to text, these women are equipped to recognise a predator.

Two plot points were left to drift. EJ and her family don’t deal with the borderline eating disorder she had when she was younger, it’s mentioned then brushed off. They do deal with other reasons she gave up dancing which was a wretch to her younger self. EJ and Will (Darcy) agree to take down Jordan (Wickham) but never follow through, he does get his comeuppance but we don’t get to witness it. The ending drags a little but is necessary to tie up other loose ends. But it must be pointed out that everyone knows Dr Who is not filmed in London (read the book to find out why that’s relevant).

Huia Short Stories 14

This year I entered the Pikihuia short story awards jointly run by Huia Publishers and the Māori Literature Trust. I got long listed and included in the above book which is my first foray into traditional publishing. If you’d like more details, including a list of other authors, go here.

Book review: Help me! By Marianne Power

Subtitle: One woman’s quest to find out if self-help really can change her life

A friend recommended this book because I’m interested in personal development and I’m glad that she did. A certain part of me felt smug reading this, compared to Marianne I had my life together. But like Marianne I had to work to get there.  Perhaps I don’t push myself out of my comfort zone often enough but sometimes every day things will scare me and I keep going.

Marianne planned to read one self-help book a month, for a year. But life got in the way, momentum was hard to maintain, and it stretched out to 16 months. She did read those 12 books with varying degrees of success. She would seem to find what she was looking for in one book then lose it when she turned to the next. I think to make these really successful you need to stick to the philosophy of one book or idea instead of trying several potentially conflicting ones.

She narrowly misses reading a book I read and loved; Get Rich, Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield Thomas. – I’ve even done the online course that’s attached to it. Come to think of it, I’ve done an online course on dating too, perhaps online courses are my self-hep books.  – I think she could have really got into Denise’s work which is all about having earning good money while living a good life rooted in self love.

Some of Marianne’s experiences are universal, like that crazy voice in your head and trying so hard to make things better that you just make them worse. She had some great epiphanies as her year(ish) progressed including that “we think we want to change but we don’t really…it’s too scary” alongside worries she was a “spoilt brat” and the whole thing was “self-indulgent nonsense.” Perhaps the most relatable moment was when she ran into someone more enlightened and she “couldn’t tell if (she) wanted to punch her or be her.” Marianne also discovered therapy, something I think everyone should do, and her therapist pointed out that all the self-help books in the world won’t help as you’re still reading them from the same brain.

At the core of this book is a real person. Brenè Brown talks about the importance of vulnerability and writing this book was an act of vulnerability. I’m so invested in her life now, I want to know how she is, is she doing ok? (You can find out on her website)

Book Review: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney

I was lent this book by a fellow romance writer from the Wellington-Kapiti branch of Romance Writers of New Zealand (thanks Lisa!).

Who wants an up close and personal experience with Jane Austen? Me, says every Austen fan ever. This book will give you that promised experience. You’ll get to see how Jane thought, how she felt, what her daily life was like, and then, what she thinks of her popularity and the advancements in technology since her time.

This novel takes some liberties with Jane Austen’s life, but hey, it’s fiction. In fact, it’s fantasy. Time travel isn’t real people, no matter how much we wish it were. While it’s true that Mrs Austen and Jane didn’t necessarily get along all the time, there is no evidence to suggest that her mother was ever outright opposed to Jane’s writing career as she is cast here.

After a disastrous incident with a potential suitor, and a nasty gossip, Jane takes a chance and discovers a path to find her one true love which lands her in modern Bath. Here her fate is linked to that of former Hollywood darling, Sophia Wentworth (sound familiar?), who is in Bath shooting an Austen adaptation. She at first thinks Jane’s appearance is a prank pulled on her by the show for interesting behind the scenes footage.

Sophia and Jane’s stories are wound together, showing the difficulties of love and being an independent woman in any timeline. As Jane’s views widen, her life in the past begins to disappear, creating ripples into her future timeline. In the end it comes down to what is more important – her love or her art?

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