Giveaway: Jane Austen Puzzle & Candle #AutsenInAugustRBR

Hail, Janeites!

Congratulations to the winners of our Austen In August giveaways thus far (Laurie, who won the Jane Austen Lego & Joel, who won the Northanger Abbey Soapworks gift card!)

Today, I’m offering another giveaway, this time for a Jane Austen puzzle and a delicious Austen candle. Doesn’t that sound like an atmospheric evening!?

Pardon the blurriness!

All you have to do to be considered is:

  • be a subscriber of Roof Beam Reader (email or WordPress); and
  • leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win; and
  • make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win (email, social media handle, etc.).

Remember, as you’re reading through Austen in August and sharing any Austen-related content, please post links to your blogs or social media posts about the event in the comments on our master post. Use the #AustenInAugustRBR hashtag to share on social media.

Note: This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM pacific time on Monday, September 5th. One winner will be selected at random. Winner will be contacted for shipping information and will have 48-hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Giveaway host will ship item to the winner. Roof Beam Reader (me!) is not responsible for any items lost or damaged in the mail.

Throwback: Year 2 #AustenInAugustRBR

As part of this tenth anniversary year, I’ll be sharing some favorite posts from previous Austen in August events. I hope you enjoy discovering or re-discovering these Austen explorations!

Caro is a 20-something Lit student with a tendency to ignore the world in favor of books and coffee, prone to having far too many projects going on at once, and destined to become a drunken cat lady. She writes TV recaps at NoWhiteNoise.


Jane Austen & the Subversion of Sexist Tropes

We live, for the most part, in a largely patriarchal society – so it’s not surprising to find that many storytelling tropes ooze sexism. A conversation I had with an extremely intelligent, articulate and socially aware friend re: this sort of trope and its subversions got me thinking – what sexist tropes did Jane Austen deconstruct and subvert in her novels?

Entitled to Have You and Nice Guy™

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The Entitled to Have You trope presents a man who, because of whatever reason, feels entitled to a woman. If she rejects him, the man in question will usually show remarkably selective hearing and interpret her “no” as a “maybe” and keep harassing her with invitations, convinced that his relentlessness will eventually pay off. And the worst part is that, in most cases, it does.

Austen presents this trope in Pride and Prejudice, through the one and only Mr. Collins. Elizabeth very clearly tells him that, while she’s flattered by his interest, she doesn’t feel the same way. Instead of taking it at face value, Mr. Collins assumes that she’s playing hard to get. Now, in many other works of fiction, his perseverance (see harassing) would have paid off and Elizabeth would have eventually ~seen the error of her ways and married him – but not in an Austen novel. No, Mr. Collins isn’t portrayed as sympathetic for his insistence, but rather as pathetic, annoying and incapable of taking a hint.

Another trope, often closely linked to Entitled to Have You, is the Nice Guy™.  John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey is the perfect example of this. Thorpe believes that because he’s such a Nice Guy, he’s entitled to Catherine’s love. When she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, he sulks forevermore and decides that her rejection stems from Catherine not Appreciating Him Like She Should, instead of realizing that hey, the lady has the right to want whoever she decides.

Bad Boy Woobie, or Jerkass Woobie

This is another particularly annoying trope, especially because it’s everywhere lately. Writing the Big Bads as, you know, bad, and still going out of their way to make them sympathetic is something that narrators everywhere do all the time; and after over two decades of being exposed to storytelling, I have no patience for it anymore.

Apparently, neither did Jane Austen. The Jerkass Woobie was not at all woobified. We’re not only not expected to excuse his faults because of his Daddy Issues, but we’re actually encouraged to hold him accountable for his actions, as we would any functional adult. An example of this is Pride and Prejudice’s George Wickham, whose lies, manipulations and tendency to prey on young girls are by no means excused by the trauma of losing his father as a child.

One Special Girl

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This one’s tricky, because at first sight, it doesn’t seem sexist. What’s wrong about portraying a woman as a human being worthy of respect, after all? But scratch a little under the surface and you’ll realize that there are few things as insulting as a normally assholish man suddenly wanting to be ~good and ~different to a woman he perceives as The Paragon of Right Womanhood. This is problematic because it implies that certain women are ~deserving of being treated horribly, unlike the One Special Girl who makes the otherwise horrible guy want to respect her because She’s Not Like The Other Girls. That One Special Girl is usually also a Madonna, never a Whore.

Austen subverts this trope in Sense and Sensibility, through the relationship between Willoughby and Marianne and the fact that he’s not magically redeemed by her love. Being a serial player is part of who Willoughby is, and somebody’s personality is not about to change because The Right Person entered their life. It’s one thing when a person wants to change – but placing the responsibility of somebody’s change on an external party is not the way to go, partly because it’s too much responsibility and partly because it quite simply doesn’t work.


Thanks, Caro, for the excellent guest post on sexist tropes. A lot of food for thought! What do you all think? Have you noticed anything similar in Austen’s works? Can you give other examples, from other texts?

My Own Emma Project (& Giveaway!) #AustenInAugustRBR

Today, we welcome Austen fan Karen from Boys’ Moms Reads, who is here today to talk about her experience with Emma. Read through to the end for a special giveaway from Karen!

My Own Emma Project

Earlier this year, I was assigned to read and review a new retelling of the Jane Austen classic, Emma, scheduled for release in the coming Spring. Having never read Emma and having had only a lukewarm reaction to the adolescent-girl-required Pride and Prejudice, I didn’t know what to expect but still hoped for the best. That book, Kamila Knows Best, was a very pleasurable and vastly entertaining surprise! The story was chic and stylish, youthful, and so culturally NOW. It was so vividly told I was practically watching a movie unfold in my mind. But that’s not all. I now HAD to read the foundational novel. I had to read Emma. However, life and more book assignments got in the way, and I continued to put it off until Austen in August happened my way.

Austen in August, an annual month-long celebration of the author’s works, the brainchild of the three founders of The Classics Club, is in its tenth year. Participants sign up and declare their intention to read and comment on works by, about, or related to Jane Austen. This was just the nudge I needed, apparently.

As tickled as I was by Heron’s Kamila Knows Best, I was even more so by the Audible Studios audiobook edition of Emma, narrated by actress Jenny Agutter. I was delighted by the storyline, and Agutter’s performance made the characters come alive. I never expected to laugh as much as I did, although snicker is probably the more appropriate term in light of what was causing my mirth: some of the most brilliant and deadly dialogue couched in the politest of words and delivery. And, oh, how I got involved in these characters’ lives! So much so that I was already on the lookout for further “Emma” stories.

As with Pride and Prejudice, there is an abundance of Emma-inspired books, such as the 2022 Kamila Knows Best. In my own Kindle content library alone, I had four I had acquired over the years (for FREE.) Still, a quick look-see online showed there are many other titles available to satisfy the need for more Emma-like creations, as well as prepared lists recommending some over others to help narrow down or curate one’s choices. 

Within the multitudes, I found that books seemed to fall into a couple of rough categories: modern retellings, sequels and side character POV novels, series where each book was related to a different one of Austen’s works, and more recently, Austen novels recreated in an Indian cultural setting. I want to share a couple of titles in each category that caught my eye.

MODERN RETELLINGS

Tea with Emma (The Teacup Novellas) by Diane Moody (2013)

Fresh from a Jane Austen tour in England, Maddie Cooper returns home to Texas, determined to bring a touch of “Austen to Austin.” She dreams of opening an authentic English tea room and, like Austen’s Emma, putting into practice her self-proclaimed gift as a matchmaker. But an airport mishap with a cranky Englishman gets her off on the wrong foot (quite literally), especially when he moves into the university guest house across the street.

Wasted Words: Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma by Staci Hart (2016)

Most of her boyfriends have existed between the pages of books, but rather than worrying over her own lacking love life; she puts all her energy into playing Cupid, using her job at the book bar, Wasted Words, as her stomping ground.

SEQUELS OR FROM ANOTHER CHARACTER’S POV

Perfect Happiness: The sequel to Jane Austen’s Emma by Rachel Billington (2021)

Originally published in 2008 under the title “Emma and Knightley: Perfect Happiness in Highbury,” the story picks up one year after the conclusion of Austen’s Emma.

Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen’s Emma by Joan Aiken (1997)

Jane Austen’s Emma has been a favorite novel for Austenites since 1816. But while the story of its heroine Emma Woodhouse is well known, the same can’t be said for her childhood friend, Jane Fairfax. Now, at last, we learn her whole story from Jane Fairfax’s own point of view.

Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation by Alice McVeigh (2022)

Harriet sidelines Emma herself in favor of the ingenious Harriet and the fascinating Jane Fairfax. It is Emma – but an Emma with a surprisingly believable twist in its tail.

SERIES INSPIRED BY AUSTEN CLASSICS 

The Austen Project series (2013-16)

The assignment: take four of the most well-known authors of our time and have them reimagine a Jane Austen classic in current times. The results are Joanna Trollope (Sense and Sensibility, 2013), Val McDermid (Northanger Abbey, 2016), Alexander McCall Smith (Emma: A Modern Retelling, 2015), and Curtis Sittenfeld (Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, 2016). I took notice of this series because of the remarkable number of one and two-star reviews each book had on Goodreads. Although I don’t go looking for trainwrecks, I have to see these for myself.

Jane Austen Takes the South (2013-14)

In 2013, author Mary Jane Hathaway created this series of 3 books set in the south and featuring Civil War reenactors, church ladies, pink lemonade, southern belles, and based on Austen’s works: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. 

Jane Austen Heroes (2005-12)

This nine-book series from Amanda Grange launched in 2005 with Mr. Darcy’s Diary. All feature one of Jane Austen’s leading men. 

RETELLINGS WITH AN INDIAN CULTURAL SETTING

Polite Society by Mahesh Rao (2019)

In this modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s Emma, Delhi’s polite society is often anything but polite.

The Rajes series by Sonali Dev (2019-22)

Currently, a four-book series consisting of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (2019), Recipe for Persuasion (2020), Incense and Sensibility (2021), and The Emma Project (2022), the stories follow the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family in San Francisco.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron (2022)

Jane Austen’s Emma goes Bollywoood in this delightful retelling from the highly acclaimed author of Accidentally Engaged, perfect for Abby Jimenez and Jasmine Guillory fans.

Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a Jane Austen lip balm! (This giveaway open to U.S. residents only)

All you have to do to be considered is:

  • be a subscriber of Roof Beam Reader (email or WordPress); and
  • leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win; and
  • make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win (email, social media handle, etc.).

Remember, as you’re reading through Austen in August and sharing any Austen-related content, please post links to your blogs or social media posts about the event in the comments on our master post. Use the #AustenInAugustRBR hashtag to share on social media.

Note: This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM pacific time on Tuesday, August 30th. One winner will be selected at random. Winner will be contacted for shipping information and will have 48-hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Giveaway host will ship item to the winner. Neither the giveaway host nor Roof Beam Reader are responsible for any items lost or damaged in the mail.

Comparing Pride & Prejudice Adaptations #AustenInAugustRBR

Three Pride and Prejudice Adaptations

by Rachel Kovaciny

I am here today to compare my three favorite filmed adaptations of Pride and Prejudice by the immortal Jane Austen, the ones released in 1940, 1995, and 2005.  I love all three of them, so prepare for some joyful gushing!

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I first saw the 1995 BBC adaptation when I was a college freshman in the late ’90s.  A literature professor was appalled that I hadn’t seen it yet, so she loaned me her personal VHS copy for a whole weekend.  Some friends and I commandeered a dorm lounge and watched it from start to finish.  I liked it, but not enough to buy my own copy, especially since I was a poor college student.

After college, my husband and I lived near his family for a few years.  His younger sisters loved the 1940 version, and they brought it over to show to me when they learned I had never seen it.  Once again, I enjoyed the watch, but I didn’t rush off to find a copy of my own.  Our library had it, so I knew I could get it from there any time I wanted to rewatch it.

A year or two later, I rented the 2005 adaptation from the video store (on DVD, it’s true, but it was still called a video store).  I liked it quite a bit.  Over the next few years, I rewatched the two earlier versions.  And then I rented the 2005 version again.

Do you know what I discovered?

I like all three of them!  In fact, I now own all three on DVD.

A few years later, when I got more into blogging, I discovered that some Jane Austen fans consider it absolute heresy to enjoy specific adaptations.  In fact, opinions run hot and strong on this subject.  Which has always confused me a bit and amused me a lot.  Why should this be an either/or topic?  If I can enjoy three different adaptations of this wonderful book, why do some people seem to resent the idea that any version but their own favorite even exists, much less could be enjoyed?

I’m probably inviting a lot of angry comments by stating that all three of these films have good points.  So be it.  I hope I’m also encouraging people to try out a movie or two they have been told is “bad” or “unacceptable” when I declare that it ain’t necessarily so.  I like encouraging people.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to discuss the portrayals of the main characters and then touch on the aesthetic of each film.  Ready?

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Elizabeth Bennet

Greer Garson plays Elizabeth as an intelligent, sweet-tempered, self-assured young woman.  She dearly loves to laugh, as Jane Austen wrote her.  She flirts archly with both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, and she is highly amused by Mr. Collins.  I think she’s the happiest Lizzy of the three.

Jennifer Ehle plays Elizabeth as a confident, cheerful, witty young woman.  She has a self-contained air, and she definitely gives the impression that she is laughing at people people privately.  As Jane Austen wrote, she can be an obstinate and headstrong girl, indeed.  She strikes me as the most arch Lizzy.

Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth as straight-forward, spirited, and sharp-witted.  She enjoys verbally sparring with those around her, especially anyone who can challenge her.  Just as Jane Austen wrote, her courage rises whenever people try to intimidate her.  I find her the most confident Lizzy.

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Mr. Darcy

Laurence Olivier plays a polished, aristocratic, but aloof Mr. Darcy.  He does not enjoy small talk, he’s tired of being pursued by ambitious young ladies and their mamas, and he has little time for fools.  I find him the most stand-offish Mr. Darcy.

Colin Firth plays Mr. Darcy as confident, often bored, and uncomfortable around strangers.  He knows his own worth, but he’s not fond of attention, especially from those he doesn’t know well.  I find him the most intimidating Mr. Darcy.

Matthew Macfadyen plays a socially awkward, shy, and kind Mr. Darcy.  He would rather stay home with a few people he knows and trusts than go to a social gathering.  I find him the most approachable Mr. Darcy.

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Jane Bennet

Maureen O’Sullivan plays a beautiful, good-hearted, wistful Jane Bennet.  

Susannah Harker plays a very sweet and kind Jane Bennet, but she’s not particularly beautiful, unlike Jane in the book.

Rosamund Pike is a beautiful, self-contained, hopeful Jane Bennet.

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Mr. Bingley

Bruce Lester plays a charming, sweet, open-hearted Mr. Bingley.  He’s quite lovable.

Crispin Bonham-Carter plays a proper, sweet, open-hearted Mr. Bingley.  He’s quite lovable.

Simon Woods plays an enthusiastic, sweet, open-hearted Mr. Bingley.  He’s quite lovable.

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Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

Edmund Gwenn plays Mr. Bennet as mischievous, a little absent-minded, and overall kindly.  Mary Boland flutters and fidgets and exclaims a great deal as Mrs. Bennet.  She’s definitely flighty, but she means well.  Most of the time.

Benjamin Whitrow plays Mr. Bennet as being often irritated by those around him, but nice to a select few.  Alison Steadman plays Mrs. Bennet as quarrelsome, meddlesome, and demanding.  She’s purposeful and can be a bit abrasive.

Donald Sutherland plays Mr. Bennet as sharp-tongued and weary, but almost secretly fond of his wife and daughters.  Brenda Blethyn is a foolish but determined Mrs. Bennet.  Her timing is always terrible and she’s a wretched judge of character, but she is a fierce advocate for her daughters.

Mr. Collins

Melville Cooper plays Mr. Collins as an oblivious dimwit with affectations of grandeur.  He makes me laugh.

David Bamber plays Mr. Collins as an obsequious weirdo with no social skills.  He creeps me out.

Tom Hollander plays Mr. Collins as socially awkward with an inflated sense of his own importance.  I feel sorry for him.

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Mr. Wickham

Edward Ashley’s Mr. Wickham is a frivolous and opportunistic dandy.  I don’t hate him, but I don’t like him, either.

Adrian Lukas’s Mr. Wickham is a creeper with a taste for teenage girls.  I can’t stand him.

Rupert Friend is a suave charmer.  He kind of frightens me with how likeable and yet despicable he is.

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The Aesthetic

The 1940 Pride and Prejudice is a happy, buoyant love story.  The filmmakers deliberately filled it with over-the-top costumes reminiscent of Gone with the Wind because that’s what the audience really wanted in a period drama at that time.  They also gave it a light and upbeat vibe because times were hard in 1940, and people went to the movies to escape the troubles of a long Depression and a growing war in Europe.  This film was made to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, to attract everyone from school children to housewives to downtrodden factory workers.  While modern audiences might find the 1860s costumes gratingly inaccurate, the audience at the time wanted beautiful dresses and fancy hats, and that’s what they got.

The 1995 Pride and Prejudice is a serious and sumptuous bringing to life of a beloved book.  A year earlier, BBC had had a huge success with their adaptation of Middlemarch, and they wanted to please literary audiences again with another lengthy, character-driven adaptation of a classic.  They succeeded beyond all expectations and set off the whirl of Austen Mania that we are still caught up in almost thirty years later.  Casting, writing, costumes, sets, and locations in this adaptation reflect the 1813 world in which the book was published.  But it still has a fairy-tale-like quality that many find very appealing.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice is a vibrant and nuanced film.  Instead of being set in 1813, the filmmakers chose to set it in the 1790s, which is when Jane Austen wrote the first draft.  This has caused many fans of the book to fuss that the costumes are inaccurate, not realizing that this movie is not meant to be set in the Regency era of 1811 to 1820, but slightly before it.  This change lets the film have a distinctly different look for its costumes from the 1995 version.  The film as a whole is drenched with color and light, and it does not shy away from or gloss over the realities of life in eighteenth-century England quite so much as the other two versions.

I love all three of them!  All three bring out different aspects of the characters and the story line, helping me to see and understand Jane Austen’s book in new and different ways.  I find all three of them to be valid and respectful interpretations of the story, each with different focuses and aims and purposes.  

Thanks, Rachel, for this fun comparison!

Mansfield Park #AustenInAugustRBR

Jane Austen is perched on a curious point in the literary timeline, caught somewhat between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both of which influenced her work. She greatly admires Samuel Johnson (as demonstrated by the many Johnson quotes & references that can be found in her various works), and many, if not most, of her works are about a woman attempting to –or somehow finding herself- climbing the social ladder, out of her station and, through marriage, into a higher one. This is largely an influence of eighteenth century works, such as Pamela. Still, there is much of Romanticism and the nineteenth century in her works, as in their preference for intelligence and natural beauty over traditional wealth and caste systems. Austen’s work also dips into the Victorian concerns of sensational-realism, which is where Mansfield Park and its Pragmatism are mostly situated. In its exploration of modernity, shifting family dynamics, city and suburban lifestyles supplanting the country manors, parties, and public scandals, and politics (such as the Slave Trade and aristocratic corruption), Mansfield Park is much wider-reaching and more concerned with society and the world-at-large than her earlier works (whose simplicity and blind-eye caused her to be much maligned).

At the center of the story is Fanny Price, who leaves her parents’ home to live with her aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park. Fanny’s mother, though once beautiful, has been run ragged. She married beneath her and, soon after her marriage, her husband became permanently disabled and a drunk. Fanny, at first, is a black sheep at Mansfield. Although she is kind and mild in temperament, her female cousins tease her mercilessly and her ridiculous Aunt Norris spites her at every occasion. Eventually, through natural charm and beauty, Fanny does manage to win over her hosts, Sir Bertram and Lady Bertram (who is her mother’s sister) and also her cousin, the youngest brother of the family, Edmund.

Unlike Austen’s other works, which are largely episodic (likely because they were originally written or imagined in epistolary form), the style and structure of Mansfield Park is much more aligned with the traditional novel, with lengthy chapters and regular progression of time. Austen manipulates time and chronology in clever and subtle ways, so that the reader is navigated through the story without being given many direct reminders of where she is in the calendar. This is something typically Austen and can be seen in her other novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice; and though a simple thing, this control of time and keeping it both relevant and in the background truly helps hold the story together by maintaining the fictive illusion and also the structural integrity of the work.

In Mansfield Park there are balls and plays, flirtations and scandals. While most of Austen’s novels are rather complex, Mansfield Park is perhaps the most complex of all her work and is probably an inspiration for later Victorian novels (many of which are concerned with child orphans, their patronage and rise from nothingness into seemingly-unachievable stations). Fanny, like other Austen heroines, is a young woman on the verge of adulthood and who will find her place through her soon-to-be husband. Unlike other of Austen’s novels, though, which are primarily interested in the act of courtship, family, and love, Mansfield Park also tackles ideas of nature vs. nurture (what makes a person who they are?) and true positive qualities, in family and friends (both Edmund and his father, Lord Bertram, learn much about themselves and about others, by the end of the story – because of their growing appreciation for and admiration of the quiet but naturally classy Fanny). The book is also interested in the nature of vice and it uses two polar locales, the city and the country, as backdrops for “bad” and “good.” Surprising, for readers of Austen’s other works in particular, are the inclusions, though subtle, of sexuality (what we will eventually see from Freudian symbolism), of social and political morality, and of graphic poverty.

Ultimately, I find Mansfield Park to be one of the least exciting, most dense of Austen’s novels; however, it is also the most complex, the most daring, and the most revolutionary of her works. She takes many risks, borne out of disillusionment and hardship, which would likely inspire the next generation of Victorian novelists who would champion the lower classes and write for social justice. It was a difficult read, being slow-paced and simultaneously familiar to and wildly different from other Austen works, but while it may not be as perfectly constructed, entertaining, or accessible as her most popular work, Pride and Prejudice, it might just be her most important.

Notable Quotes:

“I think it ought not to be set down as certain, that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself.”

“We do not look in great cities for our best morality.”

“Good-humoured, unaffected girls, will not do for a man who has been used to sensible women. They are two distinct orders of being.”

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

“She was not often invited to join in the conversation of the others, nor did she desire it. Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.”

“I was so anxious to do what is right that I forgot to do what is right.”

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”

“Varnish and gilding hide many stains.”

“When I am out of doors, especially when I am sitting out of doors, I am very apt to get into this sort of wandering strain. One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.”