Six Degrees of Separation – From Austen to…

Chain links…

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with the book that Kate gives us and then create a chain of six books, each suggested by the one before…

This month’s starting book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. What a pity! This means I’ll have to start with my obligatory Darcy pic instead of ending with it! Oh well, I suppose I’ll just have to search for another hunk to fill the end spot… a tough job, but one I’m willing to undertake to bring you pleasure…

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both: by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.

Pride and Prejudice is, of course, the story of a man falling in love with a fine pair of eyes and a woman falling in love with a big house full of servants – undoubtedly, the basis for a wonderful relationship. Thinking of relationships reminds me of…

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This is a woeful tale of what can happen to a young girl when she goes off travelling but forgets to pack her paracetamol. It also provides a warning to us all never to declare undying love to a rich man whose mother controls the purse-strings, else we may end up the wife of a country curate…

Talking of country curates reminds me of…

Emma by Jane Austen – a terrifying tale of a middle-aged man who grooms a young girl to grow up as his ideal woman. Poor Emma is offered an escape route, when Mr Elton the curate offers to marry her, but alas! It is too late – her indoctrination is complete! A fine moral lesson to us all from the pen of Ms Austen…

Mr Elton…

We are given another, and perhaps even more important, moral lesson in…

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – An innocent young girl is trapped in an old abbey, with only spooky shadows, a potential murderer, a patronising young man who can dance unnaturally well, and a pile of pulp fiction to occupy her mind. Naturally, she picks the pulp fiction, starting a process that will rot her mind and eventually take her beyond hysteria to the brink of near insanity. The moral clearly is – don’t read books!

“…and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”
“Have you, indeed! How glad I am!—What are they all?”
“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”
“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”
“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them…”

And, most certainly, don’t read this one…!

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope – In a desire to save us all from the perils of reading fiction, Ms Trollope has written a book so majestically awful it is certain to put the unsuspecting reader off for life! A book that introduced me to two words that prove that the human race is already well on the way to total mental decline – amazeballs and shagbandit – it left me feeling that even emojis can sometimes be less offensive than the written word.

😉 😛 👿

He gave an almost imperceptible smirk. ‘The obigations of the heir…’
‘Oh my God,’ Marianne exclaimed. ‘Are you the heir to Allenham?’
He nodded.
‘So fortunate,’ Belle said dazedly.
Marianne’s eyes were shining.
‘So romantic,’ she said.

After this experience, I had to be persuaded to try reading another book, which brings me to…

Persuasion by Jane Austen – a tragic story of a young woman who dumps her lover and then is surprised that he takes her seriously and goes to war with the French (an extreme reaction, but quite romantic in its way. A bit unfair on the French though, perhaps.) The moral of this story is surely that we should grab the first offer we get, girls, for fear we might otherwise end up having to marry a curate…

“I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

A lesson taken to heart by the downtrodden heroine of our last book…

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – a story wherein a young girl is wrenched from her mother and forced to live with two ugly sisters – ugly on the inside that is. Poor little Fanny is destined to spend her days as a skivvy without so much as a pair of glass slippers to call her own. Until her fairy godmother (rather oddly named Edmund) waves her magic wand and suddenly Fanny gets to go to the ball after all…

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.

* * * * *

And they all lived happily ever after!

 * * * * *

So Austen to Austen, via relationship advice, curates, moral lessons, don’t read books!, persuasion and grabbing a husband!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

Oh! And here’s your extra hunk…

Six Degrees of Separation – From Tsiolkas to…

Chain links…

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with the book that Kate gives us and then create a chain of six books, each suggested by the one before…

This month’s starting book is The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I haven’t read it but the blurb tells me…

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the slap.

I know a lot of people liked this one but I have to admit I think it sounds dreadful and it’s one of those fairly rare books that has an almost equal number of 1-stars and 5-stars on Goodreads, so I won’t ever be reading it. Of course, that started me looking for other books I’ve read that have as many 1s as 5s on Goodreads, which led me to…

Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma – a hideous abomination based on the Austen classic. Unsurprisingly I gave it 1 star, but only because Goodreads doesn’t have a Yeuch! rating. From my review…

Should I mention the nude Harriet scene and the lesbian overtones? Nope, can’t bring myself to. But Mr Elton does provide an opportunity for McCall Smith to make what is clearly his favourite joke, that he drives a BMW Something-Something. I say favourite joke, because he repeats it an amazing nine times. Mind you, he repeats the joke about the English language students asking the way to the railway station an astonishing 22 times…

This was part of the Austen Project. I struggled through three of them before deciding that book burning is indeed sometimes justified. Here’s another, also 1-star…

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope – the book that introduced me to the word “amazeballs” and the idea of Willoughby being a “shagbandit”…

‘One hundred parties in the last year!’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘Incredible. That’s one party every three nights that wouldn’t have happened without him!’
‘Too silly,’ Lucy said, looking straight at Elinor. ‘Brainless. My poor Ed must be cringing.’
‘Amaze,’ Nancy said from the sofa. ‘Amazeballs.’
Elinor took a step back.
‘Well, I suppose it’s good to be good at something.’

Ugh! Well, after that detour into the horrific depths of faux literature, how about a little real Austen? The one I re-read most recently was…

Persuasion by Jane Austen. Ah, what bliss to return to the fine storytelling, beautiful language and gentle wit of the wonderful Jane!

Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn – that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness – that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.

Of course, I can’t possibly think of Ms Austen without also thinking of Mr Darcy, with whom I’ve always wanted to dance the cotillion.

Which reminds me of…

Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. I love Heyer’s Regency romances – they’re my idea of literary chicken soup, to be guzzled whenever the world seems grey. This one is my favourite by miles – I must have read it twenty times at least and suddenly have an urgent desire to read it again. The Hon Freddy Standen is like a cross between two of my favourite men – Darcy and Bertie Wooster…

‘You think I’ve got brains?’ he said, awed. ‘Not confusing me with Charlie?’
‘Charlie?’ uttered Miss Charing contemptuously. ‘I daresay he has book-learning, but you have—you have address, Freddy!’
‘Well, by Jove!’ said Mr Standen, dazzled by this new vision of himself.

Talking of Bertie Wooster reminds me of

…the wonderful Right Ho, Jeeves, in which Tuppy Glossop must decide between his little Angela or Anatole’s steak pie. Here Tuppy recounts a conversation between the aforesaid Angela and her mother, Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia…

“You’ve no idea,” she said, “how Mr Glossop loves food. He just lives for it. He always eats six or seven meals a day and then starts in again after bedtime. I think it’s rather wonderful.” Your aunt seemed interested, and said it reminded her of a boa constrictor. Angela said, didn’t she mean a python? And then they argued as to which of the two it was…And the pie lying there on the table, and me unable to touch it. You begin to understand why I said I had been through hell.

I frequently call my little cat Tuppy, although her formal name is Tuppence. She and her brother, Tommy, are called after Agatha Christie’s less well-known detective duo, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. (Therefore those in the know will be aware that Tuppence’s super-formal name, the one I use when she’s been really naughty, is Prudence…)

So that reminded me of…

Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie. This is the collection of short stories which follows after The Secret Adversary, the full length novel in which Tommy and Tuppence are first introduced. They appear again in three later novels and, unlike Christie’s other ‘tecs, Tommy and Tuppence age in real time, so that they go from being youngsters on their first appearance to being fairly elderly in their last outing. It’s their devotion to each other and the wit of their dialogue that make the books such a pleasure to read. Here, Tuppence is complaining that she’s discovering that a comfortable life can be somewhat boring…

“Shall I neglect you a little?” suggested Tommy. “Take other women about to night clubs. That sort of thing.”
“Useless,” said Tuppence. “You would only meet me there with other men. And I should know perfectly well that you didn’t care for the other women, whereas you would never be quite sure that I didn’t care for the other men. Women are so much more thorough.”
“It’s only in modesty that men score top marks,” murmured her husband.

James Warwick and the delightful Francesca Annis as Tommy and Tuppence in the ITV adaptation

 * * * * *

So Tsiolkas to Christie, via 1-star reviews, the Austen Project,
Jane Austen, Darcy, Bertie Wooster and my cat’s nickname!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

sense and sensibility trollopeWhy???

Warning! This review may involve wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention cursing…of both kinds. Persons of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now. And on the assumption that no-one will be interested in this who doesn’t know the original, there are some mild spoilers…

😡

The Austen Project is a strange little idea to rewrite all the Austen novels for a modern age. Why? It certainly can’t be because the originals are unreadable – I’d imagine they are more popular today than they have ever been. One can only assume they see it as a money-spinner. I’m delighted to say I got this book free – and even then it was too expensive.

My recent review of the real Sense and Sensibility highlighted that I think it deserves its place as a classic because of the light it casts on the restricted lives and opportunities of the sons and daughters of the ‘gentry’ in Jane Austen’s time. This fake S&S concentrates on the same class, but is set in the present day. Unfortunately, society has changed so much that the premise doesn’t work. In order to make the story fit into today’s England – where opportunity for the middle-classes is almost infinite, where women are freer and more equal than they have ever been and where the norm is for people without money to do that revolutionary thing and get a job – Trollope has decided to make most of the characters completely feckless and thus entirely unsympathetic.

He gave an almost imperceptible smirk. ‘The obigations of the heir…’
‘Oh my God,’ Marianne exclaimed. ‘Are you the heir to Allenham?’
He nodded.
‘So fortunate,’ Belle said dazedly.
Marianne’s eyes were shining.
‘So romantic,’ she said.

The story begins with the Dashwood family losing their home at Norland. Not because it’s entailed – oh, no! Because Mr Dashwood never bothered to marry Mrs Dashwood (Belle, heaven help us!) and so his great-uncle left the house to his legitimate nephew rather than his illegitimate nieces. Already I’m wondering what society this reflects? Certainly not the one I live in, which stopped giving a…fig…about legitimacy back sometime in the seventies and where even the crown is now allowed to pass down the female line. To make it work, Trollope has had to make it overly complex and unbelievable…and we’re only at Chapter 1.

Poverty - Trollope-style
Poverty – Trollope-style

So the poor Dashwoods, with only £200,000 and a modern cottage given to them by other rich relatives, have to face up to living within straitened means. Why? Has the concept of going to work never occurred to any of them? Poor Elinor has to give up Uni. Why? Can’t she get a student loan and live in a bedsit like everyone else? To be fair, she does get her rich relatives to pull strings to get her a job. But the rest whine endlessly about lack of money making me want to a) hit them collectively over the head with a brick and b) explain that living in a four-bedroom cottage, running a car and popping up to London every weekend to go to parties isn’t really poverty!

Then we have Marianne (M!) – in this version a hysterical maniac, rather than the overly emotional but sweet and loving girl of the original. Suffering from constant asthma attacks (presumably because when we get a cold these days, we just take paracetemol and get on with it), she spends her time wheezing, gasping, sobbing, throwing tantrums and being revoltingly rude to everyone, and yet being so lovely throughout that no man can withstand her (invisible) charm. To explain this strange anomaly, Trollope tells us approximately 15,000 times that M is stunningly gorgeous, even whilst receiving Intensive Care. I shall brush quietly past the sex episode…

Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope

Shall I tell you about Wills(!)? Of course, single motherhood tends not to lead to death these days, so how does Ms Trollope resolve this conundrum and ensure that we understand that he’s a bad lot? Well, by making Wills, (who’s not just the ‘hottest boy in the county’, by the way, but a complete ‘shagbandit’ – charming) into a drug-pusher! Yes, little Eliza is a junkie…

Pah! I can’t bear to talk about this monstrosity any longer. I will leave you to imagine whingy Ellie, pathetic Ed, and Mags, the nightmare teenager with an iThing habit. I will ignore the fact that all the married women stay at home to look after their children. I will pretend I didn’t notice that we now have a Wills, a Harry and – yep, that’s right – the Middletons. I won’t even mention the youtube ‘trolling’ incident…and I refuse to think about the gay party-planner, Robert Ferrars, and his marriage of convenience…

‘One hundred parties in the last year!’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘Incredible. That’s one party every three nights that wouldn’t have happened without him!’
‘Too silly,’ Lucy said, looking straight at Elinor. ‘Brainless. My poor Ed must be cringing.’
‘Amaze,’ Nancy said from the sofa. ‘Amazeballs.’
Elinor took a step back.
‘Well, I suppose it’s good to be good at something.’

A fake book that tells us nothing authentic about today’s society – might work as a fluffy romance (except aren’t you supposed to like the heroines in them?) but doesn’t work as a serious novel, isn’t funny enough to be a comedy and is an insult rather than an homage to a great classic. Read at your peril…

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

The nuances of birth and worth…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

jane austen completeMuch though I love Pride and Prejudice, and although Lizzie will always be my favourite Austen character, for me Sense and Sensibility is the better of the two books overall. That’s not to say it’s more enjoyable – P&P definitely wins out on both humour and romance. But in Sense and Sensibility, I feel Austen paints a more realistic picture of the lives of the ‘gentry’ of her period, and in this book we see much more clearly the constraints placed on young men, as well as on the women. The main thrust of the book is on the contrast of personality between the reserved and sensible Elinor and the frenetic romanticism of Marianne, but for me the more interesting element is what the book tells us about Austen’s late 18th/early 19th century society.

The book starts with a similar premise to P&P; the Dashwood family, all girls, find themselves forced to leave their home and reduced to genteel poverty when, on the death of their father, his house and estate pass down through the male line to the girls’ half-brother, John. There is, of course, no possibility that the girls could work, so they must survive on the little income they have, and look to kindly relatives (all male) to assist them. The only other alternative is to achieve a good match.

But in S&S, we also see the other side of the coin – Edward (Elinor Dashwood’s love interest) is an eldest son and as such has been brought up to be ornamental (which he’s not very good at) and useless (a skill he has pretty much mastered). And so his life is not his own – he must marry to please his mother or risk losing the wealth he has grown up to expect. But as a wealthy young man of a good family, he is considered a good match, despite this combination of uselessness and spinelessness. (Edward’s eventual ‘heroism’ was forced on him, so he deserves no praise for it.) Then we have Sir John Middleton: a kindly and generous man, distant relative of Mrs Dashwood, who offers the family not just a cottage on his estate, but also his friendship and concern for their future (i.e., marriage prospects). And how do the Dashwoods repay him? By looking down on his taste and manners, and the vulgarity of his relations by marriage. The nuances of a multi-tiered class-ridden society, where every tier is jealous of the one above while despising those below, are already becoming clear.

Emma Thompson and Kate Winslett as Elinor and Marianne
Emma Thompson and Kate Winslett as Elinor and Marianne

There are things I don’t like about S&S, but these too tend to shed light on the same class divides and gender roles. Lucy Steele is a much-maligned young lady, in my opinion. Why shouldn’t she have become betrothed to Edward? Should she really have said ‘No, no, I am too vulgar to marry such a sophisticated (and rich) young man’? What was it they all despised her for, except her birth and lack of education – two things she could not control? Why is Edward considered noble for sticking to an engagement he entered into willingly, while Lucy is reviled for not freeing him from it? Is Mrs Dashwood’s desire to marry her daughters to rich, or at least well-established, men any different to Lucy’s desire to escape her relative poverty through rich connections? And since everyone despises her anyway, why shouldn’t she act as she does at the end? I’m always rather glad that things work out for Lucy – she reminds me a little of a less entertaining, but more successful, Becky Sharp.

brandonAnd then there’s Colonel Brandon – and of course I love him. But I can’t help feeling a little queasy that he fixes his passions on a seventeen-year-old girl barely out of the schoolroom and clearly immature. But he’s a rich landowner, and so again seen as a good match, and although Marianne makes it clear from the outset that she sees him as an old man, her entire family encourage her to think of him as a potential suitor. Would they have had he been poor, or even just comfortably off? Lastly Willoughby (the hottest boy in the county, according to the blurb for the Joanna Trollope remake) – a rake, yes, but does what he does because he can’t face disinheritance and, despite ruining one young woman and breaking another’s heart, gains back his place in respectable society within a very short space of time, by making a good though loveless match.

Not as sparkling as P&P, but with much more depth, Sense and Sensibility shows more clearly how this society operated through family alliances and marriage, with the young people of both sexes expected to conform to the wishes of their elders. While Lizzie and Jane are whisked off at the end, Mills & Boon style, to great houses and handsome men, the matches made by Elinor and Marianne are less glitzy but probably more realistic. Both books are great in their own right, but together they give a much fuller picture of the nuances of this complex society, where money and birth determined status and worth in an ever-fluctuating pattern.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 5…

Episode 5

 

A slight change to TBR Thursday this week, due to the fact that this has been a terrible week for the old TBR. A combination of NetGalley, Amazon Vine and my own total lack of willpower means my list has grown to a ridiculous and out-of-control 104! So instead of adding yet another, I thought I’d share some of the books already on there that I’m looking forward to reading over the next few weeks…

Courtesy of NetGalley:

 

the war that ended peaceI remember once being asked to write an essay explaining the causes of the First World War in 800 words. This book looks as though it will go into the subject in considerably more depth…

“Beginning in the early nineteenth century, and ending with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions and – just as important – the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in our history.”

*****

elizabeth of yorkInexplicably, I’ve never read any of Alison Weir’s books. Time to remedy that…

“Elizabeth is an enigma. She had schemed to marry Richard III, the man who had deposed and probably killed her brothers, and it is likely that she then intrigued to put Henry Tudor on the throne. Yet after marriage, a picture emerges of a model consort, mild, pious, generous and fruitful. It has been said that Elizabeth was distrusted and kept in subjection by Henry VII and her formidable mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, but contemporary evidence shows that Elizabeth was, in fact, influential, and may have been involved at the highest level in one of the most controversial mysteries of the age.

Alison Weir builds an intriguing portrait of this beloved queen, placing her in the context of the magnificent, ceremonious, often brutal, world she inhabited, and revealing the woman behind the myth, showing that differing historical perceptions of Elizabeth can be reconciled.”

*****

Bellman & BlackI’ve seen some reviews of this that have been disappointing, but all from people who had read Diane Setterfield’s first book and felt this didn’t live up to expectations. I haven’t read The Thirteenth Tale so am intrigued to see if I’ll enjoy it more…

“Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.”

*****

Courtesy of Vine:

 

sense and sensibility trollopeWhat was I thinking? A remake of Sense and Sensibility for the modern age?? Yeuch!! I absolutely know I’m going to hate this…unless of course I love it…

“Joanna Trollope’s much anticipated contemporary reworking of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility will launch The Austen Project and be one of the most talked about books of 2013.

Two sisters could hardly be more different. Elinor Dashwood, an architecture student, values discretion above all. Her impulsive sister Marianne displays her creativity everywhere as she dreams of going to art school. But when the family finds itself forced out of Norland Park, their beloved home for twenty years, their values are severely out to the test. Can Elinor remain stoic knowing that the man she likes has been ensnared by another girl? Will Marianne’s faith in love be shaken by meeting the hottest boy in the county? And when social media is the controlling force at play, can love ever triumph over conventions and disapproval?”

On the upside, it’s a great excuse to re-read the real thing…

*****

Pre-orders:

jeeves and the wedding bellsThis could be as big a mistake as Sense and Sensibility…or it could be wonderful…

“A gloriously witty novel from Sebastian Faulks using P.G. Wodehouse’s much-loved characters, Jeeves and Wooster, fully authorised by the Wodehouse estate.

Bertie Wooster, recently returned from a very pleasurable soujourn in Cannes, finds himself at the stately home of Sir Henry Hackwood in Dorset. Bertie is more than familiar with the country house set-up: he is a veteran of the cocktail hour and, thanks to Jeeves, his gentleman’s personal gentleman, is never less than immaculately dressed. On this occasion, however, it is Jeeves who is to be seen in the drawing room while Bertie finds himself below stairs – and he doesn’t care for it at all.

Love, as so often, is at the root of the confusion. Bertie, you see, has met Georgiana on the Côte d’Azur. And though she is clever and he has a reputation for foolish engagements, it looks as though this could be the real thing…”

*****

saints of the shadow bibleAnd finally, most eagerly anticipated, my beloved Rebus! One I know for sure I’ll love…won’t I?

“Rebus is back on the force, albeit with a demotion and a chip on his shoulder. A thirty-year-old case is being reopened, and Rebus’s team from back then is suspected of foul play. With Malcolm Fox as the investigating officer are the past and present about to collide in a shocking and murderous fashion? And does Rebus have anything to hide?

His colleagues back then called themselves ‘the Saints’, and swore a bond on something called ‘the Shadow Bible’. But times have changed and the crimes of the past may not stay hidden much longer, especially with a referendum on Scottish independence just around the corner.

Who are the saints and who the sinners? And can the one ever become the other?”

*****

All blurbs are taken from either Amazon or NetGalley.

What do you think? Any of these that you’re looking forward to too? Or are there other new releases you’re impatiently awaiting?