Cover of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Story Adaptation by Stacy King. Manga: Classsic Literature. Morpheus Studios (Illustrator), Shane Law (Illustrator), Po Tse (Artist). Udon Entertainment (August 19, 2014). Price: $19.99.

Stacy King has adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a manga-reading audience with illustrations by Shane Law, Po Tse, and Morpheus Studios. Whenever a story is adapted for a different media format, choices must be made in order to use the strengths of the new media to tell the story. Overall this adaptation is beautifully done. The basic storyline is intact and the artwork is beautifully rendered as you can tell from the lovely cover image (though the interior artwork is all in grey scale).

The basic story is a love story that threads its way through horrible first impressions, misunderstandings, pride, and prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman and his wife, is insulted when she overhears Mr. Darcy’s response to his friend, Mr. Bingley, urging Darcy to dance with her. Mr. Darcy is actually shy and uncomfortable in crowded social situations but she doesn’t know that at the time. Later Mr. Darcy realizes that she’s witty, educated, and not fawning over him; thus, he finds himself falling in love. Meanwhile, she is fed a lot of balderdash about Mr. Darcy from a man who has “all the appearance of goodness” and makes a grand impression on all he meets. There’s also a secondary love story involving Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister, and Mr. Bingley. As with most love stories things work out in the end but the journey is what makes the story a classic and loved by many no matter what format it takes — book, film, and now, manga.

Still, the problem with adaptations is that choices need to be made. This time the story is told and shown to be set close to the period in which Austen originally wrote it. However, the societal mores of the time depicted in this version do not match those that existed during this time period. For example, in the version of Longbourn shown in the artwork, no member of the Bennet family would be answering their own door let alone folding the linens; there would be servants to do such work.

It was a time when the distinctions of class were kept to and there were many rules of behavior that now-a-days we’d find archaic and maybe even silly. Upper class single women could not write to an unrelated male unless she was engaged to him. She’s have to write to his mother or sister and leave it to them to pass on the information. People could not simple talk to another person — they had to be formally introduced first. In fact, public venues such as assemblies usually had a designated person who was responsible for introducing people to one another if they were not yet acquainted and wished to meet. There are many instances where modern social customs are referenced that would, in the original work, be offensive to the characters of that time period. This may bother readers who are familiar with the original Austen work and time period — new readers reading Austen for the first time would most likely not even notice these issues.

However, if you read this version and enjoy it, you may want to read the original Austen novel on which it is based because the actual story is one that transcends the time in which Austen wrote. It’s universal appeal is why her works live on. Not only have her novels been adapted for film, manga, and classic comics, but they have, by other authors, been updated to modern times and still they resonate with readers.

Overall, this is a wonderful adaptation and a great way to interest new readers in classic literature.

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Cover of The Bad Miss Bennet
The Bad Miss Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Jean Burnett. Pegasus (October 19, 2012). ISBN: 978-1605983721. Pages 272. Hardcover. List price $25.95. (Amazon: $20.10 / Kindle: $12.99).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Bad Miss Bennet. I’ve read books where Lydia is redeemed to one degree or another but none where the author just doubled down on her behavior and attitudes.

In The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett, Lydia is a recent widow. Wickham was killed at Waterloo. She doesn’t really miss him as her love for him burned out years ago — but she hates wearing mourning colors, especially black. She resentful of having to live with Elizabeth and Darcy in the boring countryside. So, she makes arrangements to live in London with friends.

In London, her friends are deep in debt and help arrange card games in order to cheat and gain money to support their lifestyle. Lydia is very good at cheating at cards, having learned the fine art from Wickham. Eventually, there are repercussions and they need to find a new venue. Lydia eventually gets drawn in by a confidence trickster, finds a dead body in her quarters, and has many other other adventures — some quite upsetting (to the reader not necessarily to Lydia). Her life is one misfortune after another all blamed on others and nothing to do with her actions.

I had a difficult time reading this because I disliked the character of this instance of Lydia Bennet. She had no redeeming qualities. Even when she did something nice for someone it was in order to further her own plans. She’s given opportunities and chances to change her life but whether she couldn’t recognize the possibilities or chose to misinterpret them, she ignored them and continually reached for the new best thing. Mostly it all boiled down to being able to thumb her nose at her relatives (especially Darcy and his sister, boring Elizabth) and prove she’s better than they are — so there .

I would have liked a Lydia with more depth — one who learns from her mistakes or at least has an inkling that she made mistakes. Time after time she makes the same ones hoping for a different outcome. While time has past for her, she’s basically the same as the Lydia we met in Pride and Prejudice. Her character fixed as Austen wrote her.

Burnett has managed to set Lydia into an interesting time period and because of her character flaws examined some of the politics and social changes at that time in history. She also left the ending open for a sequel. The Bad Miss Bennet is true to the original character of Lydia, extrapolating to a what she would be like after years of Wickham’s influence. The writing will draw the reader in but you may not enjoy the characters or care that much about what happens to them. Lydia is the viewpoint character and all impressions of other people are colored by Lydia’s thoughts and beliefs.

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Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Eqypt
Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Eqypt by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb. Sourcebooks Landmark (July 1, 2012). ISBN: 978-1402265341. Trade Paperback ($14.99 /Amazon $10.99) Kindle eBook $10.09.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for fifteen years and have six children (Beth 13, William 12, John 11, Laurence 9, Jane 8, and Margaret 6). Laurence was the only boy who had not yet gone away to school and Elizabeth was already dreading the day when she’d have to send him to boarding school too.

The Darcys had planned to have a portrait of the family done and Mr. Paul Inkworthy has been hired to do the preliminary sketches, as the artist doing the finished work does not travel. Mr. Inkworthy was good at his job and also kind enough to offer Beth some helpful feedback on her drawings. He was also unobtrusive and undemanding but his preliminary sketches were excellent.

This was the era when the people of Britain and America were captivated by anything Egyptian. Edward Fitzwilliam, Col. Fitzwilliam’s youngest brother, had been enthralled by Egypt when, as a child, he’d heard the tales of his father’s adventures in Egypt with Darcy’s father and another man. They’d been treasure hunting and nearly died. It was believed that they’d found a tomb filled with treasure but had lost the map and no longer could find it. Edward was determined to go on the next expedition led by Sir Matthew Rosen, who currently had an exhibit at the British Museum. He’d come to visit the Darcy’s hoping they’d support him in his efforts with his family.

Darcy realized that Edward would go no matter what they said. He also realized that Elizabeth was captivated by the idea of going to Egypt and their children were at the right age for travel. They decided to join Edward. The family visit to the museum and the enthusiasm of the children would have persuaded them if they weren’t already leaning in that direction anyway.

Meanwhile, Margaret had taken to a small wooden doll of an Egyptian woman that Edward had brought to the house when he’d come for Darcy’s assistance. Margaret said the doll’s name was Aahotep, she was sad, and that made her mean to other people. This is when I believed that this was going to be one of those paranormal-leaning books. Margaret’s doll and the way she kept it with her and spoke for it and to it reminded me of several books I’d read where a character got possessed by a doll and did things they shouldn’t. Since Margaret was so young, this bothered me, but while this particular thread of the story gave me the willies it was not as dark as you might think and the author’s took it in a genuinely different direction than you’d expect.

Needless to say, traveling with children, servants, tutors, governesses, and all their luggage and household items required a lot of consultations with others of their class who had traveled to Egypt. They also asked Mr. Inkworthy to join them to sketch the family as they traveled so as to have a series of pictures to remind them what the trip was like when they returned home.

Organizing such a trip was of like planning a small war, including renting a ship for their own use, and making sure that all the connections could be made all along the way. They also needed to hire a local guide to aid them when they arrived in Egypt. And there was the necessity to notify family that they were leaving. Mrs. Bennet being their biggest worry. She insisted on seeing them off at the port, an event that caused a huge change in their plans.

Naturally, since Mrs. Bennet knew about the trip, Lydia also knew. Thus Wickham hatches a plan that he believes will allow him to get even with Darcy. Lydia, of course, is as obtuse as usual, but a bit wiser to the plotting of her husband. But as you’d guess she’s up for an adventure.

All of these subplots come together in Egypt for an exciting adventure that carries real danger for all the Darcys. The dig and the camp reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Peters’ books featuring Amelia Peabody on archeological digs in Egypt.

I enjoyed reading Pride and Pyramids. It takes Elizabeth and Darcy out of the familiar and yet keeps them in their time period and consistent with having had years to get to know and understand each other. They are parents and concerned for their family and their future. But still playful with each other and in love.

Fans of Austen’s characters will enjoy this follow-on and the growth of Elizabeth and Darcy. Their core character remains and the story grows out of who they are and where they stand in society.

Get it and enjoy. I’d love to hear from those who have already read the book.

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Cover of Cozy Classic's Pride and Prejudice
Cozy Classic’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Jack and Holman Wang based on Jane Austen’s novel. Simply Read Books. Board book edition. ISBN-13: 978-1927018125 (November 15, 2012) Price: $9.95 (Amazon $8.95).

This book is advertised as a children’s book for ages 1 to 3 years. I’m sure some children in that age range will love the book because the photos are bright and colorful, the pages sturdy (thick pasteboard), and — if I remember my child at that age — good to chew on or bang around. A parent can even read the book to them. On the left hand page of each two-page spread is one word written in clear big letters the words are: friends, sisters, dance, mean, sick, muddy, yes, no, write, read, walk, and marry. Opposite the word is the photo.

The cover image is a good indication of what the interior photos are like. (The cover photo is used to illustrate muddy.) Each photo includes a felted fabric doll of one or more of the major characters: Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy, and Charles Bingley. There are different versions of them because the clothing changes for various scenes. The photos illustrate the word. For example the word sisters has a photo of Jane and Elizabeth looking into a mirror together.

If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, and watch the movie with Colin Firth often with your child, then the photos might be familiar to the child. Otherwise, I’d say this is more a book for adults who enjoy the Austen novel and want to have a collection of all or a number of the variations of the original story.

It’s also different and fun. The felted dolls used are extremely well done and I really wish there had been patterns available for those who wish to make the dolls. There’s even a pretty close resemblance to the characters from the Firth movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

The words and photos match up with major events in Pride and Prejudice so your imagination can fill in the story with just these prompts. The problem is that for a child the connection would be tenuous at best and non-existent at worse. But, as I said earlier they may just enjoy the photos and you, as a fan of the original story, can fill in the blanks with a shortened version of the plot.

Great gift for the Pride and Prejudice fan that has everything else and may not think to check the children’s section of the bookstore.

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The Guardian has a short photo slideshow of the 10 best characters in Jane Austen’s novels chosen by Paula Byrne, who wrote The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (HarperCollins, January 2013).

It’s an interesting mix of characters. I don’t really have a problem with the characters they chose but some was a bit sidetracked by the actors they chose or didn’t show who had portrayed those characters. For example, Mansfield Park has been made it to the screen (TV and movie) several times yet they showed the bookcover rather than Mrs. Norris — wonder why.

What your take on this. The link to the slideshow is:
10 Best Characters in Jane Austen’s Novels.

Opinions?

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The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery by Regina Jeffers. Ulysses Press; Original edition (April 17, 2012) ISBN: 978-1612430454. Trade Paperback. (List: $14.95 / Amazon: $10.17 / Kindle: 9.66)

When The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy opens, the Darcys are worried because they haven’t heard from Geogiana since she headed north to open her husband’s home and ready it for his return. Georgiana and Colonel, now Major General Fitzwilliam were married in a previous book. However, the Darcys can’t do much about it as they’re preparing for Kitty Bennet’s marriage. There’s plenty to keep everyone busy.

Things take a desperate turn when notice is sent to the family that Major General Fitzwilliam was dead. Efforts were made to contact Georgiana, knowing she shouldn’t be alone at this time of grief. However, the news is shocking when they learn that Georgiana is missing and presumed dead on the moors. The Darcys spring into action to find out what happened to her.

Meanwhile, the reader is privy to a second story line. A lovely woman was found injured on the moors and taken to the MacBethan’s castle. Her memory is fragmentary at best after a fall from her horse. She has hazy memories of screams and pleas for help prior to awakening in a very plain room in the castle. The Lord of the castle takes her under his protection. She’s beginning to fall in love with him but something is holding her back — she feels there may be someone else in her past. More than that, she’s aware that she’s not an injured guest, but a prisoner and must watch all she says and does.

Then of course there’s another tread throughout the novel of George Wickham and his thirst for vengeance, his greed, and his hatred of Darcy. His actions twine about the other two plot threads.

Jeffers manages to keep the reader guessing as to the identity of the woman in the castle. Is she Georgiana? If so, how could she even think about falling in love with someone other than Fitzwilliam? If she isn’t Georgiana, then who is she? Does that mean Georgiana is really dead?

The point of view characters never really give away the few facts the reader is really desperate to know concerning Georgiana. They only know what they can learn from others or interpret from what they’ve found out. Even when you’re in the mind of the injured woman in the castle, you don’t learn who she is because her head injury means she doesn’t know who she is either.

The pace drags in a few places but seem to be mostly when the reader needs information that the characters have learned or are in the process of learning. Otherwise, it moves smoothly between the various plot lines and characters, all filling in needed information and helping us get a better feel for what is happening and the background.

That said, I found the book frustrating. At any time the author could have told us who the woman was and what had happened to Georgiana. By the end, when all is revealed, I felt that I’d been sitting on pins and needles for hours hoping everything would turn out okay and fearing that it wouldn’t. That Jeffers could pull such an emotional reaction from me, speaks to how well I thought she handled the misdirection and obstruction required by the main story line of Georgiana’s disappearance.

The characters are all very much as they were in the original work by Austen. There’s been no appreciable change to their basic character except that Geogiana, in the first part of the book, has come into her own as a strong, independent minded woman of her times. There are far more characters as lives have moved on, and there have been marriages and children added to the various family groups. Luckily, there’s a list of the major characters and their relationships to bring readers who haven’t read previous books up to speed on who’s who.

The book was released in April so should be readily available to those who enjoy the Pride and Prejudice follow-on books. If you’ve already read the book, I’d love to hear your opinions.

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Cover of The Three Colonels: Jane Austen's Fighting Men. Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2012) ISBN: 978-1402259739. Trade Paperback. $14.99 (Amazon: $11.18 / Kindle: $9.99).

Jack Caldwell gives the men of Austen’s world a chance to shine. Napoleon is planning his escape from Elba. And we all know what that means — Waterloo is almost inevitable to be part of the story; after all there are three colonels in this story. Colonel Christopher Brandon of Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam of Pride and Prejudice, and Colonel John Buford for this story. With Napoleon’s escape they are all called upon to serve their country again.

This is a follow on story. Marianne and Christopher Brandon are now happily married with a daughter named Joy. The Darcy’s are also very happy in their marriage and have a son, Bennet. Many of the people from Sense and Sensibilities and Pride and Prejudice show up. All the Bennet daughters are married now. Carolyn Bingley is engaged to Colonel Buford when the story begins. Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne, are also included.

Through flashbacks, Caldwell explains how Caroline has changed since loosing Darcy to Elizabeth. It also sets up how Colonel Buford fits into the scheme of things. There are multiple threads in this novel, one thread follows Anne de Bourgh’s transition from sickly daughter to a force to be reckoned with. A second thread follows Caroline Bingley’s rebuilding of her life after Pride and Prejudice. A third show the changes in the relationship between Colonel Brandon and Marianne with a few surprises. Next is a thread that follows up on Denny and Wickham. And, we must not forget the biggest plot line of all — the escape of Napoleon and the historical events that led to Waterloo, the battle, and the aftermath.

If you love the world and characters of Jane Austen’s creation but do not enjoy the nitty-gritty history of her time, give The Three Colonels a try. Caldwell, while he does cover the battle of Waterloo and the events leading up to it, brings it closer to home by covering it through the eyes and feelings of the characters that we’ve come to know well through books. Austen wrote of the daily life of the kind of people she knew and observed. Caldwell pulls the men of her fiction into the historical events of her lifetime. While the people of England were separated by the channel from the fighting, it still impacted them, especially if they had loved ones in the service.

We like to think of wars as being something that doesn’t effect us. We’re safe, and those stories in the news don’t effect us. But many of us, as in Austen’s time, have husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and relatives who have or are in wars being fought in faraway lands. Jack Caldwell uses the lives of characters we’re familiar with and care about to show that while times have changed and the technology may have changed, the destruction of war effects us all.

Read the The Three Colonels for the joy of seeing what’s happened in the lives of the characters we know through Austen’s works. Read it for the chance to see dry history, spread out before us, as history effects and impacts the people of the time. Or, simple read The Three Colonels for telling a darn good story and making Caroline Bingley a woman most of us would actually be glad to know.

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Cover of Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly
Mr. Darcy Forever By Victoria Connelly. Trade Paperback. 336 pages. Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2012) (Amazon: $10.98 / Kindle: $9.99)

Sarah Castle is seven years older than her sister, Mia, and that seven years made the difference when their parents died. Sarah quit school got a job as an accountant and continued to raise her sister.

Sarah is sensible and cautious. She now is self-employed, which makes it much easier to handle her OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) symptoms. Mia, on the other hand, is nearly all emotion and impulsiveness — good traits for an actress probably, but harder to deal with in normal every-day activities.

For Mia’s twenty first birthday, Sarah rented Barton cottage. One of the things that both sisters enjoyed was the works of Jane Austen. As sisters, Sense and Sensibility held a special place in their hearts. However, as often happens, plans that should lead to a satisfying week of together time instead leads to the sisters being ripped apart as a man, also on vacation, catches Mia’s eye while playing for Sarah’s attention.

The rift between the sisters results in them not speaking to each other for nearly five years. Things have changed in each of their lives in that time, but they are unaware of these changes and the effects that they have caused in their goals and desires.

Connelly sets up the division in their lives and then, after an appropriate period, sets in motion the events that will bring them face to face. What happens next will shape their futures. Will they get together and patch things up? Are they so hurt they’ll never forgive? Or will the magic of a Jane Austen Festival and a chance encounter bring these sisters together again?

In the process, we get to vicariously enjoy the Jane Austen Festival in Bath which takes place every September. As much as I enjoy the novels of Jane Austen, it never occurred to me that Barton cottage could be rented — it can, but as a B&B, rooms not the entire house — or that Bath had a yearly Jane Austen Festival. I looked them both up on the internet and did a lot of wishful thinking about both these new discoveries. See, books are educational.

Connelly’s story telling is top notch. The characters are engaging and the basic premise keeps the reader interested even if you figure out the major plot points before you get to them. After all it’s not so much that you know X happened, it’s what X means or how it affects the character’s lives.

There’s plenty to entertain and much to chuckle at but also some interesting characters to care about that resonate with a well loved story by a favorite author — Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen — who also cautioned against leaping before one looked at the consequences of their leap.

I enjoyed the book and hope you do too. If you have read it let me know what you thought — I love comments from other readers.

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