Cover of A Jane Austen Devotional by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
A Jane Austen Devotional by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Compiled and written by Steffany Woolsey. Cloth bound hardcover. ISBN: 978-1400319534. 224 pages. Thomas Nelson; Gift edition (January 10, 2012). (Amazon: $10.76 / Kindle: $8.79)

Each day of the year has a quote from one of the novels of Jane Austen or from one of her letters to family. If you love all things Jane Austen then this is a lovely volume to have. It’s not a calendar but more of a jumping off point for meditation on family, friends, society, expectations, and daily life.

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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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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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A while back I somehow managed to stubble over The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on youtube. I’ve now caught up on all the available episodes and must wait for the next one. So, I thought I’d share.

Lizzie Bennet is a graduate student in communications. She has two sister’s. Jane who is older than Lizzie and Lydia who is the youngest. This story line has no Mary of Kitty. They all live at home. Times are tough and the economy being what it is and money being tight, Mrs. Bennet is determined to marry off the girls. She’s targeted their new neighbor Bing Lee for Jane.

So, things are the same but different. The writers have done a great job of updating Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for modern times. If you’ve read the books or even if you haven’t you’ll enjoy Lizzie’s video blog — technical work filming and editing being done by her best friend Charlotte Lu.

Here’s the first episode:

Give it a try and let me know what you think. This show really needs more viewers. How else can I share the excitement.

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Cover of Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton. Sourcebooks Landmark (February 1, 2012). ISBN: 978-1402262494. 359 Pages. (Amazon: $9.89 / Kindle: $9.99).

It’s all the rage to adopt a child in a foreign country — and engenders more social status if the child is dissimilar to the adopting couple in ethnicity. So, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst have decided to adopt a child. Charles Bingley decided they needed someone responsible to come along so he invited William Darcy — that it would also get Darcy out of the office was a plus. So, Bingley, Darcy, the Hursts, and Caroline are in Da Nang, Vietnam, to meet with the managing director of Gracechurch Orphange, Jane Bennet, and hopefully pick up their child.

On the way to their hotel, they end up in a traffic jam. Charles can’t stand sitting still so he hops out and asks a man riding a bicycle carrying a load of live chickens if he can try riding it. Of course he falls, scattering chickens and managing to gash his leg badly enough to require stitches. Darcy swings into action and learns of a local hospital with an American doctor, and hires a bicycle taxi to take them there. Darcy can’t bring himself to enter the hospital due to his fear of germs and painful associations, so he opts to wait outside.

When the waiting becomes intolerably longer than it should be, in Darcy’s opinion, he seeks out Bingley only to find him still waiting for treatment. Darcy is outraged and demands to see the doctor while lifting the towel over Bingley’s leg. A glimpse of the blood on Bingley’s leg causes Darcy to faint. A clog prodding his face trying to bring him to consciousness is his first introduction to Dr. Elizabeth Bennet. Neither comes out of this encounter proud of their actions.

Thus begins, Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton. This modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice contains many of Austen’s beloved characters: The Bennets, Darcy and Georgiana, Fitzwilliam, Anne and Catherine de Bourgh, Wickham, Mrs. Reynolds, and a couple of surprises from another Austen novel. However, Benneton has updated them by examining their characteristics and matching them to current medical labels. For example, Mr. Darcy, who we know wants to protect those he cares about and takes all his commitments to others including his tenants and servants very seriously, suffers from, as title of the book implies, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Charles Bingley, on the other hand, has recently been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). You can see that Pride and Prejudice makes this seem a very logical character choice from this quote:


“Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.”

“My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them — by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.”

Being a modern retelling of the story, not only were the characters updated, but the story was revamped to fit into our current society. Darcy is, of course, rich. He’s CEO of DDF (Darcy, Darcy, and Fitzwilliam). Fitzwilliam, his cousin, is a vice president. Bingley also works there. Meanwhile, Jane Bennet, as you’d expect from her patient and loving nature, is a social worker now running an orphanage founded by Aunt Mai and Uncle Gardner while recovering from an abusive relationship. Elizabeth is an doctor specializing in infectious diseases. She moved to Vietnam with Jane to keep her company. The relative social status is maintained as Mr. Bennet is a college professor. The Bennets are middle class and, while not hurting for money, do not spend it wildly either.

My only reservation about the characters is that the Elizabeth Bennet of the original was a great student of character until she allowed her first impressions to cause her to assign to Mr. Darcy characteristics he didn’t actually deserve, after which she became more careful of her judgements. This Elizabeth is impulsive and quick to judge others with minimal data. She makes life changing decisions without consulting those involved in her decisions and without input from those close to her who might be effected. Being a doctor who also does research in her field, this particular implementation of her character seemed too much of a contradiction. How could she possibly maintain her position as one of the top infectious disease specialist and be so incredibly flakey? Other readers may not have as much difficulty with this aspect of her character, but I wanted to make sure she met a very large clue stick. In other areas, it was incredible how these two very different people turned out to be just right for each other — and that takes clever writing when trying to be true to well-loved characters in a new environment and the changes that requires.

While Compulsively Mr. Darcy maintains the fractious nature of the original character’s relationship as they grow towards understanding and love, the details have changed radically since society and social mores are now very different from those of Austen’s time. As with many romances, there are sex scenes. For some traditionalists, this may be off-putting. However, the sex is steamy, fairly graphic (including phone sex), but easily skipped over if you like dislike such scenes. There are also several subplots that deal with today’s problems of inappropriate sexual contact.

Well written, witty, comedic and serious by turns, Compulsively Mr. Darcy has it all — quirky characters, evil villains, surprises, disappointments, and a great love story.

NOTE: Remember, I love to hear from my readers so if you’ve read the book or plan to let me know what you think.

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