Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels (Everything Austen II)

As part of my last item to check off for the Everything Austen II Challenge, I read some more in Dierdre Le Faye's book Jane Austen: The World of Her Novel. I qualified my EA II list by saying that I needed to "read some/part/skim" this book because I am not the greatest of non-fiction readers.  I don't do well at all with them.  Even when it's a subject I enjoy, my eyes still start to fall shut!  I thought that if I qualified it some I might accomplish what I set out to do.  Lo and behold, I did!

In July I read the P&P section of Le Faye's book and just last night I read the section about Persuasion. (One of the other items on my EA II list was to read Persuasion again.  I have started it but have not made it very far yet because I got sidetracked by other Christmas present books.  But I was inspired to read this section because I wanted to complete the EA II Challenge and I received the DVD to the 2007 BBC Masterpiece production of Persuasion for Christmas, so I was itching to watch it.)

With my free evening (hubby off with da boys/child sleeping), I charted my course of action--curled up on the couch reading the P section of said book and when finished a reward of a Christmas cookie with hot chocolate as the DVD started.

So let's review with a few insights: I am hardly two chapters into rereading the actual novel, having not read it in a year or two or maybe three.  It is my second favorite JA novel only to P&P.  While reading Le Faye's synopsis of P and her insights to it, I discovered several things:

1. I apparently have no memory about some of the characters and their connections.  Mrs. Clay was Mr. Shepherd's daughter? (Mr. Shepherd is Sir Walter's lawyer in the beginning of the novel.)  Yup, missed that the first reading or two.

2. My mental map of England's Somersetshire is lacking.  Erm...umm, and my mental map of southern England in general is also lacking.  Since the map Ms. Le Faye offers the reader is from the early 19th C and the writing is hard to read, I found that a quick perusal of the area from Google maps allowed me to actually recall the setting's actual locales. (IE:  approximate location of Kellynch Hall to Bath and to Lyme etc.)

3. What I really like about Le Faye's work is that it is quite accessible to most readers.  She gives just enough background information to explain some of the historical events happening during the writing/setting of the book as well as gives some explanation of common customs of the time while reading the detailed synopsis of the story that as a reader you don't get too lost to those details without losing the story. Granted, a simple background knowledge of JA, her writing, Regency/Georgian England does help.  Hmmm, maybe I'm a bit biased and maybe it's not so easy a read as I initially thought.

If I have a complaint about JA: The World of Her Novels it is that there are a few points where in order to offer better explanation of the time or custom, Le Faye quotes a journal/diary/memoir (some other source) and does not tell the reader where the information came from with a citation  or source etc. Gha!--A bit frustrating for the trained English teacher/librarian that I am...This work is said to be one of the books in terms of JA literature background and criticism.  I, of course, wanted to know where the more detailed account came from.

So to finish out my delightful JA evening, I watched the 2007 Persuasion.  Ok, I'm torn here.  I love the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds 1995 version.  LOVE IT!  But this one is pretty good, and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth is a pretty good thing to look at.  But where I struggle is that both Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins (Anne) show such guarded emotions.  In the 1995 P, the viewer feels the pain Anne feels, they see Wentworth struggle and feel it, too.  I wasn't sure what I was seeing and was left with a rather disconnected feeling as I watched the 2007 version.  I think the 1995 P might simply be the better version.  But of course, I'll need to watch the 2007 one another half dozen times to figure this out.

No comments: