Monday, March 30, 2015

If you like Jane Austen...

If you like Jane Austen movie adaptations, period costume drama, or are just suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, I may be able to help you.

I do absolutely love Jane Austen, but I also enjoy English costume drama in general. If you only limit yourself to Jane Austen, you are missing out on fantastic masterpieces of cinematography. Therefore gentle readers, we are going just beyond the perimeters of Jane Austen today. I have compiled a short list in no particular order of must see movies if you enjoy Jane Austen adaptations. 

1. North and South (2004): This may be one of my all time favorite period dramas. This mini-series is based on Elizabeth Gaskell's mid-19th century novel about social and romantic conflict between the industrial north and the rural south of England. Just so you all know, I think the movie is better than the book. I don't say that often gentle readers, so pay attention. It is darker than Jane Austen, but not so dark that you feel like your soul has been stained by watching it. Also, Richard Armitage, ladies and gentlemen. He is quite perfect in all his majestic brooding glory. Go watch it, now. 

2. The Young Victoria (2009): Emily Blunt is absolutely radiant as the youthful Queen Victoria in this movie. We get to see how she rises to the throne and her growing relationship with Albert, a minor member of the German nobility. This movie is a combination love story, coming of age story, and political thriller. I could seriously watch this movie over and over again just for the costumes and locations; they are breathtaking. However, my favorite part is the real husband and wife relationship that Victoria and Albert portray; its just wonderful. 

3. Jane Eyre (2006): I know, I know. Someone who loves Jane Austen cannot also love Jane Eyre since that would be defecting to the enemy camp. Jane Austen will always be my first and best love. However, Jane Eyre is a truly wonderful Gothic romance, and the 2006 miniseries is the best adaptation of the novel, hands down. This adaptation is deliciously creepy, but manages to avoid the pitfalls of the horror genre. Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens are perfectly cast as Jane and Rochester, and there will never be an equal to their pairing. 

I hope you all enjoyed my short list of period dramas! Do you have any other period dramas that should be added to this list? Have you seen any of these productions? What are your thoughts? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Jane Austen Merchandise

Did you know that such a thing as a Jane Austen action figure existed? I wasn't aware until recently, but I will certainly be trying to track one down. She even comes with a quill, writing desk, and small copy of one of her works. I'm pretty sure owning one of these would solidify my nerd status for eternity. However, I'm okay with that.

There is a lot of other fun/cool/weird Jane Austen merchandise out there. Some of it I own, and others I wish I possessed. I've compiled a short list of these items.

I was recently given this beautiful, fantastic, glorious, perfect (have I used enough adjectives yet?) scarf by a wonderful and dear friend. It has the scene at the end of Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie and Darcy are discussing how he fell in love with her printed on it. It's soft, classy, and a perfect accessory to lots of outfits. I'm going to be that English teacher who wears their favorite book as a scarf someday, and I could not be more excited about it.

Yes, Pride and Prejudice the board game does exist, and yes, I do own it. Don't judge me.
Think of it as "The Game of Life" 19th century Jane Austen style.

Every year my grandma and grandpa buy me a new calendar, and the past couple of years have been Jane Austen themed. It's like they know me or something. This is very similar to the one I have this year. I love the charming illustrations from an edition of the book in the late 1800s, they bring the book to life in an incredible way.

Gorgeous pink leather bounds of Jane Austen's entire canon. So feminine and pretty, but still useful. I do not own these, but they are on my wish list. How beautiful would these be in my house library? Now I just need to find and own a house that has a library.

This bag speaks for itself. It's definitely on point. If you have a Janeite in your life, you should get her this.

That's my short list of Jane Austen merchandise. Do you all know of anything else that should be added to this list? If you are not an Austen fan, what nerdy merchandise do you own? We all have something.

Disclaimer: These are not advertisements. I just think this stuff is super cool.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The 200th Anniversary of Emma

Romola Garai as Emma in the 2009 BBC miniseries
This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Emma. Now, its not until December 25th, but since Emma is one of my favorite novels, we are going to talk about it this week. 

Before she started the novel, Jane Austen said, "I'm going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." Then she proceeded to write one of the greatest novels in the English language. 

The first line of the novel captures that statement and sets the tone for the rest of the novel:
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."

Emma is practically perfect; her only downfall is that she knows she is perfect. Therefore, she spends the entire novel trying to arrange other peoples' lives since she believes she is a model matchmaker. She royally messes up everyone's lives and her own in the process; and the hilarity and awkward situations commence. What I think makes this book so loved is the growth the reader sees in Emma from the beginning of the book to the end. Everyone is at least a little annoyed by Emma at the beginning, but we cheer for her to become a better version of herself through the course of the book. 

Cool old copy of Emma

Fun fact about the publishing of Emma: The Prince Regent at the time was a huge fan of Jane Austen, so much so that he demanded that she dedicate Emma to him. Jane hated the Prince Regent, so she settled for a satirical and pompous dedication. "To his Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, this work is, by his Royal Highness's permission, most respectfully dedicated, by his Royal Highness's dutiful and obedient humble servant, The Author." Every time I read this I can imagine her writing this and smirking as she does it. 

Clueless: Cher and her crew

Emma has spawned many adaptations and retellings, such as the popular 90s movie, Clueless. It also has been remade into a web series called Emma Approved. It was made by the same people who created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (you can read about my obsession with them here). 
You can check out the first couple of episodes of Emma Approved on YouTube here. I promise you that they are Simply Austen approved. 

Besides actually reading the novel, my favorite (and the most faithful) adaptation is the 2009 BBC mini series starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller as Emma and Knightley. It honestly might be my favorite Jane Austen adaptation ever. It's that good. 

Have you ever read Emma? Did you like it? Have you ever seen any of the adaptations? Which ones?

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Favorite Austen Men

I'm not going to lie to all of you. This statement is true for me.
Mr. Darcy was my first Jane Austen love since I discovered Pride and Prejudice when I was 13, so that automatically makes him my favorite. He is intelligent, handsome, and the kindest man on earth. There is a reason that almost every woman in the world is in love with him. If you are not, you're wrong.

But it is not just Mr. Darcy whom I admire. There are two other very special men of Jane Austen's creation who I think deserve more credit than they receive.

Mr. Knightley (Emma)
Knightley is perfect because he is the perfect balance of sarcasm, intelligence and charm. He loves Emma through everything and shows that the best love can grow out of friendship. "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more."

Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)
 *Sigh.* He waits for Anne for SEVEN years, even when she was persuaded to reject him the first time. If that isn't commitment and love, I don't know what is. "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you."

Darcy, Wentworth and Knightley are my top three favorite leading men. For those of you who have read/seen Austen, do you agree with me? Who is your favorite? Who would you put in a top three?

For my gentlemen readers, who are your favorite leading ladies?