Austen in August and Autumn – FINISHED!

This has been the longest Austen in August I’ve ever done. So much so that it’s taken until December for me to be done. There are lots of reasons why the Austening just couldn’t stop and the main one is that I’ve always found reading Jane Austen to be very good for the health. The past few months have been rather tumultuous for me behind the scenes – I went back to work part-time after a year of maternity leave, my son caught every bug he could find while at nursery, a long friendship drew to a painful but unsurprising close and on the national level, it’s fair to say that I find the state of the country to be … upsetting. Through it all, I have been so grateful for Jane Austen and all who sail with her. (more…)

Austen in Autumn Review: There’s Something About Darcy, Gabrielle Malcolm

I am always utterly fascinated by how a literary character or even a historical figure can continue to evolve decades or even centuries after they lived or were created. Clearly, they have not undergone an alteration but as society shifts, so does the way that we read them. I have read thematic biographies on figures such as the Brontë Sisters, Anne Boleyn and even Jane Austen herself but never before someone from the fictional world. In the two centuries since his creation, Mr Darcy has become one of the most iconic characters in literature and a by-word for a romantic hero. Despite my heavy-weight Austen appreciation, I have never been a Darcy fan-girl, remaining a little mystified by the mania. When I saw this book, I jumped at the chance to understand it better – what exactly is the ‘something’ about Darcy that gets everyone so hot and bothered? (more…)


TV Review: His Dark Materials – Episode Five

OK. They’ve done it now. I’m pissed off. I’ve been gamely trying to make the best of this series despite its various obvious short-comings and then … this. It’s possible that this being a Ruth-Wilson-free episode didn’t help to swing the balance back the other way but it could also be that two of the plot lines that were for me the most powerful were completely trampled on. And it’s infuriating because this series has some truly amazing actors and it definitely had the potential to be something truly great. I feel like I’ve spent episode after episode trying to be sympathetic about why certain plot-lines have been simplified or cut but despite my attempts to be tolerant, I just end up trailing off with ‘but … still’. Five instalments in ‘but still’ His Dark Materials is … not good. And this episode was dreadful. (more…)

TV Review: His Dark Materials – Episode Four

I’ve been meaning to mention for each episode but there’s never been a good opportunity – the opening credits for this show are fantastic. The music is great but I also just really like how they suggest the future plot developments. You can even see where Will would fit in. The credits are hardly the make or break of a good television series but all the same, it’s nice when they’re done right. Each week so far though I have seen the balloon in the opening titles and hoped that this time we would get to see Lee Scoresby and finally with Episode Four, I got my wish. Two of the most iconic His Dark Materials characters, Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison are finally on board. The place just wasn’t the same without them. (more…)

Austen in Autumn Discussion: Was Fanny Price #MeToo?

Mansfield Park is Austen’s ‘problem novel’ and its heroine Fanny Price is her ‘problem’ heroine. Even leading Austen scholars such as Lionel Trilling claim that she is impossible to like. Reading the book again though, I began to think about why that was and what Austen was trying to achieve. C S Lewis has called Fanny a ‘Brontë heroine in a Jane Austen situation’. But what is an ‘Austen situation’? We associate Austen with serenity and good manners. Her novels evoke bonnets, white gloves and dainty cups of tea. From the earliest pages, the Bertrams make clear that Fanny Price is not to expect to be included in these luxuries of life. She is to be forever grateful for the crumbs from their table, to stand to one side and keep her eyes forever lowered. In comparison to all the other heroines, Fanny Price’s situation is not an Austen one at all. But such a marked change in tone can really be no accident. What then was the character of Fanny Price supposed to show us? (more…)

TV Review: His Dark Materials – Episode Three

Apologies as ever for being behind on this – life is hectic. I’m still enjoying this though and particularly motivated to catch up now that I know that I’m only one episode away from seeing Iorek Byrnison. However, given that we are on to Episode Three, I do think that the series has likely hit whatever stride it was ever going to. It feels like every episode reveals a new challenge for the production team but even so, there have been a couple of baffling decisions. Although my mind remains open, I’m starting to think that this is going to be a series that ‘has its moments’ rather than being something that I’m going to be reminiscing about afterwards. (more…)

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