Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Love Austen Week Tag

Here are my own answers to this tag!  Don't forget to visit the party's master post here to find links to everyone's posts and join up yourself!

1. Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one?

A movie.  I can't remember anymore if I saw Sense and Sensibility (1995) or Emma (1996 -- the Gwyneth Paltrow version) first.  I know I watched S&S with my mom, and Emma with my friends -- but this was back around the time the movies came to VHS, so it's been twenty years, which is why I just can't remember anymore.  But after seeing them both, I started reading the books.

2. What is your favorite Austen book?

Persuasion.  Not even really a contest there, though I also really enjoy Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.  And Sense and Sensibility.  I want to like Emma more than I do, and I've about given up on trying to like Mansfield Park, but I'll give it a try again some day.  Maybe the third read-through will be the charm for me.

3. Favorite heroine? Why do you like her best?

Anne Elliot.  I probably like her best because she's a lot like me -- loyal, quiet, caring, giving, with a cool head in a crisis and a willingness to forgive.  And I admire her integrity.  But I also love her character arc, that she learns that there's a difference between being agreeable and letting other people run your lives.  By the end of the story, she has learned to trust her own judgement and to stand on her own two feet, and she makes me want to cheer.

4. Favorite hero? Why do you like him best?

Captain Wentworth.  I must admit I like guys who are good at giving orders.  I don't like Wentworth's ability to hold a grudge, but I love that he's stubborn, and that he finally learns to put that stubbornness to good use.  And he has such a beautiful character arc, with so much to learn and overcome.

5. Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Austen's work?

Yup!  The 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.  I reviewed it at length here.

6. Have your Austen tastes changed over the years? (Did you start out liking one story best, but now like another better? Did you think she was boring at first, then changed your mind? Etc.)

In some ways, yes.  Although Persuasion has remained my favorite Jane Austen novel since I first read it in my late teens, I originally thought of Austen's novels as entertaining romances, and nothing more.  But when I re-read them in my early thirties, I realized all the things that are going on below the surface of her words.  The way she is pointing out the ridiculousness of human nature, the inconsistencies of societal customs, and always the fact that appearances can be deceiving.  Like the appearance of her stories, which have so much wit and wisdom under the obvious story lines.  Similarly, the appearance of characters -- handsome and charming men are often villainous, quiet and boring men are often heroic.  Shy and unimportant women are often intelligent and strong, and beautiful, rich women are often shallow and petty.  But just when you think you've got Austen figured out, she'll toss you someone beautiful who is nice, someone rich who is kind, or someone ugly who is absolutely awful.  Just to keep you on your toes!

I used to think Austen was just fun, but now I find her fascinating.  She has a depth of feeling and thought that I enjoy connecting with.  I have learned much as a writer from her, especially about how to make the most of sparing descriptions and when to use narrative instead of writing out scene after scene in their entirety.  And many of her books make me laugh aloud with joy, which I love.

7. Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)? (Feel free to share photos if you want.)

Yes!  I have lots of Austen-related books -- here are some of them:

I also have a Jane Austen journal, a magnet that says "Austenite," the awesome Persuasion shirt from Litographs (a Valentine's Day present from Cowboy a year or two ago), and this cool mug (a gift from Cowboy too, actually):

And I have quite a few movies and soundtracks, and a book of sheet music with themes from a bunch of different adaptations.  Plus a journal, the coloring book I reviewed yesterday, and other little things like that.

8. If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?

What are you trying to say with Mansfield Park?  I never feel like I understand it.

9. Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads. What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it?

YES!  Can we do this?  I want a perfect adaptation of Persuasion, please.  One that makes the story clear without overexplaining, that has music I enjoy, and that doesn't make me quirk eyebrows at the ending.  And, most importantly, with Louise Brealey as Anne Elliot and Ioan Gruffudd as Captain Frederick Wentworth.

10. Share up to five favorite Jane Austen quotations!

"There's nothing like staying home for real comfort." -- Emma (It cracks me up that this was said by Mrs. Elton, who absolutely did not mean it.  But I happen to think it's true.)

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -- Northanger Abbey  (This is harsh, yet not entirely inaccurate of my feelings if you leave off the "stupid" part.  I find people who hate books fairly hard to tolerate for long.)

"One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other." -- Emma (I find this to be so true -- like how people who love books can't understand those who don't, and vice versa.  So it goes with pretty much every thing someone enjoys -- someone else thinks it's madness.)

"Wherever you are you should always be contented, but especially at home, because there you must spend the most of your time." -- Northanger Abbey (I heartily agree.)

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."  (This is exceedingly long, but I can't bear to quote only part of it.)


  1. I have the same Persuasion and my mom has the same blue boxed set as you :)

    I love your casting idea for a new Persuasion, too! Louise Grealey is perfect for Anne!

    1. Elanor, that's cool! I picked that boxed set up on clearance a few years ago -- it's part of why I decided I wanted to read all of Austen's books in one year. I think that was 2012. I bought the hardcover Persuasion for when I participated in Heidi's read-along a couple years back.

      And thanks! I spent like a week trying to find the right person for Anne. (Ioan as Wentworth has been a dream of mine for a long time.)

  2. Yes! Persuasion is a great favorite of mine though Pride and Prejudice is a contender for top spot. It was my first Austen and therefore has a special place in my heart. However, please, please give Mansfield Park another shot. I think it is frequently misunderstood and unfairly criticized. Austen has so much to say under the surface in that book; about morals, values, societal pressures, duty, and so much more.

    You did know I am a bit overly enthusiastic about Jane Austen, right?

    1. Jennifer, I will definitely give Mansfield Park another try one day. My problem with it isn't that I don't understand it, really -- I do know she's making a point about things like pretense, duty, and being true to your own moral beliefs. I just don't like any of the characters very much. That's really the make-or-break for me for any story -- do I want to hang out with the characters and wish we could be friends? If I don't want to spend time with them, I'm never going to love that story, even if I can see that it's well-written or appreciate its message. But I also feel like I might be missing some secret key that makes MP really awesome, so I figure it'd be a good thing to ask Austen.

    2. I do see that if you don't like the characters it is hard to like the book. But the thing is, I do like Fanny Price. She isn't witty or charming like Elizabeth but she is, underneath her insecurities and shyness, morally strong and determined to do what she thinks is right. I can admire that. She isn't perfect and she sure does cry a lot but I think she deserved more than Edmund. And I always have a soft spot for the shy people who are a bit overlooked.

    3. Jennifer, yes, I find Fanny Price interesting. And even admirable. I just don't want to be her friend, alas. I'm glad you like her!

  3. I also chose Persuasion as my favorite novel, and Captain Wentworth as my hero. I cannot wait to watch Emma, but have to finish reading the book first.
    I do agree that rereading them will enhance one's understanding. Austen is deep and complicated. You explain her writing style and purpose very well.
    About Mansfield Park - I struggled with that, too - so good question about her point. If nothing else, she seemed to demonstrate the ridiculousness of her society perfectly.

    1. Ruth, I hope you enjoy watching Emma! I love the '96 dearly, but I do like the 2009 miniseries too -- took me until ep 2 to get into it the first time I watched it, but now I've seen the whole thing twice and quite like it.

      Thanks, I tried hard to really explain why I think Austen is so much more than just "romantic."

  4. Persuasion is my favorite too :-) It's so deep, and rich, and so beautiful. It's her best novel; of that I am convinced.


    I used to hate Mansfield Park . . . but now I really love it, actually. It's really sad, definitely, because of everything Fanny has to go through, and she never actually gets any real reward for it. (Marrying Edmund only sort-of counts. Edmund is Not Cool, imho.)

    I think it's a case of Austen trying to really highlight the problems with the patriarchal social structure of her time; where Fanny is under the power of these men (Sir Thomas and Edmund) who THINK they know what's best for her . . . and it turns out they totally, totally don't. But the amazing thing is, SHE STANDS UP TO THEM. She says, flat-out, "I will not marry Henry Crawford." And she doesn't. That's a defiance of the social system unlike anything any of JA's other heroines ever did. Elizabeth Bennet defies Lady Catherine, sure; but she has the complete support of her own father. Fanny doesn't have anything like that. And she's suffered all this abuse, since childhood, which has fundamentally damaged/weakened her personality (at least I think so)--and yet she STILL stands up and says, "no."

    And she ends up marrying Edmund instead. Who . . . isn't abusive? So at least he has THAT going for him? But he's also complacent and hypocritical (at least, that's the way I see him.) He's super satisfied with his own goodness and his own wisdom, and he never really comes to grips with "hey, how wise and good AM I, actually?"

    So I think it's a kind of realistic portrait of how Regency society is structured, and what women can realistically hope to achieve within the system. "You may be able to avoid marrying somebody awful--if you're strong and you stand up for your rights--but that doesn't mean you'll be able to marry somebody really cool."

    That's how I read the story, anyway :-)

    1. Jessica, if you find that petition, let me know, cuz I will sign it too. And make all my friends sign it.

      Mansfield Park is good, it really is... I just don't love it. Doesn't mean I think it's bad, just means I don't like it, and I wish I did, but... likes and dislikes are not always something we can think ourselves into and out of. But you make some great points about why it's a good book!

    2. We should start a petition of our own! We could go to or something ;-)

      Oh, of course! There are plenty of great books (and movies) out there that I don't like at all--like you said, it's really a matter of personal taste. Everyone is different, after all.

    3. Haha! That would be awesomely funny.

  5. Yay for another 1996 "Emma" fan! :D

    I LOVE that mug! What journal do you have, by chance? This one is mine:

    Ooh, I like your casting for Persuasion. I quite like the two versions we have, but another wouldn't hurt. :)

    Love the quotes you chose!!

    1. Natalie, that's the same journal I have! Isn't it cute?

    2. That's so cool! Yes, I love it. :)

  6. Replies
    1. MovieCritic, if only we could wish this into being, huh?

  7. I have that same mug! Isn't it awesome?

    That quote from Northanger Abbey about being contented at home is such a neat one! Thanks for sharing it. :)

    1. Molly Rebekah, how cool! I definitely love that mug. My kids are always asking to read it, or for me to read it to them.

      The NA line doesn't get thrown around much, but I really love it. Glad you dig it too!

  8. I love your idea for the Persuasion adaptation. I would love for Ioan Gruffudd to play an Austen hero!

    1. Thanks, Birdie! I would too. I've been a fan of his since his earliest Hornblower movies.

  9. I'm still a tiny bit leery of Mansfield Park myself, but hopefully one day (soon?) I'll brave it! And double yay for Anne! :)

    You make some great points about Jane in #6. Every reread of her stories I seem to find something new. Something else to laugh at or some new thought I hadn't noticed before. She is definitely a fascinating writer!

    I love that mug!

    YES please to the perfect adaptation of Persuasion!!! I like your choices for actors too. I could really go for both of them. :)

    1. Thanks, Kara! I really love writers whose stories go richer when I re-read them.


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