Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge Finale

pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200It’s been awhile since I’ve written about the Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. The last time was my review of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries vlog series on Youtube. How much fun was that? I have really enjoyed the year-long bicentennial celebration of one of my favorite books, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, by Jane Austen, and I loved discovering what a vast fandom her books have. So many works inspired by the fictional relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, such an amazing achievement for an author! One could read nothing but these works if one so chose.

To end the year with a bang, and in the month of Austen’s birthday no less, I crammed in as much P & P action as I could. As the new year approached, I finished reading the original text and then watched two movie versions of the novel. Austen’s use of language to vividly portray such wonderful, flawed characters, was by far, my favorite part of this year-long celebration.

Speaking of characters, some of my favorite lines from the book involve the frequent discussions of character:

  • “I did not know before,” continued Bingley immediately, “that you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study.”

“Yes, but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage.” (Elizabeth Bennet to Mr. Bingley.)

  • “There are few people in this world whom I really love, and still fewer who I think well. The more I see of the world, the more I am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.” (Elizabeth Bennet to her sister Jane.)
  • “I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in part of the world, where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire – and give me leave to say, very impolitic too – for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out, as will shock your relations to hear.” (Elizabeth Bennet speaking with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy.)
  • “I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes, which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation, and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read. You must therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.” (Letter from Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet.)
  • “When my eyes were opened to his real character – Oh! had I known what I ought, what I dared, to do! But I knew not – I was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched, mistake!” (Elizabeth Bennet speaking to Mr. Darcy.)
  • “Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application, have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. how far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.” (Elizabeth Bennet speaking to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.)

Ah, such fantastic language, and oh, what a beautifully written heroine, don’t you think?

Watching the movies just let me revel in my favorite bits of the story, with some lovely eye-candy to boot. As many in the challenge have said, you always love your first P & P movie the best, and mine is the 2005 version with Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadyen. Although I did enjoy the 1995 Colin Firth mini-series as well, (who doesn’t love that swimming scene, right?) I felt the emotional impact was stronger in the 2005 version. I mean, come on, Matthew Mcfadyen’s trembling hand after he helps Kiera Knightly in to the carriage? Who didn’t feel weak at the knees right then?

(Let the debate begin!)

P and P 2005

P and P 1995

Have you been following this celebration? What are your favorite parts of Pride & Prejudice?

Pride & Prejudice in the Modern World – The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200You know that out of body experience  you get when you’ve never encountered something before and then once you do, you see it everywhere you turn? It’s like the universe is shouting at you, “Hey, this is important! Check it out!…Seriously. I mean, drop everything you’re doing and go look into this…Right now!” Well, a few weeks ago that happened to me regarding the outstanding web vlog series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD). I would see a random comments from writer friends online, talking about how much they loved it. At first I thought maybe it was a new book or something. It is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice this year, so many new books have been released to celebrate it. Then another friend tweeted about catching up on watching some Lizzie Bennet episodes. Okay, not a book…a new series, maybe? The chatter got so loud and so gushing that I finally had to Google it just to find out what in the heck everyone was talking about. That search led me to the YouTube channel for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and then the first episode began to play.LBD

Wow. What fun! A modern day vlog hosted by the character Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bennet, telling all about her life and the lives of her two sisters, Lydia and Jane. Perfect for this month’s Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge event! It’s the modern retelling of P & P, so sisters Mary and Kitty were recast as a cousin and…a cat. Those are not the only changes; Jane works in fashion, Lizzie is in grad school (with her vlog as her thesis project), and Lizzie’s best friend, Charlotte helps her film and edit the vlog episodes because she has aspirations of being a filmmaker. Bingley has been transformed into Bing Lee, the young (available & wealthy) medical student who’s just moved into town. Some things that are still the same; Mrs. Bennet still wants her daughters to get married and Darcy is is still very Darcy…or is he?

tumblr_mj6z7798V01s6lq53o1_500Not being very experienced with YouTube besides watching occasional episodes of  John Green’s vlogbrothers, I was fascinated by the world of the weekly vlog webisode, and taking literature into this techno place. (On a sidenote, John Green’s brother and other half of the vlogbrothers, Hank Green, was one of the co-creators of this project.)

In LBD, the characters address the camera directly and speak to us the viewers and to each other about their feelings. It feels more like peeking in on a webchat than watching a play or a movie. Still, the experience is very cool and so interactive, with viewers commenting on each weekly episode. Not to mention the spin off episodes that Lydia’s character put out that added another layer to the experience, like some wonderful special features tidbit you’d get with your double disc blue ray set. You can even follow some of the characters on Twitter. And they even tweet back and forth with each other. Just more and more awesomeness.

By the time I’d stumbled onto this gem, there were already over 90 episodes to watch! Yikes! I was so behind! Needless to say, when I started watching, I couldn’t stop. It killed my productivity for a few days, blazing through them all, cursing my internet server (you know who you are) the few times that my WiFi streaming was too slow to keep up with my viewing demands, but it was worth it.

What surprised me most about LBD, was when the emotional impact escalated and I actually felt myself reacting to what I was viewing. Even tearing up a few times. I hadn’t expected that. The acting was so natural that you’d forget it was happening until they’d smack you upside the head with a great emotional scene. Bravo!

Now, as you all know, this story has an ending, and so too does this fine vlog. Episode 100 is coming up very soon. I would encourage all of you to check out this fantastic show. Start here with the first ten episodes. And for those of you who are already fans and would love another web vlog inspired by a great book, check out the new School of Thrones, only in it’s second episode! Actor Mary Kate Wiles, who plays the darling (and totes adorbes) Lydia in LBD, plays Sansa Stark in this spoof of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. It’s fantastic.

So what about you? Do you watch any fabulous vlogs? Any others out there you know of inspired by great books? I’d love to hear from you.

Getting in Touch with my Austen Peeps – A Challenging Review

Some of you may have remembered that I’ve taken up a couple of challenges this year. (I first mentioned them in this post here and this one here.) Both involve reading and reviewing books with differing themes. Not such a tough thing for a lover of reading, I admit. In the end, not so much challenging as just fun and another excuse to share some great books with you. I have two reviews for you this week – one today and one this weekend.

pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200For the Pride & Prejudice Bicentenniary Challenge, I wasn’t ready to tackle the original text just yet. Then I stumbled on some news about a children’s author I follow on Twitter. Then I read that she not only wrote something for adults, but that it had a Jane Austen theme. Not only that, the first book in this new series was just made into a movie. And it’s all about a woman who is totally obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and that fantastic Mr. Darcy, much to the detriment of her own love life.

Perfect!

The book?

Austenland by Shannon HaleAustenlandPB150

Here’s the plot summary:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

And honestly, how many of us (participating in this challenge or not) can identify to some degree with a (slightly obsessive) preoccupation with Pride & Prejudice and hoping that there is a Mr. Darcy out there for us as well? Of course, I’m not saying that we would take it to Jane’s extreme, but still…

Jane is at first ecstatic to be immersed in the world of corsets and drawing rooms, but soon she finds the actors a little too spot on, feeling as if she is the fraud ruining this romantic utopia. She begins to think back on each of her failed relationships to see where they all fell short of the most perfect romance ever written. Is there really a Mr. Darcy out there for her or should she stick to her plan and get this nonsense out of her system once and for all?

Here’s a brief excerpt:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her. There was no husband, but those weren’t necessary anymore. There were boyfriends, and if they came and went in a regular stream of mutual dissatisfaction—well, that was the way of things, wasn’t it?

But Jane had a secret. By day, she bustled and luncheoned and emailed and over timed and just-in-timed, but sometimes, when she had the time to slip off her consignment store pumps and lounge on her hand-me-down sofa, she dimmed the lights, turned on her nine inch television, and acknowledged what was missing.

Sometimes, she watched Pride and Prejudice.

You know, the BBC double DVD version, starring Colin Firth as the delicious Mr. Darcy and that comely, busty English actress as the Elizabeth Bennet we had imagined all along. Jane watched and re-watched the part where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy look at each other over the piano, and there’s that zing, and her face softens, and he smiles, his chest heaving as though he’d breathe in the sight of her, and his eyes are glistening so that you’d almost think he’d cry…Ah!

Each time, Jane’s heart banged, her skin chilled, and she clamped down on the distracting ache in her gut with a bowl of something naughty, like Cocoa Pebbles. That night she would dream of gentlemen in Abraham Lincoln hats, and then in the morning laugh at herself and toy with the idea of hauling those DVDs and all her Austen books to the second hand store.

Of course, she never did.

That pesky movie version was the culprit. Sure, Jane had first read Pride and Prejudice when she was sixteen, read it a dozen times since, and read the other Austen novels at least twice, except Northanger Abbey (of course). But it wasn’t until the BBC put a face on the story that those gentlemen in tight breeches had stepped out of her reader’s imagination and into her non-fiction hopes. Stripped of Austen’s funny, insightful, biting narrator, the movie became a pure romance. And Pride and Prejudice was the most stunning, bite-your-hand romance ever, the kind that stared straight into Jane’s soul and made her shudder.

It was embarrassing. She didn’t really want to talk about it. So let’s move on.

Hale gives a charming, if at times uncomfortable, view of what it would feel like to actually be transported to one’s own Austenland. Be careful what you wish for, here. This book may make you question how much of your concepts of romance, what you expected to find out in the world when searching for someone to be your partner in life – the deep down ones that you never told anyone – were based on unrealistic expectations and fantasies not to be found in the real world. You may ask yourself, “Is this nagging sense of my life being incomplete that I sometimes get after reading/watching P & P from some lame lack of fulfillment or just the wistful longing that great literature can evoke?”

Of course, those stories never show the perfect romantic couples dealing with whose turn it is to take out the trash or feed the screaming baby at 2 AM either, do they?

This is a great, easy read for any hardcore Austen fan to enjoy.

Learn more about Shannon Hale and her books here.

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary…Challenge Accepted!

ImageWhile stumbling through the blogosphere, I found this literary challenge that was too tempting not to accept. This year marks the 2ooth anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. I’ve been reading my way through Ms. Austen’s works this one is still my favorite. I can’t think of any other nineteenth century character that’s as feisty and fabulous as Elizabeth Bennet, can you?

One lovely blog site, Austenprose – A Jane Austen blog, is celebrating this momentous bicentennial with a very fitting challenge. There will be prizes for participants – one given out every month and a grand prize giveaway at the end of the year. Check out the site for some reading suggestions and television viewing opportunities coming up this year. I am committing to the beginning level and planning on re-reading the original text by Ms. Austen. I thought about re-reading my copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I don’t think I could stomach a second go. The first time was interesting, if only to see how the writer was able to weave in the different elements. Frankly, it just made me want to read the original again. My daughter loved it – the little heathen.

I hope to catch some of the television specials – at least the movie version. I must admit, I usually stop whatever I’m doing and watch whenever it’s on anyway – not a hard bit of the challenge to meet in the end. There is a book on the suggested list, Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, that sounds interesting. It will also help fulfill one of my Postal Reading Challenge selections. So if you care to indulge in the world of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, sign up now. It should be a eventful year.