Monday, November 1, 2010

And November Begins...

As much as I look forward to Halloween every year, I am excited when it is finally over.   The coming of November means that, finally, book-reading season is here.   The weather starts to get pretty chilly (today in Buffalo it is 41 degrees, and there will be snow by the end of the week), sweaters and scarves come out, and the fire begins to blaze.  What perfect moments await, snuggling in front of the fire with some great books!  Time to catch a little bit of solitude before the crazy holiday season begins. 

This week will be all about Jane Austen.  I would like to write a little bit about each of the items on my Everything Austen II challenge list.  I will also be honoring her by sharing anything I read out in the blogosphere about the Annual General Meeting in Portland that was held this weekend.

Today, I will be crossing two items off of my list:  The Lost in Austen mini-series, combined with Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.

I watched Lost in Austen on YouTube, in ten minute segments of course, with french subtitles.  Quite an interesting way to watch it, but nevertheless, I was able to watch the whole thing in almost one piece.  I found the series incredibly funny and an interesting take on Austen.   When Amanda Price (played by Jemima Rooper) discovers a secret passage in her bathroom, she enters the fictional world of her favorite novel by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.  As Amanda meets all the characters in this fictional realm in many hilarious situations, she notices the plot start to change.  She spends the rest of the movie trying to fix these changes, so that the novel ends the way it was intended.  So, as not to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it already, I won't say how all her machinations work out, but I will say it is a great series, and I highly recommend it for any of you avid Austen fans out there.   4 stars

I'd like to start out by giving you the context of my reading of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  I bought a paperback copy of the novel with the above cover in Toronto airport on the way to Venice.  I proceeded to read it during my entire summer trip from Venice, to Hungary, to the Italian Lakes.  I read it here and there, so I did not get much continuity from the novel.  I do remember finishing it poolside on Lake Garda, and the ending of the novel will always bring me back to that particularly pleasant moment.

I did enjoy this novel and now believe I would have enjoyed it even more if read in one long sitting, or over a couple days.  Since I didn't (I wanted to savor the book over the entire 2 1/2 weeks for my nightly read before bed. It is very difficult, to say the least, to find good English books in Italy.), my initial impression was lukewarm.  But, looking back, it was a wonderful read.  Actually these books had to have been pretty difficult for Rigler to write, and I admire her for writing them. And, I love that she attended my alma mater, the University of Buffalo!  I learned this from a recent alumni newsletter.

The main character, Jane Mansfield, a gentleman's daughter living in 1813 England, awakens in the body of Courtney Stone in 21st century Los Angeles.  Contrary to what most people say, the aspects of this novel I most enjoyed weren't the trials of Jane trying to adapt to our technologically advanced society.  I loved how Jane Mansfield uses her own particular strengths and point of view from her own life in another century  to succeed in our 21st.  I think what is most important about Jane's time travel experience is her awareness of both her lack of choice in early 19th century England, and her abrupt awareness of having too many choices in our modern world.  As Jane says herself, from pg. 265 of the novel, "I cannot deny that in the brief time I have been here, I have had more choices in a single day than I had in my entire life as a gentleman's daughter.  Choices of everything from what I might wear and how I might spend my day to how I could earn my living.  But the thing that I now know I want the most seems the farthest from my reach." And that "thing" turns out to be love.  This novel proves to the reader that attaining love is difficult no matter who you are, or what era you live in, or come from.

I would next like to find Rigler's other novel to compare it to Lost in Austen, and to see if it is as great as Rude Awakenings.  I give this one 3 1/2 stars after some reflection.  Reading Rigler gives me some hope for any other novels out there who claim to be continuations of Austen.  In my experience, there is a minefield of really bad books written using Austen's novels as a takeoff point, and I dread spending any money on them until I'm sure they will not disappoint me.

This was my first Everything Austen II review.  More to come this week....

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