Showing posts with label Jane Austen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jane Austen. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review

It Began with Pride and Prejudice


The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as written by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice has been one of the most popular in all of English literature. Now over 200 years old it's been made into numerous movies, plays, and variations. Understanding Elizabeth is one of these variations.

Since most of the characters in Understanding Elizabeth came straight from Pride and Prejudice, I'm going to refresh your memory with this diagram to show how they are related.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review
Pride and Prejudice Character Map by Jellomania at the English language Wikipedia

It has been sixty years since I read Pride and Prejudice, and that's why I needed to read it again before writing this review of Understanding Elizabeth. If you haven't read Jane Austen's original recently enough to remember the plot and characters, you can watch this video summary or download the free book from Amazon, as I did. This is the best of the summary videos I found.




If you prefer to read a plot summary with descriptions of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice, Wikipedia provides it. I reread the 410 pages in two days to refresh my memory, since the plot is complex and my memory isn't what it used to be. I found I appreciated Pride and Prejudice more at 75 than I did at 15.

Understanding Elizabeth

Understanding ElizabethUnderstanding Elizabeth

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm focuses on Mr. Darcy's inner thoughts. Although the narrator tells the story, Robin Helm lets the reader inside Mr. Darcy's head. Whereas Jane Austen reveals what her characters are thinking through their words to each other and comments from the narrator, in the Helm book Darcy's italicized thoughts are interspersed between his spoken thoughts and the narration.

We discover what motivates his words, including those infamous insulting words spoken to his friend Mr. Bingley at an Assembly. Bingley wanted Darcy to dance with Elizabeth and offered to arrange an introduction, but Darcy coldly replied, 'She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me...' Elizabeth overheard him, and although wounded, she joked about it with her friends. The offending words came from Pride and Prejudice, but they play a major part in both books.


In Understanding Elizabeth, Elizabeth writes in her journal: 
Fortunately I need not care for Mr. Darcy's good opinion, as I have known from the first moments of our acquaintance that I am not handsome enough to tempt him. After all, in his own words, I am barely tolerable....As I told Charlotte, I could easily forgive his pride had he not mortified mine. 

Darcy Reads Elizabeth's Journal


It was in trying to understand Elizabeth that Darcy alienated her. After hearing that her sister Jane who was staying with the Bingleys at Netherfield had become ill, Elizabeth immediately left for Netherfield to care for her .

Darcy was also staying there, and one evening while a group was in the parlour, Darcy observed Elizabeth reading a book. That impressed him because he liked intelligent women who read. He wondered what she was reading. As he observed she was also writing, he became curious about that, as well.

When she left to go back to Jane's room, she accidently left her book behind. Darcy took advantage of this and grabbed it, hoping to read the pages she had written and concealed in the book's pages. He battled his conscience before doing this, knowing he shouldn't, but he couldn't stop himself. He hid the book in his newspaper and took it to his room.

The first papers reveal her thoughts on the poem she was reading, but then after arguing back and forth with himself about invading Elizabeth's privacy, he yields to the temptation to understand her thoughts. As he reads her notes on Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," he sees her opinion that 'to be generous and sincere is better than to live for worldly fame and fortune.' He wonders if she thinks he "wallow[s] in luxury and pride." He questions his own character.

As he reads her opinions,  he 'picture[s] himself under a magnifying glass held in her small hands.' Then he realizes the rest of the papers in the book are her personal journal. As he reads he realizes she overheard his remark about her not being handsome enough to tempt him, and he admits to himself he hadn't meant it but was merely trying to get the matchmakers, including Bingley, off his back. By this time he knew he was becoming attracted to Elizabeth against his will.

He closes the book and sneaks it downstairs to return it to where Elizabeth had left it, now dark. Everyone else had retired by then, and, newspaper in hand, he is headed back to his room when he runs smack into Elizabeth who had come to retrieve her book. After a brief conversation about why they are there, they return to their rooms. And he realizes he is in danger of falling in love with Elizabeth.


The Dreams


Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review of a Pride and Prejudice Spin Off
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

By this time Darcy deeply regrets the insulting words he had spoken to Bingley about Elizabeth. He had never intended for her to know about them. Now they were thwarting his desire to have her think well of him and she made it clear that she loathed him. As he wishes he could take back his words, the theme turns Faustian as the devil appears in a dream to ask what he'd give to take back his words. But the angel who also appears in the dream reminds him that anyone dealing with the devil has a price to pay.

These dreams are repeated all through the book as Darcy tries to repair the relationship damage his words have caused. Elizabeth still doesn't realize he knows that she overheard them. That comes out later just as the relationship seems to be healing.

By this time Jane's illness has become more serious and Elizabeth spends a great deal of time in Jane's room. To give her some diversion, Darcy suggests they play chess. Each has a chessboard. Each writes their next move on a paper. They arrange that Molly, a servant, and Watkins, Darcy's valet, carry the notes back and forth so Elizabeth and Darcy can play their chess games without being in the same room. (Molly and Watkins don't appear in Pride and Prejudice.)

The relationship continues to develop until Darcy makes a verbal slip that makes Elizabeth realize he had read her journal. When she confronts him, he at first denies it. She then ends the chess games and the relationship because he not only invaded her privacy but also denied it. She returns his book and tells him to burn any of her notes in his possession. She also forbids him to call her Elizabeth any more and insists it be Miss Elizabeth.

That night the angel and the demon return again in a dream. Only quoting the Scriptures keeps Darcy from dealing with the Devil. The demon says he will return only once more. The quote in the image below was a warning from the angel.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review


Comparing Understanding Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice


Unlike many Pride and Prejudice variations, this book is not a sequel. Instead it parallels the plot of Pride and Prejudice, adding many more details about the period Jane and Elizabeth spent at Netherfield during Jane's illness. It also elaborates on what Darcy did to help after Lydia ran off with Wickham.

In Understanding Elizabeth, Darcy doesn't try to break up Bingham and Jane, nor does Elizabeth become as friendly with Wickham as she does in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy's marriage proposals are handled differently, and so are the weddings.

The most significant difference in the books is the Christian element. Whereas Austen devotes several pages to making Parson Collins look pompous and ridiculous, he is not so major a character in Helm's book. We get only a hint of his attitudes and see fewer of his interactions.

Helms also explores Darcy's spiritual life. She reveals the torment he goes through in his dream visions and temptations before he finally achieves a difficult victory in which the Scriptures play an important role.

In his search to understand Elizabeth, Darcy learns to better understand himself. As he sees more of his own sin, he loses ungodly pride and develops more humility. He is finally able to love more unselfishly.

My Recommendation 


Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy the additional details in Helm's plot. Helm doesn't change any of the main plot elements, but she gives readers deeper insight into what motivates Darcy and Elizabeth. She alters some of the plot details and adds some characters such as Molly and Watkins, but she doesn't change the personalities of the main characters Austen created.

Austen lets Jane recover from her illness and leave Netherfield in chapters 7-12.  Helm devoted at least her first sixteen chapters - more than half the book - to Jane's convalescence, thus giving Elizabeth and Darcy much more time to develop a relationship before Elizabeth breaks it. I appreciated this.

Understanding Elizabeth is much easier to read than Pride and Prejudice. Though it retains the style and customs of Austen's book, it's easier to keep the cast of characters straight in Helm's book. The language is not as obsolete. Many of Austen's words have different meanings today than they did 200 years ago.

That being said, Austen's book still surpasses Helm's in overall literary quality and character portrayal. Still, I'd give Understanding Elizabeth five stars. It's entertaining, the main characters are well-developed while remaining true to Austen, and the spiritual elements add depth. I loved the ending.

Many others have written variations of Pride and Prejudice I've not yet had a chance to read. I'm amazed at how many there are -- from historical to modern. Some make the romantic details much more explicit than others set in that historical period.  The three I'd like to read next are in the group below. Why not download one today?




You may also enjoy my reviews of these Christian historical novels:

  • Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling - the story of two Norwegian brothers who settled the Dakota country in the 1800's with their wives
  • Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot: A Christian Mail Order Bride Romance



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, September 12, 2016

Writing Jane Austen Book Review

Writing Jane Austen Book Review

How Would You Feel About Writing Jane Austen?


Imagine if you were given a chapter of a seventh Jane Austen novel. A novel, that is, which she never finished. Then imagine being asked to finish the book for her and you will have a basic understanding of what this book is all about.

Georgina Jackson, a struggling but published American author living in England, is given Jane Austen's unfinished novel to finish and the only problem is that she has never read a single solitary Jane Austen novel. She knows nothing of Jane Austen's work or her time period.

"You don't understand! I've never read an Austen novel in my life. Not a single one. And what's more, I don't intend to start now..." cries Georgina early on in the book and it is a cry which I could have echoed at least before I read this book.

I've literally just put down Writing Jane Austen: A Novel and I must say that I truly enjoyed it. It is another light and entertaining book with some interesting Austen elements thrown in. You will learn a bit about the much loved author, her books and the setting of her books, all from a modern perspective.

And if, like me, you have never read a single of Austen's books, fair warning that reading WRITING JANE AUSTEN may have you at least momentarily interested in reading them but that's not a bad thing, is it?

Plot Summary


The story in Writing Jane Austen revolves around an acclaimed young author by the name of Georgina. However, Georgina is stuck on the first chapter of her second book and her agent is on her trail. It turns out the agent is offering her the job of finishing an unfinished manuscript by Austen that has only been recently discovered.

Georgina knows nothing about the author and is only stopped from going home to America by her roommate Henry and his teenage sister, who happens to be a serious Austen fan. Knowing that she has to pay the bills, Georgina signs the contract but finishing the book is another issue altogether.

More Reviews of Writing Jane Austen


Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston on Goodreads.com  

Writing Jane Austen has 622 ratings and 182 reviews. Liralen said: "Hmm. I liked that this was not a sequel to an Austen book. That isn't a criticism..."

Writing Jane Austen, by Elizabeth Aston - A Review on Austenprose

"Readers will be entertained by the quirky humor of Georgina's dilemma, charmed and annoyed by the well-crafted supporting characters and surprised by the eventual outcome. However, if you are expecting a drawing room drama punctuated by romance..."

Reviews of Writing Jane Austen on Amazon include comments like those from bkc327 who says she'll need to re-read the book again to revisit the characters and I agree, I need to do so, too. This book will do that to you. TeensReadToo said that this is an entertaining book, which takes a humorous look at the difficulties of writing including those employed by Georgina in the book - the need for a lot of breaks, what methods to employ to avoid writing, how to hide out from unwanted visitors. Finally, a reviewer writing as Austen Lover said she enjoyed the new direction this book takes set, as it is, in modern times. She calls it a light and easy read and it is. Lovely.

Does Writing Jane Austen sound like a book you might enjoy? You can read more about it or order your copy on Amazon by clicking right here.

Happy Reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Book Ideas:

Order Writing Jane Austen from Amazon.
Austenland Movie Review
Lost in (Jane) Austen Movie Review

Author's Note: Previously published in 2011.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Austenland Book Review

Visit Jane Austen's world via Austenland the book by Shannon Hale


As a huge fan of Jane Austen movies and books, my antennae perked up when I heard of the movie, Austenland. When I discovered that the movie is based on a book written in 2007 by Shannon Hale, I decided to check out the book before taking in the movie. This became doubly important when I saw a crushing review for the movie, which I had really been looking forward to.

The book was a pleasure to read. All right, it was a light and fluffy read but sometimes that is exactly what you want. Reading, along with movies and okay, I'll admit it, food, are two of my escapes and I bet they are for you, too.

Within the covers, Jane Hayes escapes the ordinary world in which she has been unsuccessful in finding a man and travels to an English resort where she trades her modern conveniences and clothing for period items and enters the world of Jane Austen. She is hoping to rid herself of her obsessions with the world of Pride and Prejudice and, in particular, the handsome Mr. Darcy as played by Colin Firth whose image has kept her from finding her own Mr. Right.

From the back cover of the book:

"Enter our doors as a house guest come to stay three weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality - a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more..."

If you have enjoyed previous contemporary books and movies from Jane Austen, you will enjoy the charming and funny story found within the covers.  I read the hardcover edition as shown here and, given the choices, I think this is the version I would pick if I were buying one as a gift for a "Janeite." However, the book is also available in trade paperback, as a movie tie-in and for your Kindle or other eReader. You can find your copy in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here. The book features 197 pages of what can only be called pure escapism.

If you are curious about the movie version, be sure to visit my Austenland movie review.

Will you read Austenland?

Happy Reading!
Brenda

More Jane Austen and Period Drama Reading:

Which Is The Best Emma Movie?
Are you taken in by every Jane Austen movie? Have you seen all of the versions of Emma? Which one is the best? Do you know or would you like to find out?

Writing Jane Austen Book Review
Imagine if you were given a chapter of a seventh Jane Austen novel. A novel, that is, which she never finished. Then imagine being asked to finish the book for her and you will have a basic understanding of what this book is all about. Georgina...

Downton Abbey on Pinterest
I discovered Downton Abbey seasons 1, 2 and 3 after the fact. That meant I watched each one almost without pause...

Grantchester: A New Period Drama Mini-Series
A minister and murder. An unlikely mix, perhaps but I'm really enjoying Grantchester.

Author's Note: Originally published on another website in 2014.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Friday, July 3, 2015

Sense and Sensibility Movie Review

http://reviewthispersonalreviews.blogspot.com/2015/07/sense-and-sensibility-movie-review.html I suspect we all have movies that we "go to" when we simply want to unwind.  A movie that we know we can trust to sooth our nerves while entertaining us time and time again.  Sense and Sensibility is one of my "go to" movies.  For a first time viewer, it may have some fairly stressful events and drama, but for me, it is an old comforting friend.  You see, I know the way it all ends!

The actors in Sense and Sensibility are so well suited to their parts that I often forget they are actors and do appear in other movies.  In my mind, Emma Thompson will always be the sensible Elinor.  Kate Winslet will always be the sensitive Marianne and Alan Rickman will forever be that dashing and stable Colonel Brandon, not Snape in Harry Potter.  As a matter of fact, he plays those two parts so well and claims them so completely, one would think he was two different people.

As for Hugh Grant, his youthful good looks and his ability to appear somewhat shy and naive, make him the perfect Edward Ferrars.


I should note, I do know there are other versions of this movie, but this is the version I prefer and these are the actors I identify in their respective parts.


Sense and Sensibility:  The Plot


By C. E. Brock via Wikimedia Commons
The movie Sense and Sensibility is based on the book (same title) by Jane Austen.  It takes place in the very late 1700's.  In a time when women were most often completely dependent upon their male relations.   In the case of the Dashwood family, the entire Dashwood estate was willed to one single male heir, John Dashwood, who was the son of Henry Dashwood and his first wife.  It is important to note here that even the current Mrs. Dashwood did not inherit anything and was dependent upon the benevolence of John Dashwood or other relatives.

After the death of Henry Dashwood, the Dashwood women all became the responsibility of their half-brother, John who was easy manipulated by his selfish wife, Fanny.  The three Dashwood sisters and their mother are forced to move out of their home of luxury and wealth and into a small cottage owned by a distant relative, Sir John Middleton.

The story is not only about their struggles to survive, but also the various romances of the young women.  Unfortunately, their reduced economic circumstances made them no longer desirable alliances by the wealthier families, which made them less likely to marry back into the wealth of which they were born.

There are broken hearts, shattered dreams, unexpected alliances and kindness, but there is also love.  The kind of love that hopes all things and endures all things.  For the forever hopeless romantic, this movie is an absolute must!



Trailers and Scenes from Sense and Sensibility





There are many remarkable, quotable scenes in Sense and Sensibility, but none quite so palpable as the moment when Colonel Brandon says "give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad".   His concern for the gravely ill Marianne, his stress and his need to do something, touch every heart in this unforgettable moment.

This was the only video I could find with the quote focus. 


Conclusion 


If you enjoy the works of Jane Austin, historical romance or simply romance, I have no doubt you will enjoy this awesome movie.  If it is your first time to see Sense and Sensibility, I recommend you have your Kleenex close by.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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