Doing Something

“I really advise talking to yourself less.” That is something I just said literally out loud, to myself.

Things are usually a little grim at the beginning of a school year, which is more surprising now that this means everyone leaves me alone for a big chunk of the day. I can picture Earlier Me looking at the situation with open-mouthed astonishment: “You have the house to yourself for HOURS A DAY and you are STILL mopey??”

It’s odd how difficult it can be to do the things that I KNOW will make me feel better. I finally got a start on it by making those things very, very small. Eat one baby carrot. Walk around the house one time. Take a vitamin. Drink a glass of water. Sit in the steps for a couple of minutes and look at the trees.

One of my relatively new techniques to fight off sad/bad feelings is to try to be interested in something, ANYTHING. It doesn’t have to be a BIG thing: it can be the “one baby carrot” of interest, which would be something like “look up one thing on Wikipedia.” In this case I managed to reel in a bigger interest, which is Jane Austen.

I’ve tried Jane Austen books several times over the years: they’re so famous, and it’s embarrassing to me that I get her confused with the Brontë sisters (I also get individual Brontë sisters confused with other Brontë sisters), and I like to be familiar with famous things so I don’t feel dumb when the subject comes up. But I just couldn’t slog through the books: so many commas! so many now-obscure social practices! such odd dialogue, heavy with meanings that completely elude me! They’re about 200 years old now, and even the sentence structure was hard to get used to.

What broke me through was watching the MOVIE Pride and Prejudice, and I think my only real motivation was seeing Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I found, though, that it opened the book RIGHT UP for me: the people making the movie are from the same time period as me, so they basically translate it into what I can understand: even when the dialogue is quoted verbatim, the delivery of the line by Colin Firth a modern speaker does wonders for comprehension. I added the annotated edition of the book to my wish list, because I thought that would give me even MORE translating/help, plus I wanted to know more about things like “I can tell by one character’s reaction that she was just insulted—but why was that insulting?” I didn’t READ the book after receiving/unwrapping it, but I did add it to the To Read shelf. (This is a practice Paul finds very frustrating. He thinks if I don’t read the book right away, it means I didn’t really want it. He is incorrect.)

Next, encouraged by Pride and Prejudice (and by Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant), I watched Sense and Sensibility. I liked that one TOO! I still hadn’t read the annotated copy of Pride and Prejudice, but I added the annotated copy of Sense and Sensibility to my wish list, and after the next gift-exchanging holiday it was mine.

The same pattern happened with Persuasion. (I’ve learned, incidentally, that there is HEATED CONTROVERSY about which movie versions of each book are Best. I found it boring and stressful to read the debates, so instead I chose which version to watch based on which actors I wanted to see.)

Several times, I thought about reading one of the three annotated books, but now it felt like it had been too long since I’d seen the movies. It became one of those things I’d get around to SOME day, but for the time being there was a certain layer of dust involved.

Back to the current situation. I was moping around in my nice quiet house, feeling extremely stupid for feeling sad. My goal was to lug myself out of it with the help of a new interest, but nothing seemed interesting and also I was battling that silly feeling that it had to be an enduring/consuming interest or else it wasn’t worth pursuing. My eye lit upon the little stack of books, and I felt a flicker. Grabbing that flicker and feeding it some tiny twigs, I looked up Jane Austen on Wikipedia to see which book she wrote first; it was Sense and Sensibility. I ordered the movie from Netflix, and yesterday I watched it. Then I started reading the annotated book, which so far is GREAT.

I think this may be the first time I’ve read an annotated book. I was familiar with them in general because Paul has a few of them, and it is nearly impossible not to keep commenting aloud while reading one. Apparently.

This is what an annotated book looks like:


On the left page, it is the original book, but with little numbers next to things. On the right page is a list of those same numbers, with comments. On this pair of pages, the comments include:

1. A definition for a word whose meaning has altered a bit in 200 years.

2. A remark about what will happen later, and how this relates to the way a character is described throughout the book. (Annotated books are best if you’re already familiar with the plot, because the annotations are FULL of spoilers.)

3. What a passage in the book indicates about a character’s temperament.

4. What another passage in the book indicates about another character’s temperament.

5. Another definition.

6. A picture of a barouche, which will be referred to on the next page with a further explanation of what owning a barouche would have signified at that time.


Other pages have included relevant information about Jane Austen’s own life; comments about what “gentleman-like” would have meant at that time; comments on how something represents Jane Austen’s earlier writing style and how she might have done it differently later; comments about other popular books/ideas of the time; comments about what a person would have meant by such a remark; etc. For the most part, I like to read the entire page of book, THEN look at the annotations for that page; otherwise, I feel like the children are still here, interrupting my reading every sentence or two. Sometimes I do look at an annotation mid-page, if curiosity trumps disruption, or if something is too confusing without it.

Anyway, I love it. It’s like being in school again, but only the parts I liked, no “compare and contrast” essays to write. And it feels pleasing to be learning something, even if I have to fight off “What FOR?” and “What’s the point?” feelings. Learning something is good for its OWN sake, but it’s hard to get out of the habit of thinking of it as “to get into college / to get a good job.”

Plus, one of the things that MOST makes me feel like kicking myself when I’m looking back on times I was bored, bored, bored (a summer in college where the courses left me with TONS of free time; my first pregnancy, when I was unemployed) is thinking about how many things I COULD HAVE DONE with all that spare time. “Learn a LANGUAGE or something,” I scold those former selves. “Finally get around to reading books you feel you ought to have read! Get a book on sketching, and give it a try! Get a book on a place you want to travel someday! Get a book that FINALLY helps you understand how Congress works! It doesn’t have to be The Funnest and Most Interesting Thing in the Whole World, it just has to be SOMETHING.” So it’s pleasing to be actually DOING something like that this time around.

One of the biggest unexpected upsides is having something to think about. When I was cooking dinner last night, I was thinking about the movie; when I was trying to get to sleep, I was thinking about the annotated book. I hadn’t realized how much of my thinking was “I feel icky/sad/bad” until it got replaced with other things, such as whether Hugh Grant was too cute to play Edward, or about the new-to-me definition of the word “sensibility,” or about how extremely well that one actor portrayed the awfulness of her character, or how well my embarrassing tendency to tear up over almost NOTHING would have fit in with the fashions of 200 years ago.

44 thoughts on “Doing Something

  1. parodie

    Oh! Have you seen the youtube adaptation of Pride & Prejudice? It’s not Colin Firth (swoon) but it is excellent and highly entertaining. “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”

    The best way to watch it is probably to scroll down the main page to the “videos only” link (the social media stuff was cute but is not necessary, and is much hard to get through when you’re not following in real time) and just have youtube play them one after another. It’s a really cute adaptation, with a lot of liberties taken to make it more modern, but it also makes the story seem somehow timeless. Very fun.

    1. Dr. Maureen

      I was thinking all the way through this post how I was going to tell you about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. SO MUCH FUN. I highly, highly recommend. I, too, watched them all after they were finished and did not bother to follow all the tweets, etc. I also did watch Lydia’s videos, but not all of the other characters’ videos, because I found them boring and I no longer force myself to read/watch things if they are boring.

  2. Jana

    Yay for Jane Austen!!! By far my favorite author. In addition to the “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” Parodie mentioned, I also suggest the “Emma Approved” Youtube series as something to watch after you’ve read “Emma”. Also, the book “Austenland” by Shannon Hale is a hilarious read once you’ve made your way through Austen’s works. The movie just came out on DVD a couple of months ago and even my husband liked it. And, oh! Don’t forget the movie “Lost in Austen”. And then there’s the Bridget Jones series which would give you more Colin Firth to admire. Honestly, I could go on and on. (Obviously.)

    1. Doing My Best

      I, too, loved Austenland and Midnight In Austenland by Shannon Hale! She explains some of the things I wouldn’t have understood, like the significance of the order in which people enter the dining room for dinner, in the course of the stories. They are fun books about people from our day and age who LOVE Austen’s books and go to a place where they can pretend they are a part of all of that for a few weeks.

      After reading this post and the comments, I guess I’ll try reading some Jane Austen again and see if I can enjoy it now!

  3. Adah

    I finally read Pride & Prejudice this summer, but didn’t realize there are annotated versions out there. I remember reading annotated Shakespeare in high school, but hadn’t thought about it until your discussion of it here. That’s a great approach. What actually spurred me to read P&P is that I read The Jane Austen Book Club, which was funny and good, but I felt left out of a lot of references and jokes and even plot lines, so I figured I should read some Jane Austen. I loved P&P, but it took some warming up.

  4. Tam

    The funny thing is that I don’t like any of the ‘Persuasion’ movies (especially the Ciaran Hinds one, with Amanda Root having but one frightened lip-biting facial expression the whole way through), but oh, the book… I read it for the first time while I was recovering from a D & C after a miscarriage, and it was an astonishing source of solace, for some reason. I think that reading Austen’s world can sometimes feel as if you’re reading about another world, populated by aliens, and then they’ll say something or feel something which just catches you in the heart, because it’s still true, humanly true, in the here and now.

    It’s also hugely entertaining to ponder how it’s possible for a woman to be considered irrevocably over-the-hill and having lost all her looks at the elderly age of twenty-seven. And that final letter from her Captain – it gets me, every time.

  5. Jessemy

    Another thing I love to do is listen to the commentary of Sense and Sensibility. Emma Thomson is so down-to-earth yet serious about Jane Austen. When Alan Rickman cuts a reed with his pocketknife for Marianne, for instance, she says,

    “I love the symbolism of that. I don’t know what it symbolizes, but I love it.”

    I’m paraphrasing. I am going through a similar phase with Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando. I watched the movie with Tilda Swinton, listened to an interview of her with Sally Potter (director), and their enthusiasm for the book totally hooked me. It was fantastic, and all the anachronistic dust was worn off by their reverence for it.

  6. Lauren

    I did a campaign of Austen reading a few years ago, having resolved to read all of her novels at the recommendation of a few friends and, like you, enjoying a few of the more famous films. I enjoyed all the novels, but I think Persuasion was my favorite.

    I also love the idea of annotated books! I just wonder—is it distracting at all to switch back and forth for the footnotes (side notes?)? I find it hard to jump around like that in academic reading, and the novel I’m reading right now (S.) has a bunch of notes written in the margins—so I have to really pay attention when I’m reading, and it’s kind of a lot of work! I’m curious if that’s your experience. Although maybe if you would have looked these things up anyway, it’s far less distracting to have the answers right there.

    1. Swistle Post author

      It’s VERY distracting. I’d only do it to study a book (and only right after seeing the movie, when the plot is still fresh), but not for regular reading.

  7. Elissa

    Glad you are enjoying Austen–one of my favorites. Emma is also worth a read (and I think the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version of Emma is decent, but I haven’t seen it in a while, also see Clueless for a modern take). Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey never did much for me. I think Persuasion is my favorite (with P&P a close second). And the Colin Firth P&P is such a great adaptation. I go back and rewatch it every few years because I get so much pleasure out of it. Firth and Ehle have excellent chemistry. I second the recommendation for The Jane Austen Book Club, which I also enjoyed a lot. I find that Austen is great for re-reading–I pick up new things each time I read them again.

  8. Katie

    Reading this makes me want to watch all of those movies!!!
    Another book suggestion — Longbourn by Jo Baker. It has the same characters as Pride & Prejudice but is told from the servants perspective, kind of like Upstairs/Downstairs. (Even though it is based on P&P, you don’t need to be familiar with P&P to read it.!)

  9. Erin

    I love Jane Austen, I think because I saw the Colin Firth version of P&P long before I ever picked up one of the books, but I do find reading the books to be A THING, because I have to sit and think so hard to get through them. I just picked up the annotated version of P&P and can’t wait to read it!

  10. Lawyerish

    Now is the ideal time to admit publicly that I have never read any Jane Austen. You are inspiring me to give it a try!

    I am also glad you mentioned the not-reading-gift-books-right-away habit, because my husband does this (claims to REALLY want to read something, so I give it to him at the next holiday, and then it gathers dust on a shelf for YEARS and I seethe every time I see it — in some cases, *I* then feel I must read the book so that SOMEONE is at least getting a return on that particular investment), and I would like to understand/not be so annoyed by it. Are you of the view that life is long and you want the book in order to have the option to read it whenever you get around to it, which could be many years in the offing? It’s difficult for me to get my head around this, because when I get a book as a gift, it goes immediately into my reading queue and I start it as soon as I’m done with whatever I had currently going. I feel as if I MUST read it as soon as possible. And if I were to set it aside with the intention of reading it at some unspecified future time, I would (a) feel guilty because it was a gift and what if the person felt slighted because I didn’t dive right into it; and (b) feel as though the book were withering away on the shelf every time I passed by it, feeling sad and neglected. (My husband also tends to read like 100 pages of a book, then set it aside, start something else, then set that aside and start another, and then MANY MOONS LATER circle back to the first thing, if at all. OMG. I will plow through even hated books from beginning to end, because I can’t stand not to finish things unless the disliking is completely dire and irredeemable, such as by the possibility of making fun of the book to other people/blog friends.)

    1. Swistle Post author

      Hm, I think it DEPENDS. Sometimes it’s that I want a book very badly and then don’t want to start it because then it will be over (a new Maeve Binchy or Suzanne Finnamore). Or I’ll want a book but be afraid I’ll be disappointed with it and now someone has wasted a lot of money and it was a mistake to ask for it (that Building Stories book that was like $50 and came in a giant box of miscellaneous booklets). Sometimes it’s that I don’t ask for a book until I’ve already read it from the library and loved it enough I now want to OWN it—so I won’t read it until it’s time for a re-read. Sometimes it’s that I ask for a book that I can’t get from the library, and that often means it’s something I feel like I need to be in the right mood to read (a book of essays ranting about motherhood). Sometimes it’s because it’s something I want at the time I ask for it, but by the time I receive it the moment has passed and I have to wait for it to come around again (these annotated books). Or because it’s something that takes some extra work to read, which requires the right mood (again, the annotated books, or that Building Stories set where you have to decide what order to read all the booklets, and have a place to put them all, and figure out where the children won’t mess it up). Sometimes I ask for a book because I really want to own it, and yet don’t really want to read it (an emergency survival manual). A LOT of times it’s that for whatever reason, I have a hard time meshing books I own into my library-reading queue: I feel like the library books are going to be DUE, but the ones I own I can read ANY time. Definitely this ties into an element of feeling a certain luxurious “having the book on the pantry shelf” feeling: if I ever run out of library books or otherwise find myself stuck for a book, I’ll have some unread ones all set to go on the shelf.

      I NEVER start a book, then come back to it: too forgetful. I’d have to start again at the beginning. I also don’t read many books at the same time, which is something Paul does that I don’t get.

      1. Lawyerish

        This is very interesting! I have found that getting library books does tend to disrupt my non-library reading flow, because of that urgency of having to return the books on time (and new releases only get TWO weeks and no renewals, argh!). So around my birthday I suspected I’d be getting a new book or two as a gift (which I did), so I had to finish up my library books quick-like and then not get more so that my reading plate was clear to make room for the gift books.

        I am realizing that my approach to food is similar: I don’t like having too much food in the house because I feel like we’ll never get through it all before it goes bad, and this makes me very anxious. My husband, on the other hand, gets anxious about there not being enough food to make it through the week. Evidently we approach reading from a similarly divergent plenty/want mindset.

    2. Life of a Doctor's Wife

      My husband and I BOTH do this – and although I understand and nodded along with all of Swistle’s reasons, my reason is simply mood. Sometimes I really want a new book – but when I get it, I am in a Snappy Detective Novels phase. My husband I think would ideally live in a bookstore and buying All the Books so he can read whatever he fancies at any given moment is his way of building his own bookstore.

  11. Sarah

    The BBC adaptation of Emma from a few years ago is much better than the 2 hour movie with Gwyneth paltrow.

    Enjoy! I’m not a hardcore Austen fan, but it is good fun and I enjoy the dresses.

  12. Jessica

    I love your watch the movie/read the annotated book idea, because I too have always wanted to read Jane Austen (she is my mother’s absolute favorite) but have never been able to get past the first few pages, although I haven’t tried in more than two decades!

    A more practical question about annotated books. If there were an annotated book available, could this method of reading a classic be appropriate for a high school/middle school child who say might be tempted to just read the cliff notes of an assigned book instead (if cliff notes are still even around)? It seems to me like it might be ideal, but having never read one, I am not sure. And now that I have a child approaching this stage of life, I am trying to be prepared!

    1. Swistle Post author

      I would THINK so, although on the other hand it seems like it makes the reading even MORE scholarly and difficult to get through, in a way. But it does EXPLAIN things, kind of like “Look how this shows us his temperament” and “She means she can’t date him because she’s too poor.” I might also try the “let them see the movie first” idea, since that really helped me. Though I remember English teachers at my school claimed to keep lists of all the inconsistencies between movie/book, to look for evidence that a student had watched the movie instead of reading the book.

  13. shin ae

    Jane Austen is lots of fun, and if you like her you may like Barbara Pym’s style, too. Have you read any of her books? My favorite so far is Some Tame Gazelle. A more modern era, but a similar vibe in certain ways. Although, it sounds like you have enough Jane Austen to keep you busy for a while.

    I do that, too, with books. Sometimes they sit for years on the shelf before I read them. I love having something to look forward to.

  14. el-e-e

    Sense & Sensibility is one of my all-time favorite movies. Never have seen the BBC P&P but definitely want to. I like that you found something to “study,” too. It’s not that you’re reading for pleasure, you’re delving into a topic that interests you. Excellent use of your newly-found time!

  15. Jenny

    This is probably obvious, but if you start getting a handle on what the time period, language, etc. are like, you don’t HAVE to read all the annotations unless you want to. You’re not getting a grade. Just read what makes the book the most fun and interesting for you. I might try this myself for a book I’m having trouble with right now.

    Second the Longbourn recommendation, by the way; it was a really nice riff on Pride and Prejudice, and I don’t usually like it when people use classic authors that way.

  16. mary

    This — and the link back to Dabbling — could not have come at a better time. Thank you for those kind nudges away from my instinctive “If you do not do this Correctly, you should not do it AT ALL” approach to everything, all the time. And I have never had the guts to tackle Austen.

  17. Matti

    I love Jane Austen books, s well as the movies, though for me too, seeing the movies really opened up the books for me. And I was an English major, in grad school no less. In fact, this was when my husband and I saw all the movies, because we could get them free through the college library. I then went back and read all the books, re-reading the handful that I had read, and enjoyed, the first time around, but not LOVED. To me it was like seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays as a really quality film and finally GETTING it. Like, it was just more than pretty words.
    I have subsequently read, and adored, the Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron. She channels Jane so brilliantly. I mean, I LOVED these books and they really stayed with me. Got me through my third pregnancy and uber all-day pregnancy sickness, too. The first one in the series is Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. They just get better from there on out. Her two stand alone works, one about Queen Victoria and the other about Virginia Woolf, were also engaging, interesting reads.

  18. Maureen

    I love this post and the comments!! I belong to a Jane Austen Book Club-we meet one night per month-and I absolutely love it. Our next meeting is tomorrow-where we will be discussing Emma for the first time. The book club is over a year old, and it is so much fun! Emma is the only one of her big novels that we haven’t read and discussed, and it is great because we have some hardcore Austen fans. We are lucky enough to have college professor in our group-he is wonderful because he doesn’t take over the discussion but he asks insightful questions to keep the conversation going, and he is actually English-so he can answer all kinds of questions for us. Since Austen doesn’t have a large body of work, we also read other authors from that century, like Elizabeth Gaskell, and Dickens.

    I always tell people reading Austen is like exercising, the more you do it-the easier it gets. Like Jenny mentioned, this world becomes very familiar to you after a few of her novels. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel-so, so romantic!

    Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon?? Swoooonnnn…. If you love Emma Thompson (who doesn’t?) she actually published a book that has the screenplay of S&S-along with a diary she kept. It is a lot of fun to read. I think it is actually called “Sense and Sensibility” The Screenplay and Diaries.

    Also want to second the Barbara Pym recommendation that shin ae made-her books are great. I also love D.E. Stevenson-especially her Mrs. Tim books.

    Off to read Emma-but I am so glad you are enjoying Jane Austen! Oh, one more thing-there is something called The Austen Project-where contemporary authors are “reimagining” her works. So far I have read Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. I think I would definitely read the originals before reading these those. I enjoyed them, but they prompted a very lively discussion in the book group, to say the least :)

  19. Alice

    I adore your movie idea. I’ve tried to get through Jane Austen, and have never been able to. But the annotated versions makes sense – it’d help bridge the gap between very comprehensible characters in the movies and rather opaque, sometimes THOROUGHLY unpleasant ones in the books. Plus, it’ll help scratch the itch of being too “wasteful” with my free time. (I want to get to a point of just enjoying it – it’s *free* time, after all – but I’ll take things like this and online games to learn languages as an in-between step for now.)

    If you like science fiction/fantasy and want more Austen-esque things to put on your shelf, I’ve just been reading a series that I’ve been describing as Jane Austen + magic – overly florid descriptions. The first one is Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, and I think they’re fabulous.

  20. Nancy

    I love Jane Austen’s books and have read them all many many times, but now I am intrigued by the idea of reading an annotated version to see if I have been missing lots of things. I do agree that they get a lot easier to read with practice.

    I second the recommendation of Emma Thompson’s diaries from the making of Sense and Sensibility, and there is also a really interesting book about the making of the Pride and Prejudice BBC series.

    My husband also buys books and then doesn’t read them immediately, but I think that is mostly fear that the book won’t be available for purchase later. It drives me crazy though, because we’ll see a movie about some topic and he’ll want to read more about it so he’ll buy a book about it but not read it straight away, and I feel that once the interest from seeing the movie has waned, maybe he’ll never feel that active interest in that topic again. Also I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that his ‘to read’ shelves contain more than 200 books.

  21. susan

    So well put! I so agree with you on so many things you post…it is like you verbalize stuff that I’d always kinda thought….but you just sum it up so perfectly! I really like reading your thoughts, so thank you! (And I always like your book selections too).

  22. Therese

    I did not know that you could get classic novels in annotated versions. That is a great revelation and I’m now excited to acquire some. I have read some Jane Austen and Bronte sister books but it’s been a while and although I liked them I struggled a bit with context and language that has changed significantly. I felt like I needed a dictionary or computer on hand to figure out what was going on. Now I can get it all in the book. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  23. april

    I am not a fan of Austin, or really most “classic” books. They just don’t grab me. This seems interesting though – I wonder if they have any at the library I could try out.

  24. Nicole Boyhouse

    I’m a hardcore Jane Austen fan and I too thought that Edward was miscast. He was supposed to be plain and kind of awkward, not Hugh Grant! On the other hand, Colonel Brandon was perfectly cast.

  25. Nimble

    I can’t think of anything nicer than reading Austen novels / seeing the movies to get out of a funk. I think our minds are so complex that we really do need to use them to keep feeling content. Brain muscles as well as the physical kind. Good for you and your ‘one baby carrot’ approach!

  26. Grace

    I love my Jane Austen books, and every single one of them: annotated. You know what else is much more awesome and accessible to read in the annotated version? Dracula.

    I also second (third? fourth?) the suggestion to try Persuasion, and I would add Mansfield Park, though, I find it’s one that most people need to have grown on them.

    The Sense & Sensibility 2008 miniseries is excellent.

  27. Sarah

    Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson version) is my favorite movie EVAH. I watch it at least once a year without fail. But I too have always found the books really daunting.

    Oh, I love Emma too. So much lighter in tone, but the same keen social observations. Gwyneth Paltrow is generally insufferable but one cannot deny how well she does a good Period Drama.

  28. bunnyslippers

    You may also want to read “A Vindication for the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft from 1798 (aside: she is the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein) . Most of the scenarios in Austen’s books are inspired by MW’s books. She outlines philosophical arguments against educating women and why they are wrong. She gives advice on how to raise your daughters which is, unfortunately and disturbingly, quite current.

  29. liz

    If you end up loving reading Jane Austen, I recommend reading Georgette Heyer. She was a contemporary of Agatha Christie’s, and she wrote mysteries but she’s famous for writing novels set in the Regency period as though they were written in the Regency period. My favorites: Venetia; Frederica; and A Civil Contract.

  30. MrsDragon

    This may not be helpful, but in case it is, I will pass it along.

    Last year there was a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s entirely on You Tube. They did a fantastic job, but I’m not sure if the modernization would be helpful to you (so that’s the analog for today!) or confusing (but wait, that’s different!).

    Anyway, the link for the first episode is here:

    They’ve since done Emma as well and have just started Frankenstein.

    I <3 Pride and Prejudice, but their series got me reading Austen more broadly and I adore Persuasion. Emma is whinny and you spend the first half of the book wanting to strangle her, but it redeems itself.

  31. Rbelle

    I saw an old adaptation of P&P in junior high, and it led me to read the book, which I very much enjoyed. However, a lot of it went over my head, and I didn’t read any other Austen. Even after the Colin Firth P&P came out my last year in high school, and Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion (friends and I saw the latter two back to back on the same night, one in a mainstream theater, one in an arthouse theater – we were Jane Austen mad). What got me into the books was actually reading romance novels set during the Regency. I devoured them in college, and although they aren’t all historically accurate, I learned a lot about the era. Then I started reading Georgette Heyer, who is also not entirely historically accurate but whose language and writing style better mirrors Austen’s. By the time I decide to re-read P&P and pick up the rest of Austen’s novels, I found I spoke the “language” fairly well.

    And while I know that P&P is the popular favorite, and the one so many modern romance tropes are built from, Sense & Sensibility is my secret favorite (although Persuasion runs a close second). I love P&P, but I have never been able to relate entirely to the characters and what happens to them – it’s a romantic comedy that includes some of the most fantastical elements of the genre. But oh, have I had my heart broken like Marianne, and like Eleanor, I have loved someone who wasn’t available to me at the time we met. I think P&P is famous because so much has been derived from it over the years, but to me, Sense & Sensibility is the book the proves how much Jane Austen really understood about people.

  32. Jen

    On a plane trip home from Italy last year, I watched Sense & Sensibility. I’d seen it before, years prior, and had forgotten just how GOOD it was. That led me to talking to friends, who suggested I watch Pride & Prejudice, but I was prejudiced because SIX MOVIES was too much for me. But soon, I relented and rented the first DVD. After watching the first, and knowing that I’d have to wait for DAYS to see the whole thing because of the whole return the first DVD rental program we have through Netflix, I bought the whole thing on Amazon. I watched it once by myself (all night); the next night I convinced my husband to watch it with me – – and although he at first resisted because he was sure it was a chick flick, he was quickly sucked in by the yucky Mr. Collins.

    Soon it was my birthday, and my husband bought me EVERY SINGLE JANE AUSTEN BOOK. Not one, but all of them. I tried to start reading Mansfield Park, and made it through a few chapters, until I found it on live stream Netflix. Yes Jen, There Is A Santa Clause.

    Mansfield Park is fantastic. As is Emma. As is Pride & Prejudice. As is Sense & Sensibility. Austenland, not so much, you can skip that one. Although Keri Russell is fantastic and totally redeems herself in August Rush, if you haven’t seen that one yet. (Not Jane Austen, but superb nonetheless.)

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