Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Rochester: Consummation" by J.L Niemann Released!

I interrupt this Austenathon to inform you of something you might take interest in. A few months ago, I reviewed Rochester by J.L Niemann and added that the book was, in fact, a series. Many of you seem to have already read the first one, and I discussed it with some of you who were highly anticipating the second (as was I).

The second is here. It's not available on Kindle, which is both a blessing in a curse. Of course, I don't like kindles and I much more prefer turning the page and sitting the new book alongside the old one on the shelf. However, this lack of availability also forces me to wait until the book is shipped which means that I cannot start it at once. I do assure you, however, that once it arrives safe and sound and I have read it (twice) I will write a review as quickly and diligently as possible. I'm very excited. :)

The only thing I regret is that I didn't find out about the book's release sooner. Or that someone didn't find out about it sooner (it was published two days before thanksgiving). Normally Bronteblog and The Squeee have me beat when it comes to covering the latest Bronte news first. So either they didn't post it or they haven't found out yet either. If the latter case, I feel a bit proud that I've finally gotten to a bit of news before they have! If the former...oh well, I guess I'm just dreadfully late. The circumstances don't matter, however, because I feel very happy about walking into the new year with something Jane Eyre related to look forward to.

Happy New Year everyone!

P.S: It's not the new year here just yet, so I'm saying it in advance. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy" by Mary Street Review

I am deeply apologetic for my long absence. As we all know, Christmas season is often a busy time. My family has been a great priority, and bonding with various relatives left me little time to get away on my own with the computer. Darcy December is steadily coming to it's close and I regret to admit that I didn't achieve as much with it as I might have liked. I intended to do much more with comparisons as well as book and movie reviews, but time slipped away from me. It's for that reason that I've decided to extend my focus on Jane Austen and Darcy into January as well, so Darcy December will make a smooth transformation into Jane Austen January. I'm sorry for the cheesy alliterations, but they fit well enough.
I've decided to take a break from the P&P adaptations for a moment. I can review the remaining two any time in the future. However, I feel the pressing need to review these various P&P spin-offs during the course of Darcy December and Jane Austen January because there are so many of them and (admittedly) because If I don't do it now, I might not ever have the will to do it in the future. According to the poll you guys most graciously completed a few weeks ago, it seems as though a unanimous vote named The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street the novel you would most like to see me review. It's funny that you would say that, by the way, because that spin-off happens to be the second one I read which pretty much keeps my reviews in chronological order. 

P.S: Please, I'd love to see more participation in the polls. I know I update them irregularly, but keep a weary eye out for them. :)

Once again, there seems to be no need to explain the plot of The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Its title is also self-explanatory. Unlike Mr. Darcy's Diary, this spin-off is not told in diary format or even in the first-person perspective for that matter. There is an omniscient narrator like that in Pride and Prejudice, but for this particular novel the narrator chose only to follow the experiences and emotions of Mr. Darcy. I personally liked the idea. Telling such a story in third person drastically reduces the stereotypical cheesiness of a typical spin-off. In all other aspects, there's no real differentiating benefit. 

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy is decidedly better than Mr. Darcy's Diary. There are more details, more stretches of the imagination, and more moments of intrigue in Mary Street's take than the latter novel had to offer. I've become mildly aware that authors of spin-offs are very much like directors of adaptations; they tend to latch on to one aspect of a multi-faceted character. Is Mr. Darcy truly proud at first and then humbled by his love for Elizabeth, or was he misunderstood to begin with? Some readers (and authors) choose to believe what Pride and Prejudice tells us: that Darcy was indeed proud and had never really been forced into introspection until he met Lizzy Bennet. However, there are other readers who see beneath the surface of what Jane Austen's narrator (which is obviously biased towards Lizzy Bennet's viewpoint) chooses to describe. These fans normally have the perception that Darcy is not proud, but shy. His problem is not so much that he looks down on the world, but that he (as he says in the original novel) doesn't have the ability to identify or communicate with it. Mary Street takes this route in The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Yes, Darcy is still indisputably proud in the novel. I don't wish to have you thinking that Street altered the character. However, this spin-off has an undertone of sympathy for the misconceived Mr. Darcy. His vanity is tempered by the fact that beneath the surface he is insecure, uncomfortable, and socially awkward. He really has no idea of how to connect with people, and because of that inability he shies away from all company until he meets the woman that makes him want to come out of his little antisocial hole. 

The best example of what I'm trying to explain (*spoiler*) is in the last few pages of the novel, when Darcy attempts his first kiss. The kiss is botched completely, and Darcy turns away from Elizabeth deeply embarrassed. The point I got from Mary Street's take on Darcy is that he isolates himself in order to appear composed, collected, and unshakable when all he really longs for is for someone to teach him how to express himself. He learns through trial and error. His first attempts go obviously wrong, as evidenced by the first proposal and his early conversations with Elizabeth. However, his love for Lizzy forces him to try again and get it right and eventually he succeeds. 

Yet, even this spin-off has something missing. It was enjoyable, intriguing, and a good read in its entirety, but it is short. In the end, it too possessed a sad lack of depth that left me a little wanting. It's worth the read, and I will not hesitate to conjecture that many of you will find it satisfying and very enjoyable. But keep on the look out! There are better spin-offs lurking in the future. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

To My Lit Lovers:

I know there are many of you reading this from different time zones. Perhaps Christmas is already over where you are (I really have no idea) or maybe it's Christmas evening and you're already settling down to ham and other traditional holiday delicacies. Perhaps you're not even celebrating it. 

I, however, must in the the Christmas spirit thank all of you for your continued support over the months. It has been a great gift, and some of you are such regular visitors that I almost feel as if I have a tiny online family. I wish you all happy holidays and pray that you will continue your success in the various places you inhabit and on the numerous paths you follow. Personally, I have been very blessed with the loving care of a merciful God, an encouraging family, and understanding friends. Many of you are blessed with the same things, and if you aren't I pray that you will find them and understand that you are not as alone as you seem. 

Once again, thank you and God bless you. If you experience a mere portion of the happiness and love I feel, you have achieved a lot. 

With much love, 
Ari (aka Bonnie) 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pride and Prejudice 1995 Review

I have successfully made it through the first semester of junior year. Yay! It feels exhilarating and yet wildly strange that I should be leaning back against the couch cushions so late on a Sunday night with no essay to write or monotonous history-book chapter to outline. Instead, I am able to relax and relish the large expanse of freedom that is mine for the next two weeks. 

First off, I feel the need to thank you all for your responses to my last post. It's been a while since a post has generated that much excitement and hit a hundred views in just a night. You've given me a lot to think about as well. Of course, I noted that many of you (like any other lit lover) love the comparison of adaptations, and so it wouldn't seem natural to review the 2005 P&P and leave it at that. So without further ado, I will lounge on my living room sofa and share my opinions on the second P&P I came in contact with: the '95. 

Casting: 

From left to right: Lydia, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty. 
It's strange that adaptations cannot be entirely perfect, and many times they have exact opposite faults of their counterparts. The 2005 P&P had the perfect array of minor characters, in my opinion. Jane, Lydia, Mary, and Kitty were all defined by the actresses who portrayed them in the '05. Brenda Blethyn was a splendid Mrs. Bennet. Donald Sutherland (though some of you have suggested otherwise) was a great Mr. Bennet. Dame Judi was, without a doubt, a definitive Lady Catherine. The '95, on the other hand, missed the mark completely when it came to these characters. All the Bennet sisters were played by actresses much older than their age. Julia Sawalha, who played the fifteen-year-old Lydia Bennet, was twenty-seven at the time! The disparity in age was something I was completely unable to recover from. I understand the idea of rendering a five-year gap for leeway, but such a difference is unforgivable in a case such as this when one can obviously tell that the actress is much too old. It strips believability from the character. 

My next qualm is the distress of having to cope with a horribly miscast Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley. I'm sorry to sound harpy, rude, and (yes) bitchy, but Susannah Harker is not beautiful. I will not be persuaded otherwise because I do not see it. Even her portrayal of the character was wrong. Jane Bennet is sweet, diffident, and modest, but she is by no means boring and emotionless. Crispin Bonham-Carter had the same problem when playing Bingley: he's not handsome. Epic FAIL! The other actors I had problems with in this adaptation are also the women who played Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine, but I will refrain from expounding lest this review turn to a novel. 

The hardest part of reviewing a movie once again comes to the main characters. As you can tell, I'm feeling a bit ruthless and liberal with my opinions this evening. Jennifer Ehle's spirit matched Lizzy Bennet's to perfection. I was glad to see that. Physically, she too was a failure of the greatest kind. She was seven years the "real" Lizzy Bennet's senior, and it once again deducted from the believability. However, her portrayal of the character is one that's hard not to like. Her "fine" eyes do sparkle in a way that I find characteristic of the Elizabeth in the novel. Her mischievous sarcasm, always masterfully covered by a sly smile, is endearing to the viewer. Kiera Knightley's Lizzy was much more outwardly rebellious and much less artful in her arguments. Ehle, on the other hand, delivers her tongue-in-cheek blows naturally; it is only after she has already walked away that the person really begins to understand her meaning. If only she were actually nineteen! 

Colin Firth=the definitive Darcy. Is there really anything to argue? He is Darcy. The perfect amounts of pride, passion, insecurity are joined together in a single man. He fits the physical description to perfection with dark eyes that can flash from coldness to burning desire in mere seconds. His dark curls, tall build, and stately air are only bonuses. There's not much else to say about that...*sigh*. 

Screenplay/Cinematography/Soundtrack/Costumes:

Screenplay: Perfection itself. What did it leave out? It adhered with strict faithfulness to the novel in pretty much every aspect. 

Cinematography: Bad. But it was a nineties TV adaptation, so who really expects much? Better yet, who really cares? 

Soundtrack: Horrible. 

Costumes: Fine. Nothing amazing or particularly riveting, but true to the time period so I have no complaints. 

Negatives: 

I've already shared 95% of them. The casting was a major setback. The soundtrack was another. There were also some areas that I found slightly dry in this version. The second proposal was especially unsatisfying, with little romance and even a slight hint of awkwardness. But then again, if you compare it to Darcy walking through the fog, shirt unbuttoned, and nearly taken to tears as he exclaims, "You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you" then I guess it would seem rather dry, wouldn't it? Joe Wright always said that Americans like a little more "sugar in their tea." I do seem to fit that mold. 

In conclusion, the adaptation was perfectly sound and very enjoyable. The sparks between Ehle and Firth (or just emitting from Firth alone) are enough to satisfy anyone. 

Grade: A-...4 out of 5 stars. 



Monday, December 12, 2011

Pride and Prejudice 2005 Review

Preamble: 
I remember stepping into the wonderful world of pride and prejudice the summer before sixth grade. I was, I will admittedly say, obsessed with it. My mom and dad thought it was just another passing phase, and I don't believe any of us would have thought at that moment that I would forever be an English lit fanatic. Therefore, my parents approached my effusive boasting of the book with a kind of disregarding apathy. Though I had formed this amazing bond with Pride and Prejudice, it never occurred to me that there were these lovely things called adaptations that brought novels to life on screen. I was therefore both surprised and excited as I came upon the movie while lounging lazily on the couch flipping through the channels of Direct TV.

The 2005 version was, in fact, the first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I had ever seen. The 1995 PBS version coincidentally came a week after that. A few years later I found the 1940 before finally coming in touch with the 1980. I became a keen observer of all, comparing them and weighing them as I do with Jane Eyre adaptations today. Since that time the 2005 has been irrevocably established as my favorite, which might astound any of the die-hard fans of the 1995 (and all things Colin Firth). 

This, however, is a review and so I don't seek to compare the 2005 to the 1995. I'm merely presenting my review on the one I intimated above. The review might be very helter-skelter, but bear with me please, because my thoughts aren't the most organized things today. For some reason, I've decided to revert back to my old reviewing style: the one I used when writing my first review for this blog. <--Fond memory, by the way. 

Casting: 
I will start by saying that the first characters we see--those of the Bennet family--are all perfectly casted. Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet was a stroke of sheer genius, and even the aging Donald Sutherland contributed something new to his part that I did not find unappealing. Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are matched to perfection and the girls who played them (particularly Kitty and Mary) all grew up to become celebrated actors. Cary Mulligan has appeared in her fair share of highly praised movies since her appearance here, and Talulah Riley and Jenna Malone are always a pleasure to watch. Jane Bennet could not have been casted better, with Rosamund Pike possessing all the soft, sensual, and elegant beauty that I had imagined in the gorgeous eldest daughter. I don't believe that many people will argue the casting of the Bennet family even though some will mistakenly venture to say that Pike was miscast. 

However, it is where Keira Knightly is concerned that the debate begins to stir up. Physically, I will admit that the anorexic Knightly wasn't my ideal image of Elizabeth Bennet. In my mind I imagined someone (obviously) fuller in figure. However, Knightly's face did have the strong jaw and steely eyes that I had personally imagined in Lizzy. Knightley's portrayal of Lizzy is less seen in her physical appearance and much noticeable in her acting. She pinpointed with perfect acuteness the spirit and wit of Lizzy Bennet in a way that I could scarcely believe possible. The sarcastic tones in her voice and the intriguing flicker in her eyes are indisputably "Lizzy-like" and when she faces up to Darcy during the botched proposal her passion and indignation is both natural and forceful at the same time. She delivers Bronte's language with so much ease that it almost seems like her own colloquial. In the end I wouldn't have chosen another actress to play her, and it helped that she was the exact age of the character when she was playing it. 

Opposite her, Matthew McFadyen is the man chosen to play Darcy, and this is where certain complexities begin to come in. Once again, I would not have chosen Matthew as Darcy by merely looking at him. Though Matthew is decidedly attractive (I've ranked him as on of my favorite foreign hotties), he's not attractive in the conventional and clean-cut way I would have imagined for Darcy. When thinking of Darcy, I think of dark eyes, fair skin, and nearly black curls. I see a strong, masculine, and square jaw with a pointed chin and lips set in a smirk. I don't see Matthew McFadyen. McFadyen, however, had the chance do what Keira Knightley did and win me over with his acting. Yet, he left me just as puzzled there as he did with his appearances. This isn't to say that Matthew was bad, because he most certainly wasn't. In fact, he was very good. His shaken passion during both proposals and the sense of boyish shyness is beautiful and works miraculously. The problem was that as lovely and ardent as he is, he is not Darcy. I have a hard time believing that Darcy was ever proud to begin with in this adaptation. I merely receive the impression that he's shy, quiet, and socially awkward. Darcy is, of course, all these things, but the main point of his character is that the shyness, quietness, and social awkwardness is all projected as vanity and pride on the surface. More of that, and McFadyen would have been fine. As it was, he was a bit wanting. 

Once again, Dame Judi Dench knocks her role out of the park. She's so versatile and she's also one of the only actors I've known who has ultimately defined two roles. She nailed her later performance in Jane Eyre, earning her the title of the "ultimate Mrs. Fairfax" in my mind. However, she also defined Lady Catherine here. Lady Catherine is not so clingy and annoying in this adaptation, but rather demanding and controlling. She is not some bothered old lady with nothing to do, she is stately, elevated, and used to having her way. Dench was perfect. She cut down the annoyance, upped the dosage of strength, and ultimately gave us the complete Lady Catherine. As for other casting choices such as Charlotte and Mr. Collins: priceless. Collins was especially comic in this adaptation. The only person I could really call horribly miscast was Colonel Fitzwilliam, but he's not around enough for anyone to notice. 

Screenplay/Cinematography/Soundtrack/Costumes:
The screenplay took its liberties, and that was or will be a great downside to many P&P Puritans (that alliteration has a nice ring to it). However, I personally found this newer and slightly more modern take on the language refreshing and it even made the film better in some cases. I would not cut Matthew McFadyen saying, "You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you" for the world, even if it wasn't in the novel! Deborah Moggach (the screenwriter) added a little something extra to give the adaptation a twist, to define it's originality. I don't blame her for doing it. All the important parts of the text are preserved beautifully when you get to their core. The changes were either unimportant or beneficial. For example, the fact that there isn't another Bingley sister is pretty excusable and even a bit relieving; the fact that the proposal was done in the rain instead of in a stuffy drawing room was perfect. 

Cinematography: Beautiful. No other word to describe it. Joe Wright and Roman Osin collaborated to make the novel visually sensual. Everything about the filming was complete perfection. That sweeping landscape picturing Lizzy on the edge of the world was flawless enough to bring tears to my eyes for no reason. Sometimes indisputable beauty is just enough to make one cry. 

I love this picture of Lizzy and Darcy
Soundtrack: It's Dario Marianelli! And this cemented a bond between he and Joe Wright that has existed in every single one of Wright's films. Dario is the god of soundtrack music, particularly when it comes to period movies. I ended up buying a good portion of the soundtrack and putting on my ipod. If you're one of those people into wordless, instrumental soundtracks, I would suggest that you take a peak at this. My favorites (if I had to choose) would be "Liz on Top of the World", "A Post Card to Henry Purcell", "Your Hands are Cold", and "Mrs. Darcy." Yes, it must be that good if I have to list FIVE favorites. 

The one thing I love about Pride and Prejudice is that it gives the costume designer a lot of work and a chance to really bring out creativity. The Netherfield ball is a haven of costume splendor. If I were you, I would take some notice of that when I watch it. 

Negatives: 
I really can't think of many except for that it was short. I'll say it time and time again: it's the hardest thing in the world to condense a novel into a box-office movie timeframe. The movie was already a good two hours long and it did a great job of condensing in my opinion. The only things of weight that was missing was the little party at Lucas Lodge (when Darcy's offer to dance is rejected) and the conversation that includes Darcy and Elizabeth's "propensity to hate everyone" and their tendency to "willfully misunderstand them." Other than that, everything escaped in tact. 

This was an incredibly long review. I'm fully aware that I've typed your eyes out, so in order to finish, I'll hastily conclude that this version was GREAT. There might be some grievances, but they aren't controversial ones and they certainly aren't enough to make anyone dislike the movie. 

Grade: A...4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Mr. Darcy's Diary" by Amanda Grange Review

While pondering on what I might next review for you, I came to a halt at a mental crossroad. The problem was choosing how to approach these various (and might I add numerous) "Darcy point of view" novels. At one point it seemed that a new one was being published at the end of every month. Rather than deliberately drown myself in all of them, however, I chose to read the ones that randomly fell in my path. The names "Darcy" and "Rochester" often stick out to me when I'm wandering through the quiet bookshelves of Barnes & Noble, so I was sure that some sort of strange fate would put the right spin-offs in my hands. I ended up reading only three of the thousand. At first I thought of reviewing them in the order of "greatest to least" or vice versa. In the end I figured that taking that route might spoil the surprise somehow, so I went with the quaint option of just reviewing them in the order in which I read them. Simple enough?

Mr. Darcy's Diary came to me during my tenuous Pride and Prejudice obsession. Surprised? Well yes, even I--the sarcastic and gothic Bronte-lover--had a phase of deep infatuation with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. I found the book in the obscure corners of the fiction section that often produce the best novels, and without a thought I coughed up the ten dollars and eagerly started the first pages during the car ride home. 

Most of my reviews have a synopsis, but I find that Mr. Darcy's Diary is obviously self-explanatory. It is literally the diary of Fitzwilliam Darcy, complete with dates and even the rather sporadic language common with diaries. 

First instinct: how much cheesier could it get? Even I (a mere twelve-year-old at the time) could have thought of this! I was merely surprised that no one had tried it sooner. In truth, the novel was neither a hideous failure nor a profound success. More than anything, it could only be described as mediocre. The language was simple, often even bordering too simple. The emotion was rather shallow. The plot was...mehh. 

After letting the novel actually sink in I'd like to say that my opinions changed, but in reality they only strengthened. I forgot the book completely for a while and was even reluctant to give it the second read I always feel every book deserves. There's nothing really wrong with Mr. Darcy's Diary, but it doesn't push any boundaries. It doesn't add anything new that the reader couldn't have already guessed for themselves. The diary idea is a double edged sword. While it suggests a deeper and more revealing look into Darcy's life, the language functions too much like a diary. The details are vague, as if Darcy really waited to write about his experiences days after they had already happened and the exact words were forgotten. Sure, I felt the surface of Darcy's inner turmoil, but I never reached the passionate depths. I couldn't feel the physical, emotional, and intellectual longing that I had so hoped to find in a Darcy spin-off. There was nothing exciting to keep me turning the page.  

Amanda Grange gave a valiant effort, and the one thing I did love was the use of dates in order to form a mental timeline. But, unfortunately, it was much too copy-pasted and cut-out to merit any sort of groundbreaking or emotionally appealing reward. It did not leave me with that lovely feeling of satisfaction, but rather made me want to search for something more. "This is like the rough draft of what I was looking for," I remember saying. "I need to find the fully-developed and final copy." 

P.S: For those of you who are still interested in giving the novel a try, there's a little tidbit you might want to know. The novel comes in paperback and hardcover. The paperback version is Mr. Darcy's Diary whereas the hardcover is only titled as Darcy's Diary. Do not be fooled, however. They are the exact same book. Good luck reading. :) 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Mr. Darcy's Daughters" by Elizabeth Aston Review

Let's imagine for a moment that the double X chromosome--seemingly a dominant gene in the Bennet family--now runs through Elizabeth herself. She marries Mr. Darcy and has a girl. That girl is followed by another, then a pair of girls, and then another. Fortunately, unlike her mother before her, she is finally successful in birthing a boy to satisfy any qualms about the inheritance of the Darcy fortune. Just to fully impress us with the passion between our main characters from Pride and Prejudice, she delivers another boy to perfect the family picture. Now approaching middle age, Darcy and Elizabeth are called out of the country. Their young boys are left at Pemberly under the care of a tutor, but the girls are happily sent to London to reside under the roof of Darcy's trusty cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and his wife, Fanny.
Thus is the framework of Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston. The Darcy girls are a vibrant and beautiful family of teenagers that, of course, somewhat mirror that of Elizabeth's own family from Pride and Prejudice. The eldest daughter, Letitia Darcy is indisputably handsome but rather too pragmatic at times. The third and fourth sisters are a pair of gorgeous and frivolous twins, Georgina and Belle, also known as Night and Day. The youngest is the fifteen-year-old Alethea, who isn't out in society yet, but who has an adventurous heart and a passion for music. However, it is (predictably) the second child that serves as the heart of the novel. Camilla Darcy stands apart from her sisters as the aspirational and headstrong intellectual, directly characterized as taking after her mother. Though she is decidedly less beautiful than her sisters, she more than atones for her physical faults through her unreserved wit and humor. 

There are familiar characters carried over from Pride and Prejudice of course, such as Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Lydia Bennet (or Wickham), and even Caroline Bingley. But this is, after all, a pastiche and thus focuses more on the second generation of original characters. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner have made a large fortune in trade and their fair daughter is now armed with a dowry that surpasses even that of the Darcy daughters. Once in London, the Darcy girls each approach the city with different outlooks. While Letitia seeks to stay out of trouble, Alethea devotes herself to music, the twins insist upon showing themselves in society and gaining the affections of every man possible, and Camilla (the heroine in this equation) searches for the adventure unavailable within the protective walls of Pemberly. 

Camilla and her sisters do find adventure. What first appears to be a few diverting months in London will turn into an intricate tale of scandal and mystery that includes antagonistic plots, cross-dressing, gays, and secret affections. Camilla discovers herself in the chaotic streets of Regency London, but by the time she acknowledges her true affections, the tangled web of family catastrophe might threaten her happy ending. 

Mr. Darcy's Daughters is a truly engaging novel that will intrigue and allure the reader through every page. Aston achieves what I find particularly crucial in any spin-off or sequel: the preservation of the old combined with the creativity of the new. Our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice all reunite in the high social circles of London, but it is the new characters molded in the mind of Elizabeth Aston that prove to be the most absorbing. While the Darcy daughters are obviously modeled after the captivating Bennet girls, Aston develops them as characters of their own with individual interests and paths. The plot, though inspired by Pride and Prejudice, is where Aston's liberal imagination really takes shape. The reader will never be in want of excitement with a story like this. The author infuses the perfect amount of irony to make Austen and her faithful fans proud. 

The most interesting aspect of Mr. Darcy's Daughters, however, is the artistic risk taken by Aston. Sequels are precarious things to write. A drastic tip of the scale in either direction could either leave a book dry or hideously fantasized. Aston's balance is perfect. She speculated on a large uncertainty by breaching subjects that Jane Austen would never have had the courage to even introduce, but the chance paid off and will work wonders. Mr. Darcy's Daughters is an innovative novel that will not only succeed in satisfying the most rigid Austen purist, but will also draw modern crowds to the fascinating world of literature. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Darcy's December

As I lay my fingers on this keyboard to write to you once again, I can't help but utter a small and relaxing sigh of relief. This week has been a conundrum of English essays, Anatomy labs, art sketches, and US History outlines. I'm surprised I've made it through with as much sanity as I have. In the midst of this, however, I was thinking of what I might do to add a literary twist to the holidays on this blog. 

The idea wasn't hard to find. I'm reading Pride and Prejudice (again) as an extra credit book assignment, and it has reawakened my interest for the numerous spin-offs collecting dust on my shelves. There is a ridiculous amount of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs, but what's great is that many of them are enjoyable and completely unheard of. So I therefore deem this month Darcy December, as most of my reviews will probably be related to Jane Austen's books. Fear not, Bronte fans. I am not crossing over to the dark side (even though "Jane Austen" and "dark" is a complete juxtaposition). I am merely trying to spread the holiday spirit by suggesting books that have happy endings and handsome heroes. 

After all, this is partly your doing anyway. It was the majority of you who voted for Emma over The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. ;) 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy Review

Happy Thanksgiving to all my bloggers. Is Thanksgiving a strictly American holiday? I never took the time to think about things like that until I became a blogger. What I find particularly perplexing is that the most faithful of my followers aren't American. I've found a way to see the density of viewers in different countries, and thus I've discovered that I seem to have a heavy following in Russia of all places. 

Therefore, I guess it's rather fitting for me to be reviewing Anna Karenina, the novel dwelling on the artificial and hypocritical upper class society of late nineteenth century Russia. Usually I have some highly personal or consequential story behind picking up a novel, but Anna Karenina came by mere chance. I closed my eyes, ran my fingers up and down the school reading list a few times, and it just so happened to land there. Finding that it didn't strike my interest enough to buy a fresh one from Barnes and Noble, I picked up a tattered copy from my school library and groaned, mentally cursing myself for choosing a 900 page book when I was expected to do a chapter-by-chapter summary. However, bracing myself, I delved into Leo Tolstoy's world of Russian royalty and nobility, filled with sexual, intellectual, and religious chaos.

Anna Karenina, despite its name, does not merely focus on the repressed and entrapped housewife of a Russian aristocrat, but is instead one of those entrancing novels that ties together the stories of many characters in various situations. Anna is drawn from her wealthy husband in St. Petersburg to Moscow to assist in the marital troubles of her brother, Stiva, who has been unfaithful to his hardworking wife and is now seeking to rescue his family. Around the same time, Kostya, an unreligious country intellectual, arrives in the same city to propose to the younger sister of Stiva's wife. Meanwhile, Stiva goes to the train station to pick up Anna who has been traveling with the mother of Vronsky, whom Kitty (the girl Kostya is proposing to) is in love with. (Are you starting to see what I mean about the intentional connections between characters?)

In the midst of this blur of relations, impressively long names, assorted shortened titles, and strange coincidences, Anna and Vronsky begin an affair that estranges her from her wealthy husband, Karenin, and wages a war of divorce and child custody issues. The aforementioned obstacles are synonymous with scandal and destruction in Anna's world, and thus she slowly begins to sink. Anna conceives Vronsky's child and he fervently pleads for her to legally divorce her husband and marry him. Unable to bear any stain upon his family name (and bitterly hurt by the blow to his conceit), Karenin refuses to grant a divorce and further stipulates that if Anna leaves him that she must give up seeing the son they had together. In the midst of this, Kostya and Kitty make a life together that begins to intertwine with that of Vronsky and Anna. The novel closes rather suddenly, almost peacefully; the end to a chaotic, brain-wracking, and heart-wrenching tail.

While Anna Karenina is indisputably one of the greatest examples of dictional, syntactical, and linguistic literary excellence, it is a lot to swallow. The book is about 900 pages of calamity so vivid in its description that it at times may dizzy the reader. Anna Karenina is a controversial character whose moral and mental strength is subject to strong debate. The social commentary on nineteenth century high society is evident in her plight. However, it was not Anna's story that I found to be the most captivating piece of the novel, but rather that of Kostya. It is his maturation that I found to be the most interesting aspect of the book, and in many ways I might consider him Anna's foil. While Anna's story is the testament to the social, mental, and emotional degradation that often came as the result of real love, Kostya symbolizes the possibility of doing things right and receiving the "happily ever after."

The book is perplexing, alluring, and even appalling. The great strength in that is that the reader is constantly engaged and always reluctant to tear their eyes away. Yet, there is also something mysteriously forbidden about Anna Karenina, as if you are gluing your eyes to something you should not see or perhaps cannot handle. It is much too heavy for the delicate constitution of a Jane Austen lover, of an entirely different breed than that of Jane Eyre, and its conflicts are much more realistic than those of Wuthering Heights. I might perhaps group it more within the range of Tess of the D'urbervilles. However, as confounding is it is, I would not wish for any devoted literature fanatic to miss out on it. Opinions on the plot and characters may vary, but the beauty of Leo Tolstoy's use of language is undeniable. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Bronte Review

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall fell into my lap shortly after I had read Wuthering Heights. By then, I was hungry for anything "Bronte", hoping that perhaps Charlotte's sisters might reach the heights she had when writing Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights had only disappointed me and left me feeling barren. Jane Eyre had made such a profound mark on my way of reading, my thirst for literature, and my life in general that I felt it impossible to look at any other written piece the same way. So, throwing down Wuthering Heights in frustration, I took another trip to Barnes and Noble and tried the third Bronte sister.

Anne Bronte is often forgotten and pushed into the shadows of Charlotte and Emily. With Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights often vying for first place in the limelight of literature, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Anne's other piece, Agnes Grey are usually forced into the background. Being the youngest child myself, I felt a slight pang of sympathy for Anne when reading the introduction of the book. From that page on, I was somewhat convinced that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall would suit me and perhaps even fill the void I felt after having completed Jane Eyre. 


The first fifteen chapters of the novel are told through the first-person eyes of Gilbert Markham, a resident of the local village outside of which Wildfell Hall sits. Gilbert makes a comfortable living and leads a complacent existence, sharing a home with an unspectacular family and courting a charming and conventional village girl. When rumor intimates that Wildfell Hall has been let by a single lady, Ms. Helen Graham, Gilbert's family and several other locals pay their visits while Gilbert himself remains behind.

 Helen is an introverted and rather secretive single mother who leads a solitary life within the Elizabethan walls of Wildfell Hall. The details of who she is and where she came from are rooted in obscurity, and her insistence on concealing them eventually taints her with suspicion. Gilbert hears of his new neighbor only through the talk of others until he finally happens to see her at church. Put off by her glacial and seemingly condescending air, Gilbert makes up his mind not to like her. However, that (of course) does not last long. Gilbert abandons all affection for his former love interest and instead endeavors to pursue the mysterious and strange Ms. Graham, whose character is now under heavy scrutiny. After offering his heart to her, Gilbert is finally admitted to the secrets behind Helen's sudden appearance at Wildfell Hall and the circumstances that hinder him from attaining her. What he finds out might have the potential of ruining her. In a novel filled with feminist views and moral questions, it's hard for the reader not to fall under the spell of Anne Bronte's writing.

After finishing the novel, I was dazed, awed, and, above all, confounded. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is straightforwardly written and yet so heavily laden with emotion. Anne possessed a less romantic view of the world than her sisters (if that's even possible), but her literary skill equaled theirs in every aspect. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is heavy but a sincere joy to read. Though Charlotte's Jane Eyre is often touted as the epitome of the feminist novel, I actually believe that Anne did a much better job of portraying the true extent of suffering in the life of a nineteenth century female. In fact, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is much less a romance than it is a social commentary that plunges the reader into the world of dogmatic male chauvinism. Helen Graham is symbolic of the restrained wife in the 1800s, torn between her social duty and her moral conscience. In her case, neither can be reconciled.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a good follow up for those who wish to find the balance between Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and might even be a source of interest to those previously interest in Jane Austen. However, it is also a great choice for those who have yet to become acquainted with the Brontes. The language combines the artistry of poetic prose with the poignant sting of realism and contains just enough conflict to keep the Wuthering Heights fan engaged without throwing the Jane Austen reader into depression. Anne Bronte's balance might have cost her the popularity given to her melodramatic sister's, but her work is much too strong to be completely ignored. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Emma" by Jane Austen Review

I'm completely unable to believe my eyes. Here I was thinking that I had a faithful Bronte following of eighteen, and yet I am commencing to write the review for Emma by Jane Austen. I didn't think I'd see the day when my blog followers would choose Emma over The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet, that day has come. Despair not, Bronte fans. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall will be reviewed next, followed by Anna Karenina. After that, I'll be back to depending on the whims of my fancy. This would also be a nice time to remind you that if you don't pay attention to the poll margin on the right side of my blog, I suggest you start doing so. I take you responses into heavy account, and I always enjoy seeing which way your fancy leans. Often times (such as now) I'm more inclined to follow yours than my own.
Emma is Jane Austen's fourth published novel, and she immediately makes the difference from the others known in the opening line of the first chapter. "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her," Austen quotes. 

Emma Woodhouse isn't a daughter robbed of her fortune and home like Marianne or Elinor Dashwood. She isn't one of five daughters living under the roof of a struggling father and a frivolous mother. She is beautiful, rich, and possesses all the elegances that ensure a comfortable life. And yet, Emma is determined that she will never marry and instead devotes her time to finding husbands for those who don't enjoy her fortunate position. When our heroine looks in the mirror, she sees a successful matchmaker, and when she becomes acquainted with Harriet Smith she is provided the perfect opportunity to put her "skills" to work. 

Taking Harriet's strings in hand, Emma decides to turn her puppet's head towards a local gentleman, Mr Elton. She persuades Harriet to reject the proposal of the infatuated wealthy farmer, Mr. Martin, and pursue Mr. Elton. This decision leads to an unforeseen catastrophe. Emma fails to comprehend that the gentleman's affections are, in fact, for her. The plan results in an obvious failure that proves Emma's devoted friend and inner conscience, Mr. Knightley, correct. But Emma's intrigues don't stop here. The arrival of two new additions to Emma's social circle throws she and those connected to her into a tangled web of mistaken affections, misread signals, and emotional misconceptions that all succeed in strangling the main character. Somewhere in the midst, Emma may have lost the chance of ever being with the man she loves and has perhaps damaged the hearts of those she's trying to help. 

While the plot has its fair share of twists and tonal shifts, altogether I found Emma to be boring and decidedly the least entertaining of Jane Austen's novels. Lizzy Bennet, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and Anne Elliot all had financial, emotional, and even physical conflicts to overcome. The aforementioned protagonists each had something to fight for. Emma Woodhouse has nothing. Believing herself to be in the right at all times, she manipulates those around her to secure her own amusement and self-satisfaction. Why? Because she has nothing else to do. She's directly characterized as wealthy, beautiful, and intelligent. In giving life to a character like Emma, Jane Austen failed to do what I personally found to be her best talent. She forgot to create a relatable protagonist. 

The faults don't stop at the protagonist, however. They extend to the plot as a whole. There is an obvious lack of conflict in Emma that makes it hard for any reader to honestly take the novel seriously. Upon its release centuries ago, Emma was criticized for its lack of substance. That same fault still holds true now. It's hard to see reality in Jane Austen novels where characters with distinct faults always attain a happy ending without the least bit of punishment for their failings. All the same, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility are all masterpieces regardless. Emma is incapable of obtaining such a legacy. It might be a favorite to read on a sunny day, but it has not been (and will not be) in the conversation of the greatest pieces of literature. 

I do not mean to be pessimistic, though that may be hard to believe after reading the above criticisms. I merely mean to say that Emma, though it possesses all the irony and wit common to Austen novels, is much too superficial to give the reader any sense of real attachment to the story or its characters. However, there are many in the world who would count this as their favorite novel. Opinions will continued to differ until the world ends. Humans were made with distinct mindsets. It will, therefore, do nothing to read my review and abstain from picking up the novel because of what you've read here. That would hold me somewhat responsible for withholding you from a potential favorite book of yours. I actually insist that you do read Emma and form your own opinion. And once you finish, I'd love to see a comment from you. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen Review

I'm determined to try to juggle school, Nanowrimo authoring, and this blog all at the same time. Thankfully, November is an "easy" month when it comes to school. We literally spend more days out of school (fall break, thanksgiving, etc.) than we do in it. On the other hand, that also means more work assigned to us during off days. Either way, I've found time to continue reading during this hectic schedule.

I'm a strong believer in rereading. I've always had the belief that some things are liable to change though others might remain constant. My love for Jane Eyre is a perpetual and concrete constant. My feelings towards The Scarlet Letter underwent a change after my second reading. There are moments when you feel the rather inexplicable want to read a novel you've already read. Perhaps you're going through a time in your life where you feel like it would help. Maybe something popped out of the blue and just ignited you with the urge to read it again. Who knows?

As you can probably infer from the post title above, I reread Sense and Sensibility for about the third time this past week. It's been a pretty trying time for me. Relationship troubles have been weighing me down and making me feel kind of hopeless, wondering if there's really a happy ending when things seem to be as low as they can get. Cue Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. If anyone knows anything about coping with heartbreak, it would be these two girls.

Sense and Sensibility is another one of Jane Austen's witty and ironic novels, including the predictable plot twist and a mechanically inserted conflict. As you can probably tell, I've always preferred the gothic Brontes over Austen, but I hold this book to be one of Jane Austen's best and would probably even place it ahead of Pride and Prejudice. This novel captures the reality of life better than the rest of her novels. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the stepdaughters of a rich man who is dead almost as soon as one opens the front cover (yes, that's quite a hyperbole). Forced to succumb to the good old tradition of primogeniture, Mr. Dashwood leaves all of his property to his only son, John, the product of his previous marriage. Influenced by a petty and meddling (to say the least) wife, John breaks his promise to his father and leaves his stepmother, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters pretty much penniless. They're also being kicked out of their house and into the gritty world of which they know nothing. Forced to toughen up and face reality, Elinor and Anne witness firsthand the agony of heartbreak, the uneasy task of perseverance, and the lesson of growing up the hard way.

The book is great. The plot is good. However, it is (as is usual with Jane Austen) the characters themselves that steal the show. Their complexities are what make this novel so amusing to the reader. Elinor Dashwood, the eldest, is the stereotypical older sister. Levelheaded, responsible, and reserved, she is used to repressing her emotions in order to appear strong to those around her. With so many people depending on her for stability, she is afraid to show the least bit of vulnerability. Marianne is the exact opposite. The middle girl is often dramatic, romantic, and even impertinent. She is in love with the idea of love and the expressions that come with it; an imaginative and artistic teenager with a passion for music and adventure. In the end, the opposing characteristics of the two will end up being their worst enemies. Elinor experiences the heartbreak of having to see the man she loves be with someone else, and she doesn't possess the courage to speak out and confess her feelings. Marianne throws herself  headlong into a romance without the least bit of caution and her lack of carefulness almost proves to be the end of her.

There comes a time in her life when a girl realizes that she can relate to one (or both) of these characters. Elinor and Marianne aren't just admirable heroines like Lizzy Bennet. They're real people that make the same mistakes in love and have the same flaws. They're you and me. They are a true testament to the idea that love isn't always a fantastic and sappy romance. We don't always end up with the dashing young gentleman because most of the time he isn't all that he's cracked up to be. Sometimes the person you weren't looking for ends up being just the guy to come out of nowhere when you really need him. Love isn't perfect. It's just as influenced and battered by humanity as anything else.

So you probably know my usual conclusion by now. If you haven't read this book, read it. If you've already gotten a taste of it, help yourself to some seconds. It's a good book with a real message. It's truly uplifting if you just glue the pieces together and take it for what it is.

Have any of you read it? What do you guys think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Nanowrimo Holiday

Does it feel like I'm neglecting you yet? I'm really not trying to! And yet, I'm sorry to announce that it'll only get worse from here. National Novel Writing Month has come, and with it comes the new (well, new to me, at least) challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Yes, I am an official certified Nanowrimo author. Yes, I am going to tirelessly devote the next thirty days of my life to actually finishing something I've made an effort to write! Yes, I will achieve thus goal because I don't think i'll be able to live with myself if I don't. So far I'm off to much too fast of a start. I've got 10,000 words in a day. I sat down at the computer this morning and have been traveling in the car all day so I've been given all the time in the world to write. What's even better is the fact that new ideas have just been overflowing for the first time in a long time and my fingers just won't quit typing!

Anyway, I truly am sorry that I won't be around that much. I miss you guys dearly. But, I do have good news. The name of my novel is Edward F. Rochester. You guessed it! My Nanowrimo novel will be nothing other than sitting and writing for hours on end about Jane Eyre from Rochester's perspective only.   A fragment of inspiration came to me this past week and since then the words and ideas won't stop coming to me. If I make it to my goal, my dearest wish is that I might share this novel with you. Instead of  reading my opinions on the work of others, you will get the (rather frightening) chance to critique my work. 

For any of you who have accounts on Nanowrimo, please add me as a writing buddy. My username is Litlover13.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Doodles

Yes, I'm still alive! I haven't really been around all that much, I know. The Jane Eyre rankings have been going very well and attracting a lot of attention, and most of the time I like for the hype from one post to die down before I start others. There's also the beginning of my new blog, which only requires short and sweet posts from me. This one requires thought, time, and effort. I was also ill with strep throat for most of last week, and I found myself too sick to even think of what to write about.

Anyway, I just dropped by to express my qualms about Edward F. Rochester. He's the hardest man to draw...it's quite ridiculous really. I've drawn the same Jane about three thousand times, but my Rochester always seems to change. I experiment, doodle here and there. Often times my Rochester drafts all have some feature that strikes gold, but doesn't accomplish the whole character. But then again, I never really established a cemented vision for Rochester. I established the actor I wished would play him, but I don't think that Richard Armitage is necessarily (look-wise) the Rochester prototype. Therefore, I've decided to doodle until I find out what that cemented vision is.

Keep in mind that it's only a doodle. Anything done in pencil is counted to be a mere preliminary sketch by me. I prefer not to do anything final in pencil, and my goal is to one day draw my Rochester with charcoals if the one who satisfies my vision ever comes around.






Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just an Announcement

A few months ago, I created the blog "Happiness in Hightops" which I abandoned after a while. Somehow I didn't feel like it was doing what I hoped it would do. Now I've reopened my venture in a new blog called On Page Whatever. Many of you have come to know me as the teenager I am rather than just the writer posting on Jane Eyre. I'd really appreciate it if you'd check out this blog and follow me. There is more to me than the "Lit Lover" you see here. This new blog will rang a LOT of topics that will always be open for comments and it would mean the world to me if you took the time to follow it and watch me grow as I have since I started this blog. Thank you. 

Top 10 Jane Eyre "Reunion Scenes"

I believe I ought to begin this post by apologizing for what seems to me to be neglect. I haven't posted since last week as I've been drowned with homework during the approaching end of the school quarter. There hasn't been a night that I haven't been up past midnight writing essays for European History or outlining the chapter for my US History class. Now with the weekend under way I feel as if I'm once again able to return to you rejuvenated and ready to write. Therefore, the Jane Eyre rankings will continue with the beloved "Reunion Scene".

The reunion scene is the hardest to rank or grade because it is interpreted with such variance depending on the movie. I'd like to say that the "Reunion Scene" encompasses Jane's return as well as Rochester's following second proposal, but (as many of you well know) a few adaptations don't include Rochester's second proposal. This created a bit of a challenge for me. Should I look at the reunion scene as I always have, or should I allow those few films without a definite proposal equal footing? It was a hard decision to make. Either I'd have to interpret the "reunion scene" as the reunion only and not credit the films with a second proposal for being truly faithful to the novel or I'd have to include the second proposal which would give the films without it a seriously bad grade.

In the end I opted for the first option. Therefore, the rankings of the reunion scene will be based on the reunion alone. The reason for arriving to this decision is really simple, actually. Of the ten popular Jane Eyre adaptations, seven of them don't include the second proposal. It's quite baffling really, but it makes perfect sense. The only adaptations that have the second proposal are all four-hour TV adaptations courtesy of BBC (the 1973, 1983, and 2006). After coming to that realization it seemed a lot easier for me to take the reunion scene literally and focus on the actual reunion.

As usual, comments are always welcome. I have a feeling that this post is going to be a bit more debatable because many of you will probably end up viewing the reunion scene as I normally view it: reunion and second proposal combined. I entreat you, however, to narrow your gaze and judge it a bit differently.

#10: Jane Eyre 1934


There are tears of laughter flooding my cheeks right now. I must have had to type that previous sentence five different times because I'm laughing so hard. There's really nothing to say. This was ridiculously horrible and outrageously funny. "I've brought your tea Edward!" Goodness, I wish I could give it a G instead of an F! Maybe an "F minus minus" will do.
Grade: F- - 


#9: Jane Eyre 1949


It peaked at number eight in the "leaving scene" rankings, but it's back where it began. The era still wasn't advanced enough to utilize make-up scars or eye discolorations so they used the good old "Rochester staring into space" technique. This reunion was also rather laughable, but still slightly touching in the cheesiest of ways. It even used a half a quote from the book. Of course, that won't save it from being an "F". I'm so glad that Charlton Heston eventually matured into a convincing and talented actor, but I'm even happier that this particular role remained rooted in obscurity. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted too many people to see it.
Grade: F

#8: Jane Eyre 1996


I'm aware that I might appear too harsh on this version, but I can't help the way I see it. It didn't deliver in any of the other pivotal scenes and the overall tone of the film didn't change a bit here. William Hurt is just too "blah" to be Rochester. His healthy take on the character was already sleepy, but now that Rochester is blind he might as well be dead. There's no life in Hurt's performance, only the same languidness we saw throughout the length of the movie. He does not seem as if he's at all surprised, happy, or even emotional about having Jane back in his arms again. Then again, with Charlotte Gainsbourg turning in a sad last scene like that, it's hard to really cultivate anything on your own. It deserves an "F" but I'll add a plus to that just because I feel sorry.
Grade: F+


#7: Jane Eyre 1944

It took a big drop from previous rankings, obviously. It just wasn't right. Not to say that the breakneck kiss supported by the passionate sounding of trumpets wasn't enjoyable, because it was actually pretty nice. There was just so much missing. The lack of dialogue wasn't really the problem, but rather the lack of faithfulness. Actually, I can't even put a finger on what was really wrong with this scene, but something about it just was. There weren't a lot of lines to begin with, but the lines that were present weren't taken from the novel. The whole ruined Thornfield thing didn't really bother me either. I  guess the real reason why this version dropped was because, on the whole, the reunion scene actually makes for a competitive ranking and a lot of the scenes from other films were just better. 
Grade: D+

#6: Jane Eyre 1973

This adaptation was once again ranked in the bottom half (though slightly higher than last time) because it was just weird. Jayston seemed so eccentric and...WEIRD! My friend even commented that it seemed like he was on some kind of psychedelic drug (her words, not mine). Really? I was expecting more. This version wasn't actually that bad. In fact, it was faithful and pretty solid. It just didn't work in these last few minutes. I felt no chemistry between the two leads. There was a horrible sense of nothingness. Yet, there were seconds of beauty intermingled with the overall state of strangeness. That moment after Sorcha's eyebrows have once again gone to the roof of her head as she wonders if she's "playing the fool", she withdraws herself from him and in a state of slight panic Michael cries, "No, don't leave me!" It was enough to coax a little "aww" from my mouth and even provoke a slight smile. Those few seconds of need were priceless in a scene that otherwise fell flat. 
Grade: C-

#5: Jane Eyre 1997 

In retrospect, this is the highest the 1997 has ever made it in any of my rankings. I guess I'm just a sucker for tears, especially when it comes from men. The whole idea of a strong and masculine figure such as Rochester leaking at the eyes is irresistible to me. That being said, however, the first part of this reunion scene was an utter mess. Ciaran Hinds is just intent on being cranky for most of this movie. But during those last two minutes when Samantha Morton asserts herself, takes the reigns, and says, "I will never leave your side again" he becomes a completely different person. That inflamed eye of his (props to the makeup crew there; the blindness seemed very realistic) leaks one tear and then thousands more follow until he's just sobbing in Jane's consoling embrace. Not to mention that when he says, "My heart will burst for want to see your face" my eyes filled to the brink. Now that is the need that a Rochester should feel! 
Grade: C+

#4: Jane Eyre 1970 

Utter lack of faithfulness in every aspect, and yet it never ceases to make my cry. And I'm not talking about tears that just settle on the tips of my lashes. When I say "cry" I mean there are always tears running down my cheeks after this scene. It's just wonderful. George Scott has his eyes closed throughout the whole scene (one of them has a scar on it but you can't see it until the close angle) and yet there is so much emotion! The way he inclines his head slightly when he hear's Jane's voice and how he calls her name twice is gorgeous. His every movement is cautious and gentle, as if he's afraid that she might be a mere figment of his passionate imagination. Opposite him, Susannah's performance isn't amazingly remarkable, but it is good. I'm a big believer in the idea that the reunion scene should be (on the majority) Rochester's show. Jane is supposed to be the stable one. In the novel every emotionally-charged word uttered by our main man is greeted with a practical and matter-of-fact response from Jane in order to assure him of her reality. Therefore, most of the emotional intensity really comes from Rochester though Jane does have to have an appropriate amount of warmth (better than that given by Charlotte Gainsbourg or Sorcha Cusack). 
Grade: B+

Note before we get to the top 3: Could I just call it a tie between the top three? This has to be the hardest decision I've ever had to make! I've watched each clip over and over and I just can't seem to figure out which order I want to rank the last three adaptations in. Each makes me cry. Each has its decided strengths and weaknesses. I just don't know which one is first! Forgive me if you think I did wrong, but in the end I stuck to my gut and did what I thought was best. 



#3: Jane Eyre 2011
I'm really sorry, but there isn't an available Youtube video on this particular scene in the movie. Just trust my judgment. Most of you have probably seen it anyway. 

I think that this is the lowest I've ever ranked the 2011. Dear readers, I ranked it thus only for you. If it had been up to my personal tastes alone, this leaving scene probably would have been first or second. I break down into complete sobs whenever I watch this scene. There is such gentleness; such beautiful silence that inhabits this scene. It is the simplicity that makes it so breathtaking. That small gasp issued by Rochester when Jane's hand makes contact with his, as if he has been shocked by some kind of spark! The way Mia's Jane leaks tears onto his hand as she leads it to her face! That simple "a dream" whispered by him as he takes her into his arms and she nestles her head on his chest! Of course, when Mia whispers that last line, "Awaken then." The shaking of Rochester's shoulders as he represses tears! The last contented sigh he gives, and then the realization of reality followed by the closing of his eyes. Just picturing it in my head brings tears to my eyes! This reunion scene is hands down my absolute favorite, but I ranked it third in order to please you, my faithful readers. There is a pretty unattractive beard involved that isn't true to the novel. There is no injury of the hand. In fact, there isn't even a scar to the eye. Of course, you can tell that he's blind because of the discoloration, but technically there's supposed to be a scar. It also doesn't take place inside. I personally liked that particular artistic license taken. The beauty of Rochester waiting under that ruined (and symbolic) tree under which he proposed to her physically manifests the metaphor ("I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut tree") presented in the novel. There's also a lack of dialogue that many Jane Eyre puritans won't receive to warmly. Oh well. Just know that in my heart, this scene is ranked first. 
Grade: A


#1: Jane Eyre 1983


I did what I thought best to do. In my mind the 1983 and 2006 are both so amazing that I really cannot choose between them. The 1983 was beautiful; perfect in every aspect. There isn't a detail left out. That moment when Timothy envelopes Zelah in his arms...priceless. Not to mention that when he says "A free woman?" with hope welling in his breast as she tells him how independent she is, I could die and go to heaven. It's exactly what's described in the book. Rochester speaks imperiously at first and begins to slowly break down into dependence as he realizes that Jane is truly there. All the while Jane is just ambling along in conversation as if she hasn't been gone at all. Zelah breaks out of her reserved shell and actually emits genuine emotion that creates a spark of chemistry between her and Timothy. He isn't pulling the weight of the adaption on his shoulders anymore. The two meshed well, acted well, and certainly pulled out something great. There is such passionate subtlety, screaming silence, peaceful agitation. Yes, there were way too many oxymorons in that last sentence, but they were all packed into this scene!
Grade: A+



#1: Jane Eyre 2006 

This was a beautiful reunion. The quickness with which Toby's Rochester jumps to find Jane's hand the minute he hears her voice just sends palpitations fluttering through my heart. Even in his state of dependence, Rochester's masculinity and quickness still shines through in everything he does. His voice is tender; cautious as if he is unsure whether he speaks with shadow or substance. But his strength (as Jane says in the novel) isn't quelled. He pulls her lovingly into his arms, presses his cheek to hers. He does everything to assure himself of her reality. And then Ruth Wilson kisses him and he cries, "You indeed torment me!"As that one tear slides perfectly down his scared cheek, my heart wells. Jane teases him, saying, "unless you prefer I go" and he clutches eagerly at her, holding her even tighter in his needing embrace. Ruth does a splendid job herself. She is practical, as Jane should be. However, she also has this motherly romantic quality to her during the scene that makes her endearing, such as when she kneels and kisses is hand, cheek, and forehead. She sits on his lap as they engage in after-dinner flirtation. Rochester is still rather restless, but we feel things returning to normal. He laughs as if he hasn't laughed in a long time, and when she announces that she has to go to bed, he seems scared. That is the Rochester I imagine. He is afraid that she might never come back if she leaves that room. And then she consoles him with a loving (and chaste kiss) and a smile returns to his lips. Even then, as she withdraws from his arms he holds her hand until he can reach it no more. This scene probably wasn't as  spot-on faithful as the 1983, but it captures the relationship between Jane and Rochester down to a science. 
Grade: A+





Monday, October 10, 2011

"Rochester" by J.L Niemann Review

My first experience with this Jane Eyre adaptation came around two years ago, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I believe that I was much too young to stumble on this book at the time. Yes, it is a literary derivative technically based on the '06 adaptation of Jane Eyre rather than the novel itself, but it roams decidedly off of the beaten path.

I can start by saying that the book is beautifully written. Whoever our author is (whether J.L be male or female), they are certainly skilled with a pen. The dictional and grammatical beauty of the novel can't be denied. There is such artistic ability in the way the author manipulates words to provoke emotion in the reader. I've always been a sucker for descriptive writing. It paints a mental image; brings the story before me in lifelike clarity. J.L Niemann does just that. 

But can I say that this adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel is faithful? Absolutely not. I could say (as I said above) that it roams off the beaten path, but it is so very different from the original that it essentially creates a path of its own. In fact, this book is a completely different story with no actual resemblance to Jane Eyre other than the names of the characters and the location. Sure, there are a few borrowed lines here and there, but other than that the plot of this novel takes Jane Eyre into a completely different realm that Charlotte Bronte would never have envisioned (interpret the latter comment in whatever light you wish). Whereas other spin-offs were actually measurable with the source material, the events in Rochester are unable to be matched to those in Jane Eyre

There are details in this novel that are much too uncharacteristic of the Jane that Charlotte created centuries ago. Even Rochester himself is made into a different man. These alterations are not so much because of changes to the essences of the characters, but rather the actions they perform. The sexuality of Rochester is so blatant that it takes away the believability of the story. Rather than taking Jane Eyre and turning it into a autobiographical account of the novel through Rochester's eyes, Niemann rearranged everything and made the novel into a story dwelling much too heavily on Jane and Rochester's sexual intrigues. The descriptiveness that so captivated me in the first few pages of the novel metamorphosed into the book's own worst enemy, and in truth, by the time I was done with it I felt as if I had just witnessed literary pornography.  

Am I too young to read something so sexually advanced? You could argue "yes" and I might actually agree with you. However, I read Jane Eyre's Husband without a problem, and that too had descriptive sexuality. The difference between the two spin-offs is vital, though. In Jane Eyre's Husband, Tara Bradley's descriptions of Jane and Rochester's sexual pursuits only take place after the wedding, therefore preserving the piety that Charlotte Bronte's Jane was meant to have. Though the characters in Rochester didn't indulge in "the real deal", sexual activity was abundant. Let's be honest with ourselves. Do you think that the real Jane, the one who wouldn't even allow Rochester to take her into his arms after the discovery of his wife, the one that hesitated to even shake his hand, would give Rochester a hand job or let him even put a finger on the buttons of her nightgown (much less slip his hand under it)? NO. 

Perhaps it is the Jane Eyre puritan in me, but I see no value in saying that a book is "based" on another book and then making it into something that has no resemblance to the source material whatsoever. However, there is a slight internal battle within me. Though I criticize this book as decidedly unfaithful, when I examine it independently (without trying to compare it to the original novel), it isn't all that bad. The problem with that is that you have to recreate the characters all over again and imagine them as completely different people than they were before. If you're a diehard Jane Eyre puritan, you might not want to trouble yourself with the discomfort. In that case, I wouldn't suggest you read the book. It would only anger you, or at best disappoint you. However, if you're an inventive reader that thinks you can take the elasticity with which J.L Niemann stretches the original novel, then knock yourself out. It might not be too bad. 

Where am I? My opinion is undecided. This is only the first installment of a three-part series. I thirst for part two not so much because part one was tantalizing, but because I wonder if it might make me love it more or like it less. Right now I'm in that strange and uncomfortable place in between, almost as if I'm sitting on the crease between two seats rather than in one or the other. J.L Niemann might be onto something, but the risk is huge and the heights are great. Rochester could either take a steep fall or an atmospheric flight. 

Have any of you read it? If so, what do you think?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 10 "Jane Eyre" Leaving Scenes

Blurry eyed, I dogeared the last page of the chapter and placed it neatly under my pillow (a habit of mine when I read a book before going to sleep). Warm tears pushed past my lashes and silently made their way down my cheeks. Thus, this is how I passed the first few moments after reading Chapter Twenty-Seven of Jane Eyre. I had never cried over the pages of a book before; no written word had ever moved me in such a way. But I felt such agony in Jane's words; an indescribable sense of torment and strength intermixed in one soul.

Chapter Twenty-Seven earned a special place in my heart. The proposal had been enjoyable. I remember halting, sticking a finger in the page and sitting still for a moment to contain the erratic beating of my heart after Rochester uttered the words "equal" and "likeness". However, Chapter Twenty-Seven touched the very depths of my mind and heart. After experiencing my first heartbreak (one rather relatable to Jane's circumstances), I reread the pages only to stain them with tears again. It was then that I decided to become a woman more like Jane Eyre. She was a girl not much older than I. If she could face the world (and the man begging her to succumb to beautifully tempting destruction) with shoulders squared and chin up, why couldn't I? 

Such are the reasons why the "Leaving Scene" is single-handedly the most important portion of any adaptation in my mind. The proposal is important, but I allow myself to make certain excuses in that area. The leaving scene is given no optimism. It is scrutinized with weighty contemplation. If disgraced, the movie itself cannot be seen in a positive light. I've been brimming with anticipation; waiting for the day when I might rank this scene and share it with you, readers. That day is here. 

But this ranking is actually a lot different from my previous rankings. Often times I admit to you that "this narrowly made it past" or "this could have been a tie". These rankings, however, are concrete. I have placed each in the exact spot that I think it should be, and in my mind that place is permanent (until another adaptation comes out and I have to factor it in). Of course, to you I might have made some hideous mistakes so (as always) I encourage comments! 

#10: Jane Eyre 1934

The magnitude to which this scene was dismantled and butchered was so horrible that it was insanely funny (as was the rest of the movie). I couldn't bear to watch it, and yet I replayed it three times just to give myself a good laugh. In circumstances such as these, one can't help but laugh. If I had expected something good then I might have been angry, but after the first five minutes of the film I knew that it wouldn't amount to anything. At least we can give it some credit where we couldn't render it in other scenes. Even that isn't worth mentioning, however. I can barely keep a straight face while writing this paragraph when I think of how Bertha just marches straight into the room and asks, "Are we getting married again?"
Grade: F-

#9: Jane Eyre 1996

Now this actually did anger me for the simple reason that the leaving scene doesn't even exist. There's no possible way that one could even call this a leaving scene! It's merely a quick conversation on Jane's way out the door. In fact, it reminded me of when I leave for school in the morning. My mother stumbles into the kitchen just as I'm packed and on my way out. "I love you," she says. I give her a quick "I love you too" and then leave. Such is the same principle in this leaving scene, only there is a "this is the last time I can say it" after the "I love you too." It is catastrophic! To spend less than a minute on one of the most pivotal parts of the novel when time has been wasted in other areas of the adaptation is an unforgivable sin in my eyes. My face burns at the thought of it. Yet, even this ruinous mistake might have been redeemable if Charlotte Gainsbourg had left the room with even the slightest trace of suffering, conflict, or something! The woman just walks out as if she's departing for a casual walk.
Grade: F

#8: Jane Eyre 1949

Despite the fact that the adaptation was butchered from top to bottom, the director must have still understood the sanctity of the scene because it ended up being the best part of the adaptation. Yes, it was still horrible; but at least it was there (even with its brevity). Jane once again has the dilemma of being too nonchalant about leaving, but Charlton Heston puts up a decent effort that isn't all that bad. He holds her veil in his hands and then, after sensing the merest movement, jumps from where he stands and pleads, "Jane, you won't leave me?" in a way that even evokes a little bit of emotion. Kneeling before her he summarizes a chapter in two sentences and then the scene is done, but at least there was something. It wasn't good, please don't get me wrong. It failed miserably. But it worked enough to actually rank above ninth place.
Grade: F

#7: Jane Eyre 1997


Ciaran Hinds must have been just as angry as I was. Yes, that last sentence was a little bit of a joke, but it's the only plausible explanation because the only emotion I received from those five minutes was grouchiness. Jane walks through the door; he follows her and yells at her, mocking her for being so "immature" when he's the one throwing a temper tantrum. She goes down the stairs and he's still yelling at her. They go out to the garden and he's still yelling. Rochester is many things during his last effort to keep Jane, but he was most certainly not angry. From what I recall there are moments of passion and frustration, but they come and go. When he yells, Jane starts to cry and in a moment he is at her side comforting her and apologizing. When he grabs her in a firm grip, he realizes that it can do nothing because "it is her soul that he wants and not alone her brittle frame." Hinds just yells. Compound that with the fact that the script strayed significantly from the path the novel laid out and made the movie seem like some sappy soap opera, and it almost makes me cringe. I would much rather hear lines of Brontean language than the blatant cheesiness of, "I'm leaving for us, Edward; for what we have." Oh, and Rochester DOES NOT just let Jane walk out!
Grade: F+


#6: Jane Eyre 1973 


The first part of this scenes is done beautifully. The look with which Michael Jayston walks through the door brought tears to my eyes before Jane even fell into his arms. He is downtrodden, hopeless; tender. As he takes her in his arms and inquires whether her heart has been weeping blood he says it as if his own heart has been doing the same. However, this is as far as the greatness extends. When the setting changes, so does the performance; heading in a downward spiral into nothingness. I was never a strict fan of Sorcha Cusack's take on Jane, but I can soundly say that she was not so bad here. She made it clear that Jane's love for Rochester was still strong but still managed to capture the independence Jane needed to leave. However, Michael Jayston's performance declined. Perhaps it's just me, but I found no urgency in Rochester's plea. There is no sense of absolute need. Not to say that this scene isn't good, because it is. The adaptation as a whole was solid, but it was only solid and nothing beyond that.
Grade: C-


#5: Jane Eyre 2006


Oh yes, this version sure did take a drop. Were you surprised? After all my previous rankings, one would think that this scene would take another spot in the top three. Nope. Sorry to you diehard '06 fans, but despite all the arguments given to me as to why I should like this scene, I still don't. There is no fallacy in chemistry, I will admit that. Ruth and Toby have a magnetism on camera that is spiritually palpable in every scene, including this one. The major error that brought this scene so far below the mark was the lack of faithfulness. The truth of the matter is that despite the blazing passion between the two characters, Jane and Rochester did not make out in Jane's room the night before she left. And even that pales in comparison to the fact that all of the original dialogue from Chapter Twenty-Seven of the novel was discarded. I'm pretty sure that I might not have minded the kissing so much if it had contained at least ONE sentence identical to that in the book. As it is, the scene is just hideously unfaithful and catered much too much to a younger audience. '06 fans will argue that placing Rochester on top of Jane with his lips on hers gives the viewer an idea of just how much temptation Jane was faced with. That is very true. Yet, it does not eradicate the lack of dialogue. I'm sure the scene provided a lot of sex appeal for new readers, but there has to be a balance between a fresh take on the story and the preservation of the essentials.
Grade: C+


#4: Jane Eyre 1944


The main reason for the 1944's fourth-ranked spot was the fact that Rochester's lines were delivered beautifully and with a commendable faithfulness to the book. He commands the entire scene. Joan Fontaine gets drowned out by Orson Welles intense stares and dazzling delivery of Rochester's last plea. She was already done a disservice by that lack of lines given to her during the scene, but Joan Fontaine was still too vulnerable to be the decisive Jane we needed to see in this scene. The version ranked so high not so much because of its greatness (though it is decidedly great) but because of the lack of competition given from other versions. However, I do not wish to strip all credit away. Orson Welles' performance during this scene was absolutely powerful. His eyes never stray from Jane. It is almost as if he's afraid to take them off of her for fear that she might slip away while he blinks. As he recaps on the first night he ever laid eyes on her, my eyes never fail to fill with tears. The tenderness and yet strength with which he speaks to her is gorgeous, and as he slips from behind the shadows and cries out to her asking if she still loves him I always feel the beginnings of the first tear slipping from my lashes. Beautifully done, Orson. Horribly underrated!
Grade: B 






#3: Jane Eyre 1983

The 1983 finds itself in the top three once again. With Timothy Dalton playing Rochester, where can you go wrong? I have an answer for that. In almost every way, this scene was nearly perfect. The script once again proves extremely faithful. Zelah Clarke (who I have a tendency to be critical of because of her age and composure) stepped her game up and surged her character with emotion. The problem here is that Timothy imbues his with a bit too much emotion. In other words, there were various points in this leaving scene where the performances were borderline cheesy. Disagree if you wish, but to me there is a want of artistic restraint in Timothy's outbursts of passion. I'll put some of this down to the fact that this is actually a relatively old adaptation, but I can't omit it completely. Sometimes our leading man needs to learn that less is more (in some cases). Of course, there is striking beauty in this scene as well or else it wouldn't have taken the third spot. There are decided moments of pure perfection such as when Rochester asks, "Do you mean to go one way in the world and leave me to go another?" And as he kisses her forehead and the glimmer of that one tear sliding down his cheek catches the light, I am completely taken in. Never has a kiss on the forehead or cheek seemed so filled with passion and desire. The emotion present in those few kisses easily beat out many sex scenes in modern movies. I loved it. 
Grade: B+


#2: Jane Eyre 1970 


There is almost a lack of words to describe just how profoundly this scene touched me. It is not the most faithful, but it does a wonderful job of integrating modern vernacular with specific quotes from Chapter Twenty-Seven of the novel. George C. Scott and Susannah York share the scene with equal footing. No one overpowers the other; they work together to compose a scene of raw passion and bared souls. We do not know what Jane will choose; they each argue their case so well. She insists to be recognized as the fortress she is, and then he lays his hands on her waist and looks up with pleading eyes and we wonder if she's making the right choice. Susannah's Jane is mighty, and yet still loving. We are never in doubt of her feelings for the man opposite her. George C. Scott's Rochester is taciturn at first, but with a mere flicker of the eye his entire face changes as if he knows he can never stay angry with her. We get the overwhelming sense that Rochester does indeed need this woman. That is what a leaving scene should be like. The audience should feel the same uncertainty that Jane herself is feeling. She is resolved to leave, and yet at moments she feels as if it is impossible to wrench herself away. So she does what the Jane in the novel did. She allows Rochester to go to bed (or in this case, fall asleep sitting in a chair) with neither a promise to stay or a resolution to leave. When the early morning hours arrive, she vanishes because it is the only way she can bring herself to leave. She knows that if he wakes then he will successfully change her mind. Lovely, lovely, lovely scene from top to bottom.
Grade: A-


#1: Jane Eyre 2011


I can hear the grumbles already. In many other rankings I have often admitted to just how close the 2011 was to another. In this one I have absolutely no doubts or regrets. This leaving scene is just the best, hands down. I have not seen a leaving scene close to its equal. The whole scene is only five minutes, but yet I feel as if it captured Chapter Twenty-Seven the best. There was obvious faithfulness to Bronte's language, but the way in which Wasikowska and Fassbender delivered the lines was so natural that it seems to flow off of the tips of their tongues. Mia's performance is filled with genuine and almost tangible emotion. With each flash of the camera her eyes fill more. Yet, for most of the scene she is determined to repress them. I can feel her soul tearing. After each of Rochester's lines there is a slight pause; a pause that means the world. Those simple pauses tell the audience that Jane is torn; that she earnestly wishes to do what Rochester is asking her to but that she knows she can't. When her tears finally spill forth, so do mine. In that moment Mia Wasikowska is Jane. And when she says "You have a wife", she does so in a way that makes us feel as if it hurts her to utter it aloud. Michael Fassbender matches her intensity with every word. Laying on the floor outside of Jane's door, the first thing we hear from him is tenderness. That tenderness escalates to urgency, and that urgency spills over into unrepressed passion. There is no kiss in these scene, and yet that moment when he takes Jane's neck into his hands I feel the sexual tension; the repression of the desire that each character is trying so hard to fight. And then he cries, "It is your soul that I want." At that moment all hearts (including mine) have completed the process of breaking and I am fully assured that there is no leaving scene to equal this.
Grade: A+