February Round Up: The Missing Janes

I began my 3 book/month project on the wrong foot: the library is still doesn’t have the book I wanted to read for January. It’s a month overdue. I’m the next hold, but dang, get it together. Alas.

So, I fell behind in January, but am trying to keep up for the rest of the months. So far, not quite there.  February’s theme was a simple one:  the Jane Austen novels that I haven’t read yet. She only published six books in her lifetime. I’ve read half: Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion.  So, I thought, let’s finish this out and read Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey.  I only read two before February was out, for reasons that will be explained in the summary (I write these things a bit at a time so I can remember all the good stuff) but will publish this the first week of March. I assume Northanger  can be read by then. 🙂

I’m mostly going to react to these books versus summarizing. C’mon. More reputable people than I can give you a summary. They’re classics, shouldn’t be hard to find.

Sense and Sensibility 

I listened to the audiobook while using my snow day “wisely.” I have seen the movie (Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet version).

Geez, the brother and sister-in-law are selfish jerks. I love how their son cannot live off of such a small amount, so why don’t we give our sisters a much smaller amount? Also, totally loved how big brother was hoping other people would pick up sisters’ tabs. Ugh. Total wimp.

Good grief, how teenager-y can Marianne get? Drama, drama, drama. I met him yesterday and he’s the love of my life! I’m not sure what his name is!
Actually, how teenager-y can Elinor get? The “we like each other… let’s not talk to each other” kind of teenager. Where everyone knows but they keep trying to hide it. Ugh.

I like the Dashwoods, but I just felt like, manic-depressive. Big ups, big downs.

I was bothered at the last page of the book… you know, in Austen fashion, the page she lists the Happy Ever Afters and whatnot.  Yay, Col. Brandon gets the girl! It didn’t feel *right* in the book, but I was cool with Alan Rickman in the movie getting the girl.  “Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.” She’s basically saying she married him and IN TIME she decided to LOVE him. So much for romance, Marianne. 

I love the Better Book Title for Sense and Sensibility: 

Image

Thank you Cate Burlington and http://www.betterbooktitles.com

In the end, we’re all a little envious of what we don’t have, but here’s hoping we can have a bit of both sense and sensibility.

Mansfield Park 

I wrote this reaction when I was on volume one of Mansfield Park. I’m finishing my Mansfield section on March 1, after my professor’s note to me. (Oh, hey, 3-1-13.)

At the time of writing this (2/20), I am SUFFERING through this book. Widely considered the most serious and least romantic of Austen’s novels, this is a total nightmare. This is how my reading experience of this book has gone thus far (I’m somewhere close to the middle of the book, considering all the crap introductory stuff for the average Austen novel and the commentary behind the novel, etc.)

Saturday: read a book for my March theme (TBA).  Try to read a chapter of Mansfield. Re-read a January-themed book. Tell myself I can get a cupcake if I finish volume one of Mansfield. There is much rejoicing when I do finish. I decide I can have two cupcakes.

(while “reading” in bed)
“Hey hon… is our ceiling crooked?”
“You’ve never noticed the sag before?”
“I’m bored with my book, and I ended up just staring… seriously, should I be worried about the ceiling?” (The answer is “probably” but he wisely said “no dear.”)

I kid you not, sent a message along these lines:

Dear [Lit Professor]:
I’m reading the Austen novels I haven’t read yet. Can you encourage me to keep reading Mansfield Park, or can I watch the Masterpiece Classic with Billie Piper?

Dear Bookworm,
Just remember it’s funny, and be aware of the satire. If that doesn’t work, enjoy the movie.

I watched Masterpiece Classic. That was when I discovered the interesting stuff happened AFTER volume one (which I had struggled to finish).

No, seriously. It has a ridiculously slow start (especially considering P&P grabs you with the first line) but volume two and three is where it gets interesting. It had the beginning (Fanny arriving to Mansfield) and then it skips to the middle of volume one in the movie. Gotcha.

SO, about the book. Poor Fanny Price  gets adopted by rich relatives because her mom wrote and asked if they could take one of her nine kids. Damn, they took the girl? Wasn’t expecting that, but whatever, take her. Only one of her cousins (Edmund) is nice to her, so she develops a crush on him. Otherwise, because she’s less educated and poor, she owes them for her livelihood, and they make sure she knows it.  Then some rich go-getters, Henry and Mary Crawford, come to town. Henry is a bit of a playboy and Mary flirts with Edmund. Basically, Mary and Henry are fickle teenagers who toy with everyone’s affections just to see what happens. There’s a scandal, everyone gets their just desserts. Fanny and Edmund marry after the least romantic development ever. Austen called in the end of the book by saying, “However long you think is appropriate for Edmund to get over Mary and fall in love with Fanny… that happened.”

I can see why it’s not a favorite. But it did get better. And the Masterpiece Classic may not have been perfectly true to the book (one commenter lamented, “Fanny wouldn’t FLIRT with her cousin!”),  it made it more interesting. (And Billie Piper can’t help flirting.)

Northanger Abbey 

This was her first novel she sold, but the publisher sat on it and didn’t print. (She has a note in the book, stating, “This was sold in 1803. It’s being published thirteen years later. So not my fault that it’s outdated.”) It was actually published posthumously in 1818, but my guess is it was in the process before she died. Anyway, it definitely has a *young* feel to it.

Basically: this is a tale of caution. Catherine Morland loves romantic, Gothic novels, and she lets her imagination run wild with them. When Henry and Eleanor Tilney invite her to their home, she loves the mysterious feel to it. But then she finds out trickles of information about the death of Mrs. Tilney. She tries to investigate, but is caught by Henry Tilney (who is of course, charming and handsome). He gets a little more than upset when he figures out Catherine thinks his father killed his mother. Catherine gets turned out unexpectedly by the father (who didn’t know any of this was going on, he just discovered she wasn’t a woman of fortune). It’s okay, because Henry forgives her and proposes after a discussion on not getting *too* caught up in fiction.

There’s a lot of stuff I skipped (especially the Thorpe family, who  generally try to interfere with Catherine’s life), but I’m not worried about it since I originally wrote my goal was not to summarize the entire book. The book grabbed me a little more than Mansfield— only took about a week to read.  It’s very Don Quixote-esque, in that Catherine imagines being the heroine and everything’s way more dramatic than it should be. I loved Henry discovering her “investigation” and responding,  “Remember that we are English,” like, oh yeah, English people don’t get wrapped up in emotions and plot crazy murder schemes.

I think it’s still an important message to heed– you can get sucked into a book, but don’t mistake book for (your own) reality.

That’s it. I can officially say I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s published works.  I have one more book for March. (Still have one more book for January, but I guess that’ll wait.)

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