Persuasion, by Jane Austen

30653460Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope. (from Goodreads)

This was my second reading of this novel, first time in English. It was awhile since I last read it, and my memories of it were built mostly from glimpses of the different movies and tv adaptations. It was also my first time ever reading Austen in her own words and not mediated by a translator, so it actually felt almost like reading it for the first time ever.
I must admit that I always neglected Anne Elliot as a very secondary character in the myriad of Austen’s heroines, and oh how I regret this. I think, as it happens to me often, that sometimes I read books when it’s not the right time for me, so then they leave an odd impression in my memory. Knowing this about myself, I try to re-read them later, and it usually works great for the book. Apparently this time I was fully ready to love and understand Anne. Well, we are now the same age! So I guess that explains it all.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

6374276Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match (from Goodreads)

In my opinion, this is the funniest book by Austen, ever. That should be enough to go run, find a copy and read ASAP.
It’s a short epistolary novel (and you know how much I love this things). The exchange of letters is delightful to read, as one can see the two faced personality of Susan, so sweet and caring towards those she wants to impress, and completely cynical and scheming in her private correspondence with her best friend.
It was adapted to a movie very recently, for the first time, with the title Love & friendship (which is, BTW, another epistolary novel by Austen, but that has nothing to do with this story). I highly recommend reading the book first, which will make everything so much enjoyable because so many of the dialogues were copied word by word from the letters (ahh, so satisfying!). In any case, it’s a great movie in its own.

The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler

6238013The story starts when Sylvia’s marriage with Daniel ends and her friends, looking for a

good distraction, decide to make up this book club around Jane Austen’s main novels. So, these five women and a guy, (Grigg, an outsider to the group that is invited by Jocelyn, Sylvia’s best friend, with the idea of setting them up), read these 6 novels during 6
months, and each one of them is the host for one book. The characters have, of course, very different personalities and the book is, of course, organized in 6 main chapters, which are an excuse to narrate each character’s background story, and the narration goes backwards and then back to the present constantly, in a very dynamic and not chaotic way. In those six months, we get to see a little the way they relate with each other, with their families / partners, how they choose to live their lives. The thing is, we don’t actually get a lot of what the book club is like. Those interactions, the meetings, they’re not very extensive, and always seem very superficial, and the background stories have a lot more weight.

For the reader, the first encounter with the characters seems very sudden. In a very few pages you have a lot of names right in your face, before you could barely individualize each character, but before you notice, you get very familiarize with them.

I found strange the place the narrator had in the story. Most of the time during the book
was a third-person narrative, but sometimes it turned into plural first-person. “We sat in a circle”, “she introduced us to Grigg”… But you never knew exactly who was talking. You never read “I”. At first I found it quite stressing “What did I miss? Who’s talking?”, but then I started to think “Maybe they’re all telling the story at once, and I’ll never found out who’s talking now and who’s talking next”. I never did.

The book also comes, at the end of the story, with a “Reader’s guide” that contains a synopsis of each Austen’s novel (in case some clueless reader hasn’t read them already) a large amount of commentaries about the novels and Austen, from various critics, writers or Austen’s friends and family, and three questions from each character to the reader, to reflect about the novels, their story and other things in general, related to what we read in their chapters. A very nice touch.

All in all, it’s a good book.
There’s a movie adaptation that is pretty fun.

Death comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James


14094970This is a fan fiction that got big. The author takes the characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, some years after the ending of that book. Both Jane and Elizabeth are still happily married and have formed a lovely family. As every year, Elizabeth is in charge of a big ball at Pemberley, but this one doesn’t take place. The night before the event, Lydia, Elizabeth’s younger sister, arrived at Pemberley in a shock state clamoring that his husband, George Wickham, might be dead in the forest. It turns out that Wickham was still alive, but gets suspected of his friend’s murder. The rest of the book is, basically, like any other mystery novel, trying to find out if Wickham is or isn’t the murderer.

I guess I didn’t have any expectations about this book. I’m a big fan of Austen, so at first was a bit shocking reading about these beloved characters in a style that’s not like hers, but the overall result is quite positive.

There is a beautiful TV adaptation that I highly recommend.