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review 2020-07-04 22:28
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen,Anna Quindlen

This is by far Jane Austen’s most popular book, and while as a kid I found it dull and slow, re-reading as an adult I had a great time with it. It’s easy to see where that popularity comes from. First, unlike some of Austen’s other books, which just have some romance in them, this one actually is a romance, in that it’s structured around the growth of and obstacles to Elizabeth’s and Jane’s relationships.

 

Second, to the extent that it moralizes (and Austen always moralizes to some extent), it’s mostly about issues that remain both relevant and palatable today: the dangers of assuming yourself better than everyone around you, of clinging to a negative first impression despite new information, of taking people at their word when they eagerly insist to virtual strangers that all their problems are other people’s fault.

 

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth is a great heroine. She’s witty, energetic, and has a sense of humor, which makes her fun. She’s intelligent, caring, and has a backbone, which makes her admirable. And she’s judgmental, jumps to conclusions, and has some learning to do, which makes her human.

 

Warning: there will be SPOILERS below.

 

There isn’t much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said: it’s well-written, engaging, and to an adult reader, it’s quite funny. It’s the perfect piece of intelligent escapism. It’s full of well-drawn and realistic characters, many of them a little bit ridiculous, and the author invites us to laugh at them with her. It isn’t “just” a romance, but explores the intersection of love and money in Austen’s society—though for all that, Austen’s heroines aren’t as mercenary as some make them out to be. At the end I think Darcy is genuinely in love with Elizabeth, while she’s still in the early stages of infatuation, overwhelmed by the fact that this rich and handsome man cares enough to put himself out on her behalf. But I don’t think it’s just about the money either.

 

I do wish Austen didn’t lapse into narrative summary at the most inconvenient moments, like proposal scenes (!). I actually didn’t remember that Georgiana appears in person in this book, probably because although she and Elizabeth meet several times, none of Georgiana’s lines are ever transcribed for the reader. But Austen was in many ways pioneering the modern English-language novel, so it’s inevitable that not everything was perfect, and impressive that despite that she was able to write characters who still manage to inspire emotional investment today.

 

I’ll use the rest of this space to comment on some characters I viewed differently this time around. First, the treatment of Mrs. Bennet is rather sad: it’s true that her perspective is limited, but she actually is trying to do right by her daughters, and she obviously loves her husband more than he loves her. Given that the Bennets are on good terms with what seems like a large circle of acquaintance (her claim that they dine with 20 other families is meant to be ridiculous, but is impressive by today’s isolated standards), I suspect her manners are quite good enough by her neighbors’ standards, and it’s the stuck-up Bingley sisters and Mr. Darcy who judge her. It’s a little sad that their happy ending requires Elizabeth and even the otherwise-angelic Jane to distance themselves from her.

 

Lydia, on the other hand, would be a strong candidate for the heroine if this were a modern novel. Modern audiences seem to love the young woman driven by sexual or romantic passion to flout societal convention just as much as Austen’s society hated her. Particularly sympathetic in Lydia’s case is that she actually loves Wickham but is deceived about his regard for her. Lydia’s exuberance also makes her fun to read about, though because she’s a teenager and not the heroine, she has all-too-human flaws as well: she’s self-absorbed and can’t be bothered to listen to anyone she disagrees with. The scene where she claims she’s “treating” Jane and Elizabeth to lunch, but makes them pay because she already spent her money, is particularly amusing.

 

Then there’s Mary. Before I thought of her as a typical teenager in her high regard for her own intellect, and starting out here I was sympathetic to her based on her position alone. She’s the only unattractive one out of five sisters (ouch), and also the only member of the family who doesn’t seem particularly beloved by anyone else: her older and younger sisters are each a close-knit pair who also have good friends outside the family, while the parents each have their favorites, all of it excluding Mary. On this reading, though, it seemed likely that Mary is on the autism spectrum, though to Austen’s and therefore Elizabeth’s eyes it just looked like cluelessness. Mary is sententious and blind to social norms, and unlike with Lydia, it isn’t because Mary doesn’t care (she’s visibly embarrassed when her father calls her out at a party). The scene that clinched it for me comes after Lydia’s disgrace, when Mary approaches Elizabeth to suggest that they should “pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation,” which Elizabeth considers so bizarre that she makes no response. This seems to indicate that either Mary actually does not realize that she and Elizabeth don’t have this kind of relationship, or she’s trying to bond with her but has no idea how to do so. Unfortunately, Mary seems unlikely to improve in understanding when no one can be bothered to explain anything to her.

 

Reading this right after Emma, I was surprised by how different it felt: shorter chapters, more dialogue, and rather less polished, but perhaps more fun. It didn’t touch me particularly deeply, but I did enjoy it a lot and it also gave me plenty to think about. That’s what makes it a true classic I suppose, that there’s always more to discover and new perspectives to see upon re-reading.

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review 2020-03-01 12:42
A true delight for Austen fans
Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl - Leigh Dreyer,Christina Morland,Amy D'Orazio,Beau North,Jenetta James,Christina Boyd,Joana Starnes,Karen Cox,Elizabeth Adams,Nina Croft

I thank Christina Boyd, the editor and also one of the authors of the collection, for sending me an invite to participate on the launch blog tour and for the ARC copy of the volume, which I freely chose to review. I have read and reviewed some of the other anthologies The Quill Collective has published and loved them, so I was delighted to be asked and to be able to participate. I’ve decided to talk a bit about each one of them, because they are all quite different in style (some written in the first person, some in the third, some quite humorous, some more serious, some set in the same time period as the original and others not, some shorter and some longer) but somehow manage to live up to the spirit and the wit of one of Austen’s best loved characters. Each story/novella is introduced by a quote from the original, which highlights an aspect later explored in more detail in the text, and it is also signposted by an individual cover, all of them beautiful. Foreword: Tessa Dare Witty, clever, and a very fitting introduction to the subject matter and to the stories. Mark Twain gets a mention! Resolution: Amy D’Orazio Set within the period of the novel, this short story plays on the ‘what if’. What would have happened if somebody close to Darcy had decided to take things in their hands? How would that have influenced the outcome? And what if Liz had finally succumbed to life’s harsh realities and forgotten her prejudices? An interesting turn of events and an amusing (but romantic) short story, aimed at readers familiar with the details of P&P. Thank God for alcoholic beverages and meddling maids! The House Party: Jenetta James I have read short and long fiction by Jenetta James and she delivers, once more, in this short-story/vignette, that moves forward the events to early XX century, in the setting of the Suffragist movement, and rewrites a memorable party and visit to the Bingley’s home. Wickham is up to his old tricks! A great story that could be read without previous knowledge of Austen’s novel, although it will be greatly enjoyed by fans of the original. Atmospheric Disturbances: Christina Morland This is, in a way, a Much Ado About Nothing situation, at least on the surface of it, when readers get to eavesdrop (well, and also get inside Elizabeth’s head) on an argument between Elizabeth and Darcy, after their engagement. For those of us who love the witty interactions between the two and the pull and push of their relationship, any opportunity to see them, and hear them, when they are in each other’s company is a pleasure, and so it is here, in a vignette that explores the dynamics of their relationship and we get to see a more vulnerable, but still reserved and proud, Darcy, and an Elizabeth prone to making a fuss, worrying, determined to know her future husband, and oh, so headstrong! Love in Limelight: Beau North North here transports the action to Hollywood in 1934. Elizabeth has become Eliza Bennett (her stage name) and she and Jenny are actresses, now in Hollywood. Charles Bingley is a film director, Darcy is, of course, the head of the studio, Pembley, and Georgina is Gigi, who was a child star and now is trying to move on to adult acting roles. There are misunderstandings and confusions at every turn, Wickham’s incarnation works extremely well, and I loved the use of expressions and language of the period, the bright and bubbly setting, the headlines and snippets of gossip news included in the story, and, well, everything. The Uncommonly Busy Lane to Longbourn: Joanna Starnes This short-story/novella reads like one of those movie outtakes included as a bonus in the luxury edition of a Blu-ray disc, or an alternative ending, where it is difficult to decide which one you prefer. It is set in the same time period as the original; the characters behave pretty much as we would expect them to, down to the long walks, the witty conversations, Elizabeth’s poor opinion of Darcy and her strong support of Wickham, but Darcy is a bit more forceful in his attempt at warning Elizabeth against the rogue and this sets in motion a chain of events that slightly alter things but do not derail the overall story where it matters. It also has pretty funny moments. It felt as if this story could have pretty well replaced what actually happens at that point in the original (no, I won’t go into details), and it would have fitted perfectly well. This could well have happened in an alternative P&P universe. Resistive Currents: Karen M Cox I am a fan of Cox’s writing, both her Austenesque stories and novels and also those that stride away from the Austen universe, and this short-story/novella delivers again. This is one of the stories in the collection that I think can be enjoyed by readers who have no particular knowledge of P&P, although Austen’s readers will get a kick out of it. Cox offers us two stories, of two women in the same family, separated by several generations (one a teacher in rural Colorado at the beginning of the XX century, the other her great-granddaughter, in the 1980s, a girl studying engineering at university, a profession still dominated by men) and how their own prejudice towards men whom they think don’t value them or see their worth because they are women causes them to misunderstand and misjudge them. I would have been happy to read a whole novel about these headstrong girls and their beaus, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in this. Something Like Regret: Elizabeth Adams The author explores in detail an episode that is a favourite of many of us who are fans of the BBC series. Yes, I am talking about Lizzy’s visit to Pembury with her aunt and uncle, and her surprise meeting with Darcy (Sorry, no wet shirt here). Adams allows us a peep into Elizabeth’s mind, and we follow her train of thought, her doubts, her regrets, and get to experience first-hand her gradual change of heart. Although this story would not work for those who don’t know P&P, it would easily fit into the novel, down to the direct addresses to her “reader”, and I am sure Austen would have approved. The Last Blind Date: Leigh Dreyer Elizabeth and Darcy are here transported to modern day Oklahoma. Elizabeth is a hardworking student who also waits tables, and Jane and Charlotte are her friends (although we only get snippets of it, their relationship is the stuff or chick lit and they are great together), and Darcy is a heir to a big oil company who has spent much of his life studying abroad. Neither of them are what the other expect at their blind date, and the reasons behind their behaviours are soon evident. One of the shorter stories that could be read independently from the original, particularly recommended to football fans. The Age of Nescience: J. Marie Croft This short-story/novella would again fit into what I’ve referred to as the outtakes of a Blu-ray, or an anniversary luxury edition of P&P with added materials. Here, we get an insight into Elizabeth’s past, her life and experiences before we meet her in P&P, from her first attendance at a ball (at the tender age of fifteen), to her visit to Pemberley, and this allows us to enjoy more of her family life, learn about her dreams as a young girl, her disappointments in love, her interactions with her mother, sisters, and especially her father (we experience both his wit but also his lack of backbone and his unwillingness to challenge his wife and daughters, all in the name of a quiet life), and like her, we gain a greater insight and understanding of how she came to be how she is and why this visit is so momentous for her. Again, a beautifully observed and written story (such attention to language!), and one Austen would have approved of, including the reference to the similarities of the characters and situations to those of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield. A Mate for Life: Christina Boyd In this short-story/summary, we have an elderly Elizabeth talking to her granddaughter —who shares more than a few characteristics with her granny (she’s headstrong and obstinate as well)—and telling her about her love story with Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her granddaughter has found her own Mr Darcy (he’s proud and handsome as well), and the story seems to repeat itself, although thankfully it runs a bit smoother this time. The narration works beautifully as a summary and introduction to the original for those who might not have read it (I’d encourage them to consider reading this story first, perhaps), and although, but its own nature there’s a fair amount of telling, the interaction of Elizabeth with a woman of the new generation, Darcy’s imagined commentary, and the setting and freshness of the scene make this a delightful and perfect story to end the book with. I recommend the collection especially to lovers of Pride and Prejudice, although it is not necessary to be an expert in it (and some of the stories can be read independently from the original), and to those readers who enjoy thinking of what else could have happened or wonder what went on behind the scenes. The writing is superb and I am sure all the fans of the many writers taking part will enjoy the stories and will be happy to discover new writers with similar tastes and interests. I congratulate The Quill Collective and hope they’ll keep coming up with new ways to keep Austen and her characters alive.

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review 2020-01-18 12:24
Pride and Prejudice set in the Depression Era with some major parts for minor players.
1932 - Karen M. Cox

I have read several novels, short-stories, and novellas written by Karen M. Cox, many of them variations of Jane Austen’s novels or inspired by them, most recently Find Wonder in All Things, and like that one, 1932 is a new edition of a novel the author published a few years back. As I hadn’t read it before, I was grateful to get an ARC copy, which I freely decided to review.  It is not necessary to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this book, but because in this case I am much more familiar with the original, I can confirm that there is much to enjoy from comparing the —sometimes subtle and at others quite major— differences between the two and I thought the new setting suits it very well.

The story is narrated in the third person mostly from Elizabeth’s point of view, but also at times we see William Darcy’s viewpoint, and we get a much better understanding of how the feelings between them, especially when it comes to Elizabeth, develop. I think the historical period works very well to explain the changed circumstances for the Bennet family, who until then had lived a comfortable life in Chicago, but due to the Depression find themselves in a tight spot when Dr Bennet loses his teaching position at the university and is unable to find a job that will feed the seven mouths under his charge. The whole family gets uprooted to a small farm in rural Kentucky, and the rather desperate circumstances have a deep effect on Elizabeth’s ideas and decisions. Do not worry, there are pride and prejudices aplenty, but there are major changes in respect of the original novel, although I’ll keep my mouth shut so you can discover them yourselves if you are a fan, or enjoy this version without spoilers if you haven’t read P&P before.

The author has a great skill, as I have mentioned before, at making any historical period come to life, and we are immersed into the Thirties in rural Kentucky as we read, without being overwhelmed by lengthy descriptions and tonnes of unnecessary details. Characters behave according to the era and to their social positions, while at the same time remaining faithful to the spirit of the original.

If I had to name one of the things I enjoyed the most, was the increased role played by some of the secondary characters, like the girls aunt and uncle, who offer them their help; Georgiana (whose new version of the story and how that affects Darcy’s character I loved in particular); Fitzwilliam (he’s a sheriff!); and also the subtle changes to some others, like Mrs Bennet, Elizabeth’s mother, who although loud and overbearing at times, also shows more backbone and her true devotion as a mother, which I found endearing. And there are some new characters that I love, but no, I won’t tell you about them.

Are there changes to the main couple? Well, yes, although they also retain the main qualities devoted fans love. Elizabeth is strong and determined, but seems more willing to put other people’s needs (especially her family’s) before her own convictions and is more practical. We also see her try to behave as is expected of her; she doubt sand questions her decisions and wakes to the pleasures of love. (As I’ve often said, I’m not a big fan of sex scenes or erotica but must admit the very early scenes here are quite sweet and funny, and they are far from extreme or too graphic, but I thought I’d better warn you). Darcy shows his pride and his prejudices too, especially at the beginning of the novel, and he finds it difficult to fully trust Elizabeth, although we get to understand why as the story advances.  I don’t want to reveal too many details of the plot, especially where it differs from the original, but I should mention that we do get to see more of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy, rather than only the early period of courtship, in this version.

Do not worry, we still have the witty dialogue, a baddy true to form, and there is an action scene that sets many things in motion and I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing flows easily, and it manages to plunge readers into the subtleties of the minds of the characters whilst at the same time sharing with them the landscapes and the settings. And yes, there is a happy ending.

Here, a taster of the writing, but, as usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample to see what they think:

Here, we have the couple conversing.

“You seem to have a great faith in your judgement.”

“I suppose I do. I believe I’ve lived a sufficient amount of time and seen enough of the world to earn that confidence.”

“So, you’re infallible?”

“Of course not. That would be impossible for anyone.”

“I see.”

“But I do make it a priority to weigh my decisions carefully. For example, I didn’t build Pemberley by following the latest fads in agriculture without thinking them through.”

“My understanding was that you didn’t build Pemberley. It was left to you, was it not?”

I recommend this novel to lovers of classical or historical romance, especially those fond of Jane Austen, and to anybody who enjoys a well-written story full of compelling characters. Fans of the author won’t be disappointed, and I was particularly touched by her dedication of the novel to her grandmothers, women who had lived through that historical period and had plenty to say and lots to teach future generations. And I’m sure Austen would approve.

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review 2019-11-09 21:59
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do - Jennifer Lynn Eberhardt
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do - Jennifer Lynn Eberhardt

Eberhardt has been working at Stanford for 30 years now, uncovering the roots of systemic racism via social science. Together with other researchers she has performed a lot of studies and learned and published. One focus of her work has been in using social science to address pressing social problems. In this book she takes all her years of research and expertise and lays it all out for the non-academic reader.


If you're not up on implicit bias it is the part that we all have picked up on regardless of our explicit ideas or beliefs. It kicks in faster than thought and slips in under our mental radar. It's why police shoot unarmed black boys, why they stop more people of color driving, it's why fewer African American and Hispanic children are labelled gifted and are more likely to have the school cop called on them for minor infractions. It's much more than that, too.
But there's the best part: Eberhardt knows how to short circuit it. There's a reason why people call them "genius" grants even if the MacArthur Foundation never does.


Engrossing, insightful, and with luck, truly helpful. We can all do better and this book is a first step for many. Brilliant.

Library copy

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review 2019-05-11 22:30
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors - Sonali Dev

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The truth was, he was right about many things—things she could change, like how she treated people. He was also wrong about a few—things she could not change, like who she was. 

In this start to the Rajes series, Sonali Dev gives us an emotional look into a royal Indian family that migrated to America. The title gives a clue that Ms. Dev took inspiration from Jane Austen, Trisha is our arrogant still waters run deep Mr. Darcy while DJ is our making some snap judgments Elizabeth. There is also a villainous Wickham character, older sister (already married) worried about her beau wanting someone else, sick younger sister, mother pressuring children to get married, and other little takings that Pride and Prejudice readers will recognize. It's all inspired by and not based on and I loved how Dev put her spin on the tale. 

It had been fifteen years. Fifteen years since Trisha had been shut out of her brother’s political career, the family’s most precious dream. 

The beginning focuses on Trisha, a young brilliant brain surgeon, and the dynamics she has with her family. Her family is rather large but I never felt overwhelmed with characters, Dev is amazing at weaving sibling, parent, cousin, and grandparent relationships into the fabric of the story. We learn how Trisha feels like an outcast in her family because of how a friendship (Julia Wickham) ended up hurting her brother Yash, a US District Attorney gearing up to make a run at California Governor. I can't even put into words how Dev expertly touches on and relays all those complicated family feelings; you'll get sucked in believing the Rajes are a real family and probably personally connect with some of their issues. 

“Looks like we’re stuck together for the sake of our sisters.” He pulled the door shut, put the car in gear, and shot off around the looping driveway, watching her disappear in his rearview mirror. She didn’t look any happier at the prospect than he was. 

DJ comes into the story with the opposite of a meet-cute with Trisha, leaving him to believe she's an arrogant snob. He also turns out to be the older brother of Emma, a patient of Trisha's. Emma has a brain tumor that other doctors have said is inoperable, but Trisha has developed a way to remove it, however, it would leave Emma, an artist, blind. Emma wants to refuse the surgery and DJ is mad that Trisha won't heavily push her. They are forced to spend more time together when, because of his friendship with one of Trisha's cousins, leads to him catering for her brother Yash's campaign fundraiser. Further complicating matters is Trisha's past enemy, Julia, snaking around DJ and Emma. 

My sister is not live tissue. But DJ Caine was wrong. That’s precisely what Emma had to be to her, because Trisha knew exactly what to do with misbehaving live tissue. 

Trisha is harder to warm up to right away, she is a bit arrogant but Dev deftly draws out her character through showing how she grew up, the dynamics, her guilt, her love for her family, and the very essence of what makes Trisha such a brilliant surgeon. Her character is a master class in giving what people need from you while still staying true to your core and finding someone who understands and loves you because and despite it all. It takes a little longer to get to DJ but Dev gives him as much depth and breadth to his character as Trisha. His background, parent's situation, racial and class divisions, relationship with surrogate mother, and being responsible for Emma at a young age, breath life into his thoughts, feelings, actions, and motivations. 

The romance is all at once the background and motivation for the story, family dynamics steal the show often enough but without those dynamics driving the story, the romance would not flourish and feel as complete the way it does. Their relationship is very biting at first but as Dev peels back the layers on Trisha and Dev, it becomes clear how they are talking at cross purposes to each other and you begin to root for these two to clear up misunderstandings and give into what their hearts are trying to tell them. 

As I said earlier, there is no way to touch on all the characters and threads that make this such an enriching full story. I don't know if it is a term but this read like literary romance, Dev beautifully began a woven tapestry of the Raje family. I've called Dev a “lip quivering” author and while the emotions can be quite raw at times, there is always an underlining hopefulness to her writing that makes me believe that love will win in the end. I'm utterly invested in the Raje family and can't wait for the next in the series.

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