Tag Archive: emma

Thoughts on the Austen Project

As regular readers of this blog may know, I am a Jane Austen fanatic.

I have read all of the six, several times. Years ago my mother gave me a collected edition but I also love my little Barnes and Noble copy of Sense and Sensibility as well.

I have read various fan fictions and have not been impresses. The language is too stilted or the action is unbelievable in an unbelievable manner. My favorites are the Jane Bites Back series by Michael Thomas Ford and Austenland by Shannon Hale. In regards to the former, the book is ten times better than the movie.

Harper Collins is in the middle of the Austen Project in which they hire currently famous writers to re-write those classic novels in modern settings. The order of publication is Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollpe, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. But let me tell you what I loved and hated about each one in order of least to best.

Austen Project Emma

The one I liked the least was the novel Jane loved the best. However, there was something missing from this retelling. McCall Smith, who writes with much charm in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency, failed to understand Emma and her circle. This despite writing long and complicated back stories for the majority of the characters we never understood before.

From Mr. Woodhouse to Mr. Knightly to John Knightly to Mrs. Goddard and Harriet, we received more back story than necessary. That leads to a hurry-up-and-tell the story affair that made me wonder why Mr. Knightly would even consider Emma. I questioned why she wanted to hang with Harriet who was clearly her lesser. Frank and Jane were an even bigger bore.

But stranger than that to me was how the extra hired help questioned why Emma was not in the kitchen helping to make the meal for her big dinner party. The setting was still England so despite the modern ramp up and various changes in society, I could not see that being probable. Nope, Emma would not be in the kitchen making the sauce or cleaning the silver.

Austen Project Sense and Sensability

When I read Joanna Trollope’s foray into this project, I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The update has Eleanor in college for architecture, Marianne as a talented home musician, and Margaret was in that frightful stage of middle school. We learn that their parents never married as their mother was ‘the other woman’ and the two hippies settled in without the paperwork.

So when Mr. Dashwood dies, John inherits all. His wife happily gives the other Dashwood girls that unwelcomed feeling till Mrs. Dashwood and the girls find a new home. Sir John Middleton is happy to be their hero by giving the girls jobs as models in his outerwear catalog and finding Eleanor a great job in her field of study. Eleanor is the grown-up dealing with heartache of grief and total loss of their old life style while the rest of her family flip out in their own special way.

The modern touches of how facebook and phones are fundamental parts of our lives was wonderful. The problems I had were that characters, especially the Dashwood sisters, were more crass. Hippie or not, I expected Mrs. Dashwood to not allow that kind of behavior in her girls. While Coronal Brandon is still fabulous, I am not sure if he was too wonderful. And there was one portion at the engagement party where Mrs. Ferrars’ reaction was correct. It is hard to laugh at her silly desire to be right at all times despite being wrong when she is actually in the right.

Austen Project EligibleThis next selection just left my hot little hands, so I may be in the mulling stage yet. However, Eligible really is close to being a good update to Pride and Prejudice. To make it work, Curtis Sittenfeld has aged the characters and moved them to Cincinnati.

Jane is 40, a yoga instructor, and looking at a sperm donor for thee child she wanted and never had. Liz, at 38, is a successful magazine writer with a crush on colleague Jasper Wicks. He is married and promises to leave his wife someday. The older two girls live in NYC while the younger three live at home still. Mary is 30 and working on her third online Master’s degree. Kitty, 24, and Lydia, 22, are gym rats and Paleo diet fans.

What no one knows, until Liz ferrets out the information from her dad, is that the family home, a Tudor style house in the Hyde Park neighborhood on three acres of land is mortgaged to the hilt. She finds this out after she and Jane come home to help Dad recover from a heart attack and broken arm. Liz also finds out her parents have no health insurance.

Enter in Bingly, a gorgeous ER doctor who was also a contestant on Eligible, a Bachelor-like show, and Darcy, a neurosurgeon working at a local stroke clinic. Soon events are going in the direction we expect with a few twists here and there.

Again, this is a lovely update, the satire was stronger than in the other outings. There are some adaptations that are well suited for this update and questions are raised  about interpretations that are interesting. I love the modern take, the simplifying of some relationships while others take on a more physical nature which may or may not be appropriate for our times. I also wonder if Sittenfeld was watching The Holiday  as she wrote this, too many similarities.

Austen Project Northanger AbbeyBut my favorite of all of the adaptations is Northanger Abbey  by Val McDermid. To begin with, the setting is switched from Bath to Edinburgh for their annual arts festival. Filled with accidental meetings and the excitement of seeing an old friend, we experience Cathy’s happiness at being in the middle of a happening art scene.

She and Isabelle are soon as thick as thieves. But happenstance allows her to meet Henry and Eleanor, growing a relationship. Once she receives the invitation to come to the Abbey, it is not long before Cathy imagines vampires everywhere.

This is a fast pace read, filled with teen references, Facebook and messaging technology, and the drama that fills that age group. It embodies Austen’s love for the Gothic novel that she satirizes. Cathy morphs into a modern teen into a bit of a fairy tale existence with her protectors and yet she feels as fresh and naive as she did 200 years earlier. I would read it again or perhaps give it to my daughter to read so she can see that Austin is not just for the costume drama fans.

What are you reading?


Family Movie Night for 7-07010 

Picture by Ana C. Golpe


This past week, I took advantage of some ripe cherries on a friend’s tree. 

 Lori does not seem to value these cherries and has told me in the past I may pick them. I made sure she gave me permission again and hauled three of the kids along with buckets and a step ladder to her yard. 

 My 13-year-old was not too interested in picking cherries. He complained and whined and made a fuss until we had been there for a while. Suddenly he wasn’t doing any of that anymore because he was too busy eating cherries. He likes things that are sour and these cherries were perfect for that. 

 Because our church was in the middle of VBS, I was not able to get the cherries ready for a day or two. Our pastor invited himself and his wife for cherry pie. I am more than willing to welcome them to my messy home – provided they bring the vanilla ice cream. 

 This made me think about movies with pie scenes. 

 Cheryl Hines, Keri Russell and Adrienne Shelley in Waitress. Picture from IMDb.comMy favorite is Waitress starring Keri Russell as a put-upon pregnant waitress with a rotten husband. The skill everyone knows her for is making the best pies. Some are imaginative and some are bitter but most are incredibly delicious. 

Then there is Michael starring John Travolta. Can anyone explain how this man takes on acting roles that seem silly or ridiculous and makes them credible?  Anyway, in this movie he plays the 

John Travolta, Robert Pastorelli, Andie McDowell and John Hurt in Michael, Picture from IMDb.com.


arch-angel, Michael. He is able to enthrall people around him, get them to make deals and do battle when necessary. 

 At one point in the movie, he tells Andie McDowell to sing her song about pie. This after the table has ordered every single type of pie that the restaurant sells. So she does and it is a simple song. But it is cute and catches the interest of William Hurt. 

 Neither of these movies are exactly family friendly. Their subjects tend to be more mature and better suited for the pre-teen and up crowd. 

Now if you are looking for a movie that is kid friendly with a bit of a food theme, there is Nanny McPhee starring Emma Thompson. 

 Nanny McFee comes to a home with seven incredibly smart but very mischievous children. Their father, Colin Firth, must make some difficult decisions regarding how to keep money coming into the family. But most importantly, he must have children who know how to behave. 

Colin Firth batting at a cake in Nanny McPhee, Picture from IMDb.com


In the beginning, we see a tremendous mis-use of food that Nanny McPhee uses to teach the children how to listen. Later, there will be the ultimate food fight that leads to the ultimate happy ending. It is a movie that never assumes kids are stupid but does allow they have to learn how to think. 

 Until next week, see you in the rental aisle. 

 Let the world, or at least St. Anne, know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to P.O. Box 306, St. Anne, IL 60964 or become my friend on Facebook.