Jane Austen: A Love Story with The Novel of Manners

Jane Austen needs no introduction. Even if you have never read one of her books, you surely have heard her name mentioned a million times. I first became aware of her work when I watched the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and immediately decided to read the book. I know this is an unconventional opinion, but I really loved the film by Joe Wright, who is one of my favourite directors, and I still picture Mr Darcy as Matthew Macfadyen.

If someone had just randomly and briefly told me about the plot of any of Jane Austen’s novels, I would probably have thought that I wouldn’t enjoy them, since they would seem to be just about simple love stories with nothing exciting to offer. However, that would be a wrong assessment, because, most of all, they are novels of manners which depict the middle-class life during the early 19th century. I love the wit of the writing style, the way in which the characters are portrayed with distinguishable personalities and the irony used to subtly criticise some of their actions. They offer so much more than just stories about love and relationships at a time when marriage was seen as means to achieve security in life.

After reading all of the six major novels by Jane Austen, who was born in 1775 and died in 1817, Pride and Prejudice remains my favourite. It tells the story of the Bennett family. Mrs Bennett is anxious to marry her five daughters. The second eldest, Elizabeth, is the heroine of the novel. She is intelligent, playful and witty, but assesses people after first impressions. Mr Darcy is one of the people she makes fast judgements about. But he is not innocent in the misunderstandings that arise between them. He struggles to overcome his pride and to give less importance to social status. I loved the development of their relationship and the well-conceived characters who enrich the satire present throughout the novel. Continue reading

Advertisements

Bookish Talk

Since starting my book blog I’ve been paying more attention to the different ways in which books are published and their prices both in Portugal (where I live) and the UK, and have some random thoughts to share. Don’t expect to read a well-thought-out essay, though. This is more of a collection of musings about my personal experience as a book buyer, since I have no real inside knowledge about how the publishing industry really works in neither of the countries.

When I first started buying books from online UK sellers, more or less six years ago, I didn’t immediately realise that new books are usually first released in hardback and only sometime after a paperback edition is made available. As I much prefer paperbacks, I just instantly chose those editions. From my now limited understanding, books are released in hardback first because they are sold at higher prices and generate more profit per unit. Only when hardback sales start to wane, a paperback edition is released.

In Portugal, books are not published in this way. From visiting bookshops, I believe the vast majority of books are only published in paperback, irrespective of being new releases or not (don’t quote me on this though, since I have no actual numbers to provide that confirm my perception). The dimensions and paper quality of paperback books available in Portuguese bookshops are varied, some have French flaps, others don’t. Continue reading

‘My Cousin Rachel’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

Daphne du Maurier cleverly plays with our perceptions of some of the characters featured in My Cousin Rachel by making us constantly doubt their intentions. This is the story of two men, Philip and Ambrose, plagued by suspicion. They both fell in love with Rachel even though beforehand they refused the company of women, whom they characterised negatively.

Philip’s parents died when he was only eighteen months. He was taken care of by his older cousin Ambrose, who always loved him and chose him as his heir. When Philip finished his studies at Oxford, Ambrose started to spend the winters in the south of Europe for health reasons. One year he decided to go to Florence where he fell in love and married cousin Rachel.

After receiving the news, Philip started to harbour feelings of jealousy and became concerned about having to leave the house he always lived in, because he was remembered of the possibility of Ambrose having his own son. More than a year passed and Ambrose didn’t return home. Philip started to become worried about his cousin’s long absence. His apprehensions only increased when Ambrose sent him suspicious letters. He then decided to go to Italy looking for him, but when he arrived in Florence he was already dead and cousin Rachel had left the city. Continue reading

Books I’ve Been Delaying Reading

There are some books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but that I haven’t even bought yet for various reasons. Every time I see someone mention them I remember that I have them on my wishlist. However, when the time comes to buy new books (I don’t tend to keep many to-be-read books on my shelves), they end up not being the ones I choose.

 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

As far as I know this dystopian novel is about a group of teenage friends who commit a series of crimes. One of them is arrested and the State tries to reform him. The idea behind the book interested me straight away, but then I grew afraid of not understanding it, since I learnt that the language used is supposed to be an anglicised form of Russian. I still want to read it, though. I suppose I just need a bit of encouragement.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro   

One thing that keeps happening to me is to unintentionally watch the adaptation first and read the book afterwards. I don’t really have a huge problem with that. I usually can easily distinguish the book from the film, and I ended up discovering great books and authors I had never heard of through adaptations. Continue reading

Favourite Animals in Books

I’m not a huge fan of books, and particularly films, which feature animals that can speak. I tend to find it a bit cringeworthy. However, I do think that a loyal animal can be a worthy addition to the plot of a book and enrich characters’ interactions. In no particular order, the following are my favourite animals featured in books I’ve read so far.

 

GhostA Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Ghost is one of the direwolves discovered by the Stark children after his mother is killed by a stag. He is an albino, having white fur and red eyes. Although he was the smallest of the pack, Jon Snow’s direwolf grows up to be the larger.

 

Mr BonesTimbuktu by Paul Auster

Mr Bones is a dog with a homeless owner who is dying. He is dealing with the fact that he is about to lose his master. Despite having an internal monologue in English, he is not anthropomorphised. Continue reading

‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen

My rating: 4 stars

Mansfield Park feels different to the other Jane Austen novels that I previously read, and I believe the main reason for that is it starting when the timid heroine, Fanny Price, is still quite young. Nevertheless, it shares various characteristics with her other works, including marriage being seen by many of the characters as a means to achieve economic security, in contrast with marrying for love.

In fact, marriage is a central theme throughout the novel. We are introduced to the parents of the young main characters with a comparison between the fortune of three sisters regarding marriage. Miss Maria married Sir Thomas Bertram and became a Lady at Mansfield Park. Miss Ward married the reverend Mr Norris, a friend of Sir Thomas who gave him the opportunity to be the clergyman at Mansfield’s parsonage. But Miss Frances, despite her sisters’ opposition, married a Lieutenant of Marines who had neither education nor fortune.

After much time without corresponding with her sisters, the now Mrs Price wrote them asking for advice about her children’s future and they re-established relations. At Mrs Norris suggestion, they decided that one of Mrs Price’s daughters should go live at Mansfield Park. However, they could never let her forget that she wasn’t an equal to her cousins. Continue reading

Forgotten Authors on My Shelves

A few years ago, whenever I discovered new authors that I enjoyed, I would read various books by them in a short period of time, instead of venturing into the unknown again. However, some of those authors I just then stopped reading books by for no particular reason and almost forgot about them. After a quick look at my shelves I discovered three authors in that situation.

 

Paul Auster

The first book I read by Paul Auster was The Book of Illusions. It tells the story of a man obsessed with the life of a silent film star. I don’t remember much about the book, besides quite enjoying it to the point of buying and reading Timbuktu soon after. The hero of that novel is Mr Bones, a dog that is the best friend of a homeless man from Brooklyn. We accompany their emotional journey to Baltimore in search for a new house for Mr. Bones.

I then read The Story of my Typewriter, which came as an offer when I bought Timbuktu. This is quite a short non-fiction book where Paul Auster tells the story of how he formed an attachment to his typewriter. It is accompanied by gorgeous and colourful paintings of the typewriter by Sam Messer. Continue reading

Favourite Dystopian Books

Lately the real world seems to be getting worryingly more similar to the ones portrayed by some dystopian novels, and my desire to read books from that genre is also increasing. By showing a regression of political, environmental, economic or social standards, they draw attention to real-world issues that should concern us all.

I haven’t read many dystopian novels, but I quite enjoyed the vast majority of them. There is something strangely appealing about reading a book which focus on a community being plagued by an undesirable and frightening state of affairs. Today I reveal my three favourite dystopian novels, all delving into different types of societies.

 

1984 by George Orwell      

1984 takes place during a time of perpetual war, government surveillance and public manipulation. Power is on the hands of a single party, which is personified by the Big Brother. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth as a rewriter of historical events. He has an affair with Julia, who shares his animosity towards the Party. Continue reading

My 5 Star TBR Predictions

I always expect to at least enjoy the books that I have on my to-be-read pile. But for some of the books which are awaiting to finally be read I have even higher expectations and assume that I will love them and, thus, award them a five-star rating. Inspired by Mercedes at Mercys Bookish Musings on YouTube, I decided to share the unread books I have on my shelves that I believe I will love.

I don’t rate many books with 5 stars, as I can’t fault them on anything in order to do so (you can read my post on why I rate books with 5 stars here). But when I do I rarely change my mind afterwards.

Whenever I’m debating whether to buy a certain book or not, a possible rating doesn’t usually spring to mind, that is something I only consider while or after reading it. So, I see this exercise as a new and exciting challenge. I’ve chosen four books among my unread ones that I plan to read before the end of the year. When I finally read all of them, I will write a wrap up post discussing my actual ratings. Continue reading

‘Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was’ by Sjón

My rating: 4 stars

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by the Icelandic author Sjón is a short but powerful book. More than a tale about the young man Máni Steinn, it’s a beautifully written novella which combines fiction and reality, with one inspiring the other in more than one way.

Máni is a sixteen-year-old boy who lives in Reykjavik with his great-grandmother’s sister, since his mother died when he was really young. He is passionate about cinema, loves watching films and venerates Sóla, a girl whom he believes to be identical to an actress from a film he has seen. The book opens with Máni accompanied by one of his “gentlemen”. His encounters with them are mentioned throughout the book, and his sexual identity is not without implications.

The majority of the story takes place in 1918 and there are many mentions to historical events, such as the eruption of the Katla volcano (which is visually described through the use of colours), the referendum to independence, the First World War Armistice and the Spanish flu. Although they help the reader to place the story in a specific time, some of the references feel a bit disjointed from the rest of the plot. Continue reading