My next interview is with Elise, whom I have actually never met but come in contact with through the blogging world. I’ve followed her blog for quite some time now and have discovered that we share many interests. 🙂 Her lovely blog you can find here: Ribbons of Light.
1. What was your first encounter with Jane Austen? What made you decide to read her work?
I grew up watching Jane Austen movies. The 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was one of my favourite movies as a little girl. I watched it over and over and over. . . Sense and Sensibility 1995 and Miramax’s 1996 adaptation of Emma were also favourites. So, I’ve always enjoyed watching movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s works. Then, when I was about 11 or 12, my parents gave me a copy of Pride and Prejudice (the book) for a Christmas present. The rest is history! Over the next few years I went on to read every one of Austen’s six major novels. I continue to re-read them regularly.
2. Do you have a favorite of her novels? And if so why that one?
Persuasion. There is a tendency to think of Austen’s writing as being witty – intelligent – amusing – and it is indeed all of those. But there is also sometimes a real depth, a poignancy to Austen’s writing, and this come to the fore in Persuasion more than it does in any of her other books. Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Perhaps partly as a result of this, there is a touch of sadness in Persuasion. . . there is something so poignant, so beautiful and bittersweet in its pages. It moves me more than any of Austen’s other books. The movie adaptations also make me cry!
I also think Persuasion is possibly Jane Austen’s most romantic story. Imprudent matches are generally frowned upon in Austen’s books – her heroes and heroines marry for love, but they don’t marry without money, either: whereas in Persuasion, the message seems to be that it was foolish of Anne to reject Wentworth’s first proposal, regardless of the fact that he had neither money nor status. It hurt Wentworth terribly, and it meant years of heartache and regrets for Anne. It was only by a miraculous second chance that Anne and Captain Wentworth meet a second time and get another chance at happiness! More than in any of Austen’s novels, money, society and worldliness are lambasted here. True love and goodness of heart is upheld.
3. Out of her characters, is there a particular one/ones that you like more than the rest? And which character would you say you resemble most yourself?
I am an unabashed fan of a certain Mr. Tilney. I’m not usually one to fall in love with fictional heroes, but Henry Tilney is one of the rare exceptions!
As for the character whom I most resemble. . . either Fanny Price or Catherine Morland. I’m not quite as shy or timid as Fanny, but I’m not as bubbly or talkative as Catherine, either. I’m probably something across between Fanny and Catherine, if that makes any sense!
4. Do you ever watch any of the screen adaptations? Do you have a favorite of them?
I most certainly do! I have an ever-growing collection of Jane Austen DVDs. I own adaptations of every one of Austen’s novels. . . in some cases, I have several adaptations of the same book! My all-time favourite Jane Austen movie is Emma Thompson’s marvellous Sense and Sensibility. I am also very partial to the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, and both of the recent adaptations of Persuasion. Perhaps a better question to ask would be “Which screen adaptations do I not like”!
5. What do you think it is about Jane Austen’s books that makes them so immortal? Why have they stood the test of time so well and are now more popular than ever?
Hoo boy! I think there are possibly a number of reasons. First of all: classics are classics for a reason! Only the very best books stand the test of time and go on to be read, studied, and enjoyed again and again by generation after generation. Jane Austen’s books are even more popular and widely-read than most 18th and 19th century classics because they are so strikingly modern, and easy for the 21st century reader to follow. The themes and topics dealt with in Austen’s books are also relatable and relevant for the modern reader – times change, but people don’t, and a good love story never goes out of fashion.
Other reasons for Austen’s immense popularity would obviously include the slew of Austen movie adaptations from the last 15 years or so. Countless thousands of fans (myself included) have seen one or more of the film adaptations of Austen, and have then been inspired to read some of Austen’s work for themselves.
Finally, another interesting issue that was brought up in an article somewhere (can’t remember where): in our 21st century society where rules and manners regarding courtship and how we relate to each other have been all but abandoned, there is still something in us that longs for the same societal rules and mores that we have been so proud of abolishing! In an interview with Matthew MacFadyen for Pride & Prejudice 2005, he mentioned how “releasing” he found the unspoken rules and boundaries that surrounded male-female relations in the Jane Austen era to be – as opposed to today, when many of us just don’t know how to relate to and behave around members of the opposite sex! Relations between the sexes today are in such an awful, messed up state. In an increasingly cynical age, where purity in relationships is laughed at and the institution of marriage continues to crumble, I suspect many women actually long for the long for the innocence and beauty of courtship as portrayed in Austen’s novels. It’s no secret that they also long for a gallant, gentlemanly, Austenian hero to sweep them off their feet! I wonder how many men wish that there were more women like Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliot around today – women of class, elegance, maturity, and true inner beauty. Like I said, male-female relations are in a seriously messed-up state right now. . .
6. Has “discovering” Jane Austen lead to anything else in your life?
Hm – not really, though it has led to a few dreams and aspirations! I would love to learn to sew one day – chiefly so that I can have a go at making my own historical costumes! I would also dearly love to visit England someday, and visit as many literary locations as possible – include Jane Austen’s House and the Jane Austen Centre in Bath!
One thing that it has certainly led to is a lot of blogging. Jane Austen is not the only thing I discuss on my blog, but it has become a major theme. My semi-obsession with Austen has also led to meeting and interacting with a lot of great people via the web – through blogging and other Austen-related websites.
7. If you had the chance to meet with Jane Austen and talk to her, what would you discuss or ask about?
Wow, what a question! To be honest, I would probably be a bit intimidated at first. But if I managed to overcome my shyness, and if Jane proved to be warm and friendly, I’d want to discuss. . . just about anything! I’d probably just see where the conversation went.
8. Do you have a favorite Jane Austen quote? Or just one that you really like?
Wow, another tough question! There are so many quotes that I love. Here’s a passage concerning a Mr. Henry Tilney. Henry and Catherine are always so adorable together!
. . .in the course of a few minutes, she found herself with Henry in the curricle, as happy a being as ever existed. A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world. . . But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well — so quietly — without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman–coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world. [Northanger Abbey, Chapter 20]
9. And lastly, what other authors and books do you like?
I have recently begun to venture into the world of Charles Dickens for the first time! I am now decidedly a big fan of Mr. Dickens. Aside from my new-found love of Dickens, I also enjoy works by: Elizabeth Gaskell (especially North and South), the Bronte sisters, Fanny Burney, Lousia May Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, Lewis Carroll. . . 19th and late 18th century classics aside, I’m not a big reader of fantasy, but I do love The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Thank you very, very much!