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Monthly Archives: November 2005

Yesterday I finally got the chance to see the new Pride & Prejudice movie, after having spent several weeks listening to rants and raves and mixed reviews. Now I can be opinionated about it, too, and at great length, for which I apologize!

I’m always fascinated (and sympathetic) to those who take the huge RISK of trying to bring a beloved book into a film. In fact, my critique partners, Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, and I wrote an article on the path taken by the producers of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and how we as authors could apply similar methods when faced with the task of revising an unwieldy manuscript.

There are things that must be cut, for practical purposes, and then many things which must be added as well in the way of sensory detail not supplied by the author. And inevitably, these changes will annoy some viewers. So I have a healthy respect for anyone taking on the task of reinterpreting a classic, even if I don’t always agree with the interpretation. How stale a production might be that tried too slavishly to reproduce a book! Rather like a musician merely playing every note the composer wrote, without putting her own soul into the work.

Since we’ve already talked about it, I’m not going to delve too much into details of historical accuracy and fidelity in this P&P. Some things did jar me but I got used to them as there was so much to like, even love, about this film. Anyway, on to my favorite thing about this movie: the characterizations!

First let me say I’m a huge fan of Colin Firth in the role of Mr. Darcy. But I absolutely loved Matthew McFadyen’s different take on it, too. I’ve already heard protests that Darcy was arrogant and not shy, but I disagree. I think of this passage from the book (which was kept in the movie, though slightly adapted):

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

To me this doesn’t smack of a lack of desire to make friends; just an admission of difficulty negotiating tricky social waters. I see this Darcy as a serious young man, who succeeded to wealth and its accompanying responsibilities fairly early in life, and who has already been burned at least once (by Wickham) and possibly by fortune-hunting females as well. He’s too smart to be unaware of Caroline Bingley’s plays for him. I could see that that might add a level of wariness that would make it hard to start up relationships.

At the same time, he’s powerfully attracted to Lizzie’s playfulness, which comes across nicely in Keira Knightley’s performance. She comes across a bit sillier at the start than I expected, but it gave her more room to grow, too. Again, a different but effective interpretation (and I loved Jennifer Ehle in the ’95 version, too). As for the critics who must endlessly harp on her underbite—it’s just plain mean-spirited. She’s very cute and has such lovely expressive eyes.

I was also impressed by the treatment of secondary characters. Rosamund Pike was lovely as Jane (the actress in the ’95 version was not quite pretty enough—I feel mean-spirited myself to say that, but it’s true). Simon Woods was a bit startling as Mr. Bingley—what a buffoon! But also fun. Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennett was an interesting blend of wit and sympathy (I always found him a fallible but sympathetic character despite some Austen scholars’ desire to assign him the role of villain in the piece). And it was no surprise that Dame Judi Dench made a splendid Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

The really pleasant surprises (to me) were the well-rounded characterizations of Mr. Collins, Mary and even Mrs. Bennett. Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) was delightfully absurd and yet escaped pure pomposity because he was so earnest in his desire to please. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as he presents that little flower to Lizzie, or when he tries to get Darcy’s attention at the ball. Mary (Talulah Riley), too, was more than a mere pedant; she looked so sad and confused and out of place in that household. Now I really understand why people are interested in writing her story! Even Mrs. Bennett gets her semi-redeeming moment, when she challenges Lizzie to think how she would feel with five daughters to settle in life.

Now as for that controversial ending—I have to say it felt wrong to me. NOT because it added a prologue not in the book, and NOT because it showed a bit of sensuality. I liked that! But it felt rushed and somehow out of order. A friend with whom I saw the movie said it was odd for Darcy and Lizzie to be talking about pet names after they’d clearly consummated their marriage already. That may be part of my problem.

What I personally would have liked to see is more of what happened between the engagement and the post-coital bliss. Maybe a wedding scene. Or maybe even the beginning of the wedding night, with all that lovely awkward tenderness of young lovers, then a discreet fadeout, to keep the rating OK for teens but allow those who want to imagine the rest.

OK, everyone, feel free to agree or disagree. What did you think of what was done with the characters? Did you like the ending? If not, how would you have ended the film?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, a Romantic Times Top Pick!

Which are your favorite laugh-out-loud Regencies?

Here are ten of mine, listed in approximate chronological order of publication:

— NORTHANGER ABBEY, by Jane Austen
— FRIDAY’S CHILD, by Georgette Heyer
— IMPRUDENT LADY, by Joan Smith
— SWEET AND TWENTY, by Joan Smith
— AN EARLY ENGAGEMENT, by Barbara Metzger
— MINOR INDISCRETIONS, by Barbara Metzger
— THE IDEAL BRIDE, by Nonnie St. George

Which funny Regencies do you like? Which do you think are the funniest?

Which funny Regencies do you think succeed the best as novels (or romances)???

By the way, here are four very different covers for Georgette Heyer’s FRIDAY’S CHILD! (Aren’t covers weird???)

Cara King,
MY LADY GAMESTER — in stores now!

And (drumroll)…here they are:

1. A.S. Byatt, The Virgin in the Garden. An earlier book and not so well known as Possession.
2. Ah, so near and yet so far…Daniel Deronda by George Eliot.
3. Well done, Elena, who was almost there, and who will be allowed to sharpen pencils today–Villette, by Charlotte Bronte. That one was my favorite, too. Wow.
4. And the romance excerpt, from Beast by Judith Ivory.


“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficient restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” –Baron Justus Von Liebig

“If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate pot! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?” –Marquise de Sevigne, 1677

After a long weekend of unbridled piggery, what else can I think about today but food? Especially after I attended an open house party last night that featured tiered trays of wonderfully delectable bonbons and truffles. Chocolate–the most important food group. 🙂

Of course, in “our” time period there was no chocolate as we know it. No Symphony bars with almonds and toffee chips. No Godiva raspberry truffles. No giant Toblerone bars. But the earliest record of chocolate was over 1500 years ago in Central America. The Maya believed the cacao tree to be of divine origin, and brewed a spicy, bittersweet drink by roasting and pounding the seeds of the tree (cocoa beans) with chili peppers and letting the mixture ferment. Yummy–not.

When Cortez brought chocolate back to Europe, they learned to make the drink more palatable to European tastes by mixing the roasted ground beans with sugar and vanilla to mix into a frothy drink. By the early 17th century this powder was being exported from Spain to other parts of the continent. The Spanish kept the source of the drink–the beans–a secret for many years, so that wehn English privateers boarded what they thought was a “treasure galleon” in 1579, they found it loaded with what appeared to be “dried sheep’s droppings”, and no gold and jewels, they burned the ship in frustration. Dumb move, as chocolate was vastly expensive at the time. Worth its weight in gold. Ha!

The first chocolate house in England opened in London in 1657, and like coffee houses they were used as clubs where business could be conducted, politics discussed, and a pipe smoked. The first mention of chocolate being eaten in solid form is when bakers in England began adding the cocoa powder into cakes in the mid-1600s. In 1795 Dr. Joseph Fry of Bristol created a steam engine for grinding the cocoa beans, an invention that led to the manufacture of chocolate on a large scale. In 1819, Francois Louis Callier opened the first Swiss chocolate factory, thus paving the way for generations of choco-holics.

Chcolate as we know it today first appeared in 1847 when Fry and Sons (mentioned above) mixed sugar with cocoa powder and cocoa butter (created in 1828 by Dutch chemist Johannes Van Houten) to produce the first solid bar. And the rest is, well, chocolate history. 🙂

Thanks for letting me indulge one of my favorite obsessions! And thanks to the Godiva website for the factoids.

Posted in Research | Tagged | 9 Replies

I recently wrote an article on the romance genre for The Editorial Eye, a newsletter for people fascinated by the minutae of words, English usage, and grammar. My point was that just because romances are popular, prolific, and have silly covers, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have no literary merit. Part of the article was this quiz. Can you identify the romance excerpt? And, for extra credit, can you identify any of the writers or books? Answers will be posted in a day or so.

1. She began to go out along the rocks, very fast, holding her arms wide to balance herself, half-running, half-striding. He went after her. Another tall wave bowed, jarred, cracked and whispered at her feet. She turned to him a face he had never seen, blindly smiling, wild, white and wet.
2. Since she was not winning strikingly, the next best thing was to lose strikingly. She controlled her muscles, and showed no trembling of mouth or hands. Each time her stake was swept off she doubled it. Many were now watching her, but the sole observation she was conscious of was [hero’s], who, though she never looked towards him, she was sure had not moved away.
3. He deemed me born under his star; he seemed to have spread over me its beam like a banner. Once—unknown and unloved, I held him harsh and strange; the low stature, the wiry make, the angles, the darkness, the manner, displeased me.
4. Black pearls popped and flew everywhere. They bounced well; they bounced high. They rolled magnificently across the deck in every direction, as well as off the deck and down onto the next—a quick, nacreous spill swallowed up into the wet night, the roll and clatter smothered almost instantly by the hiss of the ocean.

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