Risky Regencies

First Impressions…of Jane Austen

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!!!!

This week, we’re supposed to be talking about our first Austen…but I’ve done that before here at Risky Regencies, so I thought I’d thrown in a little twist…and tell you what my first (and later) reactions were to my first several Austen novels and movie adaptations…

The first time I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I was thirteen, and I utterly loved it. (That part has never changed, though I do understand certain parts better now.)

I believe the first Jane Austen movie I ever saw was the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, when I was a teenager. I liked it well enough, and for a while it even messed with my own memories of the book, leaving me with a vague belief that the book involved a lot of archery, and that Lady Catherine wasn’t all that bad in the end… 🙂 (When rewatching this at various times years later, I think I most admired Olivier’s interpretation of a shy Darcy.)

The second Austen adaptation I saw was the Rintoul/Garvie PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, also when I was a teenager. I liked it all right, but it didn’t excite me, and I definitely thought it inferior to the book. (The second time I saw it, I loved it. The third time, I was less enchanted, but really loved Garvie.)

Then, freshman year in college, I read NORTHANGER ABBEY. I was initially disappointed that it wasn’t more like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and wished there were more romance, and less satire. I really didn’t care for the implication that Tilney liked Catherine better for being ignorant! (I have loved this book more and more on each rereading…perhaps because I now read it for humor, while picturing Bath, and I ignore what I don’t like.)

Then I saw the 1986 BBC NORTHANGER ABBEY, and hated it! I thought Peter Firth was creepy, and the overemphasis on the Gothic bits just silly. I’ve always thought those were the weakest parts of the novel, so the idea to make them even more prominent just seemed wrong to me! (The second and third time I saw it, years later, I think I admired the costumes and Bath scenery more…but Firth and the Gothic bits have always seemed wrong to me.)

Next, I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, and was annoyed at how Marianne just ran on and on, and how Brandon didn’t have the sense to fall in love with Elinor. (This has remained my least favorite Austen…and I confess I’m always surprised when I run into anyone who puts this in their top two! I just see major weaknesses in it…)

So…those were my first impressions (and later reactions) to my first three Austen novels, and first three Austen adaptations. How about yours? Have your opinions on some of your early Austens (novels or adaptations) changed? Or have re-readings or re-viewings just confirmed you in your tastes?

All answers welcome!

Cara
Cara King, who hopes you all show up the first Tuesday in January to discuss the first Gruffudd Hornblower adaptation!!!

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Elena Greene
13 years ago

Cara, I hope your migraine is much better! I don’t get full-blown migraines very often, thank goodness, but I know how awful they can be.

I’ll talk more about my experiences with Austen tomorrow, of course, but generally I have liked each book more upon rereading. As a teenager, I wanted my characters more perfect whereas Austen is brilliant at creating sorts that are flawed but still loveable.

The only Austen I’m still slow to warm to is Mansfield Park. I think it’s because the villains seem more dynamic than either Fanny or Edmund. But I’ll admit I haven’t reread it in a while. It too may improve on rereading.

Maureen
13 years ago

Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her books. I do remember the Northanger Abbey version with the gothic parts but I did enjoy it despite the silliness.

LadyDoc
13 years ago

I’ve been reading and re-reading Jane Austen for so long it may be hard to give you accurate memories!

I first read Pride and Prejudice for a summer reading assignment in 1967. LOVED it! I’ve re-read it many times- never counted but probably about 20. My all time favorite book ever.

I can’t tell you when I first saw the Olivier movie version, but in spite of all the messing about with the story and the awful non-period costumes and the generally appalling over-acting by some of the secondary characters, Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier GET IT RIGHT! The scene where Olivier stands in the doorway and quietly says “God bless you” is a masterpiece of acting. I’ve seen the movie at least 10 times.

I saw the early 80s BBS version on PBS and loved it- for about 15 years. Then I saw the BBC/PBS miniseries (I belive commonly referred to as the “Colin Firth” version, with good reason) and I contend that there will never- at least in my lifetime- be another version even close to as good, or as close to the story. I show this afterschool every year for a group of girls and they fall in love with Darcy and with Jane Austen.

My other “most” favorite is Persuasion” which I had never read until I saw the Ciaran Hind/Amanda Root film. FABULOUS! LOVED the film and had to read the book. Now it is my other favorite Austen. There is a wonderful symmetry in this book’s heroine being older and more mature, and Austen’s writing being more developed in it. For me there is something special about Austen’s characterizations in Persuasion that she never quite reached in any other book.

Whenever I get asked the famous “desert island” question, the answer is easy- my copy of “The Penguin Complete Novels of Jane Austen” could entertain me for years.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

“Whenever I get asked the famous “desert island” question, the answer is easy- my copy of “The Penguin Complete Novels of Jane Austen” could entertain me for years.”

LOL! I think I have to steal this answer, too.

I certainly like “Mansfield Park” much better now than the first time I read it (and it’s still my least favorite Austen, which means I still like it a lot…)

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I have loved P&P since I was ten. I’ve been in love with Mr. Darcy since then too which means we are coming up on our 40th anniversary! LOL

I think Persuasion and Mansfield Park were my least favorites when I read them as a young girl, but they have since grown on me. Persuasion I find especially poignant and sweet.

And LadyDoc, I have to agree that Olivier and Garson’s acting absolutely MADE that movie. Still makes me sigh. Then again so does Olivier’s Wuthering Heights.

I try to read all of Austen at least once a year. I need that Penguin edition too! Just in case!

Todd
13 years ago

The first Austen I read was Pride and Prejudice, and for years it was the only one. I liked it a great deal, and I’ve only grown more fond of it upon rereading. It’s still my favorite. At a later date, a girlfriend of mine (who is always right) told me that it was really necessary that I read all the Austen novels, so I did. (I am nothing if not biddable.)

I think the first adaptation I ever saw was the BBC Sense and Sensibility, which I thought was good, but wasn’t blown away by. But then I saw in quick succession the 1995 film of Persuasion and the Ehle/Firth Pride and Prejudice, both of which I adored, and which are probably my two favorite adaptations to this day. Those are also my two favorite Austen novels, so I am glad they were adapted so well.

Todd-who-thinks-it-may-be-time-to-reread-them-all-again

Lois
13 years ago

Well, reading-wise, P&P was first, and the first time I read it, I didn’t think it was a 5 book (my journal I have set up as scores of 5 to really 3, but officially 0). But the second reading, I understood it better and really thought it was 5+. 🙂 The second book was NA, and I just loved it (and Mr Tilney!). I loved the lightness and the fun of it. Now I’m going to look to see what I did third. . . be back in a sec. 🙂

It looks like in actuality, my third was a book with Lady Susan/Watsons/Sandition. . . and out of those, I so loved Sandition and that one I really wish she was able to finish. Watsons, didn’t like so much, and Lady Susan, well, I thought she wrote it really great, but for what it was about, didn’t like it. But actual novel, looks like my third was Emma. I don’t remember the book itself as much now since I only read it once thus far, but I do know I didn’t like the age difference. Well, difference in that Knightly was around as she grew up. The age difference would have been fine had they met later in life, but just hate it whenever we were reminded of the fact they knew each other all her life. LOL 🙂

Movie wise. .. P&P95 first, and enough said. 🙂 S&S95 and Emma96 were both on tv the same year, and I liked them both quite well — but I liked them more when I read the books (and since I pretty much forgot what the movies were like once I got to the books, it was like reading the books before watching the movies anyway!) 🙂

Lois

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

When I first saw the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier P&P movie, I hated it. I could not stand the affected way they made the actresses move in their Victorian/Scarlet O’Hara dresses. But when I watched it again for Cara’s Jane Austen Movie Club, I liked it okay.

I also loved Lady Susan, another Austen I listened to in audio book. It was so clever and had such raw energy and was really outrageous.

Santa
13 years ago

I am a Jane-Come-Lately, if you will. I didn’t read a Jane Austin book until just a few years ago. Shocking but true and believe me when I tell you I quickly made up for lost time.

My favorite Jane Austin book is ‘Persuasion’. Actually it’s a tie with P&P. I adore Ciran H. as Captain Wentworth and the love letter in the book is one for the ages.

P&P – what can I say. Colin Firth is still my all time favorite Darcy. I must confess the only thing I liked about the Greer Garson/Sir Lawrence version was Sir Lawrence. Even I knew the gowns were off and, at the time, I had never read a Regency.

As a fan of Victoria Holt, Northanger Abbey has a special place in my heart. I did find the Peter Finch version a bit campy in a creepy sort of way but the lighting and turns about the manor fit the Gothic bill. The newer version shown during that PBS special was much better. I don’t know about anyone else but I really wanted to get to know Tilney’s older brother a LOT better.

Lisa
13 years ago

“Have your opinions on some of your early Austens (novels or adaptations) changed? Or have re-readings or re-viewings just confirmed you in your tastes?

My first experience with Austen was the Colin Firth version of P&P. Loved it from the first! Eventually I got around to reading Pride and Prejudice and loved it too, although I found it hard going.

Then my friend and I decided to start a Jane Austen Book Club, having been inspired by that movie (which neither of us really liked, but we adored the idea of reading Austen in a group).

We started with Emma, and none of us liked it much, although we did like the films.

After that we did Persuasion, and again, we found it difficult to like, although we ADORE the recent (2007) BBC production.

Then we read Pride and Prejudice and following that, Mansfield Park. I really enjoyed MP and I think it’s because I was finally getting used to Austen’s style. It’s very different from modern novels in some ways. Seeing the movie adaptations made it easier for me to “hear” the characters, even in novels that I hadn’t yet seen on film.

Then came Northanger Abbey – again I really liked it! And the 2007 BBC version made me truly fall in love with Mr. Tilney. (I find him on a par with Darcy, to be completely honest! He may even edge Darcy out at times.)

I had really been looking forward to S&S after all this, and the anticipation was worth it. Someone mentioned how they had hoped Brandon would end up with Elinor and I confess that I already knew they didn’t end up together (from stuff I’d read) but I would have guessed they had if I didn’t already know differently. I’ve only seen the 1995 film version and I liked it fine, but am eagerly anticipating the newer BBC version.

Now that I’ve finished reading all the novels, I’d like to go back and read them again. I think I’ll have a very different view of Emma and Persuasion now that I’ve gotten used to the style.

Cara King
13 years ago

Cara, I hope your migraine is much better!

Elena, thanks! It came and went throughout yesterday, but it definitely seems to be gone today.

The secondary complication is that my migraine medicine makes me groggy and stupid…so I can’t get much done either way…

The only Austen I’m still slow to warm to is Mansfield Park. I think it’s because the villains seem more dynamic than either Fanny or Edmund.

I’ve heard that before, though I admit I never found either of the Crawfords terribly attractive myself.

But — dynamic. Nice way to put it. Of course, Wickham is more dynamic than Darcy, and Willoughby much more than Brandon! And Churchill way out-dynamics Knightley. So perhaps Austen thought this was a superficial quality? Presumably not dangerous in and of itself (Lizzy Bennet and Emma are pretty dynamic, IMHO), but something that could lead young ladies astray?

I think my Edmund problem is that I don’t get crushes on men who are dealing with the flaws of youth — like Edmund and Edward. I prefer the flaws of maturity which Darcy has. 🙂

Cara

Cara King
13 years ago

I do remember the Northanger Abbey version with the gothic parts but I did enjoy it despite the silliness.

Indeed, Maureen! I think on rewatching (or rereading) things, I’m much better at just enjoying the parts that work for me, and ignoring the parts that don’t…

I show this afterschool every year for a group of girls and they fall in love with Darcy and with Jane Austen.

Oh, that’s so nice to know, LadyDoc! It does give one hope. 🙂 And I agree about the Hinds/Root version of Persuasion — fabulous. (Now when I read the book I picture Hinds in the role, and I actually like Wentworth better for it! He seems less childish, I think…)

I’ve been in love with Mr. Darcy since then too which means we are coming up on our 40th anniversary! LOL

Just remember, Louisa, that though Mr. Darcy may have been married to you longer than to me, that doesn’t mean he loves me any less… 😉

Cara

Cara King
13 years ago

and the first time I read it, I didn’t think it was a 5 book

That’s really interesting, Lois! I think it’s fascinating how our reactions to things change…

And I do agree with you about Tilney being dishy… 🙂

I also loved Lady Susan, another Austen I listened to in audio book. It was so clever and had such raw energy and was really outrageous.

Diane, Todd and I actually read that for a book group recently. I do think her early satirical stuff did have that sort of outrageous energy! I like it, but I think I prefer it with a bit of tempering, like in Northanger Abbey… (Otherwise it can become a bit harsh or brittle or silly, for me…)

Santa, I agree about Colin Firth being the perfect Darcy! And about the recent Northanger Abbey adaptation being delicious. (Though if I were you’d, I stay far away from Captain Tilney! He’s bad news, if you ask me…) 😉

Now that I’ve finished reading all the novels, I’d like to go back and read them again. I think I’ll have a very different view of Emma and Persuasion now that I’ve gotten used to the style.

Thanks for sharing your Austen journey with us, Lisa! Whenever you do reread Emma or Persuasion, I’d love to know if your opinions have changed… And I LOVE that you did a real Jane Austen book club! I love book clubs, but have trouble finding folks with similar tastes who have the time/inclination for them… (I’m in a science fiction & fantasy book club that’s barely hanging on there…)

Cara

Virginia
13 years ago

I am not sure if I have read any of her books, but I have watched some of the movies and loved them.

Deborah
Deborah
13 years ago

I read Pride & Prejudice when I was a teenager and loved it! I remember watching the PBS series years ago. I loved the Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier movie version. And I agree — it was their acting that really carried the movie for me. I also enjoyed the movie Sense & Sensibility with Emma Thompson. I actually taped the movie. I think I’ll go watch it again. 🙂

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