Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Sparky well-written review of what sounds like a great book!

The Spiders' Library

This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

nevernightcover.jpgThis.

Book.

Though.

Stop what you’re reading – are you reading right now? Put it down. Go pre-order this book. Then go finish your book ASAP so you can be ready for the first installment of Jay Kristoff’s new fantasy trilogy. It’s gonna be a good one, guys. Oh boy. I can’t believe I have to wait for the next one.

Considering it is now a week before the release date for this book, and I spent all weekend ranting to my friends about how good it is to the extent that they all bought it for themselves at the HarperVoyager stand at YALC and could recite the release date themselves, unprompted, I felt it was finally time for a full review.

Synopsis

Mia Corvere is ten years old when she experiences death for…

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My review of the “Pride and Prejudice” update, “Eligible”, by Curtis Sittenfeld – no spoilers

My review of the “Pride and Prejudice” update, “Eligible”, by Curtis Sittenfeld – no spoilers

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the most recent of a number of commissions to write updates of Jane Austen – here’s a link to the facebook page which tells you more. I’ve only read Emma so far, and was somewhat disappointed. Eligible is a different matter altogether.

I had to read Eligible twice, once just to gobble it up as quickly as possible, and a second time to savour it.

Here’s why I’m impressed:

  1. Most importantly, Sittenfeld nails Lizzy’s emotional journey. The romance is great, Darcy is incredibly sexy, and Liz’s uncertainties, doubts, longings, changes and learning are all perfectly mapped and psychologically believable.
  2. The need for the Bennet girls in the original to be married is very real – they must marry for economic reasons as well as to maintain status. Being an old maid in 1813 was no joke – likewise Lydia’s disgrace was powerfully shaming back then. The difficulty is to recreate the same degree of jeopardy for the characters in our permissive world: I was amazed and delighted with Sittenfeld’s solutions to these problems. Not gonna tell you though
  3. The updating is very very clever. As a fully signed-up Pride and Prejudice nerd, there was enormous pleasure to be got from seeing how the author did it. I was wondering how she would recreate e.g. Lizzy’s walk to Netherfield in all that dirt, Darcy’s wealth and status, Kitty and Lydia’s vulgarity – and Mrs Bennet’s. Sittenfeld manages it so smoothly that you almost forget which bit of the original she’s referring to. Very very clever.
  4. The writing is plain and clear – it never gets in the way, is never bumpy, awkward or self-conscious.
  5. The book is fun – knowing, sophisticated, romantic, funny and contemporary.
  6. Hate the cover.

Recommended.

 

 

 

Does Mrs Bennet need to be unreconstructed now?

To celebrate Mother’s Day: Mrs Bennet – the mother we love to hate

Every film or TV series of a novel set in the past recreates the novel through the lens of its own time.

Hence all these different Mrs Bennets. In the earlier adaptations she was strident, silly and money-grabbing, the coldness between her and Mr Bennet easily understandable – his cool rationality set against her hypochondria and hysteria.Mr-and-Mrs-Bennet-jane-austens-couples-14290545-499-281

These early incarnations of Mrs Bennet were misogynist creations, close to the mother-in-law stereotype, the Hyacinth Bouquet figure, the classic ridiculous middle-aged woman, beloved of sit-coms and old-school stand-ups, with her risible clinging to her lost youth, her faded looks, her ‘nerves’ and her slow brains, easily outwitted by her smart-arse husband and daughters (see…. this blog post…for my deconstruction of Mr Bennet – no more Mr Nice Guy).

Then in the more recent adaptations – the 2005 film, and also Lost in Austen – the reconstruction sets in. A feminist take on history is evident in the characterisation – Mrs Bennet’s venality and obsession with getting her daughters married is now to be sympathised with from a 21st-century standpoint: after all, what choices did women have in those benighted times?

Brenda Blethyn has some of the silliness, but she is also earthy, fully conscious of the social position of women, and surprisingly has a full sexual relationship with her husband, and even gets some love from Lizzy.lizzy and mrs b 2005

In the highly knowing Lost in Austen, a time-travel take on the novel, we get the most powerful, the most politically aware, and definitely the most genuinely sexy Mrs Bennet in the storming Alex Kingston

.alex kingston lost in austen

But what of Jane Austen herself? Jane Austen was not sentimental, she was not a feminist and in my view she wasn’t really romantic, even though her books are all love stories that end happily ever after.

All the characters, even the romantic leads, are seen through her piercing eye. She is interested in the lives of her female characters but she has no sympathy to spare for Mrs Bennet and her fate. In fact, women of a certain age often suffer badly from Austen’s sharp satire: Miss Bates in Emma, Mrs Musgrove in Persuasion with her “large fat sighings” (over the death of her son mind you – that’s how sympathetic Jane Austen was).

Despite the prince/pauper match-up of Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane Austen does not question the structure of social class of her time. She doesn’t pity Mrs Bennet’s dilemma and possible fate, she simply creates a believable caricature and skewers her with pithy dismissive remarks. (“She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”)

The Mrs Bennet of the book is not a struggling realist, she is not a devoted mother or a sexually active wife: she is a caricature – she is vapid, empty and cruel, a neglectful mother, narcissistic, irresponsible, hypocritical and – well, just stupid.

I can understand why recent adaptors have wanted to flesh Mrs Bennet out: mothers today have careers, incomes, we read books, we even read Jane Austen. Middle-aged women are bound to be a big chunk of the audience for any Pride and Prejudice adaptation, and middle-aged women today do not care to see ourselves depicted as silly, greedy and hysterical. Also, in our post-Freudian world, we are all interested in motivation, in why people are the way they are. In my Mary Bennet sequel, I took an even more caricatured character and decided to turn her into someone real. And of course my novel is informed by my contemporary understanding of and obsession with psychology and child development.

It doesn’t ultimately matter whether the adaptations are true to the book: in fact, they can’t be. The context in which Austen lived and thought is almost completely foreign to us now. The wonderful scene in Lost in Austen, when Mr Darcy suddenly finds himself in modern Piccadilly Circus gives a sense of how far apart our societies are, despite some superficial similarities. (I wish there was a pic that showed the shock on his face)lost-in-austen-episode-four-mr-darcy-in-2008-sonya-heaney

Despite my purist tendencies, I pretty much love all the P&P adaptations, including P&P and Zombies, though I can probably dispense with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. I look forward to what the adaptors of the 2020s come up with. After all –

guinea pig pa ndp

50 books in 2015 (ish)

Really entertaining book blog with lots of suggestions of reading from light to heavy

The Spiders' Library

It’s been over a year since I’ve written in this blog. Since I’ve been away I’ve moved to London, got a job, and I’m now over halfway through my masters at UCL. This is essentially a quick note to say this blog will be up and running again this year! And a list of everything I read (completed) last year.

Like many people all over the internet and all over the world, last year I set myself the goal of reading 50 books. Quite arrogantly I thought this wouldn’t be an issue, and now here I am having to admit that I completed a total of 49 books. Crud.

I don’t have any reviews coming up on these and will probably continue my usual format this year, but if anyone would like an in-depth review of any of the books mentioned leave me a comment below!

In alphabetical order (by…

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Declaration of interest

My other twitter account @georgettedaily has been posting declarations of love and proposals of marriage from some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 23.03.33

I realise that not everyone uses twitter (very wise, my friends, very wise. There be dragons!) so I thought I’d share the quotes on here. No attributions, so you have to guess which book. Enjoy! You can always put your answers in the comments, and as you’re a Georgette Heyer reader, I know I can trust you not to google.

  1. “I shall marry a wench out of a gaming-house with as much pomp and ceremony as I can contrive!”

  2. “You don’t feel you could marry me instead? Got no brains, of course and I ain’t a handsome fellow, like Jack, but I love you.”

  3. “I love you, you know,” he said conversationally. “Will you marry me?”

  4. “To be honest with you,” she said, with the utmost gravity, “I have been meaning to marry you these 10 days and more.”

  5. “You have never bored me.” He possessed himself of her hands, and held them firmly. “The only woman I have ever known who has never done so.”

  6. “Little one,” he said, very low,”since you will stoop to wed me, I pledge you my word that you shall not in future have cause to regret it.”

  7. “For years I never gave marriage a thought. And then I met you, and loved you, and found that I was thinking of very little else!”

  8. “I am trying to tell you that I love you, and all you will say is that I have beautiful manners!”

  9. “Will you marry me, vile and abominable girl that you are?”  “Yes, but, mind, it is only to save my neck from being wrung!”

  10. “When you smile at me like that, it’s all holiday with me! Oh god, I love you to the edge of madness!”

Answers now available here.

Can Characters Change?

Sarah Emsley

Third in a series on rereading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. You can find Part One here and Part Two here.

Hugh Thomson's cover for P&P“People themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever,” says Elizabeth Bennet to Mr. Darcy in Chapter 9 of Pride and Prejudice. She’s just admitted to Mr. Bingley that she is “a studier of character,” and she’s objecting to Mr. Darcy’s claim that “In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society.” Even if you meet the same people all the time, Elizabeth suggests, the people are interesting because they’re always changing.

I love what Mrs. Bennet says here when she jumps into the conversation. After Elizabeth says, “people themselves alter so much,” her mother exclaims, “Yes, indeed … I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in the country…

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