Austen for the holidays

03 Jan

As I mentioned recently, I have just started reading Persuasion, by Jane Austen.  I was torn between reading this, or Wuthering Heights next, but I was decided by two very important factors.

  1. I can’t find my copy of Wuthering Heights on my messy bookshelf.
  2. Over the holidays I watched two Jane Austen movies, so I was in an Austen frame of mind.

I have never been a great fan of watching movies made out of Jane Austen novels.  The complexities of her narratives are too detailed to be done justice to in a 100 minutes.  You need at least a 6 part mini-series just to get the hang of the names.

But there are some exceptions.


Gwyneth Paltrow in one of her early roles is excellent as Emma, the clueless matchmaker.  Jeremy Northam is superb as the patient and charming Mr Knightly.  Their chemistry is beautiful, and the film really does justice to the spirit of the novel in which it is based.

Real life mother and daughter Sophie Thompson and Phyllidia Law (mother and sister of Emma Thompson) deliver a stunning, albeit minor, performance as Mrs Bates and her daughter Miss Bates.

Well worth the watch, and full of delightful and quirky moments.



Slightly less amusing is Mansfield Park.  Frances O’Conner makes a slightly more spirited Fanny Price than I am used to, but it made her more likeable to me.

My main complaint with this movie was that, with so many themes having to be left out for time, I don’t know why the makers insisted on including, and giving priority to, themes that did not exist in the novel.  The slave trade is implied in the novel, but thrust to the forefront here, almost overshadowing the themes of the book itself. And I found Sir Thomas Bertram’s treatment of Fanny throughout the novel slightly out of character with the growing admiration he develops for her throughout the course of the novel.

Both enjoyable films, but give me Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle any day of the week.

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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in books


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