Let me just say that I’m beyond excited to officially join the Austen Variations group today. Thank you all for the warm welcome.
I’ve been poking around the Austen Variations website for a little while now, and I’m impressed with the collective knowledge on display, as well as the excellent writing talents. I’m honored to be invited to join the group and (to put it as Jane might), I shall endeavor to live up to your expectations.
Like Holden Caulfield, J.D. Salinger’s character in The Catcher in the Rye, I don’t like lengthy introductions or ‘…all that David Copperfield kind of crap,’ so I’ll try and keep my bio brief.
I was born in Washington DC and grew up in northern Virginia; recently my husband, our dog, two parakeets and I relocated to South Florida. I’ve been writing romantic comedy under the pen name of Katie Oliver for nearly four years now. Publication was something I long aspired to; but two kids, a job, and a lengthy commute left me little time to pursue my dream (or even, for that matter, to write).
If you’d told me ten years ago that three of my own variations of Jane Austen’s beloved novels would eventually be published, I’d have fallen off my chair laughing. Because, like Colin Firth, I’d never read Jane Austen until I watched the 1995 BBC production of Pride & Prejudice. (I hastened off afterwards to acquaint myself with Austen’s books right away. And I was not disappointed.)
Back then, I wasn’t yet a full-fledged ‘Janiac.’
So it’s ironic that my first published book was a romantic comedy, Prada and Prejudice. It had little to do with Austen’s original, being set in the present day and promoted by my UK-based publisher as ‘chick lit.’ It concerned one girl’s obsession with all things Prada and one man’s prejudice against silly, fashion-obsessed girls….so Natalie Dashwood and Rhys Gordon did, at least, share Elizabeth and Darcy’s initial (and prejudicial) dislike of one another. And like Lizzy and Darcy, they managed to fall in love by the end of the book.
‘Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of.’ — Pride and Prejudice
I’ve since become a devoted fan of of Miss Austen and her oeuvre. I’ve read the books, learned a bit about Regency language, carriages, clothing, and customs, and watched the films and television adaptations, from the aforementioned Pride and Prejudice to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And there’s really not a clinker in the lot – not surprising considering that comedy, drama, suspense and unexpected plot twists abound in Austen’s novels.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s post and a tie-in to this month’s Austen Variations theme – Movies in May. Although Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in my heart (both the BBC and the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen versions; which one is better is a spirited debate for another day), I’m also a huge fan of Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (the screenplay as adapted by Emma Thompson is wonderful, the acting amazing, and the story is imbued with emotion and depth).
But if pressed, I’d have to say that my favorite Austen film of all, the one I never tire of watching, is…Emma.
While that choice might prove as questionable as Emma’s romantic motives, I have good reason. Yes, Emma is a snob. Yes, she’s meddlesome and not very attuned to anyone but herself. And yes, her determination to orchestrate everyone’s lives leads to disastrous consequence.
Emma is also a devoted daughter who cares deeply for her father and runs his household with efficiency and grace. She’s a good friend (in her fashion) to Harriet and to Mr Knightley. Her interference in Harriet’s life, however misguided, is well intentioned. She’s charitable…even if her charitable actions are more a result of duty than concern. It’s amusing that Emma, irritated as she so often is by Mrs Elton’s incessant boasting, fails to recognize her own, more subtle, snobbishness.
‘I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.’ — Emma
Emma Woodhouse is a contradiction. She’s flawed, just as all of us are. But these very imperfections and contradictions are what make her believable, and honest, and real – just as Austen intended. It’s why, despite everything she does, we end up caring for her. We want her to win not just Mr Knightley’s approval, but his love. Her very human flaws make her final realization – after Knightley takes her to task for her inexcusable unkindness to Miss Bates – all the more moving, and all the more believable.
Because, after all, being forgiven means the most when we deserve it the least, doesn’t it?