a well-known favoritism…

If I asked you which of Jane Austen’s books your favorite is, would you automatically tell me that it’s Pride & Prejudice? Or would you take the time to tell me that the only one you’ve ever read is P&P, so you really aren’t qualified to judge? Or perhaps you’d give me the same original answer, based on it being the only Jane Austen film you’ve ever seen?

You see, having read Austen’s novels (the six main books), for many years now, I find that my favorite doesn’t seem to be the common favorite. Or, at least, it isn’t the one that is perceived to be the favorite. But despite the many film adaptations, the fact that Pride & Prejudice is one of Austen’s shortest (and easiest to read), and the irresistible attraction of Mr. Darcy, I don’t believe that P&P really is the favorite. It is, however, the most well-known, and yes, thousands of women go through Darcy withdrawal symptoms, every time they watch the Colin Firth version.

Now, if I asked someone about their favorite book by C.S. Lewis, and they weren’t well-read, they might tell me that they loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but they had never read the rest of the Narnia series. Don’t get me started on how this is even possible. They may not have known that Lewis wrote SO much more than children’s stories. So, they would they ever have such an opinion as mine? Of the Narnia series, my favorite is probably The Horse and His Boy (it’s probably a tie with LWW), I don’t particularly like The Silver Chair (with the exception of Puddleglum), and I can’t stand The Last Battle, except for the last few chapters. I’ll read the last chapters repeatedly, and skip the rest.

If I asked you which of L.M. Montgomery’s books you liked best, would you tell me it’s Anne of Green Gables, because you’ve seen the movie, or only read that particular book? Would you know the gates of awesomeness you have entered into, if you read the entire Anne series, especially Rilla of Ingleside (my favorite)? And let’s just forget the Anne series for a moment, because you still haven’t touched on her best books, The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, the Pat duology, the Emily trilogy, and The Story Girl. If someone has truly read the rest of an author’s books, I don’t know if they’ll ever pick the most well-known book as their favorite. Possible, but not guaranteed.

I vaguely recall having seen a few movies, over the years, where the heroines were asked about their favorite book, and they named Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Each time I heard this, I found it odd, as I’d always had trouble getting into Persuasion and understanding it. If this were truly a movie heroine favorite, there must be something in it. I have no qualms about mentioning that it took me watching the 1995 and 2007 BBC adaptations of Persuasion (repeatedly) before I was willing to take a swing at the book again. And even though the older version of the film is more true to the book, I don’t find Ciaran Hinds all that attractive, so it was the newer version I was drawn to. Since then, I have adored the book, and read it numerous times.

However, I have been rambling on in this fashion for all this time, because I just finished rereading Northanger Abbey, after having watched the movie again. It was a night when I was feeling better, but not completely top-notch yet, so I was in the mood for a favorite movie. But what a good movie will do is whet your appetite for reading the original story… at least in my case. So, out came the Kindle (sorry, my book copy’s in a storage unit, somewhere in the U.S.), and away I went into Jane Austen’s world.

I think Northanger Abbey gets overlooked as often as Mansfield Park does. The latter, because the book is pretty large and about a heroine who is quiet, tires easily, and hasn’t much to say for herself. I speak to outward appearances, as I happen to love that book. But compared to the feistiness of Marianne Dashwood, the poor relation in the form of Fanny Price may be a dull dish to some. I happen to think Marianne is annoying, a lot of the time, so I find Fanny’s good sense to be refreshing, even if she has trouble putting forth her own opinion.

The former book gets overlooked, not for its length, but for what may be seen as the simplicity of the story line. A young girl goes to Bath, meets a young man, and then goes to visit his family in the country. Her heightened sense of romance from reading too many novels causes her to have a few scares, while staying in the Abbey. She loves him, he eventually loves her, his father has a problem, but eventually it’s resolved. This probably is what the book blurb will sound, with the mention of some mystery surrounding Catherine’s visit to the Abbey.

How can this seemingly simple romance even compare to the misunderstandings between Lizzy and Darcy? To the ups and downs of Marianne and Willoughby, while Elinor breaks her heart over Edward Ferrars? Emma Woodhouse is in full command of her own home, and though young, willing to try her hand at anything. Fanny Price has to put up with the courtship of an unwanted suitor, while watching Edmund fall for another. And Anne Elliot, of course, never forgets her first love, though the years go by, and her looks fade away.

But there is so much more to the story of Northanger Abbey, and the love story of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney! Do not overlook this one, even if you’re tempted to do so. I think this book contains Austen’s greatest hero, who is the epitome of a gentleman, and has the kind of character that every woman wants to find in the man of her dreams. He also happens to be a bookworm, which doesn’t harm him, in my eyes.

I’m working on a post specifically about this book, but it’s giving me a headache, at present, and not turning out how I want. I will do my best to finish it satisfactorily, for my sake and yours, so stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “a well-known favoritism…

  1. This is such a timely post to my life right now: a woman in my book club has suggested “Pride and Prejudice” as one of our books this spring, and I will simply SLIT MY WRISTS if I have to endure that book again. Sheesh, the book is pure tediousness for me – I think that it makes a lovely screen adaptation – and yet, I loved it as a young woman. Not so much, now. Well, I can tell you that I’ll be suggesting either “Mansfield Park” or “Northanger Abbey” because I haven’t read either, and I doubt that the Austen-suggestor has read them, either. New for everyone.

    Sorry; rant over.

    • Well, I hope you won’t take quite so drastic measures. I hope no one got the impression that I dislike P&P, but yes, I think most of us are overexposed to it. And there are only so many times you can read about or watch Mrs. Bennet without squirming. I did reread it, recently, and I enjoyed it, but wanted it to be over. Like a movie that I’ve watched too many times, I really think I need to avoid both book and movie for a while. That’s probably why I enjoy the series Lost in Austen, which is a fresh swing on the story.

      Yes, definitely check out Austen’s other books. I think S&S is a little overexposed, too, but I developed a new appreciation for it after watching the new BBC version, which is just as good as the Emma Thompson one, if not better. Do NOT try and work your way into Mansfield Park with the new movie version, though. They did a dreadful job with that one. Sorry, I have my set opinions about all the movies, too. Done right, they can be very good. Done wrong, I’ll avoid them at all costs. I do like Emma, now, though I hated that one for years. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault, and it took Romola Garai to get me over it.

      Anyway, if you can handle the length and subject matter of Jane Eyre (Bronte) or North & South (Gaskell), you can definitely deal with Mansfield Park. Not quite as dramatic, but just as good. I shall now shut up, or I’ll just keep going. My mouth runneth over, on the subject of books. 🙂

  2. I agree with your assessments of “P&P”, and no, I won’t be doing anything more drastic than inwardly rolling my eyes if we select it as one of our books for 2012. (Someone had the gall to suggest Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” and I will read “P&P” backwards and in Mandarin before you’ll have me delve into her stuff ever again.)

    As for movie adaptations, my rule of thumb is to read the book(s) first. I like to discover stories and develop the characters, environments and histories in my head before seeing someone else’s translation/interpretation on-screen. Sometimes I can’t avoid seeing the movie first – or trailers for one – and it sets a few things in my mind. The trailer for “The Hunger Games” is an example, as multiple friends posted links with photos to their facebook pages; when I had the recent opportunity to devour the trilogy in less than a week, I had a mental image of Katniss as the actress Jennifer Lawrence.

    “Jane Eyre” is one of my all-time favorite books (and I suggested it for our book club); I haven’t read it in a long while, so I’m hoping to read it on the side while also participating in the book club’s readings. I read many wonderful reviews of its recent 2011 screen-adaptation, starring Mia Wasikowska (and with Dame Judi Dench! you can’t go wrong if your movie adaptation includes her!), so it will be on my mental “to see” list, for sure!

    Our book club meets tonight to select 10 books from the 32 that our group nominated; I’ll have to let you know what selections from the “classics” genre we pick. Eye-rolling commentary, included. 😀

    P.S. I hope that you are feeling better!

    • Thanks, I am feeling better, pretty much recovered! I go both ways with books and movies. Watching the movie will make me want to read the book, reading the book will make me curious to see the movie. I have a little trouble with visualization, sometimes, so I have an idea of what a character should look like, but it won’t be set in stone. I won’t get Jennifer Lawrence stuck in my head as Katniss until I see the movie and approve of it. I don’t think any of the actors really look right, but then, I couldn’t tell you exactly how they’re supposed to look, either. Hmmm… for example, I think they did an awesome job of casting the LOTR actors, but whenever I read the books, I don’t really find myself picturing them, because there’s still something in the book that you can’t capture in the visual world of film. Ok, that probably didn’t make sense.

      Well, I only just saw the new Jane Eyre film, and loved it… but that’s also because I’m a bit addicted to Michael Fassbender. Wasikowska did an amazing job, too, and I enjoyed how the director switched it up with some flashbacks, so you don’t watch it in the exact same way as all the other adaptations. If you want an awesome version of Jane Eyre, though, you want the recent BBC version (2006?) with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. They don’t short you on the whole story, though they skim a tiny bit at the beginning to allow full development on the end story. And with Georgie Henley (Lucy from Narnia) as the young Jane, how can you go wrong?

      I will be curious to know what your book club is doing. Actually, the nominated list would be interesting, too. I’ve never belonged to a book club. I just like to read, and enjoy talking books over with close friends, but a book club always smacked a bit of what they made us do in English class… dissect them. I’m probably wrong, but there you have it.

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