Saturday, January 30, 2010

Circulating Libraries in the Regency Era

During the Regency Era, books were very expensive, and few families, other than the very rich, were able to afford the cost of an extensive library. A solution to this problem was the circulating library. The first known lending library was established in the Strand in London in 1730 and was run by Mr. Wright, a bookseller. The idea was very popular, and by the beginning of the 19th Century, the number of libraries had grown to 26 . With an increase in literacy, these lending libraries proved to be an affordable way for people to read books. There was a flat charge for the initial subscription, and then a small fee would be charged for each book checked out. One of the more popular books of the Regency Era was Maria Edgeworth’s Tales of Fashionable Life and, I’m sure, The Complete Works of Jane Austen. The drawing shows such a library in Scarborough.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recycling Fashion in Costume Dramas

Jane Austen World has a post on some of the clothes worn in the latest PBS Emma adaptation. Many of them were recycled from other period dramas. I'm big on recycling, but there are times when recycling doesn't  work. The 1940 Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson used costumes that had been made for Gone With the Wind the previous year. I just can't picture Elizabeth Bennet walking around in a hooped skirt.

Review of Tomaree - A WWII Love Story by Debbie Robson

Peggy Lockwood, who left her home in New South Wales as a war bride in the 1940s to move to the United States, returns a quarter of a century later contemplating divorce from the only man who has ever been a part of her life. The reasons for her return are an act of infidelity by her husband, Tom, and her mother’s death in Australia. Both events start her on a journey of personal exploration. Although she has left her husband in Wyoming, the landscape of the American West is now as much a part of her as her childhood view of the Pacific had once been. The drastically different landscapes are an important part of Tomaree because they provide the backdrop for the journey she must make to heal new and old wounds.

Tomaree is a gentle story about a woman trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle, so that she might better understand her “prickly” mother. Through letters and shared experiences with her mother’s friends and a new-found aunt, Peggy learns of the painful events that were the source of the tension in their relationship. In re-examining her own life, she recalls the early days of her romance with Lt. Tom Lockwood, an American liaison officer serving in the Joint Overseas Operational Training School, and she must decide if this one act of betrayal is sufficient reason to end a marriage of 26 years that produced a beautiful daughter, whom they both love dearly.

Debbie Robson has a gift for conveying a sense of place with elegant, but simple, language. She deftly weaves back and forth between the stories of an 18-year old girl experiencing love for the first time and a mature woman who is forced to re-examine her marriage. Tomaree is a finely crafted story which will appeal to anyone who has had an event in their life so jarring that it causes them to question everything. By looking back to the war years when Tom and she were so deeply in love, she is able to refocus and begin to heal, and a source of that healing can be found in a view of the Pacific Ocean from atop a hill called Tomaree.

About the Author:  I was born in the Mater Hospital in Sydney and grew up on the Northern Beaches. Unlike most writers I didn't start writing until my early twenties. I have variously given birth to a son in South Wales, a daughter in New South Wales, run an internet dating agency, made dreamcatchers and tested telephone lines. My poems and stories have been published here and overseas. I now live in Lake Macquarie and work in Newcastle. Debbie's Website

Monday, January 25, 2010

What did you think about PBS's adaptation of Emma on January 24? - Part I

Vote in my poll in the sidebar. I'm curious to find out what everyone thought. If you have comments, post them here. Update: I had to break this poll into Part I and Part II b/c I didn't know there was a Part II. Look for the second poll next Monday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Before I became an author, I reviewed books for a review website. This was before the book blog explosion. One of the novels I reviewed was the hardback edition of  Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I really enjoyed this book, so here is my review:

As a woman from the ancient world, only Cleopatra surpasses Nefertiti in name recognition. Her bust has become one of the most easily identifiable objects from the reigns of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti is the story of the daughter of Vizier Ay, who became the Chief Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, co-regent with her husband, and as some have speculated, the successor pharaoh to Akhenaten.

Most parents of a teenager have said at least one time, “The world does not revolve around you.” However, in the case of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, it actually did. At the ages of 15 and 17, these two young people rose to the highest position in Lower Egypt (nearest the Mediterranean) and eventually ruled all of Egypt and its far-reaching empire. The phrase, “palace intrigue,” might very well have been invented in their court.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Attention Matthew MacFadyen Fans

Matthew MacFadyen is playing with Kim Cattral in Private Lies in London's West End. This information comes to me by way of Jane V., Matt's biggest fan. See sidebar for a promo pic.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Emma on Masterpiece Theater on January 24

Muse in the Fog has information on the newest adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. One of the followers of my blog, M. Gray, has given it the thumbs up.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Great Review from Jenny Loves to Read for The Second Date

I was particularly pleased with this review b/c Jenny is an Italian-American from South Philly, so to receive her stamp of approval was very gratifying. Jenny Loves to Read is also having a giveaway. So why don't you go over to her blog and have a look. It's one of my favorite blogs.

This book is much more than Sonia having trouble finding a good guy. This book perfectly describes the Italian-American community of first and second generation immigrants. I should know since I am Italian and grew up in such a neighborhood.

My Grandmom had the plastic furniture covers, parties were held at the Knights of Columbus club, and although other ethnicity's were eventually welcomed, it was hoped Italians married Italians. That's just way it was, and it was the same in the Irish neighborhoods too. As the generations pass, these ways of life have changed, and you won't find too many people with kitchens and living rooms in the basements any more. As matter of fact, the feeling of community that is so prevalent in this book, is starting to disappear as well. Times change.

As she did with Searching for Pemberley, Simonsen seamlessly weaves the characters back stories and other fascinating tidbits into the story. Yes, Italian families still have tons of drama and are emotional, but the core value of family is always there. Your family may not approve of your private life, but they will always love you and do anything for you. Most Italians never forget where they came from either, and maybe that's why we still have our festivals and make big pots of gravy and meatballs every Sunday. (Gravy=sauce in my part of town.)

This was a wonderful little story, and the 1980s setting made me laugh at times. Sonia and the rest of the characters in the story are all sweet in their own way. They may even remind you of people you know yourself. Simonsen is quite good at making the reader feel like a part of the story. You tend to forget where you are, or at least I did. Overall this was a fun and engaging read which brought back a lot of memories for me, including flocked wallpaper and crushed velvet furniture. Oh, don't ask.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Interview with Author, Lory Lilian

I have only been writing Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) for about 18 months, but there are those who have been writing stories for years and who were content to post their work on fan fiction sites. However, with all the changes in the publishing world, many people have chosen to self-publish.

One of those writers is Lory Lilian, who published two novels in late 2009, Remembrance of the Past and Rainy Days, with Meryton Press, but there is a major difference between Lory and me. Lory is Romanian. I found this fascinating, especially since reading an early 19th Century novel is not the easiest thing to do for people who have English as their first language, and so I asked if I could interview her, and she agreed.

When I read your work, I thought you were British because of how you spelled words such as color/colour. I was very surprised to learn that you were Romanian. Where did you learn to speak/write English so well?

Mary, first I want to thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions on your blog and to thank your visitors for their patience in reading them. I studied English in school and I used it from time to time in my job. But my English improved significantly the moment I discovered JAFF, and I started reading all the fanfiction stories I could find (that happened at the beginning of 2004).

When did you first read an Austen novel and was it a challenge? What novel did you read?

I first read Pride and Prejudice (in Romanian) when I was 13 and I fell in love with it instantly. Since that moment I have re-read it at least 50 times, both in Romanian and in English; of course, the passion for P&P lead me to the other Jane Austen novels. But P&P remained the absolute favorite!

What was your first piece of Jane Austen fan fiction and where did you publish it?
The first story I wrote was Rainy Days, a PG version. I published it as a work in progress on Derbyshire's Writers Guild, and I still remember my excitement and my happiness at each and every comment I received. Then some of the readers and some of my friends insisted I should write an “enhanced” version of RD, and this was how the NC-17 version came out. This time I published it at Hyacinth Gardens and at Austen Interlude, which gave me the opportunity of gaining more readers and more lovely comments.

Did you find it difficult to write in Regency English?

Everything related to Pride and Prejudice and to Darcy and Elizabeth is my hobby and my passion, so writing about them is not difficult for me but a real pleasure. Of course, my writing is nowhere near Pride and Prejudice, and to be honest, I do not know if it can be called “Regency English writing.” All I can hope is that my “Regency writing” is not difficult for my readers to read; I also hope that my readers can find in my books at least a little bit of the pleasure I put there when I wrote them.

What made you decide to self-publish your novels and to sell them on Amazon? Does your living in Romania make any difference to the process of self-publishing?
I decided to self publish mostly because during the last two years I got many emails from former readers, asking me if I am writing something new and if I intended to put my old stories in printed forms. To be honest, in the beginning, I hesitated, because my stories had been online for more than 2 years and I could not believe somebody would be interested enough to actually buy them. In time, talking about this, I became more and more tempted and curious to see my stories in real book form, even if it would be only for myself.

Living in Romania did make the self publishing more difficult, because this is a completely new concept here. However, I was very fortunate to get lots of priceless help from many wonderful people from the JAFF world. Ellen Pickels helped me with the final editing and with the cover design for both my books (and I daresay she did a wonderful job), and the ladies who coordinate Meryton Press offered me advice and support in publishing.

How have your novels been received?

I daresay both my novels have been received very well. I must admit that I am surprised, flattered, and grateful to see so many people interested in my books.

Any thoughts or advice to those who wish to self-publish.
Advice? Hmmm… I would gladly answer any question someone asks me, anytime, but I do not think I am well enough ‘specialized’ in this process to dare give advice. Thoughtss? I think someone must have lot of courage to bring a “work of the heart” to the public’s attention, and they will need a lot of patience and openness to wait for the people’s reactions and opinions, and to understand and accept them.

Thank you, Lilian, for joining me on my blog. You are my first interview--another milestone! Below are summaries of Lilian's books, and you can purchase them from Amazon by clicking on the links in the sidebar. If you have any questions for Lilian, please post them in the comments section, and she will be happy to answer them.

Rainy Days is a sweet, romantic love story, with little angst, which tried to answer some questions, like: What if Darcy and Elizabeth had the chance to actually talk and listen to each other earlier than in the original story? What if Elizabeth’s eyes had been opened earlier to the impropriety of Wickham’s behavior and she had searched behind his pleasant appearance? What if Darcy knew Elizabeth’s real opinion of him before the disastrous marriage proposal? What if Mr. Bennet had the chance to exchange a few words with Darcy?

So I put Darcy and Elizabeth together in forced circumstances, two days before the Netherfield Ball, and forced them to talk. Of course, not all things are said in the open during that short encounter and not all the problems are solved, but the relations between all the characters will start to change and the Netherfield Ball will be an entirely different story after that meeting.

I tried to introduce and to develop a few characters with real impact in the story: Lady and Lord Matlock – two strong personalities with different opinions and different reactions, engaged in real battles of will during the story, and there is a small character named Rebecca Gardiner, a little girl of 4 and a half years, who was very much loved by the readers and by myself. All the big events from the original story are present in Rainy Days too, but the circumstances are different. And, of course, there is a happy end for all the good characters and even a few plot lines remained open, as I planned on writing a sequel to Rainy Days.

Remembrance of the Past is an entirely different story; it started in London, just before Elizabeth and the Gardiners’ departure for the Lakes, while Elizabeth is still overwhelmed by Darcy’s disastrous proposal at Hunsford and by her own unfair, hasty reaction to it. The fates bring her face to face with Darcy, his sister and the Colonel one day, and from that moment her turmoil, her fight to understand her heart, her feelings and her desires become stronger and stronger. And a new character, a stunning beauty, very rich, very smart heiress, a close friend of Darcy, is only increasing Elizabeth’s struggle. So there is pretty much angst in the story.

Half of the readers loved Lady Cassandra from the beginning, while the other half hated her; it was a character that brought me great satisfaction while writing it, and the readers’ responses to it proved to me that she had captured everybody’s attention in one way or another. She is a strong character with lots of impact over the other characters who also has a hidden, emotional story coming from the past.

However, despite some people’s opinion, the story is in no way focused on Cassandra; the main characters of Remembrance are, of course, Darcy and Elizabeth, and I daresay the story development shows that clearly. Even more so, Cassandra is very useful for the story line to show Elizabeth’s growth from a young girl full of uncertainties to a young woman, happily married, trusting her own strengths as well as her husband’s love and devotion and the strength of their bond.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Great Review for Searching for Pemberley from Jenny Loves To Read

Jenny Loves to Read: This book is much more than a Pride and Prejudice re-imagined, or continuation of the story. It takes the view that Austen was inspired by real events, relates that inspiration, and along the way tells the story of people living and growing up in England during two world wars. The author also explains Maggie's background and her life growing up in a coal mining town. Again, another tough way to live, but people did it and still do.

This story is fashioned in such a way that the reader forgets they are reading an Austen inspired book. I became wrapped up in the stories of the characters. The British are quite tenacious and let nothing stand in their way. I was transported to the past. Between food rationing and the immigrant experience in America, it became quite clear to me, that I am lucky to be living now. Simonsen clearly did her research, and relates these historical experiences into a great story.

There are indeed three love stories, and possibly four if you count Maggie's relationship with an American airman. Through him the reader learns what it was like to be a bombardier. It is not pretty folks. It is very sad and it amazes me that these young men were able to come back home and lead normal lives, for the most part. As a matter of fact, Maggie has two men vying for her heart; both airmen, one American one British. Two men in uniform, my word.

The only negative I have, is that in the beginning of the story, I was a bit confused between the characters from Austen's story and the real life inspirations. Simonsen does provide background on Austen's characters and who they are in real life, with some background in case you haven't read the original P&P. I was still a little confused at times but it passed quickly.

Overall this was a very enjoyable and engrossing story. I lost myself reading this story, and empathized with each and every character, along with their trials and tribulations. I just wanted to make them all a cup of tea.

My Rating: 98/100. Loved it!!!

Jenny Loves To Read is one of my favorite book blogs. Check it out.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Colin Firth Leaves Other Darcys in the Dust in my Poll

For a while there, Matthew Macfadyen was neck in neck with Colin Firth, but in the last three days, Colin pulled ahead, gaining an insurmountable lead over the 2005 Mr. Darcy. Poor David Rintoul, with his high cheekbones, did not merit so much as one vote even though Jane purists tell us that he is actually closest to Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy. Without Meredith's vote, Laurence Olivier would have shared Rintoul's fate, and I think the only reason Elliot Cowan received any votes was because he looked good in a wet shirt in Lost in Austen. So the poll is closed, and we now know the winner. Colin Firth reigns supreme. Thank you for participating.