A Visit from Book Santa

I woke up on Christmas morning to find that Book Santa had visited my house!

Book Santa's Offering

I’ve had visits from Book Santa in the past, so I knew to expect two things:

  1. His reading tastes are varied; he enjoys giving fiction titles just as much as non-fiction titles
  2. His reading tastes are a lot like my own (a happy co-ink-ee-dink, right?)

So you can imagine how excited I was to unwrap these titles on Christmas morning:

Jane Austen's WorthingJane Austen’s Worthing by Antony Edmonds.

I thought I owned just about every Jane Austen-related book there was until Book Santa dropped this one under my Christmas tree. It’s an account of the seaside resort town that inspired Austen’s Sanditon, one of my favorite (if unfinished) Austen novels.

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King John by Marc MorrisKing John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England by Marc Morris

I have a very personal interest in learning all I can about King John of England; through my Cornell ancestors I’m a direct descendant of that notorious king who was ultimately forced to sign the Magna Carta. Every time I open the pages of a new book about King John, I hope to read about some redeeming quality in the man (he is family, after all). Could this be the book that finally shows King John to have some humanity? Here’s hoping …

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Organize Your GenealogyOrganize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith

After years of gathering family histories, photographs, and documents, I have paper coming out of my ears. Book Santa must have known I needed a book like this to help me safely and sensibly share and store each precious item I’ve collected. Check in with me in a couple of months to see if I’ve put this book’s suggestions to good use.

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Calico Spy by Margaret BrownelyCalico Spy by Margaret Brownley

Everybody knows Book Santa has a great sense of humor, which is why he knew I’d enjoy Calico Spy. It’s book three in Ms. Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series of old west mysteries featuring female detectives. Ever have a hankerin’ for a good laugh, memorable characters, and an intriguing who-done-it mystery? Yup, me, too. I think I just talked myself into making this the first of my new books to read.

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The Successful Author MindsetThe Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

I’ve been a Joanna Penn fan for years. I read her fiction, follow her blog, listen to her podcasts, and look to her for inspiration when I need an indie-author-pick-me-up. She never fails to deliver.  I rather suspect Book Santa gave me this Joanna Penn offering because he knows I could do a better job of managing my writing career (and he’d be right!). But, God bless him, Book Santa never judges; he just gives the right book at the right time to give us all the kick in the pants we need.  And speaking of time, I’m currently in the process of setting my writing goals for 2017; and I suspect The Successful Author Mindset will be a big help in the process.

So there you have it … Book Santa’s Christmas delivery to my house was generous and well-planned, and his selections showed his usual flair for variety.

I hope Book Santa visited your house, too. What did he bring you?

Mr. Darcy and “That Shirt”

When it comes to “Pride and Prejudice” on the big and small screens, I’ve watched every available version, from “Lizzie Bennet’s Diary” to the this year’s “Zombies” to the 1940 Hollywood film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Of all the different interpretations, the 1995 BBC series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth remains my favorite.

1995 version DVD

What makes that version different from all others? Simple: its stars’ winning performances, lots of period details, and the way in which it stays true to the original novel—except, of course, for one particular scene.

You know what I’m talking about … THAT scene, where Darcy dives into the lake at Pemberley wearing a loose tunic, only to emerge soaking wet with the fabric clinging to his body.

Darcy screenshot

The scene caused an immediate sensation when the series first aired, and Darcy’s reputation as a brooding and misunderstood romantic hero instantly morphed into that of a brooding, misunderstood, and hot romantic hero.

For those familiar with Jane Austen’s novel, there was just one problem: the scene never happened. Jane Austen never wrote about Darcy getting wet and turning into a heartthrob for women everywhere.

And yet, we love that scene and appreciate it as part of the way the BBC version showed Elizabeth’s evolving attraction to Darcy.

In fact, that Regency wet tee-shirt moment has made something of a celebrity of the shirt itself; and if you’ve ever wanted to see the real thing—that famous tunic worn by Collin Firth in the 1995 BBC series of “Pride and Prejudice”—you will soon have your chance.

Beginning August 6 the shirt will be on display as part of an exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.

Interior view of the Folger Shakespeare Library, courtesy of Google Maps.

Interior view of the Folger Shakespeare Library, courtesy of Google Maps.

Titled “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity,” the display examines the staying power of Austen and Shakespeare, with displays of fashions, movie adaptations, and milestone events that illustrate why these famous authors are still popular in the 21st Century.

Darcy’s shirt will be front and center at the exhibition, although it will be under glass to keep it safe. As one of the curators remarked, “We will be giving the Folger some Windex, to be used in what we anticipate will be a daily wiping-down of lipstick marks.”

The exhibit opens Saturday, August 6 and runs through November 6. Click here for information on times and tickets.

Enjoy the exhibit and your chance to see the shirt that helped us all fall a little bit more in love with Mr. Darcy.

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Lady Susan on the Big Screen

In a previous post I wrote about one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, Lady Susan; and lamented the fact that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I think that’s about to change. A new movie, based on the novel, will hit theaters in May.

Love and Friendship movie poster

For some reason the movie version has been named “Love and Friendship” (which I think is a little confusing, since its an adaptation of Lady Susan, not Jane Austen’s book Love and Freindship). But who am I to quibble with the title when the movie trailer clearly shows the film has everything I love in a Jane Austen adaptation?

Kate Beckinsale makes a perfect Lady Susan; deliciously snarky, cunningly manipulative, and vastly entertaining. Add in gorgeous costumes, authentic period settings, and witty dialogue, and I’m ready to stand in line for a theater ticket.

It looks like I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see the movie. Vogue included “Love and Friendship” in their recent list of 16 movies you should see this spring. And Slashfilm said it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.

The movie hits theaters May 13, but no word yet on the cities in which it will first be released. You can get updates about the movie’s release dates on Facebook and on Twitter.

Here’s to you, Lady Susan. See you in May.

Classic Agatha Christie Murder and Mayhem

I love Agatha Christie mysteries, so I’m looking forward to watching Lifetime’s new version of “And Then There Were None.” The first episode airs tomorrow with Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Anna Maxwell-Martin (who looks kind of creepy in the trailer), and the gorgeous Aiden Turner among the cast.

Not too long ago I saw the 1940’s version with Barry Fitzgerald in one of the lead roles, and enjoyed it; so I’m ready to be thoroughly entertained by this new, atmospheric version of the classic murder mystery.

imagesSo what do Agatha Christie murder mysteries have to do with Regency-era romance?

Absolutely nothing.

But every now and then we all need to cleanse our palates from the every-day stuff. Murder does that for me. A dose of poison and some mayhem give me a much-needed break from my usual world of excruciatingly proper manners and witty ballroom repartee. So I’m going to spend my Sunday evening watching to see how and when the first guest at dinner will fall. Judging from the trailer, there may even be a couple of made-you-jump moments.

But that’s Sunday. By the time I wake up on Monday morning, I’ll be refreshed and ready to type away at my next story of polite heroines and witty heroes.

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America Waits for Downton Abbey

It’s not easy to be an American right now. Downton Abbey’s sixth and final season hasn’t yet aired here in the U.S. We Americans have to wait until January 2016 to see Season 6 while the rest of world is consuming and savoring every last detail of the final episodes right now. (The last part of the preceding sentence should be read with an increasingly whining tone.)

Season 6 Cast

While I do my best to patiently wait for PBS to air the show in America (and for Amazon to fulfill my pre-ordered DVD of Season 6), I started looking for ways to still be part of the Season 6 hoopla. It’s a bit of a tricky tight-rope walk. For example, I wouldn’t mind seeing some still photos of the production, but I don’t want to know what happens in the plot. I wouldn’t mind seeing reveals of some of the gorgeous costumes Edith and Mary and Cora will wear, I but I don’t want to read editorials that criticize the final season (gasp!).

What’s a patient American Downton Abbey fan to do?

Highclere Castle, site of the fictional Downton Abbey (BritishHeritage.com)

Highclere Castle, site of the fictional Downton Abbey (BritishHeritage.com)

Answer: Turn to British Heritage. I’ve subscribed to this magazine for years, and it’s one of my favorites (see my previous post). And in honor of the show’s final season, British Heritage has included a nice article about Downton Abbey in their winter edition.

Even better, they’ve delivered the first in a series of podcasts that describe the social and economic world of post World War I Britain and how those factors might influence Season 6 plot lines.

The Ladies of Downton Abbey in Season 6(PBS.org)

The Ladies of Downton Abbey in Season 6 (PBS.org)

Thank goodness! British Heritage delivered just enough Downton Abbey to satisfy me. I think I can wait until January now (although I may have to revisit PBS’s website and watch those one minute teasers a couple more times).

If you’re like me and are patiently waiting (more or less) for the final season of Downton Abbey to air, please leave a comment and share how you’re passing the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Watching Wolf Hall?

Wolf Hall is my new favorite show. It chronicles Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII.

NPG D24213; Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex after Hans Holbein the Younger

But what sets this drama apart from other productions that have told the same story is how it humanizes Cromwell the man. In other movies and television shows, such as The Tudors, Cromwell was portrayed simply as a ruthlessly ambitious upstart with no loyalties or emotional attachments. In Wolf Hall, we see a man who loved his family, and was capable of treating others with kindness and respect. We see his motivations and loyalties.

The other thing that sets Wolf Hall apart: the actor who plays King Henry VIII. History tells us that Henry was an impressive figure: tall and muscular with red hair. He would have stood out in any crowd. The actor who portrayed Henry in The Tudors looked nothing like the historical descriptions of Henry VIII, and that made it hard for me to enjoy the series.

However, in Wolf Hall, Damien Lewis plays Henry VIII, and he’s a much better physical match, helping make his portrayal much more believable.

Damian Lewis as Henry VIII

I’m addicted to this series about Henry VIII and his wives, told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. Lucky for me (and everyone else interested in the show) Britain magazine has published some on-line articles and images about Wolf Hall. You can follow these links to read more about:

Inside Wolf Hall’s Hampton Court Palace
Wolf Hall – Fact or Fiction?
Wolf Hall’s Filming Locations

Prepare the Barouche; I’m Going to the Thea-tah

At last! I’m finally counting down the days until I see Austenland! I’ve been looking forward to this movie (based on the novel by Shannon Hale) since I first heard about it in January. The film opened yesterday in Los Angeles and New York. Here are a few of the review tweets I read this morning:

Austenland Review Tweets

And USA Today says “Austenland is spirited and gently witty.”

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The film, like the book, pays homage to modern-day Janeites who just can’t get enough of Mr. Darcy and, if given the chance, wouldn’t mind indulging in a little Pride and Prejudice role-playing.

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Sony’s release schedule has the film opening in my city on August 30 and I’ll be there! I hope it comes to your town soon. You can check your city’s release date here.

Sense & Sensibility: The Musical

I love going to the theater and seeing productions everyone’s talking about; but every once in a while, I get to see a new play that hasn’t yet hit the critics’ radar screens. Denver is fortunate to be the venue where many productions premier their plays before heading to New York or embarking on a national tour. That was the case with Sense & Sensibility: The Musical.

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It’s a charming version of one of my favorite Jane Austen novels and it didn’t disappoint me. The cast was exceptional, the costumes by Emilio Sosa (one of my all-time favorite Project Runway designers) were a visual treat, and the music and lyrics helped move the story along. I’ll even confess to getting a little misty-eyed during Marianne and Colonel Brandon’s duet; it was so sweet and touching! (You’ll see Marianne and the Colonel at the 1:15 mark on the video below.)

I hope you get a chance to see this wonderful production. In the meantime, follow this link to the Facebook page for Sense & Sensibility: the Musical, where you can read more about the production, see pictures of the performance, and hear the songs.

Click on this link to read an article from Broadway World about the sold-out performances of SSTM’s Denver world premier.