Austenland – the film

Kirkcaldy Film Theatre has been having its very first Film Festival this week, which is why they had the Scottish premiere of the film Austenland at the Adam Smith Film Theatre this afternoon. I didn’t know a thing about the film but I’ve read and re-read Jane Austen’s books over the years and although I wouldn’t call myself a Janeite I couldn’t pass up the chance to see this film’s premiere.

I was surprised to see a red carpet had actually been rolled out at the front of the theatre, actually it looked great and I was cursing because I didn’t have my camera with me. Before the film began there was a short talk by Sharon Bassett, the treasurer of the Scottish Branch of the Jane Austen Society.

Austenland begins in the US where Jane a 30 something woman is obsessed with the Colin Firth Mr Darcy. Her home is full of Austen related stuff, dolls, a cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth as Darcy and lots of twee Georgianesque country home china bits and bobs.

As she’s having no luck with the US men she dates she decides to splurge all her savings on a trip to a Jane Austen themed stately home in England, the stay culminates in a ball where she will be guaranteed a romance with one of the gentlemen there. It’s the Jane Austen equivalent to one of those murder mystery weekends which were so popular a wee while ago.

From the beginning her expectations are dashed when she discovers that she has only paid for the ‘copper’ experience, whilst her older and wealthier compatriot has opted for the platinum deal. Poor Jane is treated like the poor relation.

This film has many of the elements of a Jane Austen novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it, there were plenty of laugh out loud moments, it’s all very tongue in cheek of course, but I think Jane Austen herself would have had a good giggle if she had been able to watch it herself. I’ve just had a look at some film critic reviews of the film and it was only given 3 stars which I think is harsh. It is after all a rom-com and it drives me round the bend when people say that Jane Austen things are cliched – that just can’t be helped as everybody else has copied her down the years, somebody has to do things first!

If you want to see what else is on at the Kirkcaldy Film Festival this weekend have a look here.

Guardian Review Articles

I must admit that I’ve never read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I suppose I should have by now, but I’ve always thought it might be a bit too sad. If you are one of the many who have read it then you’ll be interested in this week’s Guardian review. As it’s the 50th anniversary of Plath’s death they have asked writers and poets to reflect on what her work means to them. You can read it here.

Elsewhere in the Guardian review there’s an article by bibliotherapists who explain the power of books to change your mood. If you’re interested have a look here.

And if it’s more about Jane Austen that you’re after you might like to take a look at the article headed Sensational,exotic,dramatic – in which Simon Callow writes about the new biography titled The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.

Lastly, have you heard that they’ve given Anne of Green Gables a make-over and she’s now a blonde!! Have a look at this article about it. As a redhead myself I’m not a happy bunny. Not only blonde but she now apparently has bedroom eyes. For goodness sake – she was a wee girl with red hair and freckles, and her appearance is quite a large party of the stories, why should she be dipped in bleach and sexed up. It’s sick.

Mainly Buffering – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

For the last week to ten days our internet connection has been desperately slow, so I haven’t been hopping around visiting quite as many places as frequently as I normally do. It has just been driving me up the wall – clockwise and in a buffering motion of course. I was feeling quite dizzy watching that circle go round and round, then sometimes it stops and starts turning ‘withershins’ – or in English, anti-clockwise. Honestly it’s so slow I could probably take my knitting out and get a row done whilst I wait, and then maybe another row!

I thought that the cavalry was arriving when Gordon turned up, I was thinking that maybe he could do the equivalent of ‘oiling the system’ as he’s a computer programmer – but no such luck. BT have been doing work in our part of Fife so that is probably the reason for the delays. Fingers crossed it gets better soon.

I have been flicking through the actual Guardian as usual and thought that some people might like to read the Pride and Prejudice article. It’s 200 years since P&P was published. You can see the article here. Sebastian Falks and PD James are amongst the contributors.

That linking wasn’t quite as painfully slow as yesterday so maybe it’ll be back to normal soon.

Jane Austen Guardian Quiz Answers

For some reason the Guardian hasn’t printed the answers to last week’s Jane Austen quiz online, so I’ve ended up scanning the answers which were in yesterday’s actual newspaper. You might have to click on the answers to enlarge the scan if the print is too small. If you haven’t seen the quiz you can see it below.

From the Guardian, 18th May.
I had a go at the quiz in Saturday’s Guardian Review. I was absolutely rubbish, it’s obviously long past the time when I should’ve been re-reading Jane Austen. If you want to try out your Austen knowledge, have a look here.

If you want to have a look at John Mullan’s accompanying article you can read it here.

At last – the answers!

The Guardian's Jane Austen quiz answers

I have to say that I think the Guardian website could be a lot better than it is. There’s nothing logical about it and you have to go mining down a big hole to find things which should be easily available. I think it’s the modern day equivalent to the old beloved Guardian of years gone by, when it was absolutely full of misprints and sentences often resembled the upturned word tin of a kid who was just learning to read. Affectionately known as The Grauniad – you’ve got to love it!

The Guardian’s Jane Austen Quiz

I had a go at the quiz in Saturday’s Guardian Review. I was absolutely rubbish, it’s obviously long past the time when I should’ve been re-reading Jane Austen. If you want to try out your Austen knowledge, have a look here.

If you want to have a look at John Mullan’s accompanying article you can read it here.

Book-wise it has been a slowish week because I’m still reading Wolf Hall, I have about 150 pages to go.

Creative Stitches – at Glasgow

I went to the Creative Stitches Exhibition at the SECC in Glasgow on Sunday, it was the first time I had been so I didn’t really know what to expect. It was hoaching/heaving with women and just a few men (not mine)! All sorts of crafts were featured and there were plenty of knitters and crochet folks about but I was a wee bit disappointed by the knitted things which were on display. As far as I could see there didn’t seem to be much in the way of traditional knitting nor anything really innovative. Thinking back to the 1980s which was when there was a last big resurgence in the craft I remember it as being more exciting somehow – yes knitting can be exciting!

It was quite difficult to get photos but I did just manage to snap some of the Downton Abbey costumes – as you can see.

Downton Abbey costumes

Downton Abbey costumes

Downton Abbey costumes

I took lots of photos of quilts and embroideries as that’s mainly what I’m interested in and I thought I’d start off with this one, a tribute to Jane Austen. It’s about a metre square I think and although this was part of the Quilter’s Guild Exhibition it also has a lot of embroidery on it.

Jane Austen Tribute

In fact I think it’s often quite difficult to figure out what is meant to be embroidery or quilting. The two crafts seem to cross over into each other’s territory a lot. I would call quite a lot of the exhibits collages, but whatever they’re called I’m just awestruck by the beauty of some of them. I’ll be posting some real crackers soon!

Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym

I haven’t read anything by Barbara Pym for about 30 years, I started reading her books in 1977 when Lord David Cecil said that she was a modern day Jane Austen, so obviously I had to give her a go like many other people, and I wasn’t disappointed.

She began to write Crampton Hodnet in 1939 just after the outbreak of war but war work got in the way and so it wasn’t actually published until 1985, after Barbara Pym had died.

I suppose a lot of the ingredients of Barbara Pym books are similar to Jane Austen’s – vicars, tea parties, humour, splendid spinsters, worried wives, bright young things, annoying relatives, bitchiness and gossip. Most of all though it’s the sharp observation of human beings which I like. Anyway it all adds up to an entertaining read which is set mainly in Oxford.

It was just what I needed to make me laugh after my exasperating experience with the character of Charity in the previous book which I read.

The Duke’s Daughter by Angela Thirkell

After watching all the horrible things which have been happening in the news from all corners of the world, I was in dire need of some light-hearted reading to take my mind off it all. This book fitted the bill perfectly and although I sometimes had a bit of difficulty keeping all the characters straight in my mind, especially when people who featured in earlier books are mentioned, I still found it really enjoyable.

This book was first published in 1951 and the upper class inhabitants of the county of Barsetshire are still grumbling about Them – by which is meant the Labour government of the day which seemed to be spending all of its time thinking up ways to tax the supposedly wealthier members of the poulation. Death Duties are a big worry to those who have money and the rest of them would no doubt like to have the luxury of having so much money that they had to worry about how much was going to be paid over to the government on their death!

As ever Angela Thirkell has purloined bits from various classic authors, most notably Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen and set it in her own time.

In this one there are quite a few characters being paired up at the end, to everybody’s satisfaction, and some of the more ghastly characters are nicely snubbed. I’m reading these books as I find them so not always in the correct order which is a wee bit annoying but I intend to read them again when I get the full set. No doubt the news won’t be any better then, whenever that may be.

I found this book in an antique centre, very reasonably priced and it’s a first edition, not that I’m ever bothered with that, but it does have the original dust jacket, a bit tatty, but it has comments on the back from luminaries of the time, a couple of them I haven’t heard of but here are a few of the comments.

‘Grace, wit, equanimity and engaging narrative power… if the social historian of the future does not refer to this writer’s novels, he will not know his business.’ – Elizabeth Bowen.

‘Mrs Thirkell possesses to a high degree the gift of making characters spring to life. She is often both witty and shrewd… she has a most observant, and often an attractively wicked, eye.’- C.P. Snow

I’ll just add – Angela Thirkell is well worth reading!

Chatsworth House Interiors

We went on a tour of Chatsworth before going into the parkland and even although it was quite early in the day it was packed with people. About half of them seemed to be Scots! Although there’s quite a lot to see, it’s obvious that only a fraction of the house is open to the public. I would love to know what the main staircase looks like as that’s usually the grandest part of stately homes.

Karen of Books and Chocolate was wondering if Chatsworth is what Jane Austen based Pemberley on in Pride and Prejudice. I read somewhere that Deborah Devonshire (the dowager duchess) believed that she recognised Chatsworth in Jane’s descriptions, and I suppose she should know. Jane does mention that Lizzie visits Chatsworth amongst other great houses in the Derbyshire area, the county does seem to have a plethora of them. But its the fact that Darcy’s sister is given the name Georgiana and that was the name of the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s wife who lived at Chatsworth in Jane Austen’s time which makes me think that she did really base Pemberley on Chatsworth. The house was used for parts of the 2005 P&P film, not a favourite of mine.

As you can imagine it’s just about impossible to get a photo without people in it but I took the one below of a stairway. I love the stairs themselves but I’m not so keen on the paintings, it’s all very heavy and dark looking but it fits in with the age of the house I suppose.


The ceiling in the photo below is of the room which was the 6th Duke’s dining room and it’s much brighter and airier with the crystal chandeliers and white and gold paint.

aCeiling and chandelier dining room

And this is the dining table, loaded with silver and looking wonderful. I’m so glad that I don’t have to clean all that silver though!

Dining table

I could have quite happily settled down in the library which is below, I think it would probably be one of the cosiest rooms in Chatsworth.


I might be blogging about the garden and parkland again tomorrow, that really was my favourite bit.

Flashback Challenge

I’ve been reading about all these book challenges that are going on and thought that it was about time that I signed up for one myself. The Flashback Challenge seems like a great excuse to re-read ‘old friends’ and I’m really enthusiastic about it, so I’m planning to read 12 books again, one for each month of the year – and here they are.

Flashback Challenge books

As I’ve never participated in a book challenge before, I’m just presuming that the idea is you write a review in your blog. Anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing with these books, although not particularly in this order.

1. The Enchanted April – by Elizabeth von Arnim.
2. Lark Rise – Flora Thompson.
3. And Quiet Flows the Don- Mikhail Sholokhov.
4. The Fortunes of War – Olivia Manning.
5. Strong Poison – Dorothy L. Sayers.
6. The Railway Children – E. Nesbit.
7. The Golden Age – Gore Vidal
8. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee.
9. Scenes of Clerical Life – George Eliot
10. Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie.
11. Kidnapped – R.L. Stevenson.
12. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier.

I’m looking forward to it.