A re-imagining of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey...Read More
A little while ago, I finished reading Captain Wentworth’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. It’s Persuasion from Captain Wentworth point of view told through his diary entries. This was the second time I’ve read the book. The first time, I must admit, I read it without having read Persuasion thinking that having watched the 2007 version, starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins, would give me all of the background I needed. I was mistaken. Even though, I found it enjoyable the first time around, I got so much more out of it after having read the original story, as it all fit together as it was intended. Amanda Grange beautifully painted a picture of Captain Wentworth’s feelings and I felt as if I got know him. From the moments of his growing love for Anne, through the heart break of Anne ending their engagement, and, finally, their reconciliation.
Of course, the entire time, I was picturing Penry-Jones as the Captain. I’m afraid that he will always be who I picture, as he played the role so well. I could even hear him narrate the letter as I read it. To me, the letter is the pinnacle of the story. All of his emotions are laid to bare and Amanda Grange built up the moment, so it was even more satisfying having been privy to his struggle the entire time. If you have not done so, pick up a copy. You’ll not regret it for an instant. It’s a story that every Jane Austen fan must read!
For me, this story starter was a lot of fun. A main character who dies time and again, but this time coming back to life even throws him for a loop, had a lot of possibilities. It inspired me to dabble in both time travel and magic, which was particularly great because it gave me the opportunity to incorporate my love of sci-fi with fantasy. The Mummy, Highlander, Doctor Who, and Jane Austen were all influences while I wrote this story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
To Jason: I’m sorry it took so long. I hope you like it!
All right, I remember dying. Again. Well, not like it was the first time, or the tenth, for that matter. But I remember a car accident…and this place looks like it’s never even heard of cars.
There was nothing from here to the horizon that even indicated there was another living soul nearby. After coming back to life so many times over the last few centuries, I had grown used to waking up in strange places. Never had I found myself in the same place that I had died. As if dying and coming back to life wasn’t disorienting enough, but practice has made acclimating easier even if it still took time to recover my memories.
Pulling myself up to a standing position, I cracked my neck. It felt unusually stiff and then I remembered the sharp pain I felt when my neck snapped as my car careened off of the cliff and impacted into the ground. It was a quick way to go, I’d give it that. Far less painful than some, but not one I’d care to repeat. As I remembered the specific how of this death, something else came to mind…the anger I had felt, the desperation, and the surprise when I pressed the brakes on my brand new car and nothing happened. I had been murdered, but I couldn’t remember why.
Hours had passed since I began wandering across the field I had woken up in, and still nothing. Not only could I not remember who it was that would want me dead, but I also began to wonder if I’d ever see civilization. It was beautiful though. The grass seemed greener than normal, the sky so clear and blue, and the air sweet. It reminded me of when I grew up, when the earth and the sky were still pristine, relatively untouched by the march of progress of man. It was eerily familiar.
Everything about this resurrection felt different, felt wrong, and there was a niggling feeling that I couldn’t quite settle upon. Every time it felt close enough to identify, it would recede into an untouchable part of my memory. So I did my best not to focus on it in the hopes that it would come into view on its own. But being all alone, surrounded by nothing but land and air made it difficult to stay distracted and keep my mind blank. I found my thoughts involuntarily drifting back to when I was a young man, to the day I first died. It started out as any other. I donned my cap and made my way to the stables to begin my day’s work. It was a job that I enjoyed immensely. The horses and I had a bond, and I do believe they were as happy to see me as I them and every time I would see the stable come into view I would break out into a smile and run the remaining distance to the entrance. Immediately I would get to work, picking up the pitch fork, so I could muck out the stalls. Granted this was my least favorite part, but if I did it first, I could spend the rest of the day grooming the horses and shining the saddles.
That day in particular, I had hopes of the master giving me permission to ride. He did so once every month as a reward for my hard work. He was a generous man and all of his servants respected him and that day I was going to choose Shade. He was a black horse with white spots, fifteen hands tall, beautiful lines and my favorite. I gave him a sugar cube when I came towards him, which he happily took out of my hand, then I gently patted him on his side as I moved into the stall to clean. It was then that I heard muffled sounds coming from a stall farther down. No one should have been there. It was just after sunrise. Taking a pitchfork firmly in hand, I went to investigate and the sounds grew louder as I approached the stall on the far end. My pulse was racing. Taking a slow breath to gather my courage, I peered into the stall and my eyes grew wide.
The mistress of the house in her fine green velvet dress was carrying on with the master’s friend, Duke Elton. A sound of surprise escaped my lips and they turned towards me. Fear creased the mistress’s brow upon being discovered, but there was something about the Duke’s eyes that was eerie and unsettling. The blacks of his eyes seemed to expand until no white was visible. My breath hitched as I stumbled backwards trying to maintain the distance that the Duke was steadily closing. I moved to position the pitchfork between myself and him then realized I had dropped it in my surprise. The Duke had it now and he pointed the sharp tines in my direction. They began to glow as he chanted something I didn’t understand. Then I felt an excruciating pain pierce my chest. I remember looking down at the pitchfork protruding from my body, still curious as to why it was glowing, but the last thing I remembered as my life faded away was the satisfied smile that sprawled across the Duke’s face.
I hadn’t thought about that day in a long time. It was clear that that moment is what cursed me with my current inability to stay dead. Or was it a gift? I could never decide. But why remember it now? The pain I felt in my feet from the hours of walking broke through my thoughts and I paused to look around and my jaw dropped. In front of me, as if no time had passed, was the stable. It was something I would never forget. Its white walls still a welcoming sight. I ran over to it, ignoring the painful protest coming from my feet, and peered through one of its several windows and there, in the first stall, was Shade. How is this possible? But that question would need to be answered later because the Duke walked in, and I would recognize him anywhere. He carried in his right hand a glass of wine which he sat down on the top of a barrel. He took out a silver blade that glinted in the sun and started chanting. He dragged the blade across his palm causing blood to flow, then let it drip into the cup mixing perfectly with the contents. The mistress of the house, wearing the same green velvet gown I had remembered, entered the stable. “My dear Duke,” she said, “my husband has been looking everywhere for you.”
“Well, you’ve found me,” he replied. “As you can see I was about to enjoy a glass of wine. Would you care to join me?” She looked at him a bit hesitant, but then seemed to think it the polite thing to do, because she said, “Very well.” He handed her the glass he had just spelled and she drank from it. Duke Elton looked quite pleased as he escorted her back to the main house. That niggling feeling in my mind began to eat away at me again, but this time I chased it until it was tangible. Excitement and confusion rushed me when I seized upon the truth. It was the Duke. He murdered me…again. Pieces came flooding back. My running into the Duke at the coffee shop, his unnerving interest in Emily, the love of my long life. I had to get back to her…somehow. I knew with every fiber of my being that she was in grave danger and I was the only one who could save her. In fact, I was on my way to do just that when…I moved to rub my neck once more.
I don’t know how the Duke managed it or if it was his intention, but he had sent me back in time. The question was, how do I get back? I shoved my hands into my pockets frustrated when I felt a piece of paper. Taking it out, I unfolded it. The text was familiar and the paper watermarked with the Duke’s family crest. I wished that I could remember how I got it. I looked at the Latin text more closely and, to my surprise, translated it easily. My memory was still spotty, but clearly I had taken the trouble to learn it. It was the spell that had sent me back in time, I was sure of it. According to the spell, the final thought at the time of death would seal the outcome. As I plunged to my death, I remembered that I was thinking of the first time the Duke killed me and I ended up here.
Every nerve ending seemed to be set on fire as I decided on a plan. I cautiously made my way into the barn remembering that the master of the house always kept a pistol hidden under the floor boards of the farthest stall in case of an emergency. It didn’t do me any good all those years ago, but… I pried up the floor board and removed the weapon, the irony of the situation not lost on me. This is where I died the first time. The gun felt heavier in my hand than I expected, cold and devoid of feeling. It was difficult to get a comfortable grip. Standing on the very spot I had died centuries before, gun in one hand and the spell in the other, I thought to myself, this has to work. I raised the gun to my temple and spoke the spell aloud, letting thoughts of Emily fill my mind. Our first meeting, her brown wavy hair cascading down around her shoulders, the blue of her dress setting her eyes a glow and a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts. As the picture of her enveloped my senses, I felt a sense of calm and certainty take root. I felt a smile spread from ear to ear and I pulled the trigger.
On my previous blog post, which you can read here. I listed my top 5 Jane Austen inspired movies, but left the question of whether Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would usurp one of those spots. On that count, my answer is no. On the whole I’m not a fan of zombies, and in this movie, the zombies were a little too much on the gross/creepy side for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the interactions were comedic, but I just have a hard time with zombies and mixing them with Jane Austen is one of the few ways to get me to watch them.
That being said, there were parts that I truly enjoyed. However, I must say that my favorite bits surprised me. Not in any version of Pride and Prejudice have I ever felt like I needed to see more Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but in this version they were the best characters. If I had to choose between the two, Matt Smith’s Mr. Collins, out right stole the show. Every scene he was in made me laugh, especially his interactions with Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball! His dance moves were something to behold.
If you were on the fence about watching this movie, see it for him. For those of you that like Zombies, definitely give it a watch. It’s worth watching once just to see that juxtaposition between Regency manners and zombie slaughter and, of course, for Matt Smith.
There are several movies that have used Jane Austen as the basis for story. From the likes of Bridget Jones’s Diary to Clueless, but just like with faithful adaptations I also have my favorites in this category. Now, I had thought about waiting to put this together until I get a chance to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, however I thought it would be more interesting to see if the movie ends up displacing one of my current Top 5. So without further ado here’s my list:
- Austenland, starring JJ Feild and Keri Russell. This one is just so much fun and pokes at the obsessive Jane-ite in us all. Who doesn’t want to fall in love with their own version of Mr. Darcy!
- Lost In Austen, starring Jemima Rooper and Elliot Cowen as Mr. Darcy. This fun excursion into the world of Austen has an excellent cast all around and for those Ichabod Crane fans out there, Tom Mison plays Mr. Bingley. Whenever I watch this, I hope that I would handle things a bit better than Amanda.
- Bride and Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Martin Henderson. Who would have thought that blending Austen and Bollywood could be so great!. If you like musicals as well as Austen, don’t miss this one. As a side note, for all of you Elijah fans from Vampire Diaries and The Originals, Daniel Gillies plays a fabulous Wickham.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary, starring Renee Zellweger and none other than Colin Firth, basically reprising his role as Darcy. However, this time his first name is Mark instead of Fitzwilliam. This version of Pride and Prejudice is just a great time.
- Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, starring Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth. If you like the first one, you’ll most likely enjoy the sequel.
Will Pride and Prejudice and Zombies displace any of the movies currently on my list? Stay tuned, because I’ll be seeing it this coming weekend.
Jane Austen’s Persuasion tends to get lost in the shadow of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, but I dare any woman to hear or read Captain Wentworth’s letter and not fall in love with him. His letter which is a mixture of hope and despair pulls at the heart and every time I read or hear it, I can hardly wait for Frederick’s and Anne’s reconciliation. Even though it does not appear in its entirety, watch 2007’s Persuasion to hear Rupert Penry-Jones deliver a beautiful dramatization of the letter.
Here is it in its entirety below:
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tone of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F.W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
Do you think it’s swoon worthy?
When I originally thought about putting this post together, I hadn’t considered restricting it. However, with the numerous amounts of adaptations out there I thought it best to narrow the focus down to adaptations set in the 1800s so I can do this list justice. Otherwise, I could never decide!
- Northanger Abbey: starring Felicity Jones & J.J. Feild
- Pride & Prejudice: mini series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
- Sense & Sensibility: mini series starringHattie Morahan & Dan Stevens
- Emma: mini series starring Romola Garai & Johnny Lee Miller
- Pride & Prejudice: starring Keira Knightly & Mathew Macfadyen because you simply don’t always have time to watch the mini series and, let’s face it, Matthew Mcfadyen looks great in a poet shirt. ;-)
What are your top five?
Jane Austen was born on this day 1775. Thank you for this delightful couple that inspired me to pick up the pen.
So, Erika Lance tagged me in the “7-7-7” challenge, which is to post seven lines starting at the seventh row of the seventh page of your current work in progress.
Below is an excerpt from my yet untitled work due to be out late next year, which is based on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
“God. There is no God in these circumstances and that thing was certainly not of God’s creation,” she shrank back from the waves of rage that rolled off me. Tears ran down Eleanor’s face, but I knew what I must do and she would not stop me. We embraced and reluctantly she released me so I could walk over to the doorway that was the harbinger of my future.
Tentatively, I tapped the space occupied by it with my finger which rippled in response to the contact. My finger seemingly unharmed, I was emboldened and inserted my hand. At first, there was some resistance like breaking the surface of a pool of water, but then nothingness