Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

So I had to take a break from finishing my review of Modesto Jane Con, as we had Valentine’s Day posts and some other things, but now I am ready to finish reviewing Modesto Jane Con.

So if you have been following me on social media, you know I have been super excited about Modesto Jane Con. The past eight years I have seen pictures from different Jane Cons and festivals and wished I could go-but they were not possible for me to attend as it always came down to a problem of time, money, work, etc. Instead I had to be content with seeing pictures on social media.

I’m sad…

But then Modesto Jane Con was created!

From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

Your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

That was it, I was going! And I convinced my book club + my sister to join me. I scrounged around for a costume (I’ll post on that later) and made sure to bring a notebook to take copious notes on the workshop and opera to-of course post on them later (as I am now).

So the first workshop of the day was Gowns & GroansAfter that you had your choice of The Definitive Darcy and Lizzie or Start You Own Book Club. The third workshop was your choice of Dressing the Regency Lady or Are You a Long-Lost Austen? Searching Your Family Tree.

So after Dressing the Regency Lady, we had about an hour and fifteen mins before the Mansfield Park Opera pre-show talk by Hillari DeSchane. We checked out a few things and had lunch, and then headed to the Opera.

The building was really cool as it was a classic theater showing old, foreign, & independent films that also hosts concerts & events. It has a snack bar that serves popcorn, wine, soft drinks, and espresso. I really wanted tea, but it didn’t serve any. Oh, well…

So quick review of the book, for those of you who might not have read it. Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, a sweet kind girl-niece to the Bertram family, who was sent to stay with the Bertrams. Instead of being treated as family, she is seen as “lesser” because of the “bad blood” inherited from her father who her mother “married down” to.

She is particularly mistreated by her evil aunt, Mrs. Norris, and two cousins; all of which take pride in bossing her around and being as cruel as can be. Fanny is the essence of sweetness, taking this injustice in stride and trying to remain optimistic in a bad situation.

The life of the Bertrams are interrupted when a Mr. Henry Crawford and Miss Mary Crawford come to visit their half-sister Mrs. Grant. Mary is set on winning the eldest Bertram, but finds her interest captured by the younger brother, Edmund,-even though he is intent on being a minister and Mary finds religion hypocritical. Fanny has loved Edmund since she was young, but he has never thought of her in such a way and he is now completely captivated by Mary. Henry Crawford’s sole interest is to upset the apple cart by going after the Bertram sisters for sport, having no intent of being serious or facing any consequences. Will the Bertrams and Fanny survive this?

That is not good,

The Mansfield Park Opera was a part of the Story into Song Literacy Initiative and worked with a lot of literacy advocacy organizations, (such as the Becoming Jane Austen Book Club, Modesto Library, Modesto Friends of the Library, and more) and half of the cast are making their solo professional debuts. Pretty amazing!

So like when I did my Psycho (1960) review, I brought my notebook and took notes in the dark of my thoughts of the performance. Hopefully I can still read them.

So we attended the preshow with Hillari DeSchane:

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

So the program gave a copy of the full talk, but I’m not going to write it word for word. I’ll just write my notes and paraphrase a bit.

So taking a book as long and complex as Mansfield Park and cutting it down to a two-hour opera is no easy feat. Mansfield Park is a “tapestry of human emotion and psychology.” (Deschane).

In the opera they strip the book down to the central theme and a small number of characters. The story is told as a chamber opera, more intimate-like a theater in the round. The opera itself is group centered, with no arias or being solo based.

The opera also focus on the theme of “The Fall of Man” and the “Expulsion from Eden.” Mansfield Park is Eden, a paradise, and each character is tempted by their own personal snakes, with many falling victim to their pleasures and “biting the apple”.

As seen with the recent TV show Sandition, there are many who think Austen needs to be sexier and steamier but truth is-they just need to remake Mansfield Park as it has it all: gambling, drinking, seduction, adultery-just full of thse vices without modern additions.

We really see the focus of this motiff in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. Here they explore Mr. Rushworth’s home in Sotherton, where they walk a “serpentine path”. Henry offers to explore with Maria Bertram while her fiance is gone, tempting her with the two being alone together, even singing “how tempting those pathways that lie hidden-how much sweeter are the joys we are forbidden.” Edmund is given the choice to wait with Fanny while she rests from the walk, or to go off with Mary alone-and he walks off with Mary forgetting all about Fanny on her own.

The ending was changed to be more happily ever after for all, (in the novel people have to face the consequences of their actions), but I didn’t mind too much.

So the ten characters we have are:

  1. Fanny Price (Alexandra Jernic)
  2. Edmund Bertram (Andrew Pardini)
  3. Mary Crawford (Angela Yam)- Professional Opera debut
  4. Henry Crawford (Emmanuel Mercado)
  5. Maria Bertram (Darby Schmidt)-Professional Opera debut
  6. Julia Bertram (Brylan Finley)- Professional Opera debut
  7. Mr. Rushworth (Luca Mitchell)- Professional Opera debut
  8. Aunt Norris (Alison Collins)
  9. Lady Bertram (Anakira Gabriella-Graça)
  10. Sir Thomas Bertram (Brad Reed)- Professional Opera debut

From The Modesto Bee. Left to Right: Lady Bertram, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price, Henry Crawford, Mary Crawford, and Edmund Bertram.

There is no Tom, although he is mentioned, and sadly no William Price who I love. Oh, well.

Sad really.

So the opera was AMAZING! As I mentioned in an earlier post the group of us who came varied in our knowledge of Mansfield Park. One book club member had never read or seen a film version of Mansfield Park (or any Jane Austen beside The Darcy Monologues), one book club member had seen the 2007 film version, my sister had seen the 2007 version and the 1999 version years ago, and I had read the book and seen the 1999 film, 2007 film, & the 1983 miniseries. However, all were able to follow the storyline and completely comprehend and bcome fully involved in the story.

We all loved the music and found everyone to be entertaining, talented, amazing, and that they completely captured the characters they were portraying.

Fanny was perfect! She had an amazing voice; along with perfect facial expressions. I’m not a big opera fan (as in I don’t watch them all the time), and this was my first time attending one, but one thing I have noticed when I’ve seen the films or clips of Operas is that they don’t always focus on the acting-more on the singing. Alexandra Jernic was spot on. The way she looked at Edward when singing, as if they were the only ones in the room. The incredible sorrow when seeing Edward and Mary together and knowing his preference for Mary over Fanny. Or the ball scene when all are happy and excited for what the night will bring, but Fanny who all this is supposed to be for her, but she is sad and alone as her love is excited to dance with another.

Mrs. Norris was just as perfect. You hated her as immediately-every time she sang and the way she acted toward Fanny, I don’t know if there has been a better one.

Mr. Rushworth was wonderful. He was kind caring, goofy, hilarious. It amazed me that he was only 18 when he was so talented.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the performance is that  each character had their own distinctive music, tone, and speed. For instance Mr. Rushworth’s was fast and quick, just like how his character spoke in the book and sang-while Henry’s music was slower, softer, more seductive.

We also loved seeing the costumes and how they looked on the performers, as in an earlier workshop we saw the swatches. We also kept an eye out for Kristine Doiel’s favorite dress of the production, the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got:

But the one who stole the show for me was Angela Yam, Mary Crawford.

Every time she entered the stage all my attention went to her. She had an amazing voice and was equally amazing in her acting. One of the best scenes was when she and Edward first see each other, the way she doesn’t sing anything other than hello, but her whole body language is changed. The rest of the scene continues in the way she acts and looks. It was fantastic. That continued throughout the whole Opera as she was able to convey sooo much in her tone, a look, a motion. I was surprised this was her debut as she just blew me away. I stopped taking notes as I just wanted to enjoy her performance.

We had to leave after the opera and head home, but we did all the way humming, singing, and talking about how much we enjoyed it.

It was a wonderful experience and I am so happy to have been able to watch it. If I could have, I would have stayed the next day and watched it again.

For more on Modesto Jane Con, go to Modesto Jane Con: Looking Around the Library, Lunch, and a Crazy Random Happenstance

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more Mansfield Park adaptions, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

For more Hillari DeSchane, go to Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

For more Opera, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 8, Ill Repute

Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

So Modesto Jane Con was this past weekend. From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

I, unfortunately, could only go on Saturday, but I had so much fun and I can’t wait until the next one! If there is a next one…

So your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

I dressed up for the event (I’ll post on that later) and brought a reticule my sister made. Reticules are tiny, so I couldn’t pack everything in my bag-just the essentials. Debit card, credit card, ID, fan, gloves, pens, glasses (as I was wearing contacts) and a handkerchief. I wasn’t too worried about the size of the reticule though, as I had planned on purchasing one of their cute tote bags.

I also brought my notebook, as I planned on taking notes and later posting them (as I am now).

Our group was traveling from 1.5-2 hours away (depending on that CA traffic) and left around seven and arrived a little after 8:30. We actually headed to the theater as I was looking at the wrong event. You know me and navigating, I always get lost!

I then redirected our group, and we went to the library. We easily checked in and finished just as they announced the first workshop: Gowns & Groans

So of course, we were excited about this workshop. We wanted to learn more about the Regency gowns and who can resist the chance to snark about costumes?

Let the snark begin!

This workshop was run by Kristine Doiel and Hillari DeSchane

“Costumes have a coded language all their own. They can transport us back to Austen’s time and speak volumes about the characters, or they can be a constant distraction and prevent us from losing ourselves in the unfolding drama. Join veteran costumer Kristine Doiel on a lively, and likely to be controversial, stroll through this Regency costume Hall of Fame and Shame.”

Kristine Doiel is a costume designer and theater educator with over 50 theater and dance productions to her credit. A lecturer at Fresno State since 2017, she has taught costume and theater classes and mentored student designers. Awards include the UC Davis Provost’s Fellowship in Arts, the Princess Grace Foundation Theater Grant and a Dramalogue Award for costume design for The Rivals in Santa Barbara.

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

Picture by Arnold Chavez

So Doiel started off the workshop talking about her background; moved onto the judging of the film depictions, finished with her experiences in costuming the Mansfield Park Opera, and concluded with a Q&A.

Part I: Doiel’s Background

Doiel shared that didn’t have a background in Regency wear, and had to do research on it-being an archeologist, literary analyst, and art historian all in one. I enjoyed this aspect of her talk as you don’t really think about that when watching a film or performance, that not only do the clothes have to be accurate-but they have to reflect the action of the scene, the context of the characters, and the literature of the piece.

That’s a lot

It reminded me of when I studied art history and how you looked at the art and what it was saying, but at the same time also looked into what was happening at the time and how that influenced it. There are many layers you have to work through-such as a self portrait of an artist wearing red, blue, and white takes on a different meaning when it was created post-French revolution, such as to show liberty, fraternity, that is one of the new citizens, etc.

Part II: Gowns & Groans

The next part of the discussion was Doiel reviewing the clothing choices in Mansfield Park (1999), Mansfield Park (2007), and Pride and Prejudice (1940).

So to start with, I do not like Mainsfield Park (1999). 

Not for me..

Eventually I will review it, but as for now-we will get back to the clothes.

Gowns:

Doiel felt that quite a bit of the costumes in here were accurate. Lady Bertram wore flimsy, lacy gowns that looked like something the wealthy class would wear, but older-late 1700s and post-French Revolution. It fits as Lady Bertram wouldn’t be at the height of fashion, but wearing something more her time. Maria, Julia, and the men were all accurate.

Groans:

So here is the good part, let’s start talking trash! J/K, Doiel was very kind in her remarks, trying to not be too judgmental and try to reason why a certain outfit would have been picked.

The first offender: Fanny Price played by Frances O’Conner

So in this Fanny wears a lot of what looks like a jumper or vest over a shirt. This is not accurate at all. Instead the film, which is one reason why I can’t stand it, doesn’t follow the book at all when it comes to Fanny’s character. Instead, they turn Fanny into Jane Austen, and emphasize the writing aspect, dressing her in this more masculine, “writing type” outfit. I call it a “writing type” outfit as when I saw this the first time it made me think of Jo in the 1933 version and she was a writer. It also is similar to what Jo wears in the 2019 version of Little Women.

The other offender: Mary Crawford.

All of Mary’s clothes were too contemporary. I mean look at the dress above, it is something that we were wearing at the start of the millennium, rather than 185 years earlier. remember wearing sleeves like that on my clothes.

She also has an outfit with a giant collar, that is just what? Doiel pointed out that the person in charge of wardrobe would have the resources and done the research on what was accurate and somebody (whether them, the studio, actor, or the director) picked this for a purpose. Doiel didn’t know why, but guessed that either the director or actor wanted something more modern to relate to audiences.

Mary’s outfits definitely were the worst.

So Mansfield Park (2007) is not the most accurate of films, as they cut a lot out to keep it at standard movie time length-however I am apparently one of the few that actually enjoys it.

Gowns: 

She didn’t talk about any she liked as it was time to move onto the next section.

Groans:

The offender here was Billie Piper as Fanny Price.

So Doil noticed that Piper wore a wide range of styles and thought maybe it was so varied as the production wanted her to be wearing hand-me-down gowns. There is a diamond dress that she wears that is completely inaccurate to the time period. Also her hair is one hundred percent wrong, as it is too modern, and she would have had it pinned up as she isn’t a young child. I think that is an interesting comment in light of the Emma Vogue photo shoot. 

The other outfit that Doiel pointed out as wrong was the white wedding dress Fanny wears at the end of the film. White wedding dresses only became popular after Queen Victoria, prior to that they were colored dresses. I disagreed with this as I thought the white dress was more a comment on Fanny’s innocence, sweetness, and morality versus being white to be in with what is in fashion today. I mean, after all this takes place after an affair, a love proved false, and all the manipulations by the Crawfords. Plus, it is a foil to Maria’s dress who had opulence (check out that hat) and color, Fanny’s being plain not because of what she was forced to wear (as I am sure Sir Thomas would have bought her a different dress), but a testament to her character. But that’s just my thoughts…

The last one we looked at was Pride and Prejudice (1940) a film I love, but apparently a lot do not.

Gowns:

Nothing was accurate.

Groans:

The film was set in the 1830s instead of the Regency period and no one quite knows why. Some say it was because Gone With the Wind was so popular and they wanted to use costumes like that. Others say it was because the Regency gowns seemed too plain. Others believe it was more cost effective to use these gowns than create new ones. Doiel thought that they might have picked such extravagant costumes as England was having to o with sparse materials, “mend and make do” as the slogan goes, and seeing such fun fabric and opulence would raise spirits. I don’t know if we will ever know…

Hmmm

Doiel said that she felt that this style works for Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia as it is extravagant, frivolous, oversized, and fits their characters.

However, with Elizabeth, it works against her.

*Sigh* Laurence Olivier looks great, but he is wearing pants instead of breeches (as are the other men (see below on the view of pants) and Colonel Fitzwilliam wears a kilt (?).

That’s where we ended, although I wished they had discussed Mansfield Park (1983) as that one has some doozies in choices. I mean look at their hair.

From left to right: Edmund Bertram, Mary Crawford, and Mr. Yates

Part III: Costuming Mansfield Park, the Opera

So Doiel said that when costuming something that takes place in the past, buying the right type of fabric can be a problem. You need something that looks right on stage, fits together as a whole (in color and style), and needs to be accurate as to something they would wear.

Doiel did say that she was fortunate in this Opera to be able to reuse costumes from an earlier production, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley that had been done in December 2019.

She brought swatches in of the different fabrics for each characters costumes, and me and my group really liked that. We all enjoyed the closeup look and when we watched the performance later in the day, looked at the costumes and remembered what we had seen earlier in the workshop. We also loved that her mom, who helped her sew and cut things out, was there. It was so sweet how she helped hand out the swatches and supported her. I had tried to take a picture of the one for Fanny, but the people in my row wanted me to pass it along and the pic came out blurry.

But Lynne Marcus, one of the organizers from Modesto Jane Con, sent me a pic a friend of hers took.

Doiel’s favorite dress of the production was the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got.

She also loved the Navy suit that Edmund wears as she made it.

Part IV: Q & A

Doiel ended the session by answering questions and talking about Regency wear. Breeches were standard menswear. Pants, or pantaloons as they were called, were not to be worn by the upperclass. They were said to cause a scandal because they showed everything too well-even though in reality breeches showed more. But you know how I feel about that!

This should say breeches instead of pants, but I didn’t write this so it gets a pass. It was an instagram answer from a question I asked my followers.

She said that pants were worn only by the lower class workers, so wearing them was seen as trashy.

Someone asked about the muslin we have today versus then, and she said it is different. The muslin sold in stores today is mostly white and work wear, instead of dress wear. Back in the Regency period it would be block printed, decorated, different colors, and came from India. The muslin was semi-sheer and lightweight, like cotton. Of course whenever I think of Muslin I think of:

India greatly influenced what people wore-in colors, patterns, and of course ladies adopting the use of a pashmina. I had noticed that when I was trying to find something to wear to Jane Con.

From Emma (1996)

Women and men always wore gloves when going out of the house. Doiel mentioned how they weren’t doing that in the Opera as it was too difficult with all the clothing changes. That means that that hand clench scene in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice never should have happened as both Darcy and Elizabeth should have been wearing gloves.

One woman asked about lace, and lace was very in fashion. It came from India or France (probably not as much from France at this time as England and France had been fighting) and was used on hemlines and sleeves.

My book club + sister really enjoyed this discussion. We wished that Doiel had judged the costumes a bit more, (as who doesn’t like a good rip ?), but understood that she was trying to be fair.

We loved that she stayed on topic-discussing only the clothes instead of the actual films. We would have liked to hear her thoughts on more films or more on costuming the show, but understood we only had an hour and had to be a bit limited to have enough time to cover everything.

DeSchane did a great job moderating the workshop, with her interesting questions and keeping an eye on how much time we had.

We loved it and learned a lot. In fact, later we watched the 1983 Mansfield Park and discussed what we learned in this when we looked at the costumes.

This workshop.

For more on Regency clothes, go to Muslin: The Fabric of Jane’s Life

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more on Jane Austen, go to Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen

Once Upon a Time There Were Three Sisters…

So I was trying to figure out how to review the beginning of Mansfield Park as it is a little different from her other books. It is more like Sense and Sensibility with a bit of a backstory on the three sisters, Fanny’s mom and aunts.

Hmm…

The more I thought of it, the more it made me think of a fairy tale opening, I mean you have three sisters that only one marries well-it kind of made me think of the folktale The Three Sisters, Cinderella, One Eyes, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes, etc. So that is how I am going to treat this-like a fairy tale.

Our story starts many years ago (thirty to be exact): Once upon a time there were three beautiful girls: a Miss Ward, a Miss Maria Ward, and a Miss Frances Ward. These ladies were lovely, but unfortunately:

The second sister married first, and had the extreme luck to catch the eye of a Baronet, Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park. The two married and she became Lady Maria Bertram.

Lady Bertram exalted in her success, a lady! Such an elevated status was a beautiful thing to behold!

Her family were in sweet felicitations over the event as well, especially her older and younger sister who hoped that such a marriage would also give them their own happily ever after. Unfortunately, this is not that type of story.

The other two of these sisters were so unlucky that nothing ever succeeded with them, the eldest, Miss Ward, after six years was finally able to win a husband, a Reverend Norris. He was friend of her brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Bertram, and having no fortune, Sir Thomas kindly bestowed the living and parsonage of Mansfield-so that this sister was cared for all her life.

The youngest sister, no less pretty, had the worse luck of all. She married a “lieutenant of marines, without education, fortune, or connexions[sic],” and became Mrs. Price.

Sir Thomas would have easily done all he could to have helped his brother-in-law (as pride made him wish all in connection to him were of an upstanding position), although his profession was something that he had no easy hand involved in.

But alas, before any such things could have been put into motion, a terrible and destructive row was set up betwixt the sisters. The eldest sister had a thorny heart and her temper was not easily assuaged. She immediately sent forth the most powerful soldier in her arsenal-an angry letter. Lady Bertram thought no longer of her sister-out of sight out of mind-except that Mrs. Price was spurned on by the missile and fired off one of her own.

And as it goes, the sisters were locked in bitterness and the bonds broken betwixt them.

Eleven years passed by and the Prices went further and further into poverty. The Prices had fallen into such poverty that Mrs. Price was faced with the decision of whether to swallow her pride or continue the separation.

Mrs. Price had lived a disheartening and dark life. “A large and still increasing family, an[sic] husband disabled for active service, but not the less equal to company and good liquor, and a very small income to supply their wants…” With every passing day she grew more unsure what to do next, how to survive.

She became pregnant with her ninth child, and with this child was born a renewed hope, and she sent a missive to Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, full of “contrition and despondence, such a superfluity of children, and such a want of almost everything else, as could not but dispose them all to a reconciliation.”

Mrs. Price hoped and prayed they would take one of her sons, any of them and raise them in a wonderful fashion. But instead the choose the eldest girl?

The eldest girl, Fanny, was a lovely and sweet-natured girl. Kind, humble, quiet. Mrs. Price was puzzled at first as why they choose her, but eagerly sent the child on her way.

The new child was quiet, scared, unsure. She would often tuck herself away in the chimney corner to sit quietly.

Her two eldest cousins, Tom and Edmund, were seventeen and sixteen. Tom, the eldest, ignored her, while Edmund looked upon her kindly as any sixteen year-old would look upon a ten year old. The two younger, female cousins were a different story. Maria, thirteen, and Julia, twelve, did everything that they could to make her unhappy. The poor girl, Fanny, bore everything patiently and dared not complain to any.

For more Fanny Price, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

Anna Karenina Made Me View Maria Bertram-Rushworth and Mary Crawford Differently

So my second year in college I took a history class, History 202-16th Century to Modern times, with a Professor O’Malley. Professor O’Malley loved Russian history, and that was his forté, so we spent a lot of class discussing Russia, reading Russian novels, and watched a Russian film.

Hmm…

One thing Professor O’Malley would say is that (and I’m paraphrasing)

“Russian stories are not like Jane Austen. They all end sadly. Austen would have figured out a way to make it be happily-ever-after.”

Now whether or not you or I agree with that statement (feel free to comment below what you think about it)-two things have always stuck with mew. 1) Professor O’Malley either read or watched an Austen book or movie (or read about her work) and 2) every time I read or watch a Russian novel or film-I always think is this like Jane Austen or the opposite of her?

Hmmm…

I have never read the book Anna Karenina, but it is on my to-read list. I haven’t gotten to it yet because it is a gigantic book and I know that with the Russian literature the characters use multiple names, so confusing, so I’ve just stalled from it.

I have always wanted to see the film though-the 1948 Vivian Leigh one. I cannot stand Keira Knightley and will avoid her films as much as possible because I think she is a horrible actor.

As an actress not a person.

So even though Mr. O’Malley didn’t think that Russian literature had anything to do with Jane Austen-when I was watching Anna Karenina (1948) all I could think of was Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Hmmm

Anna Karenina was published as a serial from 1873-77 by Leo Tolstoy-it is divided into eight parts and has over a dozen major characters. In my opinion, what it boils down to is the story lines of two characters-Anna Karenina and Konstantin “Kostya” Dmitrievich Lëvin/Lyovin. The movie doesn’t really showcase the second character, so I’m going to focus on the former, as the movie does.

Countess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina is one of the most beautiful women in Russia. The book and film, starts with her heading to St. Petersburg to visit with her brother, Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky, who’s affair with his children’s governess has been discovered. When traveling she visits with Countess Vronskaya and talk about their sons-showing pictures. Countess tells Anna how his son is supposedly engaged, but she doesn’t believe the womanizing man is ready to settle down-she sees it in “his eyes”.

He’s a bad boy-womanizer

When the train stops, Anna meets Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. She is nice and goes off with her brother-but the Count is struck by her and that’s it. He is set on going after her.

I want her!

Anna helps with her brother’s marital problems, ironing everything out, and encourages her sister-in-law, Princess Ekaterina “Kitty” Alexandrovna Shcherbatskay, fiancé to Count Vronsky. They go to a ball and the Count completely ignores Kitty telling her “I didn’t see you” when she is right next to him.

Way harsh,

He pays attention all night to Anna. Anna enjoys it because her husband is too busy for her, too busy caring for Russia as he is an important politician. But after the ball, she heads home as she knows Vronsky’s attentions are wrong (and too tempting) and she’s sad she hurt Kitty.

Vronsky follows Anna on the train and from then on pursues her nonstop. We see that Anna has had a good life. She married a wealthy and powerful man for security-but he doesn’t give her any attention. All she wants is for his focus, for him to take her to the opera-but he’s made other plans with state officials.

She goes on her own-where her “shadow” as everyone calls it-Count Vrosky, is there. She succumbs to him.

Anna Karenina: If you have any thought for me you will give me back my peace!

Count Vronsky: There can be no peace for us, only misery, and the greatest happiness.

Dude, she asked you to leave her alone, SO LEAVE HER ALONE!

Ugh, this guy!

They begin an affair, which no one cares about her stepping out (as all do it in society) except that Anna doesn’t hide it. In fact, she and Vronsky want to run off and get married, but her husband, Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, won’t divorce her.

This space between them has been in the beginning of the movie and continues.

Anna grows extremely ill and almost dies (in the book it is from a rough pregnancy, in the film they make it more nerves related). Count Alexei forgives her, and wants to stay with her-realizing that she is a real person and he loves her.

But it is too late for Anna, who leaves him and she and Vronsky end up in Italy. They grow uhappy as Anna is separate from her son, never able to see him again, and can not go out in society.

When they return to Russia-Vronsky can go out to parties, the opera, even has a princess wanting to marry him-but Anna is stuck at home. She is the one that made all the sacrifices to be together and is trapped in the cell she created as she is a marked woman, the scarlet letter A is metaphorically burned into her forehead.

She grows more agitated and crazed and upset-trapped in the house and the bad decision she made. In the end she kills herself by jumping in front of a train.

Nooooooooooooooo

Yes, it is very sad.

I’m going to hide under the covers with my ice cream

So how does it make me think of Mansfield’s Park‘s Maria and Mary?

Hmmm

Well in Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry visit the Bertram home. Mary originally decides to go after the eldest brother, but falls for the second son, Edmund. Her brother isn’t set on anyone, but flirts with Mary and Julia Bertram, even though Maria is engaged.

Devilish grin must stay grinning…

Later, Henry goes after Mary’s cousin Fanny Price, but she turns him down. He runs into the married Maria and the two run off together, but do not marry. For Henry he is disheartened to lose Fanny, but it hasn’t really hurt him. Yeah people will talk, but it will blow over in time. He’ll have lots of women after him to marry.

It’s no big deal

But the women, are not so lucky.

Both Maria and Mary are very damaged from the dalliance. Maria ends up divorced and living with her single aunt, kicked out of society, estranged from the rest of her family, never to be married again or have any children. Her life is pretty much over. Mary loses the man she is in love with and it isn’t certain she will recover from this. Unfortunately, Mary’s reputation is tied to her brother and severely damaged.

So unlike Anna, I really do not like Maria at all. She is mean, rude, cruel, a total jerk-so when she everything goes down, I have to admit, I feel very much like “Just desserts” was served.

Sucks to be you

However, after watching this I started thinking of her different-I still don’t like her, but I viewed her differently.

Hmm…

So Anna married an older, wealthy, powerful man. It may have been for wealth, security, power, a family alliance-we don’t quite know. We do know that it isn’t for love as she says she’s never been in love until Vronsky. Now Count Alexei isn’t a bad man, just too focused on himself and Russia. He reminds me of Torvald Helmer in a Doll’s House, and how he never viewed his wife as a person but an object, his doll. Count Alexe doesn’t think he needs to give Anna any attention, as she is already a part of his collection. He never thinks of her as a real woman with needs, emotions, desires, until she almost does and realizes that he could lose her.

Anna could have lived a good life with him, maybe not an extremely happy life, or romantic one, but a good one. The Count is a bit narcissistic, but it could have worked out. The same is true with Maria. Now we know that Maria choose Mr. Rushworth him for his wealth and power, there was no love on her side, just £12,000 a year (making him the wealthiest character in any Jane Austen novel).

And the same would have been for her. Maria wouldn’t have had a perfect, or romantic, or completely happy life-but she would have had a good one. She had her home, friends, society, and eventually children. Both women would have had good marriages if they continued.

Unfortunately, each has a man come waltzing in who doesn’t care and won’t leave them alone. Now Anna does the right thing and tries to leave. She doesn’t want to go down that path. Maria on the other had, she enjoys it and encourages it (that’s another reason I don’t like her).

But the thing that really bothered me was the men. I mean we don’t see it in Mansfield Park as much because the story is not focused on Maria as Fanny is away from her. But in Anna Karenina we see how awfully she is treated. She’s ruined in society, she can’t go anywhere, she becomes trapped in the house-and the Count he no longer loves her.

WHAT!!!!

Yes, the Count wanted her when she was beautiful, the belle of the ball, the one everyone desired.

But after, when more problems arose than were solved, when his happiness was not achieved by a person, he begins to resent her. He hates being trapped in the house and as he is a man, the scandal just rolls off his back and he can move forward and date a princess! He doesn’t get why she is so upset about how she is being treated, he doesn’t understand her loss of her child, her fear of losing him and being alone, etc. And he’s basically like “girl why you mad, you shouldn’t be upset.”

Ugh!

The same is with Henry Crawford, like Maria we don’t see everything that happens to him, but we know all he has to do is go into the country for a bit, and then he can be back and out in society. He’s not going to be seared with the “red letter”, be estranged from his family (his uncle probably loved it), never get married (unless it is by choice), never have children (unless by choice), etc.

Me with Henry Crawford and Vronsky.

So while watching Anna Karenina didn’t make me like Maria and Mary better, but it did make me feel sorry for them that they receive the brunt of the outfall of the affair while the men get to take off and live their lives.

It also makes so angry that these men pursued these women when they were off limits.

True Henry was only doing it for fun-but still. These men did that knowing that nothing could happen to them, and doing their best seduction to trap them.

You jerks!

Ugh, after watching this I hate Vronksky and Henry even more than before.

I kind of debated adding this to Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, but I wasn’t sure. It is such a sad movie-and so sad what happens to her-I don’t know if I would recommend it. I might put it on the Mansfield Park page though.

Hmm…

And in conclusion, Professor O’Malley you are wrong. Jane Austen and Russian stories are similar-and Jane Austen doesn’t end happily-ever-after for everyone.

For more Mansfield Park, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

For more Maria Bertram, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen

For more Mary Crawford, go to The Heartbreak Kid

For more Henry Crawford, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MATURE

Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MATURE

 

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues edited by Christina Boyd

So here we are with the final post, the conclusion to Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. It is always nice to finish something you start, but at the same time sad that it is ending.

Aw…

So quick review. For those of you who missed posts 1, 2, & 3Dangerous to Know is a compilation novel of the bad boys of Jane Austen-Mr. Willoughby, Mr. Wickham, Captain Tilney, General Tilney, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Thorpe, and more.

A great thing about this book is that with these men, besides Wickham, we don’t know that much about their past or who they are. Most only play a small role-but have a big impact. This allows the authors a ton of wiggle room and almost anything can happen.

As these are rakes, rogues, & villians-they aren’t the best of men. Their stories being sexy

And I just want to say thank you to Christina Boyd for including this little chart to help you:

Mature Content Guidelines:

  1. None: Possible kissing and affection.
  2. Mild: Kissing.
  3. Moderate: Some sexual references but not explicit.
  4. Mature: Some nudity and some provocative sex.
  5. Erotic: Explicit, abundance of sex.

Because not everyone is interested in books like this:

It’s nice giving us a head’s up, so those that aren’t interested know to skip or skim, or those that do-can enjoy.

Something for everyone

So first we had the none posts, which had stories on Captain Fredrick Tilney, General Tilney and John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey; along with Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion. I loved these stories as some of these men I love to hate and it made me hate them ever more: And some men I have hated and actually began to like them:

What! It did all that? Wow!

Then came the mild posts. I was really surprised with these stories as they were on Tom Bertram from Mansfield Park and Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I had never thought of these two as rogues, mostly because they have two of the biggest, baddest Austen rogues-Henry Crawford and George Wickham. The stories were really good and sucked me in, making it very hard to stop reading.

Then came the moderate. These had stories on Frank Churchill from Emma, Mr. Elliot from Persuasion, and Mr. Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility. I really enjoyed them as each author gave us a fresh view into the characters-before they enter the Austen novels. They really fleshed those men out while making me still hate those guys.

This last one will be Mature-Some nudity and some provocative sex. So with out further ado-bring on the bad boys!

A Wicked Game by Katie Oliver

So we start off with George Wickham, Austen’s most notorious bad boy. Reams upon reams have been written about him.

 George Wickham was raised with Mr. Darcy and frittered away the money the elder Mr. Darcy left for his education; later tried to take off with Darcy’s sister; ran up debts all over town while smearing Darcy’s name; and runs of with Lydia Bennet. He’s one really bad boy.

This story begins in 1812, with Wickham fighting for the British army and is struck by the enemy. As he is injured, his life flashes before him and he finds himself wanting. He thinks back to where he all started on this profligate path:

We travel back to Derbyshire 1800. Wickham is heading to church with Mr. Darcy Sr and Jr. It is the summer before he is to start his first year at Cambridge and he is a restless young man.

Especially today as he finds church dull. (And this guy seriously thinks he is going to be a minister?) But then he spots her, a vision-Lady Clémence Harlow, widow and sister-in-law to Mrs. Fanshaw. He gets to meet the beautiful and stylish woman and is smitten.

The Fanshaws join the Darcy’s for dinner and Wickham sits across from Lady Harlow so he can spend the whole night looking at her.

While at the table-Wickham realizes how dissatisfied he is with his life. Everything is plotted and planned by Mr. Darcy Sr., he has no say. He would love anything out of this blueprint-such as the lovely Lady Harlow, which the Darcy’s can’t stand. He’s at a crossroads and leaning toward the crazy path, more than the steady one.

Which way should I choose?

That night a big storms comes up, so the Fanshaw party has to remain at Pemberley. Wickham approaches Lady Harlow for a bit of flirting and she plans to meet him later-in his room.

He waits for her to come, but she never does. At one point he thinks he hears angry voices and a door closing-but Lady Harlow never appears-except in his dreams.

The next day he is grumpy and mad at Lady Harlow for standing him up. She conspires to get them alone and apologizes, blaming it on the brandy they drank. She invites him to walk with her and they take off into he woods. They can’t stay too long and return to the house. Lady Harlow promising that they will have a chance in the future.

Wickham is grim until a ball at cousin Fitzwilliam’s house occurs. The Fanshaw family is going too, this could be his night. Mr. Darcy Sr, doesn’t like Lady Harlow and cautions Wickham against her, but he doesn’t care.

Or what I’m doing!

He finally gets a chance to dance with Lady Harlow that night and the two make plans to run off to a hotel and France together.

He makes his way out there, pretending to be traveling with a friend, but using him as a cover. His friend tries to warn him that things won’t go well-Lady Harlow is not the woman for him, but he won’t listen.

He gets in the room and the two:

But in the morning there is no Lady Harlow…just Darcy!

What?

Okay, not like that-they aren’t in bed together or anything. Wickham wakes up to Darcy in the room. Lady Harlow never intended to take him with her, she used him to get what she wanted and for Darcy to pay her off, £500.

What?

It turns out the lady is a gold digger. First she tried to seduce Darcy, when that failed to be “compromised” into marriage, and lastly use Wickham to wrangle some cash.

Wickham continued down his path, but as his life is saved in Spain he looks at life with new eyes-seeing that he should change the person he is and become better.

Hmmm….I need to rethink my life’s choices

Thoughts After Reading:

I thought it was an interesting view into Wickham, a softer side if you will. I liked seeing Wickham made a fool of, he angers me down to my core so I took great pleasure in it. But then you realize that he pulls the same scam on Georgina, what scum.

Forget you!

Last Letter to Mansfield by Brooke West

Oh Henry Crawford, one of the biggest rakes and rogues in all of Austen’s work. He is taken charge of his sister, Mary,  when his Uncle scandalously moves the mistress into the house. He and his sister visit the Bertram family where he flirts with the engaged elder sister Maria and the younger sister, Julia. Later, he decides to bring their cousin Fanny into his web, but ends up falling for her.

That wasn’t part of the plan…

Fanny seeing that Henry is no good, sidesteps him. Later, he and married Maria take off together. He and his sister try to get him back in Fanny’s good graces, but no dice with Fanny.

I was really interested in this as I have always wondered what the heck was going through Henry’s mind? Why run off with a married woman?

October 1809

So the story starts off after all that happened. Henry is trying to write a letter to Fanny to beg her back. He’s been with Maria for months, but wishes it was Fanny. He is dying to go back, but…can’t. He tells her that he din’t want to seduce Maria, had no plans to…

We go back…

September 1809

Henry and Maria have been together for a while. Maria is angry and getting ready to leave as nothing turned out how she wished. Maria loved being in charge at Mansfield Park as the eldest woman, then as Mrs. Rushworth, but now she is a scandal and staying at an inn in the middle of nowhere. Henry keeps trying to get rid of her-but she doesn’t want to leave-she has nowhere to go.

So what happens now?
So what happens now?
Where am I going to?
[Peron:] You’ll get by, you always have before
[Mistress:] Where am I going to?
[Eva:] Don’t ask anymore -Hello and Goodbye from Evita

Maria hoped to be with the sexy, charming man rather than her simple husband and is angry that nothing has come from it. Henry blames Maria for seducing him-and causing him to lose his love.

Wow, real mature. You need to take responsibility for YOUR actions.

Henry spends as much time away from Maria but returns every night and uses her for sex-wanting to hurt her, making her cry every night.

Eventually, Maria gives up and leaves with her Aunt Norris, the only one who doesn’t hold her responsible for her sins.

Henry goes home to his sister, Mary. Poor Mary, I actually feel sorry for her. She went from the scandal of her uncle to the scandal of her brother. Unfortunately, the men will go on but what about her? She’s too sullied by them.

Five Months Earlier

Henry and Maria  met up again and they had a night of fun together. Henry hopes to walk it off, no needs to know-but Maria craves it. She hopes to run off with him and have him marry her-even going as far as to follow him when he leaves for home. She had planned to trap him, and Henry in his vanity fell right in it.

Oh no!

London 1799

18-year old Henry and his uncle are out together, his uncle deciding it is time for his nephew to become a “man”. His uncle buys him his first, Arabella- beautiful young woman. She teaches him how to make love

He loves being with her and seeks her again and again, something his uncle notices and does not care for, as women are nothing but tools to be used.

This dude

One day he goes to be with her and finds his uncle on top of her.

After that, they were all the same to him-somethig to have his needs met, nothing more. Basically the Joe of Say Anything:

Corey Flood: Hi Joe, How are you? I love you.

Joe: I love you too.

Corey Flood: You invade my soul

Joe: I want to get back together, Mimi is gonna go to college and I’m gonna be alone and I’m gonna break up with her before she leaves, have sex with me.

Until Fanny, but that’s over.

He finishes his letter to Fanny, pouring everything out into it…and then throwing it on the fire. The rakish roguish Crawford must live on.

Devilish grin must stay grinning…

Thoughts After Reading:

Like Wickham we regress into boyhood, get a very different view of the character than seen before.  Although I still didn’t feel bad for him, no one made you do it and you can’t keep blaming women, “Fanny of only you had loved me”, “Maria, if only you hadn’t seduced me.” What about what you did, punk? Hmm…

This did make me view Mary in a completely different way. Poor girl, she has the worst guardians, and she will be forever tainted by their shame. What will be come of her?

So now that we have reviewed the stories let’s talk about the other question on people’s minds: How sexy was the sexy parts?

Hmm…?

The sexy parts were pretty sexy. If that is what you enjoy, than you will definitely like it. If it isn’t something you like reading, than like I’ve said before, they don’t make up the entire story so you can skim/skip it. There is something for everyone.

So my final conclusion:

I LOVED It! I thought it was an amazing addition to any Jane Austen fan’s bookshelf. Each author was able to write a wonderful story that took the few scenes we had of each character and really flesh them out to a complete story. One thing I really enjoyed was that in doing so, each author kept true to Jane Austen’s story. True, they are creating their own tale but none of these men seemed too out of character or so radically different that it causes Jane Austen to roll over in her grave. You can tell that each story was lovingly written, in honor of Jane, but still allowed each author their own individual style. I highly recommend it. You should read it now!

Yes! If interested, here is the Amazon link

But this book did leave me with one question: Christina Boyd will you be editing a book on the bad girls of Jane Austen?

Can you see it? Lucy Steele and Mrs. Fanny Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility; Lydia Bennet and Caroline Bingley from Pride and Prejudice; Maria Bertram, Julia Bertram, and Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park; Mrs. Elton from Emma; Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey; Mrs. Clay from Persuasion. Think about it…

For more reviews of Dangerous to Know, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MODERATE

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MILD

For more Mansfield Park, go to Read Jane Austen, Wear Jane Austen

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to The Retellings Strike Back: Pride & Prejudice, cont.