I came here as a protest but I'm staying because I like it. I still hop back and forth but I'm hoping - or is that hopping - to commit.
When I was a kid, growing up on the outskirts of a small city in central NY, I used to gravitate to movies that were set in Gotham. One of my favorites was My Sister Eileen which centers on the Sherwood sisters from Ohio, who are out to stake claim to their careers from their basement apartment in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Older, sensible Ruth aspires to be a writer, while beautiful - and temperamental - Eileen dreams of success on the stage. A variety of oddball characters bring color and humor to their lives.
Austen's Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, bear a striking resemblance to them, except that they require husbands rather than employment. Marianne is at the center of the story which is mostly told from Elinor's perspective. Poor Marianne suffers from a fickle, flawed suitor and a life threatening illness, while Elinor neglects her own romantic interests to minister to the needs of her sister.
Claire Roth's life isn't going well. Although she's a talented painter, she hasn't been a good judge of character in affairs of either business or romance. A few years back, she had helped her lover, a successful but blocked artist, to meet a deadline by painting what was to become a masterpiece in his name. When their relationship soured, she attempted to expose him only to find herself shunned by the art world. Forced to support herself as a painter of OTC (over the couch) reproductions, she agrees to forge a Degas for an influential agent in return for much needed cash and the opportunity to mount a show in his gallery. When their scheme unravels, she exchanges her brushes for a detective kit, in order to locate the original painting which no one had ever suspected was missing. Although it may sound complicated, Shapiro succeeds in making it seem both plausible and compelling.
If Ursula Todd, born during a blizzard at Fox Corner in 1910, the youngest daughter of Sylvie and Hugh, had been from a family of golfers, she might have been named Mulligan. She had the dubious distinction of living a life of do-overs, reshuffling the circumstances until she got it right. Her mother, of the forest, named her, but it was her father, bright of mind and spirit, who always called her his little bear, like the constellation, Ursu Minor. Those who've studied astronomy - or the Romantic poets - know the brightest star, Polaris, is found at its tail and is viewed - by both sailors and lovers - as a reliable guide through stormy seas. Or, as Christina Rossetti put it:
one unchangeable upon a throne
Broods o'er the frozen heart of earth alone,
Content to reign the bright particular star
Of some who wander and of some who groan.
Jane lies in Winchester, blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made.
And while the stones of Winchester--or Milson Street--remain,
Glory, Love, and Honour unto England's Jane!
I've been an admirer of Jane Austen since my sophomore year in college when I read Pride and Prejudice. Over the years, I've read and re-read all the novels, usually turning to them in times of stress when I crave structure and predictability. I've watched the movie and TV adaptations with varying degrees of satisfaction but I've always preferred the intimacy we shared-just she and I-as I succumbed yet again to the wry brilliance of her writing. She was my private refuge and I guarded the gate with a dogged determination. I've sampled some of the fan lit and found it mostly mediocre. Among the Janeites had been recommended to me by more than a few Austen acolytes, but it wasn't until Degrees of Affection shared the aforementioned tribute from Kipling's poem, Jane's Marriage, in a discussion group on BookLikes, that I felt compelled to dive into the world of Jane Austen fandom.