Persuasion 1995 – Recently I Learnt…

…That when the 1995 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was released on video in the United States, Columbia Tristar decided it wasn’t sexy enough.

And so they replaced the actors on the poster/cover with this:

Columbia Tristar Persuasion 1995

It’s especially appalling as many consider Persuasion 1995 to be the best Jane Austen adaptation. With a cast of renowned theatre actors, it is nothing like that image implies.

For comparison, here is the real leading couple in the movie. (Seriously, that wasn’t sexy enough? This is Jane Austen, not Fabio!). I’m not sure if it still is, but the entire movie used to be available to watch on YouTube.

Persuasion 1995 Jane Austen

Music-Less Historical Romances

Having recently gone on a bit of a period drama-rewatching spree, something has occurred to me: there’s almost never any music in historical romance books.

In fact, the new fad is for female characters in historical romances to reject ALL things that might be considered even slightly feminine. (ALL the cool kids hate sewing – and can’t sew. ALL the cool kids hate dancing – and can’t dance.). Of course they’re crap musicians – ALL the cool kids are!

What I consider to be the most emotionally powerful scene in the 1995 adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one that begins with Elizabeth Bennet playing and singing for the Bingleys and Darcys. Then Mr Darcy’s sister takes over, while the clueless Miss Bingley makes a cruel comment and upsets everyone.

The whole scene, while telling you a bunch of other things about the characters and the plot, is about the music. Imagine what a dull – and quiet – evening it would have been without any women with some musical ability!

Watch it below:

In both Pride and Prejudice the book, and every television and film adaptation, Elizabeth and Miss Darcy bond over music, and the snobs use music as a chance to show off.

Then there’s Anne Elliot from another Jane Austen book: Persuasion. There’s that scene where she sheds a quiet tear while playing the piano so the others can dance. There’s no crying in the 1995 movie version, but the scene below at 37:20 shows you exactly how crucial music was for an evening in the Regency era:

Also, in Poldark, Demelza’s triumph over the society ladies comes when she sings at the Christmas party. (As an aside, TV Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson, did such a good job with her singing in the show that she’s releasing an album!).

Sure, there are some book heroines who enjoy their music. Faith Merridew and Helen Ravenel come to mind. However, we are very much in an era of publishing (and life in general, actually) where authors think that it’s somehow antifeminist for women to anything remotely artistic or creative.

Music isn’t just an art form; it’s to people of two-hundred years ago what television and the internet and evenings out are to us today. It was an essential part of a person’s social life, as it was one of the only ways to break the silence over long, pre-electricity evenings, and to entertain in an era before today’s technology existed.

I do think some authors avoid heroines who play and sing because they – ridiculously – think it’s demeaning to their gender.

However, I also think it simply never occurs to some authors that this was a major aspect of a Georgian/Regency/Victorian person’s day-to-day experience. It’s a little odd.

 

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

HOW TO RESCUE A RAKE:

Reject his marriage proposal
Nathaniel Sherringham has returned to Hawcombe Prior a changed man. Gone is the reckless rake who went out on a limb to propose to Diana Makepiece three years ago. Now Nate’s mysterious new wealth has the town’s rumor mill spinning. To stir things up (and get Diana’s attention), Nate boldly announces his plans to marry “any suitable girl” under the age of 25.

Run away
Diana, now 27 and still single, is acutely aware of Nate’s return. When her mother suggests a trip to visit a cousin in Bath, Diana leaps at the chance to escape the heartbreak and regret she can’t help but feel in Nate’s presence…and avoid his irritating charade to find a bride.

But for Nate, Diana has always been the one. He might just have to follow her to Bath and once again lay his heart on the line to win her attention-and her heart.

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina

Do yourself a favour and make sure you know a thing or two about Jane Austen’s Persuasion before you read this book. Do it any way: watch a movie version or even read the Wikipedia summary! Just make sure you have the gist of it.

How to Rescue a Rake can also be read as a standalone, and while our heroine and her friends are reading Persuasion, the two lead characters are living out their own version of the same story. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but I really loved this book.

There are a lot of historical romance authors who try to be funny when they write, and it so rarely works for me. I prefer more serious historical romances. However, with Jayne Fresina I make an exception. She is fun rather than slapstick, and because she isn’t obsessed with making her characters “sexy” it means she makes them more human.

Following in Austen’s traditions, we get characters from the landed gentry, rather than everyone being a duke or a duchess (what a relief!), and the manners are better – despite the humour. People actually follow social rules of the time, are concerned about social rules of the time, and do not run around having sex from start to finish of the book.

This all gives us a chance to read a ROMANCE!

However, what I probably like best about this book is the whole second-chance feel to it. These are flawed characters who have known big disappointments in their lives, and the theme is the reason the original book, Persuasion, was so successful. It is a story about gaining maturity and taking leaps, and I know I am going to remember it better than most of the cut-and-dried Regency romances being published now.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.