Jane Austen has this uncanny habit of following me everywhere. I haven’t blogged in a while as I have recently moved to Melbourne (for those that aren’t regular readers, I was previously in Sydney) for a new job. It has been a bit of a hectic time, and now that I’ve settled down again I can tell you that one of the few constants I have, has been Austen.
Even though I have left an entire bookcase of Jane Austen books back in Sydney, and I decided not to bring a copy of Pride and Prejudice with me (although I have a digital copy on my iPad), she has still managed to follow me to this new city.
For instance, I was reading the book ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, which I picked up in a ‘4 for 3’ book deal at the WH Smith’s at Melbourne’s Southern Cross station. I’m not sure how it worked out in the deal, but this one was $22.99 (ISBN: 978-1-444-72458-5). It was only a very few pages into this book – and by the way it’s an excellent read – in fact 20 pages into the book, that I came across this line “On Emma’s left, Candy sang songs from Les Miserables in a light, flat soprano, picking at the hammer toes she’d got from eighteen years of ballet. Emma turned back to her reflection in the cracked mirror, plumped up the puffed sleeves of her Empire line dress, removed her spectacles and gave a Jane Austen sigh.”
A Jane Austen sigh! I almost had to read the paragraph again, the image was such a joy. I know it is not really intentional, but I love that she’s an Emma and her younger sister is a Marianne, and that it’s based in the UK with lots of letters and barely worded postcards. There’s something romantic and, yes, Jane Austen-esque about the entire concept. I love that Emma reminds me of Mary Bennet when the book begins, and Dexter is a Wickham, and that she turns into an Elizabeth and then a Jane as he turns into a Darcy and then a Charles.
Maybe I’m exhausted, maybe I was reading into it, but I like to think there’s a strong Jane Austen presence through the book. There are many other literary allusions (to Jane Eyre, then to Orwell at one point etc), so for any fans of classic literature, this is one for you. I’ve seen the movie and, while it was ok, I’m not a huge Anne Hathaway fan so I think that ruined it a little for me.
Jane Austen has featured a lot since I’ve been in Melbourne and is regularly in my thoughts. I’ve been here for just over a month now, and this blog was prompted by a strangely timely reminder. A colleague at my old job, Lucy, sent me a package of polos which I received this evening. While I was overjoyed to receive the sweeties, because I forgot I’d asked for them and because she sent me enough to sink a small ship, I was also excited at what else was included (see the first picture of this blog!). Within the package was a card from Jane Austen’s house that she had visited while in the UK on holiday. It’s absolutely adorable. I also have a Jane Austen stamp here in Melbourne with me that Lucy had given me from a letter sent to her from England back in the Sydney office.
(You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I took just 15 kilos or so of luggage when moving over, and 50 per cent was pretty much knick-knacks, souvenirs and material reminders I couldn’t bear to leave behind).
Here’s the cards illustration up close. I like to think that’s Elizabeth Bennet in the foreground, looking out at us knowingly!
I also have my Pride and Prejudice necklace pendant and Pride and Prejudice tote bag here with me, so everywhere I go I look like an absolute Austen nerd… and I love it. My next plan is to have a book club here that covers Jane Austen, as I am dreadfully missing my Sydney book club.
It’s gratifying when you choose a book at random and buy it, without any Jane Austen aims, and there is a mention in it. Elizabeth Gilbert had a pretty decent Jane Austen mention in Committed. Similarly, in Julie/Julia by Julie Andrews. But this is, surely, understandable. Great popular works of writing from great women are surely going to encourage some sort of thought about Jane in all her infinite wisdom- at least, that’s how I see it.
TV shows also randomly see a touch of Jane Austen. From memory there’s a Red Dwarf episode that is centred around Austen, and My Family, a great British sit-com that I used to watch on a regular basis, had an episode entitled “An embarassment of Susan’s” in which Susan’s husband, Ben Harper, likens her to Elizabeth Bennet.
One last Melbourne-related happiness. There’s no place like home, but I’m starting to appreciate the quirks of this city. There’s a place called The Austen Tea Room in Essendon that, despite some negative reviews on Urbanspoon, I am going to HAVE to visit (there’s also a Melbourne-based band called The Jane Austen Argument). There’s also a tonne of literary-named bars here such as The Sherlock Holmes, and there’s another to do with Charles Dickens. I’m thinking of organising my own literary-named places crawl and will document it here. At least it will get me out of Flinders Street and back to exploring.
Hopefully when I’m back in Sydney this weekend, I’ll pick up a couple of the Austen-spinoffs from my bookcase that I haven’t had a chance to delve into yet. I’ve also got a few of them on my iPad (I’ve synced the Kindle app!) so I will be bringing you reviews soon – stay tuned!