Lost in Austen News Roundup: Jane Give Us Strength Edition


Jane give us strength, because we actually have to do a bally news roundup about this thing. Zero hour approacheth, fellow Janeites, and we feel a disturbance in the Force.

Alert Janeite Helen sent us a review from The Times, and it is hard to tell if it is unkind or if the reviewer is just being snarky.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any predictable drivel ever written about Jane Austen has to begin with those six words. In this respect alone, ITV’s big-budget, time-travel costume drama Lost in Austen does not disappoint.

In nearly all other respects, however, it does. At some point in the preliminary meetings for this stupid, stupid programme I bet you somebody will have said “Life on Mars meets Pride and Prejudice!” And somebody else will have clapped, and decided that this was a very good idea. These people were morons. Take them out, ITV, and shoot them.

Well, that seems clear enough.

Seriously. It’s not enough here to have once seen the movie, and to know that Austen’s book is basically about some chippy tart in a big crumbly house, mooning over a soggy stuffed shirt with a stick up his arse.

But–it’s–not–oh, never mind.

You need to know details: that Bingley is supposed to fancy Jane; that stuff happens at a dance; that Jane sets off for Netherfield in the rain, the works. And, while knowing all this, you still have to be stupid enough not to have minded all that crap about the secret door in the shower cubicle. Who are you? Do you work for ITV? Do you mind that I hate you?

But we DO know the details, and we DO mind the crap about the secret door in the shower room. Very uncreative method of time travel, in our opinion, or even of travel-into-fiction. (Where are Thursday Next and Miss Havisham when you need them?)

The characters are fairly well drawn (by Jane Austen), the acting isn’t bad, and there are nice touches, such as the way Amanda keeps checking her mobile.

It doesn’t work in Fictionland, does it? DOES IT? Geez, we can’t even get a signal in the subway tunnel! Well, moving on. There are feature articles on several of the stars of the show. Jemima Rooper has a rather gushy piece in the Sunday Herald, which features a rather interesting bit about the film:

Exactly how punchy Guy Andrews has made Lost In Austen is evident in one telling early scene. Thinking she may actually be in a very cruel reality TV show, an angry Amanda flashes Lydia Bennett, who has crept into bed beside her in the night.

“What have you done to yourself?” asks the wide-eyed Lydia, staring at the naked midriff. “Oh,” says Amanda, looking down. “That’s called a landing strip’ in London. Pubic topiary.”

Lovely! In the Evening Post, Jemima begs us to “give it a chance.”

“I think the problem is and with most things, is Austen fans will probably read a tiny bit about it and write it off.”

You mean like “pubic topiary?”

Jemima said: “What I loved about the script was you get these characters that most people know and love and you just get to see them all over again but in a totally new situation.”

Nothing wrong with a bit of what-if, dearie, but when you change one aspect (the story), the other aspects, such as characterization, cannot change, or, well, you just have a different story altogether, and putting Jane Austen’s name to it is simple pandering. See how that works?

We know there is a certain constituency that always wants to know all about Darcy, so here he is. First The Times serves up a dollop o’Darcy via a Q&A with Elliot Cowan, curiously in the women’s section. Oh, no, they’re not pandering or anything.

Are you prepared for the sex symbol status?

I haven’t really thought of him in those terms.

Hard not to, isn’t it?

He is iconic and he has been done on the TV a hundred times, but the literary figure is more intimidating and less sexy. I know people swoon and fall over backwards when they think of Colin Firth getting out of the lake all wet, but I’ve had to concentrate on none of that getting in the way.

Unfortunately, that is all that passes for anything germane to the subject at hand in the piece, but by all means go read it if you’re interested in the details of Elliot’s workout routine. Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for the link. The Lincolnshire Echo also has a short piece on Elliot.

He added: “I was most excited on my mother’s behalf as well because she had always been a big fan of Colin Firth’s rendition of the character, and I was more pleased to be able to tell her I won’t die in this and also I’m playing a guy that you kind of dig quite a lot.”

Oh fine, ruin Darcy for Mum FOREVER. “Gah! That’s MY SON in the sexy clinging wet shirt! GAAAAH!” 😉

The Times also has a feature on Gemma Arterton, who plays Elizabeth Bennet, but it has almost nothing about Lost in Austen in it.

We liked the Telegraph’s feature on Alex Kingston, an actress whose work we’ve always enjoyed; and we agree with the scriptwriter that Mrs. Bennet was always meant to be an attractive woman in her mid-40s, so it will be interesting to see what Alex does with the part. (We also really like the idea of Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennet, and it’s only too bad that he won’t be playing the “real” Mr. B.)

Kingston’s one worry about the series was the potential reaction of the militant Jane Austen fans – known as “Janeites”. Lost in Austen messes with the most sacred of Janeite texts. Kingston says, “I kept thinking, ‘We’re going to get slated by her fans. The Jane Austen Society are going to hate this.’ But when I saw the finished product, I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think the fans will complain because it’s done with such love. It’s about someone who totally adores Jane Austen.”

That’s a good start; but even those who love something are capable of screwing it up.

Now, cue the parade of brand-new-to-AustenBlog types who think it’s just a SMASHING idea to enter your favorite novel, because they’ve always wanted to! Won’t that be grand! Disturbance in the Force, indeed. And there’s three more weeks of it…because ITV decided Lost in Austen was worth 4 one-hour episodes, and MP, Persuasion, and NA less than 90 minutes. Don’t forget that, because it’s important.