Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Long Winter with Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Little Dorrit

Don't gape! There is not a bizarre Ingalls Wilder/Austen/Dickens mash-up on the shelves. 

 The long winter refers to the recent two weeks in which Mother Nature slammed Oklahoma with three back to back ice/sleet/snow storms--  which is just overkill,  in my opinion.  It was downright freakish really:  temperatures dropped  to -24 degrees, cars stranded in four foot snow drifts and highways closed  We missed seven days of school, for heaven's sake!
 Personally, we survived fairly well. The water pipes did freeze for three days the first week but no power loss this time, thank goodness. Since our home is all electric with a well, when the power goes, we truly are the little house on the prairie! Not as charming as in the books, that's for sure!

Are you wondering how one occupies oneself during seven unexpected days of hunkering down at home?  Rearrange furniture? Organize drawers/cabinets? Clean out closets, perhaps? Oh no, no, no---   warm sunny days are crucial for projects like that!

Proper hunkering activities include snuggling, eating comfort food, guzzling hot tea, reading, playing games, and watching movies. (blogging is not a proper hunkering activity since the mouse hand tends to freeze)

Here we are in all our unwashed glory!  We read  picture books galore!

A hunkering novice might assume reading would rule as entertainment but actually watching movies comes out on top. Like blogging, books keep the hands cold. With films, the hands can stay nice and toasty under a blanket. 

Now do you see where this going in a rambling, roundabout, Lesa-esque way? Yep,  films from books!   Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Little Dorrit to be exact. 

Persuasion and Mansfield Park arrived in the post in the nick of time on the day of the first storm . How fortuitous! Especially since we didn't see the postman for three days afterwards.   

Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen novels and I loved this 2007 adaptation-- it is delightfully fresh and fun. If you aren't familiar with the story, it is about the relationship between timid Anne, who is perpetually out of sync with her shallow status oriented family, and Captain Wentworth, the man whose proposal she was 'persuaded' to refuse eight years ago.

I liked that Anne and Wentworth look younger than in the 1995 version. And the actors playing the Elliot family are a hoot! I had forgotten that the Elliots rank right up there with Mr. Collins, the Dashwoods and the Eltons in the social foible department.  

 It is a regular length film not a miniseries which means there is no dillydallying in the story-- so you might even entice your Austen-phobic friends to watch it with you. 

 I haven't read Mansfield Park but the story of poor relation Fanny Price longing for her cousin Edmund seemed familiar so I may have watched an earlier version. This 2007 adaptation is very enjoyable and worth seeing but it has received very mixed reviews on Netflix.

An Austen purist might not like it but since I haven't read the book I can't complain in any particular way.   There weren't any truly obnoxious characters but I liked it. In fact, I would watch it again. After reading the book and watching the other adaptations, of course.

One funny thing: the actor who plays awful Mr. Elton in the recent Emma miniseries plays good cousin Edmund in Mansfield Park-- I kept expecting him to get the roles mixed up but he did an excellent job. ;o)

Now for the creme de la creme: Little Dorrit!  I haven't read this book either but based on this fabulous miniseries, Mr. Dickens deserves a whoop and holler!!  It is stunning: the set, story and characters.  I'm still stunned by the spectacularity of it all! You must watch it if you enjoy period films!
So what is the story?  Well, it is complicated to explain with the various subplots and all but the main gist is about a mysterious secret affecting the fortunes of two families: the Clenhams and Dorrits.  The secret is withheld from the pertinent parties by a cold fanatical old woman  (Mrs. Clenham). She is a real piece of work, that one!  

Little Dorrit is at turns satirical, funny, poignant and suspenseful veering on melodramatic at the end. It takes place in and around the Marshalsea Debtor's Prison in London with sojourns to the Alps and Venice. And it all looks real-- creaky, dark, grimy-- even the characters are grimy--not cleaned up for modern tastes.

Speaking of the characters, they are portrayed by a very talented cast.  All of the characters, from the leads to the supporting roles are incredibly vivid and a joy to watch. Such distinct idiosyncrasies and I can't wait to read the book to see how each chararcter is described.  Is the French murderer Rigaud/Blandois as jovial and sociopathic as portrayed?   Does the good hearted, not a bully boy after all, Mr. Pancks really snort constantly? If you've read the book, please tell me.

Little Dorrit is about a secret but it is also about societal shortcomings, the aggravating inanity of bureaucracies (the Circumlocution Office is too funny)  and prisons, real and self-imposed. Dickens story is surprisingly modern. Several times I thought: Hmm, not much has changed...

Little Dorrit arrived in the post just in time for snow storm number three-- only the first two discs though. Then, hubby and I were left hanging for discs three and four-- maddening!  There are mini-cliff hangers all along.  Apparently, Dickens wrote Little Dorrit as a serial over a two year period and I can just imagine folks of the time chattering over the latest edition and eagerly anticipating the next.

Have you read or watched Little Dorrit? What about Persuasion or Mansfield Park? I love to hear what you think about the films as compared to the books.

Please recommend more period films from books: I fear I am addicted!  And don't worry about enabling, it is a hopeless longstanding addiction but I always read the books... eventually.                                              


  1. The weather sounds terrible. It's the complete opposite here with temperatures soaring past 30! May I suggest some hot chocolate? :)

  2. +JMJ+

    I know what you mean about reading being an activity that freezes the hands! =P During my first New Zealand winter, I got hardly any reading done because I didn't want to take my hands out of my nice, warm jacket pockets!

    The only adaptation of Persuasion I'm familiar with is that 1995 one you mention--which I found so boring that I turned off the player after the first fifteen minutes. =S But then I put it back on again so that I could see how the ending plays out. Persuasion has my favourite Austen ending of all time! =D

    Captain Wentworth and Anne are supposed to be a mature couple getting a second chance, so it makes sense for the producers to cast older (or older-looking) actors to play them. But I think I'd have an easier time relating to younger-looking lovers, as the ones pictured on the cover of the 2007 version's DVD.

    So . . . how was the ending of this one, Lesa? Just as romantic as in the book??? <3

  3. I've read Mansfield Park and Persuasion, but haven't seen any movie adaptations. I'll have to watch these since you enjoyed them so much.

    I haven't read Little Dorrit, but it sounds fantastic. I'll have to hold off on watching the film until I read it though. I have my own goofy rule about not watching any adaptations until reading the book first.

    I love the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's fantastic.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about your awful weather. We were hit this weekend, but with nothing like this! I agree movies are the perfect activity on days like this. Netflix is my new friend, I find myself watching more movies now that I subscribe.
    Good for you for watching classics. I am afraid I would have watching mindless goofy comedies.
    Stay warm!

  5. I have seen the Persuasion movie, and this version is one of my faves.
    I agree - the other portrayals in Persuasion were unattractive! While it is true they were older in the story, that was for that time. I believe in the book they were in their late 20's/early 30's....

    As I mentioned on FB, I was not quite able to watch Little Dorrit, but I would like to try again.

    And Mansfield Park - I have not seen that one. I will have to check it out.

    I have read all the Jane Austen books, but I am not a stickler for accuracy unless it affects the actual character or drive of the story, kwim?

    I am NOT a Dickens fan and hated Great Expectations - the book and the movies.I hope LD is better!

  6. Maria: Yum, Hot chocolate! That is my little boy's favorite winter storm survival beverage.

    Jillian: Yes, that is a good movie-- I like a happy ending but sometimes the sadder ones are more memorable and more real.

  7. E: I remember our Persuadion chat! I thought of you when I watched this version and I bet you won't find it so boring.

    I liked the 95 version so much I had to read the book! I liked it even though Anne and Wentworth look older than in the book to me. Anne is only late 2os after all but I suppose back then that that age was verging on decrepit!!

    As for the ending of the 07 version, a bit silly-- a lot silly really. Do you want me to tell you what was so silly? I don't remember how the 95 version treated their 'finally' revealing their love but the final scene of Anne on the ship reveling in her freedom was great.

  8. Kristi: Thanks for commenting! Hope you like the films. Watch the 95 and 07 Persuasion-- I liked both.

    Since, you've read Mansfield Park you might cringe at this version-- it did get some stinky reviews. I may change my mind about it after I read the book but, like Leslie, I'm not a stickler for accuracy. Which is a good thing since I've been on a movie kick lately and have been watching all adaptations of the Austen books.

    I like all the P&P films-- My fave is the 95 miniseries but I really like the one from 1940 too-- it is great fun to watch especially Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

  9. Sari: Just keep thinking: Spring is around the corner!

    Goofy is good too and a Starwars marathon did cross my mind but we just did that during the holidays.

    I love classics and Netflix is so great-- it has everything! We've missed over 10 years of Masterpiece Theatre since we don't subscribe to PBS with DirecTV so lots to catch up on

  10. Leslie: I know what you mean-- I am the same way.

    Oh, I hope you like LD-- watch several episodes to make sure--even if the story turns out to not be your cuppa I bet you will appreciate the richness of the characters. for a long time, I've thought that UK actors are better at speaking glances, mannerisms and nuances of personality than US actors.

    I can't say yea or nay about Dicken's yet until I read more. I remember liking the story of Two Cities but that was in highschool and seems like the reading was a bit tedious. Maybe I'll start with LD...

  11. Hey, ya'll!! Since I wrote this post, I've watched the new Northhanger Abbey--Loved it!!!! Can't compare to the book as I have yet to read it.

    Between the new films, Mansfield and NorthHanger-- Northhanger was the best!! Now I've got to read both and watch all the other adaptations. An obsession but fun fun fun!!!!

  12. Sounds like a lovely day -- inside. (love your boy's curls) A few years ago I read the 5 Austen books and watched at least 2 or 3 of the films to see which one I liked. Sense and Sensibility was my first choice with Emma Thompson. However, I do favor the book Jane Eyre with the movie starring Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester. A new film is coming out in a few weeks.

  13. Do you watch the Agatha Christie films? Hubby and I love them. And, by the way, Maria means 30 deg C, which is about 86F!

  14. Georgia: That version of S&S is one of my faves too. I rewatched it during the holidays then watched the 08 S&S miniseries-- it is very good too. I can't choose a fave-- I'll just have to watch them both again!

    I can't wait to see the new Jane Eyre!

  15. DeLynne: Years ago I did. J has been on a Miss Marple kick lately-- maybe I will watch one soon. I bought a couple of her books at goodwill last week.

    Yes, I knew Maria meant a summer celsius temp-- I googled a C-F converter to find out the exact temp though. 86 is heavenly summer temp!

  16. Hahaha! I didn't realize she was talking Celsius! I just thought she was the type that LOVED the cold and thought it was the opposite of -24 F!
    Ok. I hope I get my brain back this week!

  17. Of the three you've mentioned I've only ever read Persuasion. I'm not big on movies myself - I'm usually forced into a corner by my mom, sister or husband, told to sit quietly and not argue, and then I watch!!

    But I'd love to give these movies a try sometime. I love the 2005 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and have watched it several times!!! I don't know if I'd ever Little Dorrit, though. I find Dickens very cumbersome to read, eventhough his "A Tale of Two Cities" ranks amony one of my favourites.

    P.S. - I don't know what snow is like, leave alone a snow storm. But we HAVE been bound at home before due to heavy monsoon rains! freezing hands, though.:D

  18. Risa: I don't watch many movies myself anymore-- no time! But I really like films made from classic books-- and old classic films in general.

    Give the Little Dorrit miniseries a try--- it isn't cumbersome! That is what is great about watching versus reading-- except I usually read the books eventually anyway. I like to know the whole story as the author intended.

    We should houseswap! You'd like snow for a day-- the first day is always fun but really, I wouldn't wish a snow/ice storm or freezing hands on anyone!


Welcome to the yakkity yak box, Book Lovers! Your comments are greatly appreciated so please feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions.

Comments/questions will receive a response here and visits will be returned as time allows. We are a chatty bunch but also busy with work/school/family so apologies in advance for any delays.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...