“Happiness in marriage is often a matter of choice, you know.”--Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston Today I get to share with you a few more delightful Jane Austen variations. One is a unique view of Emma, and the other is another fun take on Pride and Prejudice. Both show Christian values and practices.
George Knightley, Esquire, Book 1: Charity Envieth Not
George Knightley, Esquire, Book 2: Lend Me Leave
Okay, to be honest, Emma is my least favorite of Jane Austen’s books. It was, though, the first one I read and I liked it enough that I went out and bought all the others, so it’s not that I actually dislike it! Still, I wasn’t sure about reading the whole story in depth from Mr. Knightley’s perspective. However, I really enjoyed this series. It kept drawing me back for more, and I was quite eager for book two when I finished book one. (Charity Envieth Not covers the first half of Austen’s Emma, and Lend Me Leave tells the second half.) We get to see inside Mr. Knightley—what was he thinking and feeling? How did he finally realize he was in love with Emma, and how did he deal with his jealousy of Frank Churchill? His letters to his brother John add humor and fun. John tries to convince him to marry, and teasingly tries to set him up with an obnoxious widow. We see family times with games and fun, and witty contemporary quotes. I especially enjoyed seeing all the other strands of Mr. Knightley’s life as a landowner and magistrate. He struggles with administering justice while making sure that a thief’s mother is cared for. He gives the thief an opportunity to reform. He deals with a tenant who is a “witty rascal” but doesn’t pay what he owes. He rescues his vicar’s son who has gotten into trouble through gambling, and helps him turn over a new leaf. He always seeks to balance justice with mercy and kindness. His close friend the vicar breaks his leg. (Remember that Mr. Knightley’s parish is separate from Mr. Elton’s.) A young curate arrives to take the vicar’s duties for a time. The curate is shy and speaks softly, but wins the hearts of the parishioners by his care for them. Both the vicar and the curate are men of deep faith, and they and Mr. Knightley encourage one another. The curate suffers from unrequited love, like Robert Martin (Harriet’s suitor) and Mr. Knightley himself. A few quotes: The vicar confesses to Mr. Knightley that he is jealous of his new curate. Mr. Knightley reassures him that his people love him dearly, but that a little jealousy perhaps is natural. The vicar responds, “That may be true. And also true, as you have said, that it is natural for me to feel as I do. But there is a higher Law, which I have violated. ‘Charity envieth not’, you know, and therefore I know that I am lacking in charity. It is a frightful admission.” “’O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord,’ he found himself saying with the rest of the congregation, and started at the relevance of the words. Author of peace and lover of concord…peace and concord…the very things he hoped to restore at Hartfield. It might well take divine assistance to accomplish that.” When Harriet and Emma are attempting to read a classic, Dr. Watts’ On the Improvement of the Mind, Mr. Knightley quotes for them, “‘some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’” Mr. Woodhouse, of course, thinks they are talking about indigestion. The book is obviously well-researched as well as a pleasure to read. Enjoy this new perspective on Emma and fascinating insights into Austen’s world! Note, July 2020: I just finished Barbara Cornthwaite’s new novel, Brought to Book. This is a modern novel, a light, clean mystery with some romance. It’s not a Jane Austen variation, so I’m not reviewing it here, but it does have a lot of fun references to Austen in the story. A sequel is due out soon. I loved it, and you might also!
Lara S. Ormiston
What if Elizabeth had seen Darcy’s love for her and accepted his first proposal? And what if they both were gradually confronted with their failures and had to repent and change, throughout their engagement? I love this story. The characters are very consistent with who they are in the original Pride and Prejudice, and how they would have reacted to situations, developing even further. Faith themes are subtle. When Elizabeth finally confronts Darcy for his rudeness, they discuss the purpose of polite small talk. She says speaking kindly and listening to others “is Christian charity in its most basic form: a concern for the feelings of others.” In a scene that made me cry, she tells him of the hidden kindnesses and charities of the people he considers “below him.” In a scene that made me laugh, they finally realize together that they can enjoy even trivial dinnertime conversations: “This was how she had been able to live in the society of these people for so long and remain so happy, because of the very gloriousness of their absurdities.” When Elizabeth thanks Darcy for a rescue, he gives the credit to God, or rather to “a merciful Providence.” There is also a brief mention of science—coal mine explosions, safety lamps, and Luddites. Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling is full of delights, and I highly recommend it! A final thought from Mrs. Gardiner to Elizabeth: “Happiness in marriage is often a matter of choice, you know. If you choose to think constantly on the faults of your husband, then you will find yourself discontent no matter whom you are married to. If, on the other hand, you choose to think of his virtues and to treat him with regard and consideration even when you may not feel much like it, then your felicity will continue to increase.” Great advice for us all! Do you tend to think about the faults of people you love, or to think about their good points? I want to try today to focus on what’s best in the people I love!
Earlier Posts on Jane Austen Variations
Christian Jane Austen Variations 1: Maria Grace, Robin Helm
Christian Jane Austen Variations 2: Jeanna Ellsworth, Kelsey Bryant, Janine Mendenhall
Christian Jane Austen Variations 3: Pamela Aidan
Christian Jane Austen Variations 4: Laura Hile
Christian Jane Austen Variations 5: Robin Helm and A Very Austen Valentine
Christian Jane Austen Variations 7: Happy Endings for Charlotte Lucas by Laura Hile and Amanda Kai
Christian Jane Austen Variations 8: Laraba Kendig and Skylar Burris
Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan
Austen Variations with Science 1: Collins Hemingway, Robin Helm, Georgette Heyer
Austen Variations with Science 2: Abigail Reynolds
Science Variations 3: Novels with Regency and Victorian Science (Linda Banche, Cindy Anstey, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Nicole Clarkston)