“Pride and Prejudice”

Which book would you take with you if you were exiled to a deserted island? For me, it would be “The Complete Novels” of Jane Austen. I love her ‘stories’, I love her style of writing, I love the way she puts a finger on the sore spots of love and life in the Regency Period. I love her finely sarcastic and witty way of critiquing and expose idiosyncrasies, no matter what the social standing.

During a trip to England a few years ago, we visited the house where Jane Austen wrote most of her novels and where she also died. It is now the Jane Austen Museum, run by a “Jane Fan Club”. I met and talked to several of the women who volunteer at the museum. They spoke of Jane Austen as if she were still alive. Several times I had the feeling she might just come around the corner and enter the room.

Jane Austen was born as the seventh child to her parents George and Cassandra Austen on December 16, 1775. Sadly, she died when she was only forty-one years old. She left quite a number of notebooks filled with unfinished stories. Jane Austen completed only six, now famous, novels. One, I think it was “Sense and Sensibilities”, was published without revealing her true identity when she was thirty-six years old. It was, at that time, socially unacceptable for a lady to be a writer. It was published anonymously. One publisher had exclaimed ‘this could never have been written by a woman’ after reading one of her novels. One of her brothers represented her. He has published her other works posthumously and every one of the books became a great success. He finally revealed the true author’s name. Jane’s books are translated into many languages, are read by and have millions of fans worldwide. Many movies have been made over the years and even more TV mini-series of all her novels. Sales of the Jane Austen books have forever been going up. Her critical view and witty observations of life and love of the landed gentry have become the base of romantic novels to this day. Jane Austen is one of the best known English writers.

At Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, we came across a film crew busy filming a new and more modern version of “Pride and Prejudice”. I was captivated by some scenes taken just outside the great entrance. Oh, would I have loved going inside to see this beautiful place! I looked forward to seeing the new movie starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadden. I did several months later – and was disappointed. Not that the movie was bad but I was in love with an old one, the 1995 version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I have seen it several times, and I wish I could do so again and again. I will never forget the scene in the great-room of Darcy’s friend when the eyes of Darcy and Elisabeth Bennet met in an incredibly intimate way.  I had seen it once before I even saw the movie: when my cousin Siegfried came back from a weeklong trip and looked at his wife Annemarie. The way they looked at each other went deep into my soul. I was embarrassed to witness it. The scene is part of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”. I remember the phrase “marriage is made in heaven” came to my mind. Theirs was.

I saw “Pride and Prejudice” again, this time on the stage at the wonderful little theatre in Chemainus on Vancouver Island, Canada. We asked ourselves, how can they ever do justice to this complicated story on stage? They did. They picked relevant scenes played by talented actors who truly captured the audience of a sold out house. It was an enjoyable performance which left me smiling all the way home. Chemainus is an intimate theatre with only a small stage but the designers have a knack to come up with ideas that let you forget where you are. It was not the first time that we marveled about their innovation. And to give credit where credit is due, every one of the actors played their part in a believable way. Several actors even portrayed two characters. We hardly noticed, and most people probably didn’t. This story was written about 200 years ago. How much has changed? Not much. We still find the same problems in love, relationships, and life – and maybe some of us recognized a familiar character or two in our own social setting.

Well done, Chemainus Theatre!

 

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Imaginary Friends To Talk To

image1 Some people write letters to a friend but never mail them. Some others write in a diary or address it with “Dear Diary”! Still others have an imaginary friend they talk to or they talk to themselves. I have done that. Mumble is more like it. Does that make us crazy? Some so-called ‘normal’ people might think that or even say to us with a straight face: “You are crazy!” I have had some unexplained experiences which frightened me and I talked to God and asked to take this ‘curse’ away from me. I know for sure: There is more between heaven and earth than meets the eye. Even Albert Einstein stated that. Let’s ask ourselves: What is ‘normal’? Is normal only the one who wants or needs to know that which can be scientifically explained? And the more he knows the more he wants to know and the only thing he knows for sure is that he can’t know it all, there is always MORE to discover.

ScanWe attended the play “Harvey” by Mary Chase in the charming Chemainus Theatre today. Full house, too! I had a chance to read the explanatory notes in the programme before the show and was surprised to learn that it was written over two years and opened in November 1944 and was, at that time, a smash hit and ran for 4 ½ years with 1775 acclaimed performances on Broadway. It was even adapted to film and made friends across the continents. What is it about? “Harvey” – naturally! But who was Harvey? Harvey was the imaginary trusted friend of ‘Elwood’ who never went anywhere without him. Harvey was a huge 6 ½ feet tall mystical rabbit, a ‘Pooka’ – just like ‘Puck’ was Shakespeare’s ‘Pooka’. Most children have imaginary friends with names and parents would be well advised to take those ‘friends’ seriously to keep the trust of their offspring.

In this play, Elwood takes Harvey with him at all times. He takes him to concerts, bars, and parties and ‘introduces’ him to the guests. He would book two places and to ‘normal’ people they see an empty chair next to him.  He always checks with Harvey if something is good, alright or if he agrees in conservations. Harvey soon became such an annoyance to Elwood’s sister that she wanted to book her brother into a sanatorium. Explaining this giant rabbit and claiming she has even seen him at the dinner table the psychiatrist decides that she is the crazy one. When Elwood comes along and in a logical, quiet voice and with his own brand of humour talks to the doctors they are puzzled. What is ‘normal’, what or who is crazy? Elwood is such a friendly fellow and invites everyone he meets to come for dinner or at least to a drink and promises they would meet his wonderful friend. After a night of drinking with the psychiatrist, this man is so disoriented that he reveals to Elwood that he has one place where he can relax: His cottage. There, a young woman would be present who doesn’t talk. He would drink cold beer and more cold beer, and he showed Elwood how he would take the hand of the young woman and with it stroke his cheek and his old head. He would talk to her, tell her everything – but no, he doesn’t want her to talk at all. So there – for the audience and all to see – even this man, knowing of human frailties has his imaginary friend. But, in the end, when his sister talks Elwood into letting the doctor give him an injection,  the taxi driver who had been left waiting comes to request his money. She has none and had to call on her brother. The taxi driver explains to her how those who get the needle change from friendly people who see sunsets, even when it’s raining and give big tips to bullying, screaming people who never tip and just become so normal that he rather have nothing to do with them. That changes the sister’s mind and, finding her coin purse in her handbag where there was no money before knows it was thanks to Harvey. Elwood is rescued before he gets the injection and the sister decides that they can all live happily ever after – with Harvey.

It’s a weird and wonderful play. It makes you think. We are not as perfect as we think we are. Some can accept the things beyond reality and the senses while others are ‘normal’. In my mind, I have turned the story over and over again. I dare say there is even more to it. We all talk to someone unseen by our eyes, be it a ‘Harvey’, ourselves, a dearly departed aunt or – even God. Think about it. How often have you thought: Oh my God. – Oh, dear God, why do you let this happen. –  Oh God, help me. – You might even have discussions with Him in order to make up your mind about something. When we can’t talk to ‘normal’ people we do need a “Harvey” by any name.greetings-from-the-white-rabbit