Wednesday, 28 December 2011

REVIEW: Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?

Click here to watch my video review.

Did her family consider her important enough? Does it hold any amateur flaws? Was it even in her character to pose alongside her work?

These are just some of the questions raised by Dr Paula Byrne on Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait?. Alongside presenter Martha Kearney, she begins the journey into finding out whether or not the mysterious portrait she has come to own is in fact one of Jane Austen.

The portrait, looks not too dissimilar from her sister Cassandra's sketch, the softened image we all know and recognise as looking like Austen. However, with its striking qualities, this 'new' portrait presents us with more sharp features, characteristics that many Janeites would rather choose not to be significance to Miss Austen. Across the hour long programme, we are invited to watch the vast dissecting of all elements of the portrait, from examining the materials used to produce the picture, to the signature on the back, and even the clothes the subject wears.

The Unseen Portrait does allow you to make up your own mind, giving you the chance to piece together all that we have learned about the possibilities of the portrait. However, with Dr Paula's convincing pitch to a panel of experts, one could quite easily be swayed in view. It is definitely a thought provoking experience, one that is not stuffed full of unnecessary detail or excessive adoration. It is, instead, a delightful opportunity to gain a historical insight into Austen's life as a writer in the early 19th Century. The question is, however, do you feel that this once unseen portrait could be the real image of Jane Austen?

 Amy x

Monday, 26 December 2011

REVIEW: The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen

Click here for the video review.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the world's biggest fan of Jane Austen's novels. Sure, I may have only read two, but even that's enough to tell me that they all centre around marriage, or money, or the interlinking of marriage and money (the recurring theme is not hard to identify, to put it bluntly). However, I do find her life to be one that is most fascinating to study, so I was rather looking forward to watching BBC's The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen. The big question, however, asks: did it deliver?

In short, yes. It took a different approach to what I was expecting though. The show's presenter - historian and writer Amanda Vickery - takes us along with her to an Austen convention, where we see rare items being auctioned off for extraordinary prices. We're given an insight into how Austen's work compared alongside others of the time, as well as the journey the classics took before reaching the high state of popularity they've peaked at now.

Not quite to a biographical extent, we do learn a little about what the author's life would have been like during the years of her publication, and also why she wished to remain anonymous with her work. The latter part, I found to be most fascinating, and exceedingly thought provoking.

Pieced together well, each section of the hour long programme flowed without interruption. Input from other historians, as well as Austen fans, helped fit together all elements of the exploration into Austen's life, to give us a wider view of the sensation she's become. The scale of popularity is impeccable. The festive period has produced us, this year, with many delightful TV shows connected with the great author, and this is one I'd most certainly recommend.

Amy x

Monday, 19 December 2011

What the Dickens?!

I won! I actually won!

As much as I love playing with words, I cannot write fiction. I lack the ability to develop my ideas, and cannot create characters that are well rounded. Regardless, I decided to enter the Waterstone's competition, for which one had to create a Dickensian character:

Mr Chuff. Chuff is an elderly gentleman with no first name. He appears to spend all of his days sitting in his ancient red armchair, a dusty old bookcase, overflowing with volumes, positioned by his side. Through the top of his glasses, he peers at those who enter his home, something which is a rarity. With few visitors, Mr Chuff seems to be an outsider. Yet, it's apparent that he has more wisdom than that which exists in the entire Universe. What is this man's past? Where did he come from? And perhaps more importantly, why does he only wear one slipper? x

I found out a mere few hours ago that I am the proud winner or a gorgeous collection of Dickens books, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers. Having only read my first Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, two days ago, I'm more than keen to plough through his collection. It's fate, without a doubt!

I can't wait for them to arrive; they look gorgeous.

Amy x