Lost in Austen

TV makes everything better!

One of the things about myself that I’m kind of embarrassed about is that while I apparently come across as highly erudite and well educated, I’m not actually particularly literary. Confront me with a list of the greatest novels of the last 200 years and I’ll have to admit that I’ve read very few of them. Dostoyevsky? Nope. Balzac? Nup. Orwell? No. Tolstoy? ‘Fraid not. The Brontës? Uh-uh. Steinbeck? Never. Dickens? Well I read Great Expectations in high school. Kipling? No. The list goes on.

A few years ago I decided to do something about this. I – on the basis that everyone always goes on and on about it – obtained a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set to work on it with vigour and enthusiasm.

I got about two thirds of the way through before collapsing in apathy and giving up.

I just couldn’t get into it. The pace was glacial, there were dozens of characters you had to keep track of, Elizabeth and Darcy were irritating as all get out and I really just could not motivate myself to push through to the end. Once again literature one, me nil.

(I dare say the book’s many millions of fans – or at least the few that stumble over this blog – are foaming at the mouth at the above. Let me state here that I’m in no way saying it’s a bad book, just one that I couldn’t understand. The fault is entirely mine!)

The reason I bring all this up was that the ABC played the first two (as is their wont) episodes of Lost in Austen last night, and I loved it. It was freaking hilarious!

For those unfamiliar with the premise, a young 21st century woman (and fan of the book) finds herself somehow swapped with Elizabeth Bennet and by her very presence horribly disrupting the plot. Her attempts to get things back on track make matters even worse and – well I don’t want to include any spoilers and I’ve only seen half of it anyway, but it’s entertaining in the extreme.

(Mr Collins! Oh my lord Mr Collins!! The sniffing!!)

I think one of the main reasons I like this version is that the actors do all the heavy lifting on remembering who’s who. It’s much easier to remember what’s going on when you’ve got a clear image of each character in your head. It’s also got the right mix of sly, post-modern humour and Austenic (if I might be permitted to coin an adjective) witticisms. I’m very much looking forwards to the conclusion next week and, who knows, once it’s all over I may even go back and give the book another try.


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