Could there be someone behind the scenes of Lizzy and Darcy's romance, inadvertently steering the course of events? Perhaps the timeless love story of Pride and Prejudice is only a part of the picture, as other players unknowingly weave the plot, and end up finding passion themselves.
Delightful! Surprising! "Written in a refreshing first person voice, we see and feel the love Bingley’s groom, Christopher, carries for Mary Bennet, entwined with the growing romance between Darcy and Elizabeth. This is a warm story, brimming over with love."
Worth Reading "Of all the dozens of P&P variations I've read this one has just about the most interesting POV."
Avid Reader "Class and station were so important in England. The ideas still remain entrenched in present day society. Education, then and now, allowed those humbly born to rise above their stations in life."
A neglected Bennett sibling well-developed and interesting "Mary is a neglected Bennett sibling in Austen's original and certainly fruitfully developed here. I also like the character of the groom, equally well-developed and interesting."
Mary Triumphant "An excellent book. The prose is crisp and authentic, free from modern slang. It shed light on the neglected Bennet sister, Mary. As a plain sister, who wore eyeglasses, lived to read and had three popular sisters, I felt a bond with Mary. It is good to see her emerge from the shadows and claim the reader's attention."
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice read aloud.
Come visit with me on Nerd Girls Romantics and Time Travelers blog.
I also write the Searching For Sincerity blog with my husband, Jonathan.
The Last Age of the Redhead
I heard it on the news this morning. Redheads are becoming extinct – and fast –in less than 100 years They reported it on a Sunday Morning network news show. Who’s even awake at that hour on a Sunday? It’s quite possible I was the lone redhead viewing at the time the devastating report was aired. The lone redhead. That phrase resonates with me
As a child, the hardest thing about having red hair was not so much being the only one, as that it went with being funny looking. There were the orange locks, the pale, freckled skin, and bright blue eyes, framed by pale blond lashes that were all but invisible to the naked eye. Add to that a big nose, braces, and the fact that I was painfully skinny and it was not a look that put me on the fast track to popularity.
Jr. high school was a misery. This was the early seventies, when the look was tan and sleek, with long, straight, blond hair. To make it worse, I lived in Southern California, home of the perpetually bronzed. And so I tried to embrace the look, but the hip-hugger jeans hung un-alluringly from my shapeless body, my skin only reddened and freckled in the sun, and my wavy red hair refused to take on the swingy lengths of Marcia Brady’s.
And yet, as often happens, once I reached adulthood, the ugly duckling grew into a swan. My wavy red hair, like a russet waterfall down my back, became a true asset. I was cute; I was attractive. Boys finally liked me! And once I was on a roll, I never looked back. But all those years of being different, and quirky looking built my character, like my mom always said it would.
Being a redhead is a state of mind anyway, a deep sense of knowing that we are different, and yes, even endangered. We may not survive evolution. We are fiery, passionate, and a little mystical, but can we be preserved? I don’t think so. But I’m thankful that my hair has been the tool with which to build my character. Let’s hope that that part of being a redhead will never become extinct.
An American Immigrant in New York City
I was an outsider in Los Angeles, the land of my birth. I should have been born and raised on the East Coast – my complexion and temperament are much more suited to it. In L.A. I felt like a misplaced immigrant from another country. I was never the blond, tanned, athletic type that one associates with Southern California. I was a skinny red-headed kid with freckles and I burned. When I was 13, my family moved to Tucson, and I felt even more out of place there, with the relentless sun, parched air, and Rodeo Days celebrations.
When I was 18, I visited New York City for the first time for just one day with a touring educational group, and the moment I set foot on the city’s moist sidewalks, air misty on a damp May morning, every pore in my body breathed: I’m home. Our tour bus let my friends and I off in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as I gazed at the stately old building with its great, imposing steps I was amazed. Nothing in the South West is old, nothing has steps; everything is flat and low to the ground. We went inside and looked at impressionist paintings, taking in a Monet exhibit. There was nothing of such a cultural nature in Tucson – I didn’t even know Monet existed before that day.
Once finished there, we took a bus along 5th Avenue to Greenwich Village. The ride itself was a marvel as the bus trundled down that famous street that had only existed for me in the movies. There were hoards of people bustling along the avenue in raincoats and hats. I’d never seen anything like it. Nobody walks in the South West, and nobody ever wears a raincoat.
When we got to the Village, I discovered what appeared to be an artists’ haven. Though I didn’t actually see any artists, I could certainly see why they’d hang out there in the quaint little bistros, hip record stores, dark cafes, and vintage clothing shops. It reeked of bohemia. This is what I was at my core; I knew it, though I’d never realized it before.
Finally, we met up with the rest of our group in Times Square to see A Chorus Line. Walking down those legendary streets, I breathed in City, my heart beat City; I wanted to live in a City – this city. Even the New Yorkers seemed to agree. Walking along, my hair curling into ringlets from the dampness, strangers gave me appreciative glances. I felt attractive in New York City. I didn’t have to be blond and tan. For the first time in my life I fit in.
After the show, we got back on the bus and I didn’t return to the city for two years. When I did come back to go to college, I knew I was finally coming home. I was returning, not to the land of my birth, but the land of my rebirth.
The United States is such an enormous country, that as one travels from east to west, or north to south, one encounters people and places that are so different from each other it seems impossible that they can all be part of the same country. But this allows us unending freedom to search until we find just the place where we feel most at home. New York is my home now, and though I know I’m an immigrant here, I’m happy for the warm welcome.
Queen Mermaid of Coney Island sits beside her king, bejeweled, bedecked and adored as the throngs amass to celebrate the day.
I, the mermaid queen, swim alone through vast expanses of depth and cold, heat and light, awash in waste and wreckage.
She sacrifices to save her Brooklyn land, but I have no recourse to save my Atlantic and Pacific, my Indian and Arctic, my Mediterranean…
My minions, the silvery and silent, the undulating membranes, the many-legged and tentacled, the sharp, the profound, the joyous and the taciturn swim with me.
Then my brothers and sisters join us, scales flashing, hair seething with the ebb and flow of the tides and we see all.
We head for warmer parts, for cleaner waters and we wish the monarch well. May she pray for us.
Assault on Coffee Den #103
On a promising Wednesday morning, Chuck Fabrizzi was preparing Coffee Den # 103 for the onslaught of customers that would pour through the squeaky-clean glass doors about an hour after the crack of dawn. Meanwhile, the ultimate disruption of his morning routine was hurtling towards him on the F train.
Chuck's minions scuttled about, filling napkin holders, stacking sugars, stocking cups and preparing the machines that would issue forth the steaming black liquid. His nameplate announced his title, Assistant Manager. He walked around the establishment inspecting tables. One young, attractive female worker finished wiping a tabletop and then deftly slipped out of his way before he could engage her in conversation. Another lost opportunity. He glanced at his watch, the minute hand snapped to 7:00 and he barked an order: “Open the doors!” The call went down the chain of command until the lowliest stepped forward and ceremoniously pushed the double doors outwards, locking them in place.
Several blocks away, a tall man dressed in white emerged from the F train station with his troupe of followers and began marching in the direction of Coffee Den #103.
Back at the Den, rushed, sleepy, and harried professionals one by one stumbled in, their expressions blank, only one thought on their collective mind – caffeine. The baristas, for their part, did the dance they knew so well. Tall, (which meant small), Grande, (which inexplicably meant medium) and Venti, (well, enough said). Skim, foam, half-caff, macchiato, latte, double-shot – all the lingo that was mutually assumed by all, and any customer who professed ignorance of it, God help them.
The multitudes came and left, now happily drugged. Computer laptops were opened at tables and the world of the Coffee Den was at peace. Chuck gazed about and breathed a sigh of contentment. He lived for moments like these. Then, out of the corner of his eye, through the doorway, he caught a flash of white and red. There was singing and shouting. He quickly checked his mental calendar. No, Christmas was still several months off. The red and white was coming into focus. A tall man wielding a bullhorn, dressed in a white leisure suit with poufy, bleached blond hair was leading a choir, clad in red robes, straight towards Coffee Den #103. What on earth? They came closer. Some kind of celebration? Closer. Chuck now could see the man was a minister. He began to panic. What was happening? Before he could decide what to do, the group burst through the doors. The lively gospel tune they were singing had a message, something about little children picking coffee beans.
The preacher was imploring the customers, “Sisters and brothers, put down that expensive coffee you’re drinking – back away from the product and reflect with me for a moment. Who has picked those precious beans – those sacred beans that give you so much pleasure? It’s a farmer and his children, a farmer in Ethiopia or Columbia who is being paid pennies a day, whose children spend backbreaking hours in the fields rather than sitting in a classroom receiving an education. The high price you pay for your coffee is not going to those farmers! The Coffee Den has the choice to use fair trade products and they choose not to! They come into our communities, force the mom and pop coffee shops out of business – replace authentic experience with a fake bohemianism, and exploit coffee farmers with every sip you take!”
A pretty lady was handing out fliers with supporting information. Information that well, frankly, Chuck wasn’t aware of, nor did he care much about. Business was, after all, business.
Suddenly the preacher hopped onto the counter; he was standing on the counter with his filthy shoes, thought Chuck. The man was working the crowd with a combination of humor and pathos. People were listening to him with wide eyes, some a little frightened, but many enjoying the spectacle and the music. They were taking the fliers from the pretty woman. This had to stop.
“Stop!” cried Chuck.
But the minister just kept on preaching and now he was addressing Chuck personally with his message, begging him to confront his own company about the wrongs it was committing. Then he did the most unthinkable thing. He leapt behind the counter, scattering baristas from his path, and he LICKED the spigots of each coffee machine. Chuck whipped out his cell phone and dialed 911. This was insanity. Why was this happening at Coffee Den # 103, why not #104 on the next block over? The minister now approached the cash register dramatically, warily, like it was the representation of evil.
“This is all an act,” thought Chuck. “They’re going to rob us!”
But the minister laid his hands on the machine as if it were a sick child and called out to heaven to exorcize the demons of greed and globalization. Chuck ran to him and shoved him aside. The good minister did not take offense. He looked beatifically into Chuck’s eyes and, laying a hand on his shoulder, blessed him too. Chuck froze. He had never been blessed before. He gazed into the minister’s blue eyes. This was a good man, Chuck could see, someone who had the courage of his convictions. Chuck had never really felt conviction for anything but his job. The minister was addressing that too, thanking Chuck for doing his job well, but asking him, begging him to consider the source of the black liquid that spewed from his machines every day. Chuck took a moment to consider. He felt torn. The music from the choir grew softer, chanting. He felt slightly lulled by the music. After all, there was no real harm done. He’d have to take apart the coffee machines and sterilize the spigots, and that would slow down business, but it had all been rather interesting.
The minister became meditative now, as the choir finished their song. The pretty lady was waving good-bye, handing out her fliers on the way. It had been an adventure. Then, red lights flashed, sirens screamed. A burst of blue as the police rushed in and caught the minister while the choir scattered. The lady was screaming at them but they ignored her; they were bent on him. They forced his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, dragging him out the door. The whole time he was smiling, calling out his message to those who would listen. The police threw him into their van amidst protests from his group. The van drove off. The lady and the choir members bravely exited with one final song, and the customers went back to sipping their coffees. The excitement over, the normal buzz returned, heightened, with chatter about what had just taken place. Chuck mentally assessed his defiled sanctuary. With a sigh of resignation he ordered his crew to dismantle the coffee machines, while he took personal charge of scouring down the counter. They worked until they had restored the Coffee Den to its former immaculate state.
The day wore on. Chuck was distracted. His shift ended at 4:00, just before the evening rush of tired commuters came in, looking for their late day pick-me-up. The sun was low in the sky. This was when the cleanliness of the windows was really put to the test – when the light gleamed through, showing every smudge and speck. Chuck noted that they passed the test – his minions had done well. He went downstairs to his locker, took off his smock, grabbed his jacket and headed up and out onto the street. He walked by Coffee Den #104. Everything in order there. Two blocks later he was passing #105. He almost stopped in to ask the manager if they had had any disruption today, but he didn’t feel like discussing it. How could he explain what had happened, how could he muster the appropriate outrage?
Chuck reached the entrance to the F train at Broadway/Lafayette and descended into the station’s murky depths. He wondered if the incident would be on the news but he hadn’t seen any reporters there. A flash of red caught his eye, and he turned to look. A somewhat bedraggled young man stood nearby, slumped and tired looking. Over his arm was draped a red choir robe. The young man was humming a tune, lost in his own world. He must have sensed Chuck staring at him, because he looked up, and smiled a smile of uncertain recognition. Chuck hesitantly smiled back.
“You were at the Coffee Den this morning.”
“Oh yeah, were you there?” the young man asked.
“What did you think?” He was an actor looking for a review.
“You guys were...” Chuck faltered, feeling at a loss to describe what he thought about the thing he had been a part of, "great," he said. "Really, really great."
The young man's smile grew wide, “Thanks! You want a flier?”
“Sure,” Chuck replied with some surprise at his own answer.
The young man fished a folded paper out of his pocket and handed it to Chuck.
The F train pulled into the station.
“Is this your train?” Chuck asked.
“No, I take the V.”
“Well, see you later,” Chuck said, holding out his hand. The young man shook it.
Chuck stepped through the opening doors. They slid closed and he took an open seat. He unfolded the flier and began to read.
Looking down on Mandeep’s farm from way up in the sky, you’ll first perceive the rectangular shapes of the fields. Come closer and the shades of green, tan and brown will appear more vivid. A little closer still, you’ll see the top of the farmhouse itself, the round silo and the barn. From this distance you should be able to make out the pond, and upon nearer inspection the mottled mossy green that lines its banks. You might even now be able to spy the small specks that are cows and sheep dotting the pastures, and maybe a tractor or two parked by the barn. But no matter how closely you examine this upstate New York farm, you will probably miss the very small frog sitting quietly, half submerged in the pond’s cool water, almost completely camouflaged by algae.
When Mandeep’s daughter, Vrinda, was out walking one evening, wistfully gazing at the pale pink sunset, the late spring breeze whispering over her skin, she was desperately aware of the little frog’s mournful song. The song drew her towards the pond, for it sounded like her loneliness. She was, after all, just seventeen, and every moment she waited for the boy of her dreams to come and sweep her off her feet was another drop in the well of that loneliness. She approached the pond, stopping within a few feet from where the frog crouched. He was startled by her large human body and stopped singing, fearful she might misstep and crush him. When she could not locate the source of the song, she sighed and walked back to the farmhouse, her long, black hair swaying behind her.
The frog heaved a sigh of relief. He didn’t much care for the large human creatures; to him they seemed clumsy and unaware. When the girl was safely out of sight, he resumed his crooning. The words were only these: “I’m lonely… I’m lonely…” sung in hopes that his perfect love would hear him and come to ease his pain.
The next evening the frog once again took up his lament and once again it drew Vrinda. She came with her long skirt swishing, the bells on her ankle bracelet and the silver bangles on her arms lightly jingling. Her bare feet strode confidently on the soft earth and the scent of jasmine wafted around her. This time she walked directly to the source of the singing, looked carefully about and found him, peering warily up at her, his chant abruptly halted.
Vrinda smiled knowingly, lifted her skirt delicately above her knees and knelt down in the mud. The frog was caught in her gaze and could not move. She reached down and gently scooped him up. Her palm was warm and dry, but not unpleasant, thought the frog. Vrinda brought the tiny amphibian towards her to examine him closely. He was cute, she thought, and would make a nice pet, but that was not her intent.
Her father had spoken many times of her royal heritage, how if they still lived in India, she’d be a princess and they’d live in a palace with servants and jewels. Vrinda could never figure out, if this was true, why they worked long, hard hours on a farm near Goshen. Never-the-less, she believed in her heart that she was an Indian princess - hence, her attraction to the frog. Bringing the small creature closer and looking deeply into its unblinking eyes, she
imagined that what lay within was really a tall prince with cinnamon colored skin, thick, black, wavy hair, a proud straight nose and strong, white teeth. Or maybe something more like
Charlie, the captain of the football team. She didn’t really care, as long as he was handsome and he was hers.
The frog stared at Vrinda on his unavoidable journey towards her face. He saw her rich, almond-shaped eyes, with their long, curling lashes, her perfect nose on the side of which rested a small jewel, her shapely cheekbones, and her pouting, ruby lips. He didn’t know anything about princes, but instinct told him that she expected something miraculous from this kiss, something that would change him irrevocably. He closed his eyes in anticipation of the imminent collision, and as he did, an image flashed through his mind.
He pictured the old farmer, Mandeep, rising before dawn to tend his animals, toiling all day in the hot sun, plowing and harvesting with his complicated machinery, his workers bent around him in the fields. He saw him performing the endless tasks of planting and picking, growing, repairing, feeding, shearing, milking, slaughtering. He saw the lines of worry on the man’s face – the burden of his family on his back. This was all the frog knew of the life of man, and though he was aching for a mate, he knew this lovely girl before him was not the answer. He opened his eyes. Her lips were almost upon him, her eyes closed. He was not about to take a chance on the terrible possibility of such a transfiguration. Just as Vrinda’s puckered mouth was about to encompass his face, the frog leapt away, and disappeared into the pond.
“Humph,” Vrinda grunted with disappointment. Then she shrugged and struggled to her feet. She hadn’t really wanted to kiss the slimy little thing anyway.
As the frog glided away under the water, grateful for his escape, he glimpsed the full moon rising above him in the still fading sky. He emerged to rest on the far bank, and something caught the corner of his eye. He looked around and there before him was the most beautiful girl-frog he had ever seen in his life. She batted her glorious eyes at him, he sang a few bars of his most poignant mating song to her, and they hopped off together under the waxing moonlight.
The next day, Charlie asked Vrinda to the prom. They fell in love and lived happily ever after, or at least for the next three months, until they both went away to college.
An informal analysis and commentary on Henry James’ “Washington Square.”
I remember being depressed and disappointed with the ending of Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” to the extent that I never felt compelled to pick up another of his novels. I generally like my stories to end happily. Even though you’ve got to appreciate books like “Anna Karenina” or “Wuthering Heights,” I prefer a good Jane Austen any day. I’m happiest with a happy ending. (You’d think “House of Mirth” would be a cheerful book, by the way.) Therefore it was with trepidation that I picked up “Washington Square.” But I was researching mid-19th century New York and I thought it would help center me in that time and place. Besides, it looked short.
Now, I’m not much in the habit of writing essays on books that I read, but I was so much struck by certain aspects of this novel, that I felt compelled to put my thoughts down on paper. For instance, I was surprised to find Catherine, the heroine of the story, not beautiful, witty, or charming, though she was rich – a necessity in a heroine if she’s none of the other three. And I mustn’t mislead you into thinking that she is the main character – rather she seems to share that status with her father, Dr. Sloper. It is implied by the author and pretty much downright stated by Dr. Sloper that she’s fat, ugly and stupid. Henry James is actually far kinder to his heroine than Dr. Sloper is. James talks about her healthy constitution and the glow in her cheeks. He gives her credit for being inwardly still – a person who contemplates rather than speaks. James loves his creation far more than any character in the book does – more than either of her aunts, her supposed lover, and certainly more than her father.
Her father actually states that she’s unattractive more than once, and inwardly notes her large derriere. He can’t stand her lack of initiative and what he considers the dull look in her eye. He’s critical as only a parent can be. Most parents see only the good in their child, but some choose to only find disappointment. He is of the latter group. But, so you don’t think he is a blatant antagonist – for James is not that obvious, he never lets his daughter know what he really thinks of her, and is a kind father at least throughout her childhood and early adulthood.
Anyway, to briefly summarize the plot: a handsome fortune-hunter begins to pursue Catherine and she falls for him, hook, line and sinker. Her father sees through this man, Morris Townsend, immediately, but Catherine’s Aunt Penniman stokes Catherine’s fantasy of believing the man in is truly in love. Dr. Sloper really digs in his heels against the marriage. He refuses to allow Catherine his portion of her inheritance if she marries him. But Catherine doesn’t care – she’s determined. She is ready to marry Townsend the moment he sets a date. This is where we see what a cad Morris Townsend is. He’s not content with her $10,000 from her dead mother, he wants to hold out for the father’s $30,000. When he sees this will never happen, he bows out.
At this point we expect Catherine to fall apart. We expect her to become a Miss Haversham-type character and shut herself away in tragic spinsterhood. But she doesn’t. She spends the next 20 or so years doing charity work, as befits her station, socializing, becoming a favorite sort of matronly aunt among the young people of society and basically enjoying her quiet, unremarkable life. She even gets three genuine proposals of marriage from other men, but turns them all down. Aha, we think; she is secretly pining for Morris Townsend.
Eventually her father dies and lo and behold, who returns to the scene but Mr. T. Now, with all impediments gone, he’s ready to claim his prize. But keep in mind, that Dr. Sloper did not leave Catherine the $30,000 after all. He had asked her to promise him never to marry Morris Townsend, even after his death. She would not promise him – further proof of her pining, we think. Still the Doctor left her something, and at the age of 47 or so, she is quite well off.
This is what I love; she does not even consider Morris Townsend’s latent proposal. She’s very matter of fact about it. He hurt her once. That was enough. She’s done. She has not been pining after all. She wouldn’t promise her father not to marry Townsend because she did not want to give Dr. Sloper that power over her, and she also came to understand that if Morris had really loved her, the money wouldn’t have mattered.
I was rejoicing at this point in the book. I see that this is a true heroine. James has given us a character who has basically only one thing going for her – her own sense of self worth. Her father has subjugated her to his will, or at least tried, has ended up belittling and humiliating her in his own stoic way, and her lover has ultimately proven to her that he only loved her for her money. Yet she maintains her self-respect. She maintains it in spite of everyone trying to take it away from her.
You could argue that her father loved her so much that he was willing to protect her at all costs, even if it made her hate him (which actually, she never does – she is too good-hearted). But you find yourself wondering if he’s doing it for love of his child, or because he so desperately needs to be right. Basically, James never leads us to believe that Dr. Sloper is ever anything but right about Morris Townsend. But it is his need to prove himself right and say, “I told you so,” that makes us loathe him and actually root for Catherine to marry Morris Townsend and have some small grain of happiness no matter how short lived. When the young Morris Townsend initially gives up on her, you get the impression that Sloper is happiest because he was right, rather than that his daughter was spared an unhappy marriage to a mercenary.
It is Catherine’s strength throughout the book, her steadfastness, first against her father and then against her returned lover, that makes me love her so, as I love Elizabeth Bennet’s charm and wit and as I admire Anna Karenina’s beauty. Henry James has given us a woman for today, even a role model, I dare say, for the frumpy, the overweight, and the dull-witted. As a writer, I don’t have the guts to write about a woman like that. But Mr. James does, and I have to say, he’s won this reader back.
© Georgina Young-Ellis
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