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I wanted some comfort reading, so decided to turn to Jane Austen (where else?). I don't think Sense and Sensibility is her best novel; it definitely feels like an early work, and the characterisation lacks the subtlety of her later novels. Elinor Dashwood is too much of a paragon to feel quite true (clever, sensible, patient, kind, able to bear disappointments stoically) and most of the other characters feel more like caricatures, with even the kindest being mocked for their foolishness or lack of common sense, taste or interesting conversation. Still, there are some lovely moments of social comedy, and I was particularly struck by John Dashwood's reasoning for not giving his stepmother and half-sisters any money following his father's death, because "They would only enlarge their style of living if they felt sure of a larger income, and would not be sixpence the richer for it at the end of the year." I feel sure I have heard that argument in the mouths of opponents of the welfare state very recently...
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To get the titling quibbles out of the way, I still don't understand why anyone would decide to make a film of Lady Susan and call it Love and Friendship (and not even Love and Freindship, ffs!). But, that aside, this is an utterly delightful film; it has gorgeous locations, pretty frocks and plenty of romance, and is also very, very funny. Obviously, I am not at all surprised to discover that Jane Austen wrote social comedy, because I have actually read her, but adaptations usually end up producing the occasional wry smile or maybe a gentle chuckle; this was proper laugh-out-loud funny.

Kate Beckinsale is fabulous as the manipulative Lady Susan Vernon; she's awful but you can't help feeling a sneaking admiration for her audaciousness, and the film shows enough of the difficult position of a widow with little money to feel very true to Austen's depiction of women in her society (and also to occasionally make me feel I could have been watching a live-action version of Manfeels Park). The other standout performance was Tom Bennett's wonderfully dim but rich suitor, although the supporting cast is strong generally, with nice turns from Jemma Redgrave and James Fleet and a remarkably restrained cameo from Stephen Fry. All in all, highly recommended.
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I can't remember when I first read Persuasion, but as I don't appear to own a standalone copy of it I suspect it must have been before I moved away from my parents' house, and I don't think I'd read it more than once before. Generally, I haven't re-read Austen nearly as much as I should have done, which is a shame, because whenever I do I find something new.

This time round, what I found was much greater sympathy for Anne and Wentworth than I had when I was nearer their ages at their first meeting rather than their second; a surprisingly modern-feeling depiction of the relationships between the party at Uppercross; and a description of "that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself" which struck me very powerfully as being, basically, the best summing-up of the concept which is now known as "resilience" and which appears to be a pop-psychology flavour of the month I've ever read. In your face, pop psychology; Jane Austen got there two centuries before you.

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