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April 23, 2013

TES poll reveals teachers’ favourite reads

| By Joshua Farrington

A list of teachers’ favourite books compiled by the Times Educational Supplement (TES) has declared Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as number one. Harper Lee’s popular school text, To Kill a Mockingbird, came in second, while JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series came in third.

500 teachers responded to an online survey to name their favourite books, to create a list which TES editor Gerard Kelly called: “a masterpiece of erudition and entertainment” which “could be one of the few things that Michaels Gove and Rosen agree on”.

In the magazine’s leader column, he wrote: “Strip out the children’s books, the inclusion of which is only to be expected from people whose job it is to engage children, and what you are left with is a pretty canonical list. There’s enough Dickens, Steinbeck, Hardy, Wilde, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hugo and Eliot to satisfy even the most conservative of politicians, and of course, plenty of modern greats: Kerouac, Ishiguro, Roy and Plath, to please the modernists.”

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February 8, 2013

Pride and Prejudice retold from servants’ viewpoint

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:26 pm


A new novel that retells the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of its servants has been sold around the world.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker, was snapped up by US and UK publishers last week.

“Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature,” said Baker.

“But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing.”

The 39-year-old British author said she drew her inspiration from her family’s years in service.

“Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently,” she explained.

Longbourn follows a romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid in the Bennet household that runs parallel to the love story between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

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January 27, 2013

Pride and Prejudice at 200: looking afresh at Austen’s classic

Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet in the 1995 BBC adaptationMr Bennet’s a bully, Elizabeth can’t stand women and Mr Darcy needs therapy. On the 200th anniversary of Austen’s novel, writers from PD James to Sebastian Faulks offer new readings

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May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day: 12 Of The Most Horrifying Mothers Of Literature

  By Amy Hertz and Jessie Kunhardt

On Mother’s Day, nothing will make you want to celebrate your mom more than these horrifying mothers of literature. While we might have pouted over the usual ministrations of authority, she was probably nicer than Medea (you’re still alive, right?), or wasn’t as loony as mother to the Bennett sisters in “Pride and Prejudice.”

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January 3, 2012

The English love affair with the murder mystery

By Guy Stagg

The English are a morbid bunch. They see more ghosts per person than any other nation. Perhaps it is due to our relatively stable history, meaning that families and buildings stay around long enough to become haunted. Christmas always used to be a time for ghost stories, but recently they have been replaced by our other grisly fascination: murder mysteries.

This Christmas has been an especially good one for fans of the murder mystery. David Suchet was in fine form as he enters the final lap of his Poirot run, while P. D. James’s most recent novel Death Comes to Pemberley was a delightful, if brutal, sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Meanwhile 2012 brings the latest series of Sherlock and a new TV adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood – the Dickens whodunit, left tantalisingly unfinished at the author’s death.

The English have always been fans of crime fiction, and murder mysteries in particular. But it’s not as if we have higher murder rate than any other country. So why do we enjoy reading about it so much?

England did not invent the murder mystery. However, we did perfect the genre. The Golden Age of detective fiction was between the wars, where writers like Dorothy L Sayers and GK Chesterton became household names, while Agatha Christie went on to sell more novels than any author in history.

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December 19, 2011

200 years on, why Jane Austen’s lovers find new reasons for their passion

Greg Wise and Kate Winslet in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility. Photograph: Allstar

A literary historian argues that the author’s genius lies in the way she holds up a mirror to each generation.

By Amanda Vickery

Her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, came out 200 years ago, but it could have been yesterday for Jane Austen’s legions of fans.

At this year’s annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America, about 800 pilgrims travelled to Fort Worth, Texas, to worship the fiction. A cavalcade of readers, mainly women, mostly in full Regency costume, congregated for a joyous weekend of workshops and lectures, receptions and dinners, a costume parade (past ersatz saloons and Tex-Mex restaurants), crowned by a Regency ball. The bonnets carried all before them.

Top billing went to the screenwriter Andrew Davies, whose testosterone-fuelled Pride and Prejudice for BBC1 rebooted the franchise in 1995. The buildup to his keynote lecture, Mr Darcy’s Wet Shirt and Other Embarrassments, was tremendous. Four cinema screens beamed a montage of climactic moments from his Austen back catalogue to the full-throttle accompaniment of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. Davies, a genial seventysomething, looked stunned by the fervour of his reception. “He’s our rock god!” panted one fan. “Do you think he knows what he’s done for us?” gasped another.

The Jane Austen brand has global reach. There are booming Austen societies in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina. Austen’s novels have been re-imagined as California high school romcoms, Bollywood extravaganzas and most recently as a comedy zombie shocker. In Britain, Pride and Prejudice is one of the nation’s favourite novels (second only to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the BBC’s Big Read of 2004).

Teenage readers and moviegoers might think that Austen has always been adored. In fact, although she made some money in her lifetime, her tombstone does not mention her novels. By the 1820s, with the books out of print and remaindered, it looked as if her short-lived reputation had died with her. The Victorians found her passionless and parochial. “Why do you like Jane Austen so very much?” Charlotte Brontë remonstrated with the critic George Henry Lewes.

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September 13, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird voted UK’s best-loved book

Mary Badham and Gregory Peck in the 1962 film of To Kill A Mockingbird. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/UI

Harper Lee’s novel edges out previous favourites Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings.

By Alison Flood

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has replaced previous favourites The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice as the nation’s most-loved read.

The classic novel topped a poll of more than 6,000 people for World Book Night, with JRR Tolkien’s fantasy coming in sixth place after heading the BBC’s Big Read in 2003, when three quarters of a million votes were cast. Jane Austen’s evergreen romance came in second, after romping in in first in a poll of 2,000 for World Book Day in 2007.

The World Book Night survey saw over 6,000 people submit the top 10 titles they most love to read, give and share. More than 8,000 books were suggested, with Lee’s story of Scout Finch growing up in the American south receiving the most nominations, with 676 votes. Second place went to Pride and Prejudice (521 votes), with Markus Zusak’s modern children’s novel, The Book Thief, coming in third (489), Jane Eyre fourth (415) and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife fifth (405).

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July 29, 2011

Harper Lee tops World Book Night picks

 | Charlotte Williams

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been voted the most popular title to be given away as part of World Book Night 2012.

The organisation launched a public vote last month asking people to vote for the titles they would like to see given away at the event next year. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is in second place and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief rounds out the top three.

Also in the top 10 are The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. J K Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, sits just outside the top 10 in 11th place.

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