jane austen

Shoes & Sensibility

I do not know that I shall execute Martha's commission at all, for I am not fond of ordering shoes; and, at any rate, they shall all have flat heels. - Sunday, June 2, 1799, Jane Austen's letter to her sister Cassandra from Bath.

I love Jane Austen's writing. When I think of this clever, sly, witty, wry woman secretly writing her equally clever, sly, witty, wry observational novels under cover of embroidery, or doing household accounts, or reading some improving volume of boring yuck such as Fordyce's Sermons, and having to quickly whip away her pages of manuscript when someone entered the room - well. The modern mind boggles.

However. I so wish Miss Austen was kicking around on Goodreads today for several reasons - not least of which is the fact that she died far too soon, and without experiencing many of the things her heroines so happily encountered - but mainly because she left so many things unanswered in her fabulous down to earth fables. And one of these things just does not make sense, peeps.

Why, dear Miss Austen, do you never discuss shoes in your stories? I realise that others have bemoaned the fact that you pretty much ignore the Napoleonic Wars other than an occasional reference to how much loot an eligible Naval officer has pulled in - this even though Emma was published in the year Waterloo was fought and won, and you yourself had two brothers serving in the Royal Navy, eventually rising to the rank of Admiral. Perhaps you were bored senseless by Charles and Frank droning on about Trafalgar, who knows? Yo ho ho and a bottle of yawn (believe me, I am with you there sister).

But to ignore footwear... well.

Really. There's just no excusing that lapse of reason.

Did you not like shoes? Did you not have a fascination with the whole handmade kid slipper scenario? I mean, you devote a whole section in Pride and Prejudice to Lizzy's muddy petticoats, so why not chat about how stuffed her poor little boots were? I shudder at the thought of what they went through... I actually sympathise (just a tad) with prissy pants Mademoiselle Bingles in that respect.

That gives me a thought. Maybe you were mean about Caroline Bingley because she resembled a friend of yours who had nicer shoes than you. Transference issues eh Jane? Look, you should have just told her that her shoes were 'so 1798' and perhaps Caz may have been less unpleasant - who knows?

Because secretly, I think you loved shoes. The letter to your sister about Martha? Methinks the lady doth protest too much. She just knows they will be flat soled, blergh shoes and nobody is interested in that kind of malarkey. We want satin, and high insteps, and ribbons, and - well, you get the picture.

We want the early 19th century equivalent of the stiletto, sister.

I see it all now. Pride and Prejudice was originally titled Pumps and Prejudice, and was all about Darcy's horror of Lizzy's inferior ball slippers. He overcame his pride in his handmade Hessians for long enough to propose when she promised to give every pair of her crappy Chinese knock-offs to Lydia, and never write 'direct to the factory' again.

Compared to some of the other 'variations' on P & P I have read, this is actually quite believable.

I feel far more at ease thinking that JA loved shoes. Because let's face it; this is a woman sitting at home, writing furiously, giving her characters wonderfully satisfactory endings.

She damn well deserved really, really good...


A Real Page Turner

“I also read about Heathcliff’s unexpected three-year career in Hollywood under the name Buck Stallion and his eventual return to the pages of Wuthering Heights.”

— Jasper Fforde, Lost In A Good Book

Being in a book.

I have been thinking about this subject for years, I think since I first started to truly comprehend the magic of written words on a page.

In other words (cough - sorry, couldn't help it), at a very tender age indeed, I was wanting to jump between the covers of The Velveteen Rabbit and make sure that goddamned Nursery Fairy made my bunny real. By holding her to ransom if necessary, or breaking her wand.

Similarly, as my reading tastes matured, I was certain, absolutely certain, that if Anne Shirley met me, we would instantly become besties and she would forget all about boring Diana, and I would of course then get to meet Gilbert Blythe.


I do have a point here, I'm just busy between the pages. Which I suppose is my point.

If you could jump between the covers - of a book, not a bed (rude) - which one would it be?

And I mean as yourself, not as a character. Much as I love playing Sherlock Holmes (the dreadful old misogynist), I would love to go in and be myself within The Hound of the Baskervilles, or A Study In Scarlet, and find a way of helping Holmes and Watson to the truth. Or maybe being an even bigger villain than Moriarty - depending on my mood at the time.

Which characters would you love to meet on a real life basis?

Some would be too depressing for words. Much as I love Rochester, I think that all that brow beating and gloom and doom might be a bit much on a daily basis. Plus there's the mad wife, and the corsets... meh. All a bit much.

Jane Austen on the other hand... I can imagine being friends with Lizzie Bennet. I could cheerfully smack Arsey Darcy around the head, but I do like a pair of pantaloons... and riding boots. Phwoar. Book of choice however would have to be Persuasion, because I actively, and actually, love the characters in it. I can envisage conversations with Anne Elliot, and Captain Wentworth. Although I am not sure I would last long simply not doing anything other than 'visiting' all day.

I would probably end up falling off a sea wall to stave off boredom.

I was obssessed with Game of Thrones when the books came out - I read them cover to cover and sequentially. Would I like to live within them? Realistically... hell no. It would be like living at the Fall of Rome, or under the Borgias. One would never relax. Plus there's the need to speaketh wryly at all times... no... miss that one. In theory, love it. In practice, no thank ye.

I dream about books. I worship them. The characters contained within my favourite books' covers are a part of my heart. They beat inside me. I never want this to not be the case.

However... life is not a novel. It may feel like a trashy paperback at times, or even War and Peace, but it ain't.

It's non-fiction. It is absolutely a book, but it is writing itself, and we need to live it without regrets and without fear, and with love.

It may not be the approach favoured by the authors we admire most, but who is editing this thing anyway? We are.

I am.

Admittedly, given the opportunity, I would hop inside To Kill A Mockingbird and never let Atticus Finch go... but then again, I could get stuck in 1984 with Big Brother, and then where would I be?

Write your own story.

Oh, and if you get the chance - help me encourage the Nursery Fairy.

She needs a bit of a prod that one.