What is your favorite non-Austen period novel? Movie?
Okay I’m gonna do a rundown of all my favourites because making me pick one is just mean. (Also at one point in my notes on the following books and films I just wrote “Bagels” and I can’t for the life of me think what I might have meant or autocorrected that from. Maybe a shopping list started to take form. I don’t know.)
(If the film Miss Austen Regrets and book Longbourn by Jo Baker count as non-Austen then include them.)
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India - 2001 (Sports! High stakes! Sticking it to the Colonial Man!)
Mozart’s Sister - 2010 (Beautiful music! Gorgeous androgyny! GIRLS CAST TO PLAY THEIR ACTUAL AGE AND NOT SOME 20-SOMETHING PRETENDING TO BE FOURTEEN!)
Possession - 2002 (I’ve tried the novel, and A.S. Byatt has some beautiful prose but her structures sometimes do my head in, so never finished it. Ignore Paltrow as best you can and enjoy lush Victorian Gothic mystery and the ending is one of the most poignant things I’ve ever been pleasantly surprised with on film, and it leaves you wondering about many, many things…)
Jodhaa Akbar - 2008 (You could put Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in the worst commercial ever made and I would watch it. Costumes, scenery, and, as a friend once put it “I’m not sure how they did it, but they just had a sex scene without any sex.” Bravo.)
Water - 2005 (Deepa Mehta is such a fantastic filmmaker and I loved this whole trilogy but Water is my favourite.)
Elizabeth - 1998 & Elizabeth: The Golden Age - 2007 (The costumes! The caMERA ANGLES!!! The compli-fucking-cated mess that is Elizabeth I.)
[Okay Tumblr won’t let me embed any more trailers, but those ones are easy to find, they’re out there.]
Vatel - 2000 (Any foodie who is also a fan of The Sun King and his era will dig this one. A great score, baddie Tim Roth.)
Alternatively, in the same era: A Little Chaos - 2015. Storyline is a little weak, but it’s so beautiful and the cast is great and the M U S I C. Kate Winslet. Alan Rickman. Helen McCrory. STANLEY TUCCI.)
Also: they’re not films, but TV shows - honourable mentions to the Spanish series Gran Hotel. It’s like a good version of Downton Abbey, only sorta on crack and with a tonne more murder mysteries; and while I have some Issues with its so-called hero and some comparatively weirdo plot-points in S3, overall, it’s fantastic and I’m obssessed. Please don’t mix it up with the Italian re-make which looks horrible in every way. Like, main actors dressed in a poorly-sewn-table-cloth-bad.
And shout-out to the new CBC/Netflix series Anne. I will defend this show to the DEATH, alright? They’ve gone bolder and fresher and have managed to involve period realism in a moving way while retaining the sunshine-and-pinafores element that so many people love about L.M. Montgomery’s work. There’s heaps of women with production credits, and I think it shows. Geraldine James is already my favourite Marilla after one episode, and I feel like R.H. Thompson (HEY JASPER DALE HEEEEY!) and Amybeth McNulty are likely going to become my favourite Matthew and Anne, too. People have complained about this series going off-book and in particular some have condemned it sight-unseen because the writers/directors are putting a feminist spin on it and OH GOD THEY SAID FEMINIST QUICK WE GOTTA SET EVERYTHING ON FIRE BECAUSE CHILDHOOD IS RUINED, but honestly it’s just perky and gorgeous and scrappy and nobody can tell me to my face that Kevin Sullivan didn’t go all the fucking way off-book from the very beginning so I am not gonna sit here and insist that the Megan Fallows Anne of Green Gables was perfection which could never be improved upon because that’s just a plain lie. It was nice and it has its place but it’s time for some new blood. (And NOT the telefilms they’ve also come out with recently with Martin Sheen, bless his heart, but they took a brunette child actor and dumped an atrociously stark box of red hair-dye on her before drawing on her freckles and then telling her to please play everything theatrically to the back of the house even though there is a camera ten inches from her face.) I am HERE FOR ANNE. RIDE OR DIE.
AND NOW, FOR BOOKS!
After that you might assume my L.M. Montgomery recommendation would be Anne of Green Gables and sure I won’t say DON’T read them, but for my money the Emily of New Moon trilogy is more my jam and I wish to God and Netflix in all my prayers that there might someday be a decent adaptation of them.
I was really into Cassandra Clark’s Abbess of Meaux mystery series for a time, but then things went a bit pear-shaped in what I think was the fourth(?) book and everything was OOC and honestly I haven’t caught up on the later books after that and they seem to be self-published now but I am a sucker for nuns and mysteries so I’ll probably get back into it when I have time.
The Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight and The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim. Vacation-reads! Beautiful prose, some wry wit, and fun hijinks. If you’ve ever wanted to run away and live in an isolated cottage in the wilderness for a little while, these are for you. [ETA: I recently got my hands on a copy of The Jasmine Farm so THANK YOU to one of you who recommended it I am loving it so far only I don’t see the appeal in Andrew so wtf Terry you can do better.]
Edward Rutherfurd’s geographical history novels–Sarum is the classic to start with, but the others I’ve read are very good, too. (London, New York, and I’m now working my way through a first-edition of Russka.)
Amy Levy. A M Y L E V Y. Criminally under-recognized Jewish Victorian novelist and poet. Novellas Ruben Sachs and The Romance of a Shop. (RS a beautiful and bittersweet story about the conflicts between love, identity, and expectations, and some would say a response to George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. TRoaS reading a bit like a less treacle-sweet variation on Little Women, where four sisters try to make their way in the world by setting up their own photography studio in late 19th century London.)
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgkin Burnett. Colonialist racism appears in this one, so be warned. Still the book is a THOUSAND times better than the utterly dreadful adaptation known as The Making of a Lady. Jane is better, Emily is better, Walderhurst is better, pretty much EVERYONE IS BETTER. The pacing is better. The plotting and suspense make actual sense.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. A classic, and the grand-daddy of every secret-identity superhero.
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Like, it makes me MAD how good these books are.
And last but not least, a non-fiction selection in Vere Hodgson’s WWII diaries: Few Eggs and No Oranges. Nothing else has ever brought the experience of living (or trying to) under the shadow of the bombs and the threat of invasion quite like these diaries. Fascinating details, engagingly written, and at times a stark reminder that the Allied victory we take for granted in our history could by no means be counted on by the millions who dwelt in daily uncertainty.