Join me on a tour of my book closet … erm … library. Every week – or other week, or whenever I remember to write one of these posts – we’ll take a look at another whack of books I may (or may not) have read.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but before you get too excited (?), know that this week’s post is a cheat. It’s only book-adjacent. Hey, it’s not too late to “x” your way out of here, especially if you hate Jane Austen and/or cute guys. Consider that your trigger warning.

library tour

This is one of two (or three? I forget) classic English lit shelves in my library, and houses my Jane Austen collection. Before we get to that, a few side notes.

  1. Yes, I have two copies of Vanity Fair. I love it a lot, but more importantly, I love matching book covers, so I couldn’t resist buying a second copy when I found it, along with Jane Eyre and Middlemarch, in the $2 discount bin.
  2. I am not a fan of Charles Dickens. The only Dickens novel I actually like is Martin Chuzzlewit, and only because it has a happy ending and because the BBC made a good adaptation of it, starring, inter alia, Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous. The Beeb can make me like almost anything. (In case you are wondering, the other two Dickens books were discount bin buys, and my feeble attempt at a “well-rounded” library. I have my favourites, and I totally discriminate.)
  3. I love P.G. Wodehouse, but I can only read his stories in short spurts. They make my brain tired. Too much funny, I guess.

Ok, with that useless prelude out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the Austens:

library tour
Jane Austen 4 lyfe

[Yes, I have two Sense & Sensibilities. Matching covers obsession strikes again … I just forgot that I already had the same book. Sigh. (Anyone need a copy?)]

Y’all have read the books – you have, haven’t you? – so I’m not going to waste your time giving you my thoughts on the plot, characters, endings, etc. No, today I want to talk about something more pressing.

Who is the hottest Jane Austen leading man?

The orthodox party line is, of course, that Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy is IT, forever and ever, amen sisters. And, listen, I see the appeal. Oh, I see the appeal.

The One and Only
The One and Only

[Although, can I be perfectly frank for a moment? BFF to BFF? These days, I kinda dig Colin Firth as the-other-Darcy more. I know – sacrilege! Which is not to say that I don’t still think that Austen’s Darcy is the bee’s knees … wait, don’t pelt me with rotten cabbages!]

The thing is … I’m a contrarian at heart. I can’t help it. (See above.) So Mr. Darcy (and Mr. Firth) is not my choice for hottest Austen leading man. Who is? Without further ado, my top 3 Austen leading men (in reverse order):

3) Paul Rudd as Josh Lucas (Clueless)

Serious question: have scientists figured out why Paul Rudd doesn’t age, and is it something one can take in pill form?

Yeah, I went there: best adaptation of Emma, hands down. If you’re a hetero woman in your 30s and don’t have a forever crush on Paul Rudd because of this movie … are we sure that you’re not an alien? Or perhaps suffer from retrograde amnesia that wiped out all of your teenage memories? I spent a good portion of my early college years convinced that my parents were to blame for my non-existent dating life, because they didn’t make it possible for me to have a sardonic-but-sensitive older ex-stepbrother whom to seduce with my knowledge of Shakespeare Hermann Hesse. Ridiculous? What-ever!

2) Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility)

Talk to me

Older ex-stepbrother fantasies aside, I totally don’t have a thing for older men – slightly creepy, young-girl obsessed older men at that. Except for Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon. First of all, that voice, you guys. I know Alan Rickman’s Voice is the most predictable of clichés, but … eh, don’t care. But beyond the Voice, Alan Rickman is kind of a fox. Like, you totally can’t help but be curious about what would happen if you two were alone somewhere behind closed doors. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

1) Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)

Hi. Hello. Hi.

Let me say, right off the bat, that I don’t really dig blond guys, and haven’t since Brad Pitt’s Legends of the Fall Se7en days. But I swooned so effing hard at the end of the Beeb’s 2007 Persuasion adaptation, I damn nearly slid right off the sofa. So I will make ALL of the exceptions for RPJ, and then a few more. Maybe it’s an age thing, because the older I get, the more I appreciate Persuasion‘s story of second-time-around love; it’s kind of slow-moving, and sort of unassuming, and not much happens (in the way of wild plot twists) along the way, but the pay-off is sublime. Every time I get to part when Anne reads The Letter, I’m basically a puddle of water. “You pierce my soul … Tell me not that I am too late.”

Like so
Like so

Also, The Kiss. I’m not generally a fan of movie kissing, especially when it involves a really drawn-out build-up. The Kiss in Persuasion is guilty of the longest build-up in the history of ridiculous movie kisses, but it still manages to be the g-damn sexiest thing ever. (I would have totally jumped RPJ’s bones about 10 seconds into that scene, and been done with it, so I give Sally Hawkins props for restraint in that particular case. That’s why she’s the professional actress and not me.)

(Side note and true story: I actually met my husband about 10 years before we started dating. We were not star-crossed lovers during the intervening period – in fact, we rarely saw each other at all – but we sometimes joke about what life would have been like if we had started dating when we first met. The consensus: we would have broken up after 3 months, and never spoken again. Thank goodness for a decade’s worth of growing up. But, yeah, maybe this also explains my soft spot for Persuasion.)

Honourable Mention: Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility)

Austen-era Cousin Matthew
Austen-era Cousin Matthew

I mean, I would have preferred James McAvoy in this role, but Dan Stevens is infinitely preferable to wet-blanket Hugh Grant. But, really, I’d pick Colonel Brandon every time.

OK, so that’s my top 3. Your turn: tell me, am I right or am I right wrong? And if I’m not right, who’s in your top 3?

24 Comments on The Reading Shelf

  1. Mmmmm James McAvoy! Luff him I do. No idea re: your question as I don’t tend to watch these kind of things! Back to our RPJ /MMcF insta convo- wasn’t MMcF in an Austen adaptation too? He was seriously grumpy, I’m sure I saw it at the cinema….?!

    • MMcF was Darcy!! I actually didn’t hate that version, and I thought he did a good job. It was a different take on Darcy, but I liked it.
      And speaking of, I’ve been Youtubing RPJ Spooks clips and … OMGdroooooooooool. That is one lovely man.

  2. Persuasion is my fav Austen. And RPJ is absolutely fabulous as Captain Wentworth. I looooove that movie. Sally Hawkins is wonderful. I literally squeal and giggle with delight during the happy points of the movie. Love. Love.

    Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester is pretty fab too. And of course, paths man who started it all. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Now I want to binge on BBC.

  3. What, no Henry Tilney? Northanger Abbey is an absolute bore, but JJ Feild is way too charming to pass up.
    I’m not that big on Colin Firth either (he is lovely, and that mini series is perfect, but I’ve never been a Darcy fan to begin with), so no rotten cabbage from me 😛 Definitely agree with you on Paul Rudd as well.

    • I actually like NA, but I’ve never seen the BBC adaptation. In the interests of research, I googled JJ Feild, but the pics didn’t do it for me. I am fully willing to re-consider, though!

  4. So there is a 90’s BBC Emma adaptation that. I have to strongly recommend. Mark Strong is Mr. Knightley (before he got into his regular villain career) and he is pretty solid, no Rudd or Firth (my top 2) but Kate Beckinsale as Emma is perfect casting. It is from her early career pre-vampire movies and she is almost more perfect for the role than Alicia Silverstone as Cher. You need to see it!

    • Funny you should mention that one … I just ordered it from Amazon!
      I’m interested in this version of Knightley, because I don’t like any of the others (bar Rudd), so we will see. I have an immense, mostly irrational, dislike of Beckinsale, but I’m willing to overlook that.

      Right now, my dream Knightley would be Rufus Sewell (who is one of my long-time crushes) but he may be getting too old for the part. If he hadn’t already done Persuasion (and been so wonderful as Wentworth), I could also see RPJ in the role.

      • Tragedy! Her early stuff is adorable, Cold Comfort Farm is one of my all-time favorite movie adaptations (also bonus Rufus Sewell, hint hint). Her pre-Hollywood stuff always makes me sad for her current career. And when Mark Stron says “badly done, Emma” it is such an emotional scene! I could very much see RS as Knightley, also Dougray Scott (the prince from Ever After) would be high on my Knightley list.

        • I freaking LOVE Cold Comfort Farm! That and Middlemarch (must see!!) are what ignited my RS crush – he is so incredibly handsome, I’m still surprised he ended up going the British actor/Hollywood villain role. Oh well.

          (And since we’re on the topic, I would also recommend seeing Dangerous Beauty. Hokey movie, but RS is in full swoon-mode.)

          CCS is one of the few movies in which I can tolerate Kate Beckinsale. I think that role and Emma are both well-suited to her general persona – she always comes across so … smug, I guess, to me. Enchanted with herself. I don’t even care about her schlocky Hollywood filmography; my dislike was cemented by Laurel Canyon (one of my fave movies) – I loathed her (and her character) in that movie. Don’t even get me started, LOL!

          • Ha, she does do serenely smug so well, I will have to look up Laurel Canyon now! As well as Dangerous Beauty, clearly. And I think RS and Dougray Scott and Mar Strong all ended up in the standard Brit villain mold because after a certain age that is all Hollywood offers most Brit actors for some reason. Although have you seen the. Jaguar commercials about how villains are always British? Pretty funny.

  5. Thank you for acknowledging that Clueless = Emma.

    I wrote a series of papers for a writing class once regarding films and TV based on classic stories. Pretty Woman = Cinderella. Clueless = Emma. Seinfeld (the final episode) based on Camus’s “The Stranger”

    While the teacher thought the series was brilliant (we were supposed to write three separate but related papers), the students in the class thought I was insane… Keep in mind this was back in 2006 and the internet was not nearly as full of people in agreeance with me. If I wrote the same series now… I probably wouldn’t have that problem thinking about it…

    • OMG, I can’t imagine that ever being in dispute at all! But that sounds like a really interesting essay series. I kinda miss that about college … the opportunity to explore interesting ideas, as a serious proposition (i.e. school work).

  6. So with you on Colonel Brandon. It’s kinda weird, but he’s just so damned constant. I always wanted to write the alternate ending where he ends up with someone who deserves him more!

    • Yes, that’s a good way to describe him … constant. Steadfast. That’s so damn appealing (especially as I get older). Keep your broody Byronic heroes. Give me stoic devotion. I think it’s why I love Wentworth so much, as well.
      And I agree, Marianne was probably too young for Brandon. Hopefully she learned to truly appreciate him in time.

  7. I’m finally getting the chance to read through all of the posts I missed while I was away and this post is very timely – I just finished watching the BBC Pride & Prejudice last night! And while I completely agree with your #2 and #3 (Clueless is one of my favourite movies of all time. THe novel Emma I am learning to appreciate more) picks, it is Firth’s Mr. Darcy at #1 always. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle just shine in their roles – I can’t imagine wet blanket Kira Knightly trying to pull off Ehle’s witty sparkle. And the chemistry between Firth & Ehle is amazing!

    (Just a quick note on Emma [since we’re talking about Austen] I used to dislike that book so much and the character of Emma. Then I read somewhere that Emma is a smart woman trapped by the circumstances of her time. She turns to meddling and matchmaking since she’s restricted by class and gender from pursuing anything which would allow her to use her intelligence. Since I read that, I’ve been much more sympathetic to the character and appreciate the book much more. I’m reading again right now! Also, Clueless is possibly one of the best movies of all time.)

    Like you, however, I am becoming fonder of Persuasion the older I get (I read it cover to cover on the flight home from Iceland – I couldn’t put it down despite my best intentions of having a nap.). I love the sparkle and wit of P&P, but there’s just something about the story of Persuasion that grabs me more and more. One of my favourites. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the movie with you and I have to admit it was not one of my favourites – I didn’t love the adaptation. Time is ripe, however, for a new adaptation of Persuasion, I think. Who shall we cast?

    • ah, but you see, I love the last Persuasion adaptation, so I don’t really want another one. And if there had to be one, RPJ would still have to play Wentworth. And I would play Anne. Since I don’t think anyone is interested in watching me act mooney for 5 hours, there really isn’t any need for it.

      The one Austen novel I’d like to see re-made is Mansfield Park. I haven’t thought much about who I’d like to see cast in it, though. Hmmm …