Romance from Milford’s Wadleigh Memorial Library
Thursday, February 14, 2013
February brings with it cold temperatures and epic snowstorms, but it also brings that holiday of candy hearts, roses and romance: Valentine’s Day. And who doesn’t love a good romance?
Presumably we have Geoffrey Chaucer to thank for taking Valentine’s Day, a once religious holiday celebrating Saint Valentinus, and equating it with love and romance. You might remember Mr. Chaucer by his more famous work, “The Canterbury Tales.” He forever changed the tone of Valentine’s Day with what’s thought to be the first romantic love poem associated with the holiday. Written in the late 14th century, its title “Parlement of Foules” initially begs to be translated as “Parliament of Fools” (or is that just me?). Chaucer was conceivably a romantic at heart, however, because his Middle English actually translates to “Parliament of Fowls.” Yes, that’s correct; Chaucer was writing about birds…flocks of birds who come together to find their mates.
So how do we jump the chasm from the innocence of fools/fowls to the book series that generated more sales than Harry Potter: “Fifty Shades of Grey?” It all comes back to Jane. Jane Austen, that is.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of what most concede is one of the earliest and best known romance novels ever written: “Pride and Prejudice.” If you’ve never read it (seriously?), you’re in for a treat. The courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy has borne multiple mini-series and movie versions over the years. In what is perhaps the ultimate compliment of contemporary pop culture, Pemberley (for the uninitiated, that’s the name of Darcy’s country estate) has also been “zombified.” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” appeared on the scene back in 2009 and a movie version of it is currently in production.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Austen’s regency romance has also been the basis of numerous other spin-offs and what is commonly known as “fan fiction.” Regina Jeffers has a series of “Pride and Prejudice” mysteries. The imagined saga of Pemberley continues in a host of books by Rebecca Ann Collins known as “The Pemberley Chronicles.”
Children can get in on the joy of Jane with “Pride and Prejudice: A Counting Primer” and teens have a high-school version of the romance in “Prom and Prejudice.” Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s courtship has even been immortalized in graphic novels. For those who enjoy Christian fiction, there’s the recent “Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart” and “chick-lit” lovers can thoroughly enjoy a modern twist on the story in Shannon Hale’s “Austenland.” Much in the voice of “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a 30-something named Jane (what else?) fantasizes about finding a real life Mr. Darcy thanks to her obsession with Colin Firth’s portrayal of him in the BBC series. And I ask you, who among us cannot relate?
Surely Ms. Austen would be astonished that a book she originally penned in the late 1790s, though not published until 1813, had gone on to bear fruit which now constitutes the largest segment of book sales in the industry with an estimated revenue of $1.4 billion. No other genre comes close; the next most profitable category is “religion/inspirational” with an estimated revenue only slightly more than half that of romance fiction. With so many outgrowths of sub-genres including paranormal, western, steampunk and the erotic romance now all the rage courtesy of E.L. James, it’s difficult not to pick up or download a title and fall head over heels with an age-old story of boy meets girl.
All of the titles mentioned can be found in your favorite library in multiple formats—hardcovers to e-books.
If you’re Austen-ed out, the Wadleigh Library has something special for you throughout February. In keeping with the spirit of Valentine’s Day a.k.a. Singles Awareness Day, we’re suggesting you go on a blind date. With a book. Our matchmakers – er, librarians – have been busy selecting fun and interesting books we just know you’ll fall in love with. Stop by the Wadleigh and select one of our specially wrapped titles on display; each has a “teaser” description to pique your interest. Check it out, take it home, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, curl up, unwrap and enjoy.