In a Jane Austen Universe, the Flippers met one Saturday, 21 November 2009 for tea and scones at Raul Roco Garden. Pride and Prejudice was the subject of their gossip.
I hoped for a Pride and Prejudice discussion to rival the ones of the Jane Austen Book Club movie. My expectations were met and then some. Although the book the movie was adapted from was trashed by Ihop, Jan, and Fantaghiro23, the movie was entertaining enough that surpassing it meant the Flips Flipping Pages (FFP) just had one of the liveliest and engaging face-to-face discussions since we started doing these two years ago.
To make any such get-together a success, characters are important—those discussing and being discussed. From the talk boards, one can already get a feel that Flippers are no insipid characters afraid to voice opinions and ask provocative questions. In Pride and Prejudice, we found a wealth of interesting characters, whose strict rules of engagement made for a fun puzzle for us book club members. Jane Austen herself was an enigma: attractive, smart, fun-loving, with and extremely astute understanding of human nature and behavior, yet strangely aloof from the attentions of the gentlemen of her time. Her works dwelt much—critically, lovingly, cynically… you decide—on the pursuit of wives and husbands, yet Austen remained single until her death at age 41.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife… Is it romantic or otherwise?” – Mod Fantaghiro23 begins the discussion.
But I am getting ahead of the narrative. From start to finish, the FFP Jane Austen Day bore all the elements of a Regency social outing. I arrived at a little past 12 at the Petron gas station next to La Vista gate along Katipunan and met with Fantaghiro, Marie, Ajie, Don Tads, Czar, Fredda, and GnP. Minus Don Tads and GnP (who had to beg off from attending the discussion because of family affairs—though GnP made sure to share with us how he found Pride and Prejuidce a trial to read. There was all that talking, I think I heard him say. “They never get to the point!” was more or less his sentiment, I recall.) we made our way to Antipolo in Czar’s and Fantaghiro’s cars.
At the Raul Roco Garden in Maogmanglugar, Antipolo, Lizzie Bennet welcomed us and offered us refreshments in a shady spot… Ah, wait, it was just Marie in a full Regency regalia. She had on a white empire-waist summer dress, and her hair was held up by a wide headband. I was so envious!
Islandhopper also had a touch of Regency, a flamboyant one, on her. She was wearing this black flowery clip, the kind that ladies wore to balls. She was at the garden an hour earlier so she can have time to lay out a sumptuous Regency table (think tea, scones, tea sandwiches, fish croquettes, and stuffed tomatoes, all arranged on dainty cups, china, and silverware) in readiness for our not-so Regency appetite.
Sabin Figaro and Psaz-lady had also arrived before us. Soon, Jan and Oel joined us (Jan also sported a feathery hair accent piece). Islandhopper introduced us to Jeeves: our fly in the wall with a camera, he said. We walked deeper into an almost-English Garden towards a Japanese-inspired pavilion. Imagine this setting: flowers and greenery, bamboo fountains, fresh air, the sound of books fluttering, the air of eager minds getting ready to confide, clash, and compromise.
Before us was a sunken table. On the table were our copies of Pride and Prejudice and, of course, our plates of food. At almost 3pm, Fantaghiro officially began the book club’s Pride and Prejudice discussion.
- Many thought P&P was a sarcastic commentary of the marriage mart culture of the Georgian and Regency eras. Marriages were little more than business transactions.
- According to Fantaghiro, the first line throws into light the idea that P&P is more than a romance.
- Mrs Bennet is like Anabelle Rama, palengkera, tacky, but focused on securing a good future for her daughters.
- Depth of book was called into question. Comments were that the story was fluffy and that it revolved around only a few people in a very little part of England. Politics and world affairs were completely ignored. But how does one define depth? Is it only the ability to articulate the big picture? On the other hand, Austen had an uncanny ability to see right through human behavior of the people of her class.
- Ihop found the book dry, when she wanted very much to enjoy the book. “Depth? Kebs. Juicy details… Where?!”
- Sabin was surprised that he liked P&P, when he realized that it was not just a romance novel. His favorite character was Mr Bennet.
- Fredda theorized that Mr Bennet was Jane Austen’s model of herself within the book. Someone who is perfectly aware of what’s going on…
- To the question of who is more practical, Darcy or Elizabeth, the answers were divided. Ajie said it was Elizabeth, who was gutsy and outspoken even when in love. Psaz and I felt it was Darcy (though I can’t now remember why. I think I confused the ability to save the day with practicality.) Fantaghiro, agreeing with Ajie, said she suspected that Elizabeth may not be as in love with Darcy as he is to her and that her decision to marry him was greatly influenced by his station in life.
- To the question of whether Elizabeth truly loved Darcy, some Flippers said that from the start there was stirring of the heart in Elizabeth. Were it not for her hurt pride from Darcy’s tactless comments about her beauty, she may have admitted readily na type nya rin si kuya. That he is well-educated and rich gave Darcy additional pogi points in Elizabeth’s eyes.
- Marie asked, If Elizabeth was so practical, why was she so turned off by Charlotte’s choice? I believe that up to now none has satisfactorily answered this.
- Ihop had this to say about Elizabeth’s character: Elizabeth is a bitch. We like her. But she’s a bitch.
- Conduct over morals – The upper class people of the Regency time seemed more ashamed over inappropriate behavior than over immoral behavior. Fantaghiro wondered why. Is the strict code of conduct their way of keeping the violence of their times in check? Because contrary to impression we may have formed from reading P&P, the regency years were turmultuous and characterized by wars between England and France.
- To the question of why Jane Austen is a hit now, the answers were far out: It’s a Penguin conspiracy! Kasi wala na silang (readers, writers, publishers) magawa sa buhay nila. Nanghahalungkat na naman (ng bagong i-bibida). Popularity of Chicklits, of which some say Jane Austen is the grandmother. Because Darcy is obviously more in love with Elizabeth—and girls DIG that. Ang gwapo ni Colin Firth!
For me, whether we now live in a Jane Austen Universe or not is immaterial. For that Saturday, we Flippers were in a world of our own, thinking, talking, eating Jane Austen. Whether Pride and Prejudice is a social satire, not a romance, girls still swoon at just the thought of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Much juicy dialogue may have been left out and Lizzie and Darcy may be the model of restraint and civilized conduct on the outside, but behind closed doors…? Oh my, my imagination is working overtime. That’s romance enough for me =P.
By the way, the Raul Roco Garden was a heavenly place, perfect for weddings, parties, corporate activities… Kulang lang ng lights sa gabi.