Dr. Watson: Holmes, does your depravity know no bounds?
Sherlock Holmes: No.
— Sherlock Holmes
When we here at Petticoat Junction saw the preview for Sherlock Holmes, we were all tingly with anticipation. It promised to combine all our favorites – Victorian London, mystery, intrigue, and a new take on a popular fictional hero. And Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. aren’t too hard on the eyes, either. Having never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, we were quite ready to accept this new, decidly grittier Holmes without that tweed cape and dorky matching hat.
Edmund: Oh, don’t be an imbecile.
Fanny: Oh, but imbecility in women is a great enhancement to their personal charms.
Edmund: Fanny, you’re being irrational.
Fanny: Yet another adornment. I must be ravishing.
— Mansfield Park
Watch all of it (yes, the whole movie) on Youtube.
This adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1814 novel has been met with criticism as it significantly alters major elements of the novel — so much so that the movie is more an interpretation than an adaptation. In the book the heroine Fanny Price is meek, shy, and modest, with an infallible moral compass. The movie makes her more of a modern woman. She is quiet around strangers and has the same strong sense of right and wrong, but also a strong sense of self. She’s assertive, with a biting wit and a stubborn personality, given to feisty quotes like the one above. She’s also a budding author. In short, she is Rozema’s version of Austen herself — indeed, many of her more sarcastic lines are verbatim quotes from Austen’s juvenilia and correspondence.
“On a morning in mid-April, 1687, the brigantine Dolphin left the open sea, sailed briskly across the Sound to the wide mouth of the Connecticut River and into Saybrook Harbor. Kit Tyler had been on the forecastle since daybreak, standing close to the rail, staring hungrily at the first sight of land for five weeks.” — first lines of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
I suppose it’s fitting that a blog about historical fiction in print and film begins with The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the book that started me on the genre when I was ten. In it, Kit Tyler moves from sunny, carefree Barbados to live with solemn, sober Puritan relatives in cold, dreary Connecticut. Bummer. She feels out of place and lonely until she befriends a Quaker woman named Hannah, an outcast who lives on the edge of the meadows near town. After illness strikes the village, Hannah and then Kit are accused of witchcraft. Dun dun dun…will she be acquitted? Or will this be a prequel to the Salem Witch Trials (scheduled to occur five years later in 1692)?