Austen’s “insufferable woman” storms the American Colonies!
In Jane Austen’s novel Emma, her over confident heroine Emma Woodhouse may make all manner...moreAusten’s “insufferable woman” storms the American Colonies!
In Jane Austen’s novel Emma, her over confident heroine Emma Woodhouse may make all manner of misapplyments in her assessment of character, but in her appraisal of Mrs. Elton as an “insufferable woman”, she need not be corrected. Austen’s characterization of the social climbing, vulgar and officious Augusta Elton may be one of her most monumentally satiric achievements. Of all the supporting characters in Emma, Mrs. Elton never failed to make me laugh out loud or roll my eyes in exasperation, so I was delighted to learn that I could visit with Mrs. Elton yet again in this compilation of three stories written by Diana Birchall; In Defense of Mrs. Elton, The Courtship of Mrs. Elton, and Mrs. Elton in America, all presented as The Compleat Mrs. Elton.
In this Austen-esque sequel, Mrs. Elton is given her due as a lady of consequence (in her own mind), and her story continues with her caro sposo and family in tow as she ventures yet farther to the distant shores of the American colonies in an adventure as ambitious as her social climbing schemes and ego can take her. Boston and New York society may never quite be the same, nor a southern slave plantation or the Comanche Indians, but rest assured that even though her path leaves a wake sardonic remarks and biting social observations as affective as General Cornwallis, she does not change the course of American history.
I was completely charmed by author Diana Birchall’s clever use of Austen-esque language and style. I have read quite a few of the recent onslaught of Jane Austen prequels, sequels, spinoffs, retellings and pastiches and Birchall’s skill and voice have yet to be matched by any other writer endeavouring to emulate or honour Jane Austen or her characters. I am astounded by her complete channeling of the character of Mrs. Elton, and captivated by the entertaining and adventurous story of one of literatures most famous egos. Mrs. Elton may be an “insufferable woman” in Emma Woodhouse’s view, but she will please Jane Austen ‘purists’ and ‘lightist’ alike.
Meet Courtney Stone, a modern LA singleton who mysteriously wakes up from a booze induced stupor to be tr...moreFresh and funny - Austen addicts will relate!
Meet Courtney Stone, a modern LA singleton who mysteriously wakes up from a booze induced stupor to be transported back in time into the body of Regency era Jane Mansfield.
No, that's not the actress Jayne Mansfield, but I love the play of words. We see plenty of that as author Laurie Viera Rigler places her modern thinking Jane Austen addicted heroine Courtney into the 1813 era life of Jane, an unmarried woman of thirty who is also facing a cross roads in her life after a riding accident knocks her unconscious and her threatening ma'ma is determined that she conform or be sent to the insane asylum. Even though Courtney has inhabited Jane's body, she has no recollection of her memories, only adding to her frustration and angst. Jane's world could not possibly be worse than her own shattered life back in the future after her fiancé Frank shagged their wedding cake designer, and her best friend Wes covered up for the cad. The engagement is off in her own life, but with her new personae Jane, it has yet to happen, much to the disapprobation of her mercenary ma'ma who is quite determined that she accept her latest suitor Charles Edgeworth. This dishy buck is even richer and more handsome than Mr. Darcy, so Courtney can not understand Jane's hesitation in accepting him. Not knowing their back story she trys to fake her way through, all the while reminding herself that it is all a dream and she will wake up or get back to her own life at any moment. Until then, she must negotiate her way through a time where repugnant body odor is ignored, blood letting common practice, and the social customs and mores for a women in her upper class station are so restrictive that her 21st-century sensibilities clash even after her years of reading Jane Austen novels. With stream of consciousness, pulse beating detail, we follow Courtney/Jane through her travails, cringe over her disgust, feel her anxiety, share in her laughter, and find hope after she meets a fortune teller in Bath who might have the answers to how this mysterious transformation took place, and how she can get home.
Courtney Stone is one of those characters that you just want to wrap up in a big hug. A cross between Bridget Jones and Catherine Morland, author Viera Rigler has crafted a young woman so fresh, funny and real she could be your best friend, workmate or YOU in the same situation! Her use of driving first person narrative places the reader within her heroine's mind adding intensity, candor and humorous insight. Her encounter with Jane Austen herself on a London street is so hilariously embarassing that it was the high point of the novel for me. Once you have begun on Courtney/Jane's journey, you will be hard pressed to put it down, hooked on living her Regency era life through the filter of her quirky Jane Austen sensibilities. What Courtney discovers about herself through her gradual transformation will pleasantly remind you of why we all become Austen addicts to begin with.
Anne De Bourgh gets out from Lady Catherine's thumb - and has an adventure!
Originally self published in 2007 as A Letter to Lady Catherine, this Pride...moreAnne De Bourgh gets out from Lady Catherine's thumb - and has an adventure!
Originally self published in 2007 as A Letter to Lady Catherine, this Pride and Prejudice spinoff has a surprising new heroine – Anne De Bourgh! Yes, I heard that collective gasp of astonishment. A whole novel devoted to Mr. Darcy’s sickly, unaccomplished, and henpecked cousin? Indeed! Judith Brocklehurst’s novel may have been given a grand makeover with a new title and prettyish new cover by its publisher Sourcebooks, but can its heroine also be transformed from a minor but memorable character in the original novel, into a heroine that readers can identify with and admire?
Destined from the cradle to be Mr. Darcy’s bride, Anne De Bourgh and her domineering mother Lady Catherine never expected any other outcome than the union of two sisters great families: the De Bourgh’s and the Darcy’s. When Mr. Darcy chooses Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman of inferior birth and no importance instead of her daughter Anne, Lady Catherine vows never to speak to her nephew again. Bored with her daughters company, Lady Catherine is determined to find her a husband calling upon all her social connections to introduce her to an eligible bachelor of either noble rank or equal fortune. Even though Anne has a handsome dowry of £30,000, the combination of officious Lady Catherine as a mother-in-law and the unattractive and sickly Anne as a wife sends prospective beaux’s running. After two years and all of the possible alliances with local families have been exhausted, Lady Catherine does the unthinkable. She writes to her nephew and offers a truce, invites herself to Pemberley, and insists that since he has placed her and her daughter in this untenable situation by marrying another, that it is his duty to find Anne a husband.
Dreading this new scheme, Anne and her mother depart for Pemberley – and then – provenance steps in. Along the road, Lady Catherine is injured and Anne must rely upon the kindness of a stranger Mrs. Endicott to assist her in finding a doctor for her mother and shelter in Burley, a health resort. Anne, who has never made a decision for herself in all of her life, let alone her mother, must make many choices in a town where she knows no one. On her own she begins to depend on herself and discover her own capabilities, writing to her cousin Mr. Darcy for assistance, choosing to stop taking medicine that is making her so ill, and meeting a local family the Caldwell’s who were friend’s of her deceased father many years ago. Amazingly, she is gaining her appetite, building her strength, and enjoying walks – something she has never been able to do all her life. When her cousins Miss Georgiana and Mr. Darcy arrive at Burley to take Lady Catherine and Anne to Pemberley, it is only Anne who departs after her mother’s insistence upon staying under the pretext of dutiful care. In actuality, she prefers the prospect of meeting the Duchess of Stilbury due for the social season over the former Miss Bennet the new Mistress of Pemberley.
Anne travels to Pemberley, and under the care of her cousins discovers that life away from the tyranny of her mother is a whole new world, and, she likes it! Not only does her health improve, she discovers that she also has a source of income from her father’s will that her mother has manipulated away for years, and that her prospects for romance look promising with the Caldwell’s son Edmund, a young man with ambition, honor and intelligence, but no title. Her life is happier than she could ever have imagined – until Lady Catherine has her share of the conversation and the other shoe drops.
With so many Pride and Prejudice sequels, retellings, and spinoffs focused on the relationship of characters Lizzy and Darcy, following a minor character like Anne De Bourgh was delightfully refreshing. Brocklehurst fully understands Austen’s original characters and respectfully advances the story with humor, surprise and suspense. Anne De Bourgh may have been timid and pitiable in the original novel, but her makeover by Brocklehurst has given her more than a bit of the true Darcy spirit.
P&P Redux from Mr. Darcy's perspective...and then some!
Mr. Darcy. That iconic romantic hero who launched a thousand sequels! A quick and very unsc...moreP&P Redux from Mr. Darcy's perspective...and then some!
Mr. Darcy. That iconic romantic hero who launched a thousand sequels! A quick and very unscientific audit of Amazon.com listings revealed over thirty-five books published in the last fifteen years inspired by him! That’s a lot of Mr. Darcy out there being a haughty heartthrob. Now in his latest outing, Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, we are offered yet another chance to relive the famous love story, but from his perspective.
Fitzwilliam Darcy arrives in Hertfordshire with his best friend Mr. Bingley to assist him with his new estate Netherfield Park convinced that the locals will be bumpkins, and SO below his notice. He attends the local Assembly dance where his predictions prove true; even the reputed local beauty Elizabeth Bennet is only tolerable, and not handsome enough to tempt him. And so on it goes; the same story that we all know and love. Their courtship lasts a little over a year and in that time we experience all the misapprehensions and conflicts that define their relationship. All told they are only together three out the twelve months, so what did Darcy do in the in-between time, especially after his rejected first marriage proposal and their renewed acquaintance at Pemberley? What transpired in his mind that so changed him that he was a different man when they meet again? Now we do not have to guess at the answers any longer as they have been neatly explained for us like a Sparks Notes re-telling of Pride and Prejudice as author Regina Jeffers literally walks us through each important scene including complete passages of dialogue from Austen’s novel framed by her reinterpretations of some of the most beautiful lines in classic literature. Ouch! If this didn’t set your hair on fire, then her interjections of character motivation might just do the trick. For some readers who are experiencing this story for the first time this style of translation might be a perk, but to those Austen addicts who have read the novel or seen the movie adaptations and know the dialogue, it will be as startling as Mary Bennet’s singing. Paraphrasing Austen is a sticky wicket. Why mess with a masterpiece? Either you commit to lifting lines straight from the novel and give Jane Austen half the writing credit or you don’t use them at all and create your own scenes and dialogue. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Putting aside my puzzlement of Jeffers choice to borrow and re-phrase Austen’s text, she does an excellent job of viewing the story from Mr. Darcy’s perspective and focusing on the personal growth he undergoes to become a better man and win Elizabeth’s love. All in all I enjoyed her Mr. Darcy very much and it was great fun to walk a mile in his big black shiny Hessian boots. But surprisingly the story does not end with Darcy’s second proposal and Austen’s final wrap-up. And to think that we had all assumed that Darcy and Elizabeth’s transformation had been complete; her prejudices removed and his pride properly humbled. Obviously Jeffers did not agree and decided to devote the last third of the book to the honeymoon and their new life together at Pemberley. I found this choice to re-write Austen’s ending and additional storyline perplexing. With this final affront to Austen genius, I needed to remember that I had not yet made “allowance enough for difference of situation and temper.” Neophytes who have not experienced Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or seen any of the many movie adaptations will enjoy this book exactly how it is written. In that light it does have its merits, though sadly because of the irritating paraphrasing I must disqualify it as my Holy Grail of Mr. Darcy paraliterature. *Sigh* Tomorrow is another day!
'Now they had come to it, the moment he dreaded. “We are to marry in nearly two days -”
“It has not escaped my notice, I assure you.”
“- and I find myse...more'Now they had come to it, the moment he dreaded. “We are to marry in nearly two days -”
“It has not escaped my notice, I assure you.”
“- and I find myself in need of some . . . advice.”' Mr. Bingley & Mr. Darcy, The Darcys & the Bingleys
And so gentle readers, begins the premise of the latest sequel to Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, entitled The Darcys and The Bingleys. In this debut novel by Marsha Altman the story is centered on the friendship of Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy, elevating Mr. Bingley to co-protagonist with his future brother-in-law. We are immediately reconnected to the original story as Charles Bingley, that amiably good natured friend of the commanding Mr. Darcy ruminates over their approaching marriages to the Bennet sisters, Jane and Elizabeth. Endearingly true to character, Mr. Bingley is not quite sure of himself or how to resolve a pressing matter. After much deliberation he determines that his closest friend Mr. Darcy is the best man to approach on the delicate subject of martial relations and entreats his advice. Mr. Darcy responds by presenting him with a wedding gift; — ‘the book’– an illustrated and transcribed ancient Indian text of the Kama Sutra.
Not only is Charles Bingley concerned about his wedding night performance, his future bride Jane Bennet is in turn confused and alarmed after the obligatory mother-daughter chat on wifely duties that her mother unloads on her and sister Elizabeth the day before the wedding. Luckily their aunt Mrs. Gardiner was also present to smooth the waters so-to-speak, but even cool and clever Elizabeth is befuddled by the vagueness of the information and asks her fiancé, Mr. Darcy for reassurance.
As the invited guests arrive for the wedding, we are re-acquainted with many familiar characters from Pride and Prejudice; Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Rev. Mr. Collins and wife Charlotte, Mr. & Mrs. Bennet and their daughters Kitty and Mary, Lydia Wickham, Anne de Borough who has escaped from Rosings and the clutches of her mother Lady Catherine, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Georgiana Darcy, Mr. & Mrs. Hurst, Caroline Bingley, and one uninvited guest, George Wickham who is unceremoniously pitched out the second floor window of Netherfield Park and into a manure pile by Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. The men folk then proceed to throw a stag party, and Mr. Darcy has a bit too much to drink.
We are also privy to a snipet of the back story on the friendship of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy many years before “Netherfield Park is let at last” when Pride and Prejudice begins, enlightening us further on their personalities and relationships. Bingley and Darcy became fast friends at Cambridge University after Bingley rescued him from a scandalous situation after their introduction at a faculty soirée. A nineteen-year old Mr. Darcy was deep in his cups, seduced by a disreputable young lady and found in another student’s dorm room incoherent and disheveled. With Bingley’s help, the matter was swiftly smoothed over, but since it was so unlike his friend’s usual reserved manner, he continues to chide him about it whenever he needs to privately put the grand Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in his place.
At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony and dinner, the Darcy’s and the Bingley’s depart for there respective townhouses in London, and hopefully on to connubial bliss. Like Mr. Darcy’s new bride Elizabeth, we see a more relaxed and casual husband after the ceremony. This Darcy makes jokes with his new wife.
"I shall do my best to be an upstanding gentleman, ignoring your presence almost entirely in company, and never endeavour to gaze upon you or whisper private jokes in your ear at parties_ "
Her response was to kiss him. Well, to kiss him and to climb on top of him, the ultimate assertion of authority. “That is not what I prefer, Mr. Darcy.”
“Then we are in agreement. I will treat you with great love and compassion in front of guests and as a wanton wench in the bedchamber.”
To this, she could not find a reason to raise dispute.
On the other martial front, the sun rose on the Bingley household and Jane exclaims, “I do not believe that I have ever been so happy.” Charles Bingley credits the book and then shows it to Jane.
Six months have passed and Jane and Elizabeth are both with child and expecting at the same time. In appreciation for his friend’s considerable favour of the wedding gift, Bingley sends Darcy a new book that he has tracked down and imported from India, the Ananga Ranga, another sex manual. The ongoing competition between the two friends continues to the point of their placing bets on whose home will be used for their wives confinements, and who will be first to deliver a child. Bingley wins the £5.
The second half of the novel involves Charles Bingley’s sister Caroline, who as you will remember in Pride and Prejudice tries her hardest to attract Mr. Darcy, but he does not give her a moment’s thought in the romance arena. She is a caustic and abrasive character in Austen’s novel, and gets much of the plum biting dialogue. In this treatment she is more sympathetically portrayed, and many of the faults and foibles in her personality are smoothed out and explained. When the two friends Darcy and Bingley are called into action to check out a prospective beau of Caroline’s, the ongoing comedy continues and the story ends just like Austen with a wedding.
Recently, author Marsha Altman was interviewed on the Risky Regencies blog by fellow Austen-esque author Janet Mullany, who asked her how she felt about taking on Jane Austen?
I’m trying to have fun with her characters. As to whether she would mine, Miss Austen has posthumously endured her nephew and extended family publishing all of her unfinished writing and personal letters for profit, numerous sequels and adaptations, books analyzing her personal life, and even movies about her starring actresses wearing heavy lipstick. So, if she’s been spinning in her grave, she’s probably tired by now and may well have gotten over it. That or she understands imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if that phrase existed in the Regency period.
Fun is the operative word here, and if one reads this book within the context of expecting a light, frothy, humorously diverting comedy written in a contemporary style based on Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice, you will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are expecting a Regency novel whose language, plot, character development and historical reference are similar to Austen’s, this may not be for you.
Ms. Altman states that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. I do not think that imitation was her intention here, and Miss Austen may have to take a few more spins at Winchester Cathedral.(less)
Great read, but little to do with Sense and Sensibility
Have you ever read a totally unfavorable book review so full of acrimony that it left you wonde...moreGreat read, but little to do with Sense and Sensibility
Have you ever read a totally unfavorable book review so full of acrimony that it left you wondering if you would have the same reaction? I have, and am often hooked into trying out a book to see if I agree. So when I read a collection of reviews gathered at the Austenfans website against Joan Aiken’s novel Eliza’s Daughter : A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, I was intrigued. Here are a few of the zingers to set the mood. “It is the worst JA sequel I have ever read”, “I wonder why ANYONE would have bothered to write something like this!”, “I cannot recommend this book, except as an example of what NOT to do when writing a sequel to any great novel, especially Jane Austen.”, or the final insult, “How did it even get published?” Ouch! To add further to the mêlée, this website was created and is maintained by Sourcebooks, the current publisher of Eliza’s Daughter. Cleverly, only a publisher of this depth and confidence would have the strength and wisdom to assemble such a collection of scathing reviews and post them as publicity. A blunder - or a stroke of marketing savvy? We shall see.
Originally published in 1994, Eliza’s Daughter continues the story of a very minor character in Sense and Sensibility who receives scant mention in the original novel as the illegitimate child of Eliza Williams and her seducer John Willoughby. The infant, also named Eliza Williams is placed by her guardian Colonel Brandon in the care of a negligent foster mother in the village of Byblow Bottom, an infamous Regency era repository for the natural offspring of public persons who were reared away from their parents to avoid disclosure of their existence. Raised in this rural backwater Eliza learns to survive under difficult circumstance and scrape together a bit of education, all the while trying to unravel the mystery of her parentage. Clever and creative, she knows by age twelve that education is the key to her survival and seeks out Colonel Brandon’s attorney’s and asks for their assistance while he is abroad serving in the army. They send her on to the Rev. Edward Ferrars and his wife Elinor nee Dashwood at Delaford. The Ferrars are living in genteel poverty as a country vicar and his wife with one daughter away at school and Elinor’s mother the once elegant Mrs. Dashwood now suffering from mental illness. Their acquaintance is strained and they decide to pack her off to school in Bath where their daughter Nell attends and Elinor’s younger sister Margaret Dashwood is a teacher. She is not very welcome there either, but she endures and excels in music having a gifted voice which brings her some attention.
As the natural daughter of who knows whom, Eliza is definitely a social pariah and reminded of it with every connection and situation where she lives. The mystery of her parentage still lingers, but as the plot develops clues appear like bread crumbs along a trail bringing her closer to an answer by directing her to London and then on to Portugal. Ms. Aiken writes an engaging tale and knows how to keep our attention by a series of misadventures and recoveries by the heroine. We meet new characters as well who are interesting and authentic, but it is her treatment of Austen’s original characters that is troubling and forms the largest objection from all of the previous reviewers.
When Austen’s novel concluded we were left with the happy thought that both Marianne and Elinor were married, their mother Mrs. Dashwood and younger sister Margaret are in better financial circumstances and the adversarial characters such as Lucy Steele, John Willoughby, and Mrs. Ferrars were much the worse for their life choices. So, as we read Eliza’s Daughter and discover that the happily-ever-after does not really exist beyond the last page of the original novel it is more than a bit unsettling. Colonel and Marianne Brandon are childless and have departed for India and show little if no interest in Eliza’s well being. This seems odd, since the Colonel has in the past always shown great concern for Eliza’s grandmother, mother and his friends. Elinor and Edward live a penurious and Spartan life eeking out an exsistence at Delaford. Edward is now a bitter man more concerned for his parishioners than his family and Elinor faintly the strong and wise woman that we knew from the past. Their only surviving child Nell is a pill, negligent of her familiar duties and callous to others feelings. Mrs. Dashwood was always a bit unfocused on reality, but now she is insane? Margaret Dashwood is a spinster working as a teacher then a companion? As one reviewer stated, “I found it to be so totally mean spirited toward all the characters we have come to know and love so dearly”, and I have to agree. In defense of Ms. Aiken’s choice of plot and character development, if everything was sunshine and syllabub, there would be nothing to write about, so in making Austen’s good guys the bad guys, she makes her heroine Eliza more pitiable and plucky, but at what cost?
Reading the negative reviews in advance was really a gift leaving me with no expectation of liking this novel. In fact, I was strongly disposed to disapprobation myself, for what Janeite could condone such mistreatment of beloved characters? So I began with an entirely different objective in reading Eliza’s Daughter, not as an Austen sequel but as a Dickensian tale full of memorable characters, social corruption, sinister doings and a twisting plot - Eliza Williams has a Copperfieldish adventure - and as such, it became quite amusing. However, it could have been an even more enjoyable if Eliza had been allowed to have a few more positive friendships to support her along her journey as Mr. Dickens supplied David Copperfield with his endearing characters such as Peggoty, Mr. Barkis and Wilkins Micawber. Choosing to make Austen’s heroes and heroines the villains of this tale was a shocking and shallow choice. I may never forgive Ms. Aiken for striping away the tone and quality that Austen developed, but I will thank her for an inventive and engaging story that really had very little to do with what we experienced in Sense and Sensibility.
Emma, Jane Austen’s fourth novel was published in 1815 and dedicated to the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Austen privately abhorred the Regent...moreEmma, Jane Austen’s fourth novel was published in 1815 and dedicated to the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Austen privately abhorred the Regent for the treatment of his wife Princess Caroline and his dissipated lifestyle. In 1813 she wrote to her friend Martha Lloyd, “I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband.” She did however recognize the value of his name and agreed to the dedication. Upon publication Emma also had its own share of critics. What impressed early readers was not that it lacked energy and style, but that its story was dull and uneventful. Even Austen’s famous publisher John Murray thought it lacked “incident and romance” and Maria Edgeworth, a contemporary author so greatly admired by Austen that she sent her one of the twelve presentation copies allotted by her publisher, could not read past the first volume and thought “there was no story in it.” Ironically, what these two prominent and well read individuals attributed as a weakness is actually Emma’s greatest strength.
If one looks beyond the surface, Emma is an intricate story focused on the astute characterization and social reproof which Austen is famous for. Emma Woodhouse is a complex character that on first acquaintance is rather a pill. Austen gave herself a great challenge in creating “a heroine whom no one but myself will like.” In contrast with her other heroines, Miss Woodhouse does not have any social or financial concerns and thus no compelling need to marry. Therein lives the rub. We have no sympathy for her whatsoever. She’s rich, she’s spoiled and she’s stuck up. Who indeed could possibly like such a “troublesome creature”? During the course of the novel we witness her exerting her superior notions of who is suitable for whom as she match makes for her friends with disastrous results. It is no wonder that Maria Edgeworth gave up reading Emma after the first volume. At that point we have met most of the characters in Emma’s insular world and are coming to fully understand her ignorance and misguided perceptions in relation to them. She is truly exasperating. Austen tests our endurance fully as the novel progresses and her heroine continues to make mistakes. It is a testament to her skill as a writer and deft comedian that she holds our fascination with the “busy nothings” of every-day country life in Highbury, a small village filled with endearingly flawed characters. The transformation of the heroine from spoiled and insufferable into a contrite, mature and likeable young lady that you want to root for, is nothing less than remarkable. It is truly a shame that Edgeworth could not recognize the genius of Austen’s sly sashay of characterization into a world that could be your own neighborhood. We can only account that, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
If you liked the new BBC/PBS miniseries Emma (2009), enjoy the original novel with all of Austen’s resplendent language in this expertly produced audio recording. Read by acclaimed British actress Juliet Stevenson, viewers of the 1996 movie adaptation of Emma will remember her superb portrayal of the vulgar a vacuous Mrs. Elton and know you are in for a treat. Adding equal measure of energy and humor to each of the characters, Stevenson’s perfect blending of a classic novel and a sensitive interpretation enhanced my enjoyment greatly. Pop this one into your CD player or iPod during your commute to work. I highly recommend it. “It is such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do.” Ch 21
A delightful and funny romp through Regency era England
After years of hearing the praises of author Georgette Heyer, I could no longer resist the temp...moreA delightful and funny romp through Regency era England
After years of hearing the praises of author Georgette Heyer, I could no longer resist the temptation and dove in head first on the recommendation of Heyer enthusiast Vic (Ms. Place) of Jane Austen's World, selecting the author's favorite book Friday's Child. Since Heyer published 56 books over 53 years, she had a few to choose from and I was confident that this neophyte would have one of the better novels to begin my indoctrination. I now see what all the fuss is about. Georgette Heyer is a treasure.
Spendthrift Anthony Verelst, Viscount Sheringham doesn't give a fig about his finances until his creditors do. Selfish, impetuous and deeply in debt, he is unable to access his inheritance until he reaches 25 or marries and sets out to acquire a wife proposing to his neighbor and lifelong friend Isabella Milborne, an 'Incomparable', whose beauty and elegance are renown. She doesn't think much of the idea or of Lord Sheringham's dissipated lifestyle and rebuffs the offer. Indignant, he swears to marry the next girl he sees who happens to be seventeen year old Hero Wantage, the neighborhood orphan Cinderella living with cousins who want to farm her out to be a governess. By no means a scholar, Hero is miffed by the work plan just wanting to have a bit of fun and enjoy the charms of society in London. Seizing the opportunity, Hero accepts Sherry's proposal and they run away to London to be married. It is here we are introduced to the real heart of the story, Sherry's three male friends: his two cousins steady Gilbert (Gil) Ringwood and the foppish Hon. Ferdinand (Ferdy) Fakenham, and his hot headed friend George, Lord Wrotham who form sort of a bumbling bachelors club of Regency society dandies. Their influence drives the story as they help Hero (nicknamed Kitten) unschooled in the nuances of social etiquette and a bit lacking in common sense out of all sorts of scrapes that threaten her reputation and infuriate her husband who in turn is as equally clueless about his own responsibilities as a newly married man.
Heyer gives us a delightful view of Regency era London with its social outlets for the rich: fashion, dancing, parties, gambling, romantic intrigues, and the gambit of other frivolous extravagances that entertain the high society 'ton' world. Her characters are each distinctive in personality and well drawn out. The three bachelor friends were especially enjoyable as their priceless dialogue humorously captures that uniquely British drawing room chatter of "I dare says" and "dash it alls" that at times from other authors seems trite, but in this case just lifted the colloquial credibility and ambience. Even though this novel was written over sixty years ago, it is surprisingly superior in style and creativity to many being produced today. Friday's Child reads like an expertly paced stage play, and I felt the influence of Heyer's contemporaries in playwrights Noel Coward and George Bernard Shaw in the satirical social commentary and humorous biting dialogues. There were a few holes in the plot such as Sherry's concerns over his uncle's abuse of the trusteeship of his estate not materializing or Hero's continual naïveté among others, but they were very minor and did not spoil my enjoyment. The gradual maturity and transition by both protagonists gave for a rewarding end. It is easy to see why so many Jane Austen fans adore Georgette Heyer as they share in the sisterhood of the 'Gentle Reprove Society' of comedic social satire. Friday's Child matched it's namesake from the old nursery rhyme as loving and giving, and critics marginalizing Heyer's works as mere romances take heed. Like Austen's novels, this is so much more than Chicklit.
First published in 1950, The Grand Sophy contains one of Georgette Heyer’s most endearingly outrageous hero...moreThe Grand Sophy is a devilishly fine girl!
First published in 1950, The Grand Sophy contains one of Georgette Heyer’s most endearingly outrageous heroines. In this newly released reissue by Sourcebooks, you are in for a rollicking good time through Regency era London with Miss Sophia Stanton-Lacy. As one of her many male admirers proclaims, "By all that is wonderful, it’s the Grand Sophy!" Too true.
A diplomat’s daughter, Sophy has traveled the Continent with her widowed father Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy following the British army in their pursuit of Napoleon during the Peninsular War. Two years have passed since the Monster of Elba was finally defeated and Sir Horace’s duties now take him abroad to South America. He feels it is time for Sophy to marry, and who better than to present his motherless daughter to London society than his amiable sister, Lady Ombersley. But, will her eldest son Charles approve? Things in her dysfunctional family are so oddly arranged. Her indifferent husband Bernard Rivenhall, Lord Ombersley has run through his fortune, and now relies on his eldest son Charles, who inherited another estate, to pay his debts and finance his household. Charles, known for his ill temper and tight pocketbook, is engaged to equally priggish young woman, Miss Eugenia Wraxton, whose rigid grasp on social stricture is at odds with everyone who she deigns to look down her very long equine nose at. Lady Ombersley’s beautiful young daughter Cecilia should marry the very eligible and wealthy Lord Charlbury, but prefers instead the handsome poet Augustus Fawnhope whose odds at fame and fortune are slim as his picking a Derby winner. Her second son Hurbert, whose moods sway with the tides of his debt, is ensconced with dubious money-lenders and in need of extraction. They all live a dull life according to Charles’s autocratic commands. If ever there was a family in need of a make-over, the Rivenhall’s present a tall bill.
Enter The Grand Sophy. Quick, intelligent and exuberantly capable, twenty-year old Sophy is a bracing reveille to her cousin’s the Rivenhall’s staid existence at Berkeley Square. From the moment she arrives on her aunt’s doorstep elegantly attired with her entourage of a dog, a horse, a monkey, a parrot, a groom, a maid and a mountain of luggage, they are left with no uncertainty that this is no ordinary young lady. Outspoken and unafraid to stretch the edge of decorum, Miss Stanton-Lacy sizes up the household’s problems and sets about to make them right, much to the chagrin of her cousin Charles and his meddlesome fiancée Miss Wraxton, who thinks she’s a hoyden. Sophy is fearless in the face of propriety venturing beyond the constraints of the Regency women’s world visiting banks, buying horses, a Phaeton carriage, and planning and paying for her coming out Ball, all the while pushing her cousin Charles’ buttons at every turn. Their repartees are absolutely hilarious – Sophy almost always in command of the final outcome – and Charles not knowing what hit him. Life as the Rivenhall’s had known it has been quite undone. Along the way, Sophy has a great deal of fun, and so do we.
'Life at Berkeley Square had become all at once full of fun and excitement. Even Lord Ombersley was aware of it. “By God, I don’t know what’s come over you all, for the place was used to be as lively as a tomb!”'
Visiting Regency London is always a treat through Georgette Heyer’s astute eye. Her historical references are quite amazing. The descriptions of clothing, fabrics and furnishing were sumptuous. Her attention to the details of Regency carriages and horsemanship, was spot on. The plot kept me turning pages quickly, eager to see what Sophy’s next antic would be, and which couples would be together by the conclusion of the novel. Through Sophy’s exuberant personality we meet a heroine whose qualities of self assurance, conviction and zest for life are infectious. I had to laugh out loud when even the stuffy Rivenhall butler Dassett acknowledged that Sophy is a gem.
“I venture to say, she is a lady as knows precisely how things should be done. A great pleasure, if I may be pardoned the liberty, to work for Miss Sophy, for she thinks of everything, and I fancy there will be no hitch to mar the festivities.”
Yes, The Grand Sophy knows precisely how things should be done, and I would not have it any other way. This was by far my most enjoyable read this year. Fun, engaging and hilarious, I can not recommend it more highly. Sophy is a devilishly fine girl.
"I know of few novels - except Pride and Prejudice - that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in the...moreA Contemporary Classic with Austen Allusions
"I know of few novels - except Pride and Prejudice - that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in their readers as I Capture the Castle. - Joanna Trollope
One of my favorite books (outside of Jane Austen’s canon of course), I Capture the Castle is a contemporary classic originally published in 1948, but still as fresh and vibrant today. Dodie Smith, more famously remembered for her children’s classic 101 Dalmatians, has humorously assembled an eccentric cast of characters living in less than genteel poverty in a crumbling castle in England. The story is revealed through 17-year old heroine in the making and aspiring writer Cassandra Mortmain in a series of journals, an she attempt to improve her skills as a ticket out of her dire circumstances. Her sister Rose will use more avarice means to free herself from her parent’s neglect by setting her cap for their wealthy new landlord Simon, and easily succeeds. Less of a schemer, Cassandra is attracted to his younger brother Neil and is hopeful for her own romance. As the wedding plans proceed, Rose’s vain and selfish nature blossoms with her newly elevated social position causing conflict. Cassandra, left out of the plans and Simon, who Rose is treating as an annoyance are drawn into their own romance. Rose, on the other hand, is drifting away from Simon and secretly into the arms of his brother Neil. An elopement will cause a family panic, a change of heart and an unusual ending.
Filled with allusions to Pride and Prejudice, this coming of age story is more a gentle nod to Austen’s style than a copy of her novel. Witty and moving, Smith connects with readers through perceptive observation played against dry wit resulting in a moving and memorable story. It’s what makes for great literature, and also what Austen is valued for today. Enjoy!
In this retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, author Abigail Reynolds re-imagines the famous plot and...morePride and Prejudice re-imagined?
In this retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, author Abigail Reynolds re-imagines the famous plot and asks these burning questions. What if after Elizabeth Bennet’s refusal of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal at Hunsford, he does not disappear from her life, but arrives at her home at Longbourn determined to change her mind? What if Elizabeth seduced by his ardent attentions sets aside all propriety giving way to her base impulses? What if their mutual passion can not be abated, anticipating their wedding night? Ms. Reynolds then proceeds to creatively answer each of these questions with her spin on the retelling of Pride and Prejudice that might require some readers to suspend their disbelief and burning objections of altering one of the most cherished works in English literature, and just let go and let it happen.
The story opens with the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam at the Darcy townhouse in London. It is the summer of 1803 and two months have passed since he and his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy had visited their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh at Rosings in Kent. He is immediately informed by concerned servants and Georgina Darcy that Mr. Darcy is not quite himself, sullen and short tempered to the point of alarm. Darcy shortly reveals to him the cause of his misery; - the rejection of his marriage proposal by the woman that he loves, Elizabeth Bennet, and the reasons why she so flatly refused him. Colonel Fitzwilliam is not surprised by his attraction to the lovely Miss Bennet, only that she would refuse such an advantageous offer and Darcy’s reasons for separating his friend Charles Bingley from Elizabeth’s sister Jane. Inspired by Colonel Fitzwilliam’s advice he convinces Charles Bingley to return to his estate at Netherfield Park to renew his attentions to Jane Bennet with the ulterior motive of seeing Elizabeth and winning her heart and hand.
Readers of Pride and Prejudice will remember that after Elizabeth refuses Mr. Darcy’s first proposal that she returns home to her family at Longbourn and Mr. Darcy disappears from her life only to be re-introduced by a chance meeting at his estate of Pemberley when she is touring Derbyshire on holiday with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. In this scenario, instead of leaving their meeting to chance, Mr. Darcy has become the aggressor, taking the initiative to reconnect with Elizabeth and pursue her affections by ingratiating himself to her family, her friends and herself, first by gentlemanly means with little results, then by the Wickham school of charm and seduction which eventually breaks Elizabeth’s resolve, giving way to her passionate desires.
Impulse & Initiative offers Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to explore yet another avenue of a story that we all just can not seem to get enough of as evidenced by the many prequels, sequels, retellings and pastiches available. It is creative and clever in theory, but do the ‘what if’ questions really need to be asked and answered? Possibly, but at times while reading Impulse & Initiative I felt like I was privy to a creative writing assignment where students were asked to take a story from classic literature and believably alter the plot and characters to the opposite intention of the original author. In this case, the results can at times be both believable and baffling, but unfortunately not at the same time leaving the reader in a bit of a quandary.
Abigail Reynolds has taken a huge risk in her choice of changing a classic story that is quite delightful to begin with, and whose hero and heroine Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy may be the most iconic romantic couple in popular culture short of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She might have succeeded if she had allowed the characters integrity to continue from Austen’s original concept. Instead we are asked to suspend our disbelief beyond equal measure and accept well known characters acting in a manner that does not constitute their happiness or ours. Reynold’s Mr. Darcy has changed from the honorable Regency gentleman that many expect into George Wickham, a plotting seducer and the type of man that Austen’s Darcy despises, and Elizabeth Bennet into a caricature of her younger sister Lydia, willing to throw off propriety for the pleasures of passion.
I am reminded of one on my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Bennet from the original novel. “One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.” Ms. Reynolds is a talented writer who shows flashes of wit and charm in her style. She has creatively blended a classic love story with a saucy romance novel, and if knowing that Darcy and Elizabeth are quite passionate about their love for one another before the marriage does not set off any decorum alarms, then this one deserves a slot in the queue on your bedside table. If you wonder why the “what if” questions needed to be asked in the first place, then try stumbling upon something else more witty.
A wild irreverent ride that will more than surprise Austen fans!
Any Janeite who makes it to the third chapter of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet...moreA wild irreverent ride that will more than surprise Austen fans!
Any Janeite who makes it to the third chapter of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is in my opinion free to think author Colleen McCullough an impudent rapscallion.
I am confident that she will have no problem agreeing with me since she admitted that her motivation in writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice was to stick it to the literati. Since it is doubtful that the good men and women of the arts and letters will read this novel, she is actually thumbing her nose at Jane Austen’s fans and having a jolly time of it. If by some slim chance you are reading this Ms. McCullough, you have far exceeded your objective and should be quite pleased with yourself. I am a Jane Austen fan, and I am not amused.
What about Mary?
When the news hit the blogosphere last spring that the best selling author of The Thorn Birds and The Masters of Rome Series Colleen McCullough was writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice inspired by Mary Bennet, I was both astonished and intrigued. I had secretly adored Mary, the middle Bennet daughter who only had eight passages of dialogue in the original novel, but made a lasting impact with her pious pontifications and deafeningly out of tune song stylings. Her older sisters may have been mortified by her exhibitions, but I just laughed out loud and wished for more. Well Janeites, be very careful what you wish for, cuz it could very well land at your local bookstore.
In which Mary gets a makeover!
You can blame it all of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Many people over the years have credited it for the ignition of Austenmania, fueling many movies and a cottage industry of sequel writers. While most viewers ogle over Colin Firth as the wet shirt Darcy, McCullough was intrigued by the Bennet’s sanctimonious middle daughter Mary and how Austen unsympathetically portrayed her. Inspired to give Mary a new chance, McCullough starts the story seventeen years after the close of Pride and Prejudice with the death of Mrs. Bennet freeing Mary from her role as parental caretaker. Bookish, pious and socially awkward Mary gets a makeover, a social cause, and a romantic adventure.
In which Mary is emancipated, gets ideas, and into trouble!
So, Mary is now thirty eight years old, unmarried, gets a makeover and is quite attractive. Freed from her daughterly duties of caretaker and police woman to Mrs. Bennet, the new and improved Mary Bennet has independent plans for her life that do not meet the approval of her dictorial brother-in-law Fitzwilliam Darcy. Inspired by the writing in the newspaper of a social activist, she is determined to write a book about the plight of the poor and sets off on an adventure of discovery to research the conditions of the working classes in Northern England. Sheltered and naïve, she gets into all sorts of trouble including being manhandled in a coach, robbed and beaten by a Highwayman, and abducted and imprisoned by a religious cult. Yes, a religious cult!
In which we witness the defamation of beloved characters!
Not everything for all four other Bennet daughters has improved as agreeably over the years. Elizabeth’s loveless marriage is a sham, Jane is a baby factory neglected by her absenting husband who is off attending to his slave plantations in Jamaica, and Lydia is a drunken whore whose unfaithful lout of a husband Captain George Wickham is sent to America and dies. Only Kitty unexpectedly hits pay dirt and marries an elderly peer who promptly dies and leaves her a pile of dough and social clout. Since her story is too happy, we do not hear much of her. The real pinnacle of exasperation for me came with McCullough’s handling of Mr. Darcy who immediately regrets marrying Elizabeth, resents being burdened with her ‘below his station’ family, and now acts far snootier and more puffed up than we were subjected to when we first met him at the Meryton Assembly in the original novel. Ambitious, scheming and underhanded, this Darcy has gone Gothic villain on us and it is not pretty. This caustic rendering of Darcy alone will catapult many a book across living rooms and bedrooms across America.
In which dubious, dastardly and devious characters dapple the plot!
In addition to resurrecting Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst as the devious duo bent on tormenting the Darcy’s to the end of their days, we are introduced to sympathetic new characters in Charles Darcy the young heir to Pemberley who is an incredible disappointment to his father but the darling of his mother and aunt Mary, and Angus Sinclair the wealthy newspaper owner and editor who is sweet on the violet eyed and ginger haired Mary Bennet because she reminds him of her sister Elizabeth who he has admired for years. They are two positive allies for Mary and her cause of independence and come to her aid more than once. Of course there is an abundance of villains (besides the dastardly Darcy) who dapple the story with challenges for our heroine which border on a Perils of Pauline melodrama; the most imposing of which is Darcy’s hired henchman Ned Skinner whose idolistic attachment to Darcy is rather more like Frankenstein’s assistant Igor than a paid thug. Other daunting characters that make Charles Dickens imaginings look lighthearted are a woman beating cutthroat Highwayman named Captain Thunder and a cave dwelling body snatching religious cultist Father Dominus. Could this cavalcade of characters possibly be any father from the witty, honorable, and propitious populous penned by the gently reproving Jane Austen? No!
In which a wild ride screeches to a hault!
Even though I did not agree with the direction that McCullough chose to take her sequel, her skill at story telling is amazing and a galaxy beyond fan fiction with flair. Her dialogue is crisp and succinct, her historical references well researched, and her descriptions of late Georgian life accurate and realistic. With so much talent and international renown, one wonders out loud whatever was she thinking? If you can get past the first three chapters and totally suspend your disbelief, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is a wild ride that screeches to a halt with one repugnant last line which I leave readers to experience for themselves.
Even after 15 years in print and 10 novels in the series, this first effort shines
Imagine being present when Jane Austen’s unknown personal journals a...moreEven after 15 years in print and 10 novels in the series, this first effort shines
Imagine being present when Jane Austen’s unknown personal journals are discovered in an outbuilding on an ancient Maryland estate, Dunready Manor. Your friends the Westmoreland’s are distantly related to the authoress, and after restoration they place the manuscripts in your care before they are donated to a major library. They recount years of Jane Austen’s life and personal experiences that we know little of, the lost years after 1801 when she, her sister Cassandra and her parents move from their lifelong home at Steventon rectory in Hampshire to Bath. Filling in gaps in life events, missing letters thought destroyed by her sister after her death, and mysteries that she encountered and solved in her lifetime, you are mesmerized. You are allowed to study, edit and transcribe the journals. What unfolds is an intimate and highly intelligent account, blending Jane’s personal life and criminal observations as an amateur detective.
In 1802, fleeing a broken engagement with Harris Bigg-Wither of Manydown Park, Jane seeks to forget her troubles in a ‘whirlwind of frivolity’ accepting an invitation to visit her newly married friend Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave. Isobel has recently returned from her wedding trip to the Continent with her husband Frederick, Earl of Scargrave, a gentleman of mature years. To celebrate their recent nuptials the Earl is throwing a bridal Ball in his wife’s honor at their estate in Hertfordshire. In attendance is the Earl’s nephew and heir Fitzroy, Viscount Payne, the only son of his younger brother. Jane observes, ‘As a single man in possession of a good fortune, he must be want of a wife.’ Decidedly handsome, but proud and aloof, she instead spends a good deal of the evening dancing with a young cavalry officer, Lieutenant Thomas Hearst, the second son of the Earl’s deceased sister. Jane learns from a young lady, Miss Fanny Delahoussaye, that Hearst has a bit of reputation having recently killed a man in a duel of honor. She also reveals that Hearst is also a rake, prompting Jane to proceed cautiously. ‘My wordless confession made him hesitate to utter a syllable; and thus laboured in profound stupidity, for fully half a dance’s span. But all things detestable, I most detest a silent partner – and thrusting aside my horror of pistols at dawn, I took refuge in a lady’s light banter. “I have profited from your absence, Lieutenant, to inquire of your character,”’ and so begins and tête à tête between the Lieutenant that must have inspired Jane in her later writing. ;-)
Even though this is a festive and joyful event, trouble is brewing. Jane is concerned for her friend when Isobel is alarmed by the uninvited arrival of Lord Harold Trowbridge who is pressing her to purchase Crosswinds, her father’s troubled estate in Barbados. She also overhears an argument involving George Hearst, Thomas’ elder brother, and the Earl over a woman. Within minutes after the heated discussion, the Earl toasts his bride to his guests, downs his drink and doubles over in acute pain. He would never recover. Isobel is a now widow. A cruel twist of fate for a young bride, however, bereavement is the least of her worries after she receives cryptic missives accusing her and the Earl’s heir, Viscount Payne, of adultery and murder. Terrified of scandal Isobel entreats her dear friend Jane for help. Top on Jane’s list of suspects are the many guests in attendance at the Ball, a collection of characters that all seem to benefit from the Earl’s death. Like any good detective, Jane follows the clues which lead to Isobel’s former maid, Marguerite. Soon, she too is dead, her neck cut in one of the outbuildings on the Scargrave estate. With a second death, most definitely a murder, the authorities are also involved and Isobel is facing murder charges. The investigation will call upon all of Jane’s perceptive acumen leading her to the House of Lords and Newgate Prison, a place fit for no clergyman’s daughter, unless it is in pursuit of the real murderer to free her dear friend.
It has been fifteen years since I first was introduced to Jane Austen detective when this novel took me quite unawares in 1996. The notion of “my” Jane as a sleuth is still surprising, even after reading ten novels in the series, but it only takes a page or two before I am smiling and in total awe of Barron’s skill at channeling my favorite author. And channel she does. I know of no other that can rival her skill at early nineteenth-century language and humor. Blending events from Jane Austen’s actual life with fictional narrative, this detective story is in itself a mystery as I hunt for clues to known facts from Jane’s life and allusions to her future characters in her novels. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Austen’s famous romantic icon Mr. Darcy will recognize Barron’s gentle nod to him in Viscount Fitzroy Payne. Possessed of aloof pride and haughty silence, ‘Everyone wants to know him, but few truly like him.’ Barron has Jane play her future heroine Elizabeth Bennet by taunting her Darcy-like character. “I detect a similarity in the turn of our minds, Viscount Payne,” I persisted, in some exasperation. “We are both of a taciturn, ungenerous nature and would rather be silent until we may say what is certain to astonish all the world.” There are several passages of dialogue that will send a spark of recognition with other characters too, but the story is entirely Barron’s own darling child. This is after all, an homage, a pastiche to Austen, her life and her works. In total respect and with perfect pitch, Barron blends our Jane with a cleverly crafted mystery, infused with historical detail and cutting wit. Jane Austen may have only written six major novels in her short life, but Barron can certainly be credited as the next best thing to perfection.
American college professor Emma Grant always does the right thing and expects the same from others. She acquired her...moreCould Jane Austen ruin your life?
American college professor Emma Grant always does the right thing and expects the same from others. She acquired her expectations from her minister father and her favorite author Jane Austen, who both taught her to believe in the happily-ever-after. Life was turning out as planned until she unexpectedly discovers her husband’s affair with her teaching assistant who in turn falsely accuses her of plagiarizing another author’s work. An academic scandal ensues prompting an investigation and removal from her prestigious teaching position, denunciation by academia, and an ugly divorce leaving poor Emma at a turning point in her life. She had always believed in the possibility of finding her Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley and settling down to martial bliss. How could Jane Austen have ruined her life?
Without a job, husband, reputation or money, she packs up and off to London on the invitation of an elderly woman Mrs. Parrot who claims to have a stash of undocumented letters written by Jane Austen. If this woman’s claims are true, they might be the famous missing letters that Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra inherited after her death in 1817 and supposedly burned deeming them to personal for public view. If authenticated, they represented the ultimate Holy Grail of Austenalia and the ticket to Emma’s academic and personal happiness. The enigmatic Mrs. Parrot is not quite ready to just hand them over to anyone, even if they have been summoned to her house. Emma must prove her worthiness to Mrs. Parrot, one of the ‘Formindables’, a secret society of devoted Janeites named after Jane’s own moniker of herself and sister Cassandra in their later years. Mrs. Parrot sends Emma on a series of Austen related tasks/tests to prove she’s up to snuff visiting Steventon, Chawton, Bath and other Austen haunts. Along the way she encounters many coincidences including a reappearance after ten years of a previous boyfriend Adam and a new man Barry who just happens to pop up unexpectedly along her journey all adding to the mystery surrounding the letters and their importance.
Jane Austen Ruined My Life is an intriguing and quick read that succeeds on so many levels by blending accurate biographical and historical information about Jane Austen’s life and works (major kudos to Pattillo) with a contemporary adventure romance that at times is reminiscent of The Last Templar where the heroine is thrown into a quest to discover ancient information that will change our current perceptions. Austen enthusiast will appreciate discovering all the Jane Austen lore and references, and romance readers will identify with the modern heroine and her adventure. Anglophiles will enjoy the added benefit of Ms. Pattillo’s past residence and many trips to England as she describes familiar haunts in London and Jane Austen travel destinations with aplomb. My one quibble is that Emma’s romantic decision could have ended differently. Obliviously, I am not as evolved as the heroine yet, and expect my Jane Austen happily-ever-after!