There are so many reviews of this modern retelling of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility about I feel very late toLess sense, more sensibility
There are so many reviews of this modern retelling of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility about I feel very late to the party. Here are my impressions.
My Quibbles: The main characters were pretty shallow, self-absorbed and difficult to connect with; slim caricatures of Austen's originals. Two fifty-something unmarried ladies and a seventy-something divorcee talking about themselves and wallowing in misery is not Austenish, at all. What happened to a witty comedy of manners? Maybe that was the author’s point. Are we now more materialistic and bitter than nineteenth-century ladies in the same circumstances? Even though Betty (Mrs. Dashwood) was thrown over by her husband of fifty years for a woman half her age, I began to think he had good reason. Making Miranda (Marianne Dashwood) a calculating literary agent gave me the shivers for those honorable agents in the profession, and Annie (Elinor Dashwood) the librarian, who should be stoic and admirable, is supporting her mother and sister, why? She is more an enabler of bad behavior than a help. Ack! The romance was more than a bit thin, and the end Louisa? Don’t even get me started. Find out for yourself! Definitely less sense and more sensibility all around!
My Praise: Funny, irreverent and quirky. The transformation of Austen’s early-nineteenth century classic to modern-day New York and Westport, Connecticut was a clever notion, mainly because of Schine’s understanding of the social context of both cultures. The Jewish humor was so appropriate. They have been persecuted for centuries and do irony and misery better than anyone else. When seventy-five year old impoverished Betty Weissmann rationalizes a shopping spree to Brooks Brothers and Tiffany’s in New York before she meets her soon-to-be-ex-husband and his attorney (because she must look stunning) you totally believe her and understand her character’s motivation. You do not agree, but you understand. While her daughter Miranda must have a shiny new red kayak to find her soul, you roll your eyes and compare Austen’s Marianne Dashwood romanticizing over dead leaves. Schine follows Austen’s narrative pretty closely and modernizes it surprisingly. The characters are foibled and fraught with emotion and angst. The secondary characters add humor and conflict. If you can overlook some of the shallow soul searching, profligate spending and incredible coincidences that fuel the plot, The Three Weissmanns of Westport was a fun lark, albeit a bit annoying at times.
American college professor Emma Grant always does the right thing and expects the same from others. She acquired herCould 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!
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 aEven 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.
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 BennetA 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.
In this retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, author Abigail Reynolds re-imagines the famous plot andPride 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.
"I know of few novels - except Pride and Prejudice - that inspire as much fierce lifelong affection in theA 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!
First published in 1950, The Grand Sophy contains one of Georgette Heyer’s most endearingly outrageous heroThe 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.
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 tempA 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.
Emma, Jane Austen’s fourth novel was published in 1815 and dedicated to the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Austen privately abhorred the RegentEmma, 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
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 wondeGreat 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.