Early in Joanna Trollope’s modern-set rewrite of Sense and Sensibility, Fanny Dashwood sweeps into Norland, which she is going to run as a commercial concern (a B&B), and tosses out the rumpled, genteel, shabby-chic furnishings, replacing them with shiny sleek modern decor.
And they say irony is dead.
When we first heard about what Harper is calling The Austen Project, we were intrigued by the idea, but had a difficult time figuring out what Harper was trying to accomplish. Continue reading
The publication of Jo Baker’s new novel Longbourn generated the same sort of excitement as the arrival of a single gentleman of good fortune. It has been described as being a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey. When we heard this premise, we were all admiration. What a brilliant idea! Two of the most wildly popular and well-known popular culture properties–now together! It might be the greatest idea since some genius combined chocolate and peanut butter. The Commercial Publishing Industrial Complex has predictably lost its mind over it; frankly, we are astonished that its publication did not rip open the fabric of the universe, creating a giant black hole that sucked us all into it.
While this soundbyte selling point makes it simple for publishers and booksellers, we think it has done the authoress a disservice. We think Ms. Baker was shooting for something less mercenary and more ambitious: the Wide Sargasso Sea of the Jane Austen oeuvre; by which we mean a paraliterature title that strives for literary achievement as well as, or perhaps even more than, popularity. We have long wondered why no one has written such a novel. Sadly, Longbourn did not work for us, either as ambitious literary fiction or as a P&P/Downton mashup. There is nothing of the elegance of Downton Abbey, and a Pride and Prejudice that we do not recognize. Continue reading
It took Amanda Grange a long time to reach the sixth of Austen’s heroes for her series of retellings (and took us an even longer time to write this review. We are a bad Editrix and we feel bad). We are pleased to report that it was been worth the wait. In Henry Tilney’s Diary, our favorite Austen hero gets his turn in the sun, and proves to be as delightful as we had hoped. Witty, intelligent, a loving son and brother, all of Mr. Tilney’s best assets (and they are legion) are shown to full advantage in this enjoyable retelling of Northanger Abbey, done with Ms. Grange’s usual scrupulous attention to the original and an extra dash of Tilneyish wit and style. And doesn’t that make everything better? Continue reading
If Austen paraliterature–sequels, prequels, retellings, embellishments, modernizations–has become a genre of its own, then retellings of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the hero has become a genre within a genre. There are at least a dozen of these retellings, some quite enjoyable and some, frankly, quite bewildering. We are not a purist, if by “purist” one means a Janeite unable to bring herself to read alternate takes on Austen’s novels, but we are a canonist. We like the novels that Jane Austen wrote, and when we choose to read paraliterature, we like it to show that the author has paid close attention to the original and understands it. Every detail doesn’t have to be perfect–and we all have our own take on what happens off-canvas in the original–but we consider these novels successful if we find the characters recognizable as those created by Jane Austen. In His Good Opinion, Nancy Kelley has written an enjoyable version of Mr. Darcy’s story that we found recognizable and believable. Continue reading
We have viewed the approach of the release of Austenland with very mixed feelings. On the good side, the trailer looked like fun, and Jennifer Coolidge is usually a riot. On the other side, we read the book by Shannon Hale quite a while ago and had a hard time remembering much about it, other than we felt that for a book allegedly about an obsessed Janeite, we did not find the protagonist sympathetic or even likable. At the time we snarked about the book on the blog (quel surprise) and were scolded by Halefen, so we put the book on our towering To Be Read pile (our TBR pile, both paper and electronic, can be seen from space) with the idea that we’d give it another try, eventually. With the film coming out, that time seemed to have come; and when an opportunity arose to see a preview of the film, it seemed even more pressing. We got through the prologue and part of the first chapter when we decided we had better stop reading until after seeing the movie.
We were hoping for better things from the movie, and were determined to go into the movie with an open mind. The cast looked pretty good, and the trailer made us smile. How bad could it be? Continue reading
Disclaimer: I was interviewed for this book, becoming acquainted (dare I say, friendly) with the author in the process. I disclose that for the sake of transparency; it did not affect my opinion of the book. -MCS
When we read Claire Harman’s book Jane’s Fame back in 2009, we were quite disappointed by what we perceived (perhaps somewhat defensively) as the condescending and dismissive way that Ms. Harman reported on the 21st-century Austen fandom, especially as compared to her treatment of Austen fans in earlier eras. She didn’t come right out and call us tea-sipping, cat-stroking, bonnet-wearing wet shirt fanatics, but one didn’t have to do much reading between the lines to get the impression she was barely holding back. At the time we wrote,
It would have been really interesting to have One Of Us, a Janeite who is “not afraid to be seen wallowing” as Ms. Harman put it, write an overview of the State of the Fandom, even a constructively critical one.
Gentle Readers, Jane Austen must have been smiling upon our wish, for it has been granted–and then some! Deborah Yaffe’s book, Among the Janeites, is all we hoped for when we wrote that review and more. Written with wit, intelligence, and tremendous affection, this “Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom” is the most thoroughly enjoyable Austen-related book we’ve read in some time. The subject interests us in any event–we like to say we are a frustrated sociologist, which is probably at least part of why we enjoy Austen’s work–but in the hand of the wrong author, one who is not quite as much in sympathy with the tribe of Austen, it could have been, like Ms. Harman’s book, a real missed opportunity. Fortunately that is not the case. Continue reading
Review by Jenny Ellis
While Darcy’s name appears in the title of this Austen inspired modern day setting book, don’t assume it’s a take on Pride and Prejudice. It’s a nice blend of multiple Austen novels. Kay Ashton is working on illustrating all of Austen’s novels. Shortly after buying a bed & breakfast in Lyme so she can work on finishing her book The Illustrated Mr. Darcy a film crew working on an adaptation of Persuasion comes to town and the cast takes over her B&B. All the girls are crushing on the actor playing Wentworth, Oli Wade Owen. But sadly I did not find him likeable when Wentworth is my favorite Austen hero. I kept thinking if this were a real movie I’m not sure I could watch it.
Kay has some Emma-like traits and tries setting Gemma, who is playing Anne, up with the screenwriter and producer Adam while as readers we know Adam likes Kay. A couple times I just wanted to reach into the book and shake Kay.
It was kind of fun realizing certain parts of the storyline were from different Austen novels which I think makes this a highly discussable novel because some people may have caught things that you didn’t and vice versa. Makes you want to re-read it with a notebook handy (because as a librarian I would never mark in my book[Witness! –Ed.]) to write down all the homages to Austen’s novels.
Since this was a modern take on Jane Austen I wasn’t sure if everyone would end up with who I wanted them to… of course I can’t answer that without having a *spoiler alert* so I won’t. This book is the second in the Austen Addicts series. You don’t have to read book 1 for this book to make sense. I didn’t. But now I want to.