Review by Allison Thompson
OK, kids, listen up. When family and friends ask you what you want for the holidays this year, stand up straight and reply firmly and clearly: “Lost in Austen; Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster.” Then count the days until you can unwrap your treasure.
Lost in Austen is a hoot: witty, sly and intriguing. The premise of this interactive adventure is that “you” are Elizabeth Bennet and your goal is a happy marriage to a wealthy gentleman. You start your quest with 200 Intelligence points, 200 Confidence points, a very low Fortune score of 50 points and absolutely no Connections or Accomplishments. As you pass tests and answer questions, you gain and lose various points, rapidly amassing Failings and Inferior Connections and less rapidly gaining Fortune Points and Superior Connections.
Webster’s interspersed comments and the awarding of points throughout the main narrative (that of P&P) are both perceptive and witty, but the most amusing aspect of this interactive story are the adventures that you have meeting and accepting (or rejecting—remember, it’s up to you) romantic overtures from Messrs. Knightley, Wickham, Willoughby, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elton, Martin (yes, Harriet’s Robert Martin), Captain Wentworth (your first love), Tom Lefroy, and a mysterious Mr. Bennet (an estranged distant cousin). What happens to you if you do accept Mr. Collins’ proposal? What if you elope with Willoughby? Why is Lady Catherine packing heat? At unexpected points you discover that you have FAILED as a heroine and your tale is over (sometimes rather dramatically, as when you encounter the vengeful Miss Bingley as you are staggering back to the inn near Pemberley after your carriage overturns). But not to worry, just go back and make another decision to move in a different direction.
This isn’t a quick read—the fun of the book comes from flipping back and forth among the various “diversions” and dead ends as you are sent from page to page. (My particularly favorite diversion comes when you encounter a rather scary Fanny in her little white attic….) And, should you successfully complete your mission, at the end there is an intriguing final decision for you to make—depending on the level of your Intelligence Points.
Lost in Austen is in fact so entertaining that the Eager Heroine might have to buy it for herself right away and ask for a sweater for the holidays instead.
(This book has been published in the UK with the title Being Elizabeth Bennet: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. — Ed.)