Friday Bookblogging: Jane-uary is Coming Edition!

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Alert Janeite Jenny let us know that the Kansas City Public Library is about to start a “Jane-uary” program, with a month-long series of events, including lectures, films, and group discussions. Reservations are required for many of the events, so check out the site and send ’em in! They also have a Jane-uary blog.

Alert Janeite Cate wrote to ask if we had heard of a series of young adult novels by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer set in the Regency and incorporating a school of magical training, sort of like Jane Austen meets Harry Potter or, as Cate put it, “a junior version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” Don’t think they’re derivative, though; a reviewer pointed out that the first book was published in 1987, long before either J.K. Rowling or Susannah Clarke pulled out their own wands and started writing. The series includes Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, The Grand Tour: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality, and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After. We had never heard of these books but plan to look them up, once we’re a little more caught up in our to-do list!

Speaking of upcoming reading, some of us who hang out at Molland’s will be reading The Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom. If that title sounds familiar, it’s one of the “Northanger Novels” that Isabella Thorpe lists for the benefit of her new friend Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey:

“Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

Attentive Janeites also will remember that Mr. Austen read The Midnight Bell, as Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on 24 October, 1798:

My father is now reading the ‘Midnight Bell,’ which he has got from the library, and mother sitting by the fire.

One presumes he enjoyed it; as Jane once wrote, the Austens were novel-readers and not ashamed of it. It sounds like a real corker, too!

Young Alphonsus Cohenburg enters his mother’s bedroom and finds her covered in blood. She tells him his uncle has murdered his father, and orders him to flee Cohenburg castle forever to save his own life!

A disconsolate exile, Alphonsus wanders the earth seeking the means of survival, first as a soldier, then a miner, and finally as sacristan of a church, where he meets the beautiful Lauretta. They wed and establish a home together, and everything seems to promise them a happy future. But their domestic tranquillity is shattered, when a band of ruffians kidnaps the unfortunate Lauretta! Alphonsus must solve the mystery of Lauretta’s disappearance and the riddle of his mother’s strange conduct. And when he hears that ghosts inhabit Cohenburg castle, tolling the great bell each night at midnight, the mystery only deepens….

Horrid indeed! The schedule for our reading is not yet determined but likely will start the second week in January, er, Jane-uary, so there’s plenty of time to get a copy and join us! We will be sure to let you know when the final schedule has been determined.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Bookblogging, and always remember, Gentle Readers: Books Are Nice!