REVIEW: Jane Austen (Christian Encounters Series) by Peter Leithart


Jane Austen (Christian Encounters Series) by Peter LeithartReview by A Baja Janeite

“Neither Jane Austen nor her family could leave her characters alone.”

This is how my (now) favorite biography of Jane Austen begins. I usually skip introductions, but “Janela” is perfect-it could stand alone as an independent article. After developing that first idea, Leithart adds “we also cannot leave Jane’s characters alone”– and discusses recent fan fiction (as current as P&P and Zombies) and movie releases.

“We also cannot leave poor Jane alone,” is the final point of the introduction which explains Dr. Leithart’s desire to write another biography. His goal was to explore the various sides of Austen’s character, to give us a more complete and true Jane Austen–not a flawless Victorian domestic nor a sarcastic spinster. (Don’t jump all over me–I know that Jane lived during the Regency period, but evidently a nephew gave her a “Victorian Madonna” image.) Leithart instead compares “Jane Austen,” the author and public figure, to “Jenny Austen,” the affectionate aunt” and “imaginative, eternal child.”

Throughout this biography, Dr. Leithart weaves historical facts, quotes and contemporary observations flawlessly. He includes quotes from family members, well known writers and the letters. While this in itself may not be unique, his writing style is so attractive that I felt as though I were reading fresh new material! Published as part of the Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters series, I felt very satisfied with his observations of Jane’s faith. Some biographers ignore her faith, others exaggerate it. Here, her faith is discussed as an important factor in truly understanding Austen. It does not dominate the book, however–even the most atheistic Janeite will not protest.

After reading Jane Austen for this review, I saw Dr. Leithart’s name EVERYWHERE! Leithart is a well known theologian, a prolific writer, and a literature professor (similar to C.S. Lewis). His website,, includes other articles on Austen. (Search “Jane Austen” on the site.)

The book is simply excellent. Now, if only Thomas Nelson would chuck that drab cover…

Report on New York reading of The Notorious Lady Susan


AustenBlog’s Broadway Correspondent Peggy wrote to tell us that she was planning to attend the reading of a new stage play, The Notorious Lady Susan, adapted and directed by Tom Fontana for the Acting Company’s Salon Series, on April 12 in New York City. We asked her to send a report for the blog. –Ed.

I wanted to report back to you on the Lady Susan Salon Reading on Monday night (April 12). JASNA-NY had procured and made available a group of tickets, so there was a strong JASNA presence in the audience. We were welcomed in the program and the introductory remarks to the performance. I had no idea what to expect in this performance since I had a fairly limited knowledge of this particular work, but “The Acting Company” did a great job. Despite the bare set (only high stools and music stands for the performers) and the modern dress of the 7 actors/correspondents, the readings were rich enough to enable the audience to imagine the backdrops of fine country estates and gossipy London drawing rooms. What could have been a static reading of the book (read almost completely, with few editorial adaptations) was actually a wonderfully dramatic treatment of this epistolary text. The actors were able to interact directly in the parts of conversations alluded to in the correspondence; sometimes the actors moved their stools to demonstrate squabbles or emotional distance. The performers were really good (Lady Susan was perfectly manipulative and charming) and the production was wonderful. I am sure that having such a knowledgeable audience of Janeites (I mean this in the most complimentary and affectionate way) aided the performance as well – there were truly appreciative chuckles at the wit throughout. I am no expert, but this production enabled me to see Jane Austen’s growth from the influence of her literary antecedents (Samuel Richardson, etc.) to the fully formed dramatic voice in her later novels and I was glad I had the chance to see it.

REVIEW: Jane Austen, Her Golden Years by Muriel Keller Evans


Jane Austen Her Golden Years by Muriel Keller EvansReview by A Baja Janeite

Henry was dying. Jane Austen hovers in anguish over her favorite brother- but she is also extremely annoyed with him. Henry has revealed that Jane is the anonymous author of three popular novels to the royal family physician. Oh, what a Henry! Here Jane Austen-Her Golden Years by Muriel Keller Evans begins. Covering the last two years of Jane’s life, this historical fiction promises to highlight her family and faith. It does.

There were several things that I liked about this book. Evans alternates each chapter of fiction with a letter from “Jane” to a family member. I tried to check the authenticity of the events in each narrated chapter as well as the content of the letters. They all seemed to be based on history–except for Jane’s interactions with contemporary William Wilberforce. Continue reading

REVIEW: The Jane Austen Dictionary by Pauline E. Kelly


The Jane Austen Dictionary by Pauline E. Kelly Review by Allison T.

One reason why Austen’s works have held up so well over the years is their relatively spare use of description, either of places or of people or of things. Even a young, inexperienced reader can gallop along devouring the essence of the story without bothering too much about the differences between John Thorpe’s gig and Mr. Suckling’s barouche. And when I say “differences,” I don’t just mean differences in the number of wheels or horses involved. I mean that it is relatively easy to understand from Austen’s succinct prose that John is driving (badly) a sporting vehicle pulled by one slow horse while Mrs. Elton is referring to a grander carriage that somehow confers social distinction.

But at some point the reader may well want to know more about specific objects or actions mentioned in Austen’s works. Pauline E. Kelly’s Jane Austen Dictionary; A guide to the language in Jane Austen’s novels will partially fill the bill. Continue reading

REVIEW: According to Jane by Marilyn Brant


According to Jane by Marilyn BrantReview by Allison T.

“It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet ‘tsk’ of displeasure. The target? Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind and seems determined to stay there.”

Thus commences the back blurb on Marilyn Brant’s According to Jane, a book that lies somewhat uneasily, for this reader at least, between a tween/teen coming-of-age novel, a more adult coming-of-age novel (sometimes disparagingly referred to as “chick-lit”), and a novel that Janeites would find interesting.

Some readers will find According to Jane an entertaining read as Ellie struggles to decide which of her lovers is The One. She also wrestles with her position in the family as a middle child with substantial sibling issues with her older sister. The story flashes back and forth to Ellie’s experiences with various boyfriends and lovers at various times in her life and her continuing encounters with Sam. Could Jane Austen be wrong after all? Could Sam really be Mr. Darcy? According to Jane is likely to appeal most to young women readers of 21+ with a mild interest in Jane Austen; but I think it fails both its younger and its Jane-Adamant readers. Continue reading

REVIEW: Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo


Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth PattilloReview by A Baja Janeite

“This isn’t what really happened. Jane Austen obviously changed her mind about a lot of things when she rewrote it.”


Harriet’s nodding agreement only spurred my irritation. “So this is just an early draft. It doesn’t change the outcome, does it?”…

“The outcome?” She paused.

I bit my lip in frustration. “Whatever happens, Darcy and Elizabeth have to end up together.” …

Harriet eyed me with some interest. “Why should it bother you if Elizabeth fancies Colonel Fitzwilliam?” (p.93)

Claire Prescott has no life. When her parents died years ago, eighteen-year-old Claire abandoned all of her own dreams to provide for her younger sister. Missy now has a career and a family, but Claire still lives for her. Boyfriend Neil is obsessed with sports–but not with Claire. To make matters worse, she has just lost her job to a young college graduate.

Missy has been invited to present a paper at a Pride and Prejudice seminar at Oxford. Uunable to attend, she talks Claire into taking her place. Of course, Claire will go. Will Neil even realize that she is gone?

At Oxford, Claire meets and is immediately enamored with James Beufort, a New York version of Mr.Darcy. He, however, is as reluctantly attracted to Claire as the original was to Elizabeth. Continue reading

REVIEW: Pursued by Love by Georgia Hill


Pursued by Love by Georgia Hill Review by Allison T.

The continent of AustenLand grows daily larger. At the serene heart, of course, are the six novels, the fragments, juvenilia and letters. Far across the plains towards the East are the fell Misty Mountains, wherein Vampire Darcys (and Vampire Jane!) lurk. Somewhere to the West is the London/NewYorkCity/LosAngeles simalcrum, where all the modern Retellings sip super-low-fat-no-whip-double-shot lattes in fashionable cafés and exchange witty banter. The gentle, flower-studded prairies house the Christian Retellings, while mummies and zombies lurk on the edges of the continent, pouncing on unwary travelers. And, in one far part of AustenLand, where the land blurs into water that then pours off the edge of the World, are the ShadowLands, in which ShadowDarcy and ShadowLizzie—characters that resemble the originals only by virtue of their famous names—hover and whisper.

This is where Georgia Hill’s Pursued by Love lives. Continue reading