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Laurel Ann "Austenprose" (Seattle, WA, USA)

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False Colours
False Colours
by Georgette Heyer
Edition: Paperback

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One twin impersonates another in this delightful Regency-era novel, 29 Aug. 2010
This review is from: False Colours (Paperback)
Georgette Heyer had the fortunate knack of selecting catchy titles for her novels that were a perfect match to what would unfold inside: THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE, THE UNKNOWN AJAX, BATH TANGLE, DEVIL'S CUB, SPRIG MUSLIN, THE NONESUCH, and on and on. Each title is short, evocative and intriguing. FALSE COLOURS is a perfect example. Anyone with a modicum of military knowledge will recognize the term `flying false colors' or flying a flag of a country other than one's own to deceive the enemy into believing that a ship or fort or field banner is of a friend or allies until they are trapped. That is exactly what transpires in Heyer's Regency-era novel FALSE COLOURS. The Honorable Christopher "Kit" Fancot is pressed into operating under a false flag by impersonating his identical twin brother Evelyn, Lord Denville, who has inconveniently disappeared at a critical moment in the Fancot families lives.

Two years after the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Kit returns to England from diplomatic service in Vienna to meet his widowed mother Lady Denville distraught over the disappearance of his older brother Evelyn on the eve of an important introduction to his future bride and her family. Because of his mother's mounting debts Evelyn must make a quick alliance so he will have access to his family trust. Their future depends upon Evelyn marrying the Honorable Miss Cressida Stavely, an heiress whose formidable grandmother the Dowager Lady Stavely must approve the marriage or the betrothal is off. Lady Denville begs Kit to impersonate his brother for just one evening to win time to locate his wayward brother. He agrees and the masquerade begins.

When Lady Denville invites Evelyn's fiancé and her family to their country estate for a small gathering the hoax must continue. Kit soon discovers that Evelyn's alliance with Miss Stavley is a marriage of convenience for both of them. His trust will be available to him upon his marriage and she will be free of her imposing step-mother. As Kit and Cressy are thrown together they are attracted to each other. By careful deduction and a few blunders by others, Cressy is able to discover that Kit is impersonating his brother. But, she has fallen in love with him of course and keeps his secret. When the prodigal son finally resurfaces with a wild story of where he has been and news of finding true love, the two brothers must either face the scandal of their deception, or depend upon their mother to devise an alternate solution that suits them both.

Originally published in 1963, False Colours has its charms and foibles. Heyer is in true form excelling at historical detail, but the plot, though surrounded by memorable characters finely drawn, was predictable and so formulaic that I was wracking my brain trying to remember other famous brother or look-a-like swapping stories: THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK or PRISONER OF ZENDA, and a vague recollection of Shakespeare using this device too. Because Kit holds back his feelings for Cressy, the romance really takes a back burner until the very end. The most dominate relationship in the book, which took up a chunk of dialogue, was between Kit and his mother. He was noble and admirable. She on the other hand was vapid, silly and careless. Happily, in true Heyer fashion, the two most sensible characters do end up together. But that was telescoped from the beginning. It was just a joy to watch her craft in getting us there.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


The Convenient Marriage (Abridged Fiction) (Naxos Classic Fiction)
The Convenient Marriage (Abridged Fiction) (Naxos Classic Fiction)
by Georgette Heyer
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £17.35

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Armitage reading a Georgette Heyer classic! *swoon*, 10 Aug. 2010
I had not read THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE before this new Naxos Audiobooks recording happily landed on my doorstep. I will confess all up front. I did the unthinkable. I read the complete plot synopsis on Wikipedia before I delved into the first chapter. *horrors* Don't even think about following my example. It will spoil the most enjoyable aspect of this novel - surprise!

THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE is one of Georgette Heyer's more popular Georgian-era rom-com's, and for good reason. It has all the requisite winning elements: a wealthy and eligible hero, a young naïve heroine, greedy relatives, a scheming mistress and a revengeful rake. Add in a duel, a sword fight, highway robbery, abduction, switched identities and scandalous behavior, and you are in for comedic high jinxes and uproarious plot twists. As I laughed out loud at the preposterous plot machinations in the synopsis, I thought to myself, "How does Heyer do it? How can she take us on such an outrageously wild ride and make it believable?" I was soon to find out.

Handsome and elegant Marcus Drelincourt, Earl of Rule, is comfortable in his bachelorhood. At thirty-five his sister Lady Louisa Quain urges him to marry, suggesting the beautiful Elizabeth Winwood. She is from an aristocratic family of good pedigree but little fortune. With two unmarried younger sisters, prim Charlotte and impulsive Horatia, and their self-indulgent elder brother Pelham (about as much help to his family as a rainstorm at a picnic), she must marry well. Lady Winwood is thrilled when the Earl agrees to marry Elizabeth and save the family from destitution. Seventeen-year old Horatia is not. Presenting herself at the Earl's doorstep she boldly offers herself to him in exchange for her elder sister who is in love with Lieutenant Edward Heron. Horry proposes a marriage of convenience to Lord Rule with the promise that she will not interfere with him after they are married. She does not bring much to the bargain. Not only is she poor, she does not possess her sister's beauty, and she stutters. Intrigued by this young, brave girl, he is tempted and soon sees the logic, agreeing to her proposal.

The new Countess of Rule wastes no time in becoming the sensation of the bon ton dressing to the nines, attending parties, the opera, gambling huge sums and getting into all sorts of scrapes while her husband continues to pay attentions to his mistress Lady Caroline Massey. With patience and fortitude, Lord Rule councils his stubborn young bride against excess and the dangerous liaisons of Baron Robert Lethbridge, a known rake with a history with the Drelincourt family.

Determined to teach her husband a lesson for his interference, she defies his wishes attending a masked ball. Escorted by Lethbridge, he sees their friendship as the perfect opportunity to ruin her reputation and punish Drelincourt for thwarting his elopement with his sister Louisa years before. Horry tempts Lethbridge with cards, bending his resistance by scandalously agreeing to offer a lock of her hair if he wins. Unbeknownst to Horry, her husband has followed her to the ball, overhears their conversation and intercedes by stepping on her dress and ripping it. While she is away he disposes of Lethbridge and exchanges his costume with his own. Returning, Horry loses badly at cards and must give Lethbridge/Rule his winnings. Penitent, she concedes the bet which is met with a stolen kiss. Furious, Horry rushes away running into Lady Caroline Massey who recognizes her. Certain that her husband's mistress will reveal to him that his wife was at the ball, she confesses all to him first. The Earl in turn reveals his charade. Discovering that he has fallen in love with his wife, how will he court and convince her that love is much better than a marriage of convenience?

Heyer's characterizations just sparkle and shine. This May/Decemeber relationship presents great opportunity for difference in opinion and blunder. If Horry had not been an impulsive, stubborn seventeen-year old there would have been little conflict and no story. Lord Rule's patience in dealing with his teenage bride commanded respect, endearing us to him by opening up the possibility of the love relationship that we hope for. This delightful romp was made all the more enjoyable by this new audio recording by British stage and screen actor Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into Georgette Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks. His skill at unique characterization and resonant, velvetly voice transports the listener like Cinderella to the Ball. Unfortunately, once the story ends, so does the enchantment. My solution was to start it again. For me, a new audio recording combining fanciful storyteller Georgette Heyer and the sultry and seductive voice of Richard Armitage is like la petite mort. Hopefully they are not few and far between.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Sanditon (Hesperus Classics)
Sanditon (Hesperus Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A satirical look at 19th-century business speculation, hypocondria and novel reading, 21 Mar. 2010
On the 17th January, 1817 Jane Austen began work on a novel that is now known as SANDITON. It was never completed. Her declining health robbed her of what she dearly loved most, writing, and on the 18th of March 1817 after penning 22,000 words she wrote the last lines of chapter twelve and put down her pen. Four months later at age 41 she would succumb to what is generally believed to have been Addison's disease.

Set in the emerging seaside village of Sanditon on the Sussex coast we are introduced to a large cast of characters dominated by the two minions of the community: Mr. Parker a local landowner with grand designs of turning a fishing village into a fashionable watering place offering the therapeutic or curative benefits of sea-bathing and his partner Lady Denham, the local great lady who has "a shrewd eye & self satisfying air" and cares little about the community and only her pocketbook.

The story unfolds from the perspective of Charlotte Heywood, a young lady experiencing her first trip away from her family as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Parker. Sanditon is populated by a comical ensemble of residents and visitors who upon Charlotte's first acquaintance are altogether different than they later appear. Lady Denham's nephew Sir Edward Denham is handsome, amiable and titled but is prone to long inflated speeches in the most pompous and affected style in an attempt to reinforce his own notion that he is a romantic character born to seduce women "quite in the line of Lovelaces." (Lovelace refers to the villain Robert Lovelace in Samuel Richardson's 1748 novel CLARISSA who rapes and ruins the young heroine.) He has designs upon Lady Denham's companion Clara Brereton who he shall either woo with affection or carry off. Clara is a poor relation of Lady Denham's who is maneuvering to be her heir and in direct competition with Sir Edward for her favor.

Also sharing the spotlight is Mr. Parker and his four siblings, three of whom Charlotte is told are sad invalids, but after their arrival talk a great deal about their maladies but exhibit little consequence of their afflictions. Here we see Austen at her comedic height characterizing the foibles of those who attach illness as an identity and hypochondria as their religion. The one bright light of hope in the novel is Mr. Parker's brother Sidney who we know of only through letters and others descriptions. He may be the only character besides Charlotte who has the potential to set things in balance with his sense of humor and honest opinions. Sadly he is destined to remain the mystery hero of Austen's oeuvre. Add to that a lineup a nest of plot ironies to raise an eyebrow at business speculation and hypochondria, and a sharp jab at the effluvia of novels and poetry and you have a narrative that whizzes along until an abrupt halt just when we are hooked.

The uncompleted novel is a great loss to literature but also to the characters who after a bright and comical beginning are left with uncertain futures. What does remain is more than a novelty of Austenalia. SANDITON'S levity despite the author's failing health when it was written is quite remarkable. On first reading I thought it quite energetic and satirical, similar to the burlesque humor of Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY. I then put it aside and did not reflect on it further. My second reading after several years brought an entirely new reaction. Austen has taken a new and fresh direction from her usual three or four families in a country village and sets her novel not about an individuals struggle but an entire community. Money is still the fuel that powers the plot, but her physical descriptions of the landscape and town are entirely new in her cannon foreshadowing what may have been an evolution in her style. SANDITON is a gem that no Austen enthusiast should miss.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Emma n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
Emma n/e (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.86

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma, a masterpiece & nice supplemental material, 7 Mar. 2010
For me, reading Jane Austen's novel EMMA is a delight. However, not all readers have been in agreement with me over the years including Jane Austen herself who warned her family before publication "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." She was of course making fun of herself in her own satirical way; - her critics on the other hand, were quite serious. When the book was published in 1815, Austen sent a copy to her contemporary author Maria Edgeworth who gave up reading the novel after the first volume, passing it on to friend and complaining, "There is no story in it." Others had mixed feelings offering both praise and blame for its focus on the ordinary details of a few families in a country village. One important advocate of Emma was Sir Walter Scott, whose essay published in the Quarterly Review of 1815 represents the most important criticism on Austen's writing during her lifetime. Even though the review was published anonymously, she must have been quite giddy when the reviewer heralded her EMMA as a `new style of novel' designed to `suit modern times'. Heady stuff to be sure. When it was later learned that Scott had contributed the review, it would placed Jane Austen in a whole other league of writers.

EMMA can be enjoyed on different levels, and for pure humour and witty dialogue it may reign as Austen's supreme triumph. Just Google quotes from Emma and you might agree that it has the best bon mots of any of her novels. Modern critics claim it as her masterpiece, and I do not doubt it. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE may be the most beloved and well know of her works, but EMMA represents Austen at the height of her writing skill and power as a story teller. Like some of Austen's contemporaries, the modern reader might find challenges in its minutiae and supposed lack of story. Not to worry. There are many sources available to assist in understanding Jane Austen's subtle and often witty dialogue, her unique characterizations, and help place the novel in historical context.

One source to consider is the new 2008 edition of EMMA, by Oxford World's Classics. Recently revised in 2003, this re-issue contains the same supplemental and textual material with a newly designed cover. For a reader seeking a medium level of support to help them along in their understanding you will be happy to find a thoughtful 23 page introduction by associate Professor of English and Women's Studies Adela Pinch of the University of Michigan. The essay contains a brief introduction, and segments on Shopping and Suburbia, Narrative Voices: Gossip and the Individual, The Politics of Knowledge, and EMMA: Much Ado About Nothing?. Her emphasis is on understanding Austen's choice of writing about the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of the lives of its heroine Emma Woodhouse and her circle of family and friends in Highbury, a small English village in which she sets about to match make for all of its singletons blundering hilariously along the way. I particularly appreciated Prof. Pinch's positive comments throughout the essay.

"Austen makes voices stick in the mind through her use of free indirect discourse, which makes character's voice seem indelible, capable of soaking into other beings. But she also uses the same technique for representing thought. Her cultivation of this mode of representing her heroines' minds has made her novels crucial to the history of the English novel, markers of a movement when the novel as a literary genre perfects its inward turn, and begins to claim human psychology as its territory. Above all it creates the feeling of intimacy with her heroines that many readers prize." Page xvii-xviii

If I may be so bold and interject as the everyman Austen reader for a moment, parts of this essay are scholarly and touch on areas beyond my immediate understanding, especially when she delves into the philosophical and psychological pedantry. For the most part, Prof. Pinch's essay is written in accessible language and is reverent and admiring to the author and the heroine. I found this outlook refreshing since the heroine Emma, and the novel EMMA have received some criticisms for their shortcomings over the centuries. The novel is about so much more than the "no story" that Maria Edgeworth hastily condemned it to be. I especially adore Emma's little friend Harriet Smith and think her much maligned in the recent movie adaptations, and well - can there ever be enough praise bestowed upon Mrs. Elton? She is comedic genius and worthy of a nomination to the literary comedy hall of fame.

Professor Pinch has also supplied the helpful explanatory notes throughout the text which are numbered on the page allowing the reader to refer to the back of the book for explanation. Honestly, I prefer them to be footnoted at the bottom of the page instead of riffling back and forth, but that is a quibble on convenience. The remainder of the supplemental material; Biography of Jane Austen, Note on the Text, Select Bibliography, Chronology of Jane Austen, Appendix A: Rank and Social Status, and Appendix B: Dancing are repeated throughout the other Jane Austen editions in this series.

This Oxford edition is a sweet little volume at an incredible price if you are in the market for a middlin amount of supplemental material from reputable sources containing an authorative text edited for the modern reader. If you enjoy matchless wit and irony, unforgettable characters, and a unique story that turns the everyday imaginings of a young Georgian era woman into an extraordinary story filled with a comedy of manners and romance, then take note; - Miss Emma Woodhouse commands you to purchase this book immediately!

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Impulse and Initiative (Pride & Prejudice Variation)
Impulse and Initiative (Pride & Prejudice Variation)
by Abigail Reynolds
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pride and Prejudice re-imagined?,, 7 Mar. 2010
"Darcy tried to focus his attention on her kisses, tasting the passion that was clearly sweeping between them, but the rest of his body remained all too aware of how little stood between them, and as he finally pulled Elizabeth to him, the sensation of her softness molding itself to him stole away any remaining rational thought." Chapter 7

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.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


The Matters at Mansfield (Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries): Or, the Crawford Affair (Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery)
The Matters at Mansfield (Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries): Or, the Crawford Affair (Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery)
by Carrie Bebris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More wit and humour from Bebris. Bravo!, 7 Mar. 2010
"More accurately, Lady Catherine conversed. Anne listened silently, her attention straying to other parts of the busy room as her mother soliloquied unchecked. Wandering concentration, however, was endemic to participants in Lady Catherine's conversations. It was how one survived them." Chapter 2

Austenesque author Carrie Bebris ventures into her fourth excursion in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries series with the recently released, THE MATTERS AT MANSFIELD: OR THE CRAWFORD AFFAIR, continuing the story of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy after their marriage in Jane Austen's novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Once again we join the famous couple as they investigate crime and murder among the gentry of Regency England involving many familiar characters from Jane Austen's novels.

It has been two summers since the Darcy's marriage in 1803 and the story opens at Riverton Hall in Buckinghamshire, the ancestral home of Mr. Darcy's mother Anne Fitzwilliam. The present Earl is giving a ball in honor of his new fiancé and the Darcy's are house guests along with other family members; sister Georgiana Darcy, cousins Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Bourgh, and her mother the officious and overbearing Lady Catherine de Bourgh still giving unsolicited advice and talking a blue streak.

Lady Catherine's hen pecked and sickly daughter Anne is now 28 years old and being micro-managed by her mother to within an inch of her life. Lady Catherine is determined to secure a prominent match for her daughter since the mate chosen for her since birth, Fitzwilliam Darcy, defied her wishes and married that `gentleman's daughter', Elizabeth Bennet. Unbeknownst to Anne, her mother brokers a marriage to the son of a family friend and neighbor Lord Sennex, of Hawthorn Manor. This is purely a match of convenience as the future husband is a hot tempered Caliban, about as suitable a love match for fragile and retiring Anne as the odious Rev. Mr. Collins was for Elizabeth Bennet in the original novel.

Certain that her mother will chain her to an abysmal marriage, Anne makes an uncharacteristically bold move and elopes with a man unknown to her family or friends, Henry Crawford of Everingham in Norfolk. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam pursue the couple to Gretna Green, Scotland only to discover that they are too late. The irregular marriage has already taken place and duly consummated. At Lady Catherine's biding, they escort the couple back to Riverton Hall for an audience with her Ladyship. Along the road they are detained in a country village quite familiar to Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park, the last village in England where we would like to be stranded. Unavoidably he must deal with the village locals and many of the characters in Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park such as Sir Thomas Bertram, Mrs. Norris and his former paramour, the spiteful Maria Rushworth. While there, a murder is discovered. Who, I will not reveal, but suffice it to say, if you ever felt the desire to kill off one of Jane Austen's most undeserving cads, you will not be disappointed.

Ms Berbris is truly fond of a good Austen quote skillfully applying them as a epigraph to open each of the chapters. In that spirit, I shall paraphrase a quote by Lady Catherine de Bourgh from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and exclaim that with THE MATTERS AT MANSFIELD Bebris "has given us a treasure." I was continually charmed by her imaginings of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy as the Nick and Nora Charles of the Regency set, exhibiting all the sensibilities that any Janeite would appreciate in an Austen pastiche; respect for the original author's style, observance of period detail, reverence to the characters, and interjection of circuitous humour and lighthearted banter, all combined in a well thought out and absorbing whodunit that keeps us guessing and engaged to the last. My only disappointment was that it ended all too quickly, and I hope that the next novel currently being penned about Austen's novel Emma will suspend our pleasure for a bit longer.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Jane Austen's World: The Life and Times of England's Most Popular Author
Jane Austen's World: The Life and Times of England's Most Popular Author
by Maggie Lane
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total Austen immersion, 7 Mar. 2010
Author, and Jane Austen scholar Maggie Lane's lushly illustrated and thoroughly delightful volume on Jane Austen's life, times and works is one of my Austen favorites in my library.

I gravitate to this lovely volume on my shelf when I need a quick Austen escape. Its large coffee table format allows for lush color photographs and period illustrations on each page, and author Maggie Lane was cleverly arranged the keynotes into five chapters, representing important aspects of Austen's world; Who was Jane Austen? Daily Life in Jane Austen's England, Society and the Spirit of the Age, The Visual World, and The Immortal Jane Austen. This volume also includes a well written introduction, chronology, helpful index and author's acknowledgments. Here is an example of the first topic in chapter one...

Chapter One: Who is Jane Austen?

The Woman: We learn about Jane Austen's birth, family and home environment that nurtured her genius. Her physical appearance, character and personality are described and exemplified by Lane's thorough research, aptly including insightful quotes from her letters and family reflections.

"Her unusually quick sense of the ridiculous inclined her to play with the trifling commonplaces of everyday life, whether as regarded people or things; but she never played with its serious duties or responsibilities - when she was grave, she was very grave." Anna Austen Lefroy

Inevitably, comparisons of Austen's personality lead to the paring of her attitudes and personality with the characteristics of her own heroines. Even though each of her heroines is highly individual, Lane hints at similarities in the characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Anne Elliot, and though I agree for the most part, I was amused to see how one can find what they need to suit, by reason and ingenuity.

The chapters are broken down further by topics and continue in chapter one as follows; The Writer, Beliefs and Values, The Letters, The Portraits, Family Background, Home at Steventon, The six brothers, Some female relations, Love and friendship, Family visits, Bath and the West Country, and Return to Hampshire.

Even though Maggie Lane is qualified to write a scholarly treatise, she knows her audience, and her light style is approachable and engaging. She includes enough biographical and historical detail to introduce us to the subject, and not weigh it down with heavy language and minutia. The photographs and illustration have been thoughtfully selected, significant to the topic, and important historically. Her scholarship is exemplary.

This is my favorite Austen book to give as a gift as an introduction to Jane Austen, and as eye candy to the indoctrinated. It has never failed to please, and I hope that we shall see many additional editions for future readers.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
by Syrie James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reverent and moving, 7 Mar. 2010
Author Syrie James's personal & professional accomplishments serve her well in her reverent presentation of THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN. Her website brims with such a diversity of talents that one does not question why she is qualified to write about such a sensitive subject, but rather why she waited so long! Even Jane Austen's discerning character Mr. Darcy might consider her one of the 12 most accomplished women of his acquaintance.

Breaching the hollowed halls of Jane Austen para-literature is a daunting task for none but the stout-of-heart and thick-of-skin writer. Mrs. James wears her Austen-armor well and delivers a sincere and honest love story that will engage and delight most Jane Austen devotees, and raise an inquisitive eyebrow of the Austen purists. Her Jane is real and approachable, flesh and bone, human and fallible; -- not the stour judgemental old maid envisioned in the 19th-century portraits. We feel her troubles, her joy, her pain, understand her life decisions, and appreciate her all the more for it.

It is not often that this discerning reader can offer unqualified praise, so I will not break my streak. Five Austen stars!

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


The Darcy Cousins
The Darcy Cousins
by Monica Fairview
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty Pride and Prejudice sequel featuring Georgiana Darcy, 7 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Darcy Cousins (Hardcover)
In The Other Mr Darcy, last year's debut Austenesque novel by Monica Fairview we were introduced to Fitzwilliam Darcy's American cousin Robert Darcy. Now the story continues with THE DARCY COUSINS, a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE sequel when his two younger siblings Clarissa and Frederick Darcy arrive from Boston and join their brother and the Darcy family at Rosings Park, the palatial estate of Mr. Darcy's officious aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Being young, brash Americans, Clarissa and Frederick immediately ruffle Lady Catherine's unyielding standards of social stricture. Dutiful and naïve Georgiana Darcy is shocked and intrigued by her cousin Clarissa's adventuresome and unguarded behavior. Her shy and retreating nature has always acquiesced to proper decorum and her family's wishes. So has her sickly cousin Anne de Bourgh, who at age 29 remains unmarried and firmly under the thumb of her tyrannical mother. Clarissa is convinced that Anne has been imprisoned by Lady Catherine at Rosings like a tragic heroine in a Gothic novel. Together, Clarissa and Georgiana clandestinely meet Anne hoping to learn her mysterious back story, offer their friendship and encourage her to improve her situation.

Clarissa's lively spirits also makes her very popular with the young men of the neighborhood, especially to rakish charmer Percy Channing. Clarissa welcomes his attentions while wide-eyed Georgiana watches a seasoned coquette in action. She is also attracted to Channing and in turn annoyed by his sensible and matter-of-fact cousin Henry Gatley who sees right through Clarissa and Channing's affected airs. "But the perversity of the human spirit is such that when a young lady longs for a specific partner, every other partner counts for nothing." When Georgiana overhears Channing privately proclaim to his cousin that she is an insipid bore, she is determined not to be the dull as ditchwater little rich girl and entreats her cousin Clarissa's help to school her in fashion and the art of feminine allurements. And then the unthinkable happens! Their cousin Anne simply vanishes without a trace. Has she been abducted or is this a run-away-marriage to Scotland? Speculation and emotions escalate until Lady Catherine unjustly places all the blame on Clarissa and Georgiana's influence upon her daughter. As Mr. Darcy defends his sister and young cousin the battle lines are drawn and a family riff erupts. Will the Shades of Rosings be thus polluted? Can Georgiana have her London Season under the shadow of her cousin's unexplained disappearance and the family scandal? How can she earn her families trust after her disastrous affair with George Wickham? Will her newly acquired feminine wiles lure Percy Channing away from her cousin Clarissa? And why is that pesky Mr. Gatley always at the ready to remind her that she's a swan trying to be a peacock?

In this coming-of-age story Monica Fairview presents an engaging historical romance through the eyes of innocent Georgiana Darcy who idealistically thinks the grass is always greener in her cousin Clarissa's court. Hard wrought lessons on human nature and love must be learned before she can find her own happiness. We are never in much doubt that she will succeed, or whom she will bestow her favor upon, but that matters not. Fairview has such an effortless way of unfolding the narrative that we are swept along with Jane Austen's beloved characters and her own new additions seamlessly. The story is infused with the flavor of Austen's world but entirely her own unique creation. It is hard not to compare her skill at irony to Austen's when her Lady Catherine is annoyed at Napoleon, not for his impending threat to invade England, but for the inconvenience he has caused by too few men at her dinner table, or to the ribald humor of Georgette Heyer when Georgiana is stood up by Mr. Channing who invited her for a drive in his high phaeton through Hyde Park and is then quickly replaced by the waiting Mr. Gatley. When they encounter Mr. Channing driving another young lady, just as Mr. Gatley predicted, Georgiana is exasperated by Channing's "sublime forgetfulness" and Mr. Gatley's smug sagacity. Ha! Readers will recognize a bit of Mr. Knightley in Mr. Gatley and a combination of Austen's slippery villain's in Mr. Channing. Fairview understands Georgiana's personality perfectly adding a few surprise twists to Austen's shy, trusting young lady that give her added depth and interest. Infused with humor, wit and a bit of social commentary Fairview has proven again why she was my top choice of Austenesque debut authors of 2009. She is well on her way to becoming a nonpareil in Austen paraliterature and I recommend THE DARCY COUSINS to those who dearly love a satisfying love story and a hearty laugh.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm
by Polly Shulman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polly Shulman's Enthusiasm for Jane Austen is Infectious, 17 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Enthusiasm (Paperback)
I had a blast reading Polly Shulman's novel Enthusiasm, her homage to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! It had been released in 2006 and was on my `to read' list for quite some time until I felt the need for something summerish and light to read. Since it is classified as a young adult novel for grades 7-10, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by a less than sparkling plot and characterizations. My assumptions were so wrong! Totally!

It is quite amazing to think that this is Shulman's first novel! If you check out her picture on her web site she looks barley old enough to be `out' in society!. Educated at Yale Univeristy as a mathematician, she obviously possesses both left and right brain skills! This writer is pea green with envy and is in total awe of this level of talent in one so young. Like Jane Austen, Shulman is all about language, social observation and characterization. It is easy to see why Austen is one of her favorite authors and how she inspired her writing.

The book's auspicious opening quote, "There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast" sets the tone of Austen-esque language throughout the novel that is respectful but not mimicy to Austen's prose. The narrative is told from the perspective of fifteen-year old Julie, whose best friend since grade school is Ashleigh, an `enthusiast'. From Harriet the Spy to candy-making to military strategy, Julie never knows what or when the next craze will over-take her friend, but she is certain to be pulled into it. Now, her latest inspiration is also Julie's passion, Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. However, Ashleigh's new possession of Regency manners and decorum mortify her conservative friend. Not only do they include speaking in Austenese, but wearing Regency attire to school, learning to country dance like her idols Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and ultimately, the ardent pursuit of her own true love. Ashleigh's latest hair-brain scheme is to find their Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley by crashing a boy's prep school dance!

Knowing Austen's world through her novels and movie adaptations was helpful, but not a prerequisite to enjoying this delightful novel. By following Julie's 21st-century hardships, anxieties, mix-ups, and social blunderings we see that they are interchangeable with any 19th-century Regency Miss' life; -- for what young lady of any era does not wish, hope, and dream that a young gentleman will notice her, and return her affections?

Laurel Ann, Austenprose


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