Follies Past: A Prequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Melanie Kerr – A Review

Follies Past, A Pride and Prejudice Prequel, by Melanie Kerr (2013)From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

In Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy wrote that post-proposal, world-altering letter to Elizabeth Bennet, telling her the truth about charming Mr. Wickham’s duplicity, I was as shocked and shaken as she was, but due to the discretion of the characters, readers get just a bare outline of what went on between Wickham and Darcy’s sister Georgiana. What exactly did happen and how did it come about? One can’t help being curious–or at least this one would like details–so when I discovered that Melanie Kerr’s novel Follies Past centers on that event I eagerly began the book, hoping it would be an Austen-worthy story with wit, appealing characters, and maybe even a wedding.

Follies Past has three heroines and opens with none other than Caroline Bingley. She and her brother are on their way to Pemberley, and while this will be her first time meeting Darcy, Caroline is already determined to marry him, even contriving things so their arrival coincides with the flattering light of early evening. By the end of the visit Caroline is sure she is well on the way to an engagement, but back in London she becomes distracted when she falls hard for another man. He has no title or estate, but he’s disarmingly handsome, they share a wicked wit, and he’s focused on her in a way she realizes Darcy never has. The power of their attraction gives her second thoughts about marrying a man she “loves” mainly for his wealth. Continue reading

Happy 201st Birthday Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Brock illustrationYou must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Ch 34

Today we celebrate another anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice on 28 January 1813 in London. It’s hard to top last year’s incredible, world-wide, over the top festivities, elevating Jane Austen and her most popular novel to mega-media darlings of 2013. Who will ever forget the giant statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy rising dripping wet from The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, or the announcement that Jane Austen would be featured on the UK £10.00 pound note in 2017?

I will always remember this anniversary as the year that I visited Jane Austen’s England for the first time and walked in her footsteps through gardens, stately homes, and her last residence, Chawton Cottage in Hampshire.  It was quite a year for this Janeite.

I was also very happy to see an increased interest in reading Pride and Prejudice and the many spinoffs that it has generated. Over 400 fans signed up for our own year-long Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge here on Austenprose and over of a quarter of a million visitors landed on our Pride and Prejudice Archives, detailing the novel’s characters, plot summary and significant quotes. If you have not visited our archives yet, the links to each page are listed below.

We have another significant 200th anniversary coming up on the 9th of May for  Mansfield Park. I have always been very fond of Jane Austen’s less popular novel, especially her prudential heroine Fanny Price and anti-heroine Mary Crawford. I look forward to re-reading it this year.

Happy Birthday Pride and Prejudice! I ardently admire and love you too!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann 

Pride and Prejudice

© 2014, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Preview of A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton

That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate. – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5

A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton (2012)A very special book is in the queue for fans of Jane Austen, Regency history, dancing and artwork from the era from publisher Frances Lincoln Limited of London. Fair warning: A Dance with Jane Austen: How A Novelist and Her Characters Went to a Ball will be released on October 1, 2012.

Take note gentle reader. This is not your average garden variety nonfiction reprint of images and commentary of the era that we already have in our “extensive libraries”. Written by Susannah Fullerton, the esteemed president of The Jane Austen Society of Australia, and featuring a foreword by preeminent Austen scholar Deirdre Le Faye, you will be agog with this beautifully designed, sumptuously illustrated and expertly crafted volume, wanting to give it “pride of place” in your front drawing room. Here is a description from the publisher:

Jane Austen loved to put on her satin slippers with shoe-roses, her white gloves and muslin gown, and go off for an evening of fun at Basingstoke assemblies. The Bennet girls share their creator’s delight and go off joyfully to dance, and of course to meet future husbands.

A Dance with Jane Austen image 2Drawing on contemporary accounts and illustrations, and a close reading of the novels as well as Austen’s own correspondence, Susannah Fullerton takes the reader through all the stages of a Regency Ball as Jane Austen and her characters would have known it. Her subjects learn their steps, dress in readiness, find transport to convey them to a ball, choose between public and private balls, worry over a shortage of men, prefer a cotillion to a quadrille, talk and flirt with their partners, sustain themselves with supper, fall in love, and then go home to talk it all over at the end.

Susannah Fullerton is President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and has lectured extensively around the world on Jane Austen’s life and novels. She is the author of Jane Austen and Crime, a book described by Claire Tomalin as “essential reading for every Janeite.” Deirdre Le Faye is an expert on Jane Austen, and the author of several books about her, including Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels and the new edition of Jane Austen’s letters for Oxford University Press.

“Susannah Fullerton leads us at a sprightly pace through the pleasure and anxieties attendant on every ball… This is a book to enrich our understanding of Jane Austen’s world, and even to make us feel invited to the ball ourselves.” – Maggie Lane, author of Jane Austen’s World

A Dance with Jane Austen image 5

Click on the image above to read an excerpt

I don’t think that I have anticipated a new Austen-inspired nonfiction book as keenly as A Dance with Jane Austen. I feel quite giddy and hope to be all Lydia Bennetish when my copy arrives by post.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

A Dance with Jane Austen image 3

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to a Ball, by Susannah Fullerton, foreword by Deirdre Le Faye
Frances Lincoln Limited, London (2012)
Hardcover (144) pages, color and black white illustrations
ISBN: 978-0711232457

All images and text © 2012 Susannah Fullerton and Frances Lincoln Publishers, Ltd. A Dance With Jane Austen, Austenprose

Enter a Giveaway Chance to Win a Complete Set of Penguin Hardcover Classics by Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

UPDATE 04/26/12:

Since the Penguin sweepstakes has closed as of April 24, 2012, they have generously offered Austenprose readers a chance to win a signed copy by the designer Coralie Bickford-Smith of the Penguin Hardcover Classics edition of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey! Just leave a comment  voicing your opinion on if their was a hero throw down between Henry Tilney from Northanger or Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, who would win, and why, or if you have not read either of the novels yet, what you would like to know about them from the Janeites on this blog by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, May 09, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Shipment of print copies to US addresses only. Good luck!

Happy dance in the book world today. With the release of Coralie Bickford-Smith’s new cover designs of Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, all six of Jane Austen’s major novels are now complete for the Penguin Hardcover Classics set.

Since Pride and Prejudice, the first book in series was introduced in 2009, book designer Bickford Smith has completed over 20 new covers of classic novels. Beside Austen, the series includes books by authors Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Elliot, William Shakespeare, Wilkie Collins, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell and others. The covers are inspired by the style of design from the early twentieth-century with motifs indicative of the stories in the novels. The three new Austen titles released today include designs of a chain on the front for Mansfield Park, a feather for Persuasion and a skeleton key for Northanger Abbey.  I can guess all of the associations to the stories. Can you?

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics is offering a generous chance to win the complete Jane Austen set. Just click on this link and it will take you to the Penguin Group Facebook sweepstakes. Good luck to all! (The Penguin sweepstakes has ended, but your comment here still qualifies you for the giveaway of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.)

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells – A Review

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells (2012)Review by Aia A. Hussein

The epigraph to chapter 3 of Juliette Wells’ new book Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination is taken from Michael Chabon’s “The Amateur Family” in Manhood for Amateurs (2010) and is one of the most interesting, almost poetic, descriptions of amateurs that I have ever read (it is quite long but worth reproducing in its entirety):

Perhaps there is no perfect word for the kind of people I have raised my children to be: a word that encompasses obsessive scholarship, passionate curiosity, curatorial tenderness, and an irrepressible desire to join in the game, to inhabit in some manner – through writing, drawing, dressing up, or endless conversational trifling and Talmudic debate – the world for the endlessly inviting, endlessly inhabitable work of popular art.  The closest I have ever come for myself is amateur, in all the original best sense of the word: a lover; a devotee; a person drive by passion and obsession to do it – to explore the imaginary world – oneself.

Admittedly, the word amateur has negative connotations but not so in Wells’ book.

An amateur is simply someone who is passionate about books and pursues that passion as a hobby rather than a scholarly profession, she argues.  In the last couple of decades, Wells, an Associate Professor of English at Manhattanville College and features editor for the Penguin Classics enhanced e-book edition of Pride and Prejudice (2008), has noted the rise in Austen tributes – the countless fiction, nonfiction, biographies, films, merchandise, and so forth, inspired by Austen’s novels.  Wells offers through her new book what could arguably be thought of as a tribute to the tributes, a critical examination of Austen-mania that acknowledges the important role it has played in keeping Jane Austen culturally relevant.

Everybody’s Jane, released this month by Continuum, takes into account scholarly work on fan cultures and fictions to explore Austen appreciation and appropriation, particularly its appreciation and appropriation in the United States.  After introducing the book in chapter 1, Wells begins her study by looking back to the early twentieth-century to introduce Alberta H. Burke, an American collector and self-confessed Janeite who Wells argues can be thought of as a direct forerunner to modern fans.  Later chapters explore such topics as literary tourism, Austen images, and Austen hybrids where, in addition to exploring hybrids such as Austen-paranormal fiction, Wells also takes a look at the little-studied phenomenon of Austen fan fiction aimed at evangelical Christians.

One of her most fascinating chapters, titled Reading Like an Amateur, explores the sometimes sticky subject of amateur reading versus professional reading or, in other words, the enthusiast versus the scholar. Striking a conciliatory tone, Wells suggests that there is room for both and that, perhaps, the two reading practices that the amateur and scholar are thought to adopt are not so very different.  Quoting scholar Roger Sales, Everybody’s Jane suggests that:

…popular modern texts are relevant to the academic study of Austen since readers constructs an idea of the author, and therefore of her works and their historical period, from the materials that are readily available within a particular culture at a particular time.  It would be very arrogant indeed to assume that all those who teach and study Austen are necessarily exempt from, rather than implicated in, this cultural process. (10)

Wells examines such topics as why and how amateurs read Austen, the reading experience of the amateur, and the juxtaposition of amateur reading with professional reading in this very important chapter.

In the book’s last chapter, aptly titled Coming Together Through Austen, Wells shares her belief that a deep appreciation for Austen can bring together amateurs and scholars and that the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), since its inception in 1979, has auspiciously offered a home to a broad spectrum of Austen lovers.  An examination of the organization and a call to arms to continue exploring the works and influence of Austen conclude the book.

Wells uses novels, scholarly materials, sites of importance to Austen studies and fans, images, and films to beautifully illustrate her points in a way that is accessible to the ordinary reader but also valuable to the more professional one.  Each chapter begins with a clear and concise overview which helps give structure and order to an extremely comprehensive account of Austen in the popular culture.  It’s impossible to know if Austen will continue to remain a point of fascination for modern writers and fans in the decades to come but, nevertheless, the explosion of Austen-related materials over the last two decades makes this a phenomenon worth documenting and, thankfully, scholars like Wells agree.  This is a fascinating study.  I highly recommend this book.

5 out of 5 Stars

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, by Juliette Wells
Continuum International Publishing Group (2012)
Trade paperback (256) pages
ISBN: 978-1441145543
Kindle: ASIN: B0071GVQRC

Aia A. Hussein, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and American University, pursued Literature degrees in order to have an official excuse to spend all her time reading.  She lives in the DC area.

© 2007 – 2012, Aia A. Hussein, Austenprose

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley – A Review

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (2011)Review by Christina Boyd

Debut author Cynthia Ingram Hensley presents Echoes of Pemberley, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice spin-off for young adults.

The modern day residents of Pemberley estate are the descendants of Jane Austen’s very own Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.  A fatal plane crash eight years previous orphaned Catherine Elizabeth Darcy and left her in the guardianship of her older brother, Bennet.  Returning home from boarding school for summer vacation, sixteen year old Catie, having lived a sheltered life since the death of her parents, is ripe for a melodrama of her own.  Although she expects her break to be occupied with nothing more than riding her bicycle about her ancestral home and daydreaming in her romance novels, she finds her brother has employed a young, handsome Irish riding instructor to improve her equestrian skills.  And – her summer soon turns anything but dull.

Catie grudgingly accepts such high-handed management from Bennet but is irked by “Mister” Sean Kelley’s intolerable, no nonsense manners towards his spoiled student. “…she had resolved to be only as civil as necessary, and under no bloody circumstances was she going to stare at him like a moon-eyed, immature, fourth former again.  God, being sixteen must be purgatory.” p.53. While brooding at her bedroom window seat, Catie discovers a WWI-era diary and is swept away by the mystery and real life romance of her great Aunt.  “2 August, 1918.  He was waiting by the river again today.  He smiled when he saw me.  My heart is Arthur’s.  Taking my hand, he led me into the woods and kissed me tenderly, then harder… I would have run all the way to Scotland had he asked me.  ‘All the way to Scotland… how romantic.’ p.57.   But what she has unwittingly discovered may be the missing piece to save her brother and their inheritance from a modern day conspiracy of their own.

Buying into the fact that her fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth, were real, was not a difficult reach for this unabashed Austenesque fan.  Hensley cleverly mimics Austen’s original Darcy’s with her own new characters by assuming some of their essence without making them a parody.  As Catie is but an immature sixteen year old, she often bashes heads with her older, rather over protective sibling – sending both to retreat to their own corners and not communicating for the greater good. And we all must remember those vexatious teenage years, when we are no longer a child but not quite an adult? Hence much of their trouble.  “’Damn it, Catie, enough with the drama!’ slapping his hand hard against the door frame. “I can’t protect you if you don’t do as I say.  Now for once in your life behave prudently!’ ‘You’re not my father!’ She squared her shoulders, intending to strike a nerve. It appeared she succeeded, for Ben stared hard at her a moment, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He replied evenly, ‘No.  No I’m not, but I’m all the father you’ve got.’” p.113.

Echoes of Pemberley, a 2011 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) nominee, is an entirely original offshoot of Austen’s masterpiece.  Progressing at a leisurely pace until about page 200, it is peppered with the right amount of youthful angst, family drama and teenage romance. Pitch-perfect for young Austen enthusiasts, one need not have read Pride and Prejudice to relish this tale, but for those who have, they will discover an even greater enjoyment finding our beloved Darcys and Pemberley cleverly woven throughout this modern spin-off.

4 out of 5 Stars

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley
Meryton Press (2011)
Trade paperback (286) pages
ISBN: 978-1936009190

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander – A Review

Crimson Warning, by Alexandra Tudor (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Jane Austen spoiled us.  She wrote novels about amazing women who oftentimes bucked society’s norms.  Nowadays, it’s difficult to find heroines like Elizabeth Bennet that have us rooting for them page after page.  Luckily, author Tasha Alexander decided to gift the world with a tenacious woman Austen herself would be proud of: Lady Emily Hargreaves.  In A Crimson Warning, the sixth novel in the Lady Emily mystery series, we are again thrown into a mystery that seems to have no clear ending.  It is up to Lady Emily’s wit and cunning to save the day and keep the forces of evil at bay for yet another day.

Lady Emily has been busy.  From barely escaping with her life in Constantinople and Normandy, she hopes to finally wind things down and come home to Mayfair and enjoy the normal comforts of being happily married and finally settled.  For a while, she actually accomplishes this.  Lady Emily even gets to join the Women’s Liberal Federation and work towards obtaining the right to vote for women.  Unfortunately, this ideal world is shattered in A Crimson Warning, when Lady Emily learns that an unknown person has been splashing red paint onto the fronts of many of the wealthier homes in London.  These are no ordinary homes, however, as their owners possess secrets that are potentially damaging and are hidden for one reason or another.  Soon enough, all of the upper class in London fear that they too could be the target of this criminal, and that he or she may be involved in more sinister acts than simply painting the front of a home with a red slash.  Can Lady Emily and Colin find this evil individual before it is too late and people start disappearing?  What are the secrets that these wealthy Londoners go to such lengths to protect?

Less than a month ago I had never heard of the Lady Emily series.  Shame on me!  I’ve now read all six novels in the series and am eagerly awaiting Death in the Floating City, the seventh in the series, which is scheduled for release this October.  When I reviewed the first Lady Emily novel, And Only To Deceive, my thoughts on Alexander’s writing was that it was a hybrid between Jane Austen and Agatha Christie.  Six novels later, those feelings remain unchanged.  Alexander is an amazing mystery writer.  I still had no idea whodunit 40 pages from the end.  Sure, I had my guesses regarding the culprit, but her writing is so precise and clean that it is not until the antagonist is finally revealed that you realize all the clues that were left for you to follow.

As I said above, Lady Emily is a woman that Austen herself would be proud of.  She completely disregards what society expects of women.  She refuses to be an idle wife, staying home with nothing to do but plan balls and dinners and make social calls.  Instead, she uses her mind to explore literature, art, and languages, much to the delight of her husband, Colin.  Colin works as an agent for the crown and is fully supportive of her “crimes against society”.  In A Crimson Warning we get to see a more political side of Emily, as she gets involved with the Women’s Liberal Federation.  It’s through all of her side interests (i.e art, literature) that we learn about that time period.  Alexander uses Emily’s “hobbies” to inform us about what was going on back then.  It’s obviously meticulously researched and has oftentimes led me to want to read and research certain time periods further.

I have to say of all six novels I think that A Crimson Warning is my favorite to date.  We really get a sense of Alexander’s witty and playful side here.  Her scavenger hunt through the British Museum and whiskey drinking scene between Emily and her good friend Jeremy were the best parts of the novel in my opinion.  Although we don’t normally see this side of Alexander, I’m really glad that we got to in this novel.  It added an extra touch to an already wonderful novel that I heartily recommend to everyone.  Fast paced and full of wit and terrifying danger, A Crimson Warning (and the entire Lady Emily series) is not one you want to miss.  Add it to your to-read pile as soon as possible, you won’t be disappointed.

5 out of 5 Stars

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily Series #6), by Tasha Alexander
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
Hardcover (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0312661755

Kimberly Denny-Ryderis the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Suspense and Sensibility

Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris (2005)17 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of, Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris. The winner drawn at random is Melinda M. who left a comment on August 29, 2011.

Congratulations Melinda! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by September 15, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge 2011. We are reading S&S, Jane Austen’s first published novel, and the many offshoots that it has inspired. The challenge continues until December 31, 2011.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose