Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen, edited by Gabrielle Malcolm – A Review

Fan Phenomena Jane Austen 2015 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Jane Austen fans cannot be filed neatly into a single category any more than Austen’s works can be limited to one literary genre. How might an editor attempt to do justice to the multiplicity of Janeite fandom in a slim volume of essays and interviews? This question was uppermost in my mind as I began reading Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen. The Fan Phenomena series website explains that the goal of the series is to “look at particular examples of ‘fan culture’ and approach the subject in an accessible manner aimed at both fans and those interested in the cultural and social aspects of these fascinating–and often unusual–‘universes’.” 

What is the joy of Jane? What is it about her work that keeps readers, and viewers, coming back for more? Is it the Darcy effect? Is it the irony, the wit, the romance? Or is it a combination of all these factors? Many critics and authors have compiled works to analyse this vast and still growing phenomenon of fandom…This collection offers material about the fans, for the fans, by the fans, and offers a combination of the popular and the academic. (5)

Editor Gabrielle Malcom’s introduction provides a clear description of the purpose and scope of the collection. She acknowledges the differences between mainstream fan culture and the academic treatment of Austen. After setting Austen’s work in its historical context with a few concise and insightful paragraphs, she provides brief descriptions of the essays and interviews that follow. While Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen has the look of an academic journal, its design and use of color photographs creates a visually appealing experience for the reader, with the exception of the excessively small font size used for the text of the essays. Although I suspect that the text format is dictated by the Fan Phenomena series as a whole and not unique to this volume, the cramped appearance distracted me from the content at times. I found the format used in the Fan Appreciation interviews to be much more appropriate and reader-friendly.

Each essay is a standalone chapter, exploring these diverse topics: Jane Austen fanfiction, supernatural spin-offs of Austen works, transmedia fandom, architectural incarnations of Pemberley in film adaptations, Darcymania, Jane Austen biopics Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets, “Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?” online quizzes, Jane Austen-inspired crafts and gifts, the formation and growth of the Jane Austen Society of Italy, and Jane Austen-inspired blogs. A detailed reference section listing books, critical texts, and online links follows each essay, in addition to a more general reference section at the end of the book. My favorite chapters were “A Grand Tour of Pemberley” and “’Shall I Be Stared at Like a Wild Beast in a Zoo?’” Images of Austen in Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets.

Interspersed throughout the book are Austen quotes as well as interviews with author Amanda Grange, members of web video production company Pemberley Digital, author and illustrator Jane Odiwe, and Bath’s Jane Austen Festival director Jackie Herring. These interviews or “Fan Appreciations” personalize fan experiences and were some of my favorite highlights.

Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen successfully presents a balance of popular and academic explorations of Janeite culture to describe many variations of Austen fandom. Internet memes and “I Love Darcy” bumper stickers are given the same cultural consideration as an analysis of Darcy as “an archetypal nineteenth-century hero…[who] has developed into one of the most recognizable and frequently cited romantic figures in popular culture.” (74) However, I was disappointed to find that several massively influential online sites devoted to Austen culture were omitted from the book. For example, no mention is made of the Republic of Pemberley website, apart from an oblique reference to the Pemberley Shoppe Gift Store in the chapter on Austen gifts. A pioneer of Austen online, this community has been active for nearly twenty years and has shaped and cultivated Austen fandom to a degree few other websites or blogs could hope to achieve. While I appreciate that Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen does not seek to present a comprehensive catalog of every expression of Austen fandom, the omission of The Republic of Pemberley represents a serious misstep in charting Jane Austen’s fan universe.

Despite several drawbacks, Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen does offer plenty of diversion, with its range of essays, interviews, and reference materials. Ms. Malcolm and her contributing writers understand much of what makes Jane Austen fans tick.

The fans love the way the clever material appeals to their wit and emotions; they enjoy the engagement with the text and the repetition of that via different means and form. It is the intelligence of Austen’s writing that makes this repeated enjoyment possible. One of the best representations of the fan culture is the sense of society and community that has developed and directly echoes some of the depictions of society in the novels, with the social gatherings, correspondence and knowing-wit within select groups. Fans enjoy the collective engagement and the sharing of the joy and the joke. (8)

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen, edited by Gabrielle Malcolm
Intellect Books, The University of Chicago Press (2015)
Trade paperback (156) pages
ISBN: 978-1783204472

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Additional Reviews

Book cover image courtesy of Intellect Books © 2015; text Tracy Hickman © 2015, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

Miss Georgiana of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow (2015)From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Georgiana Darcy might be a minor character in Pride and Prejudice, but we know that she’ll go on to play a very important role in the lives of the future Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. As a resident of Pemberley, Georgiana’s daily life would have been intimately connected with the lives of her brother and sister-in-law. How would she have learned from them? How would she grow into a woman? Would she ever find her own true love? In Shannon Winslow’s book, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, all those questions are answered and more.

Our story begins about a year after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Georgiana Darcy is about to turn eighteen years old and lives at Pemberley with her brother and new sister-in-law. She is profoundly happy there and never has to worry about being married off to some odious relative for financial reasons. Of course, that doesn’t mean Georgiana doesn’t want to get married… if the right man comes along. Right now, she has her heart set on her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is starting to look less like a guardian and more like husband material every day. Continue reading

Pride and Proposals: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Victoria Kincaid – A Review

Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid 2015 x 200From the desk of Monica Perry:

Readers of Pride and Prejudice retellings know that sometimes it’s a great thing when Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet gets interrupted. It isn’t his best moment and perhaps if it’s averted, the universe will realign in his favor, giving him time to learn of her disdain for him and correct his behavior before she hands him his heart on a stick. In Victoria Kincaid’s Pride and Proposals, Darcy doesn’t get the chance to propose, yet he still has his heart broken, as he arrives at the parsonage just in time to learn his lady love just got engaged to his best friend and cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. What can he do? Richard is kind and honorable, and they seem to be very happy. If Darcy can’t have her, she could do far worse in a spouse. Can he risk embarrassing himself and harming his relationship with Richard by admitting his feelings? Does she truly love Richard or is she marrying for convenience? Colonel Fitzwilliam is such a beloved personage in Pride and Prejudice stories; in a world without Mr. Darcy, he and Elizabeth could be quite well- suited for each other. I wanted to know if Ms. Kincaid could possibly get Darcy and Elizabeth to a happy ending without breaking Richard’s heart in the process. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for the Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley Blog Tour Launch Party

Miss Georgiana of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow (2015)It’s time to announce the winners of the giveaways for the Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley blog tour launch party. The lucky winners drawn at random are:

One digital copy (eBook format of your choice) of Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley.

  • clm1743, who left a comment on July 21, 2015

One signed paperback copy each of The Darcys of Pemberley and its companion novel, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley.

  • Anna who left a comment on July 28, 2015

One 11” x 14″ matted print featuring an oval inset from the cover artwork of The Darcys of Pemberley that was used in the creation of the cover art for Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley and one signed paperback copy of the book.

  • Sheila L. M., who left a comment on July 26, 2015

Continue reading

Q&A with Patrice Kindl, Author of A School For Brides, & Giveaway

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl 2015It is a rare delight in reading to discover a new author that you feel could become one of your most cherished favorites. When “every feature works,” I am revved up and ready to share my excitement.

Such is the case with Patrice Kindl, who until a review copy of A School for Brides landed on my doorstep last month was entirely unknown to me. Further research revealed that this new release was a companion novel to her first in the Lesser Hoo series, Keeping the Castle. Set in the Regency period both novels share many of the same characters, paralleling the same time frame, but from a different perspective. Better and better.

Before diving into A School for Brides I decided to power through an audio recording of Keeping the Castle. It knocked my bonnet off. If I could describe Kindl’s writing in one sentence, I would say that it is a skillful blending of Jane Austen’s genius with social satire, Georgette Heyer’s exuberant humor and Dodie Smith’s poignant romance.

Here is a description of A School for Brides from the publisher:

The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has one goal: to train its students in the feminine arts with an eye toward getting them married off. This year, there are five girls of marriageable age. There’s only one problem: the school is in the middle of nowhere, and there are no men. Set in the same English town as Keeping the Castle, and featuring a few of the same characters, here’s the kind of witty tribute to the classic Regency novel that could only come from the pen of Patrice Kindl!

Curious to learn more about Patrice Kindl and the inspiration for her Lesser Hoo novels I asked her if she would be game for a brief interview. Happily she agreed.

Welcome Patrice: Continue reading

Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley Blog Tour Launch with Author Shannon Winslow & Giveaway

Miss Georgiana of Pemberley - blog tour banner x 200 x 2Tuesdays are special days in the book world. They are the designated release days in publishing—and today is the debut of Austenesque author Shannon Winslow’s latest novel, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley. 

I am very pleased to welcome Shannon to Austenprose today in celebration of the release and official opening of her blog tour sponsored by her publisher Heather Ridge Arts. Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley is a new Austenesque novel told from the point of view of its eponymous heroine. The story parallels Winslow’s best-selling The Darcys of Pemberley.   

Shannon has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new novel—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaway prizes. Just leave a comment following this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Please join us in welcoming Shannon Winslow.

Thank you, Laurel Ann, for generously offering to host the launch of my new novel! I’m very excited to be here at Austenprose again and to share with your readers my inspiration for writing Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley.

After spending a very satisfying year in the world of Persuasion, researching and writing The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, I felt a strong pull to return to my first love: Pride and Prejudice. But what could I write about it? I had two sequels already, and with all the lose ends tied neatly up in bows by the end of the second (Return to Longbourn), I didn’t immediately see any opening for a third. So I was considering a variation instead when the idea hit me; I could write a variation of my own popular novel – The Darcys of Pemberley – this time from Georgiana’s point of view! Continue reading

The Suspicion at Sanditon, Or, The Disappearance of Lady Denham, by Carrie Bebris – A Review

The Suspicion at Sanditon Carrie Bebris 2015 x 200From the desk of Christina Boyd:

Seemingly moments after reading the end of award winning author’s Carrie Bebris, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion) in 2011, the sixth novel in her Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, I, along with other fans wondered what Bebris might write next. Much speculation surfaced whether she would attempt a mystery with Austen’s lesser known works: Sanditon, The Watsons, and Lady Susan or abandon the scheme altogether! Not four years later, and all anticipation, I had my hands on an advanced copy of Bebris’s seventh in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, Suspicion at Sanditon (Or, the Disappearance of Lady Denham).

Only the most astute Austen fans will know Sanditon is the unfinished novel that Jane Austen began writing in January 1817 and forsook after the first eleven chapters on March 18—dying 4 months later on July 18, 1817. Others might be interested to understand this first draft centers on a Miss Charlotte Heywood, the daughter of a country gentleman, who travels to a developing seaside resort, Sanditon, and encounters a ridiculous baronet Sir Edward Denham, the Parker family who were always imagining themselves unwell, and the twice-widowed dowager Lady Denham with no heir apparent. “In those few chapters she sets her stage, populates it with memorable characters, and infuses the whole with humor reminiscent of her earlier writings.” (332) Author’s Note. Continue reading

A Will of Iron, by Linda Beutler – A Review

A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler 2015 x 200From the desk of Monica Perry:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Anne de Bourgh is a character who seems not to have much to offer. She’s just sort of there at Rosings Park, quiet and sickly and under her mother’s thumb. Readers can only hope that she occasionally has an original thought of her own. In A Will of Iron, a Pride and Prejudice what-if, author Linda Beutler exposes the last year of Anne’s journal. With her isolated life at Rosings, and a mother like Lady Catherine, who wouldn’t be curious what Anne has to say? I know I was! I was hooked from the second paragraph, where she drops quite the bomb. For months, she’s been scheming to extricate herself from Lady Catherine forever, and finally succeeded in setting her plan in motion. Sadly, she dies before getting the satisfaction of revealing her news in person, and seeing her meticulously plotted future come to fruition. Anne’s companion Mrs. Jenkinson knows all and delivers the journals to Charlotte Collins at Hunsford parsonage for safekeeping. Lady Catherine is desperate to get her hands on them to keep the circumstances of Anne’s death hidden, and as Charlotte makes her way through the journals she begins to suspect how far Lady Catherine might go to get her way.

I really liked Anne; she’s astute and blunt and had things gone differently, she and Elizabeth Bennet could have been great friends. Her journals chronicle not only her dealings with her mother and a Mr. C., her mysterious beau, but also her relationships with her Darcy and Fitzwilliam cousins, from their childhood to their current romantic tangle with Elizabeth. She genuinely cares for them and wants them to be happy, and has some very decided opinions on how she will make that come about. Anne’s logic with regard to her plan is a bit skewed, but her desire to be free from her mother makes her desperate and bold. It’s no wonder, as this Lady Catherine is truly cold- blooded! I had previously seen this book referred to as a macabre comedy. I’d say that’s a fitting description because as unhinged as Lady Catherine is, she is so outrageous I couldn’t help shaking my head and laughing. She even gave Mr. Collins the heebie-jeebies. I thought her final justice was perfectly done, if a bit messy! Continue reading