A Preview of The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, by Jane Austen & Devoney Looser

The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, by Jane Austen & Devoney Looser (2019) coverHot off the presses is a new Jane Austen quote book.

I know what you are thinking. Why do I need yet another pithy volume of my favorite author’s best lines jockeying for position on my bedside table along with my Jane Austen bobblehead and my “Waiting for Mr. Darcy” candle?

Well, …it really helps that this new compilation of daily quotes has been edited by, and the foreword written by, Stone Cold Jane Austen, a.k.a. Devoney Looser, Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. Who could possibly be better qualified to compile my daily prayers? (Please. no trolls about my religious beliefs.)

Each chapter opens with a memorable passage heading up the month followed by daily quotes from Austen’s six major novels, minor works, and her letters. In the foreword, Looser extolls upon the significance of Jane Austen’s famous opening line in Pride and Prejudice, so often quoted in the news media, popular culture, and by fellow writers, “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” If you are not familiar with Jane Austen’s most famous quote you must be from another planet and desperately need this book to communicate with humans! (brainwashing included)

My Good Opinion Mug quoting Mr. Darcy

My Good Opinion Mug not included with The Daily Jane Austen, but it pairs beautifully.

Austen and her words have influenced movies, television, books, and world culture. She is indeed everywhere. I am staring at a “My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” tea mug sitting beside me. I can totally relate to Looser’s admission that her, “…acknowledged truth is that I treasure the “sensibly scented” cardboard Austen that hangs in my car, just as others embrace their dashboards Jesus, fuzzy dice, or mud-flap girls.”

Okay, Enough with the Austen pop culture palooza. Here is the publisher’s stuff.

DESCRIPTION:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is eminently, delightfully, and delectably quotable. This truth goes far beyond the first line of Pride and Prejudice, which has muscled out many other excellent sentences. So many gems of wit and wisdom from her novels deserve to be better known, from Northanger Abbey on its lovable, naive heroine—“if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad”—to Persuasion’s moving lines of love from its regret-filled hero: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late.”

Devoney Looser, a.k.a. Stone Cold Jane Austen, has drawn 378 genuine, Austen-authored passages from across the canon, resulting in an anthology that is compulsively readable and repeatable. Whether you approach the collection on a one-a-day model or in a satisfying binge read, you will emerge wiser about Austen, if not about life. The Daily Jane Austen will amuse and inspire skeptical beginners, Janeite experts, and every reader in between by showcasing some of the greatest sentences ever crafted in the history of fiction.

A LOOK INSIDE:

 

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AUTHOR BIO:

Jane Austen (1775–1817) is regarded by many as one of the greatest writers in the English language. Though her work was not widely known during her lifetime, Austen is today a household name, and her six full-length novels are considered timeless literary classics. Devoney Looser is Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. She is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Making of Jane Austen, and the editor of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Sense and Sensibility. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, New York Times, Salon, Times Literary Supplement, and Entertainment Weekly.

SUMMARY:

Pocket-sized at 4.5 x 7.2 inches, slip this into your reticule and pop it out when you need an escape from the dental drill. I can think of nothing better to put me in my happy place.

The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, by Jane Austen & Devoney Looser
University of Chicago Press (October 8, 2019)
Paperback & eBook (216) pages
ISBN: 978-0226655444

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon  | Barnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieboundGoodreads

Cover image and interior pages courtesy of University of Chicago Press © 2019; Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

A Preview of Jane Austen’s England: A Travel Guide, by Karin Quint

Jane Austen's England: A Travel Guide, by Karin Quint (2019)Every Jane Austen fan dreams of visiting her England – strolling through the Georgian streets of Bath in the footsteps of Catherine Morland; visiting Lyme Regis where Louisa Musgrove jumped from the Cobb seawall missing the arms of Captain Wentworth; picnicking on Box Hill like Emma Woodhouse and her party from HIghbury; touring Austen’s haunts of Regency London; and exploring her last home at Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. It is the ultimate pilgrimage to experience the rolling hills of her England, her fabled country homes, and the cities she frequented and wrote about in her novels.

Planning a trip like this could take months of research, or the services of a skilled company who specializes in Austen tours. Imagine having all that knowledge and expertise at your fingertips in one beautifully illustrated and detailed book?

Karin Quint’s new travel guide, Jane Austen’s England claims to be the “first and only travel guide that focuses on Austen’s life, work, and legacy.” Hmm? There are many other Austen-themed travel guides in print, but I do agree that this takes it to an entirely different level by focusing on her life, work, world, and country. Here is a preview of this new guide.

DESCRIPTION:

Walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps with this unique travel guide – the first book to explore England in relation to its most beloved Regency author. Rambling across the rolling fields of Hampshire, along the bustling streets of London and around the golden crescents of Bath, Jane Austen’s England is the perfect companion for any Janeite planning a pilgrimage.

Functionally arranged by region, each chapter tracks down the most iconic scenes from both the big and little screen, as well as the key destinations where Jane lived, danced and wrote. Descriptions of each location are interspersed with biographical anecdotes and local history. Subsections focus on various stately homes that have been featured in every adaptation of every novel, from the beloved Pride and Prejudice television series (1995, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).

With a compilation of websites, seasonal opening hours and tour details, this compact book contains everything you need to immerse yourself in Austen.

A LOOK INSIDE:

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ADVANCE PRAISE:

“[Jane Austen’s England] makes the reader, and certainly me, feel comfortable and at home as though we are walking along with a friend. This style permeates the guidebook.” — Tony Grant of London Calling

“Part humanities textbook, part travel guide and part biography, I’ve found it far more engaging – and less daunting – than I expected.” — Sharon Corbally of YeahLifestyle.com

AUTHOR BIO:

Karin Quint discovered Austen aged 20, when she picked up Pride and Prejudice at a flea market. She later realized that she was reading one of the best-loved novels in English literature, and her obsession only grew from there. As well as being a professional journalist and photographer, Quint is an ambassador for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. She has co-written two other travel guides about Wales and Scotland.

SUMMARY:

This handsome guidebook is packed with travel information, advice, and delightful Austen trivia. The beautiful color photographs take it to the next level for those who dream of Austen’s England from their armchair, or for those intrepid travelers determined to visit Jane Austen’s realm.

Jane Austen’s England: A Travel Guide, by Karin Quint
ACC Art Books (2019)
Paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1788840354

PURCHASE LINKS:

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

Cover image and interior pages courtesy of ACC Art Books © 2019; Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution’s Women, by Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, & Heather Webb — A Review

Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution's Women, by Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, & Heather Webb (2019)The late eighteenth-century is one of my favorite eras in history. England and France and America were all in turmoil—fighting with each other, and internally. While Britain tried to maintain its colonies in America, France’s people were resisting their government and the aristocrats that ruled them. The outcome in America was the defeat of British tyranny and the creation of a new nation. In France, a revolution upended a feudal system and the monarchy, creating a new government. Men mostly get all the credit for the outcome of these events in the history books. Ribbons of Scarlet, a new collaborative novel written by six bestselling and award-winning authors corrects that omission. Each of the authors has taken a woman from history and brought her life to the forefront. Cleverly, each of their stories is interwoven into the narrative forming a complete novel. The possibility that multiple authors could work together, with strong women from history as their muses, was the compelling factor in my wanting to read this new book. Could they indeed pull it off?

The novel is divided into six sections, each titled to reflect the personality of the character and a hint of their social status. The story begins in Paris in the Spring of 1786 with The Philosopher, by Stephanie Dray. Sophie de Grouchy is a well-educated, upper class, unmarried woman with strong principles and ideals who marries the Marquis de Condorcet, an older statesman with similar political passions. Sophie opens a school for the lesser-privileged and we are introduced to the next character to take the baton, Louise Audi, a fruit seller in The Revolutionary, by Heather Webb. Princess Elizabeth, the sister of King Louis XVI of France, who we were first introduced to in Sophie’s story, is brought forward in The Princess by Sophie Perinot. Through her, we experience the Revolution through the eyes of the Royal family. In The Politician, by Kate Quinn, we see how a strong woman, Manon Roland, with a powerful husband, the Minister of the Interior, can be even more influential than the person in the office. In The Assassin, by E. Knight, Charlotte Corday is driven to stop the one man she feels is responsible for so much death and destruction. And finally, with The Beauty, by Laura Kamoie, we experience through Émilie de Sartine what it would have been like to live in fear of being imprisoned, condemned to death, and then await your appointment with “Madame la Guillotine,” which came to symbolize the French Revolution. The story concludes ten years after the Revolution with an epilogue with our first heroine Sophie. After so much bloodshed and destruction the people are worn down and tired. Craving security, they hope making Napoleon their Emperor will bring them peace and happiness. Continue reading

Preview of The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barchas

The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barcas (2019)Since the advent of mass-produced books in the late 1800’s, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of different editions created of Jane Austen’s novels and minor works. While I will not publicly admit how many I own, *cough* I will share that there is more than one copy of her six major works in my bookcase. I have known a few Janeites who admit that they are hell-bent on collecting every old and new edition of Pride and Prejudice ever published. That is an obsession that will soon require a library as large as Pemberley’s expansive shelves.

After reading the description of Janine Barchas’ new book, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, I have a feeling that the author may be in that obsessed category of book collectors too. We are a rare breed and she has my total sympathy and approval.

DESCRIPTION:

Hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow in an illustrated exploration of the role that cheap reprints played in Jane Austen’s literary celebrity―and in changing the larger book world itself.

In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people. Continue reading

Preview of Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England, by Rory Muir

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen's England by Rory Muir (2019)In Jane Austen’s novels, we discover the plight of younger sons who because of the English primogeniture laws, could not inherit their father’s estate and must find their own way in the world. Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice and Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey come immediately to mind. This father to first son inheritance tradition is the axis of the social structure of British society and is tightly bound to its restrictions. Historian Rory Muir explores this dilemma and the courses available to younger sons in his new history book, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England. Using Austen’s characters, her own family, and historical figures as examples, we are taken on a journey through the era to discover what options were available to younger sons of “good families” to find an acceptable profession and earn an independent living.

DESCRIPTION:

A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons—men of good family but small fortune.

In Regency England, the eldest son usually inherited almost everything while his younger brothers, left with little inheritance, had to make a crucial decision: what should they do to make an independent living? Rory Muir weaves together the stories of many obscure and well-known young men, shedding light on an overlooked aspect of Regency society. This is the first scholarly yet accessible exploration of the lifestyle and prospects of these younger sons. Continue reading

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern, by Robert Morrison — A Review

The Regency Years, by Robert Morrison (2019)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

The subtitle for Robert Morrison’s history of Regency Great Britain, “during which Jane Austen writes, Napoleon fights, Byron makes love, and Britain becomes modern,” hints at the variety and diversity within its pages. In contrast to Jane Austen’s tightly focused fiction, famously self-described as “three or four families in a country village,” Morrison widens his lens to present extensive information and detail about Regency life that illuminates not only Austen’s world but our current time.

Morrison begins with a brief sketch of George Augustus Frederick, eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte, in the book’s prologue. “The deep contradictions in the Regent’s character both energized and undermined him and were evident from an early age.” (3) With a string of mistresses, a secret and unlawful marriage to a Roman Catholic widow, an officially sanctioned marriage that was an abysmal failure, and the financial means to indulge every whim and fleeting inclination, the Regent was a constant feature of gossip and scandal during his lifetime. In 1812 he assumed the full authority of the crown, making him “not only the most powerful man in Britain but also the man at the head of the wealthiest, strongest, most ambitious, vibrant and productive country in the world.” (6)

George Cruikshank Loyal address's & radical petetions, or the R-ts most gracious answer to both sides of the question at once (1819

This print by George Cruikshank, was published on December 4, 1819, and is entitled “Loyal Address’s & Radical Petetions, or the R____ts most gracious answer to both sides of the question at once.” (48)

Continue reading

Jane Austen’s Sanditon: With An Essay by Janet Todd — A Review

Jane Austen's Sanditon: With an Essay by Janet Todd (2019)Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel is in the news. A new TV adaptation and continuation of the same name premiered in the UK on ITV on August 25, 2019. The new eight-part series was written by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice 1995) and will be shown on MASTERPIECE PBS in the US starting on January 20, 2020. Inspired by Jane Austen’s 11-and-a-half-chapter fragment, Davies claimed in an early interview that he used up all of Austen’s text in the first 30 minutes of his screenplay. That was about 24,000 words or about one-quarter of an average-sized fiction novel today. To say I was shocked by this admission is an understatement.

Alas, because it was never completed, Sanditon has not received much attention in comparison to Austen other popular novels: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. I am so pleased that the new TV adaptation has brought it into the limelight. It is one of Austen’s forgotten treasures. I have written previously about it in detail, including an introduction, character list, plot summary, and quotes. 

There are few single editions of Sanditon available in print. It is usually lumped in with Austen’s other minor works in a large volume. To remedy that gap, Fentum Press in London has published a stylish new hardcover edition entitled Jane Austen’s Sanditon: with an Essay by Janet Todd. The book has been beautifully designed with interesting and amusing illustrations from Regency-era artists such as Rowlandson, Gillray, and Cruikshank. Its dainty size of 5 ½ inches by 8 inches reminds one of the elegant volumes designed expressly for the comfort of ladies’ delicate hands.

What really brings this edition to the forefront is its editor and introductory essayist Janet Todd. To have such an eminent academic and scholar on Austen and other women’s writing on board really gives the reader the confidence that they are in capable hands. Included with the insightful seventy-page introductory essay is a brief biography of Jane Austen; the complete text transcribed from the original handwritten draft work in progress held in King’s College, Cambridge; endnotes; an essay entitled Anna Lefroy to Andrew Davies: Continuations of Sanditon; further reading; a list of illustrations; and the acknowledgments. In what appears to be a diminutive volume, the reader will be delighted to discover quite the reverse. In addition to the unfinished novel, it is brimming with information and the energy that Austen brought to her final work, perfectly complementing the text. Continue reading

Winners Announced in The Jane Austen Society Giveaway

The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner (2020)It’s time to announce the winners of the giveaway contest for The Jane Austen Society cover reveal. The three lucky winners of an ARC paperback copy of the book drawn at random are:

  • Stacy Edwards who left a comment on September 15, 2019
  • Lynne Lewis who left a comment on September 17, 2019
  • Miranda Liasson who left a comment on September 15, 2019

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October 16, 2019, or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment is to US addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments and to St. Martin’s Press for the giveaway prizes.

Cover image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press © 2019, text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser—A Review

The Making of Jane Austen by Devoney Looser (2017)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I remember what I felt when I discovered that Jane Austen was not famous in her lifetime: Outright shock. I had been a self-proclaimed Janeite for years when I discovered this fact. I had read her books multiple times, collected movie adaptations, researched and written papers about her novels in college, etc. The enormous amount of 21st-century hype around Jane led me to believe that, like Charles Dickens, her fame began in her lifetime. How wrong I was; in fact, many of Austen’s early readers never even knew her name until after she died.

Discovering you are mistaken is always a jolting experience, and I felt like my own literary world had shifted on its axis. Somehow not knowing this fact earlier was very unsettling, and with hindsight, I think it was so unsettling because my ‘Jane Austen timeline’ was thrown off. The little fact about when Jane was famous shouldn’t be a footnote in her history because how and when she became THE Jane Austen is of cultural and historical importance. Not only for what we know about the author, but what we know about ourselves, her fandom. Timelines really do matter. Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen is a gem of a book because, in it, she answers the integral questions of “how” and “when” that has rarely been asked. How did the early illustrations in Sense and Sensibility affect people’s views of the novel? When did the idea of a brooding Heathcliff-esque hero replace Jane Austen’s original reserved Mr. Darcy? These questions and answers are only a few of the many addressed in The Making of Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park illustration from Groombridge 1875 edition

Image from chapter two, of an illustration by A. F. Lydon from Mansfield Park, Groombridge & Sons’ (London) 1875. Fanny Price gazing over the verdant park to the manor house.

As advertised on the cover flap, the key question of this book is “How is a literary icon made, transformed, and handed down through the generations?” Each of its four parts contains anecdotes and research that generally follows a chronological journey from the 1800s to present. In the first – “Jane Austen, Illustrated” – Looser gives an in-depth analysis of the artistic interpretations of Austen’s novels. She includes some pictures which are fascinating to view, although I wish there had been more. A highlight for me was learning that Victorian illustrators updated the clothing styles from the Regency to be more “modern” in their images – although these clothing choices are severely outdated now! Continue reading

Cover Reveal of The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner & Giveaway

There’s a new debutante at the ball Janeites, and she’s going to knock your bonnets off.

Meet author Natalie Jenner. Her debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, arrives on May 26, 2020—that’s 8 months and 17 days and counting.

Mark your calendars.

You will thank me!

Image of the cover of The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner (2020)

Today, I am honored to reveal the gorgeous cover of this amazing Jane Austen-inspired novel. As you can see, the design represents five individuals lined up arm-in-arm facing Chawton Cottage, Austen’s final home near Alton, Hampshire. Any Austen fan worth their weight in syllabub recognizes it is as the epi-center of the Austen universe.

Designed by Michael Storrings at St Martin’s Press, the cover features five of the main characters: a widowed village doctor, an heiress to the Knight family estate, a young house girl on that estate, a local schoolteacher and recent war bride, and a middle-aged bachelor farmer. This group is rounded out by a local solicitor from the neighboring town of Alton, an appraiser from Sotheby’s in London, and a Hollywood movie star and lifelong Janeite—all drawn together by their mutual passion for Austen’s work and a desire to preserve her legacy. Continue reading

Polite Society: A Novel, by Mahesh Rao–A Review

Image of the cover of Polite Society, by Mahesh Rao (2019)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I have loved Jane Austen’s Emma for as long as I can remember. Yes—I mean that literally. When I was six, my first introduction to the Regency and the magnificent world of Jane Austen began with a battered VHS copy (Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version) and, well, has never ended.

In fact, my first classic ever read was a neon yellow copy of Emma gifted for Christmas at the age of ten. It is now battered and torn, but will forever hold a place on my shelves. To me, the heroine Emma has always gone beyond the place of a lovable but mistaken fictional friend; she’s been in some ways, a mirror of myself. Perhaps this quality is why people love to hate her – she reflects how we all would be if given enough time, money, and influence. And that is: Sure that our way is the best way. Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society shows a world and cast of characters where this idea is everything.

Retellings can always be tricky – there’s a whole host of questions we ask ourselves. Will the modern setting give or detract something from the original? How much do morals connect to ethics, and ethics to society’s rules, and society’s rules to good behavior? Etc. etc. etc. We as readers can forgive much, including creative license with the original, as long as we find some kind of spark. Of wit, or romance, or searing visions of who we are (when we didn’t even realize it)…any or all of these can grab us and not let go. Polite Society attempts all of this, and its success depends on the reader.

Self-styled by Rao, a lifelong fan of Jane Austen, as a book that “mines a much darker seam” than Crazy Rich Asians (a book it’s already being compared to), Polite Society definitely accomplishes this vision. Ania Khurana, the 21st-century version of Emma Woodhouse, and the elite in Delhi are terrible. Oh, I can make all kinds of beautifully polite parallels between the glittering sparkle of diamonds and Ania’s society, but at the core, their world is shallow and rotting. Rao has the eye and the heart of an anthropologist. He writes the elite with all their poison, all their attempts at climbing higher and higher on their social ladder, with a just pen. In the middle of the well-written nastiness, there are surprising moments of kindness (Dev/Mr. Knightley), true interest in others (Renu Khurana/Mrs. Weston), and self-realization (Colonel Rathore/Mr. Weston). Continue reading

A Preview of Sanditon: A New Television Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Novel


Premiering Sunday, August 25 on ITV, Sanditon will be the first television series inspired by Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel.

Jane Austen fans in the UK have much to celebrate. Austen’s seaside Regency drama is being given the red-carpet treatment by the co-production team of Red Planet Pictures in the UK and MASTERPIECE PBS in the US. Adapting and continuing the eight-part series will be veteran period drama screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Sense and Sensibility (2008)), and a cast of accomplished and emerging British actors will portray the lively and diverse characters that Austen established in her novel, with a few additions to the roister as well. The new series will air on eight consecutive Sundays at 9:00pm August 25 through October 13, 2019.

Inset of the first page of the manuscript that would later be titled Sanditon: “A Gentleman & Lady travelling from Tun-bridge towards that part of the Sussex Coast which lies between Hastings & E. Bourne being induced by Business to quit the high road, and were overturned in half rock, half sand toiling up its long ascent.” Via Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

Sanditon was written in 1817 when Austen was seriously ill. She was only able to finish twelve chapters and about 24,000 words before her poor health prevented her from completing it. Four months later she would die on July 18, 1817, of what is generally believed to be Addison’s disease. The manuscript was passed down through family members until it was donated in 1930 to King’s College in Cambridge where it now resides. The fragment of the novel is classified as one of her minor works. Continue reading

The Chilbury Ladies Choir: A Novel, by Jennifer Ryan — A Review

The Chilbury Ladies Choir x 200Set in an English country village at the onset of WWII, The Chilbury Ladies Choir is told through letters and journal and diary entries by four female characters who are faced with keeping the home fires burning while their menfolk are off fighting Nazis. The first-person format intrigued me, and the subject sounded promising. However, it was the anticipation of escaping into the lives of “three or four families in a country village” that really hooked me. If English-born author Jennifer Ryan could dish out endearing and foibled characters I was in for a great read.

Ominously, the novel begins with the funeral of Commander Edmund Winthrop, the first casualty of the war from this tight-knit community. The reality of his death hits the remaining residents hard, coupled with the fact that the vicar decided to close the church choir due to the lack of male voices. The ladies rebel. They are done with being told what to do by the few men remaining. Disobeying the vicar, they form the Chilbury Ladies Choir led by Miss Primrose Trent, a music tutor from the local university.

“First, they whisk our men away to fight, then they force us women into work, then they ration food, and now they’re closing our choir. By the time the Nazis get here there’ll be nothing left except a bunch of drab women ready to surrender.” Mrs. Brampton-Boyd (3)

Continue reading

The Work of Art, by Mimi Matthews—A Review

The Work of Art Matthews 2019 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell

Recently, I discovered the joy that comes from not reading the description on the back of a book prior to opening page one. When I was asked to review The Work of Art, I heard “Regency” and “Laurel Ann recommends” and I was all for it. After downloading this novel, I opened my Kindle edition to a story as beautiful, atmospheric, and arresting as its haunting cover—one that captured me from the very first line…

“Captain Arthur Heywood had never seen such an ill-mannered assortment of canines in his life.”

…to the very last line, with its soul-satisfying conclusion.

When Phyllida Satterthwaite’s grandfather dies, she is plucked from her freedom in the Devonshire countryside and sent to Town to the constrained, shallow world that her vile aunt and uncle and odious cousins bask in. She lives for the few nature-filled walks she can take, with her dogs as her only companions. When she meets the solemn but kind Captain Heywood, Philly discovers that she’s not the only one yearning to be free from London society’s iron rules.

Captain Arthur Heywood, ex-Corinthian and ex-soldier, is facing his own bleak future. His life is ruled by the terms set by his injuries. His memories of the Napoleonic Wars and what gave him his scars haunt his dreams, as do the visions of the carefree life he’s lost. When Arthur meets Philly by chance he finds someone who quietly treats him with the same intuitive kindness she treats her dogs—which he quickly finds is a compliment of the highest sort. Continue reading

Ayesha At Last: A Novel, by Uzma Jalaluddin— A Review

Ayesha At Last 200From the desk of Natalie Jenner

I am a firm believer that the love story at the heart of Pride and Prejudice is the best-constructed romance arc in all of literature. Author Julian Barnes once said of Darcy and Elizabeth that “the lovers are really made for each other—by their creator. They are constructed for each other: interlocked for wedlock.” The result for so many of us is the need for an occasional new hit of these two characters and their lust-versus-logic dynamic. So, when a promising debut author pens a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in my very own city of Toronto, Canada, I quickly find myself attending her local book signing and grabbing up several copies for the Austen lovers in my life.

In Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last, the setting is Scarborough, a suburban and diverse community in eastern Toronto full of townhouses and waterparks and strip malls. Our Darcy and Elizabeth are Khalid and Ayesha, two young Muslims who are both fatherless, both still living at home, and both experiencing the typical career angst of the millennial generation. After the meet-cute, not at a local assembly but rather an open-mike poetry slam night at a local bar, Khalid and Ayesha engage in a series of almost wilful misunderstandings as they both end up working on a Muslim youth event for the local community centre. Yet Khalid, in particular, is drawn to Ayesha and does not protest when he thinks that his mother has orchestrated an arranged marriage between him and the young teacher. But then events start to spiral comically out of control as Khalid’s mother intervenes in his life Caroline Bingley-style, one of Ayesha’s many young female cousins falls prey to a modern Wickham, and the community centre faces a financial and ethical crisis. As the two most level-headed, attractive and charismatic characters in the plot, Khalid and Ayesha must learn to work together for the sake of their families, their community, and their own romantic destiny. Continue reading

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel, by Sonali Dev—A Review

Pride Prejudice and Other Flavors 2019 x 200Recently I pulled Pemberley, or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant off my bookshelf. I was feeling nostalgic after looking at my “to be read” pile of new Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice retellings that have or will hit bookstores this year. It was one of the first P&P inspired novels that I read way back in 2002. Published in 1993, the author was forging virgin territory. At this point, there were very few Austen-inspired books in print and readers did not know what to expect. It received a tepid reception from critics and the public. One recent Amazon reviewer called it “a real nightmare.” Ouch! You can read my detailed review of Pemberley from 2013, or read it and decide for yourself.

Since Tennant’s Austenesque-trek to boldly go where no author dared to go, there have been hundreds, possibly thousands, of Pride and Prejudice prequels, sequels, continuations, and inspired by books. Recently we are in a retelling cycle—all presented with an ethnic twist. Last year we had Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, a contemporary retelling of Austen’s classic hate/love romance set in Brooklyn, NY featuring an all-black cast of characters. This year we have three new novels: Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal set in 2000 in Pakistan; Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin in which Darcy and Lizzy are transported to contemporary Canada featuring Muslim characters; and Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, which after this long and winding introduction is the book I will discuss today.

Another contemporary retelling, PPAOF is set in the “bay area” of San Francisco, California. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s spikey romance where the roles of the rich, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy and the much-less-rich, prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet are reversed. Meet Dr. Trisha Raje, a brilliant thirty-something neurosurgeon specializing in cutting-edge microsurgery at a prominent hospital, who also happens to be an Indian Princess by default. Her father was the second son of the royal line of an Indian Principality which is no longer in power. When he immigrated to the US, his wealth and royal mien came with him. At the premature death of his older brother, he became HRM in name only. The family live like royalty in their Woodside estate with multiple servants and the exotic air of old-world nobility with all its privileges and baggage. Even though Trisha is a successful and highly prestigious doctor she is a disappointment to her parents, who cannot forgive her for a fifteen-year-old social faux pas against her brother, a rising Politician, and, the fact that she remains unmarried. Continue reading

Lost Roses: A Novel, by Martha Hall Kelly – A Review

Lost Roses 2019 x 200Are there any historical fiction readers out there who have not read the insanely popular Lilac Girls yet? Hello!

Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel was published in 2016 – and like all book fledglings was sent out into the world with high hopes. Early reviews were rather mixed, but it hit the NY Times bestseller list immediately, a phenomenon for a debut novel. It has become one of those rare books in publishing that has an enormous wingspan, remaining on the bestseller lists for years.

One cannot even imagine the pressure on Kelly’s shoulders to produce her second novel, Lost Roses, released last month by Ballantine Books. A prequel to Lilac Girls, many of her readers will have high expectations. If she was smart, she would stick to her winning formula: base the story on real-life women facing challenges during historical events; transport readers into their lives and times through first-person narratives that are impeccably researched; offer page turning-prose that keeps you up into the wee hours; and finally, develop characters that we can empathize and care about. A very tall order, indeed.

Again, the story features a tryptic of women struggling on the home front during a world war. Lilac Girls introduced us to Caroline Ferriday in the 1940’s WWII. Lost Roses begins a generation earlier in pre-WWI and features Caroline’s mother Eliza Ferriday, an American socialite and philanthropist, her friend Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian aristocrat, and Varinka Kozlov, a Russian peasant. Continue reading