Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for April 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in April, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

Writing Jane Austen: A Novel, by Elizabeth Aston 

After five popular Pride and Prejudice sequels set in Regency times, Elizabeth Aston is branching out with a new Austenesque theme by placing her heroine in contemporary times penning a completion to one of Jane Austen’s unfinished novels. Smart move. Let’s hope she can satisfy her legion of fans with this break from tradition. Publisher’s description: Georgina Jackson’s first novel was a “searingly grim read”–critically acclaimed and award-winning, though it was hardly a bestseller. Struggling to get past the first chapter of her second book which is almost past its deadline, Georgina panics when she gets a vague but urgent-sounding email from her agent: “RING ME.” She’s certain it’s bad news. So when Livia tells her about a potentially profitable commission, Georgina is shocked. Even more surprising, however, the commission isn’t for her next book, but rather for the completion of a newly discovered unfinished manuscript of a major nineteenth century author! Skeptical at first about her ability to do the job, she is horrified to learn that the major author is in fact Jane Austen. Torn between pushing through somehow and fleeing back to America, Georgina relies on the support of her financier-turned-scientist roommate, Henry, and his quirky teenage sister, Maud, a serious Janeite who has just escaped the rigidity and enforced structure of boarding school. When she suddenly finds herself in a financial crisis, the only way for Georgina to get by is to sign the contracts and finish the book. But how can she overcome her big secret–that she has actually never read Jane Austen! Filled with the humor, misunderstandings, rich characterizations and romance of Aston’s previous novels, Writing Jane Austen is destined to rocket Aston right into the 21st century! 

Trade paperback, Touchstone, ISBN: 978-1416587873, ISBN: 978-1441859907 (audio) 

The Darcy Cousins, by Monica Fairview 

In her first Pride and Prejudice sequel The Other Mr. Darcy, Monica Fairview introduced American Robert Darcy who accomplished the impossible and won Caroline Bingley’s heart. Now his two younger siblings Frederick and Clarissa join him in England for a family gathering at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s grand estate. Not only do they manage to ruffle the decorum of British propriety, but influence their complacent cousins Anne de Bourgh and Georgiana Darcy to think beyond the confines of their staid lives and strive for their own happiness.  Will the Shades of Rosings be thus polluted? Publishers description: A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning! And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…  Austenprose’s review 

Trade paperback, Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN: 978-1402237003 

Murder at Mansfield Park, by Lynn Shepherd 

Get ready for another retelling of an Austen novel. This time it is Mansfield Park with a creative slant.

Everyone says Austen’s heroine Fanny Price was a goody-two-shoes and Mary Crawford an unprincipled schemer, well, Lynn Shepherd has cleverly turned the tables on both of Austen’s protagonist and antagonist in this Mansfield Park pastiche laced with intrigue and murder. All those Fanny bashers will like the outcome of her character in this new novel that appears not to be a mash-up (thank goodness), but an Austen inspired murder mystery. Publisher’s description: In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price–whom Jane Austen’s own mother called “insipid”–has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It’s only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime. Featuring genuine Austen characters–the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist—Murder at Mansfield Park is a brilliantly entertaining novel that offers Jane Austen fans an engaging new heroine and story to read again and again. 

Trade paperback, Beautiful Books, ISBN: 978-1905636792 (UK edition) 

Longbourn’s Unexpected Matchmaker, by Emma Hox 

This new novel by self published author Emma Hox is a ‘what if’ retelling of Pride and Prejudice extricating Mr. Bennet out of his library and away from his books and transforming him into a matchmaker for couples in Austen’s original novel. Emma is a local author here in Washington, and I wish her success. Publisher’s description: Longbourn’s Unexpected Matchmaker puts a spin on Pride and Prejudice that no one would ever expect as Colonel Fitzwilliam attends Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy to Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet is witty enough to detect the motives of Mr. Darcy’s long time enemy Lieutenant Wickham and Georgiana Darcy is bold enough to defy her brother and cousin and comes to Meryton in the midst of a storm. Not to mention Caroline Bingley, Lieutenant Wickham and Lady Catherine are all working against our hero and heroine ever finding their own happily ever after. 

Trade paperback, Rhemalda Publishing, ISBN: 978-0615328850 

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler 

Now in paperback – and just in time for that spring break reading fling is a laugh-out-loud story that was my number one choice of Austenesque novels of 2009. Publisher’s description: In Laurie Viera Rigler’s first novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, twenty­first-century Austen fan Courtney Stone found herself in Regency England occupying the body of one Jane Mansfield- with comic and romantic consequences. Now, in Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Mansfield awakens in the urban madness of twenty-first-century L.A.-in Courtney’s body. With no knowledge of Courtney’s life, let alone her world-with its horseless carriages and shiny glass box in which tiny figures act out her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, Jane is over her head. Especially when she falls for a handsome young gentleman. Can a girl from Regency England make sense of a world in which kissing and flirting and even the sexual act raise no matrimonial expectations? Austenprose’s review

Trade paperback, Plume, ISBN: 978-0452296169 

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage 

Last August when Naxos AudioBooks released a new recording of Georgette Heyer’s novel Sylvester read by British heartthrob Richard Armitage half of the world swooned. Now the fangirls will need to pick themselves up off the floor and do it again. Nuff said! Publisher’s description: The 2009 Naxos AudioBooks recording of Sylvester met with resounding approval and clamours for more Georgette Heyer audiobooks. Here is Venetia, a clear favourite from among Heyer’s novels. In her trademark buoyant and exuberant style, Heyer tells the story of an unconventional romance, which is full of riveting dialogue and loveable, very human characters. Quick-witted, self-assured, funny and beautiful, Venetia is one of Georgette Heyer’s most popular heroines. When the dashing Lord Demerel intrudes upon a quiet provincial community in the North of England, news of his scandalous past soon sets tongues wagging. In spite her of sheltered upbringing, though, Venetia is singularly unfazed by the rakish Demerel, and proves to be more than a match for him. Austenprose’ review

Audio CD, Abridged, Naxos AudioBooks, ISBN: 978-1843793793 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, read by Frances Barber 

The dark horse of Austen’s oeuvre, critics of Mansfield Park claim that the heroine Fanny Price is an unappealing prig and the hero Edmund Bertram weak and dull. Ack! Being a contrarian I personally love Mansfield Park, not because some do not, but because Austen gave us an intricate tale revealing the depths of human strengths and weaknesses:  prudence vs. dissipation, virtue vs. vice, and good vs. evil and filled it with the most amazing array of characters of all of her novels. Fanny Price might be the antithesis of Elizabeth Bennet and Edmund Bertram no dishy Mr. Darcy, but Henry and Mary Crawford are Beelzebub’s evil spawn and that is fascinating reading. The debate may continue on the merits and imperfections of Austen’s third published novel, but one thing is certain, an audiobook recording adds levity and theatrics to even the dullest fare. Publisher’s description: Mansfield Park, the idyllic Bertram family estate, becomes home to a poor young relative, Fanny. In this wealthy world of social accomplishments and flirtations, the sensible Fanny finds herself out of place, yet secretly in love with her cousin, Edmund. Jane Austen employs her unerring wit to brilliantly capture the social and moral values of an English society at a time of great upheaval. 

Audio CD, Unabridged, BBC Audiobooks America, ISBN: 978-1602838017 

Nonfiction 

Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman, read by Wanda McCaddon 

This is an audio recording of Claire Harman’s popular take on Jane Austen’s rise from eighteenth-century clergyman’s daughter to twenty-first-century pop icon. Publisher’s description: Mention Jane Austen and you’ll likely incite a slew of fervent opinions from anyone within earshot. Regarded as a brilliant social satirist by scholars, Austen also enjoys the sort of popular affection usually reserved for girl-next-door movie stars, leading to the paradox of an academically revered author who has served as the inspiration for chick lit (The Jane Austen Book Club) and modern blockbusters (Becoming Jane). Almost two hundred years after her death, Austen remains a hot topic, and the current flare in the cultural zeitgeist echoes the continuous revival of her works, from the time of original publication through the twentieth century. In Jane’s Fame, Claire Harman gives us the complete biography—of both the author and her lasting cultural influence—making this essential reading for anyone interested in Austen’s life, works, and remarkably potent fame. Austenprose’s review

Audio CD, Unabridged, Tantor, ISBN: 978-1400116935

Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840: Virtue and Virtuosity (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism), by Gillen D’Arcy Wood 

Jane Austen’s love of music fills her novels through her characters; Mary Crawford with her harp and Anne Elliot, Marianne Dashwood and Jane Fairfax with their pianofortes. Music is an essential part of a young ladies education in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and one of the major sources of entertaiment for all ages. This new book from the Cambridge Studies in Romanticism is a scholarly look at the effect that music had on Romantic authors writing about their time. Publisher’s description: Music was central to everyday life and expression in late Georgian Britain, and this is the first interdisciplinary study of its impact on Romantic literature. Focusing on the public fascination with virtuoso performance, Gillen D’Arcy Wood documents a struggle between sober ‘literary’ virtue and luxurious, effeminate virtuosity that staged deep anxieties over class, cosmopolitanism, machine technology, and the professionalization of culture. A remarkable synthesis of cultural history and literary criticism, this book opens new perspectives on key Romantic authors – including Burney, Wordsworth, Austen and Byron – and their relationship to definitive debates in late Georgian culture. 

Hardcover, Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 978-0521117333 

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond 

Cousin Phillis and Other Stories (Oxford World’s Classics), by Elizabeth Gaskell, introduction by Heather Glen 

Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell’s detailed characterizations and witty style can be deemed part of Austen’s literary legacy; the next generation taking up the reigns and developing the novel in a new direction with a larger canvas and grittier social fare. This compilation of her novella’s and short stories is intriguing to me because I have enjoyed her longer novels North and South and Wives and Daughters and would like to read more of her works. Publisher’s description: Elizabeth Gaskell has long been one of the most popular of Victorian novelists, yet in her lifetime her shorter fictions were equally well loved, and they are among the most accomplished examples of the genre. The heart of this collection is Gaskell’s novella Cousin Phillis, a lyrical masterpiece that depicts a vanishing way of life and a girl’s disappointment in love: deceptively simple, its undercurrent of feeling leaves an indelible impression. The other five stories in this selection range from a quietly original tale of urban poverty and a fallen woman to an historical tale in which echoes of the French Revolution, the bleakness of winter in Westmorland, and a tragic secret are brought vividly to life. Heather Glen’s illuminating introduction is the first to offer extended consideration of Gaskell as a writer of short stories, discussing Gaskell’s pre-eminent role in developing the genre and setting each story in the context of their original periodical publication. The volume includes a chronology, bibliography, and invaluable notes. 

Trade paperback, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199239498

Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation, by Daisy Hay 

Those mad, bad and dangerous to know British poets from the early nineteenth-century make for great reading. What is it about debauchery, depravity and decadence that we can not look away from? This book sounds like a corker. Included is a fragment of a recently rediscovered scathing memoir by Claire Clairmont who had a front row seat to the dissipation and vice in Percy Shelley and Lord Byron’s scandalous lives. Publisher’s description: Young Romantics tells the story of the interlinked lives of the young English Romantic poets from an entirely fresh perspective—celebrating their extreme youth and outsize yearning for friendship as well as their individuality and political radicalism.  The book focuses on the network of writers and readers who gathered around Percy Bysshe Shelley and the campaigning journalist Leigh Hunt. They included Lord Byron, John Keats, and Mary Shelley, as well as a host of fascinating lesser-known figures: Mary Shelley’s stepsister and Byron’s mistress, Claire Clairmont; Hunt’s botanist sister-in-law, Elizabeth Kent; the musician Vincent Novello; the painters Benjamin Haydon and Joseph Severn; and writers such as Charles and Mary Lamb, Thomas Love Peacock, and William Hazlitt. They were characterized by talent, idealism, and youthful ardor, and these qualities shaped and informed their politically oppositional stances—as did their chaotic family arrangements, which often left the young women, despite their talents, facing the consequences of the men’s philosophies. In Young Romantics, Daisy Hay follows the group’s exploits, from its inception in Hunt’s prison cell in 1813 to its disintegration after Shelley’s premature death in 1822. It is an enthralling tale of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and friendship, all of which were played out against a background of political turbulence and intense literary creativity. 

Hardcover, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN: 978-0374123758

DVD 

Pride & Prejudice 1995 (Restored Edition) 

Yep. Just when you thought that you would have to buy a Blu-ray video player to get better picture quality than previous editions of Pride and Prejudice 1995 on DVD, the good folks at A&E have gone a done it. They have digitally remastered the pinnacle of perfection in Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice 1995. Now you can really see the drops of water run down Darcy chest after he takes his plunge into the Pemberley pond. ;-) Distributor’s description: Pride and Prejudice has taken its place as one of the greatest television productions of all time. The landmark adaptation from A&E and the BBC captured the hearts of millions by seamlessly translating the wit, romance, and intelligence of Jane Austen’s classic novel to the screen. With a masterful script, deft direction, and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, Pride and Prejudice transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet – spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters – is determined to play by her own rules and wed for love, not money or privilege. Will her romantic sparring with the mysterious and arrogant Darcy end in misfortune–or will love’s true nature prevail? Now beautifully remastered for the ultimate in picture and sound quality, relive the timeless classic Pride and Prejudice on 2 DVD’s. 

DVD, A&E Home Video, UPC: 733961206739

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann

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19 thoughts on “Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for April 2010

  1. All these new Austen-ish books makes me want to host the Everything Austen Challenge again!! Especially Writing Jane Austen, which sounds darling.

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    • Hi Stephanie, I am anxious to read Writing JA too. Thanks again for hosting The Everything Austen Challenge last year. I am doing an Austen challenge also later this year, so there will be lots of opportunities to challenge readers.

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  2. ‘Writing Jane Austen’ sounds really promising, Laurel Ann! I have not read any of Aston’s P&P sequels, so this should be interesting.

    And of course, Venetia read by Richard Armitage. Finally, it’s available for download from Naxos! You know whom I’ll be in bed with tonight… ;-P

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    • Hi RegencyRomantic, enjoy Venetia. My review will be up next week. Richard Armitage could be reading the phone book for all that I paid attention to the story. (just kidding, Heyer is great too)

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  3. Wow! Murder at Mansfield Park looks fantastic! Jane Austen’s definitely invading the mystery genre!

    I had no idea Writing Jane Austen was going to be a fiction novel, I thought it was going to be non-fiction!

    Thank you, Laurel Ann!

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  4. I’m currently reading The Watsons, and it’s interesting to read something written at a time when Austen may have been very unhappy, a work she never deemed good enough to publish. Still it’s fascinating.

    Welcome to National Poetry Month, though from Austen’s comments, I’m not sure she would enjoy mine or anyone’s! (maybe Cowper?)

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    • Hi Shelley, Austen loved poetry. George Crabbe was her favorite. I hope you enjoy The Watson’s. It does reflect her mood at the difficult time she wrote it. Thanks for visiting.

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  5. Oooh, Writing Jane Austen sounds great! And I love the new paperback cover of Rude Awakenings. That remains my favorite Austenesque novel as of late, for sure! It’ll be hard to dethrone it. But maybe something great will come along and change my mind. :)

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  6. The cover for “Romanticism and Music Culture” caught my eye – it’s the same cover on one of my copies of “Sense and Sensibility”. I particularly liked the choice for S&S because you see one sister holding sheet music (Marianne, the musician) and the other looking out at the landscape (Elinor, the artist). For the record, it’s Gainsborough’s “The Linley Sisters”.

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  7. I just have an itsy-bitsy question: In your opinion, are Confessions and Rude Awakenings as good as everyone says? I read both of your reviews, but I need to be 100% sure before I place my order.

    See, this is the thing: living where I live and my access to foreign currency (read: $) being what it is, buying contemporary books in English is a luxury to me, one in which I can only indulge once a year, twice if I really push it. And I mean *really*.

    Also, things like glaring historical inaccuracies, a bad writing style and gratuitous sex in Austen-related stories are serious off-putters to me, so wasting the precious opportunity of reading an enjoyable, well-written JA-related book by buying a lower quality one would be quite the tragedy. ;-)

    So, I was thinking about getting Laurie Viera Rigler’s books this year, along with some others I have coveted for quite a while now (think Susannah Carson and Mary Ann Shaffer). But I need to be sure. Would it be too pretentious of me to ask for a bit of reassurance from you? I highly respect your opinion, and would like to know if you really think LVR’s books *that* worthy.

    Please? ;-)

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    • Hi GirlfromShangriLa, Both of Laurie Viera Rigler’s books recieved 5 star ratings from me and have been warmly reviewed online by others. Everyone has their own taste and I am one opinion. I think if you read further reviewers opinions you will get a sense of a range of readers likes and dislikes about both of Laurie’s books. Rude Awakenings was my number one choice of Austenesque books last year. I am pretty selective in what I read and review, so I hope that is helpful. They are quite funny and very respectful of Jane Austen.

      Cheers, Laurel Ann

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  8. Thanks for the kind (and prompt!) reply, Laurel Ann. :-)

    I have read other reviews but none quite as complete as yours. The last line in your reply just sealed it: I’m getting those books PDQ.

    Thanks again!

    Girl from Shangri-la.

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