Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford – A Review

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford (2011)Our Janeite sensibilities tell us that the notion of Jane Austen as a vampire is pretty wacky. It’s just so hard to visualize “our” Jane as one of the undead, still here after two hundred years, and struggling with life challenges and her condition. Author Michael Thomas Ford understands this too. He has created a trilogy based on our uncertainty, curiosity and proclivity for the burlesque that Austen herself was so fond of. Book one, Jane Bites Back, sold us on the concept that anything can happen in a Jane Austen inspired novel – even Jane as a vampire. It was “light, campy and a bit Buffyish” and we were truly “glamored.” But as any vampire aficionado knows, to be “glamored” means to be under the vampire’s mind spell which does not last forever. After over a year shouldn’t it have worn off, returning us to our cynical, defensive Janeite self? Book two, Jane Goes Batty, would have to be pretty darn good to dispel our doubts and resurrect our confidence. Our fingers were crossed, along with our corset strings.

Our twenty-first century Jane is still undead and living in Brakeston, a small university town in upper-state New York. The success of her novel Constance has changed her life considerably. In 1796 she may have wished to “write for Fame, and without any view for pecuniary emolument,” but now she has both as Jane Fairfax bestselling author. Her fans are arriving by the bus load and camping on her door step, a Hollywood movie crew has descended upon her hometown to film a glitzy star-studded version of her latest novel, and the hope of her next books success has garnered a fat advance. Life sounds pretty good, but not if you are a 235 old vampire who has thrived on anonymity and resisted advancing your powers in the undeadly arts.

Attempting to manage her life sensibly, she has promoted her friend and assistant Lucy to run her bookstore, Flyleaf Books, and welcomed her former lover George Byron (who also turned her) back into her life as a mentor. He is helping Jane to “develop her powers instead of run from them” in case “Our Gloomy Friend,” that pesky Bronte woman should make good on her threats. Her love-life is just where she wants it keeping patient boyfriend Walter in a holding pattern, and the town folk are none-the-wiser of her undead condition. With money, fame, friends and love in ones life, what’s to worry? Plenty. Walters Jewish mother Miriam arrives from Florida expecting her to convert, Jessica, her new demanding editor thinks she is an untalented plagiarist who should be writing a novel as good as Valley of the Dolls, and a vampire attack on one of the movie actors has Jane and Byron pointing fingers at one another. The challenges of keeping her true identity a secret, mastering her vampire skills, and the looming threat of another throw-down with an adversary from the past have her as distracted as Mrs. Bennet on her last nerve.

After the third chapter we remembered why we enjoyed the first novel in this series so much. Michael Thomas Ford is a wicked wit with a scoop of irony on top; a devilish combination that Austen whipped up and has been wowing us with for centuries. The premise of Jane Austen as a vampire is wacky – totally – but after we had been swept up in the frenetic pace, hilarious characters and outrageous parody, we were laughing out loud and startling our cats. Spirited, diverting and impertinent the “conceited independence” of this author knows no bounds. Watch out for a vicious three-legged Chihuahua, Ted and Ned the gay and straight, vampire and mortal, identical twins that we could never tell apart (nor could anyone else), eye rolling one liners by Lord Byron, a deranged vampire turned book reviewer (gulp), a surprise vampire hunter that is too close to home, and a poke at you gentle reader, if you are as inclined as we are to visit Jane Austen blogs and go to conventions in period costume! Our only quibble, and it is more of disapprobation, is that on more than one occasion we wanted to yell at this twenty-first century Jane Austen to find her inner Elizabeth Bennet or channel her Mary Crawford and get past the rag-doll syndrome that she was trapped in. It was almost all happily resolved by the end – like any Jane Austen novel should be – but we won’t tell. Of course Ford has left some plot points dangling that will, we hope, be addressed in book three, Jane Vows Revenge.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0345513663

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

24 thoughts on “Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford – A Review

  1. I can’t wait to read this. I, too, found the first one hilarious. I’m not normally a vampire fan but the author really knows how to make the story irresistible. I requested it at my library so I should be getting it soon.

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  2. For those tired of vampires as I am, I recommend the book I just got, Susannah Carson’s A Truth Universally Acknowledged. The setting of Austen’s books is far from mine, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that her appeal is both contemporary and universal. She needs no vampires.

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  3. Jane Goes Batty: A Novel by Michael Thomas Ford.
    Well, reading this review, Laurel Ann, it does sound fun. The title alone gives you a sense of the jollity and amusement to be found between the pages.

    However, no matter how well written, it seems to me that Michael is just using the shock value, Jane Austen, Vampire!!!!! to get attention and perhaps some notoriety. People will look, heads will be turned, and maybe a few extra bucks made.

    Then there are the other sort of spin off novels that are around, published by Source Books. The type that take characters from Jane’s novels and “devlop,” them into new scenarios. They think, “I wonder how Darcy and Elizabeth would react if….. “and so on.

    Source Books obviously think they have got a good idea. They make money, otherwise why would they do it?

    Jane didn’t write like any of these imposters. She took a human trait, for example, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion or the traits of a particular character, Emma, and developed a “modern story,” around them. She had far more scope for depth and creating meaning and characterisation by exploring these real, important issues. That’s why Jane is a genius. Her ideas were modern and challenging for her time. They still resonate with us today.

    If writers want to be like Jane Austen they should take present day issues , and devlop their own stories. They would be following more closely Jane Austen’s approach than by sticking their fangs into the living, bodies of Janes original novels and sucking the life blood out them, the way they do.

    To do that they would have to be very very good as writers not half good and flowery.

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    • Tony , I do not really even know where to begin in response to your comments. I could write a whole essay in defense of fan fiction authors, why they do it, and why their readers enjoy it – but I don’t want to. I do not think they need anyone to defend them. As British royalty says – never explain, never complain.

      Jane Austen was a genius and you cannot compare her to modern writers. There are many forms of entertainment and many styles of writing. The Jane Austen fan fiction genre is just one. Your arguments could apply to every genre in print, every play ever written and movie shot. Nothing is new. These writers are not trying to copy Jane Austen because that is impossible. They have chosen instead to be inspired by her.

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      • Laurel Ann. of course ALL things are connected. That’s how the world works, but being inspired by Jane Austen or plagiarising Jane’s ideas and characters are two different things.

        And it’s as blunt as a barn door that these writters are NOT paying hommage to Jane but are living off her coat tails.

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        • Tony, why do you choose to air your grievances over Jane Austen inspired authors here when both of the blogs that you write for, Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen’s World, also post book reviews and pop culture references to Jane Austen in the modern media?

          Stop. “You have insulted me in every possible method.” Now, please go back to your own blogs and lambaste the hell out of Vic’s reviews.

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  4. Just a thought, Laurel Ann.

    I noticed you gave this novel 5 regency Stars.Who developed this regency star system and could we see the criteria you use? I’m interested as someone who looks at a lot of children’s writing. Do you use a tick chart or is it a gut feeling?

    I would love to see a 1 star or even less. Something could be so bad it would brilliant. It would be really something to see a one star. Come on Laurel Ann have a go at finding one for us.

    All the best,
    Tony

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    • Hi Tony, thanks for your interest in my review ratings. The Regency Star rating is my own creation. Many review sites use a five star rating systems.

      I am sorry to not be very obliging but I can not help you with a 1 star rating. I have never given a book or movie that low of a rating, nor will I. If something rates a 1 it is obviously lacking in many respects and it would do me and the author a disservice to review it. If something is really not well written, disrespectful to Austen or purely cashing in on her name, I will say so and back it up with evidence. I do not enjoy dissing a book and take it quite seriously. Many times I have just chosen not to review it at all rather than sound like a poor sport. I hope this is helpful. Good luck. LA

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  5. Thanks for your review Laurel Ann. I didn’t know the new book was out already. I read Jane Bites Back last year. As for a bit of light, fun reading I really enjoyed it.

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  6. I got the book from my library after reading your review. It was funny and extremely entertaining! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out in the next book. And I wonder who Jane will be seeking revenge on and what for…

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  7. Pingback: Top 20 Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2011 « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  8. Pingback: Jane Vows Vengeance: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford – A Review « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

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