From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Black Friday, dear readers! Here is a new Austenesque book to pull you away from your online holiday shopping featuring one of Jane Austen’s most pragmatic minor characters from Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas.
Author Carolyn Korsmeyer’s new novel, Charlotte’s Story, was released last month by TouchPoint Press. It gives us an insider’s view of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Charlotte Lucas. An unmarried spinster at the beginning of the novel, she soon after agrees to marry the Bennet’s odious cousin Mr. Collins. Along with heroine Elizabeth Bennet, we cringe at her choice of husband and don’t have much hope for her. It will be interesting to see how Korsmeyer continues her life, and hopefully gives her some happiness.
The author has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt to give our readers a peek inside the story. Enjoy!
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are enjoying the leftovers from your turkey dinner!
In the England of Jane Austen, Charlotte Lucas, unhappy with her loquacious and overbearing husband, draws on her wit and daring to tackle the unexpected problems besetting her marriage.
Charlotte Lucas, a character first appearing in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has made an unfortunate marriage to the loquacious William Collins, reckoning that his tedious conversation is a small price to pay for the prosperous home and family she hopes to gain. However, trouble brews within the first months of marriage, and she is upset and angered by his presumptuous tendency to interfere with her friendships.
To ease the strain of their relationship, Charlotte leaves her husband to visit the fashionable city of Bath with several women companions. The weeks in Bath prove to be a time for self-discovery and freedom, even license. Although the marital frost between Charlotte and William begins to thaw, that tranquility lasts only briefly, for events in Bath have resulted in an unfortunate, even calamitous, consequence.
Charlotte devises a solution to the advantage of all that combines bold connivance and compassionate duplicity. Some would castigate her audacious stratagem, but she believes it justified by the hope of happiness and the wit and courage to seek it.
After my description of the scene that had occurred in the Bennet household the previous day, it is perhaps to be wondered that I would look forward to greeting this clumsy man so readily, would have sought to intercept him outside even before he reached the door; let alone that I would take him as a prospective husband after knowing him for such a short while, and hardly under flattering circumstances. What young woman would regard favorably the advances of a suitor so unappealing? What female with any pride of self would have welcomed his approach and all that it implied? Well, I can tell you what kind, for I am one: realistic, tolerant, and ever-so-slightly conniving. Yes, I connived; I contrived; I calculated.
Gentle Reader, do not judge me harshly. I gave up romantic illusions at an early age. It was a brief but painful moment when I realized that romance was a fantasy that did not suit a woman like me. Romance combined with plainness is doomed to disappointment. Realism combined with compromise holds promise. And I am nothing if not realistic. About myself and about the conditions at home that threatened to anchor me in an increasingly tenuous position.
The Lucas family is but recently elevated in rank, thanks to my father’s knighthood, a status which pleases him more than anything. It still brings a smile to my face to see how he enjoys calling our home by the name of Lucas Lodge, as if the family had long occupied a baronial manor. But my smile cannot avoid a touch of wryness, for his title led him to relinquish his moderately prosperous business in town and to live on his invested income, which is hardly enough to provide five children with the prospects that would make them marriageable on economic grounds alone. For, alas, let us be realistic: it is those material grounds that tempt a mate when nature has not supplied sufficient bounties to attract.
What is more, our property is entailed just as the Bennet’s is, and hence will go eventually to Andrew, the older of my young brothers. And then there remain concerns for the prospects of Frederick, the youngest boy, and of my two younger sisters, nice girls both, and at least Maria has a pretty enough face. I am the eldest and have reached twenty and seven years of age without a whiff of an offer of marriage, and my number of years is an increasing source of pessimism on my part, not to say incipient panic. Already I can see that Mother is preparing herself with the near certainty that I shall always be at home. She will soon regard me as the mainstay of the household, a spinster daughter whose eventual role will be to care for them in their declining years and to oversee a household that will never be really hers.
That little mirror in my bedroom is in the corner for a reason. I do not care to pass it frequently as do many other girls, who flick their eyes glass-ward repeatedly to check on their appearance. I have oft seen Lydia Bennet parade before the ornate mirrors that decorate the rooms at Longbourn, sliding her eyes towards her reflection with each passage to admire her bright curls, her ready dimples, the arch of her slender neck, her rosy cheeks. She is the prettiest of that lot, at least for now, though Jane has a serene beauty that will likely stand the test of years, and Elizabeth’s bright expression and fine features will attract many a gentleman. But I have drifted away from my own description, which I shall now straightforwardly report.
To call a meal good ‘plain’ fare is to praise its ungarnished nutrition. To call a home ‘plain’ suggests tidy simplicity. To call speech ‘plain’ connotes its honesty. But to call a girl ‘plain’ is but another way to say that she is unattractive. Not quite ugly; I do not wish to exaggerate. My appearance does not offend. But neither does it appeal. My mirror shows a sallow, slightly flat face, a small nose that extends just a bit too near my narrow lips, eyes of medium brown beneath level brows ever so slightly too low. Light brown hair of a quantity adequate to cover the scalp but not sufficiently abundant to count as flowing locks. Not entirely unpleasant. But plain. I wasted only a few tears on that realization, for what cannot be cured must be endured.
Chapter 3, pages 12-13
- “A poignant, compelling novel about loss and love, power and powerlessness, and finding direction and meaning in the life you have chosen. Charlotte’s Story will sweep you away with its beautifully crafted prose from the first page to the unforgettable conclusion.”— Katherine Cowley, author of The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet
- “Korsmeyer captures and deploys Austen’s unsentimental observation of how people really are and does so by presenting her story from the perspective of a clear-eyed, believable heroine. Happily, the novel is true to Austen’s unsparing sense of the ridiculous. If it differs from Austen, it is only in giving the reader a rather more comprehensive look behind the scenes than Austen was inclined to impart. But that’s all to the good.”— E.M. Dadlez, author of Mirrors to One Another: Emotion and Value in Jane Austen and David Hume, and editor of Jane Austen’s Emma: Philosophical Perspectives.
Carolyn Korsmeyer’s longtime admiration of Jane Austen and other nineteenth-century women novelists led her to write Charlotte’s Story. She is also the author of numerous philosophical works, including Things: In Touch with the Past, Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics, and Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy.
- Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Carolyn Korsmeyer
- TouchPoint Press (October 10, 2021)
- Trade paperback, & eBook (283) pages
- ISBN: 978-1952816581
Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of TouchPoint Press © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com