Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard – A Review

Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard (2011)As 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, we are offered another annotated edition to help us understand the social and historical context of the world that Jane Austen places us into in late eighteenth century England.

The Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library) is the first Jane Austen novel, in what I hope will be the bookend of Jane Austen’s six major works, to be offered in eBook format from Girlebooks. Yes, the format is digital gentle readers – and I think it quite appropriate that Margaret Sullivan is leading the way for us as its annotator. Many know Margaret as the editrix of AustenBlog.com, but she is also a strong advocate of digital books, and has for many years been waving their flag in attempt to prepare us for the inevitable. That time has come. This is the first book I am reviewing for Austenprose that is being produced solely for the digital market.

Sense and Sensibility is the tale of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, each cut from the same cloth, yet facing financial, social and romantic trials together from totally different perspectives, and – with varying degrees of hardship and success. Level headed and practical Elinor is the older of the two and often the only one in the family to keep her widowed mother and impetuous younger sister on a straight path. Marianne is wildly romantic and hell-bent to stretch the limits of proper decorum into the next county. Three men will change their life paths: Edward Ferrars, a reserved and stoic eldest son whose family aspires to greatest, yet he craves the simple life a country parson; Colonel Brandon, retired from the army and from love because of the loss of his first love many years hence; and Mr. Willoughby, handsome, charming and impassioned, but at a price. As the young ladies search for love, honor and financial security, Austen weaves in a rich social tapestry of minor characters, social commentary and the dry humor that she is renowned for.

While Sense and Sensibility offers some recognizable themes of the era of financially challenged young women searching for love and security in a society whose constraints sharply narrow their possibility of success, Austen has infused deep social context as well. Of all of Austen’s six major novels, S&S is driven by legal inheritance laws of primogeniture in England and how women were affected by them. These can be very puzzling to the contemporary reader and Sullivan’s notes throughout the text can help smooth a few furrowed brows. For example, in Volume One, Chapter two “Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress of Norland; and her mother and sister-in-law were degraded to the condition of visitors.” This one sentence is the lynchpin of the novel. If you understand why the widow Dashwood and her three daughters are be to displaced, downsized in social standing, the rest of the narrative will all fit into place. If you don’t you’re in trouble and will miss much of the inside story that Austen wants you to experience. If you tap on the numbered endnotes within the text, it will take you to the explanation. Tapping on the number again will take you back to the text. It is that simple.

With only 97 endnotes, this edition is not as extensively annotated as this year’s The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard, Anchor Books (2011), however, it does contain: A biography of the authoress; A bibliography and further reading; Information and Jane Austen’s life and culture; Author’s having fun with Jane Austen’; Fiction inspired by Sense and Sensibility; Films adapted from and inspired by Sense and Sensibility; and a buoyant forward and an unerring eye by the annotator. The illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard add levity, but are not expandable, so it was difficult to appreciate any detail. One must also take a leap of faith and assume that this is an unabridged text, but what version used, is not stated.

The eBook is available in Adobe Reader PDF, Kindle/Mobipocket PRC, ePub & Microsoft Reader LIT for the modest price of $2.99. Yes, there are a lot of “free” editions of S&S out there to be had for digital readers. Don’t be fooled by “free” gentle readers. Not all eBooks are created equal. The expert formatting and craftsmanship exhibited by this Girlebook edition is well worth the value.  For a middlin’ annotated edition, this Bicentenary Library presentation is “everything that is worthy and amiable.”

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eleventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard
Girlebooks (2011)
Available at Girlebooks, Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nookbook Store & Smashwords

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins – A Review

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

I’m delighted to again read another fantastic work by Rebecca Ann Collins.  She is the critically acclaimed author of the bestselling 10 novel series, The Pemberley Chronicles.  Her writing style is unparalleled in its depth and completion, and I’m always amazed at how detailed and engaging her novels are.  After an incredibly rich 50 years worth of stories starring Lizzy and Darcy, we now turn our attention to Edward, Elinor, Marianne, and Col. Brandon as Collins begins to entice us with her versions of what happened after Jane laid down her pen in writing Sense and Sensibility.

Picking up seven years after the end of Sense and Sensibility, we are transported back into the world of the Dashwood sisters (now Mrs. Ferrars and Mrs. Brandon).  Opening on a rather morbid note, we are taken to Barton Park for the funeral of Lady Middleton (Sir John’s wife) who unfortunately died of an apparent seizure during a dinner party for her mother’s (Mrs. Jennings) birthday.  It’s during this unfortunate event we’re given updates as to where our favorite characters are: Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister, is now studying at a seminary near Oxford thanks to brother-in-law Edward’s assistance.  Edward and Elinor live in the parsonage at Delaford, the estate of Col. Brandon and Marianne.  Edward and Elinor are blessed with two children while the Brandons have none.  After the funeral, Col. Brandon leaves to travel to see his property in Ireland, and it is in his absence that everyone’s worriment for Marianne begins.  She has been the mistress of Delaford for seven years now, and is bored; bored with her day to day life, the lack of inspiration from her surroundings, and above all the lack of like minded people in her circle of friends.  She takes a day trip with some acquaintances and surprisingly comes in contact with Willoughby.  Will seeing him rekindle old feelings, or will she find strength in the love that Col. Brandon has for her?  How will Elinor react when she finds that Willoughby has returned?  What will become of Margret once she’s completed her education at the seminary?

One of Collins’ greatest attributes is her ability to channel the prose of Austen herself.  Her style, while remaining Austen-like, is still unique, and all her own.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Collins is a  true gem in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  I’m always excited to read her novels as I know they’ll leave me feeling content and entertained to the highest degree.  They have afforded many Jane Austen purists an escape back to the Victorian era and all its wonders.  This time is exciting in particular because it’s the first time we get Collins’ perspective of the world of Sense and Sensibility.  Her unique vision for the sister seemingly tranquil lives are never dull.

My one complaint was with Elinor’s character.  She seemed filled with more anxiety then I ever remember.  Yes, in the original she is worried about the family’s finances and about Marianne’s relationship with Willoughby, but she was not as bad as she is in Expectations of Happiness.  She seems always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and poor Edward tries to comfort and console her as she cries her eyes out over almost everything.  It seems that most of the other characters walk on eggshells around her in what they can and can’t tell her for fear of her nerves.  This bothered me, because I read Elinor as a strong woman in Sense and Sensibility.  She gets her family together, helps them stay economical, and is there for Marianne caring for her both on an emotional and physical level when she falls ill.  Heck, she even kicks Willoughby out when he comes back in the end, trying to come back just one more time to see Marianne.  This “new” Elinor seriously displeased me and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Despite this, I have to give Collins credit for her imagination in creating the characterization of Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister.  As she is young and unknown to us in Austen’s original work, it was exciting to see her character take shape and become a strong, intelligent woman with thoughts on her future and what she wanted for it.  I was quite pleased by this plot addition, and the depth that Margret added to the storyline was a great inclusion in an already great story.

So, it is with a happy heart that I conclude my review of Expectations of Happiness (no pun intended!)  Collins has once again showed us that she is a master of Austen’s language and time, and can add postscripts to Austen’s works that dovetail seamlessly to the originals.  Happiness was unique and exciting, and it fulfilled my curiosity as to the fate of Elinor and Marianne after their happy endings as told by Austen.  Give it a try; I’m positive that you won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 Stars

Kimberly has kindly filled in for me this month and completed the tenth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (336) Pages
ISBN: 978-1402253898

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, by Carrie Bebris – A Review

Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris (2007)Inspired by characters from Jane Austen’s novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, the second in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries series begins four months after the marriage of Austen’s famous romantic duo, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Family obligations take them from Pemberley, their country estate in Derbyshire, to Town to help the couple’s younger sisters, Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy, participate in the London social season.  Being an heiress, Georgiana commands the respect and admiration of many who would like to connect with the Darcy family and its large fortune. Kitty, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. In contrast, her small dowry and lack of social accomplishments leave only her family connections and natural charms to entice an eligible suitor for her hand. He comes in the form of a rich dandy, Harry Dashwood, son of John and Fanny Dashwood of Norland Park, who when first introduced to Miss Catherine Bennet, thinks she is the highly accomplished and very rich Georgiana Darcy. A moment of realization and embarrassment for all is smoothed over by Harry’s continued attentions to Kitty. Elizabeth and Darcy are also relieved that he has other motives than those of his social climbing mother Fanny Dashwood in choosing a wife. He is quite taken with Kitty and invites her and the Darcys to Norland for his twenty-first birthday fete.

Revisiting Norland Park again, we are re-introduced to more characters from Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility: Robert and Lucy Ferrars & Edward and Elinor Ferrars – but twenty years has transpired since the conclusion of Austen’s novel – and the next generation takes center stage. Harry’s mother Fanny Dashwood, officious and manipulative as ever, disapproves of Catherine Bennet intensely. Wanting her son to marry for money and connections, she fosters a match between Robert & Lucy Ferrars’ unappealing daughter Regina. Harry will have none of it and proves he is his own man and asks for Kitty’s hand and is accepted.

After some doubts about Harry, Elizabeth and Darcy and now very supportive of the engagement. Returning to Town to shop for Kitty’s trousseau, everyone thinks that she has made an excellent match for herself until their first impressions of Harry are sorely tested. His extended absence from his fiancé gives rise to speculation and doubt, coupled with damaging gossip about him being seen about Town engaging in late night carousing with disreputable characters. When he finally reappears at the Darcy’s townhouse to visit his fiancé, he explains that he has been away from London for two weeks visiting relatives. How could that be when he has been seen by so many in Town, including Mr. Darcy himself?

After leisurely starting off quite sedately as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice interlaced with characters from Sense and Sensibility, the plot takes a right hand turn into the realm of the supernatural. A mysterious ancient mirror and an infamous Dashwood relation from the past bring Gothic elements into this mystery that were quite unexpected, but intriguing. Bebris has a wonderful command of Regency history and a complete understanding of Austen’s characters. Even though I solved the mystery that Elizabeth and Darcy must investigate and deduce before the protagonists did, it mattered not. What is most delightful about Bebris’ Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries is the couple themselves. I found myself laughing out loud several times at their witty banter.

“That is precisely why foxhunting is an inappropriate pastime for ladies,” Darcy said. “Blood sport runs counter to their gentle natures.”

Elizabeth thought about many well-bred women who occupied society’s highest ranks, and chuckled softy. “Ladies are quite capable of blood sport, darling. Their field is the drawing room.” Page 54

Suspense and Sensibility is a delightful read, albeit a bit slow to start, it eventually churns and always tickles the funny bone in all the right places.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eight selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Suspense and Sensibility by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, September 7, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a Jane Austen-inspired mystery, or who your favorite character was in either of the original novels. Winners will be announced on Thursday, September 8, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, by Carrie Bebris
Forge Books (2007)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 9780765318442

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice.

While Daphne moons and dreams about her new heartthrob Luke, Gabby has reason to not believe in love. Sonny Hutchins, a young boy she connected romantically with one incredible brief afternoon died in a tragic accident which she is certain his rich, spoiled cousin Prentiss Applewhite is to blame for. Her deep affection for Sonny is her secret that she shares with no one, not even her best buddy Mule. Gabby is certain that the only one you can depend on life is yourself.

As Gabby retreats into her reclusive inner world of loneliness and grief, Daphne’s histrionics are abrasive and unproductive. She deals with her family’s emotional crisis’ by ignoring reality, worshiping her flake of a father and falling madly in love in a moment. Her mom tries to bring her back into reality…

“Real life, real love, isn’t the way you see it in movies or read about in books,” her mom went on. “I hate to see you risk yourself like this. I just wish you’d be more sensible.”

“Sensible.” It was one of those words Daphne hated. Something she apparently wasn’t – along with being “responsible” or “mature.”  “Sensible,” she repeated, considering the term. The opposite would be “foolish,” right? “Silly.” “Idiotic.” “Stupid.” “Do you mean sensible like Gabby, who’s never even been on a real date? Or sensible like you, who couldn’t make her marriage work?” pages 99-100

When late child support payments and a steep rent increase cause a crisis for the Rivera women, they must move in a hurry. Feeling fatalistic, Gabby is certain that they would be better off homeless. Life changes for the two sisters when Daphne’s unsensible way of dealing with life challenges results in more troubles than she ever dreamed of until help from an expected source saves the day and Gabby must face facts about her fond memories of Sonny and her feelings for his cousin Prentiss before the two sisters can find happiness.

In Sass & Serendipity, author Jennifer Ziegler has given us a boldly creative tribute to 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. Her modern interpretation of the two sisters: one too sensible and the other not sensible enough mirrors Jane Austen’s Dashwood sisters beautifully. Even though the plot does not follow Austen’s storyline faithfully, the essence of the emotional dilemma that each of the sets of sisters face with life and love challenges is a great match. Ziegler reminds us that sisterly relationships are like no others, filled with friendship, rivalry, devotion, frustration, love and “strong family affection.” Read Sass & Serendipity to remember that incredible time in your life when you were on the cusp of adulthood and a sister or best friend in your life made all the difference.

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, August 10, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a young adult retelling of Sense and Sensibility, or who your favorite character was in the original novel. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 11 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Press (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Sense and Sensibility 1995

Sense and Sensibility (1995) DVD cover24 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a DVD of Sense and Sensibility 1995, staring Kate Winslet & Emma Thompson. The winner drawn at random is Nicole who left a comment on June 24th, 2011.

Congratulations Nicole! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 13th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. We are reading and viewing several S&S inspired books and movies this year in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel. You can read other reviews in the S&S Bicentenary review archive!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose