According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant – A Review

According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant (2009)Here’s a new novel that tugged at my heartstrings and validated my belief that if the world was run according to Jane Austen, we would be much smarter and happier. Enuff said!

Fifteen-year-old Ellie Barnett is a bookish geek. She excels at academics, but according to her caustic older sister, she is digging herself into a hole of permanent unpopularity with her scraggly hair, lack of make-up, and inattention to fashion. There is, however, one boy who since kindergarten has paid her a bit more attention than she is comfortable with. Sam Blaine may be good-looking, athletic, brainy, and popular – but he is trouble – and just happens to sit behind her in English class taunting her with pokes in the back with his pencil and sexual innuendo. When she cracks open her next reading assignment, a copy of Pride and Prejudice, she begins to hear voices. Jane Austen’s British voice to be exact, interjecting observations and advice, specifically warning Ellie to beware of Sam Blaine. He is her Wickham, that charming scoundrel that wooed Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and then eloped with her younger sister Lydia. Ellie does not doubt the advice, just the whole hearing voices thing really freaks her out. Jane Austen’s spirit has somehow inhabited her mind, commenting in her acerbic early nineteenth-century sensibility on Ellie’s 1980’s life and romances and she does not know why.

Over the course of twenty years, we follow Ellie through her life challenges as a single woman looking for love and happiness in what Jane Austen deems to be a morally confusing world. Who of us could ever forget their own first love, the painful realization that you are being used, or the first time you were dumped? As Jane offers Ellie witty and wise advice on family conflicts, career choices, and a barrage of bad boyfriends that come and go, Ellie slowly realizes that she must learn some life lessons before she can move on. For Ellie, one painful lesson was bad-boy Sam who Jane advises to stay clear of yet she is still drawn too. As their lives keep crossing paths over the course of the years, they never seem to be at the right place at the right time to work it out. Ellie trusts and values Jane’s opinion. Who better to advise her than an author who is valued for her keen judgment of human nature and romantic insights? But with Sam, she holds strong prejudices. Could she be wrong? Is he really her Wickham, or could he be her Mr. Darcy?

What an unexpected, uplifting, and urbane debut novel! To paraphrase Jane Austen’s character Lady Catherine, Marilyn Brant has given us a treasure. Granted that there are hundreds of Jane Austen inspired novels written over the years, this totally unique and original concept of Austen’s ghost inhabiting and advising a modern young woman is brilliant. The play of early nineteenth-century social mores against twentieth-century culture is so droll that I laughed-out-loud several times in total recognition. Like Austen, Brant excels at characterization offering a heroine in Ellie Barnett that I could totally identify with, and a hero in Sam that is so endearingly flawed that any woman worthy of her worn-out VHS copy of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries will be happy to swoon over. Subtly powerful and amusingly acerbic, you will be gently reproved into agreeing in the power of love to transform us all.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant
Kensington Books (2009)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-0758234612

Additional Reviews

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for September

According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in September, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

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

According To Jane, by Marilyn Brant 

Here is a bright new face on the Austen sequel/inspiration market. In this contemporary novel, Jane Austen’s ghost inhabits teenage Ellie Barnett’s thoughts, guiding her through all of life’s romantic and unromantic dilemmas. Since we all know that Auntie Jane never steered any of her heroines in the wrong direction, Ellie has excellent advice, or does she?  (Publisher’s description) It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. From nowhere comes a quiet ‘tsk’ of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there. Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go – sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham. Still, everyone has something to learn about love – perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. Kensington. ISBN: 978-0758234612 

Darcy and Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst (2009)Darcy and Anne: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst

Another Pride and Prejudice sequel which I am I happy to say is focused on the emancipation of Miss Anne de Bourgh, a minor character who sorely deserved a make-over. (Publisher’s description) It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne. When a fortuitous accident draws Anne away from Rosings and her overbearing mother’s direct influence, she is able to think and act for herself for the first time ever. In the society of her cousins Darcy and Georgiana, and, of course, the lively Mrs. Darcy, Anne reveals a talent for writing and a zest for life. Meanwhile, Lady Catherine is determined to choose a husband for Anne. But now that Anne has found her courage, she may not be so easy to rule. Anne de Bourgh is a sympathetic character whose obedience and meekness were expected of women in her day. As she frees herself from these expectations, Anne discovers strength, independence, and even true love in a wonderfully satisfying coming-of-age story. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224386

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely (2009)Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely 

Ready for a cozy mystery with a Pride and Prejudice theme? This debut novel by Tracy Kiely just might do the trick. Set in contemporary Cape Code, her Elizabeth Parker is as clever, witty and spirited as Jane Austen’s original Lizzy Bennet, but in addition to dealing with her love life, she is in the throws of a murder. (Publisher’s description) Planning New Year’s resolutions to rid her life of all things unhealthy, Elizabeth Parker has dumped fatty foods, processed sugar, and her two-timing boyfriend. Indeed, the invitation to join her Aunt Winnie for a How to Host a Murder Party on New Year’s Eve at Winnie’s new Cape Cod B and B comes just in time. But when the local wealthy miser ends up the unscripted victim, Elizabeth must unearth old secrets and new motives in order to clear her beloved aunt of suspicion. The suspects include the town gossip, a haughty rich woman, and an antiques business owner much enamored of his benefactress, a Mrs. Kristell Dubois. If that isn’t bad enough, Elizabeth must also contend with her childhood nemesis, Peter McGowan—a man she suspects has only matured in chronological years—and her suspicions about his family’s interest in Winnie’s inn. Minotaur Books. ISBN: 978-0312537562 

Darcy's Temptations, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Temptation: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Regina Jeffers 

Ah, Mr. Darcy. We can never get enough of him. In this creative Pride and Prejudice sequel, Darcy has lost his memory and has an adventure without Lizzy. Oh my! (Publisher’s description) By changing the narrator, Darcy’s Temptation turns one of the most beloved literary love affairs of all time on its head, even as it presents new plot twists and fresh insights into the characters’ personalities and motivations. The author faithfully applies Jane Austen’s fun-to-read style, suspenseful narrative, and sardonic humor to her own imaginative tale of romantic entanglements and social intrigue. Four months into the new marriage, all seems well when Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant. However, a family conflict that requires Darcy’s personal attention arises because of Georgiana’s involvement with an activist abolitionist. On his return journey from a meeting to address this issue, a much greater danger arises. Darcy is attacked on the road and, when left helpless from his injuries, he finds himself in the care of another woman. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569757239 

My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles No 6, by Rebecca Collins (2009)My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 6, by Rebecca Collins 

You’ve got to hand it to author Rebecca Collins. She is one creative and persistent Janeite pumping out Pride and Prejudice continuations in rapid fire. Actually, she wrote the ten book series over several years. We are just now fortunate to have international publication through Sourcebooks. My Cousin Caroline is the sixth filly out of the gate in The Pemberley Chronicles series. (Publisher’s description) Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s cousin Caroline Gardiner take center stage. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Caroline develops from a pretty young girl into a woman of intelligence and passion, embodying some of Austen’s own values. Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, and the Wickham’s all move through the story as Caroline falls in love, marries, and raises her children. Caroline rejects the role of a compliant Victorian wife and mother, instead becoming a spirited and outspoken advocate of reformist causes in spite of the danger of scandal. Caroline’s advocacy of reform, undaunted by criticism, demonstrates strength in a time when a woman’s role was severely restricted. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224317 

Waiting for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton (2009)Wating for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton 

The description of this book just made me smile. For all you ladies of a certain age waiting for Mr. Darcy to knock on your door, this book will both charm and inspire you. The author’s advice – “Open your eyes and your heart. He may be closer than you think.” (Publisher’s description) Three friends over forty still wait for Prince Charming in the form of their favorite Austen character, Mr. Darcy. Not quite ready to turn in their hot chick cards for the hot flashes of menopause, they’d like to find a man who is charming, smug, intelligent and cute to share the primes of their lives with (even if one of them doesn’t know she’s looking). Together they navigate this brave forty-plus world and find out that Mr. Darcy is closer than they think. Genesis Press. ISBN: 978-1585713516 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector's Library Edition) 2009Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector’s Library Editions), by Jane Austen, illustrated by Hugh Thomson 

Oh yum! 720 pages of all Austen all the time and with colorized Hugh Thomson illustrations. What greedy Janeite could ask for more? (Publisher’s description) This title includes more than two hundred full colour illustrations by Hugh Thomson. All Jane Austen’s novels are presented in one volume. It features Jane Austen’s romantic world captured by her finest illustrator, Hugh Thomson. It also includes Thomson’s beautiful and evocative illustrations hand-coloured by Barbara Frith, one of Britain’s finest colourists. Barbara Frith’s renderings of Hugh Thomson’s illustrations have won the approval and commendation of both Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton and The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. This title contains extended biographical note and accompanying bibliography. It is presented in page size 270mm X 210mm; 720 pages; printed laminated case and dust jacket. CRW Publishing Limited. ISBN: 978-1905716630 

Nonfiction 

Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann (2009)Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann 

I just love Austen scholars. They keep pumping out treatise after treatise in the pursuit of the Holy Grail of Austen scholarship. This one springs from Austen as a moral barometer of her times. Jane Austen’s grand niece Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh wrote a biography of her great aunt admonishing those who thought Austen’s novels were written as moral lessons. Best that she avert her eyes on this one. (Publisher’s description) Reading Jane explores Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion against their historical and cultural backdrop to show precisely how Jane Austen sets out the core themes of British morality in her novels. Austen’s period was arguably the most socially and politically tumultuous in England’s history, and by replacing the novels in this remarkable era, Scheuermann sharply defines Austen’s view of the social contract. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-0230618770 

Austen’s Contemporaries 

A Simple Story (Oxford World's Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald (2009)A Simple Story (Oxford World’s Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald 

Elizabeth Inchbald, née Simpson (1753 – 1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist who may be most famously remembered for her play Lover’s Vows which Jane Austen featured in her novel Mansfield Park. Both ladies wrote during the same time period, but their personalities and lifestyles appear complete opposites of each other. Austen lived quietly in the country and wrote about the country gentry she experienced, while Inchbald was an active performing actress touring Great Britain, writing plays and novels gently influenced by her radical political beliefs and desire of personal independence. A Simple Story is one of two novels she wrote. (Publisher’s description) When Miss Milner announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, she breaks through the double barrier of his religious vocation and 18th-century British society’s standards of proper womanly behavior. Like other women writers of her time, Elizabeth Inchbald concentrates on the question of a woman’s “proper education,” and her sureness of touch and subtlety of characterization prefigure Jane Austen’s work. Oxford University Press USA. ISBN: 978-0199554720 

Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World's Classics), by Lord Byron (2009)Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics), by Lord Byron 

“I have read Corsair, mended my petticoat, & have nothing else to do.” Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 8 March 1814 

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, of Rochdale, (1788 – 1824) was a British poet and a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement. It is no surprise that Jane Austen mentions reading The Corsair in an 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra. As a writer also strongly interested in poetry, she would be keenly interested in new works. Byron was wildly acclaimed as a poet and scandalous social figure. His reputation as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” came from his well publicized affair in 1812 with the married Lady Caroline Lamb. Austen would later mention Lord Byron along with Mr. Scott in her novel Persuasion, as an example of superior writers when her characters Anne Elliot and Captain Benwick discuss literature and poetry. This reprint of his selected poetry by Oxford was edited, introduced, and noted by Jerome J. McGann, John Stewart Bryan Professor of English, University of Virginia. (Publisher’s description) Lord Byron was a legend in his own lifetime and the dominant influence on the Romantic movement. His early fame came in 1812 after the publication of Childe Harold. Relishing humor and irony, daring and flamboyancy, sarcasm and idealism, his work encompasses a sweeping range of topics, subjects, and models, embracing the most traditional and the most experimental poetic forms. This selection of Byron’s works includes such masterpieces as The Corsair, Manfred, Bebbo, Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 978-0199538782 

Movie Adaptations 

Sense and Sensibility, BBC Miniseries (1971)Sense and Sensibility (1971) 

This elusive and never before aired in the US miniseries of Sense and Sensibility produced by the BBC in 1971 will be available on DVD on September 29th. Staring Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner in P&P 95) as Elinor Dashwood and Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood, this three hour miniseries should be a treat for Austen enthusiast in the US who have only heard tales of its existence. Its reappearance on the video scene now requires a re-numbering of Sense and Sensibility movie adaptations, since the 1981 version had been considered the first available – with no hope that this could ever resurface. Now, if the 1967 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries pops out of the vault, the fan numbering system will have to be re-mastered also. Special features include: Audio Commentary, deleted Scenes, interviews, outtakes and photo gallery. BBC Warner. UPC: 883929081202 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann