Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for September 2008

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

First up is the third book in the Pemberley Chronicles series by Rebecca Ann Collins, entitled Netherfield Park Revisited. In this continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the story starts in 1859, Queen Victoria has reigned for twenty-two years, England has undergone an industrial revolution and is one of the most powerful and influential nations to rule the sea and colonize the globe. Once again we are introduced to many of the characters central in the novel Pride and Prejudice, the Darcy’s and Bingley’s and their children. Handsome Jonathan Bingley, son of Charles and Jane Bingley, takes center stage, returning to Netherfield Park whose traditions and history runs strong in his family. In this ongoing historical saga, Ms. Collins continues to delve into themes that Jane Austen never approached in her secluded early 19th-century world of three or four families in a country village, but these expansions of plot and characters seem only natural as they parallel the progress of England’s social, economical and industrial growth. Check out my previous posts on Book 1 & Book 2 of the Pemberley Chronicles, and hold on to your bonnets, cuz there are still seven more books in this series to go! 

Speaking of the Bingley’s, how often is the best friend of the hero in a novel given a promotion to co-star in the sequel? Scratches head! Not sure if there is an example except in Marsha Altman’s new book, The Darcys & the Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice Continues. Ms. Altman recently shared with me that she adored Charles Bingley when she originally read Pride and Prejudice in high school, thinking that he was the main character for quite some time until Darcy gave Elizabeth the Huntsford letter. Now Altman has her chance to give Bingley his due as the story continues with his friendship with Darcy and the two special sisters that they married, Jane and Elizabeth. You can read two recent contributions by Marsha Altman on Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen in Vermont blogs. She has a wonderful way of telling a story, and I know that you are really going to enjoy watching Caroline Bingley evolve, er well, try to evolve into a sympathetic character! 

Next up, and one I have been dying to get my mits on for ages is the re-print of Pemberley Shades: A Lightly Gothic Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, by Dorothy A. Bonavia-Hunt. Originally published in 1949, it is the second sequel to Pride and Prejudice ever written and has a surprising Gothic subtext that intrigued me from early descriptions of the book. Original editions of this novel command exorbitant prices from antique books dealers, so I am very happy that Sourcebooks has re-issued this novel for us non-millionaire types who can now experience a story that was the precursor to a genre. 

If you like sexy re-tellings of Austen novels with a twist, Impulse and Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds might be your cup of tea. It asks the compelling question, “What if Mr. Darcy…instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refuses his offer of marriage, follows her back to her home at Longbourn and endeavors to change her mind. What if…their passion anticipates their wedding? I’ll let that simmer for a while until I write my review, but Reynold’s is a prolific and incredibly popular Austen-esque writer whose Pemberley Variations series has a very loyal and devoted fan base, so it is well worth a try. 

Cassandra and Jane, A Jane Austen Novel, by Jill Pitkeathley has an intriguing premise. Why was it necessary for Cassandra Austen to burn her sisters letters after Jane Austen tragically died at age 41? Well, older sister Cassandra explains it all for us as she shares many of their stories and remembrances of their life together as beloved sisters and BFFL. As Cassandra reminisces, we see Jane Austen as only Cassandra would know, share in their romantic aspirations and disappointments, understand their frustrations on the financial dependence of their relations, and rejoice in her early success as a writer. Author Jill Pitkeathley skillfully interweaves fact and fiction into an interesting and believable story that Austen purists might balk at, but Janeites will adore. 

Happy reading to all.

Further reading