Why Jane Austen? Blog Tour with Author Rachel M. Brownstein and a Giveaway!

Why Jane Austen, by Rachel M. Brownstein (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austen scholar Prof. Rachel M. Brownstein for the official launch of her book blog tour of Why Jane Austen?, a new literary and cultural history of our Jane’s rise and continued fame that is being released today by Columbia University Press.

Jane Austen’s eruption into popular culture in the mid-1990s got me wondering: Why Jane Austen, and not another equally long-dead novelist?  What is it about her in particular?  When the vogue spilled over into the twenty-first century, and more and more people were proudly calling themselves Janeites, I knew I was onto something.  And now, finally, here is my book: Why Jane Austen?, published in June, 2011, by Columbia University Press!

The term “Janeite” was coined in the 1890s by the English critic George Saintsbury (he spelled it “Janite”).  Picked up by Rudyard Kipling in the 1920s, it has been used in different tones of voice since then.  As words do, it has gone through changes over time; and Janeites have also changed.  Today they include admirers of Jane Austen’s novels, and of the author because she was a woman or a wit; some are fans of the dressy movies or the romantic fan fiction, while others prefer the sexed-up send-ups and the mysteries.  They include mischief-makers and members of the Jane Austen Society, bloggers and buyers of Jane-related dolls and coffee mugs, note-cards and refrigerator magnets. Writing Why Jane Austen?, I was astonished and fascinated by the range of Austen movies, spin-offs, products, and devotees—and the enormous changes in those over the last twenty years and more.

A Janeite today is sometimes exclusively interested in Austen and her novels, but she (usually) is often also involved in the culture that has grown up around them.  She revels in being a member of a club, exchanging thoughts and feelings about matters more or less related to Jane and pooling thoughts and feelings with those of other Janeites.  Janeites tend to support one another, also to seek converts.

Of course the fantasy of entering a world of Regency dresses and manners, an elegant world where people say “whilst,” begins in solitude, as fantasies do–and reading novels also does.  Ditto the dream of finding your Mr. Darcy, and being carried off by him to a Pemberley of your own.  But private fantasy turns into sociable Janeite practice once you gang up with others to hate Miss Bingley, or to compare the erotic charge of Austen’s Pemberley and Bronte’s Thornfield Hall, or to confess you can’t understand what Elinor Dashwood sees in Edward Ferrars, or to discuss why Jane turned down Harris Bigg-Wither. (The simple dropping of these names makes a Janeite feel cozy all over.) Continue reading

Preview of the Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine Issue No 52, July/August 2011

Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine issue 52 Jul/Aug 2011The July/August 2011 issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine is now on sale and has been mailed to subscribers.

In the new issue:

• JANE AUSTEN FESTIVAL IN BATH: A preview of the exciting programme lined up for September, 2011

• THEATRICAL PAINTINGS: The amazing set of costumed portraits collected by Somerset Maugham is now in safe hands

• COAST DELIGHTS: How Jane Austen depicts the seaside in her novels

• FORGOTTEN BROTHER: Maggie Lane traces the life of George Austen, Jane’s little-known brother

• LUNAR RIOTS: The day a Georgian society in Birmingham was attacked by a mob

• WHEN WE ARE GONE: How did Cassandra handle Jane’s legacy, and what about ours?

• JANE’S MEN: Our favourite author was not only an expert on women, she had a strong insight into the minds of men

Plus: All the latest news from the world of Jane Austen, as well as letters, book reviews, quiz, competition and news from JAS and JASNA.

Jane Austen’s Regency World will be at the following events, and look forward to meeting many subscribers, old and new:

  • July 9 &10 Jane Austen Festival, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  • Sept 17 Jane Austen Festival, Bath, UK (country fayre)
  • Oct 13-15 JASNA AGM, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

For further information, and to subscribe, visit Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine

© 2007 – 2011 Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle – A Review

Cast of Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility 2011

“Happy, happy Elinor, you cannot have an idea of what I suffer.”

“Do you call me happy, Marianne? Ah; if you knew! And can you believe me to be so while I see you so wretched!”

– Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 29

Happiness and suffering, and the emotional extremes that cause it, is an important theme in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that was well served in a new stage adaptation of her novel premiering at the Book-It Repertory Theatre on June 3rd at the Centre House Theatre, Seattle Center. It is the Rep’s fourth Austen novel to stage production after the highly successful Pride and Prejudice in 2004, Persuasion in 2008, and Emma in 2010. Their interpretations of Austen are always brisk, lighthearted and memorable. Jane Austen has been very good to the Rep, and obviously, audiences have felt that the Rep has been likewise to Jane Austen.

Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility (2011)Even though Sense and Sensibility is not as light, bright and sparkling as Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, it may be the most adaptable of her works for the stage. At 200 years old it remains a compelling tale touting a favorable list of dramatic attributes: dual heroines with divergent personalities; three red herring heroes who are really anti-heroes in disguise; and an incredible assortment of unscrupulous and humorous minor characters that add levity and balance to a story that is quite seriously entrenched in 19th century British inheritance laws and the plight of women who were ruled by them. Heady stuff for any playwright to embrace and adapt. Even more so for the lucky audience if they get it right.

The two heroines of this cautionary tale are Elinor (Kjerstine Anderson) and Marianne (Jessica Martin) Dashwood – one with too much sense, and the other with not enough. Each of the sisters reacts differently to their life tragedies and budding romances. Jessica Martin’s Marianne was all pure unbridled emotion: extreme, exuberant, exasperating! Never loving by halves, she gushed about dead leaves, poetry and her beaux Willoughby with a passion leaping into Bronteism.  Marianne also dips into the depths of despair after being thrown-over by her suitor, wearing her down and into a serious illness. We had wished this had been given more attention and that Marianne had not rebounded back to herself with such cheerful alacrity.

Kjerstine Anderson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)Kjerstine Anderson as the solid, staid and correct sister Elinor was surprisingly regal, imposing and privately snarky – a different interpretation than I had experienced in my reading of the novel, or in any of the movie adaptations. Questioning my previous conclusions, was Austen’s Elinor as introspective, subtle and guarded as I had thought? Anderson did a commendable job as Austen’s anchor of reason and rationality, albeit too emotionally at critical moments. I am uncertain if this change in characteristics was artistic license or by direction, but it altered the divergence in the sisters personalities and lessened some of Austen’s critical plot points.

Aaron Blakely as John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It  Rep (2011) x 200The three heroes (or anti-heroes): Edward Ferrars (Jason Marr), Col Brandon (David Quicksall) and John Willoughby (Aaron Blakely) were sensitively cast as the affable nerd, the gallant geezer and the charming cad to extreme satisfaction. Austen gave us an interesting assortment of suitors for our heroines. Often we are uncertain who the hero is because of major character flaws that act like red-herrings. In this interpretation (happily) Edward did not stutter, but he was so innocuous we wonder what Elinor saw in him. Really wonder! Marr was more than a bit of a milquetoast, and so was Quicksall as Col. Brandon who barely uttered a line for several scenes (to disconcerting effect) until he finally finds his voice making it all the more moving and admirable. Well done. When Blakely’s Willoughby gallantly arrives  to rescue the injured Marianne in a billowing greatcoat, our expectation of a Byronic hero was totally fulfilled. *swoon* The fact that he looked like a young Jonny Lee Miller did not hurt either. No wonder Marianne lost all sense. Who wouldn’t?  He was equally convincing in relaying his conflicted loyalties of money vs. love.

Jessica Martin and David Quicksall in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011) The minor characters in Austen’s tale are so endearingly flawed and humorous, supplying the comedy to offset the tragedy. Of note were the scheming and duplicitous Miss Lucy Steele (Angela DiMarco); selfish and manipulative Mrs. Dashwood (Emily Grogan) and her equally unappealing husband Mr. John Dashwood (Shawn Law); gossipy matchmaker Mrs. Jennings (Karen Nelson); and the jovial and obliging Sir John Middleton (Bill Johns). They brought levity to Jen Taylor’s energetic dramatization which at times had its charms and foibles. The narrative faithfully followed Austen’s own right down to some exact quotes. Huzzah! Gone though were Austen’s cynical underpinnings, subtle puns and measured pacing – all replaced by an emphasis on humor and breakneck speed. Scenes quickly altered with the draw of a curtain across the stage taking us from London to the country within seconds. Actors changed costumes by adding layers as they delivered lines on stage. Spoken dialogue shifted to narrative recited directly from the novel in one breath. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Austen encapsulated and accelerated for the modern stage.

We enjoyed every line and every moment, but we were happy to wind down afterwards with a cup of tea and the novel.

Jessica Martin and Kjerstine Anderson in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)

Book-It’s Sense and Sensibility runs at the Center House Theater thru June 26th

Photos © Alan Alabastro 2011

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly – A Review

The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

There are many reasons why books published well over a hundred years ago are still relevant and well loved today.  One of these reasons is that as a reader you become so invested in the lives of the characters that you can’t help but want to read their story over and over and over again.  I’m sure that this is the case for Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Women Letters.  Her love for Louisa May Alcott’s beloved March sisters inspired her to continue their story by allowing the stories of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy to live on via a much younger and contemporary setting.  The result is a great juxtaposition of old and new as Donnelly does an outstanding job at telling their stories and breathing new life into this classic.

The novel begins with sisters Emma, Lulu, and Sophie of the Atwater family, who live in London.  They are “imagined descendents” of Jo March, the second and very opinionated child in the March family from Little Women.  Lulu, the middle sister, is sent up to the attic of their home to find some recipes for her aunt, and inadvertently discovers a trove of letters written by Jo to her sisters.  Feeling a bit lost herself, Lulu takes solace in these letters and begins to discover the lives of the March sisters through their correspondence.  She discovers that she is much like Jo herself, and this empowers her to view her life in a whole new way, weaving the great stories of the March sisters in the past with her own present.

Firstly, I have to give Donnelly a lot of credit for her writing style.  She writes in a way that makes the Atwater sisters seem like your own, and the more you read about them, the more endearing they become.  I truly felt as if I was getting to know them as the book went on, and Donnelly allowed a relationship to grow between myself and the characters that made the book that much more enjoyable.  Secondly, I also really enjoyed that the plot of Little Women had so much influence in the writing of The Little Women Letters.  A lot of contemporary novels that I’ve read that are influenced by classics normally just take the plot of said classic novel and modernize it.  While that was done in this book, Donnelly finds ways to take the original story and infuse it with the new contemporary one, giving the reader an opportunity to hang out with his/her favorite characters from the original.

Finally, it takes a masterful artist to weave the lives of three characters together, let alone the 8+ that Donnelly works with.  She’s definitely something special and is a gem of a writer.  I wouldn’t be surprised if The Little Women Letters is as loved and adored as Little Women in the future.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly
Touchstone, New York (2011)
Hardcover (386) pages
ISBN: 978-1451617184

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard – A Review

The Annontated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Annotated & Edited by David M. Shapard (2011)How appropriate that The Annotated Sense and Sensibility is being published during the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s first published novel.

This new book includes the complete text of Jane Austen’s classic with annotations by Dr. David M. Shapard, an expert in eighteenth-century European History who also brought us similar annotated editions of Pride and Prejudice in 2007 and Persuasion in 2010. I enjoyed both of his previous works. I find annotated editions of classics fascinating, especially if they are written from the perspective of historical and social events and not weighed down with scholarly opinions. Dr. Shapard’s agenda here is obviously to enlighten the reader by opening up Austen’s two hundred-year old text with facts, tidbits, asides, and information that a novice reader or veteran can relate to so they can appreciate the story even more.

This volume weighs in at a hefty one pound and six ounces and contains 784 pages of wow factor for any Jane Austen fan or literature lover. Jane Austen’s complete and unabridged text is included on the left hand page and the enumerated annotations on the right. No stone has been left unturned. Even the illustration on the front cover depicting two fashionably attired Regency-era young ladies walking in the countryside with an umbrella receives its own corresponding page of enlightenment on the history of the umbrella, walking as an amusement, large muffs as a winter accoutrement, and an observation on the picturesque landscape depicted in the illustration. This keen sense of the era in relation to the text continues throughout the over 2,000 annotations including: textural explanations of historical and social details, black and white illustrations of art works, caricatures, cartoons and maps, definitions of archaic words, citations from Jane Austen’s life and letters, a chronology of the novel, extensive bibliography, fifteen page introduction by the editor, and his literary interpretations of plot and characters. It is a monumental achievement that I will spend years coming back to and exploring.

I know that there has been criticism of Dr. Shapard’s unscholarly approach to annotation in his two previous editions. He uses open and accessible language for the layperson, and for the sake of clarity, he repeats definitions so the reader does not have to jump back and forth throughout the book for answers. In my view, this is considerate and not tiresome as some have complained. After all, who is this book’s primary audience? Pleasure readers and students, or scholars?  If you are a scholar you should be seeking primary source material and interpreting it in your own style, as Dr. Shapard has chosen to do in this volume. Amusingly, I find objections to the un-pedantic qualities of his writing an irony that Jane Austen would take delight in.

Overall, this new edition was mesmerizing. My only complaint is that not every inch of the right hand page is packed to the brim with annotation – but I am a greedy Janeite. Retailing at $16.95, this is a bargain resource book that every Jane Austen and Regency-era history enthusiast should own.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my fifth 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 The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, June 14, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in Sense and Sensibility and why, or what intrigues you about reading an annotated edition of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, June 15, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard
Anchor Books (2011) New York
Trade paperback (784) pages
ISBN: 978-0307390769

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Marsha Altman – A Review

The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Marsha Altman (2011)Guest review by Shelley DeWees – The Uprising

If there was ever an “About the Author” section that seemed to speak to me, directly to me, it is this one:

Marsha Altman exists more as a philosophical concept than an atom-based structure existing within the rules of time and space as we know them.  She is the author of four books set in Jane Austen’s Regency England as well as the editor of an anthology of Pride and Prejudice-related fiction.  When not writing, she studies Talmud and paints Tibetan ritual art, preferably not at the same time.  She lives in New York, New York, and does not own any cats.

Diverse.  Engaging.  Just plain cool.

And somehow, someway, Altman’s distinctive personality (at least the one she’s chosen to portray publicly) has been transposed onto a 432-page doorstop of a book that is just as diverse, engaging, and cool as she is.  The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy is the fourth installment in Altman’s what-happens-after-pride-and-prejudice universe, and it will have you hooked within moments.  Want to travel the world with Darcy and the gang?  Want to say HI to his illegitimate brother Gregoire in Spain before he shows you what crazy apparatus he wears?  How about India?  What would Charles Bingley look like with a monkey on his shoulder?

All this, and more, can be yours.  The story drips with spirit and intrigue while unique characters, characters who still somehow manage to stay in the realm of Jane Austen’s originals, carouse and laugh and pray their way around their various estates.  Gregoire Darcy is forced to leave his lonely monastery on the windswept shores of Spain, abandoning his life in the church and returning to England to live out the rest of his life.  But how shall he cope?  What will he do now?  With the support of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his every-expanding family, Gregoire finds himself free to explore the world and his own inner mysteries, and is quite surprised at what he discovers!

Elizabeth Darcy herself is in the background most of the time, along with all her sisters and a mountain of nieces, nephews, and children from her own loins (4 of them).  Caroline Bingley and her husband, Dr. Maddox, along with all their offspring often frequent the pages, while Georgiana and her husband, Dr. Maddox’s brother and his wife and their cohort Mugin, and even Charlotte Collins and her own brood are all present as well (which will make you very thankful for the family tree Altman has so thoughtfully included).  Gregoire himself, Darcy’s half-brother, is a likeable person, generous and reverent to the end, and although his story is mired in trouble and heartbreak while he attempts to conform to English society.  Problems are many, and finding solutions makes each character bloom all the more.

Yes, it’s a rip roarin’ good time.  Funny, well-written, and projecting the image of one seriously practiced researcher and writer.  The structure is beautiful with frequent page breaks being the only exception…but you’ll get used to it.  The book as a whole flows with a lovely sense of development and prose, which becomes all the more enjoyable when you stumble upon sassy scenes like these:

“What are rich people like?”

He laughed.  She hadn’t meant it seriously—there was no way that she could have.  That didn’t mean he was exempted from providing an answer, so he took a piece of potato floating in the soup and put it in his mouth, chewing on it to give himself time to mull over the question.  “Do you wish to know a secret?”

She squealed, “Aye!”

“They are terribly, terribly bored.”

Neither of them could hold back their laughter at that.  He was glad that he had swallowed his food properly, as he could not have held it in.  “They have their servants do every menial task.  The do not even dress themselves, and are left with nothing to do.  So they read books and go own walks and then sit down for long dinners where they discuss reading books and going on walks.  And then they write people about it, because writing takes time.”

Read this book, take a long walk, then come home for dinner and tell everyone about it.  They’ll want to read it too!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Marsha Altman
Ulysses Press (2011)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-1569759370

© 2007 – 2011 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

Giveaway winner announced for Jane and the Genius of the Place

Jane and the Genius of the Place, by Stephanie Barron (1999)18 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Jane and the Genius of the Place, by Stephanie Barron. The winner drawn at random is Penelope who left a comment on April 26th.

Congratulations Penelope! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 4th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. We are reading all eleven novels in this great Austen inspired mystery series this year. The challenge is open until July 1st, 2011, so please check out the details and sign up today!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Stalk Jane Austen

Portrait of Jane Austen, by Rocco Fazzari from The Herald (2008)Gentle Readers: Here is a guest post with some Friday fun to get the weekend rolling early. Alyssa Palazzo is a young college student with a passion/obsession for our dear Jane. I thought her essay charming and very funny. Enjoy!

My friends think I have a problem.

I follow Jane Austen on Twitter.  I watch her house on Google Earth and note her every movement in my journal.  I have friend requested her 307 times on Facebook.  Last night, I checked to see what time she was leaving for the Connecticut Repertory Theater’s rendition of Pride and Prejudice.  Then I followed her there.  I keep my cupboard stocked with her favorite cereal brand in the hopes that one day her car will break down in front of my house and she will want breakfast.

Just kidding.  Jane Austen’s dead.  BUT, if she were alive, I would have absolutely no problem hiding under her bed and tracking her every movement.  After all, I’ve read the books, seen the movies, watched the plays, and enrolled myself in the Jane Austen class offered at UConn.  In order to defend my sanity I have composed a list of the top ten reasons I should stalk Jane Austen (or at least like the books.)

  1. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, and Edmund Bertram are the sexiest male protagonists of all time.  Enough said.
  2. Happy endings.  Every young lady ends up with exactly the right gentleman despite undergoing several trials and mix-ups.
  3. The heroines aren’t weak creatures who need to be saved.  Elizabeth Bennet treks through three miles of mud to visit her sick sister.  There is no fainting, swooning, or rescuing to be found – although it might be worth it to be saved by the sexiest male protagonist of all time.
  4. The characters suffer the consequences of their actions.  For example, when Charlotte Lucas marries for convenience, she has to spend the rest of her life rotting in the back room of her house while avoiding her idiotic and obsequious husband.  Harsh, but true.
  5. The luxurious settings.  Forget London.  Who wouldn’t want to live in Longbourn or Highbury amidst the ample fields and long country roads?  Especially when you live right down the lane from the sexiest male protagonist of all time.
  6. Best opening line ever:  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  Haha.  Get it?
  7. Austen does a fantastic job of mocking society.  The clergymen are foolish, the “accomplished” young ladies are dimwitted, and the main characters can be spoilt and headstrong.  This makes for a great book.
  8. It’s not all about romance.  The books incorporate human shortcomings, character flaws, and moral dilemmas, forcing the readers to think about human nature.
  9. Austen was one of the few female writers of her time, and better yet, she never married.  Way to stick it to the man.
  10. Have I mentioned the sexiest male protagonists of all time?!  I’m a Darcy girl myself, but trust me, there’s a man for every female reader in Austen’s novels.

Now that I’ve defended my sanity I’m off to read Mansfield Park.  Trust me, it never gets old.

Editor’s note: Isn’t it refreshing Janeites, that young people all over the world are reading Austen and getting it? This eloquent and observant analysis just made my day!

Author Bio:

Alyssa Palazzo is a 4th semester English major and Women’s Studies minor at the University of Connecticut.  Her latest work “Leaving the E-Herd for Face-to-Face Dating” was featured in the Hartford Courant.  When she is not stalking Jane Austen, she is working and blogging at UConn’s Long River Review.  You can follow her adventures at www.longriverreview.com

2007 – 2011 Alyssa Palazzo, Austenprose

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Austen’s bad boy George Wickham gets top billing in this prequel to Pride and Prejudice that will surprise readers for more reasons than one first imagines.

Anyone who has read Jane Austen’s original novel or seen one of the many movie adaptations knows that Wickham is a bad man: a charming rogue, a gamester and an infamous eloper. But what influences molded his character and what forces drove him to his choices? Wickham’s Diary presents some interesting options for us to ponder. Was it nature or nurture that corrupted his soul? After knowing his story, will we be sympathetic, or ready to string him up? Here’s a case study:

Early Childhood:

George is the son of an attorney working as a steward at the grand country estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire. At twelve, he is the companion of the heir Fitzwilliam Darcy. He has everything going for him: good looks, affable manners and a stage mother. On her urgent request, he ingratiates himself to the family and wins the heart of old Mr. Darcy who sends him to Eton to be educated with his son. He is also promised a future living as a clergyman on the estate. He thinks that the only difference between the respect and admiration that his friend Darcy commands is his money. To attain the wealth, power and social position that he craves, his mother advises him to marry an heiress. Casting his eye on the wealthy young women he knows, Georgiana Darcy and her cousin Anne de Bourgh are his first targets. Calculating and contrived, his life is solely driven to find a rich wife.

Young Adulthood:

He is sent to Cambridge at the expense of Mr. Darcy to be educated as a gentleman. Seeing the advantages of social connections, he continues to search for a rich sister within his fellow classmates. He is not a good student, and soon falls in with the wrong people: drinking, carousing and gambling his way into debt. Fitzwilliam attempts to save him. He promises to reform, but soon slides back. His mother dies. He drinks, gambles and carouses some more. His dreams of marrying an heiress are fading away. No proper mother will let their daughters near him. Old Mr. Darcy dies leaving him the promised living. He and Darcy have a falling out over his lifestyle, loosing his friends good opinion forever. He is in serious debt and asks him to pay him a lump sum, accepting £3,000 instead of the church living. Fitzwilliam washes his hands of him while Wickham squanders his inheritance. We wait to see what forces drive him to later stalk Anne de Bourgh and scheme to elope with Georgiana.

Yes, George Wickham is a despicable scoundrel – and so fun to watch charm, scheme and fail in the original novel. We know that it is unkind to take pleasure from other’s misfortunes, but this is a morality tale that Jane Austen set up, so we give ourselves permission to enjoy it! Amanda Grange’s skill at relaying Wickham’s simple plan for a happy life: marry a rich wife, attain her social position, absorb her estate and spend her money, makes it all seem so logical. Being a male equivalent of a gold digger is very seemly. Especially since Regency men had freedoms that women would never aspire to. Wickham is depraved, he is dissipated and he is disgusting.  But we knew that already from Austen’s tale.

We do learn interesting new tidbits that formed his character: a selfish, thoughtless, frivolous mother disappointed in her lot teaches her son to obtain what she wanted out of life by unscrupulous means. This is the root of his evil beginnings. The early childhood scenes with mummy dearest are the most interesting insights in this novella. They were over too quickly. So was the rest of the story. It abruptly ends with the failed elopement at Ramsgate, leaving us dangling mid-air. We felt short sheeted. Just when the story gets rolling it stops. No insights into Wicky’s Meryton escapades: meeting Mr. Darcy again, his flirtation with Elizabeth Bennet, inside dirt on his pursuit of heiress Mary King, what went down in Brighton with Lydia, and why did he really elope with a young, frivolous woman who was as far from an heiress as could be? Why, why, why, kept rolling through my mind. Guess we won’t’ find out.

Being an account of his childhood, his friendship with Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his attempted elopement with Miss Georgian Darcy. Yep, the subtitle pretty much sums it up.  So be prepared gentle reader for the short ride, and not all what one might expect from the great Amanda Grange who has wowed us for years with her amazing Austen hero’s diaries series. I am setting my hopes on her next “real” novel, Henry Tilney’s Diary, to be released in the UK in May and the US in December of this year. That thought alone wipes away any deeply harbored regrets hereto.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Wickham’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251863

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Tony Lee and Illustrated by Cliff Richards – A Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Tony Lee and Illustrated by Cliff Richards (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Who would have ever thought that adding zombies to a classic novel like Pride and Prejudice would create the literary mash-up phenomenon? It started in 2009 when Seth Grahame-Smith took Jane Austen’s original work and mashed it together with flesh eating zombies. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has since spawned a graphic novel, a prequel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, soon to be released sequel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, and a movie adaptation is in production.

The storyline in the graphic novel edition has been adapted by Tony Lee from the Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith original. Regency England has become overridden with zombies, or unmentionables, and Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters have each been trained in the “deadly arts,” a combination of both ninja skills and martial arts training, to fight off the maraudring hordes. Due to their father’s previous training in the “deadly arts”, the Bennet sisters are well known for being the fiercest and bravest zombie warriors in the Meryton area.

Illustrations by Cliff Richards for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel (2010)

Following the classic plot of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley, a single man in possession of a good fortune moves into the area sending the Bennet household into an uproar. Mrs. Bennet has five unmarried daughters and has designs upon him marrying one of them. Bingley is introduced along with his sisters and good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy to the Bennet family at a local Assembly ball.  Bingley dances several times with Jane Bennet, encouraging Darcy to enjoy the ball and dance with her younger sister Elizabeth. Darcy, not wanting to mix with the local gentry, tells Bingley that Elizabeth is “not handsome enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth overhears Darcy’s reaction and instantly decides that he is the most arrogant man she’s ever met and that she must kill him to revenge her honor. His life is saved only by the zombie attack that occurs at the ball. Elizabeth and her sisters save the townspeople by forming their pentagram of death and killing all of the attacking unmentionables. As Darcy sees them fighting, he notices Elizabeth’s stellar skills and begins to look at her in a different way.

Illustrations by Cliff Richards for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel (2010)

Throughout the rest of their acquaintance in Meryton, Darcy continues to look at her more and more in a positive light and begins falling in love with her. This is all unbeknownst to Elizabeth who still looks upon Darcy with contempt. The plot continues to play out similarly to the original with Darcy separating Bingley from Jane due to her inappropriate family, cousin and heir to Longbourn Mr. Collins arriving, Elizabeth rejecting his proposal, Charlotte in turn accepting him, Elizabeth’s trip to Kent, and Darcy’s failed proposal to her, etc. The elements of Austen’s story are all still there, only the added in zombie-killing action sequences have been added.

While the illustrations in the graphic novel are well drawn, it was a bit confusing trying to figure out who was who. The artwork is in black and white, so in scenes with lots of dialogue, it was confusing to figure out who is saying what.  As the novel progresses however, it’s easier to follow since the character list drops to just major characters only. I would have liked to have seen color illustrations in this graphic novel edition. I think it would have brought a different element to the zombie attack scenes. The lack of color made me feel like I was reading a newspaper comic rather than a graphic novel.

Illustrations by Cliff Richards for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel (2010)

The difficulty in following the character dialogue caused me to dislike the first half of the graphic novel. Once the plot picked up, and it was easier to follow the action, I found that I actually enjoyed it more. The mashed-up plot is an incredibly creative story that is a really interesting juxtaposition between ninjas, zombies, martial arts and Regency England. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the Graphic Novel is an imaginative way to get more people to read classic novels, albeit not in their original context. Regardless, it is still making people check out the classics, which is very exciting.

This book is definitely not for the Austen purists out there. The story is liberally changed to make Lizzy an intense warrior, Lady Catherine the foremost zombie killer in all of England, and Charlotte Lucas into an unmentionable, just to name a few. For those willing to see a creative change in Jane Austen’s classic work, check it out, but do prepared for some gory, bloody bits!

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith, adapted by Tony Lee and illustrated by Cliff Richards
Random House Publishing Group (2010)
Paperback (176) pages
ISBN: 978-0345520685

2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose