Congratulations to the Monthly Austen Books Giveaway Winners for September!

Congrtualtions to Janeen who won a copy of Impulse & Initiative by Abigail Reynolds, and Colleen who won a copy of the Matters at Mansfield by Carrie Bebris.

Please e-mail me (austenprose at verizon dot net) by Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 to claim you prize.

Happy reading to all, Laurel Ann

The Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Blogosphere

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”
Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Austen around the blogosphere for the week of September 21st

‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ begins on October 1st here at Austenprose, so start reading Northanger Abbey and gearing up for another great Austen novel event. I have been investigating Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho which will be our second group read and happened upon this nice article about the author and her work on PopMatters by Deane Sole.

The Austen Shopaholic deal the week is 40% off on the book New Friend’s and Old Fancies by Sibil Briton at Sourcebooks on line shop. This novel is reputedly the first Austen sequel ever published, though I do not think that scholars will ever let us believe that it was the first, but it has been claimed thus by Sourcebooks. Use code AUSTENSOURCE 10 at check out to receive your discount, and enjoy!

Austenesque author Lori Smith announces the release of her book A Walk with Jane Austen in the UK with a stunning new cover. We think that the pink Wellies are quite appropriate! Congrats, Lori!

With the movie The Duchess opening in the US theaters this week, Lady Georgian Spencer continues to be a hot topic in entertainment news. She married William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, in 1774, and they resided at Chatsworth, a grand estate in Derbyshire. Musings on Pride and Prejudice blog writes about the Jane Austen connection and similarities in the Cavendish and Darcy families. You can also get three perspectives on the movie The Duchess at Jane Austen’s World.

Austen quote of the week from an interview of actress Amanda Lisman who is portraying Elizabeth Bennet in Tom Woods new stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Septmeber 20 – October 12. Read a review of a prevue on the production here.

In reading her, I realized how much Austen’s writing has influenced romantic comedy, the (mis-matched) couple overcoming obstacles after first impressions. I just think it’s so remarkable that such a young woman, so geographically isolated, had such insights into human nature. And was so witty…. And it still resonates, in specific situations and class structure, and in the humour. We were all pleased and surprised there was so much laughter in (first performances in) Banff: the humour of the characters, so many lines people love…. It’s a book that speaks to people’s hearts; it’s pretty iconic.

Austenesque book reviews for the week; The Jane Austen Book Club, Pride and Prejudice Board Game, Northanger Abbey, Me and Mr. Darcy, The Matters at Mansfield, Persuasion, Impusle & Initiative, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Mansfield Park Revisited, Seducing Mr. Darcy, The Watson’s and Emma Watson, Jane Austen: A Life, Oxford World’s Classics: Emma, and The Darcys and The Bingleys. Wow! Lots of Austen readin’ going on out there folks. Keep it up.

Actress Brenda Blethyn who portrayed Mrs. Bennet in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice is currently staring as faded southern belle Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee William’s classic play The Glass Menagerie at The Norwich Theatre Royal, September 22-27. Here is a great interview of actress Anna Chancellor who played Caroline Bingley in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, and presently appearing in the play Creditors at Covent Garden in London.

The Becoming Jane fan site has announced that The Jane Austen Centre on line magazine has added their biography of Madame LeFroy to their section on Jane Austen family biographies. Congrats ladies!

Author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell has delusions that she is the modern Jane Austen!?! Well, not quite, but this writer likes to sensationalize a bit to get our attention. Did it work?

Lost in Austen, the ITV mini-series pastiche of Pride and Prejudice on UK tellie continues to amaze us in a bus accident sort of way. The whiplash rubber necking abounds as the media and on line blogs are deconstructing episode 3 which aired this past week.  Jane Austen in Vermont blog has an interesting vantage from a British viewer, Jane Austen’s World has some fabulous screen caps and a review, AustenBlog readers continue to tell it like it is with their comments, of course I had to have my share of the conversation, and here is some eye candy for you all as Jane Austen Today displays the Hunks of Lost in Austen.

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England opened on September 19th and will continue through September 28th. On Saturday the 20th, Regency finerie was afoot as participants paraded about the city in the grand Promenade. Talented photographer Owen Benson contacted Austenprose to tell us he had uploaded many stunning shots of the event, including someone that you might recognize, Austen intern Virginia Claire Tharrington, who looks quite stunning in her mustard ribboned bonnet. Lucky girl to be there. Pea Green of course!

So where is Jane Austen’s true home? Chawton or Bath? The debate continues as the two cities duke it out over bragging rights in Literary Smackdowns: Jane Austen Territory on The L Magazine blog and Satisfaction Will Be Demanded at AustenBlog.

Unseen Austen an new radio play on BBC4 by Judith French imagines Pride and Prejudice through an impertinent and over the top Lydia Bennet and available by Podcast. Oh la! Go Lydia! Feeling sentimental? Then listen to a Podcast from CBC Radio from 1996 entitled Jane Mania, focusing on the wave of popularity spawned by the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. Sharon Farrell interviews novelist and film adaptor Fay Weldon (P&P 1979), Oxford scholar Marilyn Butler and Austen biographer Claire Tomalin. What an incredible group a well informed and witty women, talking about our favorite subject. Personally, I can never get enough of that!

The third annual R.I.P. reading challenge is underway until October 31st. This reading event is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and has a horror and Gothic theme. I have taken up the challenge and will be reading three ‘perils’ written or influenced by Jane Austen; Northanger Abbey, Pemberley Shades and The Mysteries of Udolpho. You can also join in this reading challenge since Austenprose’s two group reads during ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ in October will qualify you for R.I.P. III. So, go Gothic with us in October y’all, cuz ya won’t regret it.

Until next week, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Impulse & Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds – A Review

Darcy tried to focus his attention on her kisses, tasting the passion that was clearly sweeping between them, but the rest of his body remained all too aware of how little stood between them, and as he finally pulled Elizabeth to him, the sensation of her softness molding itself to him stole away any remaining rational thought. Chapter 7 

In this retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, author Abigail Reynolds re-imagines the famous plot and asks these burning questions. What if after Elizabeth Bennet’s refusal of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal at Hunsford, he does not disappear from her life, but arrives at her home at Longbourn determined to change her mind? What if Elizabeth seduced by his ardent attentions sets aside all propriety giving way to her base impulses? What if their mutual passion can not be abated, anticipating their wedding night? Ms. Reynolds then proceeds to creatively answer each of these questions with her spin on the retelling of Pride and Prejudice that might require some readers to suspend their disbelief and burning objections of altering one of the most cherished works in English literature, and just let go and let it happen.

The story opens with the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam at the Darcy townhouse in London. It is the summer of 1803 and two months have passed since he and his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy had visited their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh at Rosings in Kent. He is immediately informed by concerned servants and Georgina Darcy that Mr. Darcy is not quite himself, sullen and short tempered to the point of alarm. Darcy shortly reveals to him the cause of his misery; – the rejection of his marriage proposal by the woman that he loves, Elizabeth Bennet, and the reasons why she so flatly refused him. Colonel Fitzwilliam is not surprised by his attraction to the lovely Miss Bennet, only that she would refuse such an advantageous offer and Darcy’s reasons for separating his friend Charles Bingley from Elizabeth’s sister Jane. Inspired by Colonel Fitzwilliam’s advice he convinces Charles Bingley to return to his estate at Netherfield Park to renew his attentions to Jane Bennet with the ulterior motive of seeing Elizabeth and winning her heart and hand.

Readers of Pride and Prejudice will remember that after Elizabeth refuses Mr. Darcy’s first proposal that she returns home to her family at Longbourn and Mr. Darcy disappears from her life only to be re-introduced by a chance meeting at his estate of Pemberley when she is touring Derbyshire on holiday with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. In this scenario, instead of leaving their meeting to chance, Mr. Darcy has become the aggressor, taking the initiative to reconnect with Elizabeth and pursue her affections by ingratiating himself to her family, her friends and herself, first by gentlemanly means with little results, then by the Wickham school of charm and seduction which eventually breaks Elizabeth’s resolve, giving way to her passionate desires.

Impulse & Initiative offers Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to explore yet another avenue of a story that we all just can not seem to get enough of as evidenced by the many prequels, sequels, retellings and pastiches available. It is creative and clever in theory, but do the ‘what if’ questions really need to be asked and answered? Possibly, but at times while reading Impulse & Initiative I felt like I was privy to a creative writing assignment where students were asked to take a story from classic literature and believably alter the plot and characters to the opposite intention of the original author. In this case, the results can at times be both believable and baffling, but unfortunately not at the same time leaving the reader in a bit of a quandary.

Abigail Reynolds has taken a huge risk in her choice of changing a classic story that is quite delightful to begin with, and whose hero and heroine Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy may be the most iconic romantic couple in popular culture short of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She might have succeeded if she had allowed the characters integrity to continue from Austen’s original concept. Instead we are asked to suspend our disbelief beyond equal measure and accept well known characters acting in a manner that does not constitute their happiness or ours. Reynold’s Mr. Darcy has changed from the honorable Regency gentleman that many expect into George Wickham, a plotting seducer and the type of man that Austen’s Darcy despises, and Elizabeth Bennet into a caricature of her younger sister Lydia, willing to throw off propriety for the pleasures of passion.

I am reminded of one on my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Bennet from the original novel. “One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.” Ms. Reynolds is a talented writer who shows flashes of wit and charm in her style. She has creatively blended a classic love story with a saucy romance novel, and if knowing that Darcy and Elizabeth are quite passionate about their love for one another before the marriage does not set off any decorum alarms, then this one deserves a slot in the queue on your bedside table. If you wonder why the “what if” questions needed to be asked in the first place, then try stumbling upon something else more witty.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Impulse & Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks Landmark, Sourcebooks, Inc. Naperville, Illinois (2008)
Trade paperback, 395 pages
ISBN: 9781402213571

Further Reading:

  • Review of Impulse & Initiative by Becky’s Book Reviews
  • Review of Impulse & Initiative at Turn About the Room
  • Reviews of Impulse & Initiative at Amazon.com

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose