Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen, edited by Gabrielle Malcolm – A Review

Fan Phenomena Jane Austen 2015 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Jane Austen fans cannot be filed neatly into a single category any more than Austen’s works can be limited to one literary genre. How might an editor attempt to do justice to the multiplicity of Janeite fandom in a slim volume of essays and interviews? This question was uppermost in my mind as I began reading Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen. The Fan Phenomena series website explains that the goal of the series is to “look at particular examples of ‘fan culture’ and approach the subject in an accessible manner aimed at both fans and those interested in the cultural and social aspects of these fascinating–and often unusual–‘universes’.” 

What is the joy of Jane? What is it about her work that keeps readers, and viewers, coming back for more? Is it the Darcy effect? Is it the irony, the wit, the romance? Or is it a combination of all these factors? Many critics and authors have compiled works to analyse this vast and still growing phenomenon of fandom…This collection offers material about the fans, for the fans, by the fans, and offers a combination of the popular and the academic. (5)

Editor Gabrielle Malcom’s introduction provides a clear description of the purpose and scope of the collection. She acknowledges the differences between mainstream fan culture and the academic treatment of Austen. After setting Austen’s work in its historical context with a few concise and insightful paragraphs, she provides brief descriptions of the essays and interviews that follow. While Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen has the look of an academic journal, its design and use of color photographs creates a visually appealing experience for the reader, with the exception of the excessively small font size used for the text of the essays. Although I suspect that the text format is dictated by the Fan Phenomena series as a whole and not unique to this volume, the cramped appearance distracted me from the content at times. I found the format used in the Fan Appreciation interviews to be much more appropriate and reader-friendly. Continue reading

Austenprose’s Best Austenesque/Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2014

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Another fabulous year of reading has passed with many memorable books for Janeites to devour. We reviewed 68 of them this past year and would like to share our list of what we feel were the Best Austenesque Books of 2014. 

Best Austenesque Historical Novels 2014: 

  1. Consequences: A Cautionary Pride and Prejudice Variation, by C. P. Odom (5 stars)
  2. Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James (5 stars)
  3. The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
  4. The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Paynter (5 stars)
  5. The Secret Betrothal: A Pride and Prejudice Alternate Path, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)
  6. Pirates and Prejudice, by Kara Louise (5 stars)
  7. Emma and Elizabeth: A story based on The Watsons, by Jane Austen, by Ann Mychal (5 stars)
  8. Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, by Jack Caldwell (5 stars)
  9. Follies Past, by Melanie Kerr (5 stars)
  10. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (4.5 stars

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At Home with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson – A Review

At Home with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson 2014 x 300From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

I have been a Kim Wilson fan since reading her books In the Garden with Jane Austen and Tea with Jane Austen. Her latest work At Home with Jane Austen, a luscious coffee table book, promises a virtual tour of the places Austen called home. Some of these homes were permanent residences and others were temporary: the sites of visits to wealthy relatives or seaside holidays with her family.

The chapter titles follow the course of Austen’s life. After introducing “The Author” in the first chapter, the remaining chapters are Steventon, Away at School, Bath, Travels and Tours, Stately Mansions, Southampton, By the Sea, Chawton, London, and Winchester. True to its genre, you could have a lovely experience of this book by merely turning the pages and looking at the illustrations and photographs. However, I found Kim Wilson’s narrative of Austen’s life, focused on her surroundings and travels in southern England, to be equally appealing and informative.  As Ms. Wilson points out:

Though Jane changed her residence many times, family and home remained the emotional center of her life. She expressed her love of home in her work, creating heroes and heroines who also cherish the idea of home, even when, like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, they are uprooted and must learn to love a new one: “When [Fanny] had been coming to Portsmouth, she had loved to call it her home, had been fond of saying that she was going home; the word had been very dear to her; and so it still was, but it must be applied to Mansfield. That was now the home. Portsmouth was Portsmouth; Mansfield was home.” (10)

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Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers, by Margaret C. Sullivan: Cover Reveal & Preview

Jane Austen Cover to Cover, by Margaret Sullivan 2014

I am very pleased to have the ironic honor of officially revealing the cover of a new book about Austen-inspired book covers, Jane Austen: Cover to Cover, by Margaret Sullivan. I think it rather handsome myself. My background in design gives it two big thumbs up to the artist commissioned by Quirk Books and to the author for having the good taste of approving it.

Cover design is a tricky thing that I am quite opinionated about. Over the years there have been many good, bad and down-right ugly Jane Austen book covers and I am so excited to see what Margaret has selected illustrating our favorite author’s novels, nonfiction and more. Here is a brief preview of the book from the publisher and the author.

Congratulations to Margaret.  Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers releases on 11 November 2014. Pre-orders are available through Quirk Books and many online and brick and mortar booksellers.

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: 

Jane Austen’s six novels are true classics, still immensely popular some 200 years after their first publication.

But although the celebrated stories never change, the covers are always different. Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design, from elegant Victorian hardcovers and the famed 1894 “Peacock” edition to 1950s pulp, movie tie-in editions, graphic novels, foreign-language translations, and many, many others. Filled with beautiful artwork and insightful commentary, this fascinating and visually intriguing collection is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe.

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Giveaway Winners Announced for Among the Janeites

Among the Janeites, by Deborah Yaffe (2013)68 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of Among the Janeites, by Deborah Yaffe. The six winners drawn at random are:

  • Ellie who left a comment on August 06, 2013
  • Maycomber who left a comment on August 06, 2013
  • Karen Field who left a comment on August 06, 2013
  • Robyn B. who left a comment on August 06, 2013
  • Cathyallen who left a comment on August 06, 2013
  • Danielle C. who left a comment on August 07, 2013

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 21, 2013. Shipment to US addresses.

Thanks to all who left comments, to author Deborah Yaffe for her great guest blog, and to her publisher Mariner Books for supplying the giveaway copies.

Book cover image courtesy of Mariner Books © 2013; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose