Your Invitation to Mansfield Park

Today in the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s third novel. Janeite and Austen scholar Sarah Emsley is organizing “An Invitation to Mansfield Park”, a blog event in honor of the bicentenary. Please join the celebration over the next few months with essays on the novel by many eminent Austen scholars and just plain Janeites like me.

Many thanks to Sarah for organizing this event. The line-up of writers is amazing an I am all anticipation to party like it’s 1814.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

 

Sarah Emsley

Mansfield Park You’re invited to a conversation about Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park !

When: from May 9 to December 31, 2014

Where: right here at sarahemsley.com

I really hope you’ll join us in celebrating 200 years of Austen’s masterpiece. More than forty wonderful people are writing guest posts about Mansfield Park for my blog this year, and I hope you’ll all participate in the discussion in the comments. With exactly one month to go before the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, the countdown is on!

An Invitation to Mansfield Park

The party begins on Friday, May 9th, with Lyn Bennett’s thoughts on the first paragraph, followed in the next few weeks by Judith Thompson on Mrs. Norris and adoption, Jennie Duke on Fanny Price at age ten (“though there might not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least, nothing to disgust her relations”), Cheryl Kinney on Tom Bertram’s assessment of Dr. Grant’s health (“he…

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I have something in hand…” ~ The Publishing of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park

Countdown to the 200th birthday of the publication of Mansfield Park begins. We will be celebrating on May 9th with the Janeite universe. Many thanks to Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont Blog for this excellent blog on MP publication history!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

Jane Austen in Vermont

MP-vintagecover

I have something in hand – which I hope on the credit of P. & P. will sell well, tho’ not half so entertaining.(Ltr.  86: 3 – 6 July 1813, to Capt. Francis Austen)

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Dear Gentle Readers: This history of the publishing of Mansfield Park serves as an introduction to Sarah Emsley’s seriesAn Invitation to Mansfield Park,” which will begin on May 9th on her blog. As we celebrate this bicentenary of Austen’s third novel, published in May 1814, it seems only right to begin at the beginning, from when Austen first makes mention of Mansfield Park in her letters and its subsequent road to publication, to the later printings and early illustrated works. I am posting it here because of its length and number of illustrations – and Sarah will be re-blogging it immediately. Please continue to visit her blog for the interesting posts she…

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The Trouble with Flirting: A Novel, by Claire LaZebnik – A Review

The Trouble with Flirting, by Claire LaZebnik (2013) From the desk of Lisa Galek:

There are tons of ways to flirt… and just as many ways to break hearts in the process. A casual smile or a wink can lead to long-awaited romance or lots of unwanted attention. Claire LaZebnik explores all this and more in The Trouble with Flirting, her contemporary young adult update on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

This story is all about Franny Pearson, a high school student from Phoenix looking to get some real world experience for her college admissions essay. When Franny lands a summer internship as a costume designer with her Aunt Amelia, she ventures from home to work for the prestigious Mansfield College High School Theater Program. Even though her days are filled with sewing and sequins – Franny is determined to make some friends among the theater kids this summer.

Franny quickly runs into an old classmate – Alex Braverman, the dreamboat she’s had a crush on since eighth grade. Could this be the summer Alex finally notices her? Not if Harry Cartwright has anything to do with it. It’s bad enough that Harry’s constantly flirting with every girl in camp, but it really gets annoying when he sets his sights on Franny. Of course, she only has eyes for Alex and would never fall for a notorious flirt like Harry. Or would she? Continue reading

Jane Austen First Editions: How Much is Yours Worth?

Just in case you were interested to know how much your first editions of Jane Austen’s works were worth, this video featuring Adam Douglas, Senior Specialist in Early Literature at Peter Harrington, a rare book dealer in London, introduces a selection of Jane Austen’s first editions and explains how bindings affect value.

We just love how he handles the books. It’s like an aphrodisiac for an Austen fan as he sensually glides his hands over first editions of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park and speaks in reverent and seductive tones! Adam, you are such a Willoughby!

Enjoy!

Laurel Ann

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley – A Review

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley (2012)From the desk of Lisa Galek

If you are one of those Austen fans who think it’s a shame that Mansfield Park is so rarely adapted for modern audiences, then The Beresfords will be a welcome addition to your reading list.

When six-year-old Frannie Price is removed from the care of her drug-addicted mother and sent to live in a foster home, her mother’s sister, Marie, and her husband, Paul, sweep in (at the instance of Paul’s overbearing sister, Terri) and bring the girl to live with them in California. There, Frannie grows up in a large, luxurious home with her four older cousins (step cousins, really. They’re her uncle’s children from his previous marriage).

The oldest, Tom, is clearly the troublemaker of the bunch. The two younger sisters, Rachel and Julie, spend most of their time either arguing or ignoring Frannie. Only Jonathan, a devout Christian who is determined to one day become a pastor, shows Frannie any kindness. He soon becomes her closest friend, confidant, and, in Frannie’s heart, so much more.

In the summer of 1985, when the shy, introverted Frannie turns fourteen, Tom brings the Grant twins home from college for a visit. Frannie is instantly repulsed by Eric Grant, who flirts openly with both Rachel and Julie, playing the two sisters against each other. But the beautiful and graceful Caroline Grant, who rarely takes anything seriously and is bored by religion, easily captures Jonathan’s attention. The story plays out over the course of the next seven years, in which Frannie’s admiration and love for Jonathan are tested, her bonds with her family are strained, and she is tempted by the very person she despised all those years ago.

Mansfield Park is one of Austen’s works that’s hardly ever given a contemporary spin. Pride and Prejudice is a much more popular choice, probably because the witty, determined, Elizabeth Bennet transitions so seamlessly into a present-day heroine. The same is true of Emma Woodhouse and Marianne Dashwood. There’s something so modern and appealing about their style that it’s easy to imagine them walking around in our world.

But not every young woman sparkles with wit, charm, and confidence. That’s why the bookstore needs characters like Fanny Price. Though she’s often written off as an uptight prig, Fanny is also a dazzlingly complex character.

The Beresfords achieves the near impossible feat of staying true to Austen’s creation, while bringing her convincingly into the 20th century. The author does this by making her Frannie a very religious girl who quotes the Bible and lives by a strict Christian moral code (which she learned mainly from her beloved cousin, Jonathan). Here, Frannie is pious without being insufferable. Her reliance on scripture, her concern and love for others, and her continual striving for goodness seem natural and consistent. Like many shy girls before her, Frannie struggles to follow her convictions but, eventually, grows in self-esteem and confidence in her own choices.

Austen’s other characters are all convincingly updated and (dare I say it) even improved at times. Jonathan is as admirable and yet, at times, clueless as Edmund ever was. The other Beresford children and their parents are equally well done. Mrs. Norris becomes the micro-managing Aunt Terri, who is forever going around picking on Frannie and telling everyone how much things cost. She’s delightful and terrible at the same time.

The plot adheres very closely to Mansfield Park, but every moment feels fresh and new. The stakes are heightened to give modern readers the jolt they need. For example, Eric Grant can no longer just flirt with Rachel Beresford in front of her boyfriend, he has to seduce her into surrendering her virginity. The ending, which is expanded from Austen’s original, actually made my heart pound and tears run down my face.

My one quarrel with the book was the dialogue. Teenagers growing up in California in the 1980’s just didn’t talk like this:

“You aren’t going inside, are you, Frannie?” [Caroline asked] “That was so helpful of you to explain Greg’s point of view. I would’ve had no idea he was the religious type… I bet you think it was mean of Eric, what he did to Greg.”

I nodded once. She might act like we were having a private conversation, but she didn’t lower her voice any.

“It was,” Caroline agreed. “You’re right. And you know what, even if that kind of stuff happens all the time in college – and I’m afraid it does – that didn’t make it less mean, does it?”

“I don’t think so,” I said in a low voice.

“I know so,” said Caroline. “You’ve convinced me. Eric must apologize to Greg. And Greg must forgive Eric. If he doesn’t I’ll set you on him, Frannie, and you can tell him exactly what you told us – that it’s his religious duty.” She smiled at me. “We’re going to see a lot of each other this summer you know, your family and mine. We can’t have anyone mad at anyone. I dub thee Frannie the Peacemaker.”

However, overall, the writing is very good quality.

I would rank The Beresfords with some of the best Austen updates I’ve ever read or seen. The author clearly knows and loves Mansfield Park and has taken her characters on wonderful journey. That’s what every Austenesque author hopes to write and every Janeite hopes to read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley
Bellavita Press (2012)
Trade paperback (402) pages
ISBN: 978-0983072126

© 2012 Lisa Galek, Austenprose

My Jane Austen Summer Book Launch Tour: Chatting with Author Cindy Jones & a Giveaway!

My Jane Austen Summer: A Season of Mansfield Park, by Cindy Jones (2011)A new Austenesque book is being launched today, and after meeting Lily Berry, Cindy Jones’ unconventional heroine we may never look at Jane Austen novel’s in the same way again! Please welcome Cindy Jones on her first stop on blog tour.

LAN: Congratulations Cindy! My Jane Austen Summer launches today. As a debut author that must be very heady. Can you share with us the premise of the book and what your inspiration was to write it?

CSJ: Thank you, Laurel Ann for hosting me on publication day.  My Jane Austen Summer is the story of a woman who believes she may finally realize her fantasy of living in a novel when she is invited to a Jane Austen Literary Festival in England.  The idea for My Jane Austen Summer developed after re-reading all six Jane Austen novels and feeling the pain of permanent separation at the last page.  I craved a book that would allow me to spend more time inside her world, I wanted Jane Austen to be present (the way she is in my head), and I wanted a stand-alone story whose plot involved my favorite Austen novel, Mansfield Park.  The book I wanted to read didn’t exist, so I wrote it myself.

LAN: Your heroine Lily Berry is very intriguing, transforming from a needy mixed-up mess to somewhere more stable and self-confident by the end of the book. Her obsession with reading Jane Austen novels to escape reality is quite endearing and at the same time troubling. Personally, I can think of nowhere better than an Austen novel to be lost in, but it does mess up her life a bit. While writing the character, did you discover anything about yourself, and what message do you hope readers discover?

CSJ: I wanted to create a character whose traits and circumstances put her at risk for self-destructive behavior.  We’ve all had intelligent friends who repeat mistakes in spite of our fervent admonitions not to, and I wanted to fix one of these people in my book.  I wanted to watch her take action and make choices under the increasing pressure of painful revelations and gentle understanding.  The more truth she understands about her situation, the more she is able to stop hurting herself and be happier in the world.  As far as a message, I would be thrilled if someone took away Lily’s discovery that Willis is attracted to her by the qualities that make her original.

“I felt uplifted by the joyful news that Willis liked me.  Not Cosmo me or Earth me—but the real me:  the original me that had been too weird to introduce to any other boyfriends.  The me I wouldn’t have been able to invent.  The me that now walked the halls as if I were Elizabeth Bennett, mistress of the tea-theatre.”

LAN: Mansfield Park is the dark horse of Jane Austen’s oeuvre. I have long been an advocate of the novel and Fanny Price. The Fanny Wars are renowned in Austen lore. Why did you choose Mansfield Park as the inspiration for your book, and how do its themes and characters support your plot?

CSJ: Mansfield Park is my favorite Austen novel, and while I read the book, Jane Austen spoke to me from between the lines.  We became best friends.  Lily’s relationship with her Jane Austen is lifted entirely from my own experience of intense friendship with an author dead 200 years.  From initial infatuation to shared activities, it is entirely possible to nurture a relationship.  But when I discovered information that cast an unfavorable light on Jane Austen, I was surprised.  Why hadn’t she told me?  And from the moment of that discovery, which Lily also makes in her story, my relationship with Jane Austen retreated to more appropriate boundaries.

However, as best friends, Jane Austen and I agree on one important thing:  bookish women should marry for love.  This point is made clearly in Mansfield Park where Austen champions the bookish Fanny Price over the witty Mary Crawford.  Critics claim that Jane Austen manipulates the plot in order for Fanny Price to prevail.  Yes, exactly!  They have made my point for me.

Mansfield Park and My Jane Austen Summer share a bookish protagonist, a wavering clergyman, and siblings with agendas.  Common themes include endurance and the search for self-knowledge.

LAN: Jane Austen’s road to publication was long and arduous. As a first time novelist, can you share with us your personal journey to publication, and offer any advice to other new aspiring authors?

CSJ: My journey to publication took ten years from the time of enrolling in my first serious writing class to the time of signing with HarperCollins.  I survived setbacks by studying the criticism of my work and using it to help me revise and try again.  Advice to aspiring authors:  listen carefully to trusted feedback, learn to cut without mercy, and persist well beyond your previously perceived limits.  For more on my journey to publication, see my post today on Girlfriends Book Club.

LAN: What revs you up to write, and what’s up next in your career?

CSJ: In order to spend years writing a book, the subject matter must arouse my curiosity and send me on a quest.  My next novel is the story of two women of similar appearance who trade places.  One flies to India with her lover who is scouting hotel sites while the other stays home with children, house, and estranged husband.  The idea of stepping into another person’s life has always intrigued me and I have enjoyed being a fly on the wall, watching a young woman discover the truth about appearances.  Jane Austen is not present in my next novel, but Byron and Shelley play supporting roles of a lecherous college professor and his dilettante friend.  Bonus: the protagonist describes the experience of reading poetry by John Keats.  The draft is almost ready for my husband to read.

LAN: Now for a bit of fun. If you could be introduced to any of Jane Austen’s colorful heroes or villains, who would it be, and what penetrating question would you ask them?

CSJ: I would love to be in the same room with Caroline Bingley.  I wouldn’t wish to actually talk to her, because she would never tell me what I want to know.  But the secrets she harbors would be revealed to me through her gestures, vocal inflections, and eye movement.  The opportunity to study her up close, in action, would provide me the information to speculate as to what variety of fear motivates her, and I would take lots of notes for future use.

Cindy Jones author of My Jane Austen Summer (2011)Author Bio:

Cindy Jones was born in Ohio and grew up in small mid-western towns, reading for escape. She dreamed of living in a novel and wrote her first book in fifth grade. A business career, husband, and four sons later, she completed My Jane Austen Summer. She has a BA, an MBA, studied creative writing in the SMU CAPE program, and belong to the The Squaw Valley Community of Writers. The winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and she lives with her family in Dallas where she has discovered that, through writing, it is entirely possible to live in a novel for a good part of each day. Visit Cindy on her website, blog First Draft or on Twitter as CindySJones.

My Jane Austen Summer Launch Day Blog Tour

My Jane Austen Summer is celebrating its publication today with a four-stop blog tour and giveaways on each blog. Visit and leave a comment on each blog for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel and a package of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, created by Bingley’s Teas, Ltd.  Each blog will hold a separate drawing, meaning four chances to win. Here’s where we’re celebrating:

Giveaway of My Jane Austen Summer & Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea

Enter a chance to win one copy of My Jane Austen Summer, by Cindy Jones and the famous Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, created by Bingley’s Teas, Ltd by leaving a comment sharing how you relate to Lily’s obsession with reading Jane Austen novels, or which novel you like most to be lost in and why, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 7, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose