Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers, by Margret C. Sullivan – A Review

Jane Austen Cover to Cover Margaret Sullivan 2014 x 400

From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

In my opinion, the true sign of loving a book is owning multiple copies and versions of it. For example, I myself own six different copies of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Over the years, I’ve found annotated versions, paperbacks, hardcovers, illustrated, vintage, and many other types of printings. I enjoy collecting different copies to compare covers, prefaces, introductions, and illustrations (if they have them.) I love finding new and used bookstores and scouring the shelves for new copies of my favorite books. As a collector will tell you, you can never have enough. I was therefore understandably excited to receive a copy of Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margret Sullivan, which is a great companion for any Austen collector. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for The Jane Austen Handbook

The Jane Austen Handbook, by Margaret Sullivan (2011)43 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of The Jane Austen Handbook, by Margaret C. Sullivan. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Barbara Kidder, who left a comment on March 22
  • Joy Andrea, who left a comment on March 22
  • Amanda, who left a comment on March 28

Congratulations ladies. To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, but especially to those who attempted to guess Margaret’s middle name. Here are some of the best names offered:

Camille, Constance, Charity, Clarissa, Clementine, Collins, Cecelia, Cordelia, Calliope, Camilla, Cressida, Candace, Cerulean, Clairvoyant, Cleopatra, Cassiopeia and Cathleen.

Some of you guessed it right off the bat. Margaret’s middle name is appropriately, Catherine – just like Jane Austen’s impressionable heroine in Northanger Abbey.

I now stand corrected. I always thought the C. was for Cluebat!

Many thanks again to all and especially Margaret. Winners, enjoy your books.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Guest Blog with the Amiable Margaret C. Sullivan, Author of The Jane Austen Handbook, & a Giveaway!

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011)Please welcome the author and editrix of AustenBlog Margaret Sullivan today. She has graciously consented to share some thoughts on her newly re-issued The Jane Austen Handbook, a lighthearted how-to book for every Regency Miss in the making.

Thanks to Laurel Ann for the opportunity to do a guest post on Austenprose about The Jane Austen Handbook. The book is part of Quirk Books’ handbooks line, which includes a Batman Handbook, a Spiderman Handbook, and some other subjects tied into popular culture–so on that level it’s pretty cool that Quirk chose Jane Austen as the subject of their first literary handbook. The idea behind the Handbook is a straight-faced presentation of a rather silly and fun premise: that should one find oneself sucked through a time warp into one of Jane Austen’s novels, and fortunate enough to be a genteel lady of the gentry rather than a scullery maid, one would be able to use the (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) advice in the Handbook to handle any situation that might arise. Sort of like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Janeite Edition. Don’t Panic!

There have been some great new reviews for the Handbook which I’ve enjoyed reading, but a question came up back when the book was first released in 2007 which has come up again with the re-release: would an average 21st-century woman really want to live in Regency England?

Well, sure! you cry. Men in breeches! Pretty gowns and bonnets! Dances every night! Polite manners! Tea! Did we mention men in breeches, and if not, Men in breeches!

And this, say the critics, is precisely the problem. We’ve read these lighthearted novels that never mention the hard lives of servants, or the fact that Napoleon’s army was rampaging across the European continent, or that a lot of the great fortunes and big houses were purchased with money acquired from the sale and labor of human beings, or that there were a lot of really poor people in England who had really horrible lives. To encourage young women to fantasize about being Mrs. Darcy in some sanitized Disneyesque Regencyland is doing them a disservice, as women in Regency England weren’t educated except for showy “accomplishments,” and they had no freedom and no way to achieve self-determination. She went from her father’s house to her husband’s house and probably died in childbed as she produced her fifteenth baby.

Well, gee, I don’t know about you, Gentle Readers, but my mellow is harshed.

Breeches?

Nope, didn’t work.

The thing is, to an extent I have to agree with all that. I really wouldn’t want to live in those days. No penicillin. No microwave ovens. No birth control. No control at all, really, for women.

But Jane Austen really didn’t ignore that stuff. Among her characters were soldiers and sailors, engaged in protecting the country from invasion or actively fighting Boney; men who ensured that the families and workers under their protection did not starve or freeze; happily married women and mothers; women who took advantage of their fathers’ libraries to fill in the gaps on their limited education. Austen did not explain every detail, because she didn’t have to. She was writing for an audience of her own contemporaries, who would have understood that Elizabeth Bennet, seeing Pemberley for the first time as a well-run house and village, not showy or pretentious, and hearing Mr. Darcy praised by “an intelligent servant” as someone who does good for the poor, did not change her opinion only because she could imagine herself living there among wealth and luxury (well, maybe a little; Lizzy was human, after all) but because it was evidence of Mr. Darcy’s true quality. The contemporary reader would have understood that Fanny Price’s first dance was a big occasion, and why she was panicky about “being looked at” as she opened the ball, and that a gentleman engaging a lady for the first dance of a ball is a sign that he is interested in her romantically. She would have understood the implications of Marianne Dashwood writing letters to Willoughby and Jane Fairfax receiving them from Frank Churchill. Because Jane Austen wrote about these everyday things with intelligence and humor, with a knowledge of her fellow men and women and a willingness to plainly show that sometimes people are awful to one another, we recognize an internal truth of the novels that have kept us reading them for two centuries. She gave us tremendous, complex characters with whom we still fall in love as we fall in love with the novels. The everyday details don’t really make a bit of difference.

So why read The Jane Austen Handbook? Well, it’s a lighthearted look at the life and times of Jane Austen’s characters, and even if they’re not vital, it still can be fun to learn about them. I tried to keep in mind the questions I had when I first read Jane Austen. What did their clothes look like? Did they do anything but go to dances, and who taught them all the dances anyway? Why are letters only one page long? Why was it such an operation to travel, and why did it take so long, and did they really stay at someone’s house for months and months? Why is it such a big deal to run away to Scotland? Why not run away to Bath or York? And for pity’s sake why didn’t they just TALK to each other? I tried to make it informative for newbies and still fun for the long-time Janeites, with lots of inside jokes and familiar comments.

And of course with the help of The Jane Austen Handbook, you’ll be a hoopy frood of a Janeite who really knows where her towel is.*

*R.I.P. Douglas Adams.

Thanks for your insights Margaret. I know that I am a wiser Janeite for having read your lovely handbook, and refer to it quite often when one of those nagging questing arise on the era.

About the author:

Margaret C. Sullivan is the Editrix of AustenBlog.com, a compendium of news and commentary about Jane Austen and her work in popular culture. She is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England (Quirk Books, 2007 and 2011) and There Must Be Murder (Girlebooks/Librifiles 2010). Her favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion, which led her to a continuing enthusiasm for Age of Sail fiction. Visit Margaret at her website Tilney and Trap Doors & blog AustenBlog.

Giveaway of The Jane Austen Handbook:

Proper Life Skills from Regency England

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of The Jane Austen Handbook, by leaving a comment answering which proper Regency life skills you think one of Jane Austen’s erring characters might have benefited from, or offer your best guess of what the C. in Margaret’s name is an abbreviation of (extra points for the most creative answer) by midnight PT, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, March 31, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

© 2007 – 2011 Margaret C. Sullivan, Austenprose

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011)Everyone loves a new frock to brighten their day, and authors are as equally excitable when it comes to re-issues of their works. We were very happy for Margaret C. Sullivan of AustenBlog fame when we learned that her excellent The Jane Austen Handbook (2007) hardcover edition was getting a second go round from its publisher Quirk Books in a new and more accessible paperback format. Not only does the pretty new cover catch the eye, the price leaves a bit more pewter in ones pocket without any changes to the original text and illustrations.

Filled with pertinent facts that every Regency Miss should be aware of to become truly accomplished, it is easy for us to recommend this great little how-to book to our readers because we have used it personally over the past four years whenever we had a question regarding deportment, dancing, playing an instrument, frock shopping and making love (in the Regency context mind you) – the top five most critical social aspects to any young Regency ladies life. One can also throw in letter writing, entertaining house guests and managing a household and just about anything else our dear Austen heroines Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse or Anne Elliot already know that might qualify them as a truly accomplished young lady in Mr. Darcy’s eyes. We shall not add Catherine Morland and Fanny Price into the mix. They are exceptions to the rule and shall be forgiven their lack of education, and might well benefit from this slim volume.

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 17

Besides being wise, this volume is also very witty, and that is where we take full enjoyment of its tongue-in-cheek manner. Who would not want to know how to choose a prospective husband (What? They do not choose us? Is that not the unspoken belief among all beaux?), how to decline an unwanted marriage proposal (Lizzy Bennet might offer some advice to Fanny Price on this too!), carry off a secret engagement (Lucy Steele and Jane Fairfax would benefit from modern Prozac no doubt), or elope to Gretna Green (Lydia Bennet FAIL). There are also other tidbits that really made us laugh too. Each page turn brought more delightful and humorous illustrations by Kathryn Rathke and informative vignettes of examples from Jane Austen’s novels like: Who Died and Made Mr. Collins the Heir of Longbourn? or the  Worst (and Funniest) Proposals in Jane Austen’s Novels. *snort*

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 165

Informative, impertinent and indispensable, The Jane Austen Handbook is a must have for anyone eager to understand anything from the obvious to the nuanced differences of society in Regency England. Lest we think this frivolous fare, it also contains a brief, but well-written bio of Jane Austen, summaries of the major novels and minor works, a glossary, a list of modern film adaptions through 2007, resources online: websites and blogs (we are forgotten, *sniff*), Austen societies, Austen places to visit, libraries and archives, and a select bibliography. Lastly, we know that Mary Bennet would happily offer her pedantic stamp of approval of this volume because it contains a full index for ease of access to Janeites on the fast track to becoming truly accomplished.

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 120

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk Publishing (2011)
Trade paperback (224) pages
ISBN: 978-1594745058

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

There Must be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)I was once told by an academic that Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was the least read of her six major novels. Shocking. I can’t think why; or why we even need to rank masterpieces among masterpieces. I adore it. I will admit that it was the last of her major novels that I read, so I may be proof to her pudding. Yes, the academic shall remain unnamed and duly forgotten; but Northanger Abbey should not.

I sincerely regretted waiting so long to read it. I laughed and rolled my eyes at the incredible skill of Austen at parodying Gothic romances, and for creating a hero, unlike any of her others, whose sense of humor and endearing charm make the über romantic icon Mr. Darcy dull in comparison to Mr. Tilney’s sparkling wit. Who, pray tell, could not love a man who loves a woman who thinks she cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible, or who thinks people who have no pleasure in a good novel are intolerably stupid? *swoon*

Northanger Abbey sequels are as scarce as a comely heiress. I can count them on one hand. There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan is a welcome addition to the slim collection. At 118 pages and twelve chapters it qualifies as a novella. I am not complaining. At all. I will take a Jane Austen sequel continuing the story after the wedding of our heroine in the making Catherine Morland and Austen’s most underrated hero Henry Tilney without hesitation, but with a wary eye. The story has a promising beginning. The tone is pleasing and the reverence to canon characters a relief.

We find Catherine and Henry comfortably settled as newlyweds at Woodston parsonage in Gloucestershire. Ever the thoughtful romantic, Henry proposes that they celebrate the anniversary of their first meeting in Bath with a visit to the city. Once there they are reunited with Henry’s sister Eleanor and introduced to her new husband Lord Whiting. Also in attendance at the Lower Rooms is Henry’s father the dour autocrat General Tilney, his recently widowed wealthy neighbor Lady Beauclerk, her twenty-seven year-old unmarried daughter Judith, and her husband’s nephew and heir Sir Philip Beauclerk. Catherine is happy to dance the night away, while family differences bubble and stew.

Illustration by Cassandra Chouinard in There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)As Henry and Catherine continue to enjoy the delights of Bath attractions, they begin to learn that there are suspicious circumstances involving the death of General Tilney’s neighbor Sir Arthur Beauclerk brought forward by his widowed sister Fanny Findlay. She believes his death had not been natural – and it appears that many in this unhappy family would benefit from his early demise. The suspects stack up like winter cordwood ready for the fire. Is it the wife, Lady Beauclerk, eager to be free of his miserly pocketbook?  The daughter, Miss Judith, squashed by parental oppression? The dissipated nephew, Sir Philip, prohibiting his uncle from changing the will? Or the sister, Mrs. Findlay, ready to bump off all the heirs in line before her to regain the family fortune? Catherine’s Gothic inspired imagination may serve her well as a detective, if Henry can temper her impulses and guide them to a logical conclusion.

There Must Be Murder had me hooked at Henry reading Udolpho, Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, to his young bride in bed. Brilliant. It is exactly how I envisioned their marriage would continue: Henry romantically feeding his wife’s passion for a horrid novel and Catherine finding new insights from the text from his patient and humorous explanations. The story cleverly builds, slowly layering in new characters, revealing family conflicts, planting evidence. Along the way we revisit Milsom-street, Beechen Cliff, the Pump-room, Laura Place and all the highlights of Catherine’s first adventure in the beautiful Georgian-era city. Sullivan has captured the charm and endearing delight of Austen’s characters beautifully, added new ones rich in folly and nonsense, and a Newfoundland dog named MacGuffin who steals every scene. The numerous illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard are enchanting. My only disappointment was in the length. It was over much too quickly. Austen’s Henry Tilney would have been annoyed, claiming this shortcoming was “nice.”  We will agree.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard
LibriFiles Publishing (2010)
Trade paperback (118) pages
ISBN: 978-0615425870

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

New Jane Austen Short Story Anthology Announced Today

Hot off the presses is an announcement today in Publishers Weekly of a new Jane Austen short story anthology to be published by Random House in 2011. The collection will include approximately twenty stories inspired by Jane Austen, literature’s witty muse of the modern novel and astute observer of human nature and the heart.

Readers familiar with Austen inspired paraliterature will recognize many popular authors among the list of those contributing and a few surprises from best selling authors who greatly admire Austen’s works. Contributing to the line-up are best selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club), Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series) and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Approximately twenty Austenesque authors and others from related genres have already committed to the project including:

Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Trilogy)

Elizabeth Aston (Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, & Writing Jane Austen)

Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series, & The White Garden)

Carrie Bebris (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series)

Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, & Mrs. Elton in America)

Frank Delaney (Shannon, Tipperary, & Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)

Monica Fairview (The Darcy Cousins, & The Other Mr. Darcy)

Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club, & Wits End)

Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, & Mr. Darcy’s Diary)

Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, & The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte)

Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances)

Janet Mullany (Bespelling Jane Austen, & Rules of Gentility)

Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, & Willoughby’s Return)

Beth Pattillo (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, & Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart)

Alexandra Potter (Me & Mr. Darcy, & The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: A Novel)

Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino Bradway (Lady Vernon & Her Daughter)

Myretta Robens (Pemberley.com , Just Say Yes, & Once Upon a Sofa)

Maya Slater (The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy)

Margaret C. Sullivan (AustenBlog.com, & The Jane Austen Handbook)

Adriana Trigiani (Brava Valentine, Very Valentine, & Lucia, Lucia)

Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)

Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series)

In addition, a short story contest hosted by the venerable The Republic of Pemberley website will be held to fill one slot in the anthology for a new voice in Austenesque fiction. Further details on submission and manuscript deadlines will be posted here and at Pemberley.com.

And if you were wondering how I know so much about the project, I have been secretly working on it for months and will be the editor. I’m the luckiest Janeite in the world!

Cheers, Laurel Ann

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose