Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for July 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in July, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Murder at Mansfield Park, by Lynn Shepherd

Mansfield Park is considered (by some) to be the dark horse of Austen’s oeuvre and her heroine Fanny Price weak and insipid. I do not agree, but the majority of readers might find this new novel an improvement since the narrative is “renovated” (not unlike Sotherton) and Fanny gets bumped off. Shepherd mixes up Austen’s classic story by switching the protagonist and antagonist, morphing other characters and plot points and spotlighting the murder instead of the the moralistic undertones that Austen chose to soft shoe her narrative. Personally, secondary to Jane Austen, I enjoy a good murder mystery, so this reader is quite charmed at the possibility of having both together. (Publishers description) In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price–whom Jane Austen’s own mother called “insipid”–has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It’s only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime. Featuring genuine Austen characters–the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist – Murder at Mansfield Park is a brilliantly entertaining novel that offers Jane Austen fans an engaging new heroine and story to read again and again. St. Martin’s Griffin, Trade Paperback (384) pages, ISBN: 978-0312638344

Review of Murder at Mansfield Park in the Sterling Observer

Austen’s Oeuvre

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, illustrator Chris Hammond, introduction by Joseph Jacobs

Dover has done it again! They have taken a classic Victorian illustrated edition of a Jane Austen novel and reproduced the interior exactly offering the book lover the next best thing to the original. Their first volume in this series of hardback collector editions was Pride and Prejudice. For any of you who collect vintage Austen editions it is a reproduction of the popular and pricey 1894 ‘Peacock’ edition illustrated by Hugh Thomson. This edition of Sense and Sensibility illustrated by Chris Hammond is even more beautiful and my personal favorite Victorian edition of a Jane Austen novel. Enjoy! (Publishers description) A delightful comedy of manners, this novel concerns the romantic travails of two sisters, who struggle to balance passion and prudence. It abounds in the author’s customary wit and engaging characterizations. This handsome hardcover gift edition features a dust jacket and more than 60 charming drawings by a leading Victorian-era illustrator. Dover Publications, Hardcover (416) pages, ISBN: 978-0486477435.

Audiobooks

The Watsons/Sanditon (Naxos Complete Classics), by Jane Austen, read by Anna Bentinck

Now available outside of the audio collection Jane Austen: the Complete Novels, readers can listen to two of Austen’s unfinished works professionally produced and read by BBC Radio personality Anna Bentinck. They are gems, and you might be pleasantly surprised. (Publishers description) One abandoned, one unfinished, these short works show Austen equally at home with romance (a widowed clergyman with four daughters must needs be in search of a husband or two in The Watsons) and with social change (a new, commercial seaside resort in Sanditon). Typically touching, funny, charming and sharp. Naxos AudioBooks, 4 CDs, 4h 29m, ISBN: 978-9626342817

Read my review of The Watsons/Sanditon

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Helen, by Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was a major “best selling” novelist of her day, surpassing many of her male counterparts. Jane Austen admired her so much that she sent one of the 12 presentation copies of Emma that she received from her publisher even though they had never corresponded or met. Regretfully, Austen did not have the opportunity to read Helen since she died in 1817, but you can judge for yourself why she and her contemporaries valued Edgeworth and why she merits this re-issue of her 1834 novel. (Publishers description) The last and most psychologically powerful novel by Jane Austen’s leading rival, the newly orphaned Helen Stanley is urged to share the home of her childhood friend Lady Cecilia. This charming socialite, however, is withholding secrets and soon Helen is drawn into a web of ‘white lies’ and evasions that threaten not only her hopes for marriage but her very place in society. A fascinating panorama of Britain’s political and intellectual elite in the early 1800s and a gripping romantic drama, Helen was the inspiration for Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. Sort of Books, Trade paperback (544) pages, ISBN: 9780956003898

Review of Helen in the Scotland Herald

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Maria Edgeworth – One of Jane Austen’s Favorite Novelist

“And what are you reading, Miss –?” “Oh! it is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language. Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5 

Portrait of Miss Maria Edgeworth, by John Downman (1807)Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was an Anglo-Irish author most famously remembered by Janeites as being favored by Jane Austen with a presentation copy of Emma in 1816 which Edgeworth read, did not understand, or appreciate. “There’s no story in it,”  she wrote to a friend and then never acknowledge or thanked the author for sending it to her before publication. Previously, Austen had paid homage to Edgeworth’s talent by mentioning her with another famous female novelist of the era in her reproving “In Defense of a Novel passage in Northanger Abbey quoted above. 

In Jane Austen’s time, novels were considered low-brow and unworthy of serious consideration by critics and general society. By mentioning Cecilia: or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782) and Camilla: Or, A Picture of Youth (1796) by Frances Burney and Belinda (1801) by Maria Edgeworth, Austen ironically defends writing and reading novels in the midst of a novel parodying gothic novels. A nice bit of genteel saber rattling indeed. 

When you read Maria Edgeworth’s works, she takes a much different perspective with her characters and plot than Austen, delving into areas where she never chose to tread: politics, religion and social unrest. Edgeworth’s reaction to the level of everyday events and secluded activity of a few families in Highbury must have bored her to tears to have made such a biting comment and exemplifies how progressive Austen’s advancement of the English novel truly was. 

Further links 

*Portrait of Miss Maria Edgeworth (1807) by John Downman (1750-1824), pencil and watercolor heightened with white from the Bloomsbury auction  2009

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for June

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in June, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Twenty two days and counting to the highly anticipated parallel story of author Laurie Viera Rigler’s best selling Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. This time around it is Regency era Jane Mansfield who is transported into the body of 21stcentury Courtney Stone, and confronted head on with the modern world, resplendent with iPods, television and modern mores! (Publisher’s description) While Confessions took twenty-first-century free spirit Courtney Stone into the social confines of Jane Austen’s era, Rude Awakenings tells the parallel story of Jane Mansfield, a gentleman’s daughter from Regency England who inexplicably awakens in Courtney’s overly wired and morally confused L.A. life. Jane relishes the privacy, independence, even the power to earn her own money. But how is she to fathom her employer’s incomprehensible dictates about “syncing a BlackBerry” and “rolling a call”? How can she navigate a world in which entire publications are devoted to brides but flirting and kissing and even the sexual act itself raise no matrimonial expectations? Even more bewildering are the memories that are not her own. And the friend named Wes, who is as attractive and confusing to Jane as the man who broke her heart back home. It’s enough to make her wonder if she would be better off in her own time, where at least the rules are clear—that is, if returning is even an option. Dutton Adult, ISBN: 978-0525950769

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy: A Novel, by Maya Slater

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy (2009)Previously published in the UK as Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Maya Slater’s clever, funny and insightful novel was my favorite Jane Austen inspired book of 2007.  Now, this controversial look at Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective has been transported across the pond, renamed, and will be storming the American colonies on June 15th. This look at Mr. Darcy’s private diary may be a shock to Austen purist, but in my humble opinion, he is the Darcy you should get to know. (Publisher’s description) Literature’s most famous romantic hero opens his diary: it’s intimate, dramatic, deeply passionate, and sometimes downright shocking. Have you ever wondered what Mr. Darcy was really thinking? Find out his secrets in this captivating novel of love, pride, passion, and, of course, prejudice. Mr. Darcy’s intimate diary reveals his entanglements with women, his dangerous friendship with Lord Byron, his daily life in Georgian London, his mercurial mood swings calmed only by fisticuffs at Jackson’s—and, most importantly, his vain struggle to conquer his longing for Elizabeth Bennet. W.W. Norton & Co, ISBN: 978-0393336368

Prada & Prejudice, Mandy Hubbard (2009)Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard

Not an Austen knockoff per se, but close. This young adult novel appeals to this not so young adult too! (Publisher’s description) To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips…conks her head…and wakes up in the year 1815! There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily’s family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily’s cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant. But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex’s heart, before her time in the past is up? More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present. Razorbill, ISBN: 978-1595142603

Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, by Fenella Miller (2009)Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, by Fenella J Miller

I like to support emerging authors and this first effort gives us a new perspective on two characters from Pride and Prejudice that have not been over done, yet! The cover art by Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story) is enchanting. (Publisher’s description) In Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, Fenella J Miller returns to Jane Austen’s best loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, giving an insight into both Charles and Jane’s private thoughts through that difficult year. We discover what Jane did in London and how Charles filled the days until he was able to return to Netherfield. This book takes us past the wedding – when Kitty Bennet becomes the heroine of the hour. “Jane Bennet is in the spotlight in Fenella-Jane Miller’s delightful novel. We see Jane’s growing love for Bingley as well as her view of Elizabeth and Darcy’s unfolding relationship, and we find out what happened to her in London when she thought all was lost. Humorous, engaging and true to Jane Austen’s world, this is a charming read for Austen fans.” Amanda Grange is the bestselling author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary. Park Publishing, ISBN: 978-0956153104

The Other Mr. Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2009) UK editionThe Other Mr. Darcy, by Monica Fairview

For UK readers, watch for this creative new novel focusing on Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s American cousin! US readers will be happy to know that Sourcebooks has picked up the paperback rights and The Other Mr. Darcy will be available with a beautiful new cover and a longer title starting in October. (Publisher’s description) When Caroline Bingley, for the first time in her life, collapses to the floor and sobs at Mr. Darcy’s wedding, she does not think anyone is watching. Imagine her humiliation when she discovers that a stranger has witnessed her emotional display. Miss Bingley, understandably, resents this unknown gentleman very much, even if he is Mr. Darcy’s American cousin. And a year later, when she is forced to travel to Pemberley with him, she still has not forgiven him. But her attempts to snub him fail completely, and, as the Bennet’s descend upon them, she finds herself spending more and more time in his company, with her rigid standards of behaviour slipping slowly away…Is there more to the infamous Miss Bingley than meets the eye? And can this other Mr. Darcy break through her reserve? Robert Hale Ltd, London, ISBN: 978-0709088110

The Corinthian, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Corinthian, by Georgette Heyer

The next installment by Sourcebooks of Regency romance queen Georgette Heyer’s classic novels is the reissue of The Corinthian which was originally published during war torn Britain in 1940. It is as welcome to readers today as it was sixty-nine years ago. (Publisher’s description) Georgette Heyer presents her sparkling wit with a Shakespearean twist. Walking home at dawn, quite drunk, Sir Richard Wyndham encounters heiress Penelope Creed climbing out her window. She is running away from a dreaded marriage to her fish-lipped cousin, while Sir Richard himself is contemplating a loveless marriage with a woman his friends have compared to a cold poultice. Sir Richard can’t allow her to careen about the countryside unchaperoned, even in the guise of a boy, so he pretends to be her tutor and takes her on a fine adventure. When their stagecoach overturns, they find themselves embroiled with thieves, at the center of a murder investigation, and finally, in love. Sourcebooks, Casablanca, ISBN: 978-1402217692

Nonfiction 

Jane Austen and Enlightenment, by Peter Knox-Shaw (2009)Jane Austen and the Enlightenment, by Peter Knox-Shaw

This scholarly treatise is now available for the first time in paperback for those, like me, without deep pockets. It amazes how Austen’s prose style is dissected and compared to everyone and anything. Scholars can not agree when the age of Enlightenment started and ended, but its principles of self actualization certainly apply to Austen characters and plots. (Publisher’s description) It is now widely understood that Jane Austen’s writing and thought derived directly from her late eighteenth-century childhood, but astonishingly this is the first study of the influence on Jane Austen of the Enlightenment. In drawing out the Enlightenment principles and ideas which lie behind much of Austen’s writing, Peter Knox-Shaw brings a whole new perspective to the study of Austen’s novels. Jane Austen and the Enlightement is essential reading for all those interested in Austen and her writing. Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 978-0521759977

Relocating Shakespeare and Austen on Screen, by Lisa Hopkins (2009)Relocating Shakespeare and Austen on Screen, by Lisa Hopkins

Professor Lisa Hopkins, a Shakespearean expert, chats about Austen film adaptations and reinterpretations: Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bride and Prejudice, Becoming Jane, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and two of the 2007 adaptations: Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Not much room left for Shakespeare, but Janeites won’t mind. (Publisher’s description) Lisa Hopkins analyzes eight film adaptations which have taken either Shakespeare or Jane Austen – icons of Englishness – out of their original geographical or cultural context and transposed them to a new location, allowing for a powerful interrogation both of what these texts mean in the modern world, and of Englishness itself. Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN: 978-0230579552

Austen’s Contemporaries

Castle Rackrent (Oxford World's Classics), by Maria Edgeworth (2009)Castle Rackrent (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth

From Maria Edgeworth’s perspective, it is easy to see why she disliked Jane Austen’s novel Emma, claiming “there’s no story in it.” I respectfully disagree with her opinion, and so do many, but she preferred instead to write about a larger sphere than “two or three families in a country village” and delved into areas where Austen never chose to tread: politics, religion and social unrest. Sir Walter Scott thought both writers were brilliant, so that evens the score. (Publisher’s description) With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie. Set in Ireland prior to its achieving legislative independence from Britain in 1782, Castle Rackrent tells the story of three generations of an estate-owning family as seen through the eyes — and as told in the voice — of their longtime servant, Thady Quirk, recorded and commented on by an anonymous Editor. This edition of Maria Edgeworth’s first novel is based on the 1832 edition, the last revised by her, and includes Susan Kubica Howard’s foot-of-the-page notes on the text of the memoir as well as on the notes and glosses the Editor offers “for the information of the ignorant English reader.” Howard’s Introduction situates the novel in its political and historical context and suggests a reading of the novel as Edgeworth’s contribution to the discussion of the controversial Act of Union between Ireland and Britain that went into effect immediately after the novel’s publication in London in 1800. The second edition now includes new notes informed by the latest scholarship. Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN: 978-0199537556

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for February 2009

A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that Austen inspired books are heading our way in February, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)  

Mr. Darcy’s Dream: A Novel. Elizabeth Aston continues with her sixth novel of the entertaining exploits of the Darcy family post Pride and Prejudice. (publishers description) This time out Mr. Darcy’s young niece Phoebe is shattered by an unhappy romance, and retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted cousin Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning the girls’ hearts. As preparations for the ball which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are to give at Pemberley gain momentum, mischief and love triangles abound, making life as difficult as possible for anyone connected with the Darcy family. Touchstone. ISBN: 978-1416547266. Early review by Christina Boyd  at Amazon

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Patillo (2009)Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo. Not a sequel, but a contemporary adventure comedy inspired by Jane Austen’s life. (publishers description) English professor Emma Grant is denied tenure in the wake of a personal scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce. Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn’t as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma’s first love makes everything more complicated. Guideposts Books. ISBN: 978-0824947712. Early review by Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen’s World

Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the hero Fitzwilliam Darcy. If you’re thinking that this angle does not sound new, of course you are correct. A quick count at Amazon reveals five books based on the same premise (and I’m sure there are more). It’s intriguing that authors keep trying to top the last effort, so we shall see if she succeeded. (publishers description) Witty and amusing, this novel captures the original style, themes and sardonic humor of Jane Austen’s novel while turning the entire story on its head in a most engaging and entertaining fashion. Darcy’s Passions tells the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his obsession with the most impossible woman-Elizabeth Bennet. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569756997. Reviews of the self published edition from 2008 at Amazon.  

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)Love, Lies and Lizzie (Jane Austen in the 21st Century), by Rosie Rushton. In her fourth in the series of young adult Austen novels, author Rosie Rushton continues retelling Jane Austen’s stories as she takes the famous Pride and Prejudice and reimagines what might have happened if Lizzie Bennet and her sisters had been teenagers in the 21st century. If you enjoyed her previous Austen inspired novels Summer of Secrets, Secrets of Love, Secret Schemes, Daring Dreams, and The Dashwood Sisters Secrets of Love then you should check this one out too. (author quote)  “Find out what the devious George Wickham, the lush Darcy and the ghastly Drew Collins do to wreck the lives of the Bennet sisters – and let me know what you think about my new ending!” Piccadilly Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-1853409790  

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer. Not Jane Austen, but darn close. Even thirty five years after her death, no one has come close to matching Heyer’s unique and engaging style at the Regency era comedy/romance. Sourcebooks continues in their quest to republish this worthy author and introduce her to a whole new generation of readers. (publishers description) Horatia Winwood is a plain girl with a stutter. When she rescues her sister from an undesired marriage to the Earl of Rule by proposing to him herself, he is thoroughly impressed by her spirit and enjoys watching her take the ton by storm. When Rule’s archenemy, Sir Robert, tries to kiss Horatia, she spurns his advances, and in the ensuing scuffle loses an heirloom brooch. Horatia’s brother’s hare-brained scheme to recover the brooch fails, and then the Earl himself must step in, challenging Sir Robert in a swordfight that is Heyer at her most stirring. Sourcebooks, Casablanca. ISBN: 978-1402217722. Review by  Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf.

Nonfiction 

Bloom's Modern Critical Views (2009)Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, by Harold Bloom. The Bloom’s literary volumes have turned into a major resource on author lives and critical reception. I own the sister volume to this second edition, Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Classical Critical Views and can attest that they are wonderful resources on opinions of Jane Austen. (publishers description) Putting her in elite company, Harold Bloom suggests Jane Austen will survive with the likes of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Critical essays offer insight into Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. A part of our Bloom’s Major Novelists series, this volume is designed to present biographical, critical, and bibliographical information on the playwright’s best-known works. This series is edited by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English, New York University Graduate School; preeminent literary critic of our time. Titles include detailed plot summaries of the novel, extracts from scholarly critical essays on the novels, a complete bibliography of the writer’s novels, and more. Chelsea House Publications; New edition. ISBN 978-1604133974 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics (2009)Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics. This unabridged audio book is read by Donada Peters, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices who has won over a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards. Also included is a PDF eBook containing the full text.  (publisher’s description) When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor—and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status—puts all to right. Written in 1798 but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong, and infinitely subtle in its comedy. Tantor Unabridged Classics. ISBN:  978-1400110780 

Austen’s contemporaries  

Belinda (Oxford World's Classics), Maria Edgeworth (2009)Belinda (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth. Even though Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth were never formally introduced, Austen admired the author so much that she sent a presentation copy of Emma to her in advance of its publication. Edgeworth did not return the complement saying “there is no story in it.” Belinda was originally published in 1801 and is offered in this nicely introduced and supplemented re-issue by OWP. (publishers description) The lively comedy of this novel in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity. Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence. Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. The 1802 text used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0199554683

  • Catch up on previous months of  the Austen book sleuth in the archive. 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann