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

Pemberley Shades: The Legend of the Lost Sequel

Sourcebooks, Inc has just re-issued the classic Pride and Prejudice sequel Pemberley Shades, by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt. Originally published in 1949, this valued and quite rare book is the first Pride and Prejudice sequel to continue the story after the marriage of our favorite couple, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy concluded in Jane Austen’s famous novel. The long road to reprinting Pemberley Shades has been a winding journey that I enjoyed researching. There are many people to thank for making this cherished sequel available again who I have attempted to credit. I offer my thanks and congratulations to everyone who had a hand in it. Well done. 

The Legend of the Lost Sequel

Imagine walking into a bookstore and finding a novel by an unknown author that continued the story of a book written close to 200 years ago. Would you be tempted to purchase it? Now, what if that novel was based on the characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice ? No problem you say, and readily present your cash and carry it home. In turn, imagine that it is 1949 and you are without the benefit of years of memories of Mr. Darcy plunging into the Pemberley pond or rising like a god through the mist of a field to haunt you. Up until this point, there is only one Jane Austen sequel written, and most likely you have not heard of it. Your effortless purchase in 2008 now becomes pure impulse based on the cultural clout of Jane Austen’s name. That was exactly what author Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt and publishers Allan Wingate in London and E.P. Dutton of New York were banking on, and after nearly sixty years after its first publication, Pemberley Shades is still commanding our attention and selling in bookstores thanks to some very devoted Janeites.

It is quite amazing to think that new ground was being forged here by Bonavia-Hunt nearly one hundred and thirty six years after Pride and Prejudice was first published. She was writing for genre that would not be realized by publishers and the public for another forty-five years with the publication of Pemberley: Pride and Prejudice Continued  by Emma Tennant. Not much is known about her personal life beyond the basic vital statics documented by her birth and death, and a few census records in England. Born Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt in London in 1880, she was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman and was raised in a literary and musical environment. Her father was Rev. Henry George Bonavia-Hunt, who founded the Trinity College of Music in 1872 in London, and her mother the authoress Madeline Bonavia-Hunt. She had three siblings and her younger brother Noel Aubrey followed in his father’s footsteps as an ordained minister and noted authority of secular organ music. Like Jane Austen, she remained a spinster and lived with family most of her life, writing Pemberley Shades while living with her brother Noel when he was Vicar of St. Leonard’s Stagsden, Bedfordshire.

St. Leonard’s church, Stagsden, Bedfordshire, England where Dorothy
Bonavia-Hunt’s  brother Noel was vicar from 1937-1956

Pemberley Shades was first published in 1949 in England by Allan Wingate, London & E.P. Dutton, New York, each publisher creating their own cover art and text design. Interestingly the English version which depicts a bucolic country scene with Regency attired figures dominating the composition seems much more appealing today than the US edition which primarily focuses on the architectural prominence of the facade of a country manor house and secondarily on the small walking figures in the foreground. I find the focus of the two book covers amusing. The English publisher in postwar Britain appealing to the return to gentrified living in war torn England, and the US publisher stimulating desire in post war US to have gentrified living with a grand house! The book did have a second printing the same year by E.P. Dutton, so obviously, Americans were craving English culture and stories written about English classic novels. The popularity of the 1940 MGM movie Pride and Prejudice staring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier didn’t hurt its sales either!

Two covers of Pemberley Shades. Left Allan Wingate, London
and right E.P. Dutton, New York (1949)

And so it was finally in print, sold and then faded away. For the next forty-four years there were no sequels written to Jane Austen’s novels. The BBC started its production of adaptations of Austen novels for television in the early 1970’s and interest began to slowly build again in her work. In 1977 Folcroft Library Editions (Folcroft, PA) re-printed Pemberley Shades duplicating the E.P. Dutton US edition. These editions were a private printing available for libraries to purchase, and as the years passed and libraries deaccessioned their collections, copies made their way into private hands.

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy & Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet
 in the mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Twenty years later an event would acknowledge Jane Austen’s genius in a way that no one could have anticipated. The 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice aired in the UK causing an immediate Austen explosion, which turned nuclear when it crossed the pond and aired in the US in 1996. Austen was now the darling of Hollywood making her boffo box office with the release of the Oscar nominated adaptation by Emma Thompson’s of Sense and Sensibility and Nick Dear’s interpretation of Persuasion. Renewed interest in Jane Austen now prompted a slew of authors ready to take on her characters with prequels, sequels, retellings, continuations and imaginings compounded by the advent of the personal computer and the Internet. This new informational highway had given rise to an appreciation of Austen with new websites such as The Republic of Pemberley devoted to her works, the movies, – and a new spin-off – the burgeoning genre of Jane Austen fan fiction found at sites like The Derbyshire Writers Guild.

Enter Marsha Altman, author of the newly released Austen-esque novel The Darcys and the Bingleys, but at that time still a student at City College in New York. Enraptured by Joe Wright’s 2005 creative and earthy film interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, she begins writing fan fiction and publishing on-line.

When I really started getting into Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, I decided to try and get my hands on almost every sequel out there, which included a lot that were out-of-print. There were two things that were just totally unavailable: Any of the Rebecca Ann Collins books, which were only published in Australia, and some legendary ancient sequel called Pemberley Shades that everyone who had seemed to love. Some used copies were floating on Amazon for $300 or so, which I thought was ridiculous. The most I’ve ever overpaid for a sequel is probably $40.  

Interestingly, the two authors that Ms. Altman had difficulty locating copies of their books, Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt and Rebecca Ann Collins are now available to everyone through the good folks at Sourcebooks. For the avid Jane Austen collector, there are first UK and American editions of Pemberley Shades available at Advance Book Exchange, but be prepared to pay dearly for them. After a failed attempt to locate a copy of Pemberley Shades through her own college library, Marsha did track down a copy.

There was one other copy in New York City, at the New York Public Library reading room, which ironically is not a very good place to read for hours on end. You have to get about three different cards to get a book called up, and then you can’t take it out of the room. Clearly the only solution was to stand at the copy machine and photocopy the whole thing. The book nearly fell apart in my hands. I read it and loved it, and I wanted to make it available to everyone else. The problem was, if it was written between 1923 and 1950 (which it was), the author had 27 years after publication to renew the copyright and extend it, otherwise it had fallen into public domain and anyone could print it. I had absolutely no biographical information on the author. She was a woman and I eventually learned she was from England. I called E.P. Dutton, now a division of a larger publishing house, and they searched their records and couldn’t find anything about the book. 

Marsha then proceeded to investigate if the US copyright had been extended by the author or her heirs and came up empty deciding to self publish Pemberley Shades herself with her own publishing company Laughing Man Publications.  In 2007, the first books were produced carefully recreating as closely as she could the original format and design of the E.P. Dutton 1949 edition with a newly designed cover from the artwork tinted from the line drawings from the title page of the book. Thirty years after the Folcroft private printing in 1977, Pemberley Shades was now available again quickly selling out its first run, and is now in its second printing.

In the end it was about circulation. I don’t think any literary work should disappear. The preservation of knowledge, however frivolous (and there are a lot more frivolous things than Jane Austen sequels), is a sacred part of the Jewish tradition in which I was raised. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming age of information technology, which is already terrific on how much is available to us, either for free or for relatively small fees. It’s an incredible time to be alive. 

And the final act of this saga is with Deb Werksmen, executive editor of Sourcebooks who chose to reprint Pemberley Shades and include it in their fall release of Austen-esque books, allowing for an even wider distribution. Quite an honor for a novel first published 59 years ago, lost to obscurity, resurrected by an Austen enthusiast and written by an Englishwoman who died never knowing that her novel would one day be respected and cherished.

Further reading

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

Around the blogosphere for the week of September 7th

The great Darcy debate continues! Is Colin Firth or Matthew Macfayden more accurate to Austen’s vision in their film portrayal of Mr. Darcy from the novel Pride and Prejudice? Read about romance author Michele Ann Young’s view on the Casablanca Authors Blog.

Speaking of Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth celebrated his 48th birthday on September 10th, and talks to reporter Benjamin Secher of the Telegram about his continuing romantic roles in films. Secher surmises that “surely the time is approaching for the secretary of the international heart-throb club to inform him that his membership has expired, freeing him from frivolous romantic roles for good“. Obviously not so, as offers keep pouring in eighteen years after he thought he would be too old to play them! Hmm. One suspects that Firth is a bit modest, wouldn’t you say?

Oxford Professor and Austen Scholar Kathryn Sutherland weighs in on her impressions of the first episode of Lost in Austen, the new ITV Pride and Prejudice inspired time travel twister.  Not quite sure if she has an opinion yet. That’s a first for an academic.

Do you remember the first time you read Pride and Prejudice? I do. So when I happened upon this post of a novice reader’s first pages into the book, it made me smile. Austenprose recommends Adopt-an-Austen-Newbie this week, so please head on over and offer a word of encouragement or share your first time reading stories. How I envy them the adventure that is ahead.

Is Pride and Prejudice (1995) screenwriter Andrew Davies a channel of Dickens and Austen for the contemporary world? English professor Laura Carroll of La Trobe University reports in from his recent session at the Melbourne Writers Festival where screenwriter Jane Sardi interviewed him last week. Is this former English professor on an educational mission on behalf of classic literature?

LearnOutLoud.com is offering a free download or streaming audio of a literary summary of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudiceas their free Audiobook of September Podcast. This is part of their Literary Summaries series that outlines classic novels in a abridged format.

Is Jane Austen a sizeist? Sparsely Kate has a few words of contention about a passage in Persusaion that may imply how Austen interpreted people of a “comfortable substantial size” were more suited to be jolly. She may have a good point. Sparsely Kate, that is!

Episode two of Lost in Austen, the new ITV television mini-series aired in the UK this week and is garnering quite a bit of discussion at AustenBlog. Episode one was fun and frolicky, with more than a few improbable surprises. Catch my review of Episode two on Monday, September 15th.

Austen-esque book reviews for the week, Pemberley Shades one & two, Old Friends and New Fancies, The Pemberley Chronicles, and Essential Austen, keep us reading and reading.

Jane Odiwe author of the soon to be released Lydia Bennet’s Story is also a talented artist. Check out her recent portrait of Jane Austen at her blog, Jane Austen Sequels.

J. K. Rowling & Warner Bros, Entertainment won their lawsuit against Michigan-based publisher RDR Books on Monday, blocking the publication of The Harry Potter Lexiconby Steven VanderArk. This is great news for authors everywhere, and I commend Rowling (one of the most financially successful authors in print) for fighting for herself, and the little guys out there. What does this have to do with Jane Austen you ask? Hmm, she is everywhere you know – influencing honor, justice and the Austen-way across the globe – but actually, we have Austen-esque author Diana Birchall to thank for being such an excellent star witness on behalf of Rowling and Warner Bros where she is employed as a story analyst. She wrote about her involvement in the case here last March, so be grateful Janeites that Austen’s is everywhere – cuz she makes all the difference to many, even after 200 years.

Cheers to all, Laurel Ann

*Watercolour engraving by Thomas Rowlandson, Jealousy, The Rival (1787)

Pemberley Shades: Pride and Prejudice Continues, by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt – A Review

Pemberley Shades by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt (2008)It is with great pleasure that I learned that the classic Pride and Prejudice sequel, Pemberley Shades by Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt, would be re-issued in September by Sourcebooks. Originally published in 1949, it was the second Jane Austen sequel ever to be written and not easily available for purchase unless you were lucky enough to find a small boutique publisher’s edition or a second-hand copy offered at outrageous prices for a first edition. Having existed as the ultimate mysterious and allusive Austen sequel for many years, the wait is now over and the enjoyment can begin. However, what the heck are Pemberley Shades?

My educated hunch is that it refers to his passage in Pride and Prejudice when Lady Catherine de Bourgh is interrogating the heroine Elizabeth Bennet in chapter 56.

“Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” 

As a novice reader I didn’t quite understand Lady Catherine’s reference to the shades of Pemberley. In ancient Roman times, shades were referred to as dead relatives. Lady Catherine’s use of the word refers to Mr. Darcy’s illustrious ancestors whose memory would be tainted by the association with the Bennet family who were recently humiliated by the infamous elopement of its youngest daughter Lydia. Taken in context, author D.A. Bonavia-Hunt knew exactly what Austen was implying and used it as a clever play on words for the title of her novel. And what a perfect match it is to the tone of her book which has an underlying thread of hidden life stories, family honor and dis-honor throughout.

Pemberley Shades is true to Austen’s style in that it begins with a significant life change and ends with a marriage. It has been four years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy married and their pastoral life at Pemberley with their young son Richard is close to perfect until the death of the parish minister sets a course of peculiar events into play that recall a plot in one of the Gothic novels so popular during Austen’s life.

“Who could have foretold that Dr, Robinson, who had done nothing of note in all his lifetime should, by the common and natural act of dying, set in motion a train of events so strange, so startling, so far removed from probability, as to emulate the riotous fancies of a disordered mind?”

Eager to fill the vacancy, Darcy advertises for the position of Rector of Pemberley determined to find a better man to lead the parish. Among the many applicants is one from his wife’s cousin (yes the odious one himself) Rev. Mr. Collins, anxious for a new situation away from Hunsford since he has fallen out with his benefactress Lady Catherine de Bourgh. “I fear to mention that I have lost that unqualified approbation with which your aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was wont to distinguish me.” Lady Catherine believes that he had a hand in promoting the marriage of his cousin Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Knowing that a life of sermons by Mr. Collins would be Purgatory, Mr. Darcy is pressed for a reason to put him off and invites applicant Rev. Mr. Steven Acworth who is also the brother of school friend to Pemberley for an extended stay to see if it is a good match. Mr. Acworth is recently widowed and according to his brother deeply affected by the loss. It does not take long for everyone including Mrs. Darcy to doubt his suitability for the position. His behavior is perplexing. One moment he is all charm and affability, the next dark and morose. This disturbs Elizabeth and Darcy who conclude that he would not suit as Rector, but are compelled to keep him on as a house guest as a favor to his brother.

The majority of the plot line revolves around Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister age 20, single and residing at Pemberley. Now a proficient musician on the pianoforte, Elizabeth and Darcy are concerned that her intensity verges on eccentricity, making her dreamy and unsocial. They think it is time she should marry. Three suitors are interested; Rev. Mr. Mortimer the second son of a local gentry who are in financial decline for several generations, Major Francis Wakeford age 32, a wounded war veteran and cousin to Mr. Darcy with no bright prospects of wealth or position, and the creepy Rev. Mr. Acworth who shares a passion for music with Georgiana and a mysterious hold over her. Not a very promising selection for the heiress of Pemberley with a £30,000 dowry. Or so it appears.

Many of the characters from Jane Austen’s novel make their summer visit to Pemberley Manor; Charles and Jane Bingley and their two young daughters, Mr. Bennet sans Mrs. Bennet (with little explanation, but does she deserve one?), Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and daughter Anne (quite a surprise which is thoughtfully explained), and Kitty Bennet who adds a bit of theatrical drama and energy to the palatial manor! New characters are included that blend in so seamlessly that it is a logical transition into this sequel. Ms. Bonavia-Hunt has full comand of Jane Austen’s style and knowledge of the plot and her characters. The letter that Mr. Collins writes to Darcy in application for the position of Rector is priceless. I never forget that this is not a Jane Austen novel, but her use of early 19th-century language and style is effortless and engaging.

The plot has many turns and surprises, shadowed by a lingering mystery which keeps one on edge and turning the next page to discover a resolution. I now understand why this novel holds such a special place in the Jane Austen sequel cannon. It is amazing to acknowledge that it was written close to sixty years ago before Jane Austen became a Hollywood star or pop cult icon. Ms. Bonavia-Hunt was writing for a genre that would not come to fruition for another fifty years and that is an incredible achievement. It is sad that we know so little about her or her motivations to write Pemberley Shades, but her legacy to us has withheld and will endure. In comparison to today’s plethora of Austen sequels about, it reigns in my estimation as one of the best ever written.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Shades: a Lightly Gothic Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy
by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Trade paperback, 368 pages
ISBN: 9781402214387

Further Reading 

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc. © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for September 2008

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

First up is the third book in the Pemberley Chronicles series by Rebecca Ann Collins, entitled Netherfield Park Revisited. In this continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the story starts in 1859, Queen Victoria has reigned for twenty-two years, England has undergone an industrial revolution and is one of the most powerful and influential nations to rule the sea and colonize the globe. Once again we are introduced to many of the characters central in the novel Pride and Prejudice, the Darcy’s and Bingley’s and their children. Handsome Jonathan Bingley, son of Charles and Jane Bingley, takes center stage, returning to Netherfield Park whose traditions and history runs strong in his family. In this ongoing historical saga, Ms. Collins continues to delve into themes that Jane Austen never approached in her secluded early 19th-century world of three or four families in a country village, but these expansions of plot and characters seem only natural as they parallel the progress of England’s social, economical and industrial growth. Check out my previous posts on Book 1 & Book 2 of the Pemberley Chronicles, and hold on to your bonnets, cuz there are still seven more books in this series to go! 

Speaking of the Bingley’s, how often is the best friend of the hero in a novel given a promotion to co-star in the sequel? Scratches head! Not sure if there is an example except in Marsha Altman’s new book, The Darcys & the Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice Continues. Ms. Altman recently shared with me that she adored Charles Bingley when she originally read Pride and Prejudice in high school, thinking that he was the main character for quite some time until Darcy gave Elizabeth the Huntsford letter. Now Altman has her chance to give Bingley his due as the story continues with his friendship with Darcy and the two special sisters that they married, Jane and Elizabeth. You can read two recent contributions by Marsha Altman on Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen in Vermont blogs. She has a wonderful way of telling a story, and I know that you are really going to enjoy watching Caroline Bingley evolve, er well, try to evolve into a sympathetic character! 

Next up, and one I have been dying to get my mits on for ages is the re-print of Pemberley Shades: A Lightly Gothic Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, by Dorothy A. Bonavia-Hunt. Originally published in 1949, it is the second sequel to Pride and Prejudice ever written and has a surprising Gothic subtext that intrigued me from early descriptions of the book. Original editions of this novel command exorbitant prices from antique books dealers, so I am very happy that Sourcebooks has re-issued this novel for us non-millionaire types who can now experience a story that was the precursor to a genre. 

If you like sexy re-tellings of Austen novels with a twist, Impulse and Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds might be your cup of tea. It asks the compelling question, “What if Mr. Darcy…instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refuses his offer of marriage, follows her back to her home at Longbourn and endeavors to change her mind. What if…their passion anticipates their wedding? I’ll let that simmer for a while until I write my review, but Reynold’s is a prolific and incredibly popular Austen-esque writer whose Pemberley Variations series has a very loyal and devoted fan base, so it is well worth a try. 

Cassandra and Jane, A Jane Austen Novel, by Jill Pitkeathley has an intriguing premise. Why was it necessary for Cassandra Austen to burn her sisters letters after Jane Austen tragically died at age 41? Well, older sister Cassandra explains it all for us as she shares many of their stories and remembrances of their life together as beloved sisters and BFFL. As Cassandra reminisces, we see Jane Austen as only Cassandra would know, share in their romantic aspirations and disappointments, understand their frustrations on the financial dependence of their relations, and rejoice in her early success as a writer. Author Jill Pitkeathley skillfully interweaves fact and fiction into an interesting and believable story that Austen purists might balk at, but Janeites will adore. 

Happy reading to all.

Further reading