Amelia Webster: A Novel After Jane Austen, by Robert Rodi—A Review

Ameila Webster A Novel After Jane Austen by Robert Rodi 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:  

Long before Jane Austen was widely known for her six complete novels, she was a youthful storyteller who wrote humorous tales for the amusement of her family and friends. In more recent years, Austen’s juvenilia has been put in the spotlight and given the adaptation treatment that was previously only bestowed on her most famous works. Indeed, this year’s Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting focused on Austen’s earliest stories. Robert Rodi—author of this latest juvenilia variation—was a plenary speaker at the JASNA AGM and discussed how Austen’s writing had evolved from pure farce to social satire and finally to the irony of her mature novels.

The original Amelia Webster epistolary short story by Jane Austen—introduced by the young author as “an interesting & well-written Tale”—was comprised of only 454 words in seven brief letters, and yet masterfully presented eight protagonists and a fairly complete storyline. In a most amusing fashion, Robert Rodi has crafted a sardonic wink of a novel out of Austen’s juvenile attempt in the upcoming Amelia Webster: A Novel After Jane Austen.

Welcome to the tiny village of Rovedon in Hertfordshire, where the gossips make sport of predicting the nuptial pairings in the extremely limited number of local youth. Our narrator begins with the introduction of Tom Pierce and Jack Fitzmark, two gentlemen who “took up residence together at two-and-thirty, thus making it apparent that they would marry no one at all.” (4) Tom and Jack, no longer the subjects of matrimonial speculation themselves, carry on with their own thoughtful conjectures about the eventual wedded bliss of the remaining young people. Continue reading

Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps (Volume 1), by Robert Rodi—A Review  

Bitch in a Bonnet, by Robert Rodi (2012)From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Compiling his thoughts on the first three of Jane Austen’s published novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park, author Robert Rodi fires a broadside at the swooning, sugary sentimentality of the modern Jane Austen fan craze.  He is appalled that such a group has turned a witty, sharp-tongued wonder into trite purple prose and slapped her silhouette on a t-shirt. Forging ahead for over four hundred pages, he dissects these Austen novels chapter by chapter, line upon line, precept upon precept highlighting a lack of romance and a decided prevalence of comedy and insight into the human condition.

I would like to give an early warning that this is not a book for those who have never read these novels. Though, it might be argued that it is exactly for those who are still considering them. My warning is for those who prefer to go into their books without spoilers and no undue influence because, reader, the author most definitely means to influence and discuss with thoroughness each character and each event and he does.

Bitch in a Bonnet begins with an explanation and a warning. Rodi doesn’t plan to take anyone by surprise or leave anyone in question of his purpose in writing his book. He basically shouts out ‘There be dragons here!’ And, I suspect for some, his method of discussion might be just that. I would be lying if I said I never had the urge to bop him on the head for trashing some of my favorite characters or scenes or that I have a decidedly differing opinion on matters, particularly in Mansfield Park.

In colloquial turns of phrase and a great preponderance of cultural idioms, he dissects each of the books in his own chapters that tackle the novel’s chapters in about five-chapter sections. His sardonic humor and often sarcastic turn of phrase can be highly amusing (read, laugh out loud funny) and, once in a while, wearying (he can belabor his point now and then). Continue reading