Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for September

According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in September, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

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

According To Jane, by Marilyn Brant 

Here is a bright new face on the Austen sequel/inspiration market. In this contemporary novel, Jane Austen’s ghost inhabits teenage Ellie Barnett’s thoughts, guiding her through all of life’s romantic and unromantic dilemmas. Since we all know that Auntie Jane never steered any of her heroines in the wrong direction, Ellie has excellent advice, or does she?  (Publisher’s description) It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. From nowhere comes a quiet ‘tsk’ of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there. Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go – sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham. Still, everyone has something to learn about love – perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. Kensington. ISBN: 978-0758234612 

Darcy and Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst (2009)Darcy and Anne: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst

Another Pride and Prejudice sequel which I am I happy to say is focused on the emancipation of Miss Anne de Bourgh, a minor character who sorely deserved a make-over. (Publisher’s description) It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne. When a fortuitous accident draws Anne away from Rosings and her overbearing mother’s direct influence, she is able to think and act for herself for the first time ever. In the society of her cousins Darcy and Georgiana, and, of course, the lively Mrs. Darcy, Anne reveals a talent for writing and a zest for life. Meanwhile, Lady Catherine is determined to choose a husband for Anne. But now that Anne has found her courage, she may not be so easy to rule. Anne de Bourgh is a sympathetic character whose obedience and meekness were expected of women in her day. As she frees herself from these expectations, Anne discovers strength, independence, and even true love in a wonderfully satisfying coming-of-age story. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224386

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely (2009)Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely 

Ready for a cozy mystery with a Pride and Prejudice theme? This debut novel by Tracy Kiely just might do the trick. Set in contemporary Cape Code, her Elizabeth Parker is as clever, witty and spirited as Jane Austen’s original Lizzy Bennet, but in addition to dealing with her love life, she is in the throws of a murder. (Publisher’s description) Planning New Year’s resolutions to rid her life of all things unhealthy, Elizabeth Parker has dumped fatty foods, processed sugar, and her two-timing boyfriend. Indeed, the invitation to join her Aunt Winnie for a How to Host a Murder Party on New Year’s Eve at Winnie’s new Cape Cod B and B comes just in time. But when the local wealthy miser ends up the unscripted victim, Elizabeth must unearth old secrets and new motives in order to clear her beloved aunt of suspicion. The suspects include the town gossip, a haughty rich woman, and an antiques business owner much enamored of his benefactress, a Mrs. Kristell Dubois. If that isn’t bad enough, Elizabeth must also contend with her childhood nemesis, Peter McGowan—a man she suspects has only matured in chronological years—and her suspicions about his family’s interest in Winnie’s inn. Minotaur Books. ISBN: 978-0312537562 

Darcy's Temptations, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Temptation: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Regina Jeffers 

Ah, Mr. Darcy. We can never get enough of him. In this creative Pride and Prejudice sequel, Darcy has lost his memory and has an adventure without Lizzy. Oh my! (Publisher’s description) By changing the narrator, Darcy’s Temptation turns one of the most beloved literary love affairs of all time on its head, even as it presents new plot twists and fresh insights into the characters’ personalities and motivations. The author faithfully applies Jane Austen’s fun-to-read style, suspenseful narrative, and sardonic humor to her own imaginative tale of romantic entanglements and social intrigue. Four months into the new marriage, all seems well when Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant. However, a family conflict that requires Darcy’s personal attention arises because of Georgiana’s involvement with an activist abolitionist. On his return journey from a meeting to address this issue, a much greater danger arises. Darcy is attacked on the road and, when left helpless from his injuries, he finds himself in the care of another woman. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569757239 

My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles No 6, by Rebecca Collins (2009)My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 6, by Rebecca Collins 

You’ve got to hand it to author Rebecca Collins. She is one creative and persistent Janeite pumping out Pride and Prejudice continuations in rapid fire. Actually, she wrote the ten book series over several years. We are just now fortunate to have international publication through Sourcebooks. My Cousin Caroline is the sixth filly out of the gate in The Pemberley Chronicles series. (Publisher’s description) Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s cousin Caroline Gardiner take center stage. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Caroline develops from a pretty young girl into a woman of intelligence and passion, embodying some of Austen’s own values. Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, and the Wickham’s all move through the story as Caroline falls in love, marries, and raises her children. Caroline rejects the role of a compliant Victorian wife and mother, instead becoming a spirited and outspoken advocate of reformist causes in spite of the danger of scandal. Caroline’s advocacy of reform, undaunted by criticism, demonstrates strength in a time when a woman’s role was severely restricted. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224317 

Waiting for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton (2009)Wating for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton 

The description of this book just made me smile. For all you ladies of a certain age waiting for Mr. Darcy to knock on your door, this book will both charm and inspire you. The author’s advice – “Open your eyes and your heart. He may be closer than you think.” (Publisher’s description) Three friends over forty still wait for Prince Charming in the form of their favorite Austen character, Mr. Darcy. Not quite ready to turn in their hot chick cards for the hot flashes of menopause, they’d like to find a man who is charming, smug, intelligent and cute to share the primes of their lives with (even if one of them doesn’t know she’s looking). Together they navigate this brave forty-plus world and find out that Mr. Darcy is closer than they think. Genesis Press. ISBN: 978-1585713516 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector's Library Edition) 2009Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector’s Library Editions), by Jane Austen, illustrated by Hugh Thomson 

Oh yum! 720 pages of all Austen all the time and with colorized Hugh Thomson illustrations. What greedy Janeite could ask for more? (Publisher’s description) This title includes more than two hundred full colour illustrations by Hugh Thomson. All Jane Austen’s novels are presented in one volume. It features Jane Austen’s romantic world captured by her finest illustrator, Hugh Thomson. It also includes Thomson’s beautiful and evocative illustrations hand-coloured by Barbara Frith, one of Britain’s finest colourists. Barbara Frith’s renderings of Hugh Thomson’s illustrations have won the approval and commendation of both Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton and The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. This title contains extended biographical note and accompanying bibliography. It is presented in page size 270mm X 210mm; 720 pages; printed laminated case and dust jacket. CRW Publishing Limited. ISBN: 978-1905716630 

Nonfiction 

Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann (2009)Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann 

I just love Austen scholars. They keep pumping out treatise after treatise in the pursuit of the Holy Grail of Austen scholarship. This one springs from Austen as a moral barometer of her times. Jane Austen’s grand niece Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh wrote a biography of her great aunt admonishing those who thought Austen’s novels were written as moral lessons. Best that she avert her eyes on this one. (Publisher’s description) Reading Jane explores Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion against their historical and cultural backdrop to show precisely how Jane Austen sets out the core themes of British morality in her novels. Austen’s period was arguably the most socially and politically tumultuous in England’s history, and by replacing the novels in this remarkable era, Scheuermann sharply defines Austen’s view of the social contract. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-0230618770 

Austen’s Contemporaries 

A Simple Story (Oxford World's Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald (2009)A Simple Story (Oxford World’s Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald 

Elizabeth Inchbald, née Simpson (1753 – 1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist who may be most famously remembered for her play Lover’s Vows which Jane Austen featured in her novel Mansfield Park. Both ladies wrote during the same time period, but their personalities and lifestyles appear complete opposites of each other. Austen lived quietly in the country and wrote about the country gentry she experienced, while Inchbald was an active performing actress touring Great Britain, writing plays and novels gently influenced by her radical political beliefs and desire of personal independence. A Simple Story is one of two novels she wrote. (Publisher’s description) When Miss Milner announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, she breaks through the double barrier of his religious vocation and 18th-century British society’s standards of proper womanly behavior. Like other women writers of her time, Elizabeth Inchbald concentrates on the question of a woman’s “proper education,” and her sureness of touch and subtlety of characterization prefigure Jane Austen’s work. Oxford University Press USA. ISBN: 978-0199554720 

Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World's Classics), by Lord Byron (2009)Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics), by Lord Byron 

“I have read Corsair, mended my petticoat, & have nothing else to do.” Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 8 March 1814 

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, of Rochdale, (1788 – 1824) was a British poet and a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement. It is no surprise that Jane Austen mentions reading The Corsair in an 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra. As a writer also strongly interested in poetry, she would be keenly interested in new works. Byron was wildly acclaimed as a poet and scandalous social figure. His reputation as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” came from his well publicized affair in 1812 with the married Lady Caroline Lamb. Austen would later mention Lord Byron along with Mr. Scott in her novel Persuasion, as an example of superior writers when her characters Anne Elliot and Captain Benwick discuss literature and poetry. This reprint of his selected poetry by Oxford was edited, introduced, and noted by Jerome J. McGann, John Stewart Bryan Professor of English, University of Virginia. (Publisher’s description) Lord Byron was a legend in his own lifetime and the dominant influence on the Romantic movement. His early fame came in 1812 after the publication of Childe Harold. Relishing humor and irony, daring and flamboyancy, sarcasm and idealism, his work encompasses a sweeping range of topics, subjects, and models, embracing the most traditional and the most experimental poetic forms. This selection of Byron’s works includes such masterpieces as The Corsair, Manfred, Bebbo, Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 978-0199538782 

Movie Adaptations 

Sense and Sensibility, BBC Miniseries (1971)Sense and Sensibility (1971) 

This elusive and never before aired in the US miniseries of Sense and Sensibility produced by the BBC in 1971 will be available on DVD on September 29th. Staring Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner in P&P 95) as Elinor Dashwood and Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood, this three hour miniseries should be a treat for Austen enthusiast in the US who have only heard tales of its existence. Its reappearance on the video scene now requires a re-numbering of Sense and Sensibility movie adaptations, since the 1981 version had been considered the first available – with no hope that this could ever resurface. Now, if the 1967 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries pops out of the vault, the fan numbering system will have to be re-mastered also. Special features include: Audio Commentary, deleted Scenes, interviews, outtakes and photo gallery. BBC Warner. UPC: 883929081202 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann

Mr. Darcy’s Daughter: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 5, by Rebecca Ann Collins – A Review

The Pemberley Chronicles Book 5, by Rebecca Ann Collins (2008)Cassy felt tears sting her eyes; she had always felt responsible for her young brother, especially because he had been born when everyone was still grieving for their beloved William. They had all treasured Julian, yet he did not appear to have grown into the role he was expected to play. There was a great deal to learn about running an estate, but Julian had shown little interest in it. Even as a boy, he had no talent for practical matters and relied upon their mother, herself or the servants for advice on everything. The Narrator, Part One, page 6

In Mr. Darcy’s Daughter, book five in The Pemberley Chronicles, author Rebecca Ann Collins’ focuses on Cassandra, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of Pride and Prejudice’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. It is now 1864 and Cassy has been happily married to Dr. Richard Gardiner for twenty seven years with a large family of her own. When her troubled younger brother Julian renounces his inheritance and fails in his responsibilities to his own family, Cassy must step forward and assist in the running of Pemberley and raise his son Anthony as the heir to the Pemberley estate. Bound by honor and duty, Cassy is indeed her father’s daughter, and accepts the responsibilities, balancing her role as daughter, wife, mother, sister and aunt. 

In the mean time Mr. Carr, a single man in possession of a good fortune enters the neighborhood looking to purchase a country estate, and sure enough he is immediately considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters! Cassandra soon discovers that this young American comes with a bit of a past in his family’s mysterious connection to the Pemberley estate prior to their immigration to Ireland. Cassy’s young daughter Lizzie is quickly drawn to him even though his grandparents came from the wrong end of the social ladder. Also included in this Victorian drama are an array of family travails and life events challenging Cassy and the whole Pemberley clan including mental illness, death, deception, theft and murder pressing the plot along. 

After reading Mr. Darcy’s Daughter there is no doubt in my mind that author Rebecca Ann Collins is an ardent admirer of Jane Austen, proficient at historical research and has a very creative imagination. Her most loyal fans deeply entrenched in the genealogy and historical minutia of the series will be well pleased to be at home again in her Pemberley universe being served “new wine in an old bottle.” However, new readers challenged with the multi-layered connections of three generations of families will find themselves frequently referring to the character list provided by the author in the back of the book as to which Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Gardiner, et all that she is referring to and how they are connected. I confess to needing clarification alot.

Aficionadas of Austen’s style will see more similarities to Victorian era authors such as Dickens, Gaskell or Trollope in her narrative approach, depth of historical references and sentimental dialogues than to the original inspiration. Even though Ms. Collins does take liberties with Austen’s usual limited scope of “three or four families in a country village,” she is true to formula in opening with a conflict and concluding with a happy marriage. After nearly sixty years since the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice, we can hardly expect more than the essence of Austen to remain and I understand the direction that the author has chosen. What has evolved from the happy day that “Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters,” in Pride and Prejudice is a circa 1860’s multilayered family saga that will interest classic historical fiction readers and satisfy Collins’ devoted fans. Jane Austen enthusiasts will find comfort in familiar characters respectfully rendered, miss the wit and humor of the original, and wonder how this can be classified as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Daughter: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 5
by Rebecca Ann Collins
Trade paperback, 292 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN: 978-1402212208

  • Read author Rebecca Ann Collins asks why revisit Netherfield Park?
  • Read author Rebecca Ann Collins decidedly discusses sequels
  • Read author Rebecca Ann Collins continued thoughts on sequels
  • Read reviews of Mr. Darcy’s Daughter
  • Purchase Mr. Darcy’s Daughter
  • Visit author Rebecca Ann Collins’ website

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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)

Austenesque Author Rebecca Ann Collins Continued Thoughts on Sequels

Image of the cove of The Women of Pemberley, by Rebbeca Ann Collins, Sourcebooks, (2008)Sourcebooks has recently released the second novel in The Pemberley Chronicles series entitled The Women of Pemberley  by author Rebecca Ann Collins. This is the first North American printing of this novel which had been previously released in Australia in 1998, and is part of a ten book sequel series of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice

The Women of Pemberley  continues the story of Pride and Prejudice’s children of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jane and Charles Bingley and other familiar characters. The narrative is told in five chapters, each focused on five young women; Emma, Emily, Cassandra, Isabella and Josie and progresses through several years of their lives. Many of the same themes favored by Jane Austen such as courtship and marriage are present, but Ms. Collins’ pen is much broader, taking the characters and plots outside the realm of “three or four families in a country village” and introduces social, political and historical context to the plot. With The Women of Pemberley, we have entered the Victorian era, and witness the great change and industrial progress in England through the lives of her characters. 

Recently, Austenprose received correspondence from author Rebecca Ann Collins in response to our post in April regarding her comments on Austen sequels in the book Jane Austen: Antipodean Views.  She was both amused and intrigued by our comments and the strong reaction by readers, and wanted to elaborate and clarify her views further. 

In the spirit of fair game, and the fact that most true Janeites want their share of the conversation, we are including her comments for the edification and enjoyment of our readers. 

Rebecca Ann Collins writes – 

Having read your exceedingly diverting comments and the variety of opinions of your correspondents on the subject of Jane Austen sequels- I was wondering if you will permit me to contribute to the conversation. 

I would like to make a few points.  Continue reading

Pemberley Chronicles Winner

Image of the cover of The Pemberley Chronicles (2008)Congratulations and hello Amy P.!

You are the lucky winner of Rebecca Anne Collins’ book Pemberley Chronicles in our give-away, so please e-mail us for your prize! Cheers Laurel Ann

Austenesque author Rebecca Ann Collins: Decidedly Discusses Jane Austen Sequels

Image of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride and Prejudice, (1995)

“Upon my word,” said her ladyship, “you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?”  

“With three younger sisters grown up,” replied Elizabeth smiling, “your ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.”  

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence. Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 29   

Win a copy of The Pemberley Chronicles! 

 

Image of the cover of The Pemberley Chronicles (2008)Recently, Austenprose was sent a review copy of The Pemberley Chronicles written by Rebecca Ann Collins, a sequel based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Being unfamiliar with the series, we were astounded to learn that this is the first novel in a series of ten that were previously published in Australia between 1997- 2005. We were curious about the author, who we learned writes under a nom de plum. She kindly sent us her story that she had previously contributed to, Jane Austen: Antipodean Views, edited by Susannah Fullerton and Anne Harbers, for The Jane Austen Society of Australia, Sydney 2001. 

Let it never be said that author Rebecca Ann Collins does not express her opinions decidedly, turning her displeasure of other Pride and Prejudice sequels into writing ten novels to suit her notion of what Miss Austen’s Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s future life was like together. Like Jane Austen’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh, we were both intrigued and astonished by her decided opinions on the Jane Austen sequel industry. One of the benefits of writing anonymously is that you can say what you will, and she does! We offer a few responses, because, we must always have our share of the conversation. 

Image of Mr. Darcy, Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejuidce, (1995)

“How I came to write The Pemberley Chronicles makes an interesting tale. The BBC’s magnificent TV production of Pride and Prejudice had just concluded in 1996 when I was given a video copy to which I soon became addicted. Having read the book many times, I enjoyed seeing Miss Austen’s witty masterpiece brought stunningly alive, perfect in every detail. (None of the productions before or since has had the same energy and polish.) 

We heartily concur with Ms. Collins there! The recent ITV and BBC adaptations were ‘nice’, but did not match the “light, bright and sparkling” darling of Austen adaptations, the 1995 BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice. 

Pride and Prejudice Continued“That Christmas, a well meaning niece presented me with two books- sequels to Pride and Prejudice by Emma Tennant titled, “Pemberley” and “An Unequal  Marriage“. To my huge disappointment, I found that in these “sequels” Jane Austen’s beloved Elizabeth and her Mr. Darcy had been transformed into players in an American style soap opera – set in Regency England! Shallow, self-indulgent and often downright silly, they were quite unrecognisable. Their superficiality, lack of judgement and total disconnection from Miss Austen’s original characters so appalled me that I sent off an irate letter to the publisher and the Jane Austen Society of the UK.” 

Having not read Ms. Tennant’s novels, we can not comment on the truth of their silliness, but we are aware of several other Pride and Prejudice sequels that would certainly qualify as being written in the style of an American soap opera, and even, dare we say, soft-porn! Others readers do too, and we were reminded of this amusing and tongue-in-cheek review on AustenBlog. 

“But the more I fulminated, the more frustrated I became. It was in this context and with the encouragement of a literary friend whose judgement I respected, that I began work on The Pemberley Chronicles, which I saw as a means of extending  the lives of Jane Austen’s own characters into the  wider environment of nineteenth century England.” 

Hell wath no fury like a woman scorned, or a Janeite who has had her Austen characters trifled with! 

“I wanted to place them in the context of that most dynamic and interesting period of English history and observe them as they dealt with events in their own lives and the consequences of profound social, political and economic change. A sort of “Life after Meryton” exercise- if you will.” 

Image of the cover of Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer, (2008)Ms. Collins historical research is quite extensive. Even though Miss Austen concentrated on the microclimate of her characters country lives, and rarely mentioned their outside world, Ms. Collins’ novels delve beyond the Austen realm of working “on three or four families in a country village” and place the characters in full historical context. She has created a much wider environment evolving into the historical romance genre, similar to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series or Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck

“I could not accept that after Waterloo, with change all around them transforming the lives of all the people in England, educated and intelligent men and women as Darcy and Elizabeth are shown to be in the original novel, would spend all their waking moments absorbed by the most superficial matters of fashion, romantic intrigue and gossip – before falling into bed again! Yet, that is exactly how they are portrayed in a rash of so- called “sequels, which have come thick and fast since the BBC made Pride and Prejudice and to a lesser degree Jane Austen – a cult! In some parts of the world sequel writing appears to have reached epidemic proportions – with no accounting for quality.” 

When one looks at sequel authors and publishers, her mention of “some parts of the world” appears to be the USA. Being Americans, we’re not sure we appreciate the spirit of that remark. The cult of Austen sequels has certainly become a cottage industry, but Americans by no means have a monopoly on accountability of quantity and quality. We are a nation founded upon free speech and capitalism. We agree that sequel quality varies, but the appeal to readers is as diverse as Miss Austen’s characters in her novels.   

“More recently, there have been attempts at bizarre distortions of character and increasingly improbable sexual adventures – to “spice-up” the reserve and dignity of Miss Austen’s characters – all of which serves to reveal an ignorance of the complex values and morés that underpin the world view of Jane Austen.” 

Image of the cover of Mrs. Darcy\'s DilemmaWe take the Jane Bennet approach to the whole business, and try to make them “all good”, until proven otherwise. We love the language and style of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, but the sales of author Linda Berdoll’s ‘Darcy‘ series would support that the majority of readers like silly and sexy in their sequels. The difference, in our minds, between a good sequel and a bad sequel is honesty, respect and loyalty to Miss Austen.  

“Hers was not the world of Tom Jones or Vanity Fair; rather, her main characters in whom she invested a great deal of integrity and commitment, reflect the best of eighteenth century Augustan values. They were no less passionate or emotional for being imbued with a sense of dignity and decorum. Like Jane Austen, they valued reason, wit, and sound judgement in both public and private life. Those that did not – like Lydia and George Wickham, or Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford ( Mansfield Park ) were shown up for what they were. Jane Austen is quite pitiless in exposing them to censure and ridicule.” 

Image of Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice, (1995)

This is beginning to sound like a Fordyce sermon. We appreciate Ms. Collins’ passion, but she is preaching to the choir here. We abhor sexing up Austen under the pretext of modernization. Austen did indeed apply morality lessons through her un-proprietous characters, but some authors and screenwriters have not heeded her example! We have not read all ten novels in The Pemberley Chronicles series, but we can safely say that there is little “spice” or “adventure” to throw off Austen purists in the first one. Thank you Mr. Collins, – oh we meant Ms. Collins! 

Nor was I comfortable with the kind of linguistic “pastiche” – using Jane Austen’s phrases and other contrived “regency-style” constructions that seem to be de-rigeur among many sequel writers. I make no attempt to imitate Jane Austen’s literary style; that would indeed have been presumption of a high order. 

Austen is all about language and style, so we are at a bit of a loss here. If a sequel writer does not wish to emulate Miss Austen’s “Regency-style” or language, does just borrowing her characters names qualify a novel a Jane Austen sequel? 

“I do not pretend to be another Jane Austen – I merely affect a recognisably ‘period style’ of writing to suit the context of the stories I tell – which range over a fifty year period of the 19th century. So, as you see, The Pemberley Chronicles was a sequel which resulted from a reaction against another, earlier sequel. Almost one might say an Austenian irony of circumstance – but to judge by the response of my readers – a very happy one. 

The Pemberley Chronicles begins with the marriage of the Darcy’s and Bingley’s, and progress into the next generation and beyond for 50 years. Ironically, it may have been inspired by the author’s dissatisfaction of another authors sequel of Pride and Prejudice, but her vision of how the Darcy’s lives continue has evolved into an entirely different genre, and may not be a sequel at all. 

Image of the cover of The Pemberley Chronicles (2008)CONTEST: Win a copy of The Pemberley Chronicles, Volume I. Leave a comment before 11:59 pm on April 30th, stating your opinions pro or con on the recent “epidemic proportions” of Austen sequels, and your name will be entered in a drawing to be announced on May 1st.  The winner will receive a new copy of the book by mail.