Posts Tagged ‘everything austen challenge’

Happy new year!  It’s hard to believe that 2010 is already over and that it’s time to wrap up the reading challenges in which I participated over the year.  I only signed up for 4 challenges, and I’m proud of myself for completing them all.  Here’s what I read:

2010 War Through the Generations Challenge: The Vietnam War

For the 2010 War Through the Generations Vietnam War Reading Challenge that I co-hosted with Serena (which ran from Jan. 1, 2010-Dec. 31, 2010), I signed up for 11+ books.  Although I didn’t read as many as I’d hoped for this challenge, I still completed it by finishing 13 books.

1. Playing Basketball With the Viet Cong by Kevin Bowen

2. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

3. Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa

4. Song of Napalm by Bruce Weigl

5. Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

6. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

7. A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper

8. Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann

9. The Fall of Saigon:  The End of the Vietnam War by Michael V. Uschan

10. Fatal Light by Richard Currey

11. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

12. Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell

13. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

2010 Jane Austen Challenge hosted by The Life (and Lies) of an inanimate flying object

For the 2010 Jane Austen Reading Challenge hosted by The Life (and) Lies of an inanimate flying object (which ran from Jan. 1, 2010-Dec. 31, 2010), I signed up for the “Fanatic” level of 5+ Jane Austen retellings, sequels, or reimaginings and 6+ original works by Jane Austen.  I finished this one by reading 7 in the retellings/sequels/reimaginings category and 6 works by Jane Austen.

1. Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken

2. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds

3. The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman

4. The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

5. Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape by Marsha Altman

6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:  Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

7. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Patillo


1. Sanditon by Jane Austen

2. Persuasion by Jane Austen

3. Lady Susan by Jane Austen

4. The Watsons by Jane Austen

5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

6. Love and Freindship by Jane Austen

2010 Everything Austen II Challenge hosted by Stephanie's Written Word

For the 2010 Everything Austen II Challenge hosted by Stephanie’s Written Word (which ran from July 1, 2010-Jan. 1, 2011), I had to read 6 Austen-themed books.  I went a little overboard on this challenge, and finished 13 books.

1. To Conquer Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

2. Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson

3. Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise

4. Persuasion by Jane Austen

5. Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange

6. Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen

7. Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

8. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

9. Lady Susan by Jane Austen

10. The Watsons by Jane Austen

11. Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

12. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

13. Love and Freindship by Jane Austen

2010 Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge hosted by A Library is a Hospital for the Mind

For the 2010 Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge hosted by A Library is a Hospital for the Mind (which was held during the month of October), I had to read just 1 book by Maud Hart Lovelace, but I completed the challenge by reading 3.

1. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

2. Betsy Was a Junior by Maud Hart Lovelace

3. Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace

How did you do on your 2010 reading challenges, and what are you plans for 2011?  I will be posting my 2011 challenge sign ups soon.

Wishing you all the best in 2011!

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★ (the Minor Works overall)

We waited therefore with the greatest impatience, for the return of Edward in order to impart to him the result of our Deliberations–.  But no Edward appeared–.  In vain did we count the tedious Moments of his Absence–in vain did we weep–in vain even did we sigh–no Edward returned–.  This was too cruel, too unexpected a Blow to our Gentle Sensibility–.  we could not support it–we could only faint–.

(from Love and Freindship in The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works, page 89)

Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship (yes, that’s how she spelled it) is part of the second volume of Austen’s Juvenilia, short works she wrote from 1787 to 1793 mostly to entertain her family.  Subtitled “Deceived in Freindship & Betrayed in Love,” Love and Freindship is a short epistolary novel that showcases Austen’s humor and wit.  From these early writings, we can see Austen working toward the literary masterpieces (in my opinion) that readers continue to love nearly 200 years after her death.

The opening letter of the novel is from Isabel to her friend, Laura.  Isabel figures that since Laura has turned 55, she should be ready to discuss the events of her life.  The rest of the letters are from Laura to Isabel’s daughter, Marianne, and while only one point of view is featured in this novel (and the limited point of view is one of the drawbacks of the epistolary structure), it really works here.  Laura writes to Marianne of her “Misfortunes and Adventures” in life and love to serve as a lesson or guide.  And Laura certainly takes readers on an adventure!

In Love and Freindship, Austen pokes fun at romance novels.  There are quick marriages against the wishes of parents, tragic deaths, thefts, and fainting spells.  Austen goes all out on the melodrama, but it works.  Laura’s antics are not only ridiculous, but also laugh-out-loud funny.  It might have grown tiring had the piece been longer, but it’s only about 30 pages, and it reads very fast.

Laura almost immediately marries Edward after he appears at her family’s home, lost and seeking shelter.  He is the son of a baronet who was supposed to marry someone else, but Edward is determined to always disobey his father.  The newlyweds eventually find themselves in the home of Edward’s friends, Augustus and Sophia, who married against their parents’ wishes, burned through the money Augustus stole from his father, and racked up so many debts that Augustus is imprisoned.  When Edward leaves to see if he can get Augustus out of jail but fails to return, Laura and Sophia, now best friends, must fend for themselves and head to Scotland.

From here on out, numerous things happen that cause the women to faint, and there are a series of odd coincidences.  Austen didn’t take her heroine seriously, and neither should readers.  For Austen fans looking to read some of her lesser-known works, Love and Freindship is the perfect place to start.

Disclosure: The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”

“You have been abroad, then?” said Henry, a little surprized.

“Oh! no, I only mean what I have read about.  It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho.’  But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you–gentlemen read better books.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid…”

(from Northanger Abbey, page 99)

Jane Austen sold a manuscript titled “Susan” to a publisher in 1803, but she bought it back in 1813 because it had never been published.  It is uncertain what, if any, changes were made to the manuscript after it was again in Austen’s possession, but her brother, Henry, changed the name to Northanger Abbey when it was published in 1818 after Austen’s death in a volume that also included Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey is the story of 18-year-old Catherine Morland, who we are told from the beginning was never meant to be a heroine.  The novel shows her evolution from a naïve child into a young woman with more mature sensibilities.  The daughter of a clergyman and one of 10 children, Catherine is given the opportunity to spend some time in Bath, accompanying Mr. and Mrs. Allen, a childless couple who own most of Fullerton.  The Allens are wealthy, and Mrs. Allen is a flighty woman obsessed with shopping and clothes.  When in Bath, Catherine is introduced to a clergyman, Mr. Tilney, and his sister, and she feels a connection to them right away.  She also meets Isabella and John Thorpe, the love interest and friend, respectively, of her older brother, James.  Isabella is a self-centered flirt, and John spends much of his time bragging.  Catherine, however, is oblivious to their true nature.

The book is basically divided into two sections, the first covering Catherine’s stay in Bath, where much of her time is spent socializing and reading gothic novels.  While in Bath, Catherine’s friendship with the Tilneys deepens, and her attraction to Henry grows.  In the second half of the book, Catherine is invited by Henry’s father and sister to stay with them for a time in their home, Northanger Abbey.  Here is where Catherine’s fascination with gothic, romantic novels gets the better of her.

Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney–and castles and abbies made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill.  To see and explore either the ramparts and keep of the one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour, had seemed too nearly impossible for desire.  And yet this was to happen.  With all the chances against her of house, hall, place, park, court, and cottage, Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant.  Its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be within her daily reach, and she could not entirely subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun.  (page 132)

It’s almost as if Catherine imagines herself in a gothic novel, and the night sounds, dark crevices, and secret rooms of Northanger Abbey both intrigue and scare her.  Catherine’s curiosity about Henry’s father, General Tilney, and the death of his mother causes her imagination to run wild, and she makes an assumption that causes Henry to chastise her and help her understand the necessity of a clear line between fact and fiction.

Northanger Abbey is an entertaining novel that makes fun of gothic novels, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bantering between Henry and Catherine — especially their conversation before arriving at Northanger, when he teases her about her expectations that his home will be like those in the books she loves.  Like other Austen novels, Northanger Abbey is about love and misunderstandings, marriage and money, but the latter are not trivial topics as women didn’t have much of a future if they couldn’t marry well.  Austen’s omniscient narrator — one could assume it’s the author — takes an active role in the narrative with such statements as, “I leave it to my reader’s sagacity to determine…” (page 231) and even engages with readers.  Although it doesn’t top Persuasion as my all-time favorite Austen novel, Northanger Abbey is humorous and witty, with romance and drama, and is one of her best.  A must-read for Austen fans, and a novel I imagine I will re-read in the not-so-distant future.

Disclosure: Northanger Abbey is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

‘I am sorry for her anxieties,’ said Emma, ‘ — but I do not like her plans or her opinions.  I shall be afraid of her.  — She must have too masculine and bold a temper.  — To be so bent on marriage — to pursue a man merely for the sake of situation — is a sort of thing that shocks me; I cannot understand it.  Poverty is a great evil, but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest.  — I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like.’

(from The Watsons in Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon, page 110)

The Watsons is a fragment of a novel written by Jane Austen in 1804 and is believed to be the only work written by Austen when she lived in Bath.  The introduction to this edition of three of Austen’s minor works speculates on why she didn’t finish it, but in my opinion, The Watsons is similar to Pride and Prejudice in many ways, and her heroine, Emma Watson, has characteristics of her other heroines.

Emma was living away from her family with an aunt who could better provide for her, but when her aunt marries, she is forced to return home to her widowed father and siblings.  The 45-page fragment is mainly an introduction to the characters and covers Emma’s introduction into society through the Edwards family, who are friends of the Watsons.  Some of the characters we meet, in addition to the Edwards family, are Elizabeth Watson, Emma’s older sister; Tom Musgrave, who flirts with all the eligible young women and seems to want to inflate his social status by riding the coattails of Lord Osborne; Mr. Howard, a clergyman who catches Emma’s eye at a ball; and Lord Osborne, who is attracted to Emma.

The Watsons are the poorest family seen in a work by Austen, or at least among her main characters, with Elizabeth caring for their sickly father and handling some domestic tasks.  As such, the need for the four sisters to marry — and for at least one of them to marry well — is a main theme of the book.  But whereas Elizabeth has resigned herself to the fact that the love of her life has married another and she has lowered her standards for marriage as a result, Emma is more romantic and insists she would not marry a man she didn’t love regardless of his fortune.

I really enjoyed The Watsons and was sad to see it end.  It had so much potential, and had it been completed, it could have been a wonderful novel.  While I didn’t get to know her as well as I would have liked, Emma was a delightful character.  I especially loved the scene at the ball where she asks 10-year-old Charles Blake, the nephew of Mr. Howard, to dance after Miss Osborne promised him before the ball that she would dance with him, then decided to dance with someone else.  I would have loved to see Mr. Howard and Lord Osborne compete to win Emma’s heart, and I would have loved to see who would have become the scoundrel of the novel.

While many readers would avoid reading a fragment because of its abrupt ending, The Watsons didn’t leave me entirely unsatisfied.  Austen told her sister, Cassandra, what she’d planned for her characters, and this information is given at the end of the fragment as a conclusion of sorts.  If you’re like me and want to read anything and everything by Austen, then I highly recommend The Watsons.  As can be expected, her wit is interlaced with entertaining characters and social commentary.

Disclosure: The Watsons is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

…our party is enlarged by Mrs. Vernon’s brother, a handsome young man, who promises me some amusement.  There is something about him that rather interests me, a sort of sauciness, of familiarity which I shall teach him to correct.  He is lively and seems clever, and when I have inspired him with greater respect for me than his sister’s kind offices have implanted, he may be an agreeable flirt.

(from Lady Susan in Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon, page 52)

Lady Susan is a very short novel (less than 100 pages) by Jane Austen, considered one of her “minor works.”  It was likely written in 1793 or 1794, but it was not published until after her death.  Lady Susan is an epistolary novel, and it’s the only novel I’ve read by Austen with a horrid “heroine” — but that’s what makes her so interesting.

Lady Susan Vernon is a recent widow who had an affair with a married man, whose wife’s jealousy, along with her efforts to find a husband for her daughter, have prompted her to flee and stay with her brother-in-law and his wife.  Lady Susan is a very selfish person who acts horribly toward her daughter, Frederica, who refuses to marry the man her mother has chosen for her.  In addition to stringing along Manwaring, the man with whom she had the affair, Lady Susan sets her sights on her sister-in-law’s brother, Reginald, much to Mrs. Vernon’s dismay.  While Lady Susan’s close friend, Mrs. Johnson, indulges her despite the fact that her husband wants her to end their relationship, Mrs. Vernon sees Lady Susan for who she is and takes pity on Frederica.

I enjoyed Lady Susan and its overly dramatic characters, but the limitations of the epistolary novel are evident.  There is little character development, and the primary voices in the book are Lady Susan’s and Mrs. Vernon’s, though a few minor characters chime in here and there.  Because the book is written in letters, the conversations and actions are being retold after they happened, and they lose some of their immediacy.

Still, Lady Susan is highly entertaining.  I found it interesting how Austen put a woman in the role of a shameless adulterer, though Lady Susan’s seeking another husband with a fortune is similar to the storylines in her more well-known novels.  However, what’s different and intriguing is that Lady Susan is much older than the men she hopes to attract.  And while I couldn’t like her or have much sympathy for her in the end, she certainly was amusing.  Another must-read for Austen fans!

Disclosure: Lady Susan is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★★

Darcy relaxed a bit.  “The old Thompson place?”  She answered with a nod.  “You’re one of Tom Bennet’s daughters?  I was told he had a herd of them.”  Almost immediately he recognized how his choice of words could be considered an insult, but it was too late.

The girl’s voice was ice cold.  “Tom Bennet is indeed my father, sir, and I thank you for your kind observations about my family.  Now, if you’ll pardon me.”  She pulled her reins to return from whence she came, only to be halted by Darcy’s words.

“I’ll escort you back to the ford, miss, if you don’t mind.”

She looked over her shoulder at him.  “I do mind.  You’ve made it clear that I’m not welcomed here, and I can see myself home.  Good day.”

(from Pemberley Ranch, pages 23-24 in the ARC)

Now that I’ve read so many retellings of and sequels to Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, I’m worried that I’m going to tire of the books that have become my guilty pleasure.  I just love revisiting Austen’s characters — although these books will never outshine the originals — and the more unique, the better.

Pemberley Ranch is the first Austen retelling I’ve encountered that is written by a man, and that alone grabbed my attention.  Jack Caldwell takes the basics of Pride and Prejudice — the misunderstandings of a stubborn young woman and an arrogant young man from two different worlds who find themselves unexpectedly attracted to one another — and makes the story his own.

Set just after the Civil War, Will Darcy is a Confederate officer who returns to Texas to run the family cattle ranch and care for his younger sister, Gaby.  Beth Bennet’s family — father Tom, mother Fanny, and sisters Jane, Mary, Kathy, and Lily — leave Meryton, Ohio, for a farm in Rosings, Texas.  Beth and Will’s first meeting is less than pleasant, with Beth caught riding her horse on Pemberley land, and it doesn’t help that carpetbagger and scoundrel George Whitehead, a friend of the Bennet family, has nothing but rotten things to say about Will.

Stories about the Wild West aren’t usually my thing, but Pemberley Ranch was a book I just could not put down.  Using only the barest skeleton of Pride and Prejudice, Caldwell builds a story with romance, murder, unscrupulous business dealings, post-war Union vs. Confederate tension, segregation, and the lingering horrors and loss of war.  I found Caldwell’s rewriting of Austen’s characters to be especially interesting, with Mr. Collins turned into banker Billy Collins, Bingley into a doctor, George Wickham into deed recorder George Whitehead, Col. Fitzwilliam into Pemberley ranch hand Fitz, Lady Catherine into the ruthless ranch owner Cate Burroughs, and Charlotte Lucas into the daughter of the sheriff.  Caldwell also pays homage to other Austen heroes, with characters named Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Knightly, which I thought was a nice touch.

Pemberley Ranch is an engaging read on its own, and I forgot early on that I was reading a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But I must admit it was fun to picture Mr. Darcy as a handsome cowboy with a twang and to see all the shady characters in Austen’s novel portrayed as being truly evil.  Caldwell does an admirable job balancing the lightness of the romance with the darkness of dirty deeds in a small town.  You definitely don’t need to have read or even loved Pride and Prejudice to enjoy Pemberley Ranch, and while most people will read it because its an Austen reimagining, Caldwell should get some credit for being a talented storyteller in his own right.

Disclosure: I received Pemberley Ranch from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“It’s just my piece of the Austen pie,” Melodie said.  “Everyone’s in on it now.  You’ve seen the books.  Austen is all the rage.  You put her name on anything and it will sell.  Hell, my publisher is coming out with a Jane Austen massage book in the spring.  You know what it’s called? Sense and Sensuality.”  She laughed.  “I bet it sells two million copies.”

“We can only hope,” Jane remarked dryly.  If she’d disliked Melodie Gladstone before, she now loathed her.  The woman was vile, an opportunist who was using her name to make her fortune. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen a royalty check in almost two hundred years, she thought.

(from Jane Bites Back, page 9)

Just when I thought I couldn’t stomach another vampire story or another paranormal take on Jane Austen, I dusted off the copy of Jane Bites Back that has been sitting on my shelf since I bought it with my Christmas money earlier this year.  I’m glad I gave it a try because Michael Thomas Ford’s novel is a hilarious take on the Jane Austen sequel and spin-off phenomenon.

Jane Fairfax owns Flyleaf Books in a college town in Upstate New York.  Among the store’s top sellers are all things Jane Austen, and while one would expect her to be happy about the sales, Jane Fairfax is actually Jane Austen — and she’s a bit sick of the sequels and spin-offs and the lack of royalty checks.  For the most part, she lives a quiet life, enjoying the company of her employee and confidante, Lucy, and brushing off Walter, a home restoration contractor who has the hots for her.

No one knows her secret identity, but her secret becomes harder than ever to keep when the man who turned her into a vampire returns and the novel she wrote before her “un-death” is accepted for publication after 116 rejections.  Chaos ensues and endangers those Jane holds dear.

Jane Bites Back paints the picture of a Jane Austen who is strong, witty, and still a bit old fashioned.  It’s a clever novel, and Ford writes in a voice that is both humorous and sarcastic.  There are plenty of literary references between the book store and the publicity tour for Jane’s new book, and watching Ford’s Jane Austen evolve from a reserved bookstore owner to a feisty author defending her manuscript was a treat.  I especially liked that Ford’s vampires aren’t afraid to feed on humans, which makes for some entertaining scenes when Jane suddenly gets the painful urge to eat…er…drink.

Jane Bites Back is a quick, light read, and I recommend it for Austen fans who aren’t averse to novels that portray the beloved author in a supernatural light.  Ford made me laugh numerous times throughout the book, and I’m hoping for more of the same when Jane Goes Batty is released in early 2011.

Disclosure: Jane Bites Back is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

“Anne, your words… they are so blunt, so unfeeling.  It is unlike you.  You have changed greatly of late.”

“Yes, Lady Russell, I have changed, and my transformation is ongoing.  However, it is not a recent event, but one that has been happening under everyone’s noses for nearly two years and can be dated from my twenty-fifth birthday.  And because I have altered, those around me must change as well.  The Anne Elliot my family and you knew is no more.”

(from Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, page 9)

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s love of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and her sense of humor are evident in her latest novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  Readers will need a sense of humor as well and not mind some liberties being taken with their beloved Austen characters to enjoy this parody, which had me in stitches throughout.

Anne Elliot’s family declares her a spinster on her 25th birthday, and since she has no plans to marry anyone unless he’s Frederick Wentworth — to whom she was engaged until a family friend, Lady Russell, persuaded her to break off the relationship because he was poor and not likely to make much of himself — she feels a sense of freedom.  Possibly inspired by the ending of the 2007 movie version of Persuasion, Simonsen’s Anne Elliot takes a morning walk, decides to chase a rabbit, and ultimately becomes a long-distance runner.  Anne also is more outspoken, no longer willing to let people decide for her, and not in need of any one to support her.  When Frederick comes back after more than eight years, now a wealthy naval captain, he admires the changes in Anne and is drawn to her once again.

“Henrietta told Mary of a remark you made concerning me, Captain Wentworth, and Mary could hardly wait to repeat it.  You said that I had altered so much that you would not have known me.  Well, that comment was correct because I have changed.  The mouse you left eight years ago is no more.  People may have their expectations, but I shall do what I think is best for me.  I only have this one life, and as limited as it is by society and my own family, it is mine to live as I see fit,” and she turned and walked into the inn without looking back.  (page 51)

Although Anne Elliot, A New Beginning is very much about Anne and Wentworth rekindling their romance, Simonsen’s retelling is so different from Austen’s original work that it takes on a life of its own.  I loved how Simonsen deviated from Austen’s tale by making Mr. Elliot more horrid and mixing Anne and Wentworth up with a charming street urchin named Swoosh who gives them hilarious street names when they go undercover to get the scoop on Mr. Elliot.  Anne isn’t the only character who undergoes a major transformation, and the changes in her sister, Mary, and a business undertaking by her sister, Elizabeth, and their father, Sir Walter, are hilarious!  There’s a little bit of everything in this book, from romance and sexual innuendo to humorous anachronisms and more.

Unlike Persuasion, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning takes the characters of Anne and Frederick well beyond where Austen ends their story.  It’s too bad that Pride and Prejudice gets all the attention because I really enjoyed Simonsen’s take on Persuasion — and she seriously could write another novel all about Swoosh.  However, Simonsen told me she had to self-publish Anne Elliot, A New Beginning because it isn’t a different take on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, which is what sells these days.  I hope that changes in the future because the characters in Persuasion are just as captivating…and I’m still not ready to let them go just yet.

Disclosure: I received Anne Elliot, A New Beginning from the author for review.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Is she, then, still swayed by Lady Russell? I asked myself.

I did not know, but if she was, I feared my hopes would soon be dashed, for I had no reason to suppose that Lady Russell liked me any more than she had done eight years before.  I might have made my fortune but Lady Russell, once she had made up her mind, was unlikely to change it.

…I cursed myself inwardly, wondering when and where I had become such a coward.  I had never been frightened when taking a ship into battle; but talking to Anne, finding out whether or not she still loved me … that terrified me.

(from Captain Wentworth’s Diary, page 232)

After I finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion, I wasn’t ready to let the characters go, so I quickly got my hands on a copy of Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange.  There are so few sequels and retellings of Persuasion, so I should have savored this one, but I tore through this book in one day.  Sigh.

Persuasion is told from the point of view of Anne Elliot, who is persuaded by her friend, Lady Russell, to break her engagement to the love her life, Frederick Wentworth, simply because he isn’t rich and doesn’t have a title or connections and therefore isn’t a suitable match for a baronet’s daughter.  Wentworth’s thoughts and feelings are revealed only through his interactions with Anne and one really, really romantic letter.

Captain Wentworth’s Diary is a retelling of Persuasion from Wentworth’s point of view and in his words.  The entries are more detailed than you would expect in a diary, especially when it comes to the dialogue, which helps it read like a regular novel.  The writing and wording is much different from Austen’s, of course, but that hardly matters.

What I really enjoyed about Captain Wentworth’s Diary is that Grange begins Frederick and Anne’s story in 1806, when they first meet at a ball.  Austen gives few details about their relationship in Persuasion, other than that they were engaged, so I enjoyed reading about their courtship.  Their initial meeting is humorous, and Wentworth’s feelings for Anne are deep; he can’t stay away from her despite warnings from his brother that he is paying too much attention to her — and only her.  Grange did such a good job building their relationship that when it ends, I could feel the sadness.

I could not stop thinking about Anne.  She would not have rejected me if she had truly loved me…

But it was folly to think of her, I told myself.  She was shallow.  Her heart was not as deep as mine, or she could not have told me to go.  I would not regret her.  I would learn my lesson.  I would avoid the fairer sex.  I would win such prizes from the Navy as would set me up for life, and I would have none but the sea as my mistress, for even with all her moods, she was less capricious than a woman.

I would remain a bachelor for the rest of my days.  (page 117)

Captain Wentworth’s Diary fast forwards to 1814 and follows the story line of Persuasion, except that telling the story from Wentworth’s point of view allows readers to get to know Admiral and Mrs. Croft, Captain Harville, and Wentworth’s brother, Edward, better — and better understand the pain and wounded pride that causes him to act the way he does toward Anne.  Grange gives a fuller view of Wentworth than Austen, but I didn’t need her to convince me of his greatness, as I’d fallen in love with the character while reading Persuasion.  Still, it was nice to read an Austen retelling not focused on Pride and Prejudice!

Disclosure: I borrowed Captain Wentworth’s Diary from the public library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing – indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it.  But it was not merely selfish caution, under which she acted, in putting an end to it.  Had she not imagined herself consulting his good, even more than her own, she could hardly have given him up. – The belief of being prudent, and self-denying principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation, under the misery of a parting – a final parting; and every consolation was required, for she had to encounter all the additional pain of opinions, on his side, totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill-used by so forced a relinquishment. – He had left the country in consequence.

(from Persuasion, pages 26-27)

Oh, how I loved Persuasion!  If I’d known I was going to love it so much — even more than Pride and Prejudice — and that it would become my favorite book, I would have read it years ago!  In fact, last night when I flipped through the pages to choose a quote or two, I found myself lost in the story and re-read the last few chapters before I knew what I was doing.

Persuasion was the last novel finished by Jane Austen.  She completed it in 1816, and it was published with Northanger Abbey after her death in 1817.  It is a mature novel, a novel whose main characters are a bit older and wiser.  It is ultimately a novel about second chances, both tinged with sadness and filled with hope.

Anne Elliot, daughter of the vain Sir Walter Elliot, baronet, fell in love with Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded by her close friend, Lady Russell, to break their engagement because he had no fortune, no connections, and no title.  Anne thought she was doing the right thing, but she never stopped loving him.  Fast forward more than eight years to when the book opens, and Anne’s father has been careless with the family finances to the point that they must rent out their home and move to Bath.

Anne soon learns that she is destined to see Frederick Wentworth again, as his sister, Mrs. Croft and her husband, Admiral Croft, are to rent Kellynch Hall.  Because she is invisible to her family, she is not to go with her father and sister, Elizabeth, to Bath right away.  She must first travel to Uppercross to stay with her younger sister, Mary, who seems to fall ill whenever she’s not getting attention.  It is there that Anne sees Frederick again.  He returns a naval captain, wealthy from the Napoleonic wars, while Anne’s family is on the brink of bankruptcy.

“All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone”  (page 222)

Captain Wentworth is cold to Anne, and not only does she realize he has not forgiven her, but she also must watch him flirt with Mary’s sisters-in-law, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove.  And when an accident occurs and the Sir Walter’s heir comes into the picture with eyes for Anne, it seems all hope for a reunion is lost.

As in her other novels, Austen focuses on social class and marriage, but she does it with humor and compassion for her characters.  It’s hard to put into words how much I love everything about this book.  Austen’s writing in Persuasion felt more emotional and heartfelt to me than in her other novels, and I grew so attached to the characters that I finished the book in just a couple of days.  Mary and Sir Walter were so ridiculous that I laughed out loud, and my heart went out to Anne, who despite having no value to her family, was the only one with any real worth.  I loved her even though she was not as witty or strong-willed as Elizabeth Bennet.

And oh, how I fell in love with Captain Wentworth!  He puts Mr. Darcy to shame (and you all know how I love Mr. Darcy).  Captain Wentworth is a self-made man who doesn’t care much about titles or connections.  He’s charming and handsome with good manners, but lacks Darcy’s arrogance.  And he certainly has a way with words!  Here’s what he says to Anne at one point in the novel (and don’t even get me started on the swoon-worthy letter he writes!):

“It seems, on the contrary, to have been a perfectly spontaneous, untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me.  A man like him, in his situation!  With a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken!  Fanny Harville was a very superior creature; and his attachment to her was indeed attachment.  A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! – He ought not – he does not.”  (pages 172-173)

I’m not big on reading the classics, which is why I’m surprised that I’ve long enjoyed Austen’s novels.  Persuasion is a literary masterpiece (at least in my eyes).  There’s social commentary, a passionate love, and even a scoundrel.  And despite there being no shortage of new reading material in my house, I can’t wait to read Persuasion again (and again).

Disclosure: Persuasion is from my personal library.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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