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

A myriad of thoughts assaulted Elizabeth, especially when Mrs. Willstone gently patted her hand and continued, “We would not want Mr. Darcy to think ill of Rosalyn because of unbefitting behaviour tolerated by her family.”

“You think my behaviour unbefitting?” Elizabeth asked incredulously.

Mrs. Willstone’s eyes cast briefly toward the ground in an unwitting gesture of discomfiture.  “Unbefitting a governess, yes.  Miss Bennet, you must know we grieve with you over your change of circumstances.  It must be terribly difficult, but Mr. Darcy may be watching Rosalyn carefully for any signs of improper behaviour from her or her family…”  Her eyes slowly looked up.  “…or the family’s governess.”

(from Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, page 203 in the ARC)

I know, I know…I’m reviewing yet another Jane Austen variation.  I hope you all are not growing tired of these reviews because I just can’t seem to get enough of these books.

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do is a retelling of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Kara Louise, which originally was self-published as Something Like Regret.  Louise opens her novel a year after Elizabeth Bennet rejected Mr. Darcy’s marriage proposal at Rosings, and while she cannot forgive the role he played in separating her sister, Jane, from Mr. Bingley, she believes she may have been wrong about other aspects of Mr. Darcy’s character.

However, even if she had a complete change of heart about Mr. Darcy, it would do her little good, as her family has fallen further beneath his since the death of her father.  When Mr. Collins takes possession of Longbourn, Mrs. Bennet takes her youngest daughters to live with her sister in Meryton, Jane moves to London and becomes the governess for her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, and Elizabeth becomes the governess for six-year-old Emily Willstone.  Elizabeth and Emily have forged a strong bond, but she continues to grieve for her father and cherishes the Sundays she can spend with Jane and the Gardiners.

Elizabeth is forced to deal with her feelings about Mr. Darcy when Mrs. Willstone’s sister, Rosalyn, comes to stay with the family and confides in Elizabeth that she has long had a crush on Mr. Darcy and will do everything possible to ensure that he views her as marriage material.  With no one knowing what transpired between her and Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth must spend time at his Pemberley estate when the Willstones are invited for a fortnight.    At Pemberley, Elizabeth gets a glimpse of the man Darcy has become since his failed proposal.

Louise’s novel turns the lives of Austen’s characters upside down but still manages to follow the major plot points of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth handles her changed circumstances with dignity, helped along by the fact that the Willstones treat her better than a governess in recognition of her past social status, and despite the duties she must bear in her new role, Louise allows her wit to shine through.  She also brings in some new characters, like Rosalyn, whose quest to impress Mr. Darcy provides much amusement, and Mr. Hamilton, Darcy’s cousin, whose loose tongue and clumsiness add some lightness to the story.

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do is a must read for fans of Austen variations.  I found that I couldn’t put the book down and read nearly all of it in one day.  Louise obviously adores Austen’s characters and stays true to their personalities.  Even though you know how the book will end, you’re not exactly sure how you’ll get there, but you’ll enjoy the ride.

Check out my reviews of other Kara Louise books:

Darcy’s Voyage

Disclosure: I received Only Mr. Darcy Will Do from Sourcebooks for review.

© 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: ★★★★☆

Frederick sat for hours on the hillside, looking out over the land — but he saw none of it.  His mind replayed the moments he had spent with Anne.  Images of her, from her entrance into the village shop to the crumpled form he left lying on the bank of the lake, filled his brain.  His words — her gestures — the dream he held of their life together — everything he had ever wanted — he could not have asked for more. Except — he wanted more — he wanted their time together to never end.

(from Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, pages 33-34)

When I read Persuasion last year, it immediately became my favorite Jane Austen novel, and of course, it was impossible not to fall in love with Captain Wentworth.  Austen’s novel of reversed fortunes and second chances is told from the point of view of Anne Elliot, who is persuaded to break her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a man with no connections, title, or fortune.  Eight years later, Anne’s family is having financial troubles, Frederick comes back a rich man from his time at sea, and they get swept up in the same social circle when Frederick’s sister and brother-in-law rent Anne’s family home.  It seems to Anne that Frederick could never forgive her, especially when he shows interest in Louisa Musgrove, the sister of Anne’s brother-in-law.

What’s missing from Austen’s novel is Frederick and Anne’s early relationship, and Frederick’s thoughts on all that transpires.  Regina Jeffers tells Frederick’s side of the story in Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, a novel I savored because there are so few re-tellings of Persuasion.  Jeffers opens the novel with Frederick and Anne together on his ship, and after a skirmish that leaves Frederick wounded, the story of their relationship from their first meeting through the events that transpire in Austen’s original work is told through flashbacks.  Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion also shows Frederick and Anne after the end of Austen’s novel, giving us a glimpse of their life together.

Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion was enjoyable because it let me spend more time with my favorite characters.  Jeffers stays true to the events of Persuasion in Frederick’s flashbacks but adds a new dimension to the story by imagining it from Frederick’s point of view.  His deep devotion to Anne and his hurt at their broken engagement explains his behavior toward Anne when they meet again.  Although Jeffers doesn’t match Austen’s wit and humor, there are some amusing moments, and of course, more romance than in the original.  I liked that Jeffers didn’t just retell Persuasion but wrote about Frederick and Anne before and after, and I loved reading about Frederick’s military adventures, how he worked hard to make a name for himself, his devotion to his crew, and his inability to let go of the woman he loved despite the people and the years that came between them.  If you’re like me and love the characters and stories created by Austen, as well as all the various takes on her novels, you’ll want to give Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion a try.

Disclosure: Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion is from my personal library.

© 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: ★★★★☆

5. Do not annoy your fiancé during the trip.  If you ask stupid questions such as, “Darling, would you still love me if I did not have a fortune of fifty thousand pounds?” you may not like the answer that you receive.

(from “How to Elope to Scotland” in The Jane Austen Handbook, page 132)

Margaret C. Sullivan, editrix of Austenblog.com, has created the perfect book for fans of Jane Austen who would like to know more about life in Regency England.  The Jane Austen Handbook is a wonderful companion to Austen’s novels, especially given that Austen’s works feature terms and societal rules/norms that are no longer in vogue.  I admit that this book would have come in handy when I read Sanditon and was curious about bathing machines; thankfully, there are a lot of great online resources for Austen fans, but The Jane Austen Handbook packs the basic information into a single volume.

Sullivan groups these Regency facts into four sections and introduces each chapter with a relevant quote from an Austen novel.  In the first section, “Jane Austen’s World & Welcome to It,” she discusses what constitutes an accomplished lady, the education of ladies and gentlemen, how to write a letter, and where to travel and what to do while you’re there.  Various modes of transportation, including gigs, curricles, and post-chaises, are explained and featured in illustrations.  In “A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings; Or, Everyday Activities,” Sullivan covers everything from planning a dinner party and raising children to how to dress for particular times of day and how to assemble the appropriate wardrobe.  In “Making Love,” selecting a husband, marrying off your daughter, handling unwanted marriage proposals, and eloping to Scotland are hot topics.  The final section, “The Best Company; Or, Social Gatherings,” will tell you everything you need to know about paying a morning call and attending dinner parties and balls.

The Jane Austen Handbook features illustrations of clothing and needlework and detailed descriptions of card games played in Austen’s day, among other fascinating tidbits.  For readers seeking more information about Austen, the appendix features a short biography, a summary of Austen’s six novels, and details about the various film adaptations.  Websites and other resources for Janites are included as well.

Sullivan writes with humor and an obvious affection for Austen and the world that lives on in her novels.  My knowledge of Regency England was very limited, consisting of only what I learned from reading Austen’s novels, so I found this book to be very informative.  It was a light, fast read, and just what I needed for the work commute.  The Jane Austen Handbook would make the perfect gift for an Austen fan, especially one in need of an easy-to-read and thoroughly entertaining resource to keep nearby when reading (and re-reading) Austen’s works.

Disclosure: The Jane Austen Handbook is from my personal library.

© 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: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★★

Elizabeth stared at Mr. Darcy in disbelief.  Not for the first time in the last few days did she stare at the man she had married to consider how little she really knew him.  She had been so sure of his character in Hertfordshire and now, for the moment, she could not reconcile any of her former beliefs.  Looking at him, his countenance flushed from his passionate speech, his face solemn and sober, she realised it was useless to debate the matter.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Secret, page 151 in the ARC)

When I turned the last page of Mr. Darcy’s Secret, my first thought was that Jane Odiwe has done her homework.  She knows Jane Austen and the much beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice inside and out.  I knew Odiwe was a master of the Austen sequel when I read Lydia Bennet’s Story, and Mr. Darcy’s Secret is even better.

In Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Elizabeth and Darcy are newly married, and Elizabeth must learn to navigate the massive estate that is Pemberley, meet the townspeople of Lambton, and impress the elite couples that have come out in droves to check out Darcy’s wife.  Trust soon becomes a huge issue when Elizabeth hears about a scandal involving Darcy’s mother’s maid many years ago and stumbles upon love letters indicating that Darcy had a romantic life before Elizabeth.  She is curious about the gossip, but she doesn’t feel comfortable asking her husband to share his secrets.  However, her inability to confront the issue ultimately threatens the reputation of the Darcy family.

Meanwhile, Darcy’s shy sister, Georgiana, is ready to come out into society, and her brother is ready to make her a suitable match.  Although Darcy married for love — with Elizabeth’s low social status angering his aunt, Lady Catherine — he refuses to consider Georgiana’s feelings about her potential husband.  After preventing an elopement with the scoundrel George Wickham, Darcy is worried that fortune hunters will seek out his sister, and he is determined to get Georgiana married off to a man who will provider her with a comfortable life, both financially and socially.  Although the mystery surrounding Darcy’s past is interesting, Georgiana’s story grabbed me right from the start.  Georgiana learns what it means to be in love, and she questions the idea of women as property.  She is torn between duty and love, and she must either call out her brother for being a hypocrite or submit to his wishes.

Odiwe stays true to Austen’s characters — Elizabeth is still witty and outspoken, Darcy is still proud and noble, Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are still obnoxious, and Lady Catherine is still haughty.  However, she makes them her own, especially Georgiana, and even introduces new faces, including Tom Butler, a charming landscape gardener; his mother, an old friend of Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner; and Viola Wickham, a sister of the horrid George Wickham.  Odiwe’s use of language brings readers back to Regency England, though with a more modern feel, and her lively dialogue make the story feel like something Austen would have written or at least enjoyed.

Elizabeth, now close to exploding with mirth for the image conjured in her mind of Lady Catherine reciting her poetry before an audience all trying to outdo one another with romantic idylls, tempests, and spontaneous lines addressed to nature was all too much.  “Oh dear,” she could not resist adding, “do you suppose we shall have to communicate in verse when we meet?”

“Lord, help us all,” muttered Mr. Darcy under his breath, but not so quietly that the whole company could not hear him.  “Bingley, I hope you know the difference between an Epic and an Epigram, or I feel you’ll be cut and snubbed by all of the new Lake society!  Mrs. Bingley, be most careful when you are out walking this afternoon in case you feel a sonnet coming on, and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Butler, beware the ballad and the ode!”  (pages 242-243 in the ARC)

Mr. Darcy’s Secret was a pleasure to read because Odiwe breathes new life into Austen’s characters without altering their personalities too much.  Elizabeth and Darcy, like all couples, encounter some bumps in the marital journey, and the way they deal with such strife seems true to who they are.  Darcy was a changed man in Pride and Prejudice, and Odiwe makes his alteration feel authentic with some slip ups here and there.  Mr. Darcy’s Secret is one of the most seamless Austen sequels I’ve ever read.  Odiwe’s love for all-things-Austen shines through.  A must-read if you love the Austen variations as much as I do.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Sourcebooks for review.

© 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: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

“You are not, in any way, shape, or form, amusing, Darcy.”

Darcy rolled his eyes.  “Yes, well, the only trouble is that you always get bored with these silly creatures within a week, sometimes less, and then you have the problem of where to dump the bodies.  And if she is a servant or governess or even a paid companion, that never ends up well, does it?”

Fitzwilliam opened his mouth to argue but realized that Darcy was pretty much on target.  He grunted and went back to sipping his coffee.  “Are you going to finish that pie?” he asked and reached for the apple tart on the side of the desk.

Darcy quickly snatched back the plate, never taking his eyes from his books.  “Yes, I am going to finish that pie.  Don’t you have a barracks or something that provides you with food?  I’m not made of money, you know.”

“Are you insinuating that I take advantage of your good-natured hospitality?”

“Who’s insinuating?”  Darcy abruptly looked up from his paper and stared hard at his cousin.

(from Darcy and Fitzwilliam, pages 201-202 in the ARC)

Karen V. Wasylowski’s Darcy and Fitzwilliam:  A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer is a sequel of sorts to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that focuses on the strong friendship between cousins Fitzwilliam Darcy, gentleman, and Richard Fitzwilliam, colonel and war hero.  Darcy is settling into marriage with Elizabeth Bennet, and Fitzwilliam is content as a bachelor, despite his high and mighty aunt, Lady Catherine, insisting that he marry.

The first part of the book follows Darcy as he navigates impending fatherhood and engages in fiery arguments with Elizabeth about his past with the vindictive Caroline Bingley.  The second part puts Fitzwilliam in the spotlight as he overcomes his memories of the horrors of battle by falling in love.  The final part brings Darcy and Fitzwilliam and their families together.  Readers will meet a more amusing Lady Catherine, a less socially awkward Georgiana Darcy, an even more horrid Caroline Bingley, and a more carefree Mr. Bennet, but Charles and Jane Bingley, the rest of the Bennet sisters, and even George Wickham are relegated to the background.

Darcy and Fitzwilliam is unique in that it gives Fitzwilliam is giving a starring role.  I enjoy Austen variations in which the minor characters in her novels — the ones many of us are curious about — are fleshed out and given new life.  I loved the story about Fitzwilliam, so much so that I believe it could have been the main focus of the book, with Darcy more in the background.  Fitzwilliam’s character is both brawny and gentle, humorous and sensitive, combative and weak.  He is a man troubled by what he has seen in wartime, and he turns to liquor and loose women to cope.  Wasylowski doesn’t sugar-coat his character’s failings, but we are able to love him despite his flaws — and she puts in his path a strong-willed American who gives him a run for his money and adds much amusement to the story.

As for Darcy, I enjoyed his bantering with Fitzwilliam, but I had a love-hate relationship with him and Elizabeth in this novel.  It seemed that for much of the book, he and Elizabeth were fighting — fights complete with shouts, thrown objects, and broken doors.  Wasylowski inserts a dose of reality into her novel with this marital strife; after all, did we really think that Darcy and Elizabeth would have a problem-free, sweet-as-can-be relationship?  But I would rather have seen Elizabeth’s biting remarks and wit than a violent rage.  Moreover, the complications in Darcy’s life just weren’t as tension-filled and captivating as the drama surrounding Fitzwilliam’s romantic relationship, although the book is worth reading just for the hilarious scene in which Elizabeth finds herself alone in a room with Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley!

Wasylowski does a great job balancing the lightness of Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s teasing with heavier moments, including Fitzwilliam’s memories of war and women’s lack of rights during the Regency era, highlighted by a widow’s child custody battle.  But the humor really stands out and makes Darcy and Fitzwilliam an enjoyable read.

Disclosure: I received Darcy and Fitzwilliam from Sourcebooks for review.

© 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: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★☆☆

After Darcy returned to his room for the night, Anne thought about all that had happened between Will and Elizabeth and recognized that her cousin had got himself into a real mess.  But Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne had seen real interest on Elizabeth’s part during their evenings together at Rosings Park, so something had to be done.  Before retiring, she had settled on a course of action.  It was as complicated as any battle plan, and it would take luck and timing to make it work.  But her cousin’s happiness was at stake, and so she began to work out the details of her scheme.

(from The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, page 37 in the ARC)

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy shows that author Mary Lydon Simonsen adores the characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and that she’s willing to have a little fun with them.  I’d first seen Simonsen’s playful side in Anne Elliot: A New Beginning, a hilarious rewriting of Austen’s Persuasion.  This time around, Simonsen recognizes that the arrogant though well-meaning Darcy needs some help in the romance department.  Despite being one of England’s most eligible bachelors, Darcy can’t get a simple farmer’s daughter to accept a marriage proposal that most woman would die for.

Enter Anne de Bourgh, Darcy’s cousin and daughter of the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine.  Despite some serious health problems, Anne puts together a plan to bring Elizabeth and Darcy together at Pemberley — a plan that enables both of them to recognize their faults and move beyond bad first impressions.  Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, also assumes the role of matchmaker and assists in Anne’s scheming.

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy closely follows the events in Austen’s original novel, which made it a tad slow for me in spots.  But Simonsen’s original characters make the book a delight.  I loved getting to know Anne, and Georgiana’s penchant for gothic novels and her pursuit of a career in writing was a lovely addition.  Simonsen even gives Louisa Bingley more of a role, and her interactions with Lord Fitzwilliam, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s brother and Darcy’s cousin, are hilarious.  The odd Mr. Nesbitt, who courts Jane Bennet in Mr. Bingley’s absence, and Mrs. Caxton, a woman from Darcy’s past, also provide much entertainment.

Without straying too far from the original, Simonsen allows readers to get into the heads of Austen’s characters and even has some fun with the ones we love to hate.  Caroline Bingley is even more snotty, Wickham even more horrid, and Lydia Bennet even more dimwitted, generating much laughs.  Those dead set against altering Austen’s classic novel might not be amused, but if you’re like me and don’t mind someone taking liberties with your favorite characters, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is a fun, light read.

Check out my reviews of other Mary Lydon Simonsen books:

Searching for Pemberley
Anne Elliot, A New Beginning

Disclosure: I received The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy from Sourcebooks for review.

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

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I thought I was being good in choosing only 4 reading challenges this year…and then I discovered several Jane Austen challenges.  Those of you who know me well know I can’t resist anything by or about Jane Austen and her characters, and since I already planned to read more Austen and Austen-themed novels this year, I don’t feel too bad about caving.

Austenprose is hosting The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s first novel.  I’m trying to be disciplined, so I’m signing up for the “neophyte” level of 1-4 books.

I will commit to reading this one for sure:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which I read last when I was in high school

I hope to read these as well:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe
Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange


Austenprose is hosting the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, during which participants will read selections from the mystery series by Stephanie Barron.  I’m signing up for the “neophyte” level of 1-4 books.

I will commit to reading this one for sure:

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

If I enjoy it, I will continue the series, whose 11th installment will be released this year.

The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object is hosting the 2011 Jane Austen Challenge, which runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2011.  I’m going all out with this one and signing up for the “fanatic” level of 6+ works by Jane Austen and 6+ Austen-themed novels.  I haven’t made a complete list for this challenge, but this is what I have so far:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
selections from The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works
Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton
The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski
Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe
Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louse

A Faithful Journey is hosting the 2011 Jane Austen Reading Challenge from Jan. 2 through Dec. 31, 2011.  I especially like that there isn’t a required number of books for this challenge.  We can read as many or as little as we want, provided they are original works by Austen or Austen-themed novels.  Even movies count!  I’m going to set a personal goal of 5-10 for this challenge, though I’m sure with all the Austen-themed books I read, that won’t be too hard.  Here’s my list so far:

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski
Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe
Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louse

It shouldn’t be too hard to complete these since I can count books for more than one challenge, but I like to mix things up a bit, so we’ll see how it goes.  Wish me luck, and I hope some of you will join me in one or more of these challenges.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

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

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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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