Posts Tagged ‘rebecca ann collins’

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“I know I shall have to learn to carry my memories … wherever I go, but I will not turn my back on Pemberley.  It is our home, and to it we must return.”

(from The Pemberley Chronicles, page 338)

The Pemberley Chronicles is the first in a 10-book series that continues Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It covers the first 25 years of the marriages of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jane and Charles Bingley, including the lives and loves of the other Bennet sisters, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Charlotte Collins, Georgiana Darcy, and all of the children born to them.

Rebecca Ann Collins opens the novel after the Darcys and the Bingleys have been united in marriage, and I found it to be a slow start due to the repetition of how perfect Mr. Darcy is for Elizabeth, how wonderful and generous a man Mr. Darcy is, how happy Darcy and Elizabeth are, how close Elizabeth and Jane are, how much they love the Gardiners, etc.  I was determined to finish it, though, because the fourth book is sitting on my shelf, and after about 50 pages, I became invested in the story and the characters as Collins focused more on the industrialization of England and the societal changes it brings.

Darcy grows increasingly frustrated with many of the other wealthy landowners near Pemberley, especially those whose estates were only recently purchased and who care more about money than the land and their tenants.  They begin enclosing their estates, driving their tenants out, and leaving them to beg on the side of the road and even die of starvation.  Darcy also is upset about the environmental pollution impacting the streams and picturesque beauty of the land he so loves.  He helps the Gardiners buy a manor in Derbyshire to be closer to their niece, Elizabeth, but also to remove their children, particularly their young daughters Caroline and Emily, from the excesses of London society.  Later, Colonel Fitzwilliam returns from the colonies to join the reformist movement, stand for Parliament, and speak out about the use of child labor in the factories popping up in the major cities and other injustices inflicted on the poor to help wealthy businessmen get ahead.

For the most part, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of Austen’s characters years after Pride and Prejudice ends, but I found it difficult to keep track of everyone’s ages, especially as their children grew up and married.  It also was difficult at times to keep track of all these children, as Collins focuses on the children of the Darcys, the Bingleys, the Gardiners, and the Collinses, in particular.  Because there are so many, Collins only scratches the surface of who they are, except for Caroline and Emily Gardiner, who are fairly well developed.  Taking a peek at the rest of the books in the series, however, it looks like these characters will be covered in more detail later on.

The Pemberley Chronicles goes a bit overboard when it comes to the perfection of the marriages of the Darcys and the Bingleys.  Of course, we want them to live happily ever after, but it would have been more believable and exciting for Darcy and Elizabeth at least to have butted heads about something over the course of 350 pages.  However, Collins did make me curious enough about the children to want to continue the series, even though I’m pretty sure Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, and Bingley will take a backseat as they age and their children and grandchildren take center stage.  This isn’t a perfect Pride and Prejudice sequel, probably because it tries to accomplish a lot in terms of following several characters and their children in a time of political and social upheaval, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the series more as Collins’ original characters make the story more her own.

Disclosure: I borrowed The Pemberley Chronicles from the public library.

© 2012 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: ★★★★☆

That he had wanted to impress on her the depth of his love for her, to ask her to believe that he still loved her, that he had dared even to suggest that his affections were deeper and stronger than Colonel Brandon’s could have been — in all these claims, Marianne wanted to believe him.  Not because she had spent the intervening years longing for his return, for she had long accepted that he was gone out of her life forever, but because she still wanted to believe that he really had been the romantic young cavalier she had fallen in love with when she was seventeen.  It had been the strongest, most passionate experience of her young life; nothing, certainly not her subsequent marriage, had surpassed the exquisite excitement of that first love, and Marianne wished to treasure it.

(from Expectations of Happiness, page 163 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

I haven’t read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility since 1995, and though I hope to re-read it by the end of the year in honor of the 200th anniversary of its publication, it was a pleasure being reunited with the novel’s characters through “a companion volume” by Rebecca Ann Collins.  When Expectations of Happiness opens, Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars are happily married and living in the parson’s house at Delaford, while her younger sister, Marianne, is living with her husband, Colonel Brandon, in Delaford Manor.  Their youngest sister, Margaret, is now 21, teaching at a ladies’ seminary in Oxfordshire, and living with her close friend, Claire Jones.

With Colonel Brandon away on business in Ireland, Marianne spends her days bored and moping, and Elinor worries that she is unhappy in her marriage.  Marianne always was a romantic, and Elinor is concerned that the feelings she developed for Colonel Brandon after she was jilted by Mr. Willoughby may have worn off.  Elinor is alarmed when she learns that the scoundrel Willoughby is living in a nearby county, and when Marianne is invited on a holiday with the Perceval family, Elinor fears Marianne’s and Willoughby’s paths will cross — and who knows what will happen, with Marianne feeling so low, having already forgiven him for the wrongs he committed, and still longing for a romantic hero?

Knowing how close Marianne is to their mother, Elinor hopes to convince Mrs. Dashwood that Marianne’s reputation and marriage may be in danger.  But Mrs. Dashwood has, much to Elinor’s surprise, proven herself capable of managing a large estate and has taken up residence at Barton Park to help her cousin, Sir John Middleton — who had been kind enough to provide a home for her and her daughters after Mr. Dashwood’s death — recover from the sudden death of his wife, Lady Middleton.  Mrs. Dashwood is so preoccupied with her new role that she pushes Elinor’s concerns aside, and Elinor — who feels she cannot even confide in Edward — feels an obligation to protect Marianne but doesn’t know how.

At the same time that she continues the stories of Elinor and Marianne, who were the focus of Austen’s novel, Collins also creates a story for Margaret — a young women without a fortune but much intelligence who enjoys history and travel and hopes to become a writer.  Having been so focused on her studies, Margaret hasn’t had time for love, but a trip to the south of France with Claire leads her to Daniel Brooke, an Oxford historian, who proves to be her intellectual equal, but nothing is easy when it comes to matters of the heart.

Expectations of Happiness breathes new life into Austen’s beloved characters, and while Edward and Colonel Brandon sit on the sidelines, the Dashwood sisters, as expected, do just fine in the spotlight.  Collins stays true to Austen’s characters, with Elinor once again embodying all that is sensible, Marianne getting caught up in her emotions and romantic ideals, and all the secondary characters playing their same roles.  Additionally, she transforms Margaret into one of the strong heroines Austen fans have long appreciated, and she even creates a host of interesting and original characters, with a list at the end of the book so readers can distinguish between Austen’s characters and those introduced by Collins.  Moreover, fans of Collins’ Pemberley Chronicles Series will be happy to see Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, and her husband make an appearance.

I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, but it has never been my favorite Austen novel.  Until reading Expectations of Happiness, I never really thought about all the possibilities for variations of the novel, but Collins certainly helped me to see the characters’ potential.  Her writing has an Austen feel to it, which enabled me to lose myself in the story, and what I enjoyed the most was watching Marianne’s character evolve.  Of the three Dashwood sisters, I think Marianne had the most to learn about life and love.  Having been so madly in love with Willoughby, it’s doubtful that Colonel Brandon’s affection changed everything for her overnight.  I’d always been skeptical of their happily ever after, since she was so young and on the rebound, and I think Collins does a good job portraying Marianne’s confusion when she comes face-to-face with Willoughby after nearly seven years.  Knowing Marianne, it was easy to see how she could forget everything she knew about him and get lost in the moment and the what-ifs.

Expectations of Happiness is a commendable sequel to Sense and Sensibility, one that I think Austen herself would have enjoyed.  I definitely recommend it for fans of Austen variations, especially those who think Pride and Prejudice shouldn’t get all the attention.

Disclosure: I received Expectations of Happiness 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’m thrilled to have Rebecca Ann Collins as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today.  She is the author of The Pemberley Chronicles Series, which follows the characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Her latest novel, Expectations of Happiness, is a sequel to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and I will be reviewing it here tomorrow.  I’ve always been curious about what inspires writers to devote their time to continuing or re-imagining the works of other authors, and Ms. Collins has been kind enough to tell us her story.  Please give a warm welcome to Rebecca Ann Collins:

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog; it is a pleasure to speak directly to you and your readers. You ask “What prompted these authors to devote much of their writing to Jane Austen’s novels and characters?”

I’m afraid I cannot speak for other writers, but I can tell you why this author decided, after many years of reading and studying Jane Austen’s work at school and at University, to write a companion volume to Pride and Prejudice. I have told this story before – but I daresay it can be re-told here, in answer to your question.

In 1996 – following the BBC’s superb production of Pride and Prejudice – a well meaning niece sent me two books by a well known writer – which claimed to be “continuations of Pride and Prejudice.” I read them with some interest and was deeply disappointed to discover that Jane Austen’s beloved characters had been distorted and presented as some figures in a Regency- style soap opera. They behaved not as mature, intelligent characters, as one would have expected of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but like spoilt, ill tempered, often silly types, with very little to redeem them apart from their looks and their so- called “passion” for each other – which they proclaimed in highly contrived language. Nothing remained of the original Austen characters, whose development from a state of inordinate Pride and Prejudice to a more mature understanding and love of each other was the theme of that classic romance – still one of the most popular books in English literature.

It was such a letdown; I wrote to the publisher and asked why they permitted such poor quality work to be sold as sequels to one of the classic novels of English Literature. The answer was a polite challenge – “if you feel you can do better, why not write your own sequel to Pride and Prejudice?” It was a challenge I could not resist.

Which is how I came to spend the next eighteen months in researching and writing the first volume of The Pemberley Chronicles Series – which was published in Australia at the end of 1997 and then reprinted several times in the next two years. The popularity of the book and the many encouraging reviews and readers comments it received led to the next volume – The Women of Pemberley – and so on, until we had a series of ten books, on the lives of the Pemberley families, covering about fifty years of English political and social history from the Regency to the Victorian age.

I have researched the historical, social and literary background of the time very thoroughly; it is a period of which I made a particular study at University and I found it a very dynamic and interesting era in English history.

I also share a number of Miss Austen’s own values and have great empathy for the characters and themes that dominate her novels. While I admire her literary style, I make no attempt to imitate it; I feel that would be presumptuous indeed. Instead I have devised a fairly generic 19th century narrative style, with which my readers seem to be quite comfortable.

The Pemberley Series was subsequently picked up by Sourcebooks, for reprinting in the USA and my reward has been the response of my publishers and readers and the many times that I have been told that Miss Austen herself would have enjoyed the books. My excuse for continuing with the genre – into the new book – Expectations of Happiness which is a companion volume to Jane Austen’s first novel – Sense and Sensibility – is that I love telling a story and I felt there was one about the Dashwood sisters which had been left untold.

I hope that my readers will agree and look forward to hearing from them.

Thank you again,

Rebecca Ann Collins.

Thanks to Rebecca Ann Collins for sharing her story and for writing a variation of a different Austen novel.  I love the Pride and Prejudice variations, but I think Austen’s other novels deserve some attention, too.

If you’re interested in reading Expectations of Happiness, you’re in luck!  Sourcebooks would like to offer a copy to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me what you think makes a good Austen variation.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, this giveaway is open to readers with addresses in the U.S. and Canada only.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, October 30, 2011.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and 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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