Friday, January 27, 2012

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart.  Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.  Ballantine Books, 2011. 445 pgs.

First, I would like to point out that every time I sit down at the computer to write a blog entry these days, a certain infant starts to cry.  Nay, scream.  Screams a lot.  And I am not kidding--every single time I open up Blogger.  Without fail.  No wonder my blog entries feel disjointed and I can hardly find a place to begin writing.

Second, a sincere thank you to Laurel Ann Nattress at Austenprose and her publisher, Balllantine Books.  Laurel Ann sent a request out for folks to review her book in late summer, early fall.  I replied with a, "Sure thing, I'd be honored."  I needed to finish another book or two before I picked this one up, and then it was all I could do just to waddle into work during the month of October.  And then there was the fact that every time I picked up this book to read, I read about one paragraph and had to put it down due to fussy baby or neglected three year old.  Le sigh.  Life has simply not  been conducive to reading in my world lately.  Nevertheless, I persevered.  It just took me 2 months.  And what's sad is that is the only book I read in that time.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains 22 delightful Jane Austen inspired original stories from noted authors Stephanie Barron, Lauren Willig, Diana Birchall and Laurie Viera Rigler to name a few.  It also holds the winning entry in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest that was hosted by
Some of the stories are continuations of Jane Austen's original works, some are variations of her novels, some are modern day twists to them and some simply invoke the spirit of Jane Austen.

I could review each and every story, but that's not my style.  Here's a quick lowdown on my favorites and why they are my favorites in this collection.

  • "Jane Austen's Nightmare" by Syrie James:  Jane has a nightmare that she is walking the streets of Bath and appearing before her are her beloved characters from her various novels.  And many of them are not happy.  Not happy indeed!  Marianne thinks herself "ridiculous and pathetic."  Elinor and Fanny too "perfect."  You get the idea.  I like this whole characters coming to life bit.  I like that they are a bit ticked off at Dear Jane.  I like that Emma gives Jane a quick warning that the others are looking for her. I like that they speak of "that other book."  (P&P?)  Ultimately, Jane wakes up and is quite inspired to write another novel, but this time with characters not quite perfect etc.
  • "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" by Jo Beverley:  Widow Elinor Carsholt lives in the village of Chawton in Ivy Cottage that is tucked into a corner of Sir Nicholas Danver's estate.  Elinor and her family still have two weeks left of mourning for the late Mr. Carsholt.  Elinor wonders if Sir Nicholas has eyes for her oldest daughter, Amy.  But Sir Nicholas has eyes for the widow. I like that it was a simple story about a widow who thinks she has no chance at finding love again.  I liked that the characters met Jane & Cassandra and exchanged a brief but telling encounter regarding mistletoe.
  • "The Love Letter" by Brenna Aubrey (Winner of the JAMMDI Short Story Contest):  Dr. Mark Hinton opens an envelope addressed in his handwriting.  Its contents:  a fragment from some unidentified book.  Rather than study for his medical boards, he discovers the book and gets caught up in a love story of his own.  I loved this story.  It was a beautiful, modern twist on Persuasion. Sigh...
  • "Intolerable Stupidity" by Laurie Viera Rigler:  Meet two lawyers and their clients:  The defendants: Fritz Williams & numerous defendants or authors of "so-called literary works" and the prosecution, Tawny Wolfson & Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Darcy.  The court:  The Court of Intolerable Stupidity with Judge Lady Catherine De Burgh.  I loved the vision of Darcy transforming before the court into various modes as others see him, albeit continually drenched with water.  (Think: P&P '95 and the diving into the pond scene.)  Both "Intolerable Stupidity" and "Jane Austen's Nightmarre" remind me of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.  Quite funny and delightful.
I really enjoy this collection of short stories and am only disappointed that it took me so long to get to it and read it.  And as such, let me also acknowledge that all views in this post are that of my own and that I was not paid to write a complimentary review.  It really was a delightful read.  

No comments: