Book reviews

Archive for the ‘Jane Austen Fan Fiction’ Category

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

 

project.png

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn has been on my list since reading Ami from Luv to Read’s review of this book, even though Ami said she did not love this story.

Brief Thoughts: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

I did enjoy the story though and thought the plot enormously clever.

The heroine of The Jane Austen Project is Rachel Katzman, a doctor and missionary from a future which is slightly different to the one I expect our world to have. Rachel is sent back in time to England in 1815 by a research organisation,¬†The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, to befriend Jane Austen’s family, then Jane Austen herself. Rachel is tasked with bringing copies of Jane Austen’s lost letters to her sister Cassandra and a completed copy of The Watsons* with her when she returns to her own time. A colleague, Liam Finucane, is sent to 1815 with Rachel, to pose as her brother.

Rachel and Liam’s instructions are to avoid as much as possible making any changes to the world around them by their actions, however this proved impossible. Saving a young boy from his dangerous work as a chimney sweep had a ripple-effect, as did the influx of counterfeit money Rachel and Liam brought with them to 1815.

Rachel and Liam posed as wealthy West Indies planters who had inherited a coffee plantation before freeing their slaves. Their back story bought them acceptance with the Tilsons, actual friends and business partners of the Austen family.

Some parts of the plan went extraordinarily well. Liam managed to scrape an acquaintance with Henry Austen, who then met and showed great interest in Rachel (and in her bust and her fortune). The three formed a friendship which led to Rachel and Liam meeting and becoming friends with Jane Austen also. Liam, who is posed as a doctor since Rachel couldn’t use her skill, diagnosed and treated Henry’s illness under Rachel’s guidance. Rachel then secured an invitation to Chawton after saving Edward Knight’s daughter from choking using the Heimlich manoeuver, which had not yet been invented.

For me the jarring moments in The Jane Austen Story were to do with Rachel’s in-your-face sexuality, which seemed to me to be there for the shock value rather than what they added to the story. I much preferred reading about Rachel’s issues and irritations with being a powerless, undervalued member of society because she was a female in a time when that was the norm.

At other times, Rachel used sentences which were familiar because they were used by Jane Austen in her later books, such as when she commented that she loved a place no less for having suffered in it while speaking with Jane. I recognised this line from Persuasion which had not been written when this story took place, and felt irritated to think that Jane Austen needed to find her lines from a fictional time-travelling visitor. I wouldn’t be surprised if the story contained other references to Jane Austen’s works which I missed.

The ending was surprising, with one surprise so unexpected and shocking that I gasped aloud on the train while I was reading (then realised where I was and looked around to check if anyone had noticed. I don’t think anyone did). I also found the ending to be quite satisfying, for reasons you will have to learn for yourself by reading the book ūüôā

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing and was surprised to learn this was a debut novel, with the story clearly and confidently told. I very much enjoyed meeting a version of Jane Austen as a character who I liked enormously.

I would have liked to have learned more about the world that Rachel and Liam had come from, as the differences to this ‘here and now’ and those in the story were intriguing.

On the whole, I recommend The Jane Austen Project to anyone who, like me, is a sucker for Jane Austen spin-offs and fan-fiction, however, after finishing this, I immediately went to my bookshelf and pulled out The Watsons and read the few chapters that Jane Austen left. I’ll review The Watsons soon.

* In The Jane Austen Project, the research organisation have in their possession a letter which suggests a completed copy of The Watsons exists. I can’t help wishing this were true…

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

jane

I keep saying that I’m not going to read anymore Jane Austen fan fiction, but I’m finding giving¬†up this type of fiction¬†to be more difficult than giving up chocolate would be.*

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo tempted me¬†by using¬†Jane Austen’s name in the title, a very pretty pink cover featuring silhouette cameos of the heroine and hero and¬†just like¬†Oscar Wilde, I can¬†resist everything except temptation. And chocolate.

This novel takes the premise that Jane Austen was the best armchair expert of marriage ever, and that by following her advice, a woman in her forties in our times could land herself a wealthy husband in times of economic difficulty. Fittingly, the heroine of The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is Kate, a journalist from New York who finds herself at the age of forty out of work, homeless and single. A writing assignment for Haute magazine leads Kate to hunt down rich men for research, although Kate also intends to find a rich man and marry him to secure her future.

Luckily Kate is tall and thin and beautiful and sexy and could pass for 32 even though she is 40 and is clever and gets flown all over the world to glamorous locations including Florida for the polo, St Moritz for the skiing and London (just because) while working on this assignment. Did I mention that Kate also has a Chanel dress which is suitable for almost every occasion that she finds herself in the company of rich men? Also, Kate has a title. Admittedly her friends bought the title for Kate as a joke, but being known as Lady Kate certainly came in handy while she was on the hunt for a husband.

Anyways, Kate meets rich men and poor men, older men and younger men, stupid men and clever men, sexy men and frightening men, the wrong men and eventually, the right man. Was he rich or poor? I can’t say, because that is giving too much away.¬†Years ago a¬†friend told me she tried something similar to this, by hanging around Toorak (an affluent¬†suburb of Melbourne) with the intention of snagging herself a rich boyfriend.¬†My friend’s¬†plan wasn’t successful, but she eventually met a poor hippie somewhere else and fell in love.¬†They¬†have been happily married for about¬†25 years now.

Kate’s character was more of a Lydia than a Lizzie or a Jane and in my opinion, she finished up with a better fellow than she deserved. However, the author gets to decide how¬†the story¬†works out, and this was her choice.

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is a light and cheerful read, but if you want a really good read, then read something Jane Austen wrote.

*I’m NEVER¬†giving up chocolate.

 

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy by Stephanie Barron

jane

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy¬†is one¬†Stephanie Barron’s ‘Being A Jane Austen Mystery’ series.

I’ve read a few others in this series and enjoyed them. Each story involves Jane Austen as a character, set in a known location that¬†the real Jane Austen¬†either lived in or visited during her lifetime, and have¬†a mystery which Jane uses her detective skills to solve.

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy¬†is a sadder, darker story than the others I have so far read. Jane, Mrs Austen and Jane’s sister Cassandra have recently moved to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. Jane is mourning Sir Harold Trowbridge, who she has known and loved since earlier books in the series. Sir Harold, who was known as The Rogue, left his diaries and letters in a bequest to Jane, with the intention that she write his memoirs.

Soon after they arrive at Chawton Cottage, Jane finds a dead man in the cellar.¬†He was a local labourer, who had recently been boasting to his neighbours that he had information which would lead to him becoming a rich man. Jane attends the Coroner’s Court and of course, becomes involved in searching out the truth of the labourer’s death and other mysteries in the neighbourhood.

All the while Jane and her family are battling the dislike of the entire village,¬†because Jane’s brother Edward removed the ‘widow Seward’ from Chawton Cottage,¬†to make a home for¬†Mrs Austen and her daughters. Sir Harold’s legacy has also tarnished Jane’s reputation.

I’ve believed¬†the character of¬†Jane Austen in each of the books I’ve read in this series,¬†including Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy, although¬†this is not the best book of the series, as the story¬†was too complicated. It was interesting¬†to have new characters introduced, such as Miss Benn, who the author advises was the role model for poor Miss Bates in Emma. Mrs Austen is also annoyingly similar to Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which I¬†can’t believe she was in real life,¬†but sadly, there was no sign of any characters¬†resembling either Mr Darcy or Colin Firth.

I haven’t read the¬†‘Being a Jane Austen Mystery’ stories¬†in order, but probably should have. While the books¬†do stand alone, I hadn’t¬†realised¬†Jane loved¬†Sir Harold¬†from the books I’ve already read.¬†I’m continuing to look forward to reading¬†more of this series.

 

Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

me

I haven’t read anything I’ve really enjoyed for ages. I’m bored with ‘Literature,’ tired of mysteries and crime and can’t be bothered with romance.¬†There is obviously something wrong with me, because¬†I don’t even feel like looking at¬†photos of cakes in¬†cook books.

Sometimes when I feel jaded, reading something light and bright cheers me up. I was hopeful that Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter would work, but unfortunately this book has also gone onto the list of books which I found a bit blah.

Emily Albright is an American who loves Pride and Prejudice. She impulsively decides to go on a guided tour of Jane Austen country and finds herself on a bus full of old ladies, an elderly male bus driver and a young, cute but arrogant, male journalist.

I might as well stop telling the story right now, because I expect you’ll be able to figure out how this one ends.

Possibly I’m not being fair to this author as I’m a bit tired lately, (long hours at work), but I truly wish I hadn’t wasted the hour I actually spent reading this book and the half hour I spent skimming through the remainder of the book, (just to make sure of the ending).

I know I have said this before, but I have to stop reading Jane Austen Fan Fiction. It’s too much like having a¬†drink of water¬†when you really want a frothy hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream. No more! (Until next time).

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

jane

I quite enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo, but I have a major complaint to make about the physical book. The cover was really stiff, with sharpish edges and some of the pages fell out as I was reading. It was really irritating, because the story deserved better.

Emma, the heroine of this novel, is an American college professor who has recently learned of a number of unpublished letters by Jane Austen. Can you imagine if this really happened? The Jane Austen letters in existence are the dullest correspondence of all time and the thought of seeing what Jane Austen was really capable of, uncensored by her sister, would blow the upcoming, formerly lost Harper Lee book out of the water.

Emma’s marriage ended after she learned in the worst possible way that her husband had been having an affair with her assistant (use your imagination here). To make matters worse,¬†her rat husband and assistant¬†framed¬†Emma for plagiarism, causing her to be denied tenure at¬†her school.

Emma flees to her cousin’s house in London, where she is surprised to learn that her former best friend Adam is also staying. Emma and Adam’s friendship ended when Emma married, due to Adam’s disapproval of her choice of husband.

Emma is in London to investigate¬†the claim of a¬†Mrs Parrot,¬†who claims that she has a number of unpublished letters written by Jane Austen. On examination, the¬†first letter Mrs Parrot¬†allows Emma to see appears to be authentic and opens up more questions about Jane Austen than it answers. Mrs Parrot tells Emma that she is a member of a group known as the Formidables, originally headed by Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra, who existed to protect the letters and by extension, Jane Austen’s privacy.

Emma is set a number of tasks by Mrs Parrot before she is allowed to see subsequent letters and as she undertakes the tasks, she learns more about herself. Her emotions are complicated by Adam’s presence and their potential romance.

Emma’s story ends happily, with her personal affairs being resolved to a point where her reputation is restored and her hurt and anger with her former husband becoming her past, rather than her present.¬†Emma defers her ‘happily ever after,’ but I can live with that, because for me, the¬†‘Emma’ part of this story¬†was okay, but the Jane Austen parts of the story were thrilling. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Emma’s visits to Steventon, Bath, Chawton, Lyne Regis and other places that Jane Austen either lived in or visited. The possibility of Jane Austen having events in her life which were¬†forever hidden after her death¬†by Cassandra Austen’s censorship of her sister’s correspondence is fascinating. The author clearly explains that this story line is pure fiction, but I still found¬†the possibility of these events¬†to be enormously tantalising.

Fans of Mansfield Park will probably pick up on an error Emma (or the author) makes in this book. There are also a few typos, which along with the pages falling out, let the author and the publisher down. I think the title is a bit lame too, but I do understand that authors of Jane Austen fan fiction need to have a strong reference either to Jane Austen or one of her major novels in order to capitalise on their market.

I’ve had my ups and downs with Jane Austen fan fiction, but would recommend Jane Austen Ruined My life to other fans of this genre.

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

North

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid was written as part of the Austen Project, where contemporary authors re-write Jane Austen’s six major novels. This author is well known for her crime novels, which are very good.

I quite enjoyed Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey, but I did finish the book feeling slightly disappointed, as I always do after reading Jane Austen tribute novels, or sequels or whatever they are called. Nobody writes Jane Austen like Jane Austen. Still, I keep picking these novels up because I’m not ready to let go of my favourite author.

This version of Northanger Abbey is set in Scotland in the present time. Cat Morland, a 17 year old, home schooled, would-be-heroine, goes to Edinburgh for the festival with her wealthy neighbours, the Allens. In a whirlwind of social engagements, Cat meets and becomes besties with Bella Thorpe, who is keen on Cat’s brother, James. Bella wants Cat to fall in love with her brother Johnny, however Cat is already sweet on Henry Tilney, a young lawyer.

Cat becomes friends with Henry’s sister Ellie, both of whom appear to be bullied by their widowed father, General Tilney.

Really, I don’t know why I am telling you all of this. The story is the same as Jane Austen’s, just set in the present time. The characters have Facebook and mobile phones. Cat’s reading of choice features vampires, zombies and werewolves. Cat and Bella use expressions such as OMG and LOL. The faults and failings and the good points of the characters haven’t changed since the original Northanger Abbey. Cat is na√Įve and Ellie is sweet. Bella Thorpe is still a young woman on the make and her brother Johnny remains a jerk.

However, I have the same problem with Val McDermid’s version of events that I do with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Why would a young man, specifically Henry Tilney, who is a lawyer, fall in love with and remain in love with, a 17 year old girl? I think the age differences and intellectual differences between Catherine and Henry are too great for their relationship to work in real life. I can understand Henry’s initial interest in Cat’s pretty face and her lovely personality, but at some time in the future, he is going to be bored stupid with her. And then what? In Jane Austen’s time they would politely have lived separate lives, with Henry finding his amusement elsewhere, but in the present time, Henry would eventually move on and Cat’s heart will be been broken.

Regardless of my fault finding with the plot, I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it to fellow Janeites. In future though, I would prefer to read a Val McDermid crime novel though than her re-telling someone else’s story.

A Modern Day Persuasion by Kaitlin Saunders

modern

Do yourself a favour Janeites, re-read Jane Austen’s Persuasion instead of A Modern Day Persuasion, An Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Classic by Kaitlin Saunders.

This book needed a good, hard edit. Some famous writer or other (Elmore Leonard, to be precise) said that the trick to telling a good story is to leave out the boring bits, and someone should have told this author. There is far too much guff about what kind of tea minor characters drink, and lunches with celebrity cousins who aren’t interesting. Boring stuff that doesn’t move the story along doesn’t belong in the final cut.

To make matters worse, the grammar and punctuation are poor. I’m not an expert, far from it, but these sort of faults are annoying.

The author is also guilty of telling rather than showing the action.

As I said earlier, a reader will get far more pleasure from reading or re-reading Persuasion. However, if you really want to know what happens, seventeen year old Anne Elliot falls in love with twenty year old Rick Wentworth, a poor lifesaver. Too young to get married, they are parted by Anne’s family and godmother, who believe she can do better than Rick.

Years later, Rick returns to the area as a rich and successful novelist. Anne must have been living under a rock, because she had no idea what Rick had been up to during their time apart. (Seriously? You expect me to believe that?In this day and age, if you were still in love with an old flame, wouldn’t you Google them once in a while? I would. Also, Rick is a bestselling writer. Jane Austen heroines read. I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to be more believable).

Blah, blah, blah. Anne’s car breaks down, blah, blah, Anne’s nephew fell out of a tree, blah, blah, Anne has a haircut and makeover, blah, blah, enter Will Elliott, blah, blah, Rick thinks Anne is in love with Will, blah, blah, blah, fireworks, happily ever after. The reader probably fell asleep hours ago.

This book has cured me for the moment of Jane Austen tribute novels.

Tag Cloud