First Line Fridays # 31: "The Jane Austen Society" by Natalie Jenner

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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With the new film “Emma” in theaters soon, Jane Austen and her works are on my mind. Ok, they’re never that far from it. With that in mind, this novel I’m featuring today promises Austen AND Post-WWII England delights. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner releases in May, and it’s on my spring TBR!

Chawton, Hampshire

June 1932

He lay back on the low stone wall, knees pulled up, and stretched out his spine against the rock.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

Review + Blog Tour: “There’s Something About Darcy” by Gabrielle Malcolm

As I’ve heard another blogger say, there is a WHOLE BOOK about Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy now! *cue confetti* I am excited to be a part of the blog tour today, sharing my thoughts on this essay-like portrait of a classic character still relevant today.

About the Book

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. But what is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr Gabrielle Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel, and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Having been an avid fan of Austen’s film adaptations first then a reader of her timeless novels, I was eager to learn the commentary and perspective an entire book on Darcy would provide. There’s Something About Darcy adds interesting insight into Austen’s work and speaks of her influence in the literary world.

Part of this book reads like an essay on the characteristics and lasting impact of Darcy. The portions I like best are the ones denoting the history of Austen and the influences she used to compile such an impactful character, as well as the portions of her contemporaries and early works influenced by Pride & Prejudice.

A later portion of the book notes the modern works and derivatives of Pride & Prejudice, like the various adaptations (TV, film, & literature alike) and each of their merits and unique facets that interpret, add depth, or detract from Darcy and Austen’s original work. I liked this portion, as well, but some of the explanations of these contemporary works are a bit long and spoiler-y.

Overall, this is a unique analysis of Darcy and his role as hero in classic literature and beyond. While some of this work was a little tedious, I still enjoyed the insights and opinions Malcolm shared concerning history and interpretations of Austen.

Thank you to the pubilsher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Blog Tour

Reading for Janeites | Austen in August

Continuing the fun theme of “Austen in August”, I am sharing a list of books I would recommend to any fans of Jane Austen! For more Austen fun, check out the list of Austen-themed posts at The Book Rat.

Historical

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

Regency-era goodness! It’s an expertly crafted story of love and worth, drawing from the societal constraints to set up a unique situation for the heroine whose journey is even more life-changing than that of the Dashwood sisters at the start of Sense & Sensibility.

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece, pun intended! I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Contemporary

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Really, any Katherine Reay novel is a wonderful read for an Austen fan. She has books that give nods to Austen characters, too! (Lizzy & Jane, Dear Mr. Knightley, The Austen Escape) The Printed Letter Bookshop, though, is a story for true book lovers and looks at little ways reading influences our lives.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensiblity by Hillary Manton Lodge

A contemporary retelling of S&S, Jane of Austin paints a trio of sisters in Texas with a dogs, tea, and a swoony Callum (Colonel Brandon) character. It also shows fresh perspective and “what-ifs” with the “Marianne” character as the heroine.

Second Impressions and Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

These two novellas take readers to Bath, England with endearing characters. These stories take on literary themes within themselves and tell sweet stories of romance!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Bookish characters, an idyllic setting (Cornwall!), a little mystery, and romance all combine admirably in this story of friendship and a bookstore.

More Austen fun!

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

First Line Friday: “The Austen Escape” + Austen in August



It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

20171006_010334.jpg

I’ve recently learned of a delightful thing happening on the internet called “Austen in August”! There are several blogs and social media accounts hosting themed posts, link-ups, and all around Jane Austen fun. (Shoutout to my friend Kara for bringing this to my attention!)

Over at The Book Rat, you can find more info and see all the Austen posts & love.

In honor of this theme, I’m sharing the first lines from Katherine Reay’s The Austen Escape, a contemporary favorite that pays homage to Austen in themes and characters, though it tells a story of its own.

“How can I help”?

The world stilled. It wasn’t the first time I wondered how one voice, one presence, could quicken the air and simultaneously stop all motion.

Your turn! What’s your first line?



Review: “First Impressions” by Debra White Smith

If you put “Jane Austen retelling” in a sentence, and you have my attention. Add the “inspirational” genre to that description, and I’m even more interested!

About the Book

First ImpressionsLawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible–and arrogant–bachelor.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

First Impressions accomplishes what any good retelling does: a fresh take on the classic with its own unique elements and wonderful nods to the original text. In this case, the tropes are all present with a new setting, time period, and extra quirks to familiar typecast characters.

This story is likable overall, BUT, some situations and behaviors felt contrived because of the expected underlying storyline. I would have liked a little more emotional depth in a grab-your-heart and relate way. A large amount of the characters’ time is spent preparing and practicing for an actual play production of Pride and Prejudice. This made story-inception and personality parallels fun, but I feel like it dragged down the pace of the story.

It was refreshing how characters one might dislike/love from the classic are more fully fleshed out and challenging their own stereotypes with their behavior — especially “Aunt Maddy”. I loved her! And, I did enjoy seeing the personalities of “Elizabeth and Darcy” playing out in a modern day comedy.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Mansfield Park Read-Along ~ Week 1 Thoughts

The lovely and amazing Amber is hosting a Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen) Read-Along in the month of January!!!! Each week, we are discussing 12 chapters. We’re also tweeting as we go with the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong!

No surprise, but I’m a *little* behind already (I blame it on life craziness and other really, really good books I’m currently reading). Anyway, this is my post all about these chapters following the format Amber has set. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, so the read-along experience is adding to my excitement and absorption of the story!

Mansfield Park Read-along

Please go visit her discussion post to see other readers’ thoughts and post links, too!

Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week’s reading

Favorite Quotes

“It is unknown how much was consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers.” -chapter 3, the worrisome Mrs. Norris

“When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done’ and that ‘Fanny must have a horse’ was the resolute declaration…” -Edmund, chapter 4 (this reminds me of a tiny part of North and South where Mr. Thornton has the wallpaper changed in consideration of Margaret ❤ )

“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt.” -Fanny, chapter 8 (This is a telling passage, showing Fanny’s contentment in keeping things to herself and revealing her high esteem of Edmund’s companionship and conversation.)

General Impressions

IMG_20180103_205419_127.jpgBecause of my slight familiarity with the story (I’ve seen the 1999 BBC film only), I know a little of what to expect with how the main characters behave and are resolved. With that said, it’s a little surprising to me that so much focus is on everyone else at Mansfield Park while Fanny Price, the main character, seems pushed to the side. Clearly, the reader is to be most sympathetic with her and see how their treatment is influencing her life greatly. Maybe this minimum focus is intentional to make us feel her emotions, when expressed, more keenly?

The Bertrams are puzzling. Like Fanny, I care the most for Edmund, though he does concern me at times with his nearsightedness. The Miss Bertrams are just plain spoiled! And, the other men of the family, the Thomases (elder and son), haven’t been on the page quite long enough for me to judge them.

Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are all colorful characters, if often self-centered, that are adding much humor and interest to the story so far. I’m anxious to see how entangled it all becomes — and how Fanny overcomes her situation.

3 Questions

1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?

Yes, in the long run, I think it will be. She is being raised to an advantage of education and exposure to a different class of people which was important at the time. Though I think she is treated as unwanted and as a nuisance at times, I believe her experiences are shaping her character. Thank goodness she has a kind friend in Edmund! That is the light in her situation.

2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!

I would teach the Miss Bertrams about kindness and courtesy, Thomas Bertram about respect and the blessing of his family, Edmund Bertram about the danger of flirtatious women (ahem, Mary Crawford), and Fanny Price about bravery and the importance of her individuality (I think she puts too much stock into “standards” her relatives dictate).

3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?

You would find me out in the wilderness, perhaps even climbing over the gate (but not arm in arm with Mr. Crawford).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my musings on Mansfield Park?

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

Review: “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay

With each novel, Katherine Reay proves her craft and place on my all time favorite authors shelf. Her stories explore so much depth within the relationships of her main character(s), more than just a story of romance, friendship, or family alone. They portray real people with struggles and insecurities and, most importantly, a season of growth. Her main character is ALWAYS greatly changed between chapter 1 and “the end”, and I’ve often found the same is true of myself, the reader, as I’m subtly changed, encouraged, and influenced by Katherine’s story.

Of course, reading this story along with some #bookbesties and chatting on Twitter via #TAERAL was super FUN, too!!!! (Click on the hashtag to see our gushing thoughts, quotes, and general observations as we read.) Thanks to everyone who joined! More Katherine Reay/Austen-fun is coming on the blog soon.

About the Book

the-austen-escapeAfter years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

Goodreads | AmazonReview

Like Katherine Reay’s previous stories, The Austen Escape is full of literary references and general Jane Austen fun (like traveling to Bath and dressing in period-appropriate clothes!). It is not a retelling but candidly acknowledges the similarities between the characters and Austen’s own, like Mary’s friend Isabel sharing qualities with Isabella of Northanger Abbey, comparing Mary to Catherine of the same, and nods to all of Austen’s other works, too. Because of all the references, I think The Austen Escape would be best enjoyed by someone familiar with Austen’s works or main characters (if only through movie adaptation form).

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I could talk about so many elements of this story and why I connected with it, but I will simply state that it is a story of the intricacies of life: how friendship, work, dreams, relationship, family, and even hobbies are interconnected and form the identity of a person. These little things make up the big picture and determine how a person responds when faced with challenges. For Mary, she experiences a season of growth because of challenges to her comfort zone and what she believes to be true about the people around her. A few eye-opening events (and timely encouraging relationships — I’m talking about Nathan and his swoony Austen nerdiness here) spur her to recognize the beauty and opportunity right in front of her.

Jane Austen wrote about people and their need to connect on some level – from friendship to family camaraderie to romantic relationships. Katherine Reay captures the same drive in her characters, using the same timeless lens of connection, to show a heart-level story of individuality and friendship.

More little things I loved about The Austen Escape:

  • Nathan <3, a fitting hero
  • The juxtaposition of modern and old elements: Mary’s work vs the frill and formality of Austen’ s world
  • How neither Jane Austen, HER characters, nor Mary quite “fit in” with the expectations of their environments
  • Red velvet cupcakes, sticky toffee pudding, bubble gum
  • Nicknames and what they reveal
  • Absolutely ENDEARING secondary characters like Gertrude, Moira, Grant, and Clara
  • Little wire animals and skittle contraptions
  • All the love for books and music
  • All the Jane Austen talk — especially when Persuasion is hinted

Thank you to the author and publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.