Amanda Book Review

Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous title character of Jane Austen‘s novel Emma, is not exactly the most likable character when we first meet her. She has a good heart, but does not always have the ability to read the room.

Amanda (published in 2006), by Debra White Smith, is the 5th book in the Jane Austen Series. Set in Australia, Amanda has taken over the leadership of the family business. But that does not mean, however, she spends all day working. After disapproving of her assistant’s boyfriend, she tries to set Haley up with someone else. This sets off a series of romantic disasters that force her to re-evaluate her perspective.

Amanda is also determined to remain single. That plan goes awry with an attraction to Nathaniel, a friend of the family. When Haley sets her eyes on Nathaniel, Amanda starts to question her decisions.

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I wanted to like this book. But I didn’t. It was hard to read and it felt like a surface retelling of Emma. It was also missing a key scene from her character arc that makes the narrative.

Do I recommend it? No.

Amanda is available wherever books are sold.


The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride & Prejudice Novel Book Review

Up until the recent past (and in still in some parts of the world), a woman’s only option was marriage. If she was lucky, the backbone of the relationship would be love. But for other women, the choice of a husband is a pragmatic decision.

The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley, was published last December.

The book takes place three years after Pride and Prejudice has ended. Charlotte Collins (nee Lucas), the best friend of Elizabeth Bennet, has a busy life. Completely aware that she did not marry for love, she is juggling being a wife, a young mother, and her responsibilities to her husband’s parishioners. Her husband, William Collins is not the brightest bulb in the box and. His patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh is not afraid to speak her mind. She balances it all with an ease that many would envy.

Then she meets Mr. Travis, a local farmer. For the first time in her life, Charlotte feels like she is more than her myriad duties and the self perception that she is plain. The question is, does he feel the same way and if he does, do they have a future together?

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I like that the author chose to use Charlotte Lucas as her main character. It is rare that she would be given the spotlight in a JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction).

The problem is that I did not feel the chemistry between Charlotte and Mr. Travis. I wanted to believe that for the first time in her life, she was the romantic heroine who had a chance at true love. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl Book Review

If one were to ask readers who their favorite character is, I would suspect that Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice would rank near the top of the list.

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd, was released earlier this year. The fourth book in a series of five Jane Austen inspired anthologies, this edition contains a series of short stories inspired by Austen’s most famous heroine.

Like it’s predecessors, I loved this book. I could feel the presence of Austen’s voice and point of view as a writer, which in the world of fanfiction, is not always present. Balancing Austen’s original narrative and their vision of Elizabeth Bennet, the stories reminded me of why I continue to adore the novels of Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

P.S. The royalties from these anthologies go directly to Chawton House. I can’t think of a better way to give thanks to Jane Austen and to those who are keeping her legacy going.

I Don’t Want To Visit Austenland: An Austenland Book Review

I think it’s safe to say that Jane Austen is an icon. Almost 200 years after her death, her books are still staples of libraries and bookstores. Hollywood and modern literature has given us numerous adaptions of her novels over the years.

On one level, it seems easy to re-create her writing. Put the characters in a Georgian era England with Georgian era clothing (or if it is a modern reboot, referencing her characters and story lines), creating an Austen-like story and it seems that success is imminent. But it’s not that easy.

At first glance, Shannon Hale’s novel, Austenland  seems interesting. Jane Hayes, a single American woman in her early 30’s, is obsessed and finds solace from her job and a string of failed relationships by re-reading Pride and Prejudice and re-watching the 1995 miniseries of the book. When her aunt dies, Jane receives an inheritance of an all expense paid trip to Austenland, a vacation where one immerses one self in everything Jane Austen.

I saw the movie last year, it was one the of the worst movies I have ever seen. The book is just as bad.

The problem with the book and especially the movie is that the main character is exactly what someone who does not get the nuances and in-jokes of her novels, is exactly what she appears to be. She is single and so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Fitzwilliam Darcy that she is incapable of finding real, long lasting relationships.  It’s as bad as conjuring up an image of Star Wars or Star Trek fan, a nerdy looking person living in their parents house with no relationships other than their immediate family who spends most or all of their time re-watching the movies or the TV series. This book makes me embarrassed to be a Janeite.

Don’t visit Austenland.

Northanger Abbey Review- I Wouldn’t Mind Visiting This Abbey

Classic novels are classic for a reason. In what they hope will be an easy book to write and have published, some writers may try to take a classic novel and bring it into the 21st century.

In the most recent cases of the modern reboots of Sense and Sensibility and The Age Of Innocence, the writers did little more than transfer the language, technology, clothing and transportation from the original time period to our time.

Thankfully, Val McDermid’s new novel,  Northanger Abbey, based upon the Jane Austen novel of the same name, does not belong in this category.

This story is the same as the original novel. Cat Moreland is 17 years old, from Piddle Valley, Dorset, England. A, sheltered, bookwormish minister’s daughter who was home schooled, Cat, is invited by her parent’s childless friends, Mr. and Mrs. Allen to Edinburgh (Bath in the original novel).

As in the original novel, she meets the brother/sister duo’s of John and Isabella Thorpe and Henry and Eleanor Tilney. I won’t give the story away (I highly recommend reading this book if you haven’t), but one sibling duo turns out to not be so trustworthy and the other does turn out to be trustworthy.

Northanger Abbey is not one of my favorite Austen novels. This original novel is very much a transition book for Austen, as a writer.  Her writing is starting to contain elements of later, more mature novels, but there are still traces of  her early Juvenalia works.  As to this modern reboot, the middle section was a little slow, but overall, it was a good read.

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