Charm has its uses. It can get us places that being curt or direct cannot.
The new play, Being Mr. Wickham premiered worldwide (via the internet) this past weekend at the Theatre Royal St. Edmunds Bury in the UK. In this one hour, one man play, Adrian Lukis brings his 1995 Pride and Prejudice character, Mr. Wickham back to life. It’s been 35 years since the book ended. Wickham is now 60 and contemplating how his life has turned out. His marriage to Lydia Bennet is still somehow thriving after what looked to be a rocky start. Sitting in his library and enjoying a brandy while his wife sleeps upstairs, Wickham tells his story as only Wickham can.
This play is such a treat for Austen fans. Though it has been 26 years since Lukis played Wickham, it feels like no time has passed at all. He is still the charming, smooth talking rogue that he was in his youth. But age and experience has mellowed him out a bit. Co-written by Catherine Curzon and directed by Guy Unsworth, it is an intimate look at one of the most infamous characters in classic 19th century literature. I feel like wherever she is, Austen would approve. It is fanfiction of her work in the best sense of the word.
Chef Ashna Raje has a lot on her plate. She is trying to ensure that her late father’s beloved restaurant lives to see another day. Her overbearing and emotionally distant mother, Shobi, is trying to control her life. Out of sheer desperation, Ashna signs up for the reality cooking competition, Cooking with the Stars.
What could only make a bad situation worse is being partnered with Rico Silva, the recently retired superstar soccer player. He is also her ex-boyfriend from high school/first love.
Rico is not happy that he will be working with Ashna and is determined to prove that he has moved on. Their first meeting after twelve years does not go well. As much as Rico and Ashna would prefer to work with someone else, their chemistry is undeniable. But with too many unanswered questions about the past and unspoken feelings, is there even a possibility of re-kindling their relationship?
Among the six completed books by Austen, Persuasion is the hardest for modern writers to replicate. The past romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth creates a narrative complication that is unique to this particular novel.
That being said, it is not the worst JAFF (Jane Austen fanfiction) that I have ever read. Though the middle of the novel is a bit slow, I like that the author gave the reader insight into both Rico and Shobi’s perspectives, fleshing out the overall story. Austen only gives her readers a short time to see the world through Wentworth’s eyes, the rest of the story belongs to Anne.
I also liked the insight into traditional Indian culture, which I suspect is not much different than other traditional cultures.
If one were to poll Jane Austen fans to determine which of the six completed novels is their favorite, Mansfield Park is likely to be found at the bottom of the list. Similarly, the book’s heroine, Fanny Price is also likely to be found in the same position in a comparable list of Austen’s leading ladies.
Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, written by Jacqueline Firkins, was published last year. Edith “Edie” Price has been in the foster care system since her mother’s recent passing. Her father left when she was a baby. Just a few months shy of her eighteenth birthday, Edie is temporarily taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle.
Though she has two cousins, Maria and Julia who are close to her in age, Edie has nothing in common with them. They are determined to give her a makeover and find her a boyfriend. But Edie is more concerned with making sure that she can stand on her own two feet after high school.
As she tries to stay afloat until graduation, two boys enter the picture. The first is Sebastian, Edie’s first and love and childhood bestie. He is everything she could want in a boyfriend. But Sebastian is taken. The second is Henry, the bad boy who Edie swears to stay away from. That is easier said than done.
Edie knows that she has to choose one of them. The question is, will her heart be broken in the process?
I loved this book. Edie has the soul of her 19th century predecessor, while being a normal teenage girl in the 21st century. Among the JAFF (Jane Austen fanfiction) books that I have read, this is one of the better ones.
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.
Among the Janeite community, Persuasion regularly lands on the top spot or near the top spot when it comes to ranking Jane Austen‘s six published novels. The story of love, loss and second chances has resonated with readers for more than 200 years for a reason.
By the Book: A Novel was published last year. Written by Julie Sonneborn, the novels follows the story of Anne Corey. Anne has a lot on her plate: a book to write to ensure tenure at the university where she is employed, her aging father whose health is fading and a new boyfriend who is her college’s the writer-in-residence. The last thing she wants or needs is her ex-fiance, Adam Martinez. Recently hired as the new President of her college, Adam’s presence is a reminder of what was and what may never be again.
Anne is trying to focus on what she needs to do, but Adam’s constant presence brings up old feelings. Will Anne and Adam have a second chance at love or is their relationship fated to be referred to as past tense?
I really enjoyed this novel. Ms. Sonneborn successfully marries Persuasion with the modern world. Anne Corey is still Anne Elliot and Adam Martinez is still Frederick Wentworth. From my perspective, the best thing about this book was that I knew what was coming in terms of the narrative, but I was still surprised by the end of the story.
When it comes to creating well written fanfiction, a good writer knows how to balance their narrative and their voice with the narrative and voice of the original work.
Christina Boyd’s new Jane Austen inspired anthology, Rational Creatures, was published back in October. Containing 16 new stories from well-respected JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction) writers, the focus of the stories of Austen’s female characters. The question that each story asks is if the heroines are the standard romantic heroines or strong, capable women who are able stand on their two feet in spite of the era that they live in?
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Boyd for the last few years, I enjoyed her previous anthologies, The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. This book is well written and an easy read. I would caution, however, that this book is not for the newbie Jane Austen fan. It requires a level of knowledge that comes with multiple readings of Austen’s work and a deep knowledge of the fictional worlds that she created.
One of my favorite aspects when it comes to Jane Austen’s novels is that her stories still ring true to readers in the early 21st century as much as they did in early 19th century. This has led to the explosion of Jane Austen fanfiction, for better or for worse.
In 2016, Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love, was published. Each of her six completed novels is condensed into modern short stories that are set in and around summertime and summer vacation. I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I felt like the writers achieved the delicate balance of being true to Jane’s novels while letting the modern version of the characters shine.
When rewriting a classic novel for the modern age, it takes more than merely transplanting the narratives and characters from one era to another. It is the writer’s job to ensure that the emotions of both the characters and the reader is equally transplanted.
In the Sense and Sensibility reboot, Jane if Austin: A Novel, by Hillary Manton Lodge, the Woodward sisters Jane, Celia and Margot have dealt with quite a few upheavals in their lives. First their mother dies in a car accident. Then their father is accused of a business scandal. Jane and Celia must take care of themselves and Margot, who is a few years behind her elder sisters. A few years after they have rebuilt their lives, the upheaval happens again. When the rent is raised on their tea shop in San Francisco, the sisters find a new home in Austin.
While temporarily living with a cousin, the sisters have their fair share of issues with their love lives. Celia’s relationship with Teddy ended just before she and her sisters left for Austin. Jane is infatuated with Sean Willis, an up and coming musician. Meanwhile Captain Callum Beckett, a retired Marine is watching Jane from afar while dealing with his own past.
In terms of Jane Austen fanfiction, this one is well done and extremely enjoyable. While it was still Sense and Sensibility, I felt like the author was able to weave her own voice in the story as well.
The fanfiction genre is a genre that has never gone out of fashion. Readers and writers are always eager to know what has happened to their favorite characters after the original book ends.
The Darcys: New Pleasures is the third sequel of a series of Pride and Prejudice fanfictions by writer Linda Berdoll. It’s been 25 years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy repeated their marriage vows. Their children are now young adults and going through everything that young adults go through. The problem is that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, like all parents of children who are of similar ages, can’t exactly reconcile that their children are on the way to growing up. While this is happening, Elizabeth is dealing with a thorny medical issue and their son, to his father’s chagrin, is not only crushing on a village girl, but spending his time with his uncle Wickham’s son, who is becoming more like his father everyday.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Taking Mr. and Mrs. Darcy 25 years into the future was an interesting choice for Ms. Berdoll to take as a writer. I also liked her previous books in the series. I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason this book didn’t do it for me, as much as I hoped it would.
Proposing to one’s (hopeful) future spouse is never easy. The question is, how does one frame the proposal? Does one try to convey the unending love and respect that one has for their beloved or does one use their income and societal status as temptation while basically insulting the one they love? In Pride And Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is unfortunately the latter.
Writer and Janeite Susan Mason-Milks imagines a different narrative for the second half of Pride and Prejudice in Mr. Darcy’s Proposal. Just before Mr. Darcy is to propose to Elizabeth while she is staying with Mr. and Mrs. Collins in Huntsford, she receives a letter from home. Her father is extremely ill and may not be long for this world. Knowing full well that her cousin and her father’s heir, Mr. Collins may turn her, her mother and her sisters out of Longbourn as soon as her father is cold in his grave, Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal.
While Mr. Darcy is thoroughly in love with his bride to be, Elizabeth initially sees this marriage as a marriage of convenience. She respects him and acknowledges that he is an honorable man, but she is not in love with him. Will this marriage become one for the ages or will it be in name only?
I wanted to like this book, I truly did. The initial chapters were fine. But then, the editor in me started to speak up. When I am reading a book, I don’t want to be thinking about the writing and editing choices that I would have made. I want to just enjoy what I am reading. That in a nutshell, is the problem with this book.