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.
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.
Both reckon with an unexpected romance. Elaina is attracted to Ted, who seems perfect for her. But as soon as their relationship gets off the ground, it falls apart. Anna instantly falls in love with Willis. She is already dreaming of what their future will look like. Then he disappears, leaving a series of unanswered questions behind.
Will these sisters find the love they deserve? Or will their dreams of romance remain just that?
The author does a good job of giving equal weight to the modern world and Austen’s original text. My only qualm is that with all of her books, she is a little too heavy-handed on the religious faith of the characters.
The beauty of Jane Austen‘s work is that her stories are timeless and universal. This, of course, opens the door to modern writers trying their hand at adapting Austen’s work in another time and place. The question that the reader has to ask is if the author was able to balance their vision with Austen’s narrative?
Possibilities: A Contemporary Retelling of Persuasion was released in 2006. The 6th in a series of reboots of her novels, it was written by Debra White Smith. In this version, Allie comes from a wealthy family whose fortune comes from farming. She is expected to marry “well”. When she falls for Frederick, who has been hired to maintain the family estate, her aunt intervenes.
Years later, Frederick returned as a military hero. He is also in a better financial situation and a catch. When they meet again, Allie is still grieving and Frederick is still angry. Will they get back together or move on?
White does a good job of keeping to the original text while adapting it to her world. Though she goes a little overboard in making two characters mercenary, they do not stray too far from their Regency counterparts.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Possibilities: A Contemporary Retelling of Persuasion is available wherever books are sold.
There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.
I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.
The Anne we are introduced to in Greeley’s novel is not the quiet, retiring character that exists in Austen cannon. She is vivid, intelligent, and curious. But because her imperious mother continues to believe that her daughter is unwell, she is prevented from the experiences that she would have had otherwise. Finally gathering enough nerve to break with Lady Catherine, Anne flees to London, where is she welcomed by her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.
When Anne’s strength has recovered, she begins to see what life can truly offer. But being that she has been locked away from society her entire life, she is unprepared for the not so polite underbelly of the season. This includes love with a person that she could have never expected. Anne must not only contend with forbidden romance, but with her mother, who is still determined to rein her daughter in.
I loved this book. This is how fanfiction is done. The balance between what the reader knows about Anne de Bourgh and where Greeley goes with the character is fantastic. I loved the LGBTQ twist that she adds, elevating what could be a predictable narrative into a story that the reader does not see coming.
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.
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