Just when I think I am off my Jane Austen kick, it comes roaring back.
I know that I should read other pieces of fiction that have nothing to do with Austen. And I do. Recently I read China Dolls by Lisa See, Without You there is No Us, and Escape from Camp 14 in a fit of need for knowledge about Asia. I have one more book to read about an American soldier who defected to North Korea during a period of homesickness and depression.
But ever since my book group read Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, I have found my self lost in a round of Austen that is not even written by Jane. I have even delved in to the Austen Project by Harper Collins.
In this book, we are back at Pemberley but it is six years later. Darcy and Elizabeth are deliriously happy with two little boys. Georgina still lives with them but has shown interest in a busy but successful lawyer. Jane and Bingley live nearby with their children.
Life couldn’t be happier as they prepare for the annual Autumn ball that is held in the memory of the last Mrs. Darcy.
But on the night before the ball Lydia comes to the front door, screaming that Wickham has been killed and They must do something about it. Well, he is not dead but his friend, Denny, has a nasty blow to the head.
Here is my problem with this book. It is stiff. The language, the action, the formalities between people who should like each other and feel at ease. The story is told from Darcy’s viewpoint most of the time and perhaps that is one reason for the constant formal atmosphere. Except that Elizabeth has taken on some of that as well.
This was not a favorite and nor shall I be reading it again anytime soon. I liked the story but some of the relationships seemed a bit preposterous. It was a mystery and not a comedy of manners in the way of Pride and Prejudice. in this book the problems of the past could not be laughed away. Instead there was too much analysis.
Well, having failed that my other faux Austen adventure was sinking into the new versions of Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. Harper Collins has put together a group of modern-day writers who take on of the six and write it in the modern era. That means there are constant references to iPhones and texting.
Joanna Trollope took on Sense and Sensibility. For me, this should have been a slam dunk for Joanna. If you have read her novels, you know that she has a knack for describing the human heart and it’s layers of feelings. I have enjoyed her writing over the years.
In this book, mom and dad never got married so Norland goes to John. Fanny comes in with plans to make the old manor home into a B&B. Elinor is yanked out of her architectural program, Marianne is an asmathic, and Margaret is a sulky pre-teen.
Thank God for cousin Sir John Middleton who offers them a home on his estate near Exeter. He owns a clothing company and uses members of the family as models for his catalog. He also finds Elinor a job in her field and introduces the Dashwoods to Col. Brandon.
I enjoyed the pace of this book, I enjoyed how Trollope worked around various parts of the story that made sense in 1802 but not 2014. I did not enjoy how rude the girls became to one another. I never felt that until Elinor gives up her secret, Marianne was nothing more than a selfish little twit. Margaret wasn’t much better but she is 12. Worse was Mrs. Dashwood who never understood Elinor’s worries and was the example that Marianne seemed to live by.
If it wasn’t for the fact that Alexander McCall Smith is working on Emma, I might have to give up on this series.
In truth, I find the best adaptation stay away from the source books with only a tiny bit of a story working its way in to whatever the main plot turns out to be. At Christmas, my mother sent me a newer mystery series by Tracy Kiely. Here our detective is a Jane Austen devotee. She quotes Jane Austen whenever possible. It is a sickness shared by her favorite aunt who has a B&B in Martha’s Vineyard named after Longbourn.
While some portion of the story has characters lifted from the canon but given different names, the murder mystery often has nothing to do with that bit. I have read all but one book in the series. Sadly it ends at number four, which is too bad because I think Kiely was hitting her stride at no. 3, Murder Most Persuasive.
In this book, Elizabeth is helping out her cousin after the death of a beloved uncle. That is when the body of a former friend of the family is discovered. Worse yet, he is the former fiancee of the cousin’s older sister. Soon one of the plot lines resembles Persuasion and Elizabeth’s sister is almost word-for-word like Mary.
What I love about this series is that it is light and breezy, a great read for summer time or anytime you want something quick. They have been great when I need my mind to focus on something other than my father’s death. And my daughter has picked them up. I was able to get the rest of the four book series through my library. We are in Austen heaven for the time being.
Next on my list to read is Jane Austen and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron. When I read Barron’s work in the past I found the language too formal and the relationships too casual.
However, I have a huge crush on Lord Byron. I would never want to be married to the man as he has way too much baggage. But to be in his circle for even a short time would be something.
I will get to this book as soon as I am done with the latest book club book. Then I can get back to my Austen Obsession.
What books have you been obsessing over?