Although I’ve never been the kind of Jane Austen fan who re-reads her novels over and over, I have read all of her novels and enjoyed them all thoroughly. I have been intrigued by the proliferation of Jane Austen inspired novels released in the last few years. I’m embarrassed that I learned about this genre very late. I only became aware of it when I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on the bestseller list and at my local bookstore in 2009. That concept definitely caught my attention.
I recently found two Jane Austen inspired books that I’m going to review this month, thanks to publishers granting me advance reader copies (ARCs). This first one is kinda sorta “normal” and the other one is extremely paranormal. There are no zombies that I’m aware of in the first book, although I can’t say the same for ghosts and other oddities.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart is an anthology edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. Ms. Nattress maintains a well-known blog on all things Jane Austen, and has gathered together some very popular authors for this compilation of short stories.
“This short story anthology contains twenty two contributions exclusively commissioned from popular and bestselling authors who have excelled in fiction inspired by Austen or other genres and who greatly admire her talent. Each will readily admit, ‘Jane Austen made me do it.’”
How could you resist the line-up below?
Syrie James – “Jane Austen’s Nightmare”
Jane Odiwe – “Waiting: A story inspired by Jane Austen”
Lauren Willig – “A Night at Northanger”
Stephanie Barron – “Jane and the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery”
F.J. Meyer (Diane Meier & Frank Delaney) – “Faux Jane”
Monica Fairview – “Nothing Less Than Fairy Land”
Adriana Trigiani – “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane”
Jo Beverly – “Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss”
Beth Pattillo – “When Only a Darcy Will Do”
Margaret C. Sullivan – “Heard of You”
Elizabeth Aston – “The Ghostwriter”
Amanda Grange – “Mr. Bennett Meets His Match”
Janet Mullany – “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!”
Maya Slater – “Letters to Lydia”
Myretta Robens – “The Mysterious Closet: A Tale”
Diana Birchall – “Jane Austen’s Cat”
Alesandra Potter – “Me and Mr. Darcy, Again”
Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway – “What Would Austen Do?”
Pamela Aiden – “The Riding Habit”
Brenna Aubrey – “The Love Letter”
Carrie Bebris – “The Chase”
Laurie Viera Rigler – “Intolerable Stupidity”
I’m going to give you a glimpse into a couple of the stories. Their approaches are so different that it’s impossible to classify all of the stories as a group. Each author has put their own unique stamp on their story, so there is no common ground, other than Austen. That makes them a lot of fun to read because you never know what the next story will hold.
A Night at Northanger by Lauren Willig was a really fun read. Picture a TV film crew like Ghost Hunters, only this TV show is called Ghost Trekkers. They’re filming an episode at Northanger Abbey. There’s Fred, the show’s creator and location scout; his brother, Hal, the head researcher; Erin, the bimbo talking head; Cate Kartowsky, the lowly assistant investigator who wants a serious career and the narrator of this story; and Lenny, the tech nerd genius.
“The day Cate stopped using inverted commas to describe what they did would be the day that she knew she’d officially lost it…Tits ‘n ghouls, thought Cate glumly. That’s us.”
The abbey supposedly has several ghosts including monks heard chanting in the halls, a White Lady from the late 18th century, and an unidentified female ghost who haunts a bedroom.
“’Ghosts?’ Mr. Tilney-Tilney cocked his head in confusion. ‘Oh, you mean that rubbish by the lady novelist! Frightfully famous, too, can’t think of her name at the moment. Crashing bore, all this dance and that aunt and who’s going to marry whom. Don’t go in for that sort of thing myself.’”
As the crew works in the building’s frigid air to find ghosts, or actually to create the illusion that there are ghostly presences, Cate begins to hear voices whispering in her ear and strange noises. When the power goes out, she passes on dinner and decides to go to bed – and that’s when she learns who’s been whispering in her ear…
When Only a Darcy Will Do by Beth Pattillo was also a very fun read for quite different reasons. In this story, Elizabeth is an American in graduate school in London. Money is extremely tight, so she’s decided a great way to earn some money for groceries and other necessities would be to dress in authentic Jane Austen attire and give bootleg tours. The kind of response she’s getting on her first day out can be best exemplified with this quote:
“’It’s on the other side there.’ I nodded across Piccadilly and its buzz of traffic. ‘I’ll hold the tour for you.’…’Tour?’ She looked at me strangely. ‘Oh, I see. I thought you were just…well, local flavor.’”
Then Elizabeth saw a man coming toward her dressed as someone would in Jane Austen’s era, “a Regency gentleman.” At first she thought he was another tour guide, the dreaded competition come to life, but that theory was blown when he approached her and asked to take her tour. He introduces himself as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Okay. That’s weird. Even though Elizabeth ponders whether Mr. Darcy would already know what there is to know about Jane Austen’s London, she needs the money and he’s “Not exactly Colin Firth, but not too shabby either.” Is he Mr. Darby transported to modern London?
Each story in this anthology is very unique. I had so many favorites among them that it was really hard to pick just two. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you have to read Jane Austen Made Me Do It!
Jane Austen Made Me Do It was released on October 11, 2011 so it’s available at your favorite bookseller below:
I’d love to get your comments on this anthology, Laurel Ann Nattress, Jane Austen or the genre that’s sprung forth from her books, and/or this review!
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