Welcome to the Sunday Salon, a group of readers who all try to set aside a good chunk of time each Sunday to read and to write about what we read. To visit the other participants, click on the Sunday Salon button! Everyone has different reading & writing styles, you're sure to read about some great book or author that would be perfect for you!
My mother, who is also an avid reader, and I were talking yesterday about some books that have become movies, movies about authors, etc. and of course, Jane Austen came up. Neither of us has read all of her books, but we have enjoyed the ones we have! We've both seen all the movies & miniseries of all the books, and read some of what I will call the "spin-offs". What we both want to know is, "What is the current obsession with Jane Austen?" Are we looking to hark back to what we perceive as a simpler time? Do people need more romance in their life? Do the crazy family members, money problems, manipulative neighbors/community members make us appreciate or hide out from our own, similar situations? I don't know why, but it seems like Jane has been everywhere for the past year or so, even down to the Which Jane Austen Heroine quiz that so many bloggers have posted! I thought for today I'd mention a few of the Jane Austen-inspired books that are out there, most based on Pride & Prejudice and the man many perceive as the ultimate, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. It totally blew my mind to see that Barnes & Noble has an entire Jane Austen section just for these spin-offs!
The first Jane spin-off I ever read was Pemberley: or Pride & Prejudice continued by Emma Tennant. It's exactly what it sounds like, life one year after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy. Christmas is coming, along with a flood of relations from both the Bennet & Darcy families. To top the strain of the holiday season, Elizabeth & Darcy are having communication problems & Elizabeth is feeling inferior because she has yet to conceive a child, while her sister Jane has already had her first baby. It is written somewhat in the old-fashioned Austen style, and the issues and characters seem believable and carried through from Pride & Prejudice.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler is very well known, and a big best-seller that became a movie. Both were good, not great, at least for me. After seeing the movie, I felt like I understood the book characters a little more, which NEVER happens to me. Maybe I just wasn't as into the book as I normally would be, but I remember being excited to read it, because it was highly recommended by a friend who has similar reading taste.
Austenland by Shannon Hale is a modern-day romantic adventure about a New Yorker who has the opportunity for a 2-week full immersion vacation as an Austen heroine. Technically, it is probably "chick lit," but a reader will definitely enjoy it more with some background knowledge of Jane Austen's novels. I found it funny and a fast read.
The spin-off book that best held my attention was The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke. This is one of those "what if" books. What if Mr. Darcy the character, was based on a real man? Well, this book takes it one step further, throwing in a time-travel element. As you may remember from when I read Diana Galbadon's Outlander, I am not a time-travel fan, but it worked for me in this novel. The book flows easily from past to present, where a young NY artist is trying to piece together the mystery of a love letter she has found in an antique desk that supposedly was once owned by Jane. The strange thing that sets off her research and detective work is that the letter is written by a "Fitzwilliam Darcy."
I have not yet read The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James, but it does look interesting to me. The publisher's synopsis states:
What if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart.
Publisher's Weekly refers to the novel as "a pleasant addition to the ever-expanding Austen-revisited genre," and Bette-Lee Fox from Library Journal highly recommends it. I have put it on my TBR list, but I'm not rushing out to get it right now.
So these are my ramblings about Jane, her novels, and society's current uber-love for both! I'd love to know which Austen novels and/or movie versions are your personal favorites, and if you've read any of these "sequels" and "spin-offs"!
By the way, for those interested, you can purchase your Jane Austen ACTION FIGURE at the Library of Congress Shop.