RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

I also received a Jane Austen-themed book in my stocking this year, a mystery by P. D. James with characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  People have recommended P. D. James to me before, so I was already interested in reading her books, and given my love of Pride and Prejudice, this was a perfect place to start!

This novel picks up several years after the ending of Pride and Prejudice.  The Darcys and Bingleys have settled down and started families, Elizabeth is now accepted by Mr. Darcy’s friends and neighbors (even Lady Catherine!), and everyone is gearing up for Pemberley’s biggest event of the season: Lady Anne’s ball.  Which brings us to the first problem: Lydia Wickham also wants to attend, but hasn’t been invited, so she decides to surprise her sister and brother-in-law by showing up the night before the ball.  Mr. Wickham still “is not received” at Pemberley, so he and his friend Denny decide to drop Lydia off, then continue on to a local inn.  Instead, Lydia arrives alone in the coach, hysterically insisting that Wickham has been murdered.  The Darcys and Bingleys know Lydia well enough to take this with a grain of salt.  However, when the coachman helps explain that Denny had stormed off into the Pemberley woods after an argument with Wickham, who followed him, and moments later they heard gunshots.  Darcy dutifully organizes a search party, and the men soon find Wickham drunkenly crying over Denny’s dead body.  Denny has been attacked, although not shot, and given the circumstances, Wickham is the only suspect.  But despite their low opinion of the man, no one at Pemberley really believes that Wickham would have murdered his best friend.

The odd thing about this book is that none of the main characters do any real detective work.  There is a mystery, but the characters and the reader sort of watch it unfold.  Of course, this does make sense from a realistic historical perspective.  Although Darcy in particular is very concerned about the outcome of the investigation, since the crime took place on his land and his brother-in-law is accused, he has to maintain some distance/impartiality.  He can get Wickham a lawyer, but not go searching through the woods for clues.  It is definitely a different approach to a mystery novel.  (And don’t worry, there is a solution at the end!)

The inscrutable Mr. Darcy is a difficult main character to work with and, although I was initially interested to read more from his point of view, I eventually concluded that it made the book less interesting.  It was nice to see the other characters from his perspective, but I really missed Elizabeth’s wit.  She is the main reason we love Pride and Prejudice so much, and I wanted to see more of her.  One character who does get more of a chance to shine, however, is Georgiana Darcy.  I also thought that James did an excellent job of summarizing what had become of most of the cast of P&P at the beginning of the book.  Her imagined futures for the different characters were well-chosen, true to Austen, and very fun to read.  I give this book three and a half stars.  If you are a fan of Austen or P. D. James, you should definitely consider reading it!  ★★★1/2

-Elizabeth

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle

A tradition in our household for as long as I can remember is stockings at Christmas with at least one great book in them.  Despite the fact that Elizabeth and I are now in our mid-late 20s, our mom always has a stocking for us Christmas morning, and that stocking always contains a book that usually doesn’t make it to December 26 without at least a few pages read between the craziness of multiple family meals, visits, presents, games and (if we’re lucky) naps.

This year, our literary mama got me The Pursuit of Mary Bennet.  As an English teacher and Jane Austen addict, I gobbled the book up.  It was finished in a matter of days and I found myself (as is the case more often than I wish to reveal) confused.  Did I hate that book?  I read it in 36 hours, but I couldn’t say that I loved it.  So, forgive me, as I make this blog the comfy plush couch of literary psychoanalysis.

Pros: There is not enough Jane Austen in the world – and this brings me back into the world of one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice.  It’s diverting – despite my confusion, it was a book that was fun to read and the pages practically turned themselves!  In fact, had the story not come with such big shoes to fill, it probably wouldn’t have thrown me into this confused state where I currently reside.  Finally, when I finished, I put the book on my SSR shelf and have had several girls interested in reading it.  Do I wish they were reading actual Jane Austen?  Of course.  But they’re not quite there yet, and if this is the tool that gets them to a love for Austen even a fraction as deep as mine – I say good work, Pamela Mingle!

Cons: No one (AND I MEAN NO ONE) can ever come close to the brilliant writing of the queen herself, Jane Austen.  While it was interesting seeing her characters brought to life again, I couldn’t help but feel that Austen would be cringing if she read them brought to life in exactly that way.  While some things were impressively historical accurate, it was a little jarring to hear a mix of Regency dialogue with non-regency narration.  Finally, Mary Bennet.  I’m glad she got her moment in the sun to become something other than a parody and embarrassment to her family… but come on, Austen-lovers!  Can Mary be anything other than the painfully awkward and unaware character she is in Pride and Prejudice?

To conclude, I give this book 2.5 stars.  It was too entertaining to be just a plain 2, but I doubt I’ll read it again.  I will, however, be dusting off my copy of Pride and Prejudice.  Reading this book made me long to be back in that Austen Regency-world!  ★★ 1/2

– Becca

Austenland, by Shannon Hale

I needed something light to read last week, and I found Austenland by Shannon Hale at my local library.  I’ve had my eye out for this book for ages, ever since Lauren Willig recommended it on her blog, but it was really hard to find!  And that’s a shame, because it is a very enjoyable book to read.

Jane Hayes is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice.  Specifically the BBC miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.  So much so, that she suspects it is keeping her from having a successful relationship of her own.  She’s beginning to think no modern man can measure up to Mr. Darcy.

Then her great aunt leaves Jane a vacation in Austenland in her will.  Austenland is a three-week Regency “experience” with costumed actors and strict Regency manners that culminates in a ball and probably a romance with one of the “characters.”  Jane hopes it will cure her Mr. Darcy obsession, but soon she is beginning to wonder.  Will living out her fantasy cure her or just make things worse?  And is it possible that while her character Miss Jane Erstwhile is being courted by the Darcy-like Mr. Nobley, the actor portraying him might actually be attracted to the real Jane?

IMG_0657

So, you might be thinking, “Elizabeth, didn’t you recently write a post about not liking romance novels?”  And yes, that was me.  For some reason, I still like chick lit.  (And I’m sorry if that term offends someone-I can see why it would, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest a viable alternative.  If you know of one, please tell me!)  I think it has a lot to do with humor-chick lit usually has plenty of it and romance just doesn’t have enough.  The plot lines also tend to include plenty of character development, at least for the heroine, something that romance novels often lack.

I am giving this book four stars.  I enjoyed reading it.  If you’re an Austen fan, this would be a good book to put on  your summer reading list!  ★★★★

-Elizabeth

Happy Anniversary, Pride and Prejudice!

Hello everyone!

Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, one of our all-time favorite books here at Of Print and Prose!  To celebrate, the The JaneAusten Centre is hosting a live readathon.  You can tune in here.

Pride and Prejudice is a great love story with a fun cast of supporting characters.  Listening to the story (perhaps with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate?) is a lot of fun on this winter morning!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Long before I was bitten by the “English teacher” bug, I have adored (like most literary females) Jane Austen books.  Through an Austen-obsessed high school experience, and a “just for fun” literature class on the authoress in college, I have read every published Austen work except for Northanger Abbey.  I’d put off reading it for as long as I could, thrilling at the idea that there was still more Austen in the world yet to be discovered, but my curiosity won out this summer when I stumbled upon a copy at my local library.  I all too happily accepted the discovery as fate, thinking it fitting that I be well versed in every work of Austen before beginning my master’s program.

It’s a little difficult to review something written by a literary giant like Jane Austen.  What could I possibly say other than it was terrific, I loved it, and I’m pretty sure Austen is the novelist version of an 1800’s Tina Fey (smart, subtle, and funny – the total package)?  What I will say is this: Northanger Abbey is completely different than any of Austen’s works.  A parody of the popular gothic novels of the time, the heroine is Catherine Morland, and she’s rather stupid, which makes for several funny points throughout the novel.  The naiveté of the heroine make the happy ending of her story much less passionate than other Austen works, and thus slightly less satisfying to a reader.  But the different kind of subtle humor that Austen is such a master at is refreshing and unique.  I haven’t read a lot of gothic novels yet (and I’m about to be an English teacher – horrid, I know) but it inspired me to read some, which is always positive!

Overall, Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable read, and a must have for any Austen fan who’s yet to gobble up everything she has to offer.  It isn’t as funny as Emma, or as popular as Pride and Prejudice, or as romantic as the lesser-known Persuasion, which is my personal favorite.  But it’s diverting, it’s Jane Austen, and it’s most definitely worth 4 stars!

★★★★

– Becca

P.S. A hot tip for my fellow e-reader owners – because Northanger Abbey was published before 1920, with a little hunting, you can find it free on Amazon for the kindle!  However, I prefer to read older books in print, especially if they have footnotes, so if you’re the same, this title is usually readily available at any library!

Matches and Matrimony

Hello again, everyone.  It’s Elizabeth, newly back in DC after a trip home, with a review of the e-book I read on the plane rides back and forth.  I have owned a Kindle for about a year and a half, and I have really been enjoying the convenience of e-books.  Recently, I got an email from Amazon recommending a book called Matches and Matrimony.  I was intrigued by the description: a choose your own adventure novel inspired by Jane Austen.  It was on sale for ninety-nine cents, so I figured I should at least try it out and pass it on to you and my book club if it was good.  (Matches and Matrimony normally costs two dollars, and you can buy it for your e-reader here.)

It’s been years since I read a choose your own adventure story, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this format translates really well to e-books.  You click options instead of flipping back and forth, and you can save your story at multiple points.  (I liked being able to do this when I was unsure what decision to make to get to the outcome I wanted.)  There was also a part at the beginning of each chapter where you chose activities so that your character would gain attribute points which would then affect the character’s responses to various situations in the novel, as well as which characters liked her.

Matches and Matrimony was set up a little differently than the choose your own adventure stories that I remember.  You are told at the beginning that there are nine different endings to unlock (endings correspond to which of Jane Austen’s heroes your heroine ends up marrying.)  The challenge of unlocking all nine endings made me approach the story a different way each time, which ultimately made the book much more entertaining.  It really helped me pass the time on the plane.

I was particularly impressed by the way that the plot managed to interweave and combine characters from almost all of Jane Austen’s novels.  The text, while definitely shorter, is very faithful to the original, so readers familiar with Austen will recognize many passages that follow the books, especially Pride and Prejudice, word for word. I feel confident that Jane Austen fans will enjoy this e-book.  I would also say that this e-book gives you a lot of entertainment hours for a very low price, so I can recommend it to anyone who is travelling or just on a tight budget.  I give this e-book four stars, because I definitely enjoyed it and read it several times.  ★★★★