JASNA-Vermont’s “An Afternoon with Jane Austen” ~ The Perfect Visit by Stuart Bennett

Dear Readers:

Coming up this weekend [Sunday September 23, 2012] is JASNA-Vermont’s “An Afternoon with Jane Austen”: wherein we shall hear about ‘Channeling’, ‘Imagining’, and ‘Dressing’ Jane Austen’. Presentations by authors Elsa Solender (Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment) and Stuart Bennett (The Perfect Visit) will take us back in time to meet our favorite author! These two sessions will be linked with a talk by our very own Hope Greenberg as she takes us through the stages of “Dressing Jane” in the proper Regency clothing of her day. 

Yesterday I posted a review of Elsa Solender’s Jane Austen in Love by Diana Birchall; today I am headlining Stuart Bennett’s The Perfect Visit – Stuart will be talking about his foray into historical fantasy/fiction, where he follows his long career in the world of antiquarian bookselling and scholarly publications on bookbinders and publishers in Jacobean, Augustan, and Regency England.  He will ask the audience to consider how much scholarship properly belongs in an historical novel, and what is the right balance between fact and fiction?  “Imagining Jane Austen” will focus on these topics, illustrated by short passages from The Perfect Visit.  Audience participation is invited.

I append here the various reviews of Stuart’s book that can be found on Amazon – links to my interview with Stuart are at the end of the post.

Hoping you can join us tomorrow to hear Stuart and Elsa each talk about their books!


*The Perfect Visit starts a little slowly, but I soon became absorbed in the characters and the plot. Who thought time travel would be so complicated? This novel is well written with close attention to detail. The characters are life-like, with clear motivations. One doesn’t have to love Shakespeare and Austen to make this a good read, but it helps. Hope there is a sequel, or another book by this fine author.    (Esther Sisler)

*Finished The Perfect Visit a few days ago. I found it a literate, well-written historical novel of time travel, romance, interesting content on book collecting (accurate for a welcome change), Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and a villain or two. I liked it and was sorry for it to end. But the author left Ned and Vanessa stranded in 1833 London so there can hopefully be a continuation of the story. Hope so… I have often dreamed of buying books in St. Pauls churchyard and Fleet Street in the 1570’s in London. Or visiting Lackington Allen and Co.’s Temple of the Muses in the early 1800s. Well researched; the historical accuracy gives the reader the feel of Shakespeare’s London or of Regency England. Stuart Bennett has been an auctioneer at Christie’s in London, and is the author of books on collecting photography and on English trade bookbindings. He is presently a dealer in rare books.  (Richard Cady)


*Bennett writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of English culture allowing the reader to ‘time travel’ with the wild abandon of a breathtaking game of ‘pretend.’ His expertise on the subject of English culture is dwarfed by his love of the same terrain. Among the many delights of this read are the great descriptions of faces, architecture, wine, meat, landscape and-love! The various dialects from the respective eras are astonishingly distinctive from one another. If you would like to remember how to be seven years old again and also gain enormous insights into these two eras of English history please read and enjoy ‘The Perfect Visit.’  (Sally Christian)


*Earlier reviews have praised Bennett’s mastery with words, his exceptional evocation of the Elizabethan and Regency periods, his meticulous detailing of the limits both of time travel itself and his invented machine, his fast-moving plot with its ingenious twists. I agree wholeheartedly and will add only that I came away from my reading of The Perfect Visit thinking, “I’m going to miss Vanessa and Ned.” So, for me that’s exceptional character-building, too. But let me speak, very quietly, to the book collector among prospective readers: You are going to be astonished by the absolutely impeccable bibliographic details so casually introduced. For a few of us, Ned’s 1607 bookshop purchases may rival all the derring-do for pure, pure excitement.  (Bee Thorpe)


*I don’t think you have to like Jane Austin (sic), I don’t think you have to be enthralled with jolly old England. I think you will enjoy Stuart Bennett’s delightful time-travel novel if you like the way words can be bent into visions, the way descriptions can create feelings, the way unexpected plot twists can spank your imagination. Bennett is a master with words, and his novel is a perfect visit to a world of wonder, romance and friendship.  (Michael Lester)


*I spent a pleasurable weekend reading Stuart Bennett’s graceful, happy and imaginative THE PERFECT VISIT. For those of us who have daydreamed of finding ourselves walking through Elizabethan London or being in the same room with Jane Austen, this is a delightful means to make real those daydreams, or as real as a well written novel can devise. He gives vivid life to names which have been obscure and dusty and walks us through the streets of London and Bath better than Google maps. Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, of course, are admired for their shaping of the English language. Stuart Bennett meets the challenge of making them the centrifugal forces of his novel with prose that they would enjoy, and, occasionally, recognize. Dear Reader, enjoy!   (Sarah Baldwin)


*For anyone who has read each of Jane Austen’s novels a half dozen times or more, and is looking for something else to read before reading them all again, this is the book! The premise of time traveling turns out to be a marvelous platform on which to present an engaging tale, and to flesh out aspects of Jane Austen’s world which she had no need to describe in detail to her original readers. Stuart Bennett’s descriptions of art, music, popular literature, architecture, manners, the minutiae of apparel (especially feminine apparel), even of equestrian practices, paint a remarkably detailed picture of a particular time and place. As such it provides an valuable complement to Austen’s works.  The Perfect Visit is also a worthwhile work of fiction. As the story unwound towards it’s inevitable conclusion, I found myself drawn into the situation of it’s principal characters, a 21st century couple, trapped in the 19th, and living out a scenario which could easily be a plot out of an Austen novel.  (Alan Cate)


*Historical novels provide a form of time travel allowing the reader to meet the characters, customs, costumes, cities and settings which have already created the foundations of our own time, and to imagine what it would be like now if things had turned out differently. Not only does “The Perfect Visit” encompass these traits with charm and depth, but also includes some thought-provoking aspects of the paradoxes of time travel. This is a captivating story, filled with rich historical details dovetailing with adventure and romance. We become embroiled in the world of rare early literary manuscripts and their authors, as the main characters, modern time travelers, learn to adapt to the customs of the past about which they know some things — but not everything. Tying it all together for this reviewer is a delightful musical thread masterfully weaving the present with the past and its future.  (M. Woolf)


*A Perfect Visit, Stuart Bennett’s entertaining new novel about two present-day sleuths who separately travel through time to collect books and manuscripts from the English Regency and Stuart eras, pays homage to readers’ never-ending fascination with Jane Austen and William Shakespeare. Bennett’s thorough appreciation of both authors and their milieu is evident on every page as his characters, Vanessa and Ned, seek out their literary heroes and, of course, run into grave complications that imperil not only their ability to return to “reality” but also their chances of living together happily ever after. Bennett gives his readers a fast-paced narrative filled with unexpected twists–while also perfectly reproducing the tone and quality of the best Regency-period novels. I highly recommend A Perfect Visit to anyone experiencing Jane Austin (sic) withdrawal symptoms.  (Rockwell Stensrud)


 So reasons enough to pick up a copy of The Perfect Visit!

You can read more about Stuart Bennett here:

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont

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