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I first had the pleasure of discovering Julie Klassen while on an camping trek along the East coast – I was looking for some late-night reading while tucked away in that comfortable Airstream bed. I cannot recall exactly how I first came upon The Apothecary’s Daughter – it may have been some kindle special, but though I didn’t know a thing about the author, nor that she was classified as a writer of “Christian fiction,” I loved the title and was hooked from the first page. Since then (and no longer stuck in that Airstream) I have read all of her eight novels, each of them a mix of mystery and romance, with gothic elements and literary illusions in abundance. You will find Jane Austen and the Brontes well represented, especially Jane Eyre.

Her first book The Lady of Milkwood Manor, tells the tale of unmarried motherhood, and each succeeding book focuses on a social issue of the Regency period and the plight of women in this constrained patriarchal world. And yes, there is the Romance, with various brooding Heroes vying for attention, great British houses with secrets to be unearthed, and lovely Heroines who are strong in the face of societal missteps, where faith plays a part in finding one’s way, and all adding up to a perfect read.

Today we are celebrating Ms. Klassen’s most recent book, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, currently on a blog tour sponsored by Laurel Ann at Austenprose, and where this book was awarded “Best Regency Era novel of 2014.” [the blog tour goes from February 16 – March 2nd]

In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.

Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.

Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

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We are fortunate to have Julie join us here at ‘Jane Austen in Vermont’ for an interview. [Please see below for the Grand Prize Contest and book giveaway details]

Welcome Julie!

JAIV:  You heartily credit Jane Austen as the greatest influence in your writing – tell us how and when you first discovered her, and how she has continued influencing you. And what do you think it is about Jane Austen that she is more popular than ever, in both academia and popular culture?

JK:  I have been a fan of Jane Austen ever since I fell in love with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Seeing it led me to read all of Jane Austen’s books and in turn, to set my novels in the Regency period, when her books were published. As far as her on-going popularity, no doubt experts could answer that better than I could, but for me her novels’ endless appeal lies in the ideal they depict–family affection, chivalry, romance, and true love triumphing over adversity–things so many of us long for. Jane Austen’s timeless humor is the icing on the cake!

JAIV:  You have many references to Jane Austen’s characters in all your novels. The Girl in the Gatehouse for GirlintheGatehouse_cover.inddinstance, reads like a sequel to Mansfield Park – a young woman sent from her home, her reputation compromised by the seduction of a rake of a man named Crawford – her name is Mariah, her sister Julia [though I do have to say I was happy not to see Mrs. Norris hanging about!].

In The Secret of Pembrooke Park, we have a handsome, intelligent and caring vicar – does he have a Jane Austen model? Tell us something of your research into the Anglican clergy during this time period.

JK:  The Girl in the Gatehouse is one of my favorites. I fondly call it my “ode to Jane,” since it has the most nods to Miss Austen. In The Secret of Pembrooke Park, the character of William Chapman was in a great way inspired by Austen’s wry and witty Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey. (Although he is more like Edward Ferrars in that he hasn’t a living of his own, nor a wealthy benefactor).  Mr. Chapman is handsome and humble, godly and kind, but also a man’s man—athletic, good-humored, and hardworking. To research Anglicanism, I read biographies of 19th-century clergymen, attended several Anglican services in the US and England, and consulted the Book of Common Prayer. But it would take much more than that to become expert, so I had a London vicar’s wife read the manuscript to help me avoid errors. Her husband kindly answered questions as needed.

JAIV:  You write what is termed “Traditional Regencies” – i.e. more like Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer than Eloisa James and other “bodice-ripper” writers – Romance for sure with lots of butterflies, quivering lips, and stolen kisses, but no explicit sex scenes. [Jane Austen approves heartily!]. Has it been easy to find a publisher for your Christian-based tales? And have your three Christy Awards helped in spreading the word about your books?

JK:  When my first novel was published seven years ago, most historical fiction from Christian publishers was set in post-Civil War America. Now, there are many authors writing traditional regencies. Because of this, I am often credited with inspiring the growth of the genre in the inspirational market. I don’t know if the awards have helped or not, but I am certainly grateful and humbled to have won them!

JAIV:  Your books all strongly emphasize the power and presence of a Christian God – both your Heroines and Heroes go through times of doubt and loss and then embrace their faith to find themselves. Do you think this aspect of your work limits your readership? How has your own faith influenced your writing?

JK:  I came to faith in my twenties. Like the characters in my novels, I have made many mistakes in my life and am still far from perfect. But I have experienced forgiveness and second chances and this naturally weaves its way into my novels. Considering the time period, it would be more unnatural not to include things like church services and family prayers, which were a regular part of Jane Austen’s life as a clergyman’s daughter and common in society in general. As far as limiting readership, that’s the wonderful thing about publishing—we all like different kinds of books. A good thing, too, or we would need only a few authors rather than the broad spectrum writing today! As writers, the content we choose to include—or not to include—affects our readership. Some people avoid steamy novels, for example, and some avoid sweet ones. The books I write reflect the kind of fiction I like to read and who I am as a person. I appreciate reviews like this one from Booklist, that says, “…the author’s deft incorporation of the faith-based component of her story means this well-crafted romance will have wide appeal beyond inspirational romance fans.” And thankfully, this seems to be the case, because I hear from readers from various backgrounds who enjoy the books.

JAIV: Your epigraphs show a wide reading of early women writers, as well as Jane Austen’s works and letters – is there anyone you have read that you have enjoyed as much as Austen or Bronte [I know you love Jane Eyre!] who has influenced your own writing?

JK:  Thank you. I also love Elizabeth Gaskell, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Georgette Heyer. And no one created characters like Charles Dickens!

Elizabeth Gaskell (1832) - wikipedia

Elizabeth Gaskell (1832) – Wikipedia

JAIV:  Each of your eight novels has a strong heroine who finds or places herself in a situation that reflects her Cover-SilentGovernesslimited choices as a woman: servant, governess, teacher, medicine healer, a novel-writer [think “Anonymous”!], etc. You cover the topics of unwed motherhood, the life of servitude, loss of inheritance, loss of reputation, herbal medicine, the “evils” of dancing, and more … all about women trapped in social and personal prisons. As a woman of the 21st century, it is difficult to imagine that world of 200 years ago. How do you get it right?

JK:  I am sure it helps that I love this time period—my favorite novels, costume dramas, blogs, and research books, are all set in or around this era. I spend a lot of time in Jane Austen’s letters and check my dialogue on an online etymology dictionary to make sure each word spoken was in use at the time. I sometimes have experts read sections or answer questions on certain topics (the military, cricket, blacksmithing, English country dancing, etc.). I am a member of JASNA and learn a lot through their meetings and speakers. And I go to England when I can. It’s an ongoing education! I am certainly fallible and make my share of errors, but I do my research and work hard to accurately portray the era. That said, I write fiction, not history, and occasionally take liberties for the sake of the story. When I do, I acknowledge this in my Author’s Note at the back of the books.

JAIV:  The Secret of Pembrooke Park is your longest novel to date, offering again your reader-pleasing combination of mystery, scary gothic elements, and of course Romance, to tell a tale where the reader is never quite sure who the Hero might be and how the mystery will play out – did you know when you set out on your writing journey how it would all be resolved?  Which brings us to: can you share with us your writing process? – do you start with a social issue, or a character, or a mystery to be solved?

JK:  I submit a synopsis to my publisher in advance, so I have a fairly good idea of how things will be resolved, but there is always room for surprises along the way. My process has evolved over the years and I’m still fine-tuning it. But I usually begin with a situation that intrigues me, e.g. a lady who finds herself working as a wet nurse, or having to go into hiding as a housemaid or, in this case, moving into a long-abandoned manor. From there, I think about what kind of character would be most interesting and satisfying to see in—and grow through—that situation. Specific plot points and twists develop from there.

JAIV:  Your next book is already available for pre-order: Lady Maybe, due out in July 2015. Can you tell us something about it? And, what’s up next??

Cover-LadyMaybeJK:  Lady Maybe (Berkley) is about a woman whose startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England. And then in December comes The Painter’s Daughter (Bethany House), which is my first novel with a marriage-in-name-only premise.

JAIV:  Thank you Julie for so generously sharing your thoughts on writing, your faith, and your forays into the Regency period! I very much look forward to your next two books – such a treat to have two in one year!

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Please leave a comment or a question for Julie and you will be entered into the Giveaway Contest!

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Grand Giveaway Contest 

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes!

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels:

  • Lady of Milkweed Manor (2008)
  • The Apothecary’s Daughter (2009)
  • The Silent Governess (2010)
  • The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011)
  • The Maid of Fairbourne Hall (2012)
  • The Tutor’s Daughter (2013)
  • The Dancing Master (2014)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park (2014)

…and one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

Secret Pembrook Park Blog Tour Prizes x 350
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!

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Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200Author Bio:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follow her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

For more information:

-Twitter handles: @Julie_Klassen, @Bethany_House
-Twitter hashtags: #PembrookeBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalFicton, #RegencyRomance, #Reading, #GothicRomance, #Austenesque

Publication info on The Secret of Pembroke Park:

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Remember, please leave a comment or a question for Julie here or at any of the other stops on the blog tour to qualify for the book giveaways by March 9, 2015. Blog tour stops are listed here: http://austenprose.com/2015/02/15/the-secret-of-pembrooke-park-blog-tour/

Thank you again Julie!

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c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Jane Austens First Love by Syrie JamesHappy to announce the winner of the book giveaway for Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James!

schilds, who wrote on August 18:

“How did you find such wonderful letters? I love reading letters from the past. The style is so beautiful. It makes you see the reality of their time.”

Please email me within the next 36 hours with your contact info and the book will be posted to you directly from the publisher – with many thanks to Berkley for the giveaway.

Thank you Syrie for your wonderful post on these Fanny Bridges’ letters – and all your responses to the comments. Sending you very best wishes for the success of this, your latest book – I wonder what is next on your writing desk?!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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bookcover-troubleClaire LaZebnik, the author of The Trouble with Flirting, a modern-day re-telling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, wrote here on this blog about ‘updating Jane‘. The publisher HarperTeen graciously offered a giveaway, and a random drawing reveals that the winner is:   junewilliams7 who wrote:

So in my version, Franny learns that the guy who makes you wait while he pants after someone else just isn’t worth waiting for.

Wow! That’s great, I was never crazy about him anyway. But did you put her with a reformed Henry? That’s what I would like, except for all my friends who insist that Henry is too naughty.

Will you take on Sense & Sensibility next? That story needs a modern update!

and in a second comment June wrote:

Sense and Sensibility is such a dark story — it starts with widowhood, greed, and eviction and goes to statutory rape, unwed teen pregnancy, the tale of a forced marriage by an unethical guardian and a type of kidnapping (sending Brandon to India and Eliza’s tale), two marriages for money, Marianne being near death…. none of this is bright or funny or witty. Whoever writes fanfic about Elinor and Edward? Few write fics about Marianne and Brandon. Jane Austen’s couples in this book are NOT favorites of many. If you could translate this into a modern story, it would be challenging and remarkable indeed.

Ahem, please note that I am not willing to undertake the challenge myself. TOO difficult!

Congratulations June! please email me with your mailing contact information as soon a possible – the publisher will send you the book directly.

And again, my thanks to Claire LaZebnik for writing her delightful book and for sharing it on this blog, and to HarperTeen for the giveaway, and to all of you for your comments!

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Please see below for information on the book giveaway!

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Claire LaZebnik as she shares with us her thoughts on her newest book, The Trouble with Flirting, a Jane Austen for young adults.  Loosely based on Mansfield Park, it tells the tale of Franny Pearson and her summer of friendship and romance with the likes of Edmund Bertram, his sisters, and Henry and Mary Crawford, all updated to the 21st-century. There is even a rather demanding, you-shall-never-please-me Aunt Norris in the mix!

In one of my former lives I was a children’s librarian and with the added plus of having children of my own, I’ve have read a good amount of children’s and young adult literature – I can honestly say that some of the works for young people still rate as my favorite reads [Bridge to Terabithia by Vermont’s own Katherine Paterson remains my number one]. Now if I pop Jane Austen into the equation [which I do whenever possible], I have been delighted to discover a treasure-trove of titles that take her tales and adapt them to the world of the 21st century teenager – Polly Shulman’s Enthusiasm and Rosie Rushton’s series spring immediately to mind – indeed there is even a blog out there!: From JA to YA: Adapting Jane Austen for Young Adults! [And most of my Jane Austen friends agree that Clueless might well be the best of all the Austen adaptations…]

I have just found out about Claire [thank you Diana Birchall!] and have not read her first book Epic Fail based on Pride and Prejudice, but am nearly finished with The Trouble with Flirting – a thoroughly enjoyable read that whether you are 14 or 40 or even 64 you will find something to savor in the young love so beautifully rendered by Jane Austen 200 years ago as now transported to a modern day summer theater camp, where even Shakespeare takes a bow.

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bookcover-trouble

UPDATING JANE

By Claire LaZebnik

How do you stay true to the spirit of an author who wrote two hundred years ago? 

When you sit down to write a modernization of a Jane Austen novel, you get hit by a jumble of emotions. There’s terror—how dare you tinker with perfection?—and dread—no matter how good a book you write, it will never compare to the original—and excitement—you get to spend the next few months of your life thinking about an author you love!—and, mostly, perplexity—how do you bring an early 19th century text into the 21st century? You can’t simply switch “ball” to “prom” and “tea” to “diet Coke” and call it a day. (Not that some haven’t tried.)

My first YA novel, Epic Fail, is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice.  For the most part, updating the story went smoothly. The emotions in P&P feel as true todaybookcover-epicfail as they ever did: we all know what it’s like to be embarrassed by members of our families and we’ve all at some point given our respect to someone who didn’t deserve it and withheld it from someone who did.

My challenge was figuring out how to give a modern day Darcy a reason to be so guarded that he comes across as a snob: our class distinctions aren’t as clearcut as they were back in Austen’s day and country. But then I figured it out: children of celebrities get fawned over and hounded pretty much everywhere they go in L.A., and, just like Darcy, they learn to be wary of strangers who may want too much from them. So Darcy (now Derek) became the son of two movie stars in my novel.

One thing I never worried about was how to make Elizabeth Bennet accessible to my readers: Lizzie’s about as modern as a nineteenth-century heroine can get. She’s funny, intelligent, wellread, outspoken, and prefers even potentially insolvent independence to life with someone she can’t respect. She transplants beautifully into our modern world.

That project finished, I turned my attention to Mansfield Park.

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Vintage Classics

I love Mansfield Park. It’s like a combination of Cinderella and the Ugly Duckling. Plain and poor Fanny Price pines quietly for her kind, wealthy cousin Edmund, but has to watch from the sidelines as he falls in love with the dazzling and witty Mary Crawford. Mary’s equally charming brother Henry decides he’ll steal faithful little Fanny’s heart, just for the hell of it, then surprises himself by falling more in love with her than she with him. He’s an attractive guy, but morally flawed and conscientious Fanny doesn’t trust him. So she rejects his courtship and waits patiently for Edmund to come to his senses or for senility to descend on her–whichever comes first. (And, trust me, it’s a bit of a toss-up.)

Devout, patient, deeply moral, quiet . . . Fanny Price is about as modern as a whalebone corset.

So there lay my challenge with Mansfield Park: finding a way to make Fanny accessible to modern readers. I still wanted her to feel like an outsider, so in my version she arrives at the Mansfield College Theater Program for a job sewing costumes, while all the others teenagers are enrolled in the summer acting program. But she’s not meek, submissive or embarrassed by her position: she takes some pride in the fact she’s earning her way, and when she’s given a chance to participate as an actor, proves she can hold her own against the more privileged set.

Nor does my Franny (I added an “r”) sit around waiting for Edmund/Alex to notice her once he’s clearly crushing on someone else. She still carries a torch for him, but it’s summertime and she knows she might as well have fun.

So there I was, writing my update of MP, feeling pretty good about how I’d made Fanny more modern and brought the plot into this fun summer acting program setting, and everything was falling into place–and then I got to the ending.  In Austen’s version, morality triumphs. The two people who’ve acted in a conscientious and thoughtful way end up together, while the morally lax ones ride off into the sunset.  Actually, let me correct that. First the morally lax ones ride off.  Then Edmund spends some time moping around because he really really liked Mary and is so bummed she didn’t come up to his high moral standards. And then he remembers about faithful little Fanny who’s still watching him hopefully from the sidelines.

Times were different when Austen wrote Mansfield Park. Young women of no means didn’t have a lot of power. Sitting around waiting—and turning down the occasional wrong suitor—was pretty much the only option for someone as poor and dependent as Franny.

But I couldn’t make that ending work. Not today. Not with a more modern heroine. I found it hard to respect a 21st century girl who sits around passively waiting for the guy she loves to appreciate her, especially when that same man has made it clear he preferred someone else pretty much all along.

I tried to make it work.  I wanted to be true to Austen and true to the novel I’d read so many times and loved so very much. But it wasn’t working. No matter how wonderfully romantic I tried to make the moment when Franny and Alex came together in my book, I felt resentful toward him. He didn’t deserve her.

So I sent an email to my editor. “May I please just try changing the ending?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

So in my version, Franny learns that the guy who makes you wait while he pants after someone else just isn’t worth waiting for.

I love Austen—madly, passionately, deeply.  That’s why I’ve wanted to pay homage to her with these modernizations: if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. But I wouldn’t be faithful to her legacy of capturing universal human truths and emotions and setting them in a very specific time and place, if I didn’t recognize that times change and women are much freer now than they were back then—and give my readers a Fanny Price for our time.

About the author:

Claire LaZebnik

Claire LaZebnik

Claire LaZebnik’s most recent novels, Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting (HarperTeen), are loosely based on two of Jane Austen’s classic works. She’s currently finishing up The Last Best Kiss, which is due out in summer 2014 (also from HarperTeen) and is inspired by Austen’s Persuasion. Her first novel, Same as It Never Was (St. Martin’s, 2003) was made into an ABC Family movie titled Hello Sister, Goodbye Life. Her four other novels for adults, Knitting under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now, and Families and other Nonreturnable Gifts, were all published by Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing imprint. LaZebnik co-authored two non-fiction books with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel (Overcoming Autism and Growing Up on the Spectrum) and contributed a monologue about having a teenage son with autism to the anthology play Motherhood Out Loud.

Further reading:

Claire’s website

Claire’s facebook page

An interview with Claire at L. S. Murphy’s blog

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The Trouble with Flirting
by Claire LaZebnik
HarperTeen 2013
$9.99
ISBN-10: 0061921270
ISBN-13: 978-0061921278
Find it at your local bookstore, or at Amazon

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Book Giveaway! Please enter into the random drawing for a copy of The Trouble with Flirting by commenting below: either by asking Claire LaZebnik a question or telling us why you would like to read this YA novel based on Mansfield Park and how you might fashion the ending.  Deadline is Monday March 25, 2013 11:59 pm; winner will be announced on Tuesday March 26th. Domestic eligibility only [sorry all, our postage rates make international mailings impossibly expensive]. Good luck all, and thank you to the publisher HarperTeen for donating the book for the giveaway, and to Claire for her posting here today [and her delightful book!]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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I have finally drawn* the winner of the book giveaway for the paper copy of Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment, by Elsa Solender.  And the winner is…
book cover - ja in love - solender

 

 

Kim, who wrote on February 14, 2013:

Reading Jane Austen has taught me that who you choose to love romantically and especially attach yourself to legally is the most important decision of your life.  She was very wise both emotionally and financially and all young women can benefit from her counsel . . .Happy Valentines Day to all!  :)

Kim

Congratulations Kim! – please email me [ jasnavermont [at] gmail [dot] com ] your contact information [mail, phone, etc] and the book will be mailed to you right away.

Thank you all for participating and sharing what reading Jane Austen has taught you about Love!

[*My apologies for the delay in doing the drawing – life has gotten in the way of blogging and this just had to wait a week to work its way to the top of my to-do list!]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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What a strange thing love is!

[Emma, vol. I, ch. XIII]

[Please see below for book giveaway instructions]

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to think of Love in Jane Austen terms.  I think we can say that it is a “truth universally acknowledged” that Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne in Persuasion* is the grandest expression of Love in all of literature – who would not want to receive such a letter as this?  But what of Love in Jane Austen’s own life? – we know so little; where did Mr. Darcy come from, or any of her other heroes?  What of True Love in her own life? We can only imagine… so I lead you to a fine imaginative rendering of ‘Jane Austen in love’ in Elsa Solender’s Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment.  When published last February, it was only available as an ebook, delightful to read but nothing to put upon the shelf.  We had to wait until this past December to see it finally published in real book form at Amazon.com.

book cover - ja in love - solender

book cover

At the time of its release as a kindle book, Elsa graciously “sat” for an interview here at Jane Austen in Vermont – you can read that here. And as my review was to be published in the JASNA News (just out in the Winter 2012 issue), I did not post a review of the book on this blog; Diana Birchall very graciously did so for me here.  But as my review is now published and available online, I append it here in part and then direct you to the JASNA site for the remainder [Note: all book reviews in the JASNA News are available online from 1998 to the present: click here.]  – and Elsa has offered a copy for a book giveaway [see below] in celebration of Valentine’s Day!

kindle cover

kindle cover

 “The Many Loves of Jane Austen” 

Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment, by Elsa Solender.

Review by Deborah Barnum

Imagine a young Jane Austen reading aloud her History of England, Cassandra sketching Henry as Henry V, their Mother as Elizabeth I, and Jane as Mary Queen of Scots; or young Jane at school nearly dying of typhus; or hearing Jane’s thoughts on first encountering Madame Lefroy; or sparking a laugh from the intimidating Egerton Brydges. Imagine the suitor you might like your Jane Austen to meet by the seaside, she falling madly in love but destined to suffer the pangs of lost love, forever irreplaceable. If your mind tends to such as you try to fill in the many blanks in Austen’s life, you might find that Elsa Solender, in her Jane Austen in Love: An Entertainment, has done a wondrous job of doing it for you.

Ms. Solender, former president of JASNA and a prize-winning journalist, has taken her story “Second Thoughts,” runner-up in the 2009 Chawton House Library Short Story Contest, and expanded this one moment in Austen’s life to other places and times, all through the lens and voice of Cassandra Austen—it is part real, part imaginary, and part Austen’s own fiction, dialogue and story all beautifully woven together in this tribute to love in the life of Jane Austen—her love for her sister, her family, her cousin Eliza, and her mentor and friend Madam Lefroy; her flirtation with Tom Lefroy; the proposal from Bigg-Wither; and her Mysterious Suitor of the Seaside.

This is Cassandra’s story…

Continue reading… 

Amazon Digital Editions, 2012. 319 pages. Kindle. $6.99
Amazon Create Space, 2012. 368 pages. Paperback. $12.99

Elsa Solender in LondonAbout the author: Elsa A. Solender, a New Yorker, was president of the Jane Austen Society of North America from 1996-2000. Educated at Barnard College and the University ofChicago, she has worked as a journalist, editor, and college teacher in Chicago, Baltimore and New York. She represented an international non-governmental women’s organization at the United Nations during a six-year residency in Geneva. She wrote and delivered to the United Nations Social Council the first-ever joint statement by the Women’s International Non-Governmental Organizations (WINGO) on the right of women and girls to participate in the development of their country. She has published articles and reviews in a variety of American magazines and newspapers and has won three awards for journalism. Her short story, “Second Thoughts,” was named one of three prizewinners in the 2009 Chawton House Library Short Story Competition. Some 300 writers from four continents submitted short stories inspired by Jane Austen or the village of Chawton, where she wrote her six novels. Ms. Solender was the only American prizewinner, and she is the only American writer whose story was published in Dancing With Mr. Darcy, an anthology of the twenty top-rated stories of the contest.

Ms. Solender’s story “A Special Calling” was a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Short Story Competition. Of more than 1,000 stories submitted, Ms. Solender’s story was ranked among the top fifty and was granted Honorable Mention. She has served on the boards of a non-profit theater, a private library and various literary and alumnae associations. Ms. Solender is married, has two married sons and seven grandchildren, and lives in Manhattan.

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For Valentine’s Day, Elsa has graciously offered a copy of her book [as she did with her ebook] to the winner of a random drawing – please comment below on what reading Jane Austen has taught you about Love Or you can pose a question to Ms. Solender. Deadline is Thursday February 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm; winner will be announced the next day. Domestic mailings only [sorry global readers, but our postal service has skyrocketed their overseas prices!]

Thank you Elsa, and good luck everyone!

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'Placed it before Anne'

‘Placed it before Anne’

[Image: C. E. Brock, Persuasion, vo. II, ch. XI; from Mollands.net]

*Captain Wentworth’s letter: [because I cannot resist]

‘I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. – Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? – I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. – Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in 

F. W. 

‘I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.’       [Perusasion, Vol. II, ch. XI]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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and the Winner is…

book cover - celebrating P&P- fullerton

Oloore, who commented on January 23 with:

Actually my first experience with P&P ever was watching last 5 minutes of episode 4 in mini series of 1995 when I was 13 or 14. Those 5 minutes intrigued me so much, that I watched all the remaining episodes and then went in search for the original. I remember reading it the same year during my summer vacation. I loved everything about the book, its plot and style, its heros and heroines, and since that time P&P has become the best love story for me: witty, humorous, illustrative of different human characters, satisfying and with wonderful happy end. After P&P I read other works by Jane Austen, and some of them I liked, some of them I liked very much, but P&P was and still remains the best for me.

Congratulations Oloore! – Please send me your contact information [full name, address, phone, email] as soon as you can and I will get the book off to you right away.  So glad you went from the 1995 movie to the book and discovered even more of its treasures!

Again, many thanks to all who commented with their stories of first encountering Pride and Prejudice – an interesting study in itself, and illustrative of the power of this book that so many remember the joys of that first reading! I included all the comments on this post on the Pride and Prejudice anniversary posted on January 28th: you can read all the “first impressions of P&P” from members of JASNA-Vermont here.

And hearty thanks to Susannah Fullerton for joining us, and for writing the book! and to Voyageur Press for generously supplying the giveaway copy!

c2013, Jane Austen in Vermont

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