Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Review: Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It
By Various Authors
Publisher: Random House/Ballantine
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Four Stars

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, subtitled Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart,  is a collection of original short stories edited by Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose. Nattress asked the authors to “stay within the theme of exploring Austen’s philosophies of life and love by reacquainting readers with characters from her novels or introducing original stories inspired by her ideals.” Contributors include Pamela Aidan, Elizabeth Aston, Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Jo Beverley, Diana Birchall, Frank Delaney & Diane Meier, Monica Fairview, Amanda Grange, Syrie James, Janet Mullany, Jane Odiwe, Beth Pattillo, Alexandra Potter, Myretta Robens, Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway, Maya Slater, Margaret Sullivan, Adriana Trigiani, Laurie Viera Rigler, Lauren Willig, and debut author Brenna Aubrey, Grand Prize winner of a short story contest sponsored by Ballantine Books, Austenprose, and The Republic of Pemberley. The overall quality of the collection is high, and rare will be the reader who fails to find a few favorites to delight an Austen-loving heart.

I was excited to see that several of my favorite authors had stories in the collection. Jo Beverley’s “Jane and the Mistletoe Kiss” features Miss Austen as a character, a true romantic who encourages the widowed heroine to believe in another chance at love. “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” by Adriana Trigiani is an epistolary story with a contemporary “Aunt Jane” giving advice and expressing her hopes for a beloved niece. A ghostly Jane Austen surprises a young skeptic who is part of a ghosthunting TV crew in Lauren Willig’s “A Night at Northanger.” Syrie James has Austen finding inspiration for Persuasion after unhappy characters from her other novels invade her dreams with accusations and pleas in “Jane Austen’s Nightmare.” In Janet Mullany’s “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” set in the 1960s, a teacher uses the Beatles to help her students connect to Sense and Sensibility and learns something about herself in the process.

Some of the stories I liked best were by authors new to me. “What Would Austen Do?” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is the sweet and funny story of fifteen-year-old James Austen who enrolls in an English Country Dance course expecting to line dance and ends up having fun with Regency dances, reading Jane Austen, and  making friends with a pretty girl. In Elizabeth Ashton’s “The Ghostwriter,” Austen is an acerbic, mind-reading spirit of “ferocious intelligence” who tells a young writer whose boyfriend has left her because he can’t measure up to Darcy, “There’s nothing wrong with your mind, except sentimentality and stupidity.” Ghostly Jane also reveals that “reserved, proud, and clever” Darcy is her character most like Austen herself. “Intolerable Stupidity” by Laurie Viera Rigler has Lady Catherine de Bourgh as the presiding judge in Mr. Darcy’s case against authors of Pride and Prejudice spinoffs. Brenna Aubrey’s prize-winning story “The Love Letter” is a lovely account of how Wentworth’s written declaration of his love for Anne Elliot in Persuasion leads a young doctor back to the great love from his past.

The collection contains historicals and contemporaries, romances, gothic tales, mysteries, and fantasies, each one affirming Jane Austen as influence and inspiration. It’s no surprise that Pride and Prejudice is the most frequently used novel, but most of the others are represented. I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley, but I’ll be buying a print copy of this one so I can reread some of the stories. If you are a Jane Austen fan, I recommend Jane Austen Made Me Do It without reservation. If you’ve never read Austen, reading these stories may be just the push you need to direct you to the originals. You can check out excerpts here.

What's your favorite Jane Austen novel? How do you feel about Austen spinoffs?


MsHellion said...

I like contemporary spin offs of Jane Austen (rather than the continuations that seem to be popular).


Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart--Beth Pattillo

Jane Austen Ruined My Life--Beth Pattillo

Austenland: A Novel--Shannon Hale

And I'm going to have to read the "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star" that I just saw on Amazon, while trying to locate these other titles. *LOL*

Janga said...

I'm a Beth Pattillo fan too, Hellie. She has a story, "When Only a Darcy Will Do" in the collection. Have you read her most recent Formidables book, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All? I loved it.

quantum said...

I think that I might enjoy this book but the kindle price is £8.69 compared to the forthcoming paperback price of £7.49. I'm afraid that pricing the e-book higher than paper does not encourage me to buy.

The electronic version is much cheaper to produce and distribute and this should be reflected in the price! Humm, I'll have to think about it.

My experience of Austen is mainly through (abridged) BBC pod-casts or the unabridged audio versions from Librivox as well as the film versions. I think that most people's favorite is 'Pride and Prejudice' with good reason, but I rather like the Dashwoods in 'Sense and Sensibility'. I also rather fell for Emma, despite all of her meddling ways, after reading it carefully for the book club on the EJ BB.

I haven't read any spin-offs or fan-fic but if both you and Helli like Beth Pattillo then I'll have to look in to it! *smile*

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure this was something I would like, but after your great review, I can see I better add it to the collection. :) It does sound like a great assortment of stories.

Of course, after hearing how Nora Ephron is re-doing "Lost in Austen", I'm dragging out my DVD so I can watch that again. There's not enough Austen hours in a day!


Janga said...

Q, I'm with you on ebook pricing. And while I love the immediate satisfaction of downloading an ebook and adore all the backlist bargains, I confess I still want paper copies of the books I want to reread. I'm not always buying them these days because the ebooks don't have to be fitted into an already overflowing bookcase, but I want them.

Janga said...

Donna, I'm sure you'll find an abundance of stories that will delight your Austen-loving heart in Jane Austen Made Me Do It. It's a terrific anthology.

irisheyes said...

I've never read anything current written around Jane Austen. I think the zombie theme books kind of made me roll my eyes and lump all others in that category. Very short sighted of me :( This collection sounds good - and, let's face it, you can't go wrong with Jo Beverley!

I'm not sure what my favorite Austen is... I love P&P, but I also adore S&S and Persuasion!

Janga said...

Irish, I love Pride and Prejudice too; I taught it at least a dozen times and always had fun with it. I enjoy Sense and Sensibility a great deal. But Persuasion is a reunion romance(my favorite trope), the heroine is older, and the navy world is more egalitarian. These are just some of the reasons Persuasion hold the strongest appeal for me.

I'm sure you will find stories in the JAMMDI collection that you will like. I think you'll like Beth Patillo's books too. Have you read Lauren Willig's books?

irisheyes said...

No. I see you all commenting on them all the time but have never picked her up. How would you describe them?

Janga said...

Think The Scarlet Pimpernel in a contemporary frame. Eloise Kelly is a Harvard graduate student doing research in England for her dissertation. So framing the book is Eloise and her life and romance with Colin. Within that frame is the world she discovers in her research, a world of spies and historical romance. The novels are smart, funny, and engaging. I never miss one. I know Manda is a fan too.