Thursday, 8 September 2011


Patrice Sarath is the Austin-Texas based author of The Unexpected Miss Bennet, a sequel to Pride & Prejudice, and two fantasy novels, Gordath Wood and Red Gold Bridge. Patrice’s fascination with Jane Austen began in her early twenties, and she became a voracious reader of all of Austen’s books. She wrote The Unexpected Miss Bennet to answer the question, why didn’t Mary Bennet wed Mr. Collins? They would have been perfect together. The more she delved into Mary’s backstory, the more she realized that Mary Bennet deserved a much better hero, and thus Mr. Aikens galloped into the story.
 Read our Austen chat, leave your comment and e-mail address to enter a giveaway of a copy of The Unexpected Miss Bennet. Open worldwide, the contest ends on September 15th when the winner is announced. 

The huge spreading  of spin-offs, sequels, mash-ups is due to a desire to preserve and Jane’s messages, atmospheres, techniques and prolong the pleasure or more to the ambition to correct and adapt  what in her work is considered too distant or different?
Oh, surely the first. I think all these sequels are striving to capture her style and wit and extend her world so readers can enjoy it more. I don’t think anyone is trying to correct what she has done, although some adaptations and sequels take things to an extreme.

Do  you think that all these adaptations, both written and for the  screen, could alter, mislead  or even distort the interpretation of Austen’s work?
Oh yes. Especially some of the most recent adaptations. I know film is a different storytelling medium but some of the televised adaptations that recently aired seemed to miss the point. Several years ago, a New Yorker film critic quipped that the reason there were so many adaptations of Jane Austen was because her work lent itself so well to conversion to screen. As the article put it, all you had to do was type Fade In, run Austen’s dialog, and type Fade out at the end. If that was the case, then some screenwriters didn’t get the message and messed with perfection.

Isn’t the romantic  aspect of  her novels over- emphasized in the film versions or TV series we’ve seen so far? (not that I mind romance, but those romantic scenes in the movies are so often  not at all Austen-style!)
I agree. I really think the romance is only part of the package and the emphasis on the happily ever after is missing the point.

What would Jane Austen's wit’s  favourite targets have been if she had written nowadays?
Sort of like a reverse Lost in Austen? I think once she got over the disorientation, she would have kept to her subject – families, society, and how our neighbors provide so much amusement for us.
What would she have appreciated the most in our world, instead?
I think that Jane, who never married and who was keenly aware of the precarious position women had in society in the 1800s, would have appreciated the fact that women nowadays can be financially secure and had rights to their own property and the right to an education and to make a living, with or without being married. Behind the pretty dresses of the Regency era were some harsh truths for women and girls.

Why should we still read her novels according to you? What can we learn from them? (a question my students often ask me, why do we have to read the classics?)
Silly students! Part of Austen’s allure is that she is writing about a society that seems so different from ours but it is really so familiar. I bet if students set out identifying all the ways that they know people in their lives and could map them on to characters in Pride & Prejudice or Emma they would get a real appreciation for how Austen resonates today. For example, in Sense & Sensibility, when the older brother talks himself out of taking care of his stepmother and stepsisters and rationalizes the yearly allowance down to a pittance, it’s a really pointed example of that very common thought process.

Many critics agree Emma is Jane Austen’s most successful literary achievement. Do you agree with them? Which is your favourite among the major six?
I can see Emma being the most successful literary achievement. I just re-read it and found a new appreciation for Austen’s accomplishment. My personal favorite is Persuasion. I think that Austen has really come into her full powers as a novelist. And Persuasion itself occupies a place on the cusp of the new English novel  and poetry that was going to sweep the literary world in a decade or so – Romanticism. Austen’s description of the force of nature and the profound lure of the English countryside foreshadows this new movement (note Anne’s dislike of Bath and the accident at Lyme on the seawall). Persuasion makes me wish that Austen had lived longer. I think she would have done amazing work.

How would you advertise your book in less than 50 words?

Why didn’t Mary Bennet marry Mr. Collins? They would have been perfect for each other. But Mary soon learns that she has more to offer the world than marriage to a foolish man. Mary grows up, becomes acquainted with her own strengths, and makes her own surprising match.

Let’s play a bit. If you had the possibility to get lost in one of Jane Austen’s novels (like Amanda , the protagonist of LOST IN AUSTEN) , which one would you choose? Why?
It might be a bit cliché, but I think Pride & Prejudice, so I could meet Mary. I like her a lot – she actually says things that are quite smart, but no one ever listens to her. I’d like to be her friend and talk about books. I did read Fordyce’s Sermons when preparing for writing The Unexpected Miss Bennet, so we would have that in common.

Let’s go on playing. Thinking of the perfect match among Austen characters. Which is the happiest couple among the ones Jane formed? The least happy couple?
Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley were the happiest. Mr. Bennet said so, and I believe him. Setting aside Lydia and Wyckham, because I don’t think that one counts (too easy), I would say the least happy would be Catherine and Henry. Catherine is far too young, and I think Henry’s got a bit of his father in him. But I know there are plenty of readers who are Team Henry out there, so I’m sure I will hear about that!


mbreakfield said...

I agree with Charles and Jane as the happiest couple. I will have to check out your book, because I always thought Mary got a bum deal.

Trez said...

I love the new cover. It's gorgeous. I am looking forward to reading "The Unexpected Miss Bennet". I love stories about Mary that make her so much more deserving.

I see there are some great reviews on Red Gold Bridge as well, so I will add that to the list.

Happiest couple: well it certainly isn't William & Charlotte :D

Johnny said...

Patrice Sarath is my favorite author!

~Brandy~ said...

I did my undergrad thesis on Jane Austen. It's titled "Jane Austen on the Social Convention of Marriage". I am so happy to have stumbled upon this blog and look forward to following!

Laura said...

On the funny side, I think Mary never got married to Mr. Collins because even Ms Austen knows the girl deserves better... You can see as many adaptions of Pride and Prejudice as exists and yet Mr. Collins makes the best of him to be even worse than the previous one.
And yes, I always think Mary was a bit wasted in the novel. Glad to hear she will have her own story.

Margaret said...

This book would be an unexpected delight! I'd love to read it!


cyn209 said...

thank you so much for visiting & spending time with us!!!
i can't wait to read The Unexpected Miss Bennet!!!!!


marilyn said...

this book has all the basic ingredients of a book i will read again and again. i would love to win a copy.

Lúthien84 said...

Yet another interesting insight of why we love Jane Austen's novels. I would have thought that Anne and Wentworth would be the happiest couple since there have a second chance of love. Would love to read all about Mary Bennet because there are not many authors who focus on her as the main character in their books.


Farida Mestek said...

Very interesting interview and the second cover is simply gorgeous! Thank you for the opportunity to read your book. I'm quite curious to read your account of Mary Bennet's love story.

buddyt said...

An interesting interview and I find I agree with most of what the author has to say about Jane's books.

Although she isn't very harsh on some of the extra books that have been issued to cash in on the Jane Austen phenomenen, I think there are some really bad exploitive ones out there.

I have read the author's Gordath Wood and enjoyed it so please enter me in the giveaway.

Thank you.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Margay said...

Nobody usually writes about Mary, so I'd love to read this story about her!


Claudia said...

I agree with you, Jane and Bingley were the happiest couple, although I believe even Anne and Capt. Wentwoth were such a passionate pair. Congratulations to you for choosing Mary Bennet as the protagonist of your story, I have never questioned too much about her so far.

Jo's Daughter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrice Sarath said...

Thanks, everybody for your wonderful comments. What I like about these thought-provoking questions is that they have a great way of starting up conversations about Austen's books and characters. Good luck to who ever wins a copy of The Unexpected Miss Bennet. And if you would like to continue the conversation, feel free to comment on my home blog at