Monday, 31 January 2011


This modern retelling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is the first book given away in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration here at My Jane Austen Book Club,  which opened in January with Jennifer Becton's guest blogpost "Men, Marriage and Money"

The winner is ... Margay !

THE THREE WEISMANNS OF WESTPORT is published by Picador Publisher. They kindly offered this free copy to the readers of My Jane Austen Book Club. Stay tuned for February guest blogpost and giveaway   (see the schedule of the event )

Saturday, 29 January 2011


How would  Jane Austen and Charles Dickens fare as writers marketing their books in today’s world? This is what Kathleen Baldwin, author of Regency romances, wonders in her  curious brilliant post Six Things Austen and Dickens Never Did: they never tweeted, They did not set up a home office network, They never bought promotional pens, bookmarks, postcards, or other give-away goodies. Read the rest of the delightful blogpost HERE

Directed by Angel Gracia; written by Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro and Craig Fernandez, based on “Sense and Sensibility,” by Jane Austen , has been just released in the US. Read this review from The New York Times

From Prada to Nada - promo picture

While watching an adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense And Sensibility, Kathryn Davis had a sudden brainwave. The key scene was when Mr Willoughby rode at a galloping pace across hill and down dale to the rescue of Miss Dashwood.
As any good horsewoman would note, what excited Kathryn was not the dashing Willoughby but rather his powerful horse traversing miles of uninterrupted bridleway. It was that experience of riding freely across open landscapes that Kathryn wanted to offer riders, not nose-to-tale trekking on weary ponies across road and motorway. Read more.


For years, Colin Firth was the reading woman’s sex symbol. When a TV mini-series was made of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 1995, and when a movie version was made of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding’s chick lit classic, in 2001, he wowed as the flesh-and-blood embodiment of each book’s respective version of Mr. Darcy. Now, with back-to-back Oscar nominations for Best Actor for demanding roles in two terrific dramas, 2009’s A Single Man and this winter’s The King’s Speech, the British actor has become more popular than ever. (Make of it what you will that at the same time, the star wattage of fellow British male stars such as Hugh Grant and Jude Law, who in Hollywood’s eyes once outshone Firth, has dimmed considerably). Go on reading and watching (there are great clips!) 
By the way, I've seen The King's Speech! 
I saw it yesterday. My review is on Fly High! 
Another interesting article is on The Telegraph.  Philip Sherwell  states that Colin's triumph has fuelled Jane  Austen fever.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


 After a successful career in Hollywood, in which she sold nineteen screenplays and teleplays in a variety of genres to Tri-Star Pictures, Fox Family Films, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX TV and the Lifetime Network, Syrie James decided to follow her passion and write a novel. Syrie was thrilled when her first work of historical fiction (about one of her favorite authors), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, sold at auction after a two-day bidding war between three major publishing houses, received critical acclaim, and became a bestseller. The Lost Memoirs was then followed by other successful novels: The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte and Dracula My Love. Syrie James latest release is Nocturne, a modern romance. Read through the interview and leave your comment + e-mail address to win a copy of Nocturne! (Giveaway open to US & Canada readers only)

Join me and welcome Syrie James 
on My Jane Austen Book Club!

When was your first encounter with Jane Austen and her world ? What fascinated you at first?
I first became introduced to Jane Austen in a British literature class in college. We read "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice." I was an instant fan. There are few writers who can match Austen for pure brilliance of plot, characterization, and dialog. 
 Like many of my blogmates and readers, I’ve read and loved your biofic “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.”  I was incredibly impressed at how true that story seemed to me, how it told about the Jane I had in my mind.  How long and detailed was the preparation for that book?
I read dozens of Austen biographies and scholarly works as well as books about the Regency era. I re-read Jane Austen's six novels, her unfinished works, her juvenilia, and all of her surviving correspondence. I went to England and walked in Jane's footsteps, with a visit to her house at Chawton Cottage, the ruins of Netley Abbey near Southampton, the Cobb at Lyme Regis, the city of Bath, and a pilgrimage to her grave at Winchester Cathedral. I was also granted a rare opportunity to visit Godmersham Park, one of the grand manor homes belonging to Jane's older brother Edward, where Jane often stayed. It was a glorious experience! I also watched all the movies of her works many times to familiarize myself with the customs, fashions, and lifestyle of Jane's England.

Then the real work began: to outline and create the story. It was a challenge to interweave my imagined love story with the known dates, times, places, and facts of Jane Austen's life. I am so glad the story rang true to you, because I felt a great responsibility to remain true to Jane Austen's known history, and to accurately represent not only her, but her real-life friends and family members.
While researching,  what did you discover about Jane that you didn’t suspect before, that surprised you the most?
I was astonished that there was no known record of a love story for Jane. I couldn't believe it! She wrote so beautifully and with such insight about love and courtship, I feel certain she had a romance of her own—one that she was obliged to keep hidden from the world. That's the story I decided to tell.  And my novel is inspired by a true incident—another thing I learned that both surprised and intrigued me. Jane's sister Cassandra confided to a niece that if Jane ever truly loved anyone, it was a man she once met at an unspecified seaside resort. That unnamed, mysterious gentleman has tantalized biographers for two hundred years. I decided to invent him.

What is there in Jane the woman that you most appreciate?
I admire her wit, observation of detail, and appreciation of the small joys in life, as evidenced in both her novels and her letters. She was a devoted sister, friend, and daughter, very close to father and all her siblings, and her feelings for them and for Anne Sharpe, the governess to her nieces and nephews, is truly touching.
What about Jane the writer,  instead?
I greatly admire her incredible skill when it comes to characterization, plot, and dialog.  Sir Walter Scott once wrote, " That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!" I couldn't have said it more perfectly.

As I wrote in my review, the hero in "The Lost Memoirs," Mr. Ashford,  owns features which are typical of some of Jane’s heroes. Your suggestion is then, Jane didn’t  totally create them in her mind but was inspired by and tried to describe the reality. Is it the same for you as a writer? Where do your heroes come from?
I believe Jane did draw on the men she knew when inventing her heroes, while at the same time fantasizing about the type of man she (and her heroine) would fall in love with. And yes, so do I.  Isn't that what all writers do? In "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen," I also incorporated unique characteristics not found in Austen's heroes to create Mr. Ashford—the kind of man I believe Jane Austen would have fallen in love with. 

Going back to Jane, what is it in her little close country world that becomes so appealing to our contemporary audience?
Jane Austen's stories and characters are a microcosm of the world we live in today. Everyone knows someone like Mrs. Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, or Mr. Woodhouse. We all want to be Elizabeth Bennet and marry Mr. Darcy. The issues she explores—relationships between men and women, family obligations, money or the lack of it, lack of opportunities for women, morality, overcoming pride and prejudice, learning from past mistakes, gathering the courage to follow our destiny and do what is right—we can identify with all of them today. And it's fun to read about a world before television, automobiles, cell phones, and the internet; a quieter world where conversation and music had to be experienced in person, men wore tailcoats and tight breeches, and people walked everywhere or rode in carriages.  We've glamorized it to be sure, but it's still fun!

Have you got a favourite Austen hero and a heroine?
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  My second favorites, and also dear to my heart, are Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.

 I’d love to see a film based on your  Lost Memoirs.  It would be a new, very credible biopic Janeites would love, I’m certain.  Would you accept? And in the game of dreaming and  keeping hope  high, who would you cast as  Jane and  Mr. Ashford?
I'd be thrilled to see  "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen," come to the screen. I have already written the screenplay! I'd cast Richard Armitage or Colin Firth as Mr. Ashford, and Rachel Weisz, Emily Watson, or Emily Blunt as Jane.

Really? Ok, Syrie. I'll start campaigning for your screenplay, then!  (Richard Armitage as Mr Ashford ? Yes, please!) 
Back to books, now. After writing about Jane Austen, you wrote Charlotte Brontë’s biofic “The Secret Diaries of …” and "Dracula My Love." It seems classic literature is a great source of inspiration to you.
It is indeed! It was a thrill and an honor to research and write from the point of view of two such remarkable women. I loved exploring Charlotte's true life love story and the inspiration behind her novel "Jane Eyre" (another one of my all-time favorite novels) in "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë." There is a lot to admire in Bram Stoker's classic novel "Dracula," and it was exciting to re-imagine it from the point of view of the heroine, Mina Harker, as a passionate, dangerous, and secret romance in  "Dracula, My Love." 

 Your latest book is instead a modern  thrilling romance, "Nocturne."  How much did Jane Austen and her romances influence you in this case? 
When I wrote "Nocturne," I was very heavily influenced by my love for all things Austen. "Nocturne" is the story of a woman whose car runs off an icy Colorado road during a blizzard, and she's snowbound for days with a brilliant, gorgeous, charismatic, reclusive man with a dark secret. They fall deeply in love, a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever. Having written three historical fiction novels in a row that took place in England, I have fallen in love with dashing, cultured, accomplished men with luscious accents, and I knew at once that Michael Tyler, the hero in "Nocturne," had to be British. You might say that Michael is a blend of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley and … (but to give away any more would be telling!)
Michael and Nicole also share a love of classic literature represented by works including Austen's, and one of Michael's secrets directly relates to something quite Austenian.  I can't say more without giving away plot points.

 So, do you think Janeites may love your "Nocturne"? And what especially in it?
I fell in love with Michael and Nicole while writing "Nocturne," and I hope Austen fans will, too! It's both a love story and an exploration of redemption and of the sacrifices needed to arrive at one's destiny—a theme that is very Austenian. I am humbled and honored by the response from critics, who I think explain the novel better than I can. Here's a sampling of just a few reviews:
- "Lyrical, lush, and intensely romantic ... this infinitely touching, bittersweet story from James ("Dracula, My Love") will weave its way into readers' hearts, with its complex characters and compelling emotions sure to linger long after the last page has been turned." (Library Journal
"Nocturne is the kind of book that makes you want to turn off the phone and the television so you can do nothing but read (and maybe sip some tea or hot cocoa.)" (Barnes and Noble's Heart to Heart Blog) 
- "Tauntingly compelling … the perfect escape book for romance readers." (
- "Brilliant, couldn't put it down … a beautiful romance that pulls at the heart strings." (Book Chick City)
- "A once-in-a-lifetime kind of love ...
 each incredible revelation kept me turning pages long into the night." (A Simple Love of Reading)
"If you read any book for Valentine's Day, read 'Nocturne' by Syrie James."  (Miss Remmer's Review)
- "If you've never read a Syrie James novel you're missing out. Whether you begin with her odes to Austen, Brontë, Dracula, or Nicole and Michael – you will most assuredly  read every word she's written and become a true fan for all time." (Feathered Quill)

Thank you so much for hosting this Q & A today. I love to hear from readers, and hope you'll visit me at, where I invite you to leave me a message and sign up for my newsletter.  Happy reading!

Thank you very much, Syrie! I wish you and your Nocturne great success! And to my readers in the  US and Canada,  I suggest not to miss the chance to win a copy of this great novel  leaving their comments and e-mail addresses here,  below this post.The giveaway ends February 2nd .

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


This is Pamela Aidan's latest release, a novella connected  to last week's session of " Talking Jane Austen with ..." Have you read Ms Aidan's interview? She has published three wonderful sequels to Pride & Prejudice and now has just added  this prequel about young Darcy to her trilogy .
One lucky commenter has won a free copy of the book and I'm glad to announce that her name is ...


Congratulations, Monica. I'm sure you'll enjoy your new Austensque read. And,  of course, many thanks to Ms Aidan for taking the time to answer my questions and for this great giveaway! Stay tuned for tomorrow's interview and remember there's a giveaway still going on until the 31st January but open to US readers only. It is linked to Jennifer Becton's post for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration. Have you left your comment and your e-mail address? You have the chance to win The Three Waissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Shine. A double chance if you comment both posts!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


I'm very pleased to announce that I'll officially join the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011 hosted by Laurel Ann Nattress at her amazing site, Austenprose . If you have not read Jane Austen’s masterpiece or would like to revisit it in honor of its significant anniversary, seen all of the movies or read all of the sequels and spinoffs, this is the year to join the challenge along with other Janeites, historical fiction readers and period drama movie lovers. I'm going to try to fullfil 4 tasks: 


For further information about this challenge CLICK HERE

Saturday, 22 January 2011

SENSE & SENSIBILITY BICENTENARY CELEBRATION - Men, Marriage, and Money in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility by Jennifer Becton

October 2011 will mark the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. This is why My Jane Austen Book Club wants to  dedicate a special space to the celebration and discussion of Austen's first achievement as a published writer. I have invited some expert Janeites to contribute to the discussion and they have kindly and generously accepted.The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration opens today with Jennifer Becton 's guest blogpost.  Here are her thoughts on  "Men, Marriage, and Money in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility".
There's a giveaway ( open to US readers only this time ) linked to this post. For further information see at the bottom of this post. Read, enjoy, leave your comment + e-mail address and ... good luck!

The course of true love never did run smooth. Or cheap, as readers of Jane Austen’s novels well know.

Before the seventeenth century, marriages were formed solely on the basis of improving the family finances, and the concept of romantic love did not come into play at all. Even in the Regency period, when young ladies and gentlemen began to hope for domestic felicity and a bit of romance, marriage was still viewed as a path to security at the very least and as an opportunity for upward social mobility at its most successful.

Marriage was serious business, and though many of Austen’s characters hoped for romantic love, the financial implications of marriage could not be ignored. In fact, they were discussed quite openly. So frank was this conversation about the finances of eligible ladies and gentlemen that their incomes and inheritances were often the subjects of newspaper articles and even books. In 1742, before the Regency period, an unknown compiler published A Master-Key to the Rich Ladies Treasury, which was tables that listed eligible women, their addresses, and their fortunes. A fortune hunter’s directory!

To modern ears, the frank discussions of each eligible character’s finances may sound crass and impolite, but this was very much the societal norm. Women, whom society forbade to engage in most professions, had little choice but to seek a wise financial match. But as Jane Austen demonstrates in many of her novels, gentlemen were also subject to the pressure to marry for money rather than love. Sense and Sensibility especially reveals that gentlemen were also not always free to marry for their own reasons. Edward Ferrars, John Willoughby, and Col. Brandon’s choices were also influenced—positively or negatively—as a result of financial concerns.

Mrs. Ferrars, the mother of Edward and Robert Ferrars, “with the utmost liberality, will…settle on [Edward] a thousand a year” if he marries the Hon. Miss Morton, who has 30,000 pounds. When Edward refuses this inducement to marriage because he has been secretly engaged to another, his brother Robert is substituted in his mother’s scheme with little compunction. Money and status matter most to Mrs. Ferrars, and though she was unsuccessful in bringing about either match, she had no qualms about doing whatever was necessary to force one of her sons into this advantageous marriage. Both her sons eventually married for love.

Financial considerations also influenced John Willoughby, a charming rake of poor character but good personality, in his marital choice. Though he appears to love Marianne, he marries a Miss Grey who has 50,000 pounds. To the Dashwoods, Willoughby seemed to be a man influenced only by the contents of his heart, but his actions show that he was more concerned by the contents of his pocketbook. And his marriage was no doubt less than pleasant.

Other than Edward Ferrars, Col. Brandon is perhaps the only eligible gentleman in Sense and Sensibility whose choices continued to show a balance between love and money. And the results of his family situation display not only the repercussions of loveless marriages on the gentleman and the more dire ramifications for the young lady, but also on entire families. As a young man, Col. Brandon was greatly attached to Eliza, an orphan of large fortune who was raised in the care of his father. Though Col. Brandon loved her with the same “fervent…attachment” that Marianne had for Willoughby, he bowed to the will of his father, and Eliza was married to his brother, who did not love her at all. Misery ensued for the entire Brandon family. Col. Brandon was forced to watch his brother marry the woman he loved; his brother was displeased with his wife; and Eliza suffered at the hands of an unkind husband. This marriage ended ultimately in a rare divorce, and a destitute Eliza, whose “legal allowance was not…sufficient for her comfortable maintenance,” was left to the mercy of society and dependent on Col. Brandon’s kindness and financial support.

Edward Ferrars eschewed the idea of marriage for money, John Willoughby chose money over love, and Col. Brandon exemplified the long-term complications that could arise when a loveless marriage was arranged. The choices of each gentleman had large impacts upon the women around them and upon their families in general. There is no question that Jane Austen dreamed of a time when a young couple could marry for love alone, but she was also practical enough to realize that such a time had not yet come.
Jennifer Becton
Jennifer Becton is the author of Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (My review HERE) . Her next Austen sequel will be released on July 15, 2011, followed by a contemporary mystery novel later in the year. For more information, please visit


If you comment  and leave your e-mail address on this post or/and on my announcement of the Grand Event for Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary, you'll be entered in the giveaway of The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Shine. This novel,  published by Picador,  is a new modern re-telling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I'm afraid,  this giveaway is for US readers only  but there will be others open worldwide. It ends  31st January .

Thursday, 20 January 2011


1.     Pamela Aidan grew up in small towns outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from high school with the desire to be a history teacher, but changed her major to Library Science after her first year at college.Later, she earned a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked as a librarian in a wide variety of settings for over thirty years.
Besides writing and operating Wytherngate Press, she is also the director of Liberty Lake Municipal Library in eastern Washington, a short distance from her home in Idaho. She and her husband have six children, three children each from former marriage sand, so far, six grandchildren. 
She published  the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series including An Assembly such as this, Duty and Desire, These Three Remain.
Read my interview with her, leave your comment and add your e-mail address to get the chance to win Pamela Aidan's brand new Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour. The  giveaway is open worldwide and ends 26th January. 

Now join me in welcoming Pamela Aidan on My Jane Austen Book Club! 
          An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain are a  retell ing  of the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. My first questions focuses on him,  the most beloved Austen hero : Mr Darcy. What has made this character a cult model hero  in your opinion? 
     When you say a “cult model hero,” we can only be talking about the popularity of Darcy post-1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice. Previous to that production, I think we’d be hard pressed to find evidence of Darcy as cult hero. It was that 1995 production in which Colin Firth interpreted Darcy to the world that started this Austen character on the road to wide-spread acclaim. The elements were all present or potentially so as Austen wrote them, of course. Every regency novel written after Austen owes its plot and characters to her story of initial antagonism between a man and woman of unequal status. But it was only after Firth’s portrayal of a Darcy that is vulnerable as well as proud, with a sense of humor and a real admiration of Elizabeth prior to the first proposal that this Austen character shot into the company of heroes. The later version, starring Matthew McFadyen continued, to some degree, this new interpretation of Darcy as more than a stiff poker tersely delivering set-downs to all and sundry.  

     Given Firth’s humanization of Darcy, I think the answer must then turn to the character as Austen wrote him. The heroic elements are there as well as a delicious mystery. Darcy’s situation in life is one that makes him very attractive to most women: he is handsome, in a socially superior sphere of society, wealthy, educated, admired, and the right age. His wife would enjoy a life without fear of want, society, conversation, or extended widow-hood. The perfect companion, this Prince Charming! But, his proud temper ruins it all and has the perverse effect of making the heroine into the unsuitable partner. What girl has not experienced a similar rejection and worked to overcome the negative feelings about herself as a result? But, Darcy changes and changes so significantly that he proposes to her twice and does her service that he would never have considered before. His commitment to do Elizabeth good (Lydia’s predicament) in secret, without her ever knowing, shows a complete change of character that sets him among the company of heroes.  

       What do we discover about Darcy in your trilogy which we didn’t know from Austen?
Austen’s novel is Elizabeth’s novel, written mostly from her point of view. Darcy’s inner thoughts, motivations, and struggles are not touched upon until the first proposal and after the second. We simply don’t know who he is and, most importantly, why and how he changed. My trilogy began as an attempt to understand why and how Darcy changed so dramatically. In discovering the answer, I had to create a world for him in which to live and breathe, other friends and characters who could explain him to us and people and events for him to rub up against so that he might discover more about himself. I think Firth was brilliant in his portrayal of Darcy and I took my cue from that and tried to create a fully-realized character. 

 Is there anything in Darcy’s personality you’d rather change ?
I suppose I still do not regard Darcy’s character as “finished” even after three books! He seems very nearly perfect and we can’t have that! He must stay human and flawed to some degree or in some area.

Is there anything in his behavior in Pride and Prejudice that you decided to change in your trilogy ?
I decided to make him aware of his feelings for Elizabeth sooner, perhaps, than Austen intended. I probably made him more introspective than the character really is. The most obvious change is that “my” Darcy’s actions are sometimes a result of insecurity, uncertainty, or family pressure rather than undiluted pride. 
Firth or McFadyen?
It should be quite obvious by now: Firth, Firth, Firth! Although, in fairness to McFadyen, he was working with a much inferior script.
Your latest realease too features Darcy as the protagonist: Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in HonourCould you please tell us something about this new novel ?
When I wrote and published the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series there were very few other books out there that were using characters from Pride and Prejudice and even fewer that were using an alternate point of view to retell the original events. Now there are dozens and dozens of books of Austen fan fiction, most of which are sequels, exploring Darcy and Elizabeth’s married life. That path is, therefore, well-trod. As the Gentleman series began with asking the question “How and why did Darcy change?” Young Master Darcy begins with the question “How did Darcy become the man Elizabeth met at the assembly in Meryton?” We have a tantalizing hint in Darcy’s discourse with Elizabeth after the second proposal where he indicates that he was raised with “good principles” but never made to live by them. Darcy as a teen and young man seemed a much more interesting field for discovery than another book on his post Pride and Prejudice life.
Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour begins with a thirteen year-old Darcy coming home from his first term away at school at Christmas time 1797 to find that his mother is ill and dying. She asks everyone to keep a stiff upper lip and celebrate Christmas at Pemberley as they always have, but this becomes increasingly hard for young Darcy. He is distracted from his grief by a company of young mummers he stumbles upon, his cousins D’Arcy and Richard Fitzwilliam, and a girl among the mummers who intrigues him in a new and different way. As the story unfolds, readers will be able to meet Darcy’s father, mother and two year-old Georgianna. It is a coming of age story. Darcy is growing into the man we recognize in Pride and Prejudice

           The hardest task  for an Austen inspired writer is coping with her unique witty style.  Mimicking her must really be tough job. How did you prepare yourself to write Austen  sequels?
I knew that I could not imitate Austen successfully. Her style is too original, too unique. Yet, I knew that I would need to approach her style simply to avoid a disconnect between parts of Austen’s work that would have to be used word-for-word and my own work. I settled for a quasi-imitation that recalled her syntax and sentence structure but was not slavishly attached to it. I also helped myself to the regency slang or cant that I picked up from a long acquaintance with Georgette Heyer’s regency novels of the 1940s and 1950s. It seems to have been successful!
      Is there any aspect in Austen work which hasn’t been properly studied or divulged?
In my opinion, Mansfield Park is the most difficult book for a modern audience to grasp. One thing that the 1995 Pride and Prejudice did for modern and particularly American audiences was to reveal when something was supposed to be funny! Like Shakespeare and the Bible, every utterance was taken to be deadly serious and the humanity and humor were lost until we saw the actors laughing with their lines. Now, with younger readers and viewers of Pride and Prejudice having no idea why all the fuss is made about Lydia’s running off and living with Wickham sans marriage, Mansfield Park suffers from a particularly wide cultural gap. As a result the book and its heroine, Fanny Price, are largely dismissed, even to the point where the antagonists of the book, the Crawfords, are regarded as the true heroes! Did Austen make a mistake in writing Mansfield Park, or does it need to be studied further for those of us reading it two hundred years later to appreciate? I believe the latter.
      How do you explain the current incredible success of everything Austen related? What his the appeal of her work to nowadays’ audience?
This appeal, I believe, occurs at two levels. On the surface, the appeal to women comes from several angles. First, Austen’s heroines are pretty, not unrealistically gorgeous, and are witty and forthright, holding their own with the male protagonist. Most women would like to be that confident.
The other great appeal lies in the way in which the honor of both hero and heroine heightens the value of the actions in each as they come to resolution of their love for each other. Elizabeth’s honor is further adorned by the love of a man of Darcy’s distinction and the lengths to which he goes to win her regard. Darcy’s honor is heightened by the love of a woman “worthy of being pleased,” who has proven immune to compromise and is sensible of the great efforts he has made to correct his flaws. To be so valued is a heady thing in any age.

 .       There are lots of movie adaptation of Austen novels and  films which  are Austen-inpired. Have all these adaptations contributed to bring more people to read the books or to the fact that the new contemporary audience is satisfied with making the acquaintance with Austen characters and plots only through them without ever reading the originals?
I’m sure, for many people, the films are enough, especially when the adaptations have been faithful to the book. But, it has been my experience that those who have read my novels first, go back to the original either for the first time or with renewed enthusiasm because now, they say, they “understand it better.” Because of Austen’s style and the two hundred year gap in culture, we’ve needed the movies to give us the cues for what is happening or being discussed in the novels. It appears from the sales figures, that Austen’s original novels are being read in extraordinary numbers.

Have all these films distorted the real nature of Austen’s work or contributed to their popularity?
I think that the films have both distorted the real nature of Austen’s work and contributed to their popularity, but not every one has done both!

We've recently celebrated Jane’s birthday here on My Jane Austen Book Club and all over the Austen-dedicated blogosphere. Did you do anything special?
I celebrated Jane’s birthday by posting a note of deep appreciation for her at my Facebook account and publishing my fourth book—Young Master Darcy!

Thanks a lot, Pamela for finding the time to be my guest and answer my questions. It's been a great pleasure!
Good luck to all our readers in the giveaway of Young Master Darcy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Hello there! I hope you didn't miss my latest Talking Jane Austen Session with Marilyn Brant and that you enjoyed it. If you haven't yet, have a look at it HERE.
I want to thank Marilyn for being such an active, kind and generous guest. She and her lovely son  have even drawn the name of the winner of According to Jane as a game.
And the winner is ... 

Congratulations! I'm sure you'll enjoy your new Austenesque read. For all the others, there will be other occasions very soon. Have you commented the post announcing THE  SENSE & SENSIBILITY BICENTENARY CELEBRATION?  There's  a new giveaway linked to that post ending on 31st January but open only to US readers.
Next Talking Jane Austen session tomorrow, with Pamela Aidan.
Stay tuned!

Sunday, 16 January 2011


October 2011 will mark the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. This is why My Jane Austen Book Club wants to  dedicate a special space to the celebration and discussion of Austen's first achievement as a published writer. I have invited some expert Janeites to contribute to the discussion and they have kindly and generously accepted . Katherine at November's Autumn  and Gaskell Blog contributed the cute button on the left. Each month a guest will deal with a theme, a character, a topic somehow linked to Sense and Sensibility. The discussion will be open to you all with your comments, questions and suggestions. There will be a monthly giveaway and you will have the chance to win a book or DVD connected to our celebration. Here's the schedule of our  virtual meetings. Take notes.

1. January          Jennifer Becton    Men, Marriage and Money in Sense and Sensibility

2. February      Alexa Adams        Sense and Sensibility on Film

3. March          C. Allyn Pierson   Property and Inheritance Law in S &S

4. April             Beth Pattillo        Lost in Sense and Sensibility

5. May             Jane Odiwe        Willoughby: a rogue on trial

6. June             Deb @JASNA Vermont  Secrets in Sense and Sensibility

7. July              Laurie Viera Rigler   Interview with Lucy Steele

8. August         Regina Jeffers     Settling for the Compromise Marriage

9. September   Lynn Shepherd The origins of S&S: Richardson, Jane Austen, Elinore & Marianne                                        

10. October      Meredith @Austenesque Reviews   Sense and Sensibility Fan Fiction

11. November  Vic @Jane Austen's World  Mr Palmer discusses his fellow minor characters

12. December Laurel Ann @Austenprose  Marianne Dashwood: A passion for dead Leaves and other Sensibilities                

Saturday, 15 January 2011



If you live in San Diego, California, or nearby you are very lucky. You've got the chance to see this new musical at the Old Globe Theatre:  Jane Austen's Emma – A Musical Romantic Comedy, by Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon, starring Patti Murin as Emma Woodhouse and Adam Monley as Mr. Knightley, begins performances Jan. 15 in San Diego, CA. Jeff Calhoun directs.
The musical, based on Austen's novel, has book, music and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Gordon, known for Broadway's Jane Eyre and the recent Daddy Long Legs musical. Tony nominee Calhoun staged Broadway's Brooklyn and the Deaf West revival of Big River, and the regional Bonnie and Clyde musical by Frank Wildhorn and Don Black. Jane Austen's Emma will open Jan. 23 and play to Feb. 27.



If you live in Surrey, England, you may like to take part in this event. I'd love to !

St George’s Arts present Penelope Cave and Helena Brown in a  St Valentine’s Tea –Time Recital; Sense & Sensibilities, a tribute to Jane Austen in words and music for piano duet with a Broadwood square piano of 1795.
Date: Sunday 13th February 2011 at 2.30pm
Venue: St George’s Church, Esher Park Avenue, Esher, Surrey KT10 9RQ
This specially created musical entertainment includes duets from Jane Austen’s own books, residing in the library at Chawton; the very ones she played with her sister, Cassandra. The charming forgotten works for four hands and those by Haydn, Burney, Clementi, Pleyel, and Giordani and the popular Battle of Prague, are interspersed with entertaining contemporary readings, chosen from diaries, letters, novels and poetry.

Enthusiasm&austen is taking lessons from Jane Austen characters to find her soul mate. Awesome, isn't it?You'll find her on Sparknotes where my students usually  look for summaries and analysis of books they are supposed to read and study. But this series is good! 
 Read this issue, for instance Don't Pull a Jane Bennet


Have you ever dreamt of undressing a Regency hero? Ehm...No, sorry. This was not the question I intended to ask. Would you like to dress up your dream Regency Hero? Here's a game which makes your dream come true:  you create and then dress up a Regency doll on line.  It's fun! Do you want to try?


No surprise, of course! We Austen lovers knew they were not meant to be together. She must marry Mr Darcy! Joking,  but it seems Keira Knightley , Lizzie Bennet 2005,  is free to look for her Mr Darcy now since the  relationship with Rupert Friend, Wickham 2005, is over.
Good luck to both of them. They were a lovely couple.


Colin Firth is living an extraordinary moment of his life and career. We are all here fingers crossed  for him on occasion of his nominations for the Golden Globe and the Oscar as best actor. Meanwhile, he's been receiving other acknowledgements: he has been named best actor at Critics' Choice Movie Awards (HERE) and he has been honoured with a star in Hollywood's Walk of Fame (HERE).

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Marilyn Brant  is the award-winning women's fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and her upcoming novel, A SUMMER IN EUROPE (November 29, 2011), all from Kensington Books.
As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She's been told -- and not always with the intent to flatter -- that she's "insatiably curious" and "a travel addict." She admits to combining these two passions by taking classes in foreign countries whenever possible and, consequently, she's been able to learn lots of fascinating things in Australia, in England, in Italy and in universities across the United States.
She studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel featuring "Jane" won the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart® Award.
Marilyn has travelled to 45 states and over 30 countries (so far -- she's not done yet!), but she now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. When she isn't rereading Jane's books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she's working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.


Marilyn Brant has kindly offered to give away a free copy of According to Jane. The giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and ends on 19th January when the name of the winner will be announced. Leave your comment - answer Mailyn's question about adaptations or ask her one -  add your e-mail address to enter the contest. Good luck!

MG:       According to Jane is your Austen-related novel set in today’s American reality . What inspired you to write this story?

Marilyn: Maria, thanks so much for having me on My Jane Austen Book Club today. I'm delighted to be here and love talking about all things Jane!! As for my debut novel, it's the story of a woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I was first inspired to write According to Jane because of my great admiration for Austen's insight into human nature combined with my less-than-steller high school and college dating experiences (LOL). Austen understood the tangles of courtship, the pressures of family, the pull of attraction to someone who might not be of your social circle, etc. I'd wished on many occasions as a young adult that I would have had the guidance of Austen's wisdom as I tried to navigate the dating waters, especially in my later teens and early twenties. Her understanding of how men and women behaved struck me as both timeless and universal, and since I didn't have a big sister to badger with questions, I found myself wondering, "If Jane were to give me advice, what would she say?"

MG       In this novel you deal with young people and let the protagonist, Ellie,  be guided  by   Jane Austen in her choices. Do you really think Jane  Austen can have great appeal on our teenagers? (As a teacher of English literature to teenagers I find the task of introducing Austen’s work to them not easy at all)

Marilyn: You do have a difficult task! My husband taught high-school English lit as well as world history, and it's really tricky to make teens see how authors from the past are relevant to their lives. I believe that's why it can be helpful to modernize some Austen novels and, if necessary, introduce teens to those first. The centuries may pass and customs, social mores and acceptable behaviors may change, but human nature really doesn't. I found Austen's genius was in depicting with perfect clarity the character of a range of people just by showing their manners, letting us hear their dialogue and see them interacting with others on the page. Many of my classmates found Austen boring when I was a teen, but I don't think they were able to fully comprehend how similar our situations were to those Austen's characters experienced. At its essence, how different is a high-school prom from a Regency ball, really? To me, they're incredibly similar exercises in social posturing. In regards to people, I've found that someone who makes a habit of behaving dishonorably toward women, like Wickham or Willoughby, doesn't only exist in the past or in fiction. Men like that are alive and well in today's world, too -- teenage girls should be aware of this! -- as are gossipy, meanspirited women like Caroline Bingley and her sister. So, I think Austen provides ample lessons in why we should all pay more attention to human behavior and learn from the mistakes of her characters. That said, just because my heroine Ellie was fortunate enough to be the recipient of Jane's insight and perception, that doesn't mean Ellie was always mature enough to follow that wise advice!

MG:   When did your encounter with Jane Austen take place? At school as it happens to Ellie in According to Jane? Was it love at first sight?

Marilyn: I first read Austen's Pride and Prejudice when I was a fourteen-year-old high-school freshman as part of a reading assignment in my English class. And, yes, it was absolutely love at first sight! Jane became my favorite author practically overnight, and my love of her work hasn't wavered in almost 30 years. After reading that first story, I devoured her other books and the biographies about her and, while I was doing my graduate work, I was lucky enough to get to study Austen's novels formally in a summer seminar at Oxford. It was a short but memorable course made extra enjoyable because I got to share the experience with my husband (who'd read and loved Austen before we'd ever met -- good man :).

MG       What do you find most fascinating in Austen’s style and world?

Marilyn: Austen was way ahead of her time in so many ways. She didn't preach as a narrator -- she truly let the characters' words and actions speak for themselves. She understood the power of "show, don't tell" long before fiction instructors advocated it as a writing method. Her sense of humor couldn't be more delightfully ironic, in my opinion, and the social situations she puts on display are perfect examples of humans behaving very well...and very poorly. She nailed the social dynamics between people and managed to bring the Regency to life for me because I could recognize friends and family members in her portrayals. (I knew a modern-day Mr. Collins! Same obnoxious pandering to people he felt were "important." I knew a Lucy Steele or two, as well, a dear, always-forgiving Jane Bennet, and a very sensible Elinor Dashwood-type.)

MG      Is there anything you do not like?

Marilyn: Short answer: no!

MG     What is your favourite among her novels? Would you write a sequel or spin-off story based on it?

Marilyn: My favorite will always be Pride and Prejudice, but Persuasion comes in second. As for writing a sequel or spin-off, there were elements of both of these books in According to Jane -- although, of course, my version took place in contemporary times in the U.S.A., rather than 200 years ago in England. I don't see myself writing a novel set in the Regency anytime soon -- much as I love reading historical fiction. I've been asked by some readers if I'd ever consider writing a follow-up story to my debut novel that might involve Austen's ghost as a character yet again, and that I might do... However, I'd need the right situation for Ellie to struggle with and I haven't been able to figure out what that would be yet.

MG:       Thinking of Jane Austen’s successful matches ( i.e. Darcy and Lizzie, Knightley and Emma) and failed matches (i.e. Marianne and Willoughby, Emma and Frank Churchill ), is there anything that you would have changed?  I mean, would you change the fate of any of her characters?

Marylin: Well, I wouldn't dare touch Darcy and Lizzie as a match -- nor would I want to!! Or Anne and Captain Wentworth. I'm not sure I ever fully understood the attraction between Fanny and Edmund but, if he brings her joy, I wouldn't want to be the one to pull them apart, LOL. As for the failed matches, while I felt Marianne's agony at Willoughby's betrayal, I learned so much from reading about it as a teen that I'm afraid I can't spare her the pain. She came to some much-needed and hard-earned wisdom as a result, and I'm too grateful to her for having gone through it (instead of me) to wish the experience away. And Emma needed the social missteps caused by her flirtation with Frank Churchill in order to grow up, appreciate Knightley and treat people better in general. So, no, no...I wouldn't change any of their fates.

MG     I’m fond of Austen adaptations for the screen. What about you? Have you got any favourite one/s?

Marilyn: I *love* the various adaptations, and I watch them all with almost no favoritism. Honestly, I can enjoy Laurence Olivier playing Darcy nearly as well as seeing Matthew or Colin in the role. I just bought the BBC set of 6 DVDs, and that one features David Rintoul playing the part. He was the first Darcy I saw on film, so it was fun to see that adaptation again. I did particularly enjoy Gwenyth Paltrow as Emma, and Amanda Root as Anne in Persuasion, but I've enjoyed a number of movie versions of Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. The Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant/Kate Winslet adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is also a favorite. I also really enjoyed the film version of "The Jane Austen Book Club" and the hilarious series "Lost in Austen." And, oh, "Bride and Prejudice" and "Clueless" are such fun, too! There are so many great ones, aren't there? I'd love to know which films the Austen fans reading this blog enjoy most... What are your faves??

MG       Your latest novels are not Austen-related, but has Austen influenced you in writing them anyhow?

Marilyn: My second novel is called Friday Mornings at Nine, and that's the story of three 40-something suburban moms who meet each week for coffee and conversation. They think they know each other but, one day, one of the women admits she's been getting secret emails from her college ex-boyfriend. This was the guy she thought she was going to marry 18 years ago...but he left her suddenly and she never got the emotional resolution on the relationship that she needed. On the rebound, she married someone else but, now, being in contact again with the man who'd broken her heart, she begins to wonder if she made the right choice. And the fact that she is questioning her marriage also leads the other two women to examine their lives and the marital choices they made. (Much drama and soul-searching ensues!) It was a more complicated story to write than my debut novel, and more serious in tone, but Austen references make a few brief appearances in the book, and the things I loved best about Jane's writing style (especially letting dialogue and action reveal character) are elements I try to emulate in all of my stories. The book I have coming out at the end of this year -- A Summer in Europe -- has a touch more of Austen and a great deal of E.M. Forster, though, since it's a very modernized play on A Room with a View.

MG:   What are you working on at the moment?
Marilyn: I'm just finishing up revisions on my third novel, A Summer in Europe, which will be released by Kensington on November 29, 2011. As I mentioned, it's kind of like a modern A Room with a View in that the heroine's perspective on the world -- and on love -- is changed by her experiences abroad. My main character is given a five-week vacation to Europe as a surprise 30th birthday gift from her eccentric aunt. The only catch is that the trip is part of a senior-citizen bus tour comprised of members of her aunt's Sudoku and Mah-Jongg club. (I had fun writing this!) Of course, she meets lots of unusual people, sees many awe-inspiring European sites, eat TONS of gelato (!!) and finds herself caught up in an unexpected romance. It's a story I'm very proud of and I'm really looking forward to sharing with readers this fall. 

MG: Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions, Marilyn, and for accepting to be my guest on My Jane Austen Book Club.

Marilyn: It was a pleasure to visit, Maria! Thanks so much for inviting me.  Wishing everyone a very Happy 2011!!

You can follow Marilyn Brant at her