Monday, 10 January 2011


“…Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune,and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest
preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it”  (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice,  chapter 22)

This is how we knew  Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend from Jane Austen’s words in Pride and Prejudice. I think very few of us who read, studied or watched P&P would have bet a coin on Charlotte Collins as the heroine of a novel,  even less as the protagonist of an amusing, romantic novel.  Jennifer Becton succeeded in all this: she made Charlotte Collins her heroine and wrote a very delightful spin-off story. Witty, charming and grounded in period detail. And this is only her debut novel.
Just few examples of Jennifer Becton's witty tone:  
"My independence was hard won, Charlotte said, recalling the tediousness of her daily interactions with her husband that had resulted in her current situation. How many ponderous sermonshad she been subjected to? How many simpering compliments had she endured? And worse, how many fireplace mantels had she heard him describe in painful detail?" ( Charlotte Collins, p. 10)
"Now, looking around the Cards' house, she felt not a twingeof jealousy. Maria, however, ran her hand along the cool marble trim andgazed longingly aroundher. Poor girl. It really was unfortunate that  she had no feelings for Mr Card, for he admired her, and she admired his home" (Charlotte Collins, pag. 54)

Maybe,  Charlotte Collins  has been in training as a heroine meanwhile, since the story opens on the day of Mr Collins’s funeral, that is seven years  after we left Mr and Mrs Collins newly married. Seven years of continual embarrassment at her husband’s simpering and fawning manners have now turned  her into an independent and sufficiently confident widow but, above all, into  a wiser and more aware woman , who now understands  the importance of making the right choices in life. She must now work feverishly to secure her income and home and she must even undertake the task to act as her younger sister’s chaperone, hoping to prevent Maria from also entering an unhappy union. Soon Charlotte and Maria are thrust into a world of country dances, dinner parties and marriageable gentlemen and and we are caught, through them, into a whirlpool of very amusing,  very embarrassing, very exciting, very unpleasant,  very disappointing , very romantic experiences   . 

In Pride and Prejudice Charlotte advised: “If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark […] In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better shew more affection than she feels.”

Now she has changed and tries to restrain Maria’s impulsive behaviour, especially, towards the gentleman she favours, Mr Westfield . Actually, Charlotte is torn between her wish to see her sister follow her heart and her own good sensed and principled mind. She herself has to beware of  gentlemen, two very different wooers, Mr Edgington and Mr Basford. The first one, Lady Catherine’s nephew, represents the old world and the good manners Charlotte so much appreciates, while the other one comes from the new world and his ways are rather unusual. Charlotte is a mature lady now,  but her experience of the world is not enough to help her in the choices she must make.
 This time again first impressions may be very deceitful. This time again love will find its way.

Visit Jennifer Becton's site 

This is one of my tasks in the Jane Austen is My Homegirl Reading Challenge.
The Challenge is hosted at The Book Buff Blog.
This is my 6th book ... for now.
If you want to discover which my previous ones were, click on the tag Jane Austen is My Homegirl Reading Challenge below.


Mary Simonsen said...

This novel is getting great reviews, and as you said, it is Jennifer's debut novel. She has a great future ahead of her. Congratulations. Mary

Anonymous said...

TWO suitors -- go, Charlotte! But how did she become an an independent widow? Did she bear Collins a son and heir to Longbourn?

Maria Grazia said...

No heir, June. But she could live on her own in a small cottage of Lady Catherine's property. The grand lady showed her mercy granting it to Charlotte for a very little rent.

Alexa Adams said...

This book does a lovely job navigating the difficulties of romance in the 19th century, which prove to be just as daunting for a widow as for a young miss. Lovely review, Maria!