Thursday 31 March 2011


Our celebration on The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary goes on. Today I'm here to announce the name of the winner of March giveaway: a free copy of The Three Weissmann of Westport by Cathleen Schine, a modern version of Austen's Sense and Sensibility. 
The winner of this giveaway open worldwide is ... 


Congratulations and many thanks for commenting and taking part! More posts and more giveaways are coming soon, so I hope you'll stay tuned and drop by to get a chance to read interesting contributions, interviews, guestposts and comments as well as to win Austenesque reads! 
These are the guestposts so far in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration

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

February        Alexa Adams        Sense and Sensibility on Film
March           C. Allyn Pierson   Property and Inheritance Law in Sense & Sensibility

In April, Beth Pattillo will be my special guest for this event!


I've just received this lovely gift book directly from the publisher (Andrew McMeel Publishing) and I find it a great idea for a present to a Janeite friend, don't you?
It provides fun testing your knowledge of one of history's greatest authoresses, who continues to be loved by millions and to inspire so many all over the world. You'll find crossword puzzles, trivia questions and word scrambles which test your memory and knowledge of Jane Austen's characters, stories and life. I'm sure this small 100- puzzle book will captivate any Janeite, since it is a smart form of exercise for the mind as well as an object to collect which has both look and brains. Last but not least, it is the perfect size to fit in a pocket or purse, and is a convenient way to spend some quality time with a literary great. If you are interestedin the classics,  among the newest Pocket Posh puzzle books, not only Jane Austen but also William Shakespeare.

Stay tuned on My Jane Austen Book Club. You'll be given the chance to win a free copy of Pocket Posh Jane Austen very soon!

If you can't resist and  immediately want one for yourself ,
if  you need a nice gift for an Austenite friend soon,
have a look HERE or HERE!

Sunday 27 March 2011


Jennifer Becton is here on My Jane Austen Book Club today to present you her newest story, another continuation of Pride and Prejudice focusing on another minor character: Maria Lucas . It is a short story I’m eager to read soon. If you like me feel you can’t miss it, read what Jennifer has written for us. 

If you have read Charlotte Collins, then you know that Maria Lucas’s story did not end on a perfectly happy note. At the end of the novel, she has not yet found true love. Originally, I intended to leave her future to your imagination, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I felt that she too deserved a happier fate. So I wrote “Maria Lucas,” a short story that finishes her narrative. If you haven’t read Charlotte Collins, that’s ok; “Maria Lucas” can also stand on its own.

At 5,000 words, “Maria Lucas” is a true short story, and therefore, it is difficult to distribute in a traditional paper format. But through the brilliance of e-reading devices, short stories are becoming much easier to share. Now, I know that not everyone has made the switch to Kindle, Nook, or other such readers. They are expensive, and many people are just not interested in giving up paper books. I can understand that.

However, anyone who owns a computer can read “Maria Lucas” or any ebook out there. That’s right: you do not need a dedicated ereader to join the ebook revolution! All you have to do is go to or and download their free ereader applications. Then, you can download and read on your Mac, PC, or smartphone.

Alternatively, you can purchase electronic books or short stories from, which provides even more reading options. You can download media as PDFs or even read online if you wish.

I hope you will read and enjoy “Maria Lucas” but even if you do not choose to read it, do take a few minutes to investigate these reading apps and websites. I think you’ll be glad you did.
“Maria Lucas” is available for only $0.99 US at the following locations: (and at

Also, keep watching for Caroline Bingley: A Continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which will be released this summer, and please visit me at my website.
Jennifer Becton

Wednesday 23 March 2011


Just in brief. Thanks Kara for being my kind guest again and for the chance given to one of my readers to win a copy of your brand new book, Only Mr Darcy Will Do!
And the winner is ...


Congratulations to the lucky winner. And good luck to all the others who can have the chance to win in the international giveaway of The Three Weissmann of Westport. Have a look at my right sidebar.

Monday 21 March 2011


Jane Odiwe has kindly sent me this interesting post proposing an intriguing Austen-related question. Read it and give us your thoughts.


Whilst conducting research into the ‘Rice’ portrait, Mr. Robin Roberts discovered a very interesting picture, which seems to have gone unnoticed in a Christie’s catalogue. The sale of the property of Mrs. Robert Tritton took place at Godmersham Park, Kent, between Monday, June 6th and Thursday, June 9th, 1983. Elsie Tritton and her husband had bought the estate in 1936, and the catalogue notes how she and her husband had lovingly rescued the house, and how Elsie, a New Yorker by birth, wished that after her death, their wonderful collection of furniture and clocks, English Conversation Pieces, objets d’art and textiles should be available for others to buy for their own collections. This is a fascinating catalogue to see, and I think the fact that the painting came out of the sale of Godmersham Park is most exciting! Click on the pictures to see a larger image.

The painting is described in the catalogue as belonging to the English School, circa 1780, pen, and black ink and watercolour, measuring 15½ by 19½ inches. It depicts a family sitting round a table, the adults at opposite ends, with four children beyond.
I think what’s so interesting about the picture is that the more you study it; the more the details become fascinating. It appears to be a wonderful allegorical puzzle, full of the humour and charade that the Austen family loved, reflecting so much of what we know about their family history, and finances, with all the literary symbolism they would have enjoyed so much. There are some significant allusions connected with the Austen family, and I am thrilled to share Mr. Roberts’ thoughts and discoveries with you.

He wonders if it could possibly be a work by Ozias Humphry painted to commemorate the adoption of Edward Austen by the Knight family who were childless relatives, and executed at a similar date as the commemorative silhouette.
 What could be the monogram symbols of Ozias Humphry appear to be scattered in several places about the painting, on the figures, in a curlicue above the mantelpiece, and there is a possible signature in the right hand corner, though it is difficult to be certain without seeing the original, and unfortunately, it is impossible to show all the small details on a blog.

If we assume that this is a painting of the Austen family, the central figure shows a young boy who is most likely to be Edward Austen. The family all have their attention turned towards him, and more importantly, their eyes are concentrated on the bunch of grapes, which he holds high up in the air, as if being presented to the viewer. You can almost hear him say, “Look at me, am I not the most fortunate boy in the world? Look what I have!”
Surely the grapes represent the good fortune and wealth that Edward is about to inherit, and the whole family who look as pleased as punch are celebrating with him.

George Herbert makes the connections between grapes, fruit, and inheritance in his poem, The Temple.

From The Temple by George Herbert, 1633
An extract from The Bunch of Grapes:

hen have we too our guardian fires and clouds;Our Scripture-dew drops fast:
have our sands and serpents, tents and shrowds;Alas! our murmurings come not last. But where’s the cluster?  where’s the taste
mine inheritance?  Lord, if I must borrow,
t me as well take up their joy, as sorrow.

ut can he want the grape, who hath the wine?I have their fruit and more.
essed be God, who prosper’d Noahs vine,And made it bring forth grapes good store.But much more him I must adore,
o of the Laws sowre juice sweet wine did make
n God himself being pressed for my sake.
As we observe the painting, the small girl with round cheeks to the left of Edward must be Jane Austen herself! This is also one of the most significant parts to the puzzle. She appears to be clutching what could be a horseshoe nail in her hand, which she points towards Edward, her arm held high in the same way as he holds his grapes aloft. This is where it gets most exciting, and where another connection to Edward Austen is made. On the painting of Edward Austen at Chawton House, there is most distinctly, a horseshoe nail on the ground pointing towards Edward’s feet. This little nail is a symbol, an allusion to the fact that the Knights adopted him. Most interestingly, Jane makes a reference to the horseshoe nail in a letter dated Tuesday, 9th February, 1813. She is talking about Miss Clewes, a new governess that Edward has engaged to look after his children.

Miss Clewes seems the very Governess they have been looking for these ten years; - longer coming than J. Bond’s last Shock of Corn. – If she will but only keep Good and Amiable and Perfect!  Clewes & (sic) is better than Clowes. And is it not a name for Edward to pun on? – is not a Clew a nail?

Jane was punning on the word clew (or clue) and the Old French word, clou (de girofle), which in its turn was derived from the Latin, clavus, meaning nail (of the clove tree). The dried flower bud of the clove tree resembles a small nail or tack. Of course, it was a name for Edward to pun on because of his own associations with a small horseshoe nail.

Now we turn to the gentleman on the left of the painting who is dressed exactly as Mr. Austen in the silhouette attributed to Wellings of Edward’s presentation to the Knight family. He is seated, hands clasped together as though offering up a grateful prayer for their good fortune. Within his grasp it appears he is holding a prayer book, or missal, the silk ribbon of which is draped over his fingers, an indication perhaps of his status as rector, and a man of the cloth. Interestingly, he is the only figure whose eyes are not concentrated on the bunch of grapes, but perhaps this is to indicate he is more concerned with offering grateful thanks in his role of clergyman.

In between Mr. Austen and Jane is Cassandra who rests her hand protectively on her sister’s shoulder, whilst also providing an excellent compositional device leading the eye along through to Jane’s arm to the tip of the Golden Triangle where the bunch of grapes are suspended. The painting follows the traditional composition based on a triangle for optimum placing of the main interest of the work. I also think it interesting to note that the girls’ dresses are of the simple muslin type usually worn by children at this time. Mostly white, they were worn with a ribbon sash, at waist height or higher as in Jane’s case.

On the other side of Edward, it is thought this child most likely to be Francis. James would have been at school at this time, and Henry could also have been away. Charles was too young to be depicted, and would still have been lodged with the family who looked after the infant Austens, as was the custom.

To the far right, as we look at the painting is the formidable figure of Mrs. Austen dressed for the occasion with a string of pearls and a ribbon choker around her neck, complete with more than one ‘feather in her cap’, which must represent her pride and pleasure at the whole event, and by extension, the symbols of nobility and glory. She is further emphasizing Edward’s importance by pointing in his direction, and I think it would be hard to imagine a more pleased mama, in her elegant air, and her smile.

On the table is a further connection with Mrs. Austen. The pineapple, a prized fruit, representing health and prosperity, was first introduced to England in 1772, and the Duke of Chandos, Mrs. Austen’s great uncle, was the first to grow them. The symbolism of the pineapple represents many things, not least the rank of the hostess, but was also associated with hospitality, good cheer, and family affection.
Other dishes of food illustrate further abundance, wealth, and the spiritual associations of Christian values. There is bread and wine on the table: Christian symbols, which represent not only life, and the Communion, but also show there is cause for thankfulness and celebration. The glasses are not yet filled, but there are glasses placed before the adults for a toast. Nearest to us in the foreground, there is another fruitful dish, perhaps plum pudding, representing not only the wealth to come, but also a plentiful future. Placed before Edward, another dish, which also appears to suggest the image of a spaniel dog, may be an allusion to Edward’s love of hunting.

The background to the painting holds its own clues. It’s been suggested that the painting above the mantelpiece could be Zeus abducting Ganymede to the Gods, another reference to the luck of young Edward who has been adopted by the Knight family, and on the opposite wall, could this be a reference to the miniature portrait of George Austen, the handsome proctor, even if this appears to be a larger portrait? In the carpet, the patterns suggest the date may again be replicated, and also an M to symbolize the fact that the couple in the painting are married. Above the looking glass is a crest with what appears to be the date. It would be lovely to have a look at the original to see everything in more detail!

Unfortunately, there appears to be no record of the sale of the painting, and I know that Mr. Roberts, and his sister, Mrs. Henry Rice, would be interested to learn more about the painting. They've asked me to make an appeal on their behalf for any information, and if anyone knows of the painting’s whereabouts or can tell us anything about it, please do get in touch with me or with Jane Austen’s House Museum.
Jane Odiwe

Sunday 20 March 2011


Third virtual meeting to enjoy Sense and Sensibility in its Bicentenary. This month, C. Allyn Pierson writes about Property and Inheritance Law. Join us in the discussion and get the chance to win a modern retake of Austen 's S&S, THE THREE WEISSMANN OF WESTPORT by Cathleen Schine (My review HERE). Giveaway ends March 31st and is open internationally.

English inheritance and property laws are issues often on the minds of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels and are often the cause of worry and distress. Inheritance laws were based on the concept of primogeniture, or inheritance by the eldest son. If the owner of an estate did not leave a will, all of the estate would go to his eldest son. Unlike today, the assets would not be given to his wife, if living, or divided among his children if his wife had died. This law reflected the strong social norms of the time, and most men who did make wills left their estate to their eldest son, as well. The purpose of this custom was to keep the estate strong. If an estate was divided among the children of each generation, sooner or later the family members would not have enough land to provide a living. Moreover, land was what gave you power in pre-Twentieth Century England. If one person owns a huge estate, he has both money and influence in society and government. If that same estate is divided among five children, they each have 1/5th the influence of their father, and so on.

One of the major aspects of property law which impacted the characters in Jane Austen’s novels was the entail. An entail was a legal entity which prevented the owner of the property from selling any of the entailed property. The entail was created by one of the previous owners of the estate and would impact his heirs until it expired. How long the entail lasted depended on how it was written, but British law forbade tying up property in perpetuity, i.e. you couldn’t tie it up forever, a situation which would leave an estate without an owner forever if there were no male heirs.
If an owner and his heir could agree to it, the entail could be set aside, which is what Mr Bennet had hoped to do if he had a son in Pride and Prejudice.  Naturally, Mr Collins would not want to do that, but he also could not legally break the entail with Mr Bennet, because he is only the heir presumptive.  If Mrs Bennet died and Mr Bennet remarried a young woman and had a son, then Mr Collins would not inherit. Only if Mr Bennet has an heir of his body could they break the entail, because he is an actual heir and could never be superseded by another.

A son who inherited his father’s estate was then the head of the family and it was presumed that he would assist any needy family members, whether indigent sisters or underage siblings. This often meant allowing his widowed mother and any single sisters to live with him if they did not have the means to survive on their own and helping young brothers to be educated and put in the way of a career. This assistance to mothers, brothers and sisters, however, was only a social expectation and he had no legal obligation to do so. Society would strongly censure a man who turned his sisters out to starve, but how he interpreted “helping” his family was up to him, an issue which seriously injured the Dashwood sisters.Having only a half-brother, and one who was selfish and under the thumb of his grasping wife, left his sisters and step-motheru nwanted interlopers in their former home.The Dashwoods were fortunate that a cousin of Mrs Dashwood offered them Barton Cottage for a very small rent, as John’s wife, Fanny, made it clear that they were not really welcome and that Elinor was not to be considering her brother as a husband.

The situation of Mrs Dashwood and her daughters was very similar to what would have happened to Mrs Bennet and her daughters if Mr Bennet had died when the girls were unmarried, but the cause of the Dashwoods’ distress is very different than the Bennets’. Unlike Longbourn, Norland was not entailed. Mr Henry Dashwood and his wife and daughters lived with his uncle at Norland and took care of him for the last years of his life. Henry Dashwood had been married before and had a son by his first wife. This son, John Dashwood, inherited half of his mother’s marriage settlement, money that had been set aside when she married Henry Dashwood, when he turned twenty-one. The other half of her money was left to Henry Dashwood for his lifetime. On his father’s death, John inherited whatever was left of his mother’s money. Thus, John Dashwood was comfortably provided for by his mother.

The difficulties came in when Henry Dashwood’s uncle died. Instead of leaving Norland outright to Henry, the uncle left it to him only for his lifetime, at which time it would pass to John’s young son, who had won the uncle’s heart with his childish behaviour. This would preclude Henry from selling any of the estate, but would allow him to keep any income earned by the estate, so he could put this cash away and keep it, leaving it to whomever he pleased.
In fact, Henry’s plan, upon learning how the estate was left, was to save as much income as he could and leave it for the support of his second wife and their three daughters. Unfortunately, he died less than a year after inheriting Norland, leaving only about £10,000 for the four women, most of which was Mrs Dashwood’s marriage settlement.  Commonly, this money would be invested in “the four-percents”, which were basically government bonds with a guaranteed four percent income, which could be used for them to live on. When their mother subsequently died, this money would be divided among the three girls, giving them each about £3,000 as a legacy.This amount was not enough to tempt a younger son or a gentleman without an independent fortune into marriage. In this way, although Norland was not entailed, the estate was tied up by the will of Henry’s uncle in such a way that Henry was left in a position that was not much different than it would have been with an entail.

(picture from Jane Austen Today )

In addition to these money problems, John Dashwood’s mother-in-law had inherited all of her husband’s estate and she used this money to try and control the futures of her sons. She, like her daughter, thought that money and power were the most important considerations in life, and she pressed her eldest son to take up a career in the military or politics rather than indulge his desire to be a minister in a country parish. That Edward Ferrars was unsuited to such a career was irrelevant to Mrs Ferrars and she was quite willing to blast Edward’s prospects and give over his desserts as eldest son to his brother if Edward did not dance to her tune.  This part of Sense and Sensibility demonstrates that having complete control over a fortune is only of use to your family if it is wielded for their good. Ultimately, Mrs Ferrars finds that her favoured younger son is also willing to defy her wishes, but it is too late for Edward; his brother had already been given the inheritance previously slated for Edward.

Women during this time were allowed to own property and have their own money, but when they married everything they owned became their husband’s property. Their marriage settlement would specify a specific amount of “pin money” which she would receive each year for her personal use, but she did not have access to any other money unless her husband gave her more. Thus, a woman from a wealthy family would be in the same situation as one from a poor family if the marriage went bad-she might be unable to leave the situation and support herself. A woman of independent wealth might want to think long and hard before she married!

C. Allyn Pierson is the nom de plume of physician Carey A. Bligard, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of the Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  She lives in Fort Dodge, Iowa, with her husband and two ill-behaved dogs.

Now, your comments and e-mail addresses to get a chance to win the latest version of Sense and Sensibility! Giveaway open worldwide. Winner will be announced on March 31st.

Friday 18 March 2011


My guest today is Kara Louise, whom I've had the pleasure to interview not long ago in one of my "Talking Jane Austen with ... " sessions.  She's here to present her new Pride and Prejudice variation, "Only Mr Darcy Will Do",  as well as to discuss with us the idea of a ... modern Mr Darcy. Read and enjoy! Sourcebooks  have kindly  granted US and Canada readers, who will leave their comments to this post, the chance to win a copy of the book. 

Maria Grazia invited me to drop by today to talk about my new book, “Only Mr. Darcy Will Do,” and she also asked me my opinion of what a modern-day Darcy would look like (or whether it’s even possible to find one!
First of all, the easy part. Let me tell you about my book. “Only Mr. Darcy Will Do” is a variation of “Pride and Prejudice” in which Mrs. Bennet’s greatest fear has come to pass. Shortly following Elizabeth’s return from Kent (and after refusing Mr. Darcy’s proposal), her father dies. Mr. and Mrs. Collins soon move into Longbourn, forcing the Bennet ladies to move out of their home. Jane and Elizabeth become governesses in London while the rest of the family move into Meryton with Mr. and Mrs. Phillips.

Elizabeth is governess to 6 year-old Emily Willstone and she is enjoys her position. She enjoys imparting wisdom and guidance to this precocious little girl. When Mrs. Willstone’s sister, Rosalyn, comes to visit, she and Elizabeth become good friends. But Elizabeth soon comes to learn of a secret affection Rosalyn has had for years – none other than Mr. Darcy.

As Elizabeth comes to terms with her lower station in life, she struggles with the prospect of being thrown into Mr. Darcy’s presence, of Rosalyn coming to hear of his offer of marriage to her, or worse yet, her refusal.

An invitation to visit Pemberley is extended to the Willstones by Mr. Darcy and his sister. The Willstones are convinced it is because Mr. Darcy wants to further his acquaintance with Rosalyn, and Elizabeth is convinced it is going to be the most discomfiting two weeks of her life. She wonders if the invitation is merely to show her what all she turned down or that perhaps he does have his eyes set on Rosalyn. Or both.

From the moment they arrive at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy reassures Elizabeth that she has no reason to feel awkward and everything is behind them. But as she begins to see him in a new light, she finds herself falling in love with him. She readily sees in him the traits of a man who is everything she has ever really wanted. At the same time she realizes that she is much more beneath him now and cannot ever expect him to renew his offer.

Will the two of them find their way to happiness with each other? Hopefully you will read it and find out!

Now, let me address the more difficult question. What would a modern day Mr. Darcy look like? I did write a modern story that is currently self-published. It is called, “Drive and Determination” and the Darcy character is Will Denton, CEO of a coffee company. He is obviously wealthy and handsome, but is a very private person who doesn’t like the attention put on him when he was chosen as one of the top 50 eligible bachelors in the country.

Of course the Elizabeth Bennet character (Elyssa) misunderstands him and assumes he is arrogant, a workaholic, and cares little for others. In time, she obviously comes to discover that what she perceived about him is wrong and he is actually very down-to-earth, compassionate, and caring.

I think some of the traits of a modern day Darcy would be that he is refreshingly polite (a true gentleman), a man of integrity, a man with the right priorities, respectful, and one who is willing to listen to criticism and seeks to improve himself if needed.

There can be a lot said on trying to find your own modern day Mr. Darcy, and instead of trying to answer that myself, I thought I would direct you to a Wiki-How website I found that does a great job addressing this!

It tells you things to look for in a man, things to avoid, but also puts some responsibility on your own shoulders as to your own behavior.

I thought it was great and I could not improve on it. Go check it out if you are looking for your Mr. Darcy or if you just want to smile. I would be very interested in hearing whether or not you agree with what this article says – or if you think it is even possible.

Thanks Maria Grazia, for allowing me this visit!

Many thanks to you, Kara for this lovely guestpost and good luck with your "Only Mr Darcy Will Do". Now it is your turn, dear readers. Karen and I are curious to know your opinion on  a modern Mr Darcy. If you want to be entered the giveaway of one copy of Kara Louise's new novel, remember to add your e-mail address. The giveaway is open to US and Canada readers only and ends next Wednesday 23rd March. 

You can follow Kara  Louise on her blog  

Monday 14 March 2011


If you plan to time travel to Regency as it happens to Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) in Lost in Austen or to Courtney Stone in Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict  , you'd better read this highly informative book,  THE JANE AUSTEN HANDBOOK by Margaret C. Sullivan,  before leaving. Especially the "How to Become an Accomplished Lady" section,  in which you are suggested a store of accomplishments of no practical use, therefore, quite attractive to gentlemen. Then, you can't miss the "How to Identify the Quality" or "How to ensure a Good Yearly Income" sections , where you learn to choose your company - and even your husband-to-be - according to birth, education, manners and rank as well as to ensure an income that will keep you in the common necessaries of life. 
Don't you plan to take a step from our frantic, highly technological 21st century? 
You'll find this handbook very useful , anyway, in order to escape  our crazy rhythms and consequent troubles,  at least: advice is provided as to decline an unwanted proposal, carry on a secret engagement (read "affair" nowadays ),  to get your "him" back after you have quarrelled, how to behave at a formal dinner party and so on.
Jokes apart, this lovely handbook is a must in any Janeite book collection. It must  be on your Austen shelf!  It is a precious object, cute and pretty to look at, but it is especially a witty, amusing way to have a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time. THE JANE AUSTEN HANDBOOK is perfect companion for fans of her novels and their film adaptations, complete with detail information on love among the social classes, currency, dress and nuances of graceful living.
Aren't you curious to spot all the hypochondriacs in Jane Austen's novels? Hilarious.To elope to Scotland? So adventurous! To learn all the secrets to be successful at an elegant Regency ball? Dreamy! Can't you find a way to get rid of unwanted guests? At last!  Just get hold of this little treasureable handbook and you'll be ready to cope with all that and to enjoy your Austenesque reads even more!
This is also a perfect gift for  a Janeite friend  or  a romantic young niece/daughter to incline toward Austen world, terrific for Mother's Day.

Long before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books published this guide to life in Regency England. It has been newly published with a revised cover  much to the delight of Austen fans everywhere. Margaret C. Sullivan is the editrix of and an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her favourite Austen novel is Persuasion.

Saturday 12 March 2011


Regina Jeffers, after publishing Austen-based novels like  her latest The Phantom at Pemberley, has a new novel just released, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor,  set in the Regency but not Austen-related. Read the my interview with her on FLY HIGH, my other blog,  and leave a comment or a question for Regina. Don't forget to add your e-mail address to have the chance to win a copy of this exciting Regency romance, the first of a new series. There are two brand new copies available for two lucky winners.Open internationally! The names of the winners will be announced on March 16th on FLY HIGH. 

CLICK HERE to read the interview and enter the giveaway. 

Thursday 10 March 2011


Sense and Sensibility relives in this highly entertaining modern comedy by Cathleen Schine. Her homage to Jane Austen's first published achievement in the year of its bicentenary is funny, light, delightful. 
The events may be anticipated by Austen fans to whom the plot and its twists have no secret, but The Three Weissmanns of Westport  remains, however,  a surprisingly original and highly amusing novel. Those familiar with Sense and Sensibility will immediately spot parallels. 
Miranda is sensibility, hence,  a modern Marianne. She is not 17 any longer. She's middle-aged and a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals. Her Willoughby? Kit, a charmingly handsome  thirty-something, single parent, promising TV actor,  who succeeds in making her totally lose her head.
Annie is sense and, like Elinor she is the elder, more pragmatic sister, a library director who can't help  taking care of all those around her: her sister and her mother,  her two sons, her friends.
Both Annie and Miranda love quoting Louisa May Alcott: "She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain" . And this is true, for both of them.

Their mother, Betty, a modern Mrs Dashwood on the brink of divorce,  has  unexpectedly been left by their  step-father, Josie, whom they have loved and esteemed as a dear father since they were very young children. 
Josie is now in love with Felicity, his blond and much younger secretary. A changed man.
The three Weissmanns, shocked and disappointed by an unacceptable behaviour from a  father/husband of forty-eight years,  leave their luxurious apartments in New York and move to a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. Here we met a variety of  humorous characters,  from bizarre cousin Lou and his wife, Rosalyn, as well as her hilarious father, Mr Shunptov  to some romantic characters like Roberts - Colonel Brandon's  unfortunate correlative - and Frederick Barrow - aka a modern Edward Ferrars , whose awkwardly indecisive behaviour will make Annie suffer all through the story. Barrow, Felicity's brother, is a fascinating writer, rather prone to his own grown-up children, which makes his love affair with Annie very complicated. No Lucy Steele,  then? Yes, of course. She's called Amber and she's so young and even pregnant, poor Annie!

Books and money matters take the place of Jane Austen's propriety and decorum matters in this upper-middle-class world's conversations. The characters  live between New York, Los Angeles and Westport, Connecticut. Their being Jewish makes everything even more interesting. Though, they don't take it too seriously, their being Jewish sounds rather self-mocking . For instance, while they are decorating their Christmas tree, Josie reminds to young Annie and Miranda that that holiday " ...celebrates the birth of a man in whose name an entire religion has persecuted and murdered our people for thousand of years... And knowing that, why should we let them have all the fun?"
The happy ending can't be avoided and is very much welcome: Jane Austen docet, Cathleen Schine discit. Forgive my Latin jokes. I mean, Jane Austen teaches, Cathleen Schine has learnt. Joy will come in the end with a bit of nostalgia and, just like in Sense and and Sensibility, we have an imperfect happy ending.  
In conclusion,  this is a good example of how to  re-write  a well-known and beloved novel in a clever way: respect and love for the original behind every word.

This was my first task for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge  
hosted by Laurel Ann at

Thanks to Picador for kindly providing me with a review copy of this lovely book.

Wednesday 9 March 2011


Susan Kaye was my guest for "Talking Jane Austen with ..." last week,  and she generously decided to  give away a copy of one of her two published novels, chosen between "None But Youand  "For You Alone". The winner will also get a hand-stitched bookmark from Susan herself. The giveaway ,  open worldwide, was won by 



Many thanks to Susan Kaye for finding the time to answer my questions,  for her active interaction with readers' comments and her generous giveaway. Stay tuned for more interviews, guestposts and giveaways! Cheers. MG

Thursday 3 March 2011


Susan Kaye lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband and children. She has published two Austen-inspired novels based on Persuasion,"None But You" and "For You Alone"
You can find her at Jane Started It  , a site she shares with  Pamela Aidan, Laura Hile, and Barbara Cornthwaite or at I Had To Laugh, her personal  blog. She also blogs with Austen Authors
Join us in the discussion. Leave your comments and e-mail address and you can win a copy of "None but you"  or For You Alone"  (you can choose the title you prefer) + a hand-stitched bookmark . The giveaway is open internationally and ends on Wednesday 9th March. when the winner will be announced. 
Well, it's time to welcome Susan Kaye on My Jane Austen Book Club!

Thanks for accepting to answer my questions, Susan! Here's my first one. Jane Austen wrote books that are about few  families in a country village and focused on  their courtships , friendships, gossip and discussions  in  their ordinary rather uneventful  lives and homes. Two hundred years later we’re still reading them. What is her secret for success?  
We’re still reading Austen all these years later because she’s honest. And she’s funny. Two vital qualities for an artist. Her characters are true to how people are. Her novels are populated with intelligent, witty, compassionate, bilious, angry, sly, mean, happy, and clueless souls looking to find their place. Aside from a few years in a small city, I’ve lived my entire life in small towns. I know the claustrophobia of the sameness, the gossip, and the forced acceptance. In a small population, everyone can be affected by one person’s actions, whether you know that person or not. There are harsh judgements and long memories, but I also know the ordinary and uneventful can be the most comforting thing you have in bad times. Austen crafted her people to reflect the world she saw. I think she was faithful to that world and was faithful to the highs and lows of it as well. Fortunately, she was also very deft at showing us the beauty of how love affects everyone as well.
When and how did you first meet Jane Austen and her world?
 I first read the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of Pride and Prejudice when I was about 14. I later saw the Garvy/Rintoul adaptation but lost interest midstream. When I was in my late 30s I needed a diversion from Real Life and a friend introduced me to the Ehle/Firth adaptation of P&P. I saw the ‘95 version of Persuasion, read the book, and was hooked. 

 It seems your favourite Austen major among her six is Persuasion , which happen to be mine too. What’s so special in it? What is different respect to her previous works?
I love stories of love-lost-love-regained. Second chances are almost miraculous to me. In most of life when we blow an opportunity, it’s over. But Persuasion shows us there are second chances, and even when we thumb our noses at those, God sometimes smiles and pushes us until we accept happiness. No character is free from some of the author’s characteristics, I believe, but while Austen’s other novels seem to center around the characters she created to be outside herself, I think Persuasion reveals her in both Anne AND Frederick. I think Jane Austen in many ways saw herself being like as Frederick Wentworth: underestimated and having only the confidence in herself to carry her forward. Anne Elliot is a woman who thought love would find her again after a failed attempt, but it didn’t happen. Jane gave Anne the second chance she never got, maybe. 

Ann Elliot is not as lively nor as self – confident as Elizabeth Bennet or Emma, but she is the Austen heroine I feel more sympathy toward. What about your opinion of her? 
Anne and her “elegant mind” didn’t lend themselves to liveliness. When we meet Anne Elliot she’s been six years resigned to life alone. But Anne has also been trained by her family’s indifference to her. Half of the time they don’t even listen to what she has to say. I don’t think she lacks confidence, she is intelligent enough to know casting her pearls before swine is fruitless. Anne knows she’s booked on a train headed for a wreck but with Sir Walter and Elizabeth at the controls, there’s no point in screaming. Her time is better spent watching the scenery go by and contemplating poetry. Seriously, Anne did the visiting around the estate and likely any other duties expected of the family. She’s the adult doing what needed to be done. It helped keep her mind off her own prospects. 

Now the hero you’ve chosen to write about in both your published novels, None But You and For You Alone, Captain Frederick Wentworth. What’s so special in him to make you prefer him to all the others Austen men?  He’s no gentleman! In the classic sense of having esteemed family connections or owning land that is. The other heroes had their lives laid out before them--with no freedom to deviate--while Frederick Wentworth plotted his own course despite the fact he had no family of importance or guarantee of success. Wentworth is funny, smart, and confident. And he wears a uniform. Wow. And he’s got staying power. He was ready to quit the field after the concert on Tuesday, but he kept up and when he had the chance, as much as he could without embarrassing her in front of the Musgroves, he started putting himself forward with Anne.

How does your Captain Wentworth compare to Jane Austen’s original? I pray I’ve done him justice and kept him true to Jane Austen's Wentworth. If she were to read my work, I don’t want to think she’d blush at what I’ve done. I don’t mind variations in the plot but I do bristle when Austen’s characters are changed, sometimes radically so. I think that’s the easy way out. By shifting the personalities of Austen characters to suit more modern sensibilities, I think a writer betrays Austen. If you change the basic stuff of the characters, why not just change the names and leave the Austen association behind? Because then the writer doesn’t have the Austen label to attract readers. Oops! Did I say that out loud? 

You decided to publish your re-telling of Persuasion in two different book? Why? 
I started telling Wentworth’s side when he goes to Portsmouth to tell Captain Benwick Fanny Harville has died and that took two or three chapters. I thought, and a lot of readers agreed, it would be interesting to know what happened during that time. Did being holed-up with Benwick for three days shake loose memories of Anne? If it did, how did that affect him when he learned that Sophia and the Admiral had chosen Kellynch Hall, of all places, to settle. There is also a natural break in Frederick’s side of the story, and in his emotional state when he leaves Anne at Uppercross after Louisa Musgrove’s fall. That made the segue to his three weeks in Lyme and then six weeks in Shropshire crucial. 

Ciaran Hinds or Rupert Penry-Jones? HINDS

What did you like best in the two different Persuasion adaptations and what the least instead? 
Least first. 07’ version: The portrayals of Mary and Charles Musgrove were just atrocious and cartoonlike. The writers were clumsy and ham-handed in the way they stuffed Mrs. Smith’s storyline into the melodramatic, aerobic ending. The woman was an invalid for crying out loud, and having her hustling after Anne, panting out the nefarious plottings of William Elliot--plots she wouldn’t have known--was just silly. I didn’t care at all for Anthony Head’s Sir Walter. The Baronet is a ridiculous, one-dimensional character and I think Head tried too hard to make him a complex villain. I did though like the scenery, particularly the shots of Lyme. In the ‘95 version I didn’t care for the writers making William Elliot a fool who had lost his fortune rather than a truly evil man. Many think of him as merely being guilty of Sunday travel and  that marrying Anne would have shaped him right up. To me, he is one of Austen’s most frightening characters because of his ability to insinuate himself into the good graces of people. He was nestling deeper and deeper into the Elliot family all the time, and his betrayal of Mr and Mrs Smiths’ trust was reprehensible. I did like Hinds’s portrayal of Wentworth. The barely concealed sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek way he delivered most lines was great. I think Amanda Root is an actress who can say so much with only her eyes and is perfect for the ever-thinking but silent Anne. And I like Fiona Shaw, who played Sophia Croft. She was great as the older sister and a real presence in the one scene in which they really exchanged any dialogue.    

What do you think, Susan? Isn’t  it time we get a mini-series for this novel? Something like the latest  BBC Emma (2009)? 
Hey, it’s got my vote. And if the BBC wants some Frederickcentric scenes, I’d be happy to help!! 

Now, I’m just being curious. What is it that you do when you don’t read, write or watch something Austen – related? Joking , of course! But, seriously, what are your other favourite hobbies or pastimes? 
Our 18 month-old granddaughter lives with us so she’s a constant source of entertainment. She’s in that stage of taking everything out of my cupboards so I’m always rearranging them. And, I love cop shows. I wanted to be in law enforcement for a long time. Bones is a favorite right now, as is Criminal Minds and the hip and clever Burn Notice. I like the comedy, The Middle. I’m a blue-collar girl to my toes so this one strikes home for me. My writing is influenced a lot by the storytelling arc of TV and so I like to study good shows to get a handle on that. 

Are you working on any new Austen-related project?  

A Word, A Look is going to be the third in the Frederick Wentworth, Captain series. I’ve scraped one version because it wasn’t working. I figured if I was bored with it, the readers likely would be as well. The new version begins with Frederick and Anne just returning to Bath to face the consequences of their elopement. From there Frederick has the first serious failure of his naval career, they suffer a betrayal by a member of the Elliot family, and as a couple they have to learn to support one another through a very public scandal. I think it will be a little more interesting than my first attempt.

Good luck with your writing, Susan. I'll wait for you back  on My Jane Austen Book Club soon to present A Word, A Look once it is out. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer all my questions. 
And now ... GOOD LUCK to all commenters. You can choose  your prize between Susan Kaye's two published novels  you'll also get a hand-stitched bookmark from Susan herself, and the giveaway is open worldwide!