Saturday 30 April 2011


I loved reading this book (my review) and also the fragment Beth Pattillo created especially for our celebration here on My Jane Austen Book Club. Have you read it? Lost in Sense and Sensibility. Now, to the point. The name of the winner of this lovely novel - a signed copy  -  is ...


Congratulations to the winner and many thanks to Beth Pattillo for contributing in a very original  and generous way to our Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration.

Thursday 28 April 2011


Today his A Jane Austen Education, How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter,  comes out, published by  The Penguin Press.
William Deresiewicz was an associate professor of English at Yale University until 2008 and is a widely published literary critic who writes for a popular audience. His reviews and criticism regularly appear in The New Republic, The Nation, The American Scholar, the London Review of Books, and The New York Times. In 2008 he was nominated for a National Magazine Award for reviews and criticism.  Today I'm very pleased to have him as my guest for our "Talking Jane Austen with..."  and to present his new release to all of you. The Penguin Press have granted to lucky commenters free copy of A Jane Austen Education. Read at the end of the interview how to enter the giveaway.   

Out today!

So, professor Deresiewicz, first of all welcome in my little Austen - dedicated corner of the Net. Then here's my first question. I can't believe you've always liked Jane Austen! I've got a hard job at convincing my own male teenage students to read just one or two pages. How does that happen? did you like reading Jane Austen as a young student?

 No, like a lot of men, I thought Austen was chick lit: soap-opera romance, fluffy and boring.
When a friend of mine heard I was writing this book, he said “I expect a lot of sex and dating advice.” It was an understandable assumption, and my friend’s, no doubt, was based on all those movies—the ones with the beautiful gowns, and the beautiful homes, and the beautiful actresses. The ones with all the swoony music and the lush, romantic lighting, the ones that leave out everything that Austen had to say to us except the love—and then, don’t even get the love part right.

What most surprised you about yourself once you discovered Austen's novels and started examining your own life?
 If you had told me, when I was eighteen or twenty or twenty-five, that the most important writer I would ever come across would be Jane Austen, I would have said you were crazy.  Why should half a dozen novels about provincial young English ladies, published in the 1810s, make any difference whatsoever to a Jewish kid in New York in the 1990s? But I learned that books aren’t written by groups, and they don’t belong to groups. They’re written by individuals, speaking to individuals, and they belong to anyone who loves them.

What was Austen saying to me? Well, first of all, what an idiot I had been about so many things--about pretty much everything to do with relationships. And that I had so much to learn from seeing things from a woman's point of view. But most of all, finally, I think, that I didn't have to be afraid to learn things about myself--didn't have to be afraid, in other words, to be wrong. Aside from all the specific lessons, I think the largest message was simply that I no longer had to be so armored, so defended, so defensive. And that's made it easier to admit mistakes and be vulnerable and keep on growing.

This is why your book’s subtitle is “How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter”, isn't is?
 Well, a while ago, I was interviewing for a job as an English professor. At the very end, the head of the hiring committee posed a question that she must have been dying to ask me the whole time. Glancing down at my resume—I had written my doctoral dissertation on The Novel of Community from Austen to Modernism, published a book entitled Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets, and was planning a study called Friendship: A Cultural History from Jane Austen to Jennifer Aniston—she asked, “So what’s with you and Jane Austen?”

I wanted to give her a good answer. But how do you explain your deepest attachments? I tried to muster an intellectually sophisticated response, something about the purity of Austen’s prose or the brilliance of her satire, but it didn’t feel right, and besides, I’d already given enough answers like that. Finally, I just blurted something that I’d already been telling myself for a long time. “Well,” I said, “sometimes I feel like everything I know about life I learned by reading Jane Austen.”

And how did you come to write this book, A Jane Austen Education?
 I've been writing about literature for a general audience for a long time, as a book critic.  Actually, the fact that I was more interested in doing that than in pursuing scholarly work is the reason I decided to leave academia. The memoir part is new for me, though, and it's been an interesting challenge: a technical challenge to blend the two and a personal challenge to be so candid in such a public way. The second part is a little frightening. As for why I decided to write the book this way, well, the idea was to convey the lessons I learned by reading Jane Austen, and I realized pretty quickly that the best way to do that would be to actually talk about how I learned them, not just explain them in some kind of abstract and impersonal way.

So, what is there in her books which can be useful to contemporary men and women in want of a relationship?
 Ha! Great question. The first thing I think she would say is, don't settle. Then, marry for the right reasons: for love, not for money or appearances or expectations. But most importantly--and this is what I talk about in the love chapter, the last chapter--don't fall for all the romantic clichés about Romeo and Juliet and love at first sight. For Austen, love came from the mind as well as the heart. She didn't believe you could fall in love with someone until you knew them, and then what you fell in love with was their character more than anything else--whether they were a good person and also an interesting one. So I guess that means, date someone for a while before you commit, and don't get so carried away by your feelings that you forget to give a good hard look at who they are. As for sex, it's not so clear she would have disapproved of sleeping together before marriage. I think she maybe even would've liked it, as a chance to learn something very important before it's too late.

What do you hope your book will bring to people who aren't Austen fans?
 Well, first of all, if they aren't already Austen fans because they have the kinds of preconceptions I did, I hope it helps persuade them to give her a chance. I've imagined the book, in part, as a kind of introduction to her  novels. It's not exhaustive or anything--and I think that people who are already Austen fans will find new ways to think about her novels--but it does lay out the basic situations in each book and some of the most important ideas she was getting at. No spoilers, just enough to whet people's appetites. And finally, of course, I want people to see that she isn't just for women. I would love it if the book helped introduce more guys to her work.

Which is your favourite Austen novel?
 I knew people would ask me this. The weaseling answer is that I love them all, though it's also true. Certainly whenever I'm reading one, that's my favorite. But if I had to pick just one, desert-island style, it would have to be Emma. Not just because it was my first and will always have a special place in my heart, but because I really do think it's the best, the one where she put it all together: the brilliant sparkle of Pride and Prejudice, the emotional depth of Persuasion, the fun, the humor, the superhuman cleverness. There really is nothing else like it.

I love Emma too, though the one I find more deeply emotionally touching is just Persuasion. Well, thank you. That's all for now. It's been a great pleasure and honour to host this Q/A exchange with you, Professor Deresievicz. Best wishes for your career and for the success of your A Jane Austen Education. And thanks for this book! I'll suggest it to my male students and hope I'll win their prejudiced attitude over.

Giveaway time!

Readers of My Jane Austen Book Club can win two copies of this new book, leaving their comments here and adding an e-mail address where I can contact them in case they win. This double giveaway is open to US readers only and offered by The Penguin Press. The name of the winners will be announced on Tuesday 3rd May.

Prof. William Deresiewicz has also published Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets  (Columbia UP, 2005)

Wednesday 27 April 2011


Beth Pattillo knows how to make me feel better in stressful times. The same happened while reading Mr Dracy Broke My Heart last year, I found relief and escapism in a well-written, all-delight modern Austenesque tale.
Beth Pattillo follows the same successful "recipe" she used for her previous work and the result is a delicious, tasty new novel,  released at the beginning of this month and celebrating the bicentenary of Sense and Sensibility. What are the "ingredients" I  recognized in The Dashwood Sisters Tell All? The double-layered narration: the present story of the American Dodge sisters and the 18th century story of the Austen sisters conveyed through a diary which the 21st century protagonists read, the mysterious "Formidables" protecting Jane Austen's reputation at all cost, beautiful English settings for very romantic love stories, dashing but very down-to-earth male heroes as well as fascinating, very modern heroines and all of them are mixed with an Austen-can-do-magic wand. The result? A delightful modern fairy-tale with the familiar features of Sense and Sensibility.
The plot is in fact based on Elinor and Marianne's Dashwood's story but set in Hampshire, England, nowadays.

Ellen and Mimi Dodge have never been close, but their mother's dying wish sends them on a walking tour of Hampshire that follows in the footsteps of Jane Austen (Beth Pattillo went on the same pleasant errands while writing this book). Their mother also left them something: a mysterious diary that belonged to Jane's sister Cassandra. These private pages shed light on the secrets that nearly tore the Austen sisters apart and inspired one of the greatest love stories of all time.
As the Dodge sisters visit sites that were important to the Austen sisters, from Steventon Rectory to Chawton Great House to Winchester Cathedral, they are drawn together in ways they never expected. They also discover that Cassandra's diary holds clues that will ultimately lead them to Jane's own diary. But someone doesn't want the Dodge sisters to discover Jane's secrets and will stop at nothing to keep Ellen and Mimi from finding the truth.
There's an Edward/Elinor thread (Daniel and Ellen), a Willoughby/Marianne unfortunate encounter  (Ethan and Mimi) and, of course, a Brandon/Marianne happy ending (Tom and Mimi), with none of the bittersweet closing of Sense and Sensibility (I've always thought that ending the least happy among Austen very gratifying six epilogues). 

The story is told in a smart, convincing, amusing style with magic moments of romance and a bit of mystery.  A great fun read. If you fancy something which is light and enjoyable and Austenesque, this is perfect for you.

Remember! There's a giveaway going on here on My Jane Austen Book Club of an autographed copy of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All. It is open worldwide and ends on April 30th. Read Beth Pattillo's guestpost for The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration - a brilliant fragment inspired to the novel, titled Lost in Sense and Sensibility-  and leave your comment and e-mail address there to be entered in the giveaway.

My grateful thanks to Beth Pattillo for my personal autographed copy of the novel. I'll treasure it on the Austenesque shelf of my library.

Task 2 out of 4 in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Laurel Ann at Austenprose.

Monday 25 April 2011


Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, Elinor and Brandon 1995,  were back on  set together in an experimental TV movie bringing a modern poem on screen. The televised adaptation of Christopher Reid's The Song of Lunch was aired on BBC2 in October 2010. There's a DVD out and you can also watch it on Youtube. By the way, the executive producer was Greg Wise, Willoughby 1995 and Emma Thompson's husband.

Sunday 24 April 2011


After From Prada to Nada, released in January 2011, another Austen modernization is going to be soon released in America theatres, Scents and Sensibility.  The first one is already available on DVD. But this is how I probably will see the latter, too! I'll have to buy DVDs to see both films loosely inspired to Austen's Sense and Sensibility on occasion of its bicentenary.  These movies rarely reach Italian cinemas.

Meanwhile, let's enjoy the official trailer which announces the release of 

Scents and Sensibility


Saturday 23 April 2011


Pride and Prejudice continues in the elegant style that is the distinguishing brand of  Jane Odiwe's sequels. After Willoughby's Return   ,  her skill at creating thrilling emotions, her thorough research and her passion for the Regency Era , are successfully dedicated to make the  inhabitants of Pemberley re-live on the beautifully written pages of Mr Darcy's Secret. You'll meet the newly and happily married couple, Darcy and Lizzy,  as well as their relatives , friends  and antagonists. 
A successful marriage haunted by the untold,  a dark secret to be unveiled, a denied love story,  are among the main elements in the plot , but  you also find so many typical Austensian features like balls, family gatherings, trips and journeys, marriages of convenience and for love, propriety and good manners, friendship and sisterly love, elopments and  engagements, that you really start thinking you are reading Austen.
A real page-turner you can't miss, if you love Austen sequels, romances and witty prose in historical fiction.

The story opens at Longbourn with Mr & Mrs Bennets enjoying the correspondence  from their daughters' successful marriages, both Elizabeth and Jane are married now. Successfully married to very rich gentlemen! Well, Lydia is married too, to George Wickham and living in Newcastle. But she and her dashing officer husband won't be with them at the Christmas gathering at Pemberley. Mrs Bennet is very excited: Pemberley!
At Pemberley, Elizabeth is anxious but willing to undertake her new tasks as lady of the house. At their arrival, both her and her admired Mr Darcy,  are welcome with enthusiasm and cheer by all the inhabitants of the village. But their bliss  starts immediately being haunted:
"I know very little of my husband...I am certain that a man does not reach the age of twenty-nine without experiencing an affection or infatuation or maybe something more" (p. 114)
To induce suspects and torment in Elizabeth's thoughts,  rumors and gossip,  as well as love letters she finds hidden in a book kept on the shelves of Pemberley library. What is Darcy hiding from her? Why doesn't he trust her with the whole truth?
To increase her disappointment, Darcy's behaviour to Georgiana. He wants to choose  a proper husband for her, chosen among the best families in the neighbourhood, a husband who can grant both a title and patrimony, in order to protect his little sister from fortune-hunters. Georgiana is ready to obey her brother: her sense of guilt for past mistakes, her awe and deep love for him, make her accept her brother's choice of a husband. She is going to marry Mr Calladine, though she is in love with Tom Butler.
Lizzy tries to persuade her not to go on with her  resolution, since she could greatly regret it . Lizzy is  also really furious with Darcy for his considering Mr Butler , a drawing master and  an artist, an expert in landscape gardening, too low a catch for her sister. Furthermore, her disappointment is even greater when she hears Darcy repeat the same statements she had to bear hearing  from him when he first proposed to her. He hasn't changed,  then. And what he thinks of Mr Butler might obviously be what he still thinks of her!
Tom and Georgiana will experience the pains of denied love because of Darcy and Elizabeth will not be able to do much more than witness her young sister-in-law's unhappiness and support her with her affection.
Each time the two young lovers - because, of course, Tom Butler loves Georgiana too - meet each other by chance, the love tension and their longing is palpable:
"Georgiana felt tears spill over her hot cheeks before she was aware of Tom's cool fingers under her chin raising her head until her eyes were in line with his own. He held her face in his hands, his fingers caressing her soft skin as he brushed away her tears. His blue eyes stared into the pools of the grey eyes that looked up at him, the connection broken for a moment as he lowered his gaze to rest upon her lips. He was going to kiss her, she felt sure. More than anything, she wanted him to kiss her, to show him how much she loved him. Georgiana stared back at his mouth and closed her eyes in anticipation. Tom looked down at her skin, warm and glowing like a soft peach in the sunlight, her wet lashes curling against her cheek, her lips pink and inviting. He thought how beautiful Georgiana looked, but Tom knew he would be very wrong to take advantage of such willing submission. The temptation to kiss her was very strong and he had to fight every inclination to touch the lips that looked so bewitching. Georgiana opened her eyes to see a look of defeat in his eyes. How she longed to tell him that he could steal a kiss, that she wished he could take her in his arms, however wrong she knew that would be." (p. 213)
But it is an Austen sequel, isn't it? You must be patient and you will be rewarded in the end. You 'll  get your very happy ending and rejoice in Tom and Georgiana's joy.

All through the novel, Elizabeth will have to cope with Lady Catherine and her despise, Caroline Bingley and her envy, shadows from her husband's past, unexpected and painful arguments with him on several occasions and several obstacles on their path to happiness. But you know her strength, vivacity, resourcefulness and courage.
Here's an example of Lady Catherine's bitterness to her new niece-in-law:
"Does your husband know that you are running around the countryside dressed asa gypsy riding in a donkey cart, Miss Bennet? ... What on earth can you mean by disgracing Mr Darcyin such a fashion? Have you no idea of decorum, are you insensible to the honours bestowed on you by him, that fool of a nephew of mine who has singled you out above all other women to bear his name?" (p. 175)
 How do you think Lizzy will react? No fear, you're right. She will  face her stern newly - acquired aunt as you can expect, as an impeccable Austen heroine would do.

What else can you expect from this new Pride and Prejudice sequel by Jane Odiwe? Well-built tension, surprises, tender emotions until the final gratifying unveiling of the "secret" and the protagonists' well-deserved happiness.

Discover more about Jane Odiwe, her novels and illustrations on her Blog Site and on Twitter
You can buy your copy of Mr Darcy's Secret at 

Thursday 21 April 2011


April issue for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration  is a brilliant piece of Austen -based fiction by Beth Pattillo, author of Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr Darcy Broke My Heart. In this delightful fragment, inspired to the characters and events in Sense and Sensibility,  she imagines her heroine caught in Sophia Grey's body  and lost in ... John Willoughby's bed! 
Read Lost in Sense and Sensibility and get the chance to win Beth Pattillo's latest release, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, a modern day version of Elinor and Marianne's story. To win, answer Beth Beth Pattillo's question: " Do you think Willoughby will ever redeem himself?" and do not forget to add your e-mail address. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends April 30th.
Many thanks to Beth Pattillo for her delightful contribution to our celebration and for granting one of you, readers of My Jane Austen Book Club all over the world,  an autographed copy of her latest work.

Lost is Sense and Sensibility by Beth Pattillo

 “Mrs. Willoughby?” The maid appeared in the doorway to my bedroom. I was sitting at the dressing table, brushing my hair, which caused the maid to frown as if she’d caught me in an indelicate act.  Apparently I was to be treated like a doll, bathed and dressed and generally pimped out by my servant.
            I wondered what she would do if I told her the truth.  That I could do my own hair, button my own clothes, and apply what passed for makeup in this place.  Would she faint dead away if I said I was from two hundred years in the future? Or would I end up in the nut house?
            Definitely the nut house.  Which was why, ever since I’d awakened in my bed at Combe Magna the day before, I’d kept my mouth shut.  Except, of course, when arguing with my husband.
            John Willoughby.
            Yes, as in the novel.  I’d gone to sleep in an English country house hotel and woken up in this dream-nightmare-work of fiction.
            “Mr. Willoughby is waiting breakfast for you,” she said, and I sighed. If I were going to get stuck in my favorite Austen novel, why couldn’t I have Mr. Darcy? Or Frederick Wentworth?  I would have even settled for Edward Ferrars or Colonel Brandon in a pinch, since apparently my overheated brain had placed me smack dab in the middle of Sense and Sensibility.  But Willoughby? Aparently my rotten luck hadn’t changed, even when I was in a coma or a hallucination or whatever this thing alternate reality might be.
            “Tell him I’ll be down directly.”  The hours I’d spent watching all the Austen film and television adaptations were paying off, because I could spew early nineteenth century dialogue like nobody’s business.
            I knew the house pretty well after exploring it the day before, mostly to keep out of the way of my ‘husband.’  We’d exchanged the bare minimum of words. After all, I knew from reading the novel how he felt about me, the woman he’d been forced to marry to restore his fortunes.
            “Good morning,” he said stiffly when I entered the cavernous dining room.  Why in the world did he insist on eating there?  It was only the two of us.  Plus, the servants had to cart everything up from the kitchen one floor below.
            “Look, I know you’re a womanizer.” Why beat around the bush? If I was going to be stuck in this place, I didn’t want to spend my days around someone so unpleasant, even if he was a decent piece of eye candy.
            “Good morning to you as well, Sophia.  What, pray tell, is a womanizer?”
            I closed my eyes and tried to come up with an Austenesque synonym.  Horndog and tomcat wouldn’t exactly work.
            “You’re a rake. A rogue. A…..”  I was out of synonyms.
            “Upon my word, you are very direct.” He frowned, which should have made him look less attractive, but it didn’t.
            “Get used to it, Lothario.”
            “Pardon me?”
            “If I’m stuck here, buster, then you’re going to mind your Ps and Qs.” Apparently when I was under stress, my mother’s favorite clichés spewed from my lips.
            “I don’t care for peas.” He picked up his glass and swirled the wine in it while regarding me as if I’d just grown a pair of horns.  Wine for breakfast.  Just another day in the life of John Willoughby.  Probably still fancying himself in love with Marianne Dashwood and bemoaning how he’d been forced to marry me – or Sophia – due to his own imprudence.
            “You may not understand the expression, but I think you catch my drift,” I said.
            He sat down his glass with a clink. “Madam, I am unaccustomed to being harangued in my own home.”
            Apparently the real Sophia Grey had a backbone like a limp noodle. “Well,” I said, “then today should be a refreshing change of pace.”
April Giveaway

Lovely fragment, isn't it? Now, answer Beth Pattillo's question: Do you think Willoughby will ever redeem himself? Add your e-mail address and ... good luck! The giveaway is open worldwide and ends April 30th!

Wednesday 20 April 2011


Have you read my latest interview with Margaret C. Sullivan? It was an interesting one, wasn't it? It's always enriching and stimulating to talk Jane Austen with such expert Janeites! For those of you who commented it's time to discover who was the lucky one, who is the winner of the free copy of The Jane Austen Handbook.
So straight to the point. The name of the winner is ...

Katherine Cox

Congratulations to the winner and thanks to all the participants.
Thanks to Quirk Books for providing the giveaway  copy.

Tuesday 19 April 2011


Here's the solution to the the quiz I chose from Pocket Posh Jane Austen and posted last week. It was really an easy task for all you, Janeite friends! In fact, all the commenters guessed the six matches,  but only one of them  has won this lovely gift book. The correct matches are:

Colonel Brandon-Delaford
Mr. Bingley-Netherfield Park
Robert Martin-Abbey Mill Farm
Lady Catherine-Rosings Park
Sir Thomas Bertram-Mansfield Park
Mr. Knightley-Donwell Abbey

The copy of Pocket Posh Jane Austen has been won by ... Jenny Allworthy!  


Thanks to all you who took part in this contest

Monday 18 April 2011


Well, it is a proud old teacher who has always thought that to convey her love for Jane Austen to her students was a very hard task writing here tonight.  It seems my impression was wrong. Some of them seem to love Jane Austen at least as much as I do and they have conveyed their love  to me tonight. The cast of this home-made musical was mostly consisting of my students and ex-students, as well as some girls who were  in my Jane Austen reading club at the public library last year ( I led and moderated over an  Austen reading group of ladies and girls, do you remember?)

All these young people decided to stage Pride and Prejudice, setting the story in the 1950s and giving to their pièce the title of "Somebody to Love" .
They wrote the script, selected the music and created the coreographies, chose the props and drew the scenery, designed the costumes and  set the lights, rehearsed for months, under the direction of Costanza, a brilliant, sparkling, exhilarating Mrs Bennet. Actually one of the best I've seen so far! 

 Mr Bennet (Luigi Maria) was impeccable in his witty but detached management of the 5 Bennet girls and, especially, his volcanic Mrs Bennet. I loved all the girls: Maria Francesca as Jane, Cecilia as Lizzy, Ludovica as Lydia, Valentina as Kitty and Ilaria as Mary.
And now the heroes! Darcy. Fabrizio. Perfect. His aristocratic features, his contained refined manners were natural.
He practically didn't have to pretend. He's always been like that as far as I can remember. So well mannered that you wondered: " is this boy really a teenager of our time" ? Knowing him a bit, I guess his embarassment in the proposal scene, his struggle against those feelings considered as flaws,  were quite ... natural, too. Fabrizio. Perfect choice as Mr Darcy. 
Then, Luca, Bingley. Another perfect choice. His courtship to Jane (Maria Francesca) was so passionate and direct and convincing. "There must be something between those two, I've been thinking all the time" .
But, Antonello as Mr Collins, was the greatest surprise to me. Always silent and shy and introverted, he shone as a true comedian, self-confident in his printed blissed smile each time he mentioned or saw Lady Catherine. And how well he sang! Awesome voice and good interpretation. Well done, Antonello.

Wikham (Edoardo) was handsome and had such a sweet face, I can just believe how easy it must have been to him to conquer all those hearts: Georgiana, Lydia, Lizzy.
Deborah was really astonishing in the double role of the two most disagreeable women in the story: Caroline Bingley and Lady Catherine. Very convincing. 
Last but not least, the band who played the music live: bravo boys !
(Matteo, Giovanni and Tommaso).
Congratulations to all and each one . The entire cast (even those with just a few lines) deserve my most sincere appreciation. Thanks , girls , for your invitation. You've made me very proud and very happy. 

(P.S Sorry for the bad quality of my pics!)

Friday 15 April 2011


Margaret C. Sullivan is the editrix of AustenBlog and the author of The Jane Austen Handbook. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). During the day she works as a web content coordinator for a large international law firm, and by night she attempts to convince the world that Henry Tilney is much cooler than that Darcy fellow.
Read the interview and win this precious handbook! 
Welcome Margaret and thanks a lot for finding the time to answer all my questions.
Maria Grazia, thank you so much for having me on your Jane Austen Book Club! 

I’ve quickly read through the introduction before starting writing my questions for you. It’s perfect invitation to go on! I can’t wait to read the rest of your The  Jane Austen Handbook, Margaret.  (I sent my questions to Margaret before finishing reading the book) It  sounds a precious contribution which all Janeites should treasure on their JA shelf. Who is the reader you were thinking of while writing it? 
I wrote it mostly for the newer reader of Jane Austen, someone who is unfamiliar with the time period. When I was writing it, I tried to keep in mind the questions that I had when I was first reading Austen. However, I knew that people who knew me, and who read my blog and my fiction and already knew a lot about Jane Austen, would also want to read it, so I put in little asides and references and jokes for Janeites; and I learned a lot while writing it, so I think even experienced Janeites can get something from it. I also want to say, as there seems to be some confusion about it—if you are not sure at any point in the book if I was joking about something, most likely I WAS joking about it! 

I also loved your dedication: “For my mother, who let me read everything”. Can you tell us something more about your freedom of reading and how it led you to discover and love Jane Austen? Do you owe that to your mother too?
That dedication is a little bit of a joke. I come from a family of readers, and had a library card when I was six years old, but even before then my eldest brother and my mother would get books for me on their cards. We were lucky to have a library right up the street from our house, and I spent a lot of time in there and read my way through the very large children's section. I was a precocious reader, and the librarians, knowing I read well above my age level, let me take out some books that were not quite age-appropriate (Paul Zindel is the main one I remember—his books are for teenagers and I was seven or eight years old). I would read them and then ask a lot of difficult questions. But my mother, to her credit, never told me, "You can't read that." It didn't hurt me to read them; the inappropriate stuff went over my head. I've never been afraid to read anything, and I'm sure she had something to do with it.
And yet, I didn't read Jane Austen's books till I was nearly thirty years old! I wish someone had directed me to them when I was younger, but that didn't happen. Sometimes I feel like I will never get to read all the books I want to read.

What is the best part of Jane Austen’s World to you?
If you mean the world of her novels, I think the best thing about  it is that there was so much fun and humor in the novels and even the politics of the day. The Victorians weren't really very funny people, but of course Jane Austen's books are hilarious, and other books from the Georgian and Regency periods are really funny, too. I was more accustomed to Victorian fiction when I first read Jane Austen's novels, and I was really surprised and delighted by how funny they are, and now that I've read more from the time period, I have learned it was a very common thing.
Also the design of the time—architecture, clothing, everything—was just elegant and exquisite.
If you mean places in Jane Austen's novels or life, my favorite would be Bath. I know it wasn't Jane's favorite place, but I love Bath. I was only there once for a few days, but I will be back! 

Which was the chapter/section you were more amused by while writing? (I love “Making Love” and “How to attend a Ball”!)
I love the sections about dancing and balls, too. I learned quite a bit while researching and writing them, especially about the social aspects of ballroom behavior. I really understand why everyone thought Darcy was so rude at the Meryton assembly, and why Mr. Elton was so rude at the Westons' ball. I also understand why young ladies got so excited about balls—even today, getting all dressed up to go to a party is a big part of the fun!

What do you envy to women living at Jane Austen’s time and what in their lives you are happy to avoid living in the present?
The amount of leisure time that gentry women had is very attractive to me! I have very little free time myself, and would love to have time to read, write, and do needlework.
However, I don't think I would like being stuck at home as much as they are. It was so difficult to travel and just get from one place to the other. Also I'm probably a little too fond of 21st-century hygiene practices to really enjoy living in those days! And with my luck I would probably be a scullery-maid or something rather than a gentry lady. 

Studying about her so much and for so long, have you definitely understood what Jane’s opinion on marriage was?
I think Austen was all for marriage, if the two partners loved and respected one another, and if they had enough money to get by—not necessarily lots and lots of money, but enough to live on comfortably. Just love, or just money, would not do for her; and I think respect might be the most important thing of all. Look at the Bennets—Mr. Bennet could not respect his wife, and we see the results. And even the late Lady Elliot in Persuasion made an unwise marriage, and could not respect her husband, and Austen makes it pretty plain that she did not have a happy life. I think she shows that love does not last if respect is not there; or perhaps that "love" formed on the basis of hormonal attraction is not sufficient for a long-lasting marriage.
As for Jane herself, I think she never met a man for whom she felt it was worth giving up her independence. She chose to be single and try to support herself with her writing. Right after she accepted, and then rejected, Harris Bigg-Wither, she started sending out her work to publishers (and Northanger Abbey, in its first incarnation as Susan, was accepted). I suspect that those two things were not unrelated—that she made a very conscious decision to stay single and devote herself to her writing. She probably knew that if she got married that family responsibilities would prevent her from having a lot of time to write. I think that while she knew being single would limit her socially in many ways, the freedom it gave her to write was worth it. However, if she had met a man she wanted to marry, who was willing and able to marry her, I don't think she would have refused him.

Does Jane Austen give us a model married couple in any of her novels?

The Crofts in Persuasion are a wonderful couple. There is a little bit in the novel that is a great description of their relationship. It takes place in Volume I, Chapter X, when they give Anne Elliot a ride home from Winthrop, and shows how well each complemented the other.
(Mrs. Croft says:) "My dear Admiral, that post! we shall certainly take that post."
But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the Cottage.
They get on so well and are so much interested in each other. They are friends as well as lovers. From Volume II, Chapter VI:
The Crofts knew quite as many people in Bath as they wished for, and considered their intercourse with the Elliots as a mere matter of form, and not in the least likely to afford them any pleasure. They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together. He was ordered to walk to keep off the gout, and Mrs. Croft seemed to go shares with him in everything, and to walk for her life to do him good. Anne saw them wherever she went. Lady Russell took her out in her carriage almost every morning, and she never failed to think of them, and never failed to see them. Knowing their feelings as she did, it was a most attractive picture of happiness to her. She always watched them as long as she could, delighted to fancy she understood what they might be talking of, as they walked along in happy independence, or equally delighted to see the Admiral's hearty shake of the hand when he encountered an old friend, and observe their eagerness of conversation when occasionally forming into a little knot of the navy, Mrs. Croft looking as intelligent and keen as any of the officers around her.
I also love that Anne is getting a glimpse of what might be her own future life, though she doesn't know it yet!

Leafing on through the pages of your lovely handbook I read: “Is Mrs Bennet the hero of P&P?” I had never heard of such a hypothesis and found it rather puzzling. I’ve always been so sure the protagonists were Lizzie and Darcy! Do scholars really state Mrs Bennet can be considered as such?

Yes, many scholars and non-scholars have given their opinion that Mrs. Bennet is a heroic character, because she is the only one who truly understands that her daughters must marry well or they will have no home or money once Mr. Bennet dies, and that even though she is ridiculous, she is only concerned for her daughters' welfare. (I think they are exaggerating about Mrs. Bennet being the "hero," however, for extra effect.) There is even a little line given to Mrs. Bennet  in the 2005 adaptation of P&P, when Mrs. Bennet tells Lizzy that she only acts like she does because she worries about what will happen to the girls if they don't marry. (There is nothing like that line in the book.) While I agree that the Bennet daughters' situation is precarious, I don't think that Mrs. Bennet's interference is entirely unselfish. One gets the impression that she wants the girls to marry because it will make her look good, not because she is really concerned with her daughters' happiness. Compare the reaction of the Bennet parents to Elizabeth's engagement to Darcy. Mr. Bennet, who doesn't know that Elizabeth has had a change of heart about Darcy and thinks that she is only marrying him for his wealth, tries to talk her out of it. He fears that she will be unhappy in her marriage, which might lead someone of "her lively talents," living among high society as Mrs. Darcy would be, to have an affair, which could be disastrous—Darcy could divorce her, and then she would be in a terrible position. Once Elizabeth assures him that she does love and respect Darcy, he gives his blessing. Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, badmouths Darcy right up till the time that Elizabeth tells her they are engaged, and then she can't say enough nice things about him!
When her mother went up to her dressing-room at night, she followed her, and made the important communication. Its effect was most extraordinary; for on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat quite still, and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many, many minutes that she could comprehend what she heard; though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of her family, or that came in the shape of a lover to any of them. She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.
"Good gracious! Lord bless me! only think! dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh! my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane's is nothing to it -- nothing at all. I am so pleased -- so happy. Such a charming man! -- so handsome! so tall! -- Oh, my dear Lizzy! pray apologise for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it. Dear, dear Lizzy. A house in town! Every thing that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted."
"Jane's is nothing to it." Her project of the past year—to marry Jane off to Bingley—is nothing. She thinks Darcy is an awful person, but now that he wants to marry her daughter, he's everything wonderful. If Mrs. Bennet really cared about Elizabeth's happiness, she would, like her husband, have questioned Elizabeth more about her feelings for Darcy before giving her blessing. Also, Mrs. Bennet is very happy when Lydia and Wickham get engaged—though they will not have a good, happy, mutually beneficial marriage. But to Mrs. Bennet, to have a daughter married at sixteen is something she can boast of.

Which are your favourite Austen hero and heroine? (not necessarily a couple)
My favorite hero is Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey, who is witty and amusing and very sweet to his heroine. I love smart, funny men and he might be the smartest (and certainly is the wittiest) of her heroes. My favorite heroine is Elizabeth Bennet, because she is (for the most part) so confident in most situations and people are drawn to her and like her, except of course Caroline Bingley, and who cares what she thinks?

What is the minor character you find most interesting? Why?
I am extremely fond of Mary and Charles Musgrove's two bratty sons, Charles and Walter. I have given a great deal of thought to how they would turn out as adults (and written those stories). The answer: they have enough good adults around them to give them better direction than one might think!
I also gave William Price, Fanny's brother, to Captain Wentworth to be his lieutenant on the Laconia. I think they both will profit by it, not to mention the readers.

I love everything Austen,  so adaptations as well as fanfiction. What is your opinion on the great deal of films and books Austen-related come out in the latest years?

As I have produced some fan fiction/paraliterature myself (may I please put in a plug for my novella, There Must Be Murder, a sequel to Northanger Abbey?), I can't very well say bad things about it! I understand that a lot of Janeites don't think it's right to write such novels, but transformative storytelling has gone on since humans walked upright and learned to communicate and tell stories. I wish more people would give them a try—but do check out the reviews, positive and negative, first, so that you are more likely to find something you will enjoy.
I wish there was more variety in the stories, though I suppose fans of the novels other than P&P are too small a niche for commercial publishers. But there are a lot of really good Austen-related books out there, and I hope that those who are unsure will take a chance and try one or more of them.
As for the movies, I was unimpressed in general by the latest crop of them (except for Bride and Prejudice and Miss Austen Regrets; neither was perfect but I enjoyed them quite a bit). I think the mid-1990s films, while also not perfect, are still the gold standard. That could, however, just be a generational thing. Now you kids get off my lawn!

Is there anything of Jane Austen we should remind here to our readers, which is instead often forgotten according to you?
Her books are funny! You would never know it from some of the adaptations—fiction, films, etc. They are so earnest and serious and melodramatic! Not that there's anything wrong with some drama, but it should be, like all good things, in moderation. 

I think The Jane Austen Handbook is the perfect present for a Janeite, so I suggest my readers to take notes for their friends’ next birthdays! How would you review it in about 50 words?
Thank you! I hope that anyone who receives the book enjoys it. Here's my short review: If you have read and loved Jane Austen's novels and wondered about  anything you encountered there—from money to clothes to social events—you might just find the answers in the Jane Austen Handbook, and if you don't, you will at least have a laugh and celebrate being a Janeite! (Wow, that's exactly 50 words.)

Thanks Margaret for taking the time to answer all my questions. Best wishes for all your Austen related activities and your life!
Thank you for hosting me on your blog, and keep reading and writing about Jane Austen! I love the diversity of voices that are possible on the Internet, and I am delighted that Jane's books are being enjoyed all over the world. I'm sure she would be thrilled about it—any author would be.

That's all for now, Margaret. Keep up the good  Austen work !
Thank you, Maria Grazia. I very much enjoyed answering your  questions—I always love thinking and writing about Jane Austen's work.


Win a copy  of Margaret C. Sullivan's new edition of THE JANE AUSTEN HANDBOOK. Leave a comment to this interview + your e-mail address. The giveaway is open only to US and Canada readers. Thanks to Quirbooks for providing the giveaway copy. The name of the winner will be announced on April 20.

Thursday 14 April 2011


I'm glad to announce the names of the winners of the latest giveaways on My Jane Austen Book Club:




I want to thank heartily both Vera Nazarian and Juliet Archer for being such exquisite and generous guests. Many thanks to all of you who took part in the contest. 
And, last but not least, congratulations to the winners!!! MG

Tuesday 12 April 2011


An easy task for real Janeites. A quiz chosen from Pocket Posh Jane Austen to give you all a chance to win a copy of this precious fun little book. Ready to guess and e-mail me your answers at I'll draw the name of the winner on April 19 so you've got plenty of time to discover the matches, if you're not ready yet. In fact, the task I propose is to match the following characters with their homes. Here we go:

Colonel Brandon
Mr Bingley
Robert Martin
Lady Catherine
Sir Thomas Bertram
Mr Knightley

Abbey Mill Farm
Downwell Abbey
Mansfield Park

Now, to have the chance to win a free copy of Pocket Posh Jane Austen - 100 Puzzles and Quizzes , just leave a short comment here with your name or nickname but, remember, DON'T WRITE THE 6 MATCHES in it.  Send them via e-mail at the address given above. This giveaway ends on April 19 and is open internationally. Good luck, everyone!