Sunday 31 July 2011


Thanks to all the readers who contributed to the discussion of Lucy Steele character in Sense and Sensibility commenting the brilliant interview by Laurie Viera Rigler. Many grateful thanks to Laurie, then, for writing such a special piece for our celebration of Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary (An Interview with Lucy Steele) and for granting two signed copies of her highly entertaining novel.
Here are the names of the two winners of  Laurie Viera Rigler's Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

1. Julienne
2. Mahrian (Wishmade)


Thursday 28 July 2011


Book cover of the English version
I’ve literally just this minute  closed the book on its last page and I can’t explain how deeply moved I feel. I’m profoundly touched by its happy ending. Maybe,  it is because it’s not a novel but a true story and the thought that all I have been  reading  really happened moved me to tears more than once while reading . I’m getting older and at the same time  more sensitive,  I know. But what can be done to change that?
Honestly, I bought this book  thinking there would be much more Austen in it. In fact, there was very little. However, I’m not disappointed,  I liked it a lot.  More than liked it, loved it!
What is this book about?  It is an exchange of e-mail messages (from January 2005 to October 2008) between two very different women who, little by little,  develop a firm friendship based on a strong feeling of sympathy.
May teaches English Literature at a university in Baghdad,  to a class of girls  and,  even though nothing could be farther from the reality surrounding them, she leaves her house every day to talk to them about Jane Austen.  Old times’ skirmishes vs real war.  
May and Bee - Good friends thanks to Jane Austen
At the same time, May tries to lead an ordinary life, going shopping or to the hairdresser’s,  challenging  the possibility of being involved in a bomb explosion  each time.  She has to cope with on and off electrical power supply, black market and the government’s repression against intellectuals like her,  or different ethnic groups  like her husband’s.
Bee is a journalist living in London and her challenge is to run her life between her three little daughters  and her work at BBC World, with a globetrotter as a husband.
May and Bee couldn’t be more different. Culture, religion, kilometers separate them. Yet, when they get into contact through e-mail, because Bee wants an interview with May, they become friends. They tell each other about their routines. May’s messages become a sort of diary of the  life in  troubled Iraq.  A schizophrenic country where girls put on their make-up and unveil or untie their hair once they get to school, and then cover or compose themselves again before going back home , or  where a daughter can still be rejected  by her family for marrying a younger man of an inferior rank. Yet  a country in which Jane Austen is not so impossible  to read and appreciate as an escape.  Jane Austen or  Dickens, but it is not an easy task to read "The Scarlet Letter" by  Nathaniel Hawthorne with them. What those girls could never be able to understand is the idea of freedom or that of real democracy.
Bee and May in London
After  the initial lightness , May’s messages become more and more dripping of fear.  For instance,  “We were in Dorset for 10 days and had loads of people coming, so I thought it would be exhausting,” Bee Rowlatt writes. “Just as I was making tea and preparing breakfast a bomb exploded outside,” May Witwit answers.
 A race against time starts in order to save May and her husband, Alì.  Bee feels guilty when she sends  May her tales about balancing a career with bringing up young daughters , about the stress of  a free woman coping with her  little troubles  or her  jealousy towards  her own husband’s freedom to focus on his career . No bloodshed, no bombs, no violence, no poverty . She feels guilty , but to May those stories are both escape and hope. May hopes and dreams of  joining  Bee in England one day, to start all over with a different  life in a different country.  So  Bee begins to worki and fight for her friend,  so that May’s dream may come true. 

May Witwit lives in England with her husbands now.

I highly recommend this book to all those of you who love literature and the classics, as well as a well - written tale of real life from a female point of view. I found May’s and Bee’s  attitudes to life very enlightening . Both of them have their own personal, original , involving writing style. They’ve learnt much from books and  use that knowledge to face the hardships in life. "A book can save your life", be it Jane Austen or Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Hawthorne or Hemingway . Not simply a saying. It seems books , together with Bee's friendship and solidarity, really helped May to survive in the hell of  Baghdad.  

Monday 25 July 2011


I'm glad to welcome Mary Simonsen as today's guest on My Jane Austen Book Club. She is here on her blog tour for the launch of  A Wife for Mr. Darcy, a new Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel that was released on July 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks. The Publishers have kindly granted all US/Canada readers who will leave their comments +e-mail address here a chance to win a free copy of the book. The giveaway ends on August 1st.
Thank you, Maria Grazia, for hosting me on your blog. It is always a pleasure. You asked me to write about how the three couples (Elizabeth/Darcy, Jane/Bingley, and Lydia/Wickham) interact after their marriages. Jane Austen provides the clues to their future in her final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.

After a year of marriage, Jane and Charles move out of Hertfordshire (and away from the Bennets) and closer to Derbyshire (to be nearer to the Darcys). And that tells us a lot right there. Although Charles is as mellow a fellow as there is in literature, he can only take so much of his in-laws. Despite improvements in Kitty and Mary’s character, there is still the silly Mrs. Bennet to contend with. Because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Bingley’s mother-in-law will continue to utter inappropriate comments at the worst possible times and probably talk a great deal about Lydia and George Wickham.

According to Austen, with only thirty miles separating the Bingley and Darcy estates, Jane is so often at Pemberley that Charles hints to Darcy that their host should ask his visitors to go home. I like that. Despite his friendship with Darcy and his affection for Elizabeth, Charles wants time to be alone with his bride. Ditto for the Darcys. I can easily imagine our favorite couple enjoying a lengthy honeymoon. As the years pass, I picture the carriages of the Bingleys and the Darcys wearing ruts in the road between their two estates, and, of course, once the children arrive, the visits will last even longer.

On the other hand, Lydia and her dear Wickham continue to be a problem for the Darcys. Since Georgiana remains at Pemberley after Lizzy and Darcy tie the knot, it is impossible for Elizabeth to have Lydia and Wickham come to visit when Fitzwilliam and Georgiana are there. After all, Wickham tried to lure a fifteen-year old girl into an elopement so that he might have access to her fortune and as a way of retaliating against her brother for his perceived ill treatment. Although Jane Austen has Lydia and Wickham visiting Pemberley when Darcy is not at home, I think the visits would have been few and far between. How can you sit down to supper with someone who is a liar, a seducer, and an unrepentant reprobate? I would imagine that Lydia would have had more success in securing invitations from Jane and Bingley than she would have from the Darcys.

I have five sisters, and we are very close. We visit frequently, and when we do, we seem to get silly very quickly. Because of that, it doesn’t take long before our husbands slip away, usually to watch a ballgame, so that they don’t have to hear our childhood stories for the umpteenth time. I imagine that it would be like that for Jane and Elizabeth. While Darcy and Bingley shoot billiards, their wives will reminisce about their youth at Longbourn and that all important dance at the Meryton assembly when Jane and Bingley fell in love and a tiny flame began to burn inside of Mr. Darcy.

What do you think? Did Lydia and Wickham successfully weasel an invitation to visit Pemberley or the Bingley estate? I would love to hear from you.

Mary Lydon Simonsen

Wednesday 20 July 2011


The July issue of The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration here on My Jane Austen Book Club is dedicated to Lucy Steele. Lovely and talented writer Laurie Viera Rigler - Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - has turned into a kind (and patient!) reporter and interviewer  and  met Lucy to ask her what we all  always wanted to know.

For 200 years, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY's Lucy Steele has been universally acknowledged as the villain in the Elinor/Edward/Lucy love triangle…or is she? For the first time ever, Lucy has agreed to an exclusive interview in which she hopes to set the record straight.

LVR: Miss Steele, thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

LUCY: I am Miss Steele no more. I am Mrs. Robert Ferrars.

LVR: Sorry, Mrs. Ferrars. When you were still Miss Lucy Steele, you were secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars, your husband's brother, for four years. It was a long and difficult engagement, with Edward's prospects uncertain and the burden of secrecy great. Could you tell us why you stayed engaged all those years?

LUCY: Perhaps you do not understand my position. I was a dependent young lady without fortune or connections. It was bad enough that my sister Anne and I were already living off the charity of my uncle Pratt and our other friends. It would be worse to give up a prize catch like Edward. And let us be frank, Anne's chances of marrying were nil. It fell to me to secure our future.

LVR: Did you love Edward?

LUCY: La! What a question. I had no notion that anyone's impertinent curiosity could exceed my own.

LVR: Well, it is a fair question, Lucy. And you did agree to reveal all.

LUCY: Ah, well. We are as close as sisters already, an't we? And so here is what I say about love: It belongs to the romances of a circulating library, not to a girl with no portion and no prospects.

LVR: But how did you feel about Edward?

LUCY: Feel? I knew he would provide me a settled home, for I believed that his mother would never throw him off completely.

LVR: You haven't answered the question.

LUCY: He was pleasant enough when he wished to be, though he did have a tendency towards gloominess that was not very agreeable.

LVR: Not exactly the romantic picture you painted for Elinor. And so you did realize that he no longer loved you?

LUCY: I take back my words about us being as close as sisters, for no sister would be this cruel.

LVR: You mean crueler than leaving your own sister behind without seven shillings to her name while you ran off to get married?

LUCY: You should know better than to believe a word Anne says. Why, she likely squandered her money on a new pink gown, because Dr. Davies said he liked the color. Poor, stupid girl.

LVR: You did know that Edward no longer loved you, didn't you.

LUCY: You will persist in this! The only thing I knew is that the laws of honor forbade a man to break his engagement. If the man cried off, the gossips would whisper that perchance the lady was ruined. Tis a pity these conventions do not stand in your time.

LVR: Why did you torment Elinor by boasting of Edward's affections for you?

LUCY: I beg your pardon, but it was Elinor who tormented me, not the other way round. And why is it, I might ask, that it is always the woman who must be at fault?

LVR: I didn't say that—

LUCY: How would you feel if you had pledged the best years of your youth to a gentleman, only to hear that he was so marked in his preference for another that your own relations had made it a standing joke? Of course Sir John and Mrs. Jennings could not possibly know of my engagement, which is why I made it my business to acquaint the lady—Elinor, that is—with the secret I had never before breathed to a soul.

LVR: Aha! You have as much as admitted that you knew he loved Elinor.

LUCY: I admit nothing of the kind. How was I to know that all was not just the mistaken fancy of Sir John and Mrs. Jennings?

LVR: Then what about the letter you wrote Edward, informing him that you had gone off and married his own brother, Robert Ferrars?

LUCY: Ah, yes. No letter was ever more delightful to write.

LVR: Didn't you tell Edward, in that letter, and I quote: "I scorn to accept a hand while the heart was another's"?

LUCY: And you present evidence as if I was a prisoner in the dock. But you, madam, are no judge. If you will know, it was only when Robert Ferrars told me of his brother-in-law John Dashwood's belief that Edward loved Elinor that I knew it must be true. And thus I knew it was right to let Edward go.

LVR: That and the fact that Robert, not Edward, was now heir to the Ferrars fortune.

LUCY: So now I am not only the tormenter of Elinor, but a fortune hunter, too? And what was Edward but a deceptive scoundrel who made love to one lady whilst pledged to another? The former being his own sister's sister-in-law, and the other the niece of his tutor? Where is the honesty, the decency, the delicacy of feeling in that?

LVR: Most would admit that Edward's behavior makes him a somewhat troublesome hero.

LUCY: And so he is merely a "somewhat troublesome hero" while I am "artful and selfish"? Or, as Mrs. Jennings so kindly phrased it, a "worthless hussy"? I do believe this interview is at an end, madam.

Laurie Viera Rigler is the author of the time-swapping novels CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, which are available in North America (Plume), the UK (Bloomsbury), and Italy (Sperling & Kupfer). Her short story, INTOLERABLE STUPIDITY, will appear in the upcoming anthology of Austen-inspired fiction entitled JANE AUSTEN MADE ME DO IT (Ballantine). She can be found at her online home,, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY - Laurie is offering two copies of RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT to two winners. To enter, please post a comment here with your thoughts and don't forget to add your e-mail address. This giveaway is open internationally and ends July 31st.

Monday 18 July 2011


This day 1817 Jane Austen left this world after a long illness and, curiously,  I was on her grave in the huge Winchester Cathedral only  a couple of days ago, on 16th July. I can't describe how sad I felt. Maybe it was due to the weather too. It was a grey rainy day, perfect setting for my visit to Jane's resting place. A cold, anonymous, black tombstone on the floor of the left aisle. I'm sure she would have preferred to rest next to her sister Cassandra in the small churchyard near her brother Edward's elegant house at Chawton. 
On the black marble stone, in gold, words full of sorrow for the loss and of love for the lost beloved. No mention of the great secret love of her life, writing, of her dream of becoming a professional writer, of living on her pen.

In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County She departed this Life on the 18th of July1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her 

I'm sure Jane Austen lived a happy life , full of love , though  brief . There was a breath of joy, calm and serenity at Chawton, in that little house she lived in with her mother and sister . I was  there,  at Chawton cottage,  on 14th July and it was   the first time in my life. After reading so much about and by Jane, I was really there looking around her drawing room. The piano was open, a score waiting to be played. In the parlour the little precious corner near the window. Shivering, I approached  the small writing table  which I had seen so many times in pictures on line. There it was,  caressed by the sunbeams, with a feather and an inkwell ready to be used. I couldn't take my eyes off  that space. I could figure out Jane sitting there,  fully immersed in her thoughts, in her words, in the world she was creating. Busy, smiling, satisfied. Well, also suspiciously looking at the door from time to time, knowing it would creak and warn her if someone got there to disturb her work.
I longed to take my own picture of it but didn't dare ask. One of my friends did it for me, she asked and was answered : YES! So I took my picture of Jane's writing table and one of an incredulous smiling me was taken by my friend. Unforgettable moments.

Saturday 9 July 2011


Published posthumously in1818, Persuasion is  the last novel written by Jane Austen. It has been newly published by Einaudi here in Italy, translated by Maria Luisa Agosti ( Persuasione, 272 pages, 11 euros) with an introduction  of Roberto Bertinetti, Professor of English Literature at the University of Trieste,  who also writes for “Il Messaggero”, an Italian newspaper.  This article says that this  new edition offers a new reading approach to the work of the artist considered by Virginia Woolf “the most perfect among women writers”.

Through the love story between aristocratic Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, Austen conveys a remarkable portrayal of the British society of the early 19th century as well as - Professor Bertinetti states -  “a proud demanding of women’s rights”. According to Professor Bertinetti, Jane Austen is maybe a conservative in her political views but “a subversive in literature”, due to her determination in her claiming  - through Anne Elliot’s voice – the independence of women inside a frame of  brilliant comedy.

As a teenager already, she recognized  a different narrative mode  for every chosen theme: she took the shell of the 18th century sentimental novel and filled it in with new content. She created and designed smart characters, girls or young women like her with thoughts and plans, and here we have heroines that struggle to impose a silent revolution, in their own home environment, who were destined to change the relationship between the sexes in early 19th century England.

Jane Austen was such a highly independent spirit that she didn’t bend even to the flattering proposition of Rev. James Stanier Clarke, the Prince Regent’s librarian. This is her well-known answer to him:
MY DEAR SIR, — I am honoured by the Prince’s thanks and very much obliged to yourself for the kind manner in which you mention the work. I have also to acknowledge a former letter forwarded to me from Hans Place. I assure you I felt very grateful for the friendly tenor of it, and hope my silence will have been considered, as it was truly meant, to proceed only from an unwillingness to tax your time with idle thanks. Under every interesting circumstance which your own talents and literary labours have placed you in, or the favour of the Regent bestowed, you have my best wishes. Your recent appointments I hope are a step to something still better. In my opinion, the service of a court can hardly be too well paid, for immense must be the sacrifice of time and feeling required by it.You are very kind in your hints as to the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House of Saxe-Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in.
But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.I remain, my dear Sir, Your very much obliged, and sincere friend,
Chawton, near Alton, April 1, 1816.
Irony is the key to this answer and irony is what makes Austen’s work unique. She’s a master of irony. She wrote stories – as Canadian Northrop Frye stated – that hope for the coming of  a “desirable” England, where young women in search for a husband were allowed the freedom of choice as well as the possibility to raise their social rank , without the restraint of obsolete and strict rules of decorum .
The models of behaviour able to favour the coming of that “desirable” society are Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Anne Elliot. They are determined women who have learnt from their mistakes – often due to their inexperience. It is clear – says Professor Bertinetti – that Jane Austen meant them as positive models for her readers. Persuasion, her last novel, can be a sum of her subversive ideas – closes Professor Bertinetti. Finally,  he agrees with those critics who considered Austen’s work mainly subversive and ironic.

 This post is  mostly a translation of an article from The Messaggero , "Jane Austen l'ironica sovversiva" (June 28, 2011)

Wednesday 6 July 2011


Ready to see another Austen - related comedy? Have you read and liked Austenland? Jerusha Hess, co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, is set to make her directorial debut just with this romantic comedy,  Austenland.  Filming begins this week in the UK. Starring Keri Russell, J.J. Field (Northanger Abbey, The Sally Lockhart Mysteries, Captain America: The First Avenger) and Bret McKenzie (Lord of The Rings, Flight of the Conchords), Heat Vision reports that the film will also mark the producing debut of Twilight author Stephanie Meyer.

The supporting cast includes Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, Rupert Vansittart and James Callis. 

Russel, Field, MacKenzie from Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

Here's a synopsis of the book 

In 32-year-old singleton Jane Hayes’s mind, no man in the world can measure up to Fitzwilliam Darcy—specifically the Fitzwilliam played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Jane is forced to confront her Austen obsession when her wealthy great-aunt Carolyn dies and leaves her an all-expenses-paid vacation to Pembrook Park, a British resort where guests live like the characters in Jane’s beloved Austen novels. Jane sees the trip as an opportunity for one last indulgence of her obsession before she puts it “all behind her—Austen, men, fantasies, period,” but the lines between reality and fiction become pleasantly blurred as Jane acclimates to the world of Spencer jackets and stringent etiquette rules, and finds herself torn between the Darcyesque Mr. Nobley and a forbidden tryst with Pembrook Park’s gardener (from Amazon reviews)
[Check this book at  bookdepository or Amazon]

Monday 4 July 2011


What is Austenesque Extravaganza, you ask?   
 It is a MONTH-LONG celebration of Austenesque Authors and Novels! 

 When will this event take place?
 AUGUST!  One month from now!

At Meredith's Austenesque Reviews Blog

What will this event be like?
Each day of the week will have a different theme and event, like a weekly twitter party with several Austenesque authors.One purpose of this event is for readers of Austenesque novels to connect and interact with Austenesque authors and other readers. 

There are around 50 authors participating in this event!


Mark your calendars!  We hope to see you at Austenesque Extravaganza! I'll be part of it on August 16th. 

Read more on Meredith's blog, Austenesque Reviews.

Saturday 2 July 2011


Carolyn Eberhart wrote one of the novellas (Mr Darcy's Christmas Carol)  in the successful collection which was out as the perfect gift for Janeites just in time for Christmas 2010: A Darcy Christmas. The other two authors in the collection were Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan.
She's accepted to answer some questions for another interesting "Talking Jane Austen with ...." session.  Read and enjoy. And if you have any contributions or comments to add, they'll be welcome!

My first question is very personal. What do you like best in Jane Austen's world? Her life, her writing style, her works, her heroes and heroines, or the appeal of the Regency?
I have to start with the appeal of the Regency.  I came to Jane Austen late in my romance reading life, but I was hooked on the Regency period almost from the start.  At 13, I began reading Georgette Heyer, Sylvia Thorp, Joan Smith, and a host of other Regency Writers.  I think my first referral to Jane Austen was in a Regency Romance.

Secondly, I admire her writing. She can say so much in an off-hand remark.  She creates incredible characters that are recognizable in people even today. 

How would you defend Jane Austen from the old and recent wrong accuses of being sentimental?
Read her books and all published material.  Anyone reading the Juvenilia, A History of England or her letters would never accuse of her of being sentimental.   Plus take a close look at her characters, they are very human, they do the right thing and the wrong thing.  Emma's cutting remarks to Miss Bates is a prime example of a heroine behaving badly.

How did you come to write an Austen inspired novella?
Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol was inspired by the Dickens novel.  I was watching one of the many adaptations during the Christmas Season. During the trip to Christmas Past, which was set in the Regency, I realized that Darcy and Young Scrooge (the Fezziwig Years) were approximately the same age or maybe, literary contemporaries.  That got me speculating on what it would take for Darcy to be visited by the Christmas Spirits. 

Is Mr Darcy your favourite Austen hero? Why? Why not?
Yes, Mr. Darcy is my favorite.  Why, because when reading the book I picture and hear Colin Firth.  I am only slightly joking here - it was the miniseries that had me reading Pride & Prejudice, and it was to understand when I had the actor's voices in my head - it help get the Jane Austen rhythm.

He is considered the icon of the perfect gentleman. Is being a gentleman still a value today and what makes a gentleman nowadays?
Yes, it think being a gentleman is still valued - though it may not seem so.  I think a gentleman today is someone who is honest, does the right thing, tries to do some good in the world.                                       

Who is instead your number one among Austen heroines? 
Elizabeth Bennet

Can we still learn from Jane Austen's  heroines or from herself? What can their main useful teaching be in our hectic contemporary society?
Each heroine has a uniqueness - Elizabeth with her strong will, Fanny standing up for her beliefs, Emma has the confidence of a person with a comfortable life, Marianne with her romantic ideals and Eleanor with her stoic rationale, Catherine who is naïve but not stupid.  Each has something that they need to learn before they can grow into better people.  Today, we have far different situation in which our principles are questions, JA reminds us that moral decisions are not easy, but must be made.                                                                  

Is there  a minor or major Austen character you would like to write a spin off story for?
Mary Bennet often gets ignored.  She is a character in need of growth to learn that there is a world outside of "accomplishments".

 What about the many film versions and TV series inspired to Jane Austen's novels? Do you think they lead more people to read her novels or do they more distract them from doing it? Have you got a favourite one?
Favorite, 1995 BBC Miniseries of Pride & Prejudice.  From personal experience, I know they bring new readers into Jane's stories.

Are you thinking of writing new Austen-related fiction in the next future or  are you working on a new Austen project these days?
I am working on a new Austen fan fiction. It  takes place between the second proposal and the wedding.

Let us know when it is out, then! That's all for now, Carolyn. Thanks a lot for being my guest.

A review - Carolyn Eberhart's Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol, a retelling of Charles Dickens's classic story. While deliberating whether he should marry the unsuitable Elizabeth, Darcy receives Christmas Eve visitations from three ghosts. Their dire revelations predict the terrifying depths to which his life will plunge if he turns his back on her love. And not just his life, but the lives of all those around him as well. Especially frightening is the Ghost of Christmas Future's prophecy. A powerful and chilling cautionary tale for the Christmas season. (from Historical Hilarity!)