Thank you for hosting me on your wonderful book club!
While all of us feel the irresistible pull of the spirited Lizzie Bennett, I am not the only person who has a special love for Anne Elliot from Persuasion.
Anne is dutiful, steady, and puts the needs of others before herself. Does that make for a dull heroine? Maybe to some. But I love "overlooked" people. It's always fun to find the introvert in the room, and go start a conversation. Introverts frequently have plenty to say. They spent less time talking and more time thinking.
I also have a fondness for women with a secret. Almost every book I've ever written is about a woman with a secret. The novel I am just embarking upon is about a real-life woman with a fairly big secret. And Anne's past romance with Captain Wentworth would seem to qualify as a secret, since almost no one around her seems to know about their shared past.
When I put Persuasion in a modern context, the secret became even more intriguing, and heartbreaking. I call this book a "modern translation." I went through the original, chapter by chapter, and translated each scene to a modern setting. Set in 2008 in the United States instead of early 1800s Regency England, the forces that keep the lovers apart for so long are as powerful now as they were 200 years ago.
To show you what I mean by "translation," I have included two excerpts: one is a condensation of the beginning of Austen's original, the second is my modern rendition of it.
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt, as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century -- and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed -- this was the page at which the favorite volume always opened:
ELLIOTT OF KELLYNCH-HALL
Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq of South Park, in the county of Gloucester;by which lady (who died 1801) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born AUgust 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov 20, 1791.
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Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliott's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
Walter Elliot’s favorite book was Who’s Who in America. While most financiers might have preferred The Wall Street Journal, that was merely reading in order to get the day’s news. That was work, not pleasure. Seeing his entry always gave him a boost on a bad day. On the other hand, it still gave him a boost of satisfaction and pleasure when he was having a good day.
ELLIOT, WALTER J.
Banker. Personal: Born Sept 28, 1954, New York, NY; son of James and Mary Elliot; married Elizabeth Steventon (deceased), January 5, 1979; children: Elizabeth, Anne, Mary. Educ: Cornell University, BA, 1976; Columbia Business School, MBA, 1978. Career: Union Savings and Loan, various positions, 1978-1993, Security Savings Bank, corp lending officer, 1993-1997, Washington Mutual Bank, loan analyst, 1997-1998, Prosperity Bank, assistant vice pres & mgr of credit admin, 1998-2001, Metro Bank, vice pres 2002-. Orgs: Columbia Univ Alumni 1979 -; mem Metropolitan Club, 1979 -; mem The Core Club, 2003 -. Honors/Awds: Cornell Univ Distinguished Alumni Award. Business Addr: Metro Bank, 29 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005.
For a man of 54, he spent a lot of time looking in mirrors. He prided himself on being follicly gifted; he still sported a full, thick head of hair, and a judicious application of Just for Men meant that no one needed to know that there was a little bit of gray coming in at his temples. For all he knew there was a lot of gray, but since he kept the silver traitors carefully managed, he had no way of knowing how much was actually there.
Anne Elliot broke off her relationship with Freddie Wentworth when her family didn't approve. Almost eight years later, Freddie re-materializes in her life. She's a captain in the Air Force, successful, single, and as beautiful as ever. Mortified that she doesn't have much to show for the intervening years, Anne tries to avoid her. When contact is inevitable, her life is turned upside down. Self-doubt becomes self-improvement, old wounds are reopened and then allowed to heal, and true friends and true love win in the end.
"It is a tribute to Watts’ sensitivity and skill that the narrative, while following the original story closely, holds plenty of tension and some cleverly engineered surprises... the whole thing is great fun as Watts brings Jane Austen’s tale of yearning and missed opportunity bang up to date."
-Jocelyn Bury, Jane Austen's Regency World
"All the heart and humor of your favorite Regency romance but with a modern sensibility that truly allows love to triumph over every obstacle."
Miranda MacLeod, Author of the Love's Encore series
"An interesting, thought-provoking and sweet novel."
Maria Biajoli, Professor of English Literature, UNIFAL
About the Author
Jeanette Watts is a dancer and dance instructor, costumer, actress, gardener, wine enthusiast, cyclist, writer, and very poor housekeeper.