Review: Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Natress. Trade Paperback. ISBN: 978-0345524966. 464 pages. Ballantine Books (October 11, 2011) (Amazon: $10.20 / Kindle: $9.99)
Jane Austen Made Me Do It is an anthology of original stories Inspired by, who else, Jane Austen. Some of the stories are follow-on to one of the original Austen novels, a few are variations on a scenes, and some are modern interpretations of her works. There are 18 stories in this collection and each story has a quote from one of Austen’s novels or letters to pair with the story. Some of the quotes are difficult to connect with the stories while others are obvious inspiration for the story that follows.
Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James: Jane Austen dreams that her characters are alive in the world and not happy with the way they were treated in her works — with a few exceptions who love their role in their book. The dissatisfied characters are up in arms (think Dr. Frankenstein and the unhappy townspeople). What really makes it are the characters reasons for their dissatisfaction.
Waiting Persuasion by Jane Odiwe. This was a overview of Anne Elliot’s meetings and dealings with Captain Wentworth as she waits for him to speak to her father and ask for her hand. It fills in for the reader their earlier courtship that took place prior to the opening of Persuasion. I really like these type of stories as the fill in some possible background for fans of the book.
A Night at Northanger by Lauren Willig. This is a modern tale. Cate, a journalist, has a job working with a reality TV type show called Ghost Trekkers. She’s fed up with the job and the fake ‘reality’ of the show. She gets has a very interesting talk when the power goes out on a shot at Northanger Abbey where they were to interview Mr. Morland Tilney-Tilney. This was a very tongue in cheek, or not.
Jane and the Gentleman Rougue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron. A tale of star-crossed or at least society-crossed lovers, espionage, a duel, and clever misdirection. Can’t do much detail on this one or it will be spoiled for you.
Faux Jane by F.J. Meier. This was a delightful play on the old Nick and Nora Charles (and their dog, Asta) mysteries. However, it’s much more modern and involves some Jane Austen memorabilia.
Nothing Less than Fairyland by Monica Fairview. Emma and Mr. Knightley have returned from their honeymoon. The move of Mr. Knightley into the Woodhouse home is not going well. When Emma has an idea — a wonderfully, brilliant idea, or so she hopes. However, she must work quickly while fending off Mrs. Elton. It was a good idea and showed a definite growth and maturity in Emma.
Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane by Adriana Trigiani. A modern Jane Austen writes a letter to her newly engaged niece, Anna. This I found interesting because of the need to update letter writing to more modern times and fits well because Austen was an avid letter writer. The sentiments are at times insightful, poignant, and humorous.
When Only A Darcy Will Do by Beth Pattillo. Another modern story. Elizabeth is a poor American student in London. To earn money, she’s set up a website and is offering walking tours of Jane Austen’s London. Things get complicated when one of her customers show up dressed in Regency garb.
Heard of You by Margaret C. Sullivan. Returned from their wedding trip, Anne and Captain Wentworth visit the Crofts at Kellynch. Captain Wentworth tells the story of how the Crofts originally met and courted. This was another story that fills in the backstory of two of Austen’s characters for readers.
The Ghostwriter by Elizabeth Aston. Yes, there is a ghost. Sara is having a problem with her latest book and her boyfriend has sent a goodbye letter. She needs help and surprise a ghost shows up with some excellent advice and witty advice and asides. This was fun and homorous and more than likely not at all what you’d think it would be like.
Mr. Bennet Meets His Match by Amanda Grange. A fill in the background story of how Mr. Bennet met and courted Mrs. Bennet — because readers have always wondered how that happened.
Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! by Janet Mullany. A modern story only barely touching on Jane Austen but very moving in its own way. A young teacher is chafing under the rules of the older, longtime teachers. She is saddled with supervising the detention of three young girls. This was very well done even though a bit stuck in the 60s.
Letters to Lydia by Maya Slater. Maria Lucas and Lydia correspond during Maria visit to Rosings and beyond. Readers get a peek into Maria’s view of events at Rosings when she visits with Elizabeth. We also get some interesting insight into Lydia — and Maria’s impressions of her.
The Mysterious Closet by Myretta Robens. Cathy Fullerton is on holiday at a converted abbey but it may be a bit too much of a Gothic atmosphere. She’s in the dungeon section of the abbey. This was a bit weird. While the story was fun, I kept wondering why Cathy was so calm and accepting — I’d have been freaking out. But nevertheless a fun story to read.
Jane Austen’s Cat by Diana Birchall. Jane Austen is visited by two of her nieces, and their cat, after having written Mansfield Park. It’s not so much a story as a discussion of writing and characters though a story is told on the spot to the younger niece which in which all the major characters are cats fit into the story of one of Austen’s novels.
Again … Mr. Darcy by ALexandra Potter. After a fight with her boyfriend, Emily invites her girlfriend to come to London with her. While her friend shops till she drops. Emily gets another interlude with Mr. Darcy, this time he’s been happily married to Elizabeth. This one was better than I expected thought these helpful time-traveling characters stories are wearing a bit thin for me.
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Jane Ruino and Caitlen Rabino Bradway. This was my favorite story in the book. The point of view character is Jamie Austen. His mom is a Jane Austen fanatic and family belief is she married Jamie’s father to get the name ‘Austen’. Jamie is in high school and he’s a bit of the problem for the Principal and the Guidance Councilor. It’s not what you think — really. I loved this one for it’s originality and freshness and because it was so in tune with today’s high school scene.
The Riding Habit by Pamela Aidan. Darcy and Elizabeth are at their London home. A quiet ride to teach Elizabeth how to ride gets very exciting indeed.
The Chase by Carrie Bebris. This story was also very different. It’s supposedly the story of an event that happened to one of Jane Austen’s navy brothers involving a naval battle with French ships. Quite a nice piece of historical fiction based on fact.
Intolerable Stupidity by Laurie Viera Rigler. This was a hilarious story that got me laughing out loud. Fitz Williams is defending the authors of retitling, follow-ons, adaptations, etc. in court. Tawny Wolfson is the prosecuting attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Of course, the judge is Lady Catherine. Imagine such a story in a book of stories that are retellings, follow-ons, and adaptations, etc.
All in all this was a volume well worth reading. I like some stories more than others which is generally true of any anthology, however, there wasn’t a clinker in the lot.
The book has been out since October of 2011 so should be readily available if you haven’t read it already. If you have read the book, as always, I’d love to hear your opinion.