Category Archives: Continuations

First Impressions – Charlie Lovett

First Impressions – Charlie Lovett

I felt a bit of trepidation about reading this one – I have been burned before (sometimes I even wonder if we are reading the same novels to start with!), however, this one is a pleasant surprise.

Here is the blurb …

A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale.

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

It is written in two different times – modern day and 1796 – one with Austen as the heroine and one with Sophie. It is a mystery (who is Richard Mansfield? and who can Sophie trust?), romance and historical fiction all rolled into one. It has a very interesting premise, which I won’t spoil for you, that I found to be plausible. The writing was lovely and swapped easily between the two time periods. My main issues were with plot – the villain was a tad too obvious and Jane Austen attended a funeral (women didn’t attend funerals in her day – pedantic I know).

It is an enjoyable to read and makes me want to read Pride and Prejudice again (not to mention Agatha Christie and several other novels mentioned in the text). It is a book for book lovers as well as Austen fans and would make a great movie.

More reviews

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett – A Review

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Longbourn – Jo Baker

Longbourn - Jo Baker

Longbourn – Jo Baker

I thought I should read this book as it has been much discussed – and I do like Pride and Prejudice. This novel is written from the servants point of view.

Here is the blurb …

Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined below stairs answer to Pride and Prejudice,the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

First, I thought there weren’t enough servants. Only three and then a fourth when the ‘mysterious footman’ arrives. They seem to be very poorly dressed as well – I am sure there would have been some kind of uniform? What is clear is how much work is involved in keeping house prior to the industrial revolution; emptying chamber pots, fetching water, heating water, lighting fires, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, ironing clothes. etc.

This is a very political novel – Ptolemy Bingley is dark skinned and comes from the Bingley’s sugar plantation (we suspect he is Mr Bingley Senior’s natural child), Sarah’s (the housemaid) parents died when she was a child and she was rescued from the workhouse by Mrs Hill and we read about how the army treats its more humble soldiers.

I am not the target audience for this novel – not being into gritty realism – I would have preferred a jollier downstairs (and certainly a better dressed and cleaner one) and a bit more interaction with the upstairs. I appreciate that servants lives in this time could be dreadful – full of drudgery, dirt, neglect and despair, but I prefer my reading to be lighter and brighter.

More reviews …

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Mary Bennet – Jennifer Paynter

I found this novel at the airport – heading home from a girls weekend away – and had to buy it despite my plan of only buying digital books from now on.

Here is the blurb …

 ‘No two views of a ball will be exactly alike. So many separate little worlds make up the whole (most of them whirling mindlessly about), and my own view of that Meryton assembly cannot help but be different from that of my sisters. For the first part of the evening, I was a mere onlooker—unmoving and unmoved. Nobody turned my head with compliments. Nobody asked me to dance.’

What if Pride and Prejudice were to be retold from the viewpoint of Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sister, Mary, the ‘odd one out’ of the Bennet family?

This is what playwright, author, and Jane Austen Society of Australia member, Jennifer Paynter, asked herself before writing Mary Bennet – the plot of which eventually transports the heroine all the way from Hertfordshire to Macquarie’s New South Wales.

The familiar and much-loved characters of Pride and Prejudice appear in Mary Bennet – though they may be a little altered when seen through Mary’s eyes. From her post in the wings of the Bennet family, Mary is well-placed to observe Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, for instance, but while she is able to view him quite dispassionately (and as it turns out, accurately) Mary may not be quite so clear-sighted when she finally falls in love herself.

Mary Bennet is the story of a young girl, desperate for attention and approval, who at last learns to question her family’s values and to overcome her own brand of ‘pride and prejudice’.

The novel covers time before, during and after the action of Pride and Prejudice. The way this novel fits in with Pride and Prejudice is very clever – Ms Paynter even manages to make Mary sympathetic. All those pompous statements, like …

 “Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.”

don’t seem so silly when you have Mary’s point of view. Some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice are fleshed out – Mrs Long’s nieces for instance – and extra characters added.  Although the style isn’t the same as Austen’s, it is well written and didn’t have any of those anachronistic moments, which remind you that you are reading a modern regency novel. This novel is different form the current spate of re-interpretations, re-tellings etc, in that it is more than just a romance – there is romance, but there is social commentary as well.

Other reviews …



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Death Comes to Pemberley – P D James

I like Jane Austen and I like P D James, so, obviously, I had to read this.

Here is the blurb …

 The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered. Inspired by a lifelong passion for the work of Jane Austen, PD James masterfully recreates the world of Pride and Prejudice, and combines it with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly-crafted crime story. Death Comes to Pemberley is a distinguished work of fiction, from one of the best-loved, most- read writers of our time.

There are a few factual errors or rather inconsistencies with Pride and Prejudice. For example, Mr Collins is described as Mr Bennet’s nephew and I am sure Lady Anne died before Mr Darcy (Darcy’s father) and not after.

I can’t say I loved this book, but I didn’t hate it either. Part of my problem is how the characters are portrayed in this novel. I liked Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice whereas in this novel he was arrogant, cold and a bit of a snob.

I liked how the mystery played out. I don’t want to give anything away, but I thought it was very clever. If this novel had been independent of Pride and Prejudice, I would have liked it more.

I don’t think it will appeal to Jane Austen fans and I don’t think it will provide greater understanding of Pride and Prejudice, but if you like crime fiction, then give this one a go. I have no idea of the legal side of this is accurate or not, but I had a giggle about Mr Darcy, Mr Alveston and Colonel Fitzwilliam getting together to discuss their evidence (‘what exactly did Mr Wickham say?’) before the trial.

And one final thing, I found the bringing in of other Austen characters (Sir Walter, Mrs Knightley) annoying in the extreme.

Here are some more reviews …

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The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet – Colleen McCullough

What can I say? If you think about this and Pride and Prejudice as being completely independent – different characters with the same name etc, then you might just like it. If you can’t do that, then you will hate it (and rightly so – Darcy does not have a hired thug who does his dirty work!).

The best I can say is that it’s not bad as a trashy regency novel – no where near as good as Georgette Heyer, but I can see that a bit of research had been done. Although as Austen did say

while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philip’s clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meriton

Taken from  A Memoir of Jane Austen

I’m not sure why McCullough felt the need to alter the story.

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Sanditon by Jane Austen and Another Lady was first published in 1975.

I’ve read plenty of prequels, sequels and continuations, but I haven’t really liked any of them. I was pleasantly surprised with this version of Sanditon. I didn’t even pick the join!

It begins with an accident. A carriage is overturned. Mr and Mrs Parker are trying to find a surgeon to employ at Sanditon. Mr Heywood comes to their rescue and in return they take his eldest daughter Charlotte back with them for a holiday. Charlotte  meets the polite society of Sanditon. There is the ‘great lady of the neighbourhood’ Lady Denham. Wealthy, but poorly educated. Her ward the poor, but beautiful Clara Brereton. Sir Edward and Miss Denham. Sir Edward is both a rake and a rattle. He reads too much and thinks too little. And there are the remaining Parkers – Susan, Diana and Arthur (all hypochondriacs – Susan has three (!) teeth pulled because she beliwves her ill-health is due to a problem in her gum) and the lively and charming Sidney. Add to this mix the sickly, but wealthy Miss Lambe and the social climbing Miss Beauforts and we have an interesting mix of characters.

The fragment (11 chapters) collects the characters, but ‘another lady’ (AKA Marie Dobbs) is left to tell the story.  There are many social engagements – sea bathing, drinking tea, collecting sea weed, a day trip to Brinshaw and lots of walking. Henry Brudenall (Sidney’s heart broken friend) needs to be distracted. We understand that the woman he loves is marrying another.  Clara Brereton seems to be planning an elopment and Sir Edward a seduction. Throughout it all Charlotte is falling in love with Sidney and we think Sidney is falling in love with her but he has many different irons in the fire and it’s hard to know what his real feelings are. I must admit I thought the ending was melodramatic, but I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Her style of writing is as good an estimation of Austen as I have read – in fact one bit seemed to be taken from Catherine of the Bower

…for which no one was more calculated than Stanley, who was so far from being really of any party that he had scarcely a fixed opinion on the subject. He could always therefore take either side, and always argue with temper.

and from Sanditon

No one was more calculated to shine in such a conversation than Sidney, who was so far from having any fixed opinion that he could alter it whenever he chose, sometimes agreeing and sometimes dissenting, according to whichever view he decided would provide most entertainment for the moment. He could, therefore always take either side and always argue with temper.

I recommend this book. If you have read the other novels and you want more, then try reading Sanditon completed by another lady.

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