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Guest Post & Giveaway: Narnia and Bennet Wardrobes: The Same Thing Only Different by Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson is visiting the blog today to talk about his series of books, The Bennet Wardrobe series. Of course, there are 8 ebooks up for grabs as well.  Stay tuned for the giveaway!

About The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque:

Longbourn, December 1811.

The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.

She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.

Her heart’s desire?

“I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall! Anywhere but here!”

As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”

London, May 1886.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future. And Miss Bennet must now decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.

The Exile follows the story of Kitty Bennet as she grows from the coughing follower of her younger sister, Lydia, into a bright and engaging young woman living in the exciting world of the late 19th Century. However, she must pass through many trials before she can fully understand why the Wardrobe sent her 75 years into the future—and for her to become one of the most important fixtures in the Bennet Wardrobe Universe.

About the series:

The Bennet Wardrobe Stories have grown out of Don’s interest in the side characters found the in majestic “Pride and Prejudice.” He feels that the three younger sisters have been left to languish these past two centuries as readers…and writers…have focused on the eternal love story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Recognizing that, perhaps, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia as well as their father, Thomas, need to resolve their inner personality issues, much as both Lizzy and Darcy did in the original, to become characters in full.

And, that is where the Bennet Wardrobe comes in. Perhaps remaining on the original P&P timeline (which ends in 1811-12) would not be sufficient for the three young ladies to realize their mature futures…or for Thomas to finally take a stand on his daughters’ behalves (note…archaic use). Hence the Bennet Wardrobe…a remarkable device created by the great cabinetmaker, natural scientist, and contemporary of Isaac Newton…which can transport those of the Bennet genome into futures which will meet their needs (not desires). Of course, as with any good time machine/magical transport, as Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam put it, “The Wardrobe has an unusual sense of humor.”

Please give Don Jacobson a warm welcome.

The Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Pride & Prejudice Universe. While the lead characters are familiar to all but only as secondary personalities, I have endeavored to provide each of them (Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Thomas) with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional persons, although not necessarily in the Regency. If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.

The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.

Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline?

Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was the intersection between my youthful fascination with speculative fiction and my mature appreciation of Austen—that suggested that it would be fun to try something different. How about time travel? Not unknown in JAFF … but usually played for farce rather than something more profound. With careful treatment, though, protagonists could be immersed in different futures to learn that which they need in order to overcome the limitations preventing them from realizing their potential as people. In the process, they carry the eternal story of love and life forward even to the 21 st Century.

The saga of The Bennet Wardrobe begins with The Keeper: The Extraordinary Journey of Mary Bennet. The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque is Volume 2, Part 1. Four more novels will complete the story of the Wardrobe’s agenda. Three novellas have previously been published. More will be written to enable me to understand the manner in which the Wardrobe and the Bennet family interact. These will give readers insight into my process.

Astute bookworms, upon encountering The Bennet Wardrobe will immediately leap up and cry, “Ah-hah. I’ve got this. Jacobson has taken Narnia and tossed it back into the Regency.” Yes and No.

1. Yes … same physical manifestation for the portal

2. No … travel to the future in current world not to another reality

Obviously there is a relationship between Lewis’ Wardrobe and The Bennet Wardrobe in that they are both portals to other places or times. But, that is where I believe it ends—these devices are both Wardrobes, but have different properties.

I subscribe to the idea that the act of imagining characters (and the Wardrobes certainly are characters) brings them into reality. I follow Robert A. Heinlein who believed in … “World as Myth” — the idea that universes are created by the act of imagining them, so that all fictional worlds are in fact real and all real worlds are figments of fictional figures’ fancy …1 For instance, in Chapter XXIII of The Exile, Holmes refers to Pride & Prejudice as if it is a nonfiction book.

Thus, The Bennet Wardrobe, the Narnia wardrobe, The King’s Roads, the TARDIS, and the flue network do exist because their universes have been created through their authors’ imaginations. But, I needed to place The Bennet Wardrobe within the context of a rather fertile field of British Magical Transport. As I have written novellas to understand characters, so, too, did I compose a mock academic article (which appears in The Keeper) exploring the place of The Bennet Wardrobe within the spectrum of British magical transportation.

A Monograph/Imaginary Journey Exploring the Wardrobe’s Power

Humans have traditionally found security in dim and enclosed spaces, from the caverns of 150 generations ago to more modern architectural innovations like the closet. These have one common thread…they are sealed off and dark, safe; wrapping a person seeking sanctuary in a womblike cocoon and capable of transporting one to other worlds—real or imaginary.

So, it came as little surprise when I discovered that the closet’s predecessor, the wardrobe, offered similar characteristics. Just as a child may inherit a mother’s nose or a father’s eyes, the closet may yet carry some special properties held by what had once been a fixture throughout the homes of the well-heeled classes of post-Restoration Britain and ancien regime France. With the Industrial Revolution, wardrobes eventually became quaint relics. But, they did not lose their capacity to transport users across time or space.

Professor C.S. Lewis incisively revealed the power of the wardrobe with his groundbreaking Chronicles of Narnia. The knowledge of this capability stunned post-World War II audiences. Further research discovered other avenues over and through which properly attuned mortals and immortals could pass.

Ms. Rowling highlighted the unique nature of the flue network used by witches and warlocks. Another excellent study of Britain’s magical transportation network can be found in Susanna Clarke’s stunning work, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Her discussion of the King’s Roads that were hidden behind Britain’s mirrors revealed the extreme age of Britain’s magical transport. Another important mode was the wonderful looking glass described by Mr. L. Carroll.

The British King’s Roads were rooted in pre-Roman and medieval powers obscured after the 15th Century. The rising powers of late 18th Century wardrobes may have been a response to a need caused by the disuse of the King’s Roads. Both the Narnia Wardrobe and The Bennet Wardrobe are considered prime examples of classic Wardrobes. Researchers have cursed the Luftwaffe for destroying the Narnia Wardrobe in the Blitz.

While Wardrobes were not a perfectly safe mode of travel, they, none-the-less, seemed tamer. Potter’s more modern and dependable flue network (splitching aside) may have been implemented by Britain’s magical beings as, with the introduction of the closet, the wardrobe passed from common use and availability.

Even so, each network had its own properties and rules that governed its use. Lewis, for instance, explored the “need based” nature of the wardrobe. For the children of wartime Britain, they had to escape from the horrors of the events that swept over them. Hence, the doorway to Narnia led to another world where these youngsters had complete agency over themselves as the heroes in the epochal battle between good and evil.

The Bennet Wardrobe has been discovered to be equally potent, but in a different manner. Rather than transporting users to another world, this remarkable cabinet discerns the true needs of the Bennet user and ascertains what is required to meet that need. Then the Wardrobe transports the Bennet to a future time where that requirement can be fulfilled, but only to a frame of reference upon wardrobe’s timeline—a point in time and space where the wardrobe itself exists.

Because of its unique construction, the Wardrobe is attuned to the peculiar vibrations of those born of the lineage of Mr. Christopher Bennet, the first Bennet Master of Longbourn Estate. No non-Bennet has ever directly taken advantage of the properties of the Wardrobe. Mrs. Fanny Bennet could only use the Wardrobe to hang a pelisse or store a hat—if Mr. Bennet would let her in the library!

Thank you, Don Jacobson, for sharing your inspiration for the Bennet Wardrobe.

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Pingback: Blog Tour “The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque” by Don Jacobson, excerpt, review and giveaway – my vices and weaknesses()

  • Janet T

    I enjoyed reading the similarities and differences of Narnia and The Bennet Wardrobe. I”m fascinated with The Wardrobe and how it works. It’s like a living entity! 🙂

    Thanks, Serena, for hosting today.

    • Don Jacobson

      Thanks Janet….the Wardrobe does have a mind of its own.

  • Suko

    Thank you for hosting this very generous giveaway! I will add a link to my blog’s sidebar.

    • Don Jacobson

      Hi Suko…appreciate your interest in THE EXILE and my other JAFF books.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    This sounds like a great series. I’m looking forward to reading them at some point. Thanks for sharing!

    • Don Jacobson

      Hi Anna, Thank you for your kind comment. Hope you really enjoy the books!

  • DarcyBennett

    I love the premise of this book and look forward to reading. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Don Jacobson

      Thanks for stopping by! Good luck on the give-away.