Mailbox Monday #394

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Among the Lost by Seth Steinzor for review from the poet, a book that will be on tour with Poetic Book Tours in January 2017.

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante s Purgatorio. To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise. What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence? And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Jane Green’s life has always revolved around her kitchen…

… from inviting over friends for an impromptu brunch; to wowing guests with delicious new recipes; to making sure her ever-on-the-move family makes time to sit down together. For Jane, food is enjoyable because of the people surrounding it and the pleasures of hosting and nourishing those she cares about, body and soul.

Now, Jane opens wide the doors of her stunning home to share tips on entertaining, ideas for making any gathering a cozy yet classy affair, and some of her favorite dishes, ranging from tempting hors d’oeuvres like Sweet Corn and Chili Soup, to mouthwatering one-pot mains like Slow-Braised Onion Chicken, to sinfully satisfying desserts like Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake.

Hermit Thrush by Amy Minato for review from Inkwater Press.

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard, which I purchased for research.

This Revised and Expanded Edition contains hundreds of new notes and illustrations.
The first-ever fully annotated edition of one of the most beloved novels in the world is a sheer delight for Jane Austen fans. Here is the complete text of “Pride and Prejudice “with thousands of annotations on facing pages, including:

– Explanations of historical context

Rules of etiquette, class differences, the position of women, legal and economic realities, leisure activities, and more.

– Citations from Austen’s life, letters, and other writings

Parallels between the novel and Austen’s experience are revealed, along with writings that illuminate her beliefs and opinions.

– Definitions and clarifications

Archaic words, words still in use whose meanings have changed, and obscure passages are explained.

– Literary comments and analyses

Insightful notes highlight Austen’s artistry and point out the subtle ways she develops her characters and themes.

– Maps and illustrations

of places and objects mentioned in the novel.

– An introduction, a bibliography, and a detailed chronology of events

Of course, one can enjoy the novel “without “knowing the precise definition of a gentleman, or what it signifies that a character drives a coach rather than a hack chaise, or the rules governing social interaction at a ball, but readers of “The Annotated Pride and Prejudice “will find that these kinds of details add immeasurably to understanding and enjoying the intricate psychological interplay of Austen’s immortal characters.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #369

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews from Tandem Literary for review.  She’ll also be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in May!

Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.

So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens…in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, illustrated by Roberto Parada, a win from the PPZ movie blitz — and it’s signed!

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded version of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. This deluxe heirloom edition includes a new preface by coauthor Seth Grahame-Smith, thirteen oil painting illustrations by Roberto Parada, and a fascinating afterword by Dr. Allen Grove of Alfred University. Best of all, this limited special edition features an incredible 30 percent more zombies—via even more all-new scenes of carnage, corpse slaying, and cannibalism. Complete with a satin ribbon marker and a leatherette binding designed to endure for generations, this hardcover volume honors a masterpiece of classic zombie literature.

Fingerprint Monsters and Dragons: Fun Art with Fingers Thumbs and Paint – And 100 Other Adventurous Creatures – Amazing Art for Hands-on Fun by Ilona Molnar for review.

Create engaging art activities with your children – at home or in the classroom. Packed with fun step-by-step instructions, this book teaches you how to make 30 classic fictional foes including trolls, pirates, warlocks, and skeletons with only the tips of your fingers. Create your own fantasy world, no paintbrush required! Kids aren’t the only ones who will enjoy it, artists of all ages can put their finger on the fun of art. Use the characters to spice up you art journals and doodles. Creativity is at your fingertips!

What did you receive?

Who’s Psyched for the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies Movie?

When Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith first came out in 2010, I was excited to read it. As I read the book, I could picture some of the scenes unfolding on a movie screen, and now I’ll be able to see it in action. I’m really hoping that the sparring match between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy is in the film, since it was my favorite part of the book.

Here’s a bit of my review:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice, and a zombie conflict. Grahame-Smith effectively weaves in the zombie attacks and how the Bennet clan dispatches them with skill. A majority of this novel is Austen’s words, but the dialogue and descriptions that are modified to accommodate zombies are done with aplomb.

I’m hoping that Anna and I can make a girl’s night out to see this movie!

Mailbox Monday #354

snowy-mailbox-1484089Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Movie-Tie-In edition) by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

In the five years since its publication, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has become a true cultural phenomenon, amassing a legion of fans and spawning an entire “mash-up” genre. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton . . . and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. This movie tie-in edition features eight pages of color movie stills and a new introduction by coauthor Seth Grahame-Smith.

What did you receive?

Interview: A Conversation with Juliette Wells for 200th Anniversary of Emma

Juliette Wells is the editor and introducer of EMMA: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition; on-sale September 29, 2015; 9780143107712; $16.00). Please give her a warm welcome.

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of EMMA, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition?

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December, 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December, 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!

And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th-anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.

In the Austen canon, what would you say makes EMMA special and unique?

Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.

Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle.

What was the publishing process like when EMMA was first published? How was the novel received critically? Was Austen as popular in her own day as she is today?

The publishing process was recognizable in some ways and very different in others. Austen didn’t have a literary agent; at that time, authors dealt directly with publishers. With Emma, she chose a new, more prestigious publisher—John Murray—than she had used for her three earlier novels, and she negotiated hard for a good contract with him. As authors are today, Austen was responsible for proofreading and approving copy before publication. Since being a published author was considered not so respectable for an unmarried woman, Austen chose to remain anonymous on her title pages throughout her lifetime. Emma identifies her as “the author of Pride and Prejudice.” Her identity wasn’t made publicly known until after her death.

Like Austen’s earlier novels, Emma was praised by reviewers, who appreciated Austen’s ability to convey a very realistic fictional world. Austen wasn’t a bestseller in her day; then as now, thrillers, adventure stories, and romances outsold quiet literary fiction. But Austen did have the satisfaction of knowing, in her lifetime, that readers appreciated her work. In addition to reading reviews, she kept track of the responses of her friends and family, which offer a wonderful glimpse into what everyday readers of Austen’s own time thought of Emma. Some of what they liked and didn’t like may be very familiar to us!

One of your specialties as a professor of English is how Jane Austen’s work continues to appeal to people, how it remains at the forefront of pop culture conversation. Last year, Alexander McCall Smith updated EMMA, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” hits the big screen in 2016, and movie and TV versions of Austen continue to draw viewers. Why do you think we keep updating and adapting Austen? What are your favorite adaptations or updates, and what makes them successful?

Austen really is endlessly adaptable, much like Shakespeare! You can transpose her stories and her characters to other places and times, and they still work. My own favorite creation inspired by Austen is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, from 1995. Clueless is a joy to experience, and smart too, much like an Austen novel.

I’m also a big fan of Sense and Sensibility, also from 1995, for which Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. Experiencing Austen through the eyes of a witty, thoughtful contemporary woman—it doesn’t get any better than that! I like Karen Joy Fowler’s novel The Jane Austen Book Club, from 2004, for the same reason—an experienced writer chooses to think about how Austen’s works matter to us today, and takes us along for the ride. Lost in Austen, the British miniseries from 2008, is also a big favorite of mine. A rabid Austen fan finds her way into the world of Pride and Prejudice and messes it up. It’s a hoot to see the Austen characters we know so well doing and saying things that they NEVER would have done or said in the original novel.

I think TV and movie adaptations of Austen are so popular for two main reasons. They’re beautiful to watch, no question. And they offer a respite—which a lot of people of all ages value—from the loud, fast, scary, stuff that much of mainstream entertainment is these days. The tricky part comes, sometimes, when someone knows and loves Austen through the films and then goes to pick up one of the novels, only to discover that the reading experience is a lot more complex and challenging than the viewing experience. I had those first-time readers of Austen very much in mind when creating this new edition of Emma.

What is it like to prepare a new edition of a book that’s so well-known and exists in many editions? What kind of research did you do? Did anything you learned during the process surprise you?

It was really important to me to create a truly new approach to Emma—a welcoming, reader-friendly approach. Excellent editions of Emma already exist for scholars and for devoted “Janeites.” With this anniversary edition, I wanted to open Austen up to people who hadn’t given her a try before, and to support their reading experience by using everything I know from years of teaching undergraduates and from talking with everyday readers. I certainly reached for plenty of scholarly and reference sources on my shelves, but I’d say my most important preparation was to have built up, over time, a sense of what readers are curious about and what frustrates them in their first encounter with an Austen novel. And, through my teaching, I’ve had a lot of practice at explaining historical concepts in an accessible way.

I also had the huge pleasure of re-reading Emma myself, slowly, with pencil in hand, making lists of topics to cover in my contextual essays and marking words that would likely be unfamiliar to present-day Americans. By doing this, I developed a much deeper appreciation of Austen’s artistry with words. This surprised and delighted me—I would have said I appreciated her artistry plenty before! But it wasn’t until I was trying to figure out how to convey the meaning of a particular phrase that I realized how much meaning she packs in with her clever, economical word choices.

Thinking about readers’ experience with Emma also shaped how the contextual material is presented in this new edition. In my experience, many ordinary readers, and even college students too, are put off by footnotes, or at best ignore them. So we decided instead to group topics together in contextual essays, which are easier—and, I hope, more fun—to read. Here too my experience explaining historical concepts And, there’s no question, the gorgeous cover by Dadu Shin is a beautiful invitation to pick up this Emma!

The illustrations for this edition are drawn from historical copies of Emma in the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College, where you teach. Can you tell us more about that collection? What is it, exactly?

The Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland began as the passion project of an alumna of the college from the 1920s, Alberta Hirshheimer Burke. Alberta loved, loved, loved Jane Austen’s writings and decided that her own purpose in life was to gather as much material as possible relating to Austen. So Alberta bought first and rare editions and even some manuscripts—such as letters in Austen’s handwriting—all of which she felt brought her closer to her beloved author. The images in our new edition reproduce turn-of-the-twentieth century illustrations of Emma by English and American artists, from books that Alberta owned, and which she bequeathed to her alma mater when she died in 1975. (Her manuscripts went to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.)

Alberta also cared deeply about ephemera with an Austen connection, such as newspaper and magazine articles, which she preserved in ten overstuffed scrapbooks. So our Austen Collection at Goucher is a terrific resource for popular culture studies as well as book history.

As a college professor, what’s your favorite aspect of teaching Austen? Do you face any challenges in interesting students in her writings?

Absolutely the best part of teaching Austen is that so many students are enthusiastic about studying her writings. She is an easy sell! Shakespeare is the only other English writer who has a draw like hers. And Austen has the advantage that her life story as a woman writer is especially appealing. Many of my students are creative writers themselves and find Austen’s confidence and perseverance to be very inspiring.

That said, I do often encounter people—students and ordinary readers—for whom Austen just seems unappealing. Maybe her novels seem girly; maybe they seem awfully full of privileged white people (not untrue); maybe the sentences or paragraphs are just too long. Stephen King said recently in a New York Times Book Review that he had never read any Austen, and I feel it’s a real shame that a great writer like him has missed a great writer like her! Maybe I’ll have to send him this new Emma and see if he can get into it.

I love it that everyone who reads Jane Austen has her or his own ideas about what’s important and what’s interesting. Some readers gravitate towards her humor, while for others, the morality really resonates. Pretty much all of us can find at least one character who reminds us of someone we know—and we’re lucky if it’s a character who’s nice!

Do you think we have a modern-day equivalent of Jane Austen? Or do you have any “further reading” suggestions for Austen fans who’ve read all of her books a thousand times and are looking for something new?

I love to read contemporary novels and memoirs, and I always keep an eye out for hints that an author is influenced by or interested in Austen. I recently re-read Allegra Goodman’s novel The Cookbook Collector and really appreciated how she weaves in elements from Emma as well as from her more obvious place of inspiration, Sense and Sensibility. I also particularly like that Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic-format memoir Fun Home and the Dykes to Watch Out For comics, gives several shout-outs to Austen. Flyover Lives, Diane Johnson’s hybrid family history / memoir, includes a fascinating account of what Johnson’s foremothers in America were up to at the same time that Austen was writing about much more privileged women in England.

I’d also warmly recommend the novels of Barbara Pym, a 20th-century English writer. Pym’s dry humor and close observation of everyday people ally her very closely with Austen. And it’s always rewarding to read, or re-read, 19th-century novels by authors who knew and loved Austen’s writings. In that category, I’d especially recommend Elizabeth Gaskell (start with Cranford) and George Eliot (outside of Austen, Middlemarch is my all-time favorite novel).

And, finally, I’d say that Austen lovers are the best people to ask about what to read next! Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of shout-outs for the novels of Anthony Trollope, so I may have to get cracking on his enormous oeuvre . . .

Thank you, Juliette, for spending time with us today.  This is going to be a beautiful book with deckle edge — one of my favorites.

Mailbox Monday #271

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

These are some Kindle books I downloaded that I keep forgetting to add:

1. Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane

What was the significance of the pyramid of fruit which confronted Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley? Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne?

Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma’s disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park relate to the social issues of the day?

While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels.

2.  Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

Was Mr. Darcy real? Is time travel really possible? For pragmatic Manhattan artist Eliza Knight the answer to both questions is absolutely, Yes! And Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia is the reason why!

His tale of love and romance in Regency England leaves Eliza in no doubt that Fitz Darcy is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s legendary hero. And she’s falling in love with him. But can the man who loved the inimitable Jane Austen ever love average, ordinary Eliza Knight?


3. Darcy Goes to War by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Spring 1944 – Britain is now in its fourth year of war. In order to defeat Adolph Hitler and his Nazis, everyone in the country must do his or her bit. While a young Elizabeth Bennet makes her contribution by driving a lorry, Fitzwilliam Darcy flies Lancaster bombers over Germany. Because of the war, both are wary of falling in love, but when the two meet near an airbase in Hertfordshire, all bets are off.

Set against the background of World War II, in Darcy Goes to War, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy battle something more than class differences. The greatest evil of the 20th Century is trying to bring Britain to its knees. In order to be together, they must survive the war.

4. A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

It’s the best of all worlds in this collection of five short Pride & Prejudice variations by bestselling writer Abigail Reynolds. Can Mr. Darcy win Elizabeth Bennet’s heart… or are they doomed to misunderstand one another forever? Can Mr. Darcy stand by and watch while Elizabeth loses everything she holds precious… including him?

Contents include “Such Differing Reports”, “A Succession of Rain”, “Reason’s Rule” (an excerpt from The Rule of Reason), “The Most Natural Thing”, and “Intermezzo”.


5. Darcy on the Hudson by Mary Lydon Simonsen

When Fitzwilliam Darcy, Georgiana Darcy, and Charles Bingley set sail from England to New York, each travels with a different purpose in mind. Georgiana wants to put a particularly jarring incident involving a family friend behind her, and Charles wishes to visit his uncle in an exciting new land. For Darcy, it is an opportunity to explore the possibilities of new sources of wealth in the expanding United States, but once Darcy meets American Elizabeth Bennet, it becomes the beginning of a love story. But will cultural differences and a possible second war with England keep them apart?

6. A Killing in Kensington by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea of London’s Metropolitan Police and his new partner, Detective Chief Inspector Tommy Boyle, have been handed a high-profile murder case. In the penthouse of Kensington Tower, playboy Clifton Trentmore lay dead with his head bashed in, and the investigation reveals a man who was loathed by both sexes. With too few clues and too many suspects, Shea and Boyle must determine who hated Trentmore enough to kill him. But as Patrick digs deeper, he finds his suspects have secrets of their own.

A Killing in Kensington is the second in the Patrick Shea mystery series.

7. Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

In 2011, American Elizabeth Hannigan, suffering from the flu, falls into a coma and wakes up in the bed and body of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. Beth soon realizes that the only way back to her life in the 21st Century is through the Master of Pemberley, Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. But first she must uncover the dark secret that brought her to Pemberley in 1826 in the first place.

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is a story of love, loyalty, and loss, where a modern woman is called upon to resolve the problems of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple.

8. Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott

The year is 1814, and it’s springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

9.  Drawn by Marie Lamba

She’s the artist that finds him in her drawings. He’s the medieval ghost that conquers her heart. And their time is running out.
Michelle De Freccio moves to England seeking a normal life, but someone starts appearing in her sketches. Then he grabs her at the castle, his pale green eyes full of longing. She’s immediately drawn to him, but is Christopher Newman real? She’s either losing it, or channeling a hot ghost from the 1400’s. History calls him a murderer. Her heart tells her other truths. Now Michelle faces endless dangers…and a timeless love.
10.  Ride for Rights by Tara Chevrestt

In the summer of 1916 women do not have the right to vote, let alone be motorcycle dispatch riders. Two sisters, Angeline and Adelaide Hanson are determined to prove to the world that not only are women capable of riding motorbikes, but they can ride motorbikes across the United States. Alone.From a dance hall in Chicago to a jail cell in Dodge City, love and trouble both follow Angeline and Adelaide on the dirt roads across the United States. The sisters shout their triumph from Pike’s Peak only to end up lost in the Salt Lake desert.

Will they make it to their goal of Los Angeles or will too many mishaps prevent them from reaching their destination and thus, hinder their desire to prove that women can do it?

11. All Is Bright by Sarah Pekkanen

Thirty-year-old Elise Andrews couldn’t bring herself to marry Griffin, her childhood friend turned sweetheart, so she let him walk away. Eight months after their breakup, she arrives in her hometown of Chicago on Christmas Eve and hears a voice from the past calling her name in the grocery store. It’s Griffin’s mother, Janice, who invites Elise over for a neighborhood gathering of eggnog and carols.

Walking into Janice’s house sends Elise tumbling headlong into memories of her relationship with Griffin—and with Janice, who exudes the kind of warmth Elise ached for after her own mom passed away when she was six. But Griffin has moved on, and suddenly Elise doubts her decision to give him up and lose her chance at being folded into his wonderful family. Confused and reeling, she goes in search of an answer to a universal question: How do we say good-bye to people we’ve loved without losing everything they’ve meant to us?

12. Love, Accidentally by Sarah Pekkanen

Ilsa Brown wasn’t expecting a little, injured dog to lead her to the love of her life. But within months of their first meeting on a street corner in L.A., she and Grif, the dog’s owner, are engaged. Things between them are so blissful that Ilsa is stunned by the tension that erupts during their visit to Chicago to meet his parents, where she discovers that Grif’s old girlfriend, Elise, is still woven into his family. What Ilsa needs to know before she can walk down the aisle is whether Elise is still in Grif’s heart, too.

What did you receive?

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 236 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Persuasion by Jane Austen (on Kobo) is her final, full manuscript, and it is one of the most mature of her works. Anne Elliot is the heroine of this novel, but often in the beginning of the novel she is in the background as an observer, as she is talked about or looked over by even her own father and older sister. She is 27, unmarried, and by all appearances, a wallflower, who loves to read. Through the influence of Lady Russell, a friend of her deceased mother, Anne broke off an engagement with Frederick Wentworth because the match was imprudent as he was not yet established in a career and was not of the same social standing as the Elliots. Lead by her friendship with Lady Russell and a sense of duty to her family, Anne broke the engagement and suffered for more than eight years, though she did have other prospects. Austen seems to remind us that when love is true and deep, it can cut us just as deeply when things end poorly, but it also can continue to live inside of us, even when all hope is lost.

“A few years before, Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her, (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own); there could be nothing in them now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem.”  (page 7)

The contrasts set forth by Austen in this novel between the Musgroves and the Elliots is almost as wide as the Grand Canyon, and yet, Anne finds herself easily swept into either family — adaptable to any situation — but she seems to feel the most comfort when surrounded by the jubilant Musgroves.  Her adventures with her younger sister, Mary, and the Musgroves bring Anne a stroke of not only luck but happiness when she is reunited, if only in proximity, to Captain Wentworth.  Although she spends a great deal of time making excuses to be absent from gatherings where she knows he will be present, she eventually has little choice but to be in his company, finding that it is not as horrible as she imagined.

“Doubtless it was so; and she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse.  She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would.” (page 57)

Austen’s tale of a second chance at love is more about the anxiety that can plague new love and acquaintances, but also the reunited lovers who misunderstood one another’s motivations in their youth.  There are missteps to be sure, as Wentworth unwittingly finds himself engaged to another without explicitly making his intention to be so known and Anne is led to believe that Mr. Elliot has his eye set on her.  These characters are more mature in their motivations, while there are still some who are a bit ridiculous — from her father’s obsession with status and how handsome he still is to Mary’s constant complaining and hypocritical behavior — most of the characters are mature enough to know their own desires and to seize opportunities when they are presented.  Persuasion by Jane Austen is a fine novel, less about Anne’s initial persuasion away from Wentworth and more of her persuading herself that he still loves her and that hope lives.

About the Author:

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.

9th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in England)





14th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Persuasion, A Final Tearoom Chat

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Today’s discussion will be about the final part of the book — Vol. 2, Chapters 7-end.

Today, I’m drinking Orange and Cinnamon Spice tea, and Anna is having some water.

Serena:  The rain comes to Bath and there is some disagreement about whether Anne Elliot or Mrs. Clay will ride in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage.  Mrs. Clay seems to be motivated to walk with Mr. Elliot, but Anne seems as though she too wants to walk with him.  Is this a subtle rivalry for Mr. Elliot’s affections?

Anna: That’s how I took it, and it makes sense given what you find out about the two of them later. I thought it was interesting that there was even a discussion about it, but to me it also highlights Anne’s unimportance within her family. Mrs. Clay is no one to Lady Dalrymple, and Anne is a relation and definitely ranks higher than Mrs. Clay in social standing, so why was there even a question as to which one of them would get to accompany Elizabeth?

Serena: That’s what I find funny because in this situation, it wouldn’t matter what Mrs. Clay would want, Anne is of higher social standing. I do see this as the most blatant fore-shadowing of Austen’s books — well the one’s I have read.

I do find it interesting that in this little shop there is a moment when her sister, Elizabeth, can recognize and shun Wentworth, and Wentworth in turn can recognize Mr. Elliot as the man from Lyme, and he’s subjected to further gossip about him and Anne. That must have made him sad. I like that Austen is showing more of her hero even when he is separate from his heroine. What do you think about this in terms of her other novels? Do you think she had been developing her craft to this point throughout her other novels, so that she could show both sides more clearly?

Anna: From what I can remember, there is more about Captain Wentworth’s feelings, etc., than the other heroes. It may have been a sign of her maturity as a writer, to more effortlessly juggle both viewpoints, but I also think it serves as a contrast between him and Mr. Elliot. By letting the reader truly know Wentworth’s feelings and the way he handles himself amidst his jealousy and the awkwardness of their first meeting in Bath, you really get a sense of his feelings toward Anne being sincere, and it underscores the insincerity beneath Mr. Elliot’s charming facade.

What did you think of Mrs. Smith’s revelations to Anne about Mr. Elliot? I thought it was interesting how much she waffled about what to reveal. At first, she seemed to be saying nice things to Anne about him, and it was obvious she had an ulterior motive, and then as soon as Anne insists that she’s not going to marry him, then Mrs. Smith just lets loose.

Serena: I found Mrs. Smith’s waffling natural for not only someone of her position, but also of a dear friend. Friends always have a hard time telling the unvarnished truth to their friends because they don’t want to hurt their feelings, but they also don’t want their friends to be hurt by a scoundrel.

I think from Mrs. Smith’s point of view, the marriage was all but settled from the gossip she heard, which made her want to wish Anne well in her nuptials, even if it was to Mr. Elliot. And I’m sure her need for help with some land was also part of her motivation to say nothing bad about him, effectively turning her away from him on purpose, making him more reluctant to help even if Anne pleaded with him to do so.

I love when Anne and Wentworth meet in the Octagon room and they have a deeper conversation. I love that she finds strength in the stares from her father and sister. This is a true sign that she’s a stronger woman, ready to stand on her own, don’t you think?

Anna: I think you start to see Anne coming into her own almost from the moment that she finds out Wentworth isn’t engaged to Louisa, and as soon as she realizes Wentworth still loves her but that he’s jealous of Mr. Elliot, you see her go out of her way to try to let him know there’s nothing to worry about on that front.

I love Anne’s discussion with Captain Harville because, while Wentworth has made it clear in his references to Benwick and Fanny Harville that he still loves her, this is really the first time where Anne makes the strength and constancy of her feelings known to him. And of all the ways in which Austen’s heroes and heroines circumvent the rules limiting contact before marriage, the way in which Wentworth lets Anne know about his letter is by far the sweetest and most creative.

Serena: Anne in that conversation with Harville seems contrived to me. It’s almost as if Wentworth and he had a conversation about her and Harville helps him out by getting her to engage in conversation. But that could just be the skeptic in me.

I do know that their conversation incites Wentworth to write the letter to her, which is against social convention, and that it is a hurried letter. Even in a hurry, he’s very eloquent about his feelings for her. I do like how they are alone but not alone because he’s listening to her conversation and he is speaking to her in a letter. Austen must have loved that these two would go outside of convention to have this conversation.

I also love the contrast between the Musgroves and Anne’s own family — like when they unexpectedly show up to give everyone a card for an evening party at their place. It’s like an obligation that they all feel they have to comply with, and it’s surprising that Wentworth is given a card especially after how Elizabeth brushed him off in the shop. Why do you think he was given a card? Was that Elizabeth trying to get a better handle on his fortune so he could be a possible suitor, as Mr. Elliot seemed more interested in Anne?

Anna: I didn’t feel that way about the conversation. That may have been the case I suppose, but I took it as Harville, just like Wentworth, was surprised that Benwick was basically already done grieving for Fanny. I think Harville would take it even harder, given that she was his sister, and now he was tasked with getting the miniature that was intended for her framed for Louisa. Maybe I just got all wrapped up in the emotions, but I thought he was sincere about that, hence why Wentworth was taking care of the details and was at the writing desk in the first place.

Austen makes a point to show how the atmosphere in the room changes as soon as the rest of the Elliot clan arrives. They certainly suck the life out of the party. I don’t think Elizabeth was really interested in Wentworth; it was more that his social standing had risen and made him worth knowing, worth acknowledging, plus he also grabbed Lady Dalrymple’s attention at the concert.

I couldn’t help but notice at this point in the novel how very much the Musgroves, especially Mrs. Musgrove, enjoy having Anne around, even making a point to say that their box for the theater needed to be rescheduled so that Anne could for certain attend. I wonder what Elizabeth and Sir Walter would have said had they heard Anne so willing to skip the party at Camden-place to go to the theater with them.

Serena: Well I know what they would have thought, given how appalled he was that she went to see Mrs. Smith and not their “relative.” I love that they are so oppressive compared to everyone else. It makes me think that the Musgroves are the type of people Austen would have preferred herself, rather than the social climbers.

What do you think about the walk back where Anne and Wentworth get to converse?

Anna: What I find striking about their conversation after she reads the letter is that Austen gives them some privacy at first: “There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises … There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected…” And then there is the full accounting of what happened on his side so they can better understand one another.

Serena: Isn’t that true with most mature relationships. You already know who you are … more completely … and then you communicate with your partner and they understand you more completely. It’s like they loved each other, but Wentworth was not aware of how much, say, duty meant to Anne, for instance.

I like this more mature relationship, it’s better than that fairy tale that many expect.

This was fun! We’ll have to do this again for Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park.

Anna: There’s a richness and fullness to their relationship that we don’t see in Austen’s other novels because they have a history. And while it’s painful to take this journey with them, especially at the beginning, I think they come out better for it. I think the maturity of their relationship is why this is one of my favorite Austen novels. After everything they’ve gone though, I can be confident that theirs will be a happy marriage. I like to think all of Austen’s couples lived happily ever after, but I’m most confident about Anne and Wentworth.

Yes, we definitely need to have another chat for another Austen novel down the road!

Serena: I agree, I am most confident that they will be happy as a married couple.

What’s your favorite Austen novel? Which do you think we should chat about in 2015?

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat Week 3

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Click the button below for our 3rd discussion post of Vol. 2, Ch. 1-6.

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat Week 2

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us. 

Click the here for our first discussion post of Vol. 1, Ch. 1-6.

Please see below for part 2 of our discussion for Vol. 1, Ch. 7-12

Today, I’m sipping a Mint herbal tea blend tea, accompanied by 2 Samoa Girl Scout cookies.  Anna had some lemonade.

Serena: Anne assumes that Wentworth has been avoiding her as plans change between the Musgroves and him for where and when they meet.  Do you think that’s the guilt and shame she feels or do you suspect his avoiding her?

Anna: Maybe he was avoiding her, but I noticed more that she was avoiding him, being happy to take care of little Charles so his parents could go to dinner with Wentworth at the Great House. I did get a sense of her anxiety about their initial meeting, and at least when it happened, it was over fairly quickly for her.

Serena: I found it ironic that she thought that he was avoiding her, but in point of fact, it was really the other way around. She wanted to nurse Charles or feign a headache more than she wanted to meet with Wentworth among company. I wonder if she was afraid of her reaction or his?

Anna: I think Anne has a good grasp of holding in her feelings, having lived with Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Mary for so long and being neglected and isolated. I wonder after their initial meeting and learning that Wentworth barely recognized her, her having lost the “bloom” of youth and all, that it was his reaction she feared. It’s not long before she’s lamenting that they used to mean so much to one another, and now nothing.

Those passages really tugged at me. And throughout this section, as Anne meets Wentworth’s Navy friends, for instance, she’s struck by all that she’s lost. Do you remember anywhere else in Austen being so moved, or do you think this is a sign of Persuasion being a more mature novel, as it was written toward the end of her life?

Serena: I agree that Anne’s avoidance of Wentworth seems to be borne of the fear that he will react in a way that will unease her, and in fact, she does. And meeting those friends and seeing how in love the Crofts are, I think that too weighs heavily on her. As if she didn’t feel bad enough about her decision. I can’t recall anything so blatantly depressing as this in Austen’s other novels. Those still seemed to have a bit of the youthful play in them; this novel is not only more mature in feeling, but also in dramatization.

Anne is still in the background of most everything that happens plot-wise here, but she is in the middle of it just the same. She the observer, but she doesn’t merely observe because everything that happens affects her in some way, particularly when Wentworth enters the picture.

What did you think of her when she says that she could take no revenge because he was the same?

Anna: I think the Musgrove sisters are the youthfulness in this novel. A more elegant and better behaved Kitty and Lydia, even if they do get a little excitable over Captain Wentworth.

I agree that she is an observer and deeply affected as well. Of course, while we see all the emotions and sadness going through her mind, everyone else is oblivious to her pain. Austen does let readers into Wentworth’s head, if only a moment, early on when he’s first introduced, and then there are a few actions here and there that make you see his opinion of her is slowly changing. It’s obvious to us because we know their past, but it’s very subtle when you think that their companions have no clue.

I loved Anne for saying she could take no revenge because I know that I personally, even if just internally, would not have been that nice. That really emphasizes her strength of character and her kindness toward others. After Louisa’s accident, when they’re deciding which of the women will stay at the Harville’s, there’s a passage that indicates that she would care for Louisa for his sake. Imagine watching the only man you ever loved, whom you could have married, seemingly falling in love with another woman, and you would do that for him. Of course, she’s pretty much part of the Musgrove family, so that plays into it as well, but still.

These are things that make it obvious why Wentworth has never found another woman better than Anne. What do you think about him showing attention to both Henrietta and Louisa, without even really caring for either of them? Part of it must surely be his desire to make Anne jealous to an extent, but in that day and age, he was playing a dangerous game.

Serena: I’m not really sure that he was paying attention to them consciously. I think he was baffled by Anne’s presence there and really didn’t want to be rude to the Musgroves. But his attentions never seem overtly in favor of either girl, except when it comes to the incident at the Cobb. There is that one intimate conversation that Anne overhears between Louisa and Wentworth, but I think that was more Louisa’s machinations than his.

While maybe he enjoyed having the attention of two young women and his intentions may be to find a wife, I feel like he was still sorting through his feelings for Anne and not intentionally partial or even aware that he was demonstrating affinity for either of the Musgroves — in some ways, the perception that he is in favor of one or the other or even interested in either seems to be the ideas put forth by Mary, Charles and the Crofts without any real indication on his part.

Speaking of the Cobb, what do you think motivated Louisa to jump from such a height? Was she trying to prove something or was that merely youthful folly on her part?

Anna: Having been so long at sea, he may also just enjoy the sisters’ attention. But he does spend an awful lot of time at Uppercross, so it’s not wrong of those around him to wonder what he’s about, even if he’s not completely conscious of it. There are some things in that conversation he has with Louisa — and he doesn’t know that Anne’s listening — that if I were Louisa, I would’ve thought he liked me.

As for Louisa’s jump, there are several places in the narrative where it shows Louisa being more determined about doing things since that conversation with Wentworth, where he talks about strength of character and not being easily persuaded. So I think that played into it somewhat, but mostly, I think she was being flirty and playful and thought it would be fun. Even when I shake my head at Louisa’s folly, I actually do admire her high spirits.

Now I’ve been dying to know, my dear poetess, what do you think of Captain Benwick’s fondness for melancholy poetry? And what do you think about Anne telling him he should read more prose?

Serena: I knew you would ask me that question.

I think that Captain Benwick is wallowing in his melancholy and poetry — certain kinds of it — can help you do that. Perpetuate a state that you either find yourself in, helping you to see that its a universal feeling, but it also could be perpetuating a mood that he feels obligated to remain in given that he lives with the Harville family. He feels that his mourning should be palpable to them and that while he may be over his “fiance’s” death, he does not want to hurt the feelings of those he is staying with.

Anne’s remedy of prose could be her way of telling him that it has been long enough and that it is ok not to mourn anymore and to think about moving on with life. Whether prose would produce that effect, is another questions. I suppose if he were determined, he could find prose that would help him wallow too.

I find it interesting that Anne thinks about continuing her acquaintance with Benwick even as she’s still feeling saddened by Wentworth’s dismissive attitude toward her. What do you make of that? Is she becoming resigned? What does that say about her character?

Anna: I noticed that his grief seems overplayed, and he was excited to talk with Anne about something I’m sure no one else cares to talk about with him. He seems to want to get out and about more with people, which I thought was evident when the group leaves the Harvilles behind before taking one last walk on the Cobb, and Benwick goes with them.

I didn’t think Anne’s thoughts about Benwick meant she was resigning herself to anything. I thought maybe it was the first time in a long time that someone merely wanted to talk to her in a real discussion. Her sister and the Musgroves want her to just agree with them or to vent their frustrations about one another. She also understands Benwick in a way; they’ve both suffered a deep loss. One might argue that losing one’s fiance to death is more serious than a broken engagement, but he has the chance to find happiness again, and her prospects are dim on that front.

What were your feelings at the end of this section about how things had changed between Anne and Frederick? Do you think Anne has any reason to hope at this point?

Serena: I think that Austen wants us to think that all is lost for Anne, but I think there are enough glimmers — which Anne can see given how well she knows him — that she can still hope for some form of reconciliation. Perhaps a romantic reunification is a bit far-fetched given all that’s transpired with Louisa, up to this point, but I think she should have reason to hope that they could be friends again.

He clearly esteems her, and she clearly still admires him. While I think there are still obstacles to be overcome, many of these — like in most of Austen’s novels — of their own making. His abrupt departure of at the end of volume one seems to be very telling — like he’s now got a lot more to think about with regard to his future and about Anne. I think he’s seeing a more mature woman than he remembers.

What are your final thoughts about his exit? Seems a little like the end of an act in a play, doesn’t it?

Anna: Well, if Louisa’s carelessness was good for something, it was for Wentworth to see Anne take charge and show some of that strength of character he thought she didn’t have way back when. Austen also shows two extremes — Anne being persuaded to break their engagement and Louisa being determined to do something foolish and refusing to be persuaded otherwise.

Yes, it does seem sort of like the end of act. The characters showed some alterations, then of course they’re going to be separated for a time with everything still uncertain, and then the curtain closes.

I must say that I’m loving this book even more the second time around!

Serena: I cannot wait to see what happens in the next section, though I have seen the movies. There is a bit of a flare of the dramatic in this one, that I think was not as prevalent in her other novels. I do like that the characters are changing slowly, and that they have time to think about all that has come to pass.

We hope you’ll help us continue the discussion in the comments!

And please join us next Friday, March 21st, at Anna’s blog, Diary of an Eccentric, to discuss Volume II, Chapters 1-6! Grab a cup of tea!

Persuasion, A Tearoom Chat

Anna and I are chatting about Persuasion by Jane Austen this month.  We hope that you’ll join us.  Click the button below for our first discussion post of Vol. 1, Ch. 1-6.

Tea Room Chat: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anna and I have decided to have a tea room chat of Jane Austen’s Persuasion this month.

It was Austen’s last completed novel, and I’ve been meaning to read it for at least the last three years.

The time has come for me to make it a priority, and Anna agreed to read it with me.  I hope you’ll join us.

We’ll hold discussions of the book on each Friday in March.

Check out the schedule below:

What books have you been meaning to read for a long time?