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Guest Excerpt: Love & Friendship by Whit Stillman

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Whit Stillman has written a companion novel to the recent Austen movie adaptation, Love & Friendship, which entered theaters in May.

Praise for the movie adaptation:

  • “FLAT-OUT-HILARIOUS. Jane Austen has never been funnier.” – The Telegraph
  • “Whit Stillman and English novelist Jane Austen make for a delightful pairing in this comedy of manners.” – The Star.com
  • “Kate Beckinsale magnetizes the screen.” – Variety

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016About the Book:

Whit Stillman has taken Austen’s never-finished epistolary novella, Lady Susan, reimagined it as a straight narrative, and added the hilarious new character of Rufus, Susan’s apologist nephew, who aims to clear Susan’s good name come hell or high water (even if he is doing it from “the ignoble abode” of debtors’ prison ). Despite many indications to the contrary, Rufus insists that Susan is, “the kindest, most delightful woman anyone could know, a shining ornament to our Society and Nation.” Rufus then appends his earnest tale with a collection of his aunt’s letters, which he claims have been altered by Austen to cast the estimable Lady Susan in a bad light.

Impossibly beautiful, disarmingly witty, and completely self-absorbed, Lady Susan Vernon, is both the heart and the thorn of Love & Friendship. Recently widowed, with a daughter who’s coming of age as quickly as their funds are dwindling, Lady Susan makes it her mission to find them wealthy husbands——and fast.

But when her attempts to secure their futures result only in the wrath of a prominent conquest’s wife and the title of “most accomplished coquette in England,” Lady Susan must rethink her strategy.

Today, we have an excerpt from Stillman’s rendition of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan.

Mr. Reginald DeCourcy, Confounded

Returned early from hunting with the Lymans in Sussex, while shaking off the journey’s chill, Reginald DeCourcy inquired about his sister’s celebrated guest: “Is she as beautiful as they say? I confess to great curiosity to know this Lady and see first-hand her bewitching powers.”

“You worry me, Reginald.”

“No need for worry. It is only that I understand Lady Susan to possess a degree of captivating deceit which might be pleasing to detect.”

“You truly worry me.”

“Good evening!”

Lady Susan, descending the staircase, stopped to greet them, with Mrs. Cross just behind her. Reginald and Catherine looked strangely surprised.

“What charming expressions!”

Catherine recovered first: “Susan, let me introduce my brother, Reginald DeCourcy. Reginald, may I present Frederic Vernon’s widow, Lady Susan, and her friend Mrs. Cross.”

After a polite nod to Mrs. Cross, Reginald addressed Susan: “I am pleased to make your acquaintance — your renown precedes you.”

“I’m afraid the allusion escapes me,” she replied coolly. “Your reputation as an ornament to our Society.”

“That surprises me. Since the great sadness of my husband’s death I have lived in nearly perfect isolation. To better know his family, and further remove myself from Society, I came to Churchill — not to make new acquaintance of a frivolous sort. Though of course I am pleased to know my sister’s relations.”

Lady Susan and the ladies continued to the Gold Room, leaving Reginald free to consider her remarks.

* * * * * * * * *

Over the following weeks and days Lady Susan and Reginald DeCourcy found themselves often in each other’s company, to such a degree that it seemed this might have been their conscious choice. They strolled through the Churchill shrubbery and rode horseback up its downs.

Wherever they were within Catherine Vernon’s vicinity they could count on being spied upon. Every garden walk or chance conversation she monitored with mounting suspicion. In her mind she was only seeking to protect her younger brother’s heart from a wicked temptress. Certainly Reginald DeCourcy was in many ways a callow youth, but did he require his sister’s protection? Those whose malice is most apparent to others are often precisely those most convinced of their own virtue. Their machinations are ever in defence of worthy objectives, or the prevention of The Bad. But, in truth, for the Catherine Vernons of this world, the spreading of worry and discord is their true delight. An expression has it that “misery loves company.” Of its truth I am not certain but “misery-causing” most definitely loves accompaniment. In this spirit — that of sounding alarm and provoking discord — she wrote to her mother at Parklands:

. . . I am, indeed, provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled Woman. What stronger proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this perversion of Reginald’s judgement, which when he entered the house was so against her? I did not wonder at his being much struck by the gentleness & delicacy of her Manners; but when he mentions her of late it has been in terms of extraordinary praise; & yesterday he actually said that he could not be surprised at any effect produced on the heart of Man by such Loveliness & such Abilities; & when I lamented, in reply, her notorious history, he observed that whatever might have been her errors, they were to be imputed to her neglected Education & early Marriage, & that she was altogether a wonderful Woman…

Mrs. Cross, who also noticed the time Lady Susan and Reginald spent in each other’s company — she sometimes paused from her tasks to observe the two walking in Churchill’s gardens — was not so arrogant as to presume to know their private feelings, let alone cast malicious aspersions.

“I take it you are finding Mr. DeCourcy’s society more pleasurable,” she lightly observed as Lady Susan returned from one such outing.

“To some extent . . . At first his conversation betrayed a sauciness and familiarity which is my aversion — but since I’ve found a quality of callow idealism which rather interests me. When I’ve inspired him with a greater respect than his sister’s kind offices have allowed, he might, in fact, be an agreeable flirt.”

“He’s handsome, isn’t he?”

Susan considered the question.

“Yes, but in a calf-like way — not like Manwaring . . . Yet I must confess that there’s a certain pleasure in making a person, pre-determined to dislike, instead acknowledge one’s superiority . . . How delightful it will be to humble the pride of these pompous DeCourcys!”

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour:

THE LOVE & FRIENDSHIP JANEITE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

  • June 13                  AustenBlog (Interview)
  • June 14                  The Calico Critic (Review)         
  • June 15                  Diary of Eccentric (Excerpt)      
  • June 16                  Laura’s Reviews (Review)
  • June 17                  My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
  • June 17                  Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)        
  • June 20                  Austenesque Reviews (Review)
  • June 20                  Austenprose (Interview)                      
  • June 21                  So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
  • June 21                  Luxury Reading (Review)                    
  • June 22                  Just Jane 1813 (Review)                                         
  • June 23                  Savvy Verse & Wit (Excerpt)                         
  • June 24                  Austenprose (Review) 

GIVEAWAY WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

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Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

Source: Gift from Anna
Hardcover, 272 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, which was the War Through the Generations August read-a-long book, is set during WWI.  When the novel opens, a woman who has been wounded finds herself in a field hospital in Marne, France, in 1916.  She was found in the uniform of a British nurse’s aide, but has an American accent and cannot remember her own name.  As she grapples with her lost memory and identity, she plucks Stella Bain from her mind and begins to call herself such, even though she knows it may not be her real name.  Stella continues to work alongside the French women near the front and eventually volunteers as an ambulance driver.  Her jumbled mind takes a back seat to her duties at the front, but eventually, she feels drawn to England and the Admiralty, though she’s not sure what she’ll find there or if she will uncover anything about who she was.

“‘No.  Nothing is normal.  How can it be? I don’t yet know who I am.  I may discover, when I know my identity, that I’m not a good person at all.  I fear that I’m not.  I seek my identity, and yet I’m afraid of it.  But I’m more afraid of never knowing.'” (page 75)

Stella learns her true identity, and her true name is a near-anagram of the one she had chosen for herself.  When she learns of her identity and all that she frantically left behind in the United States, she must make passage home.  While Dr. Bridge and his wife, Lily, helped her to be calm and recover her name and identity, they are left behind in England without so much as a goodbye from her.  However, she never forgets their kindness and through letters, readers are given insight into her gratitude.  Shreve’s prose in this novel is distant.  While we see Stella’s point of view, readers are still distanced from her, which could be intentional given the absence of her memories and true identity.  In many ways, as the mystery unravels and readers learn more about the woman without a name, she becomes an everywoman for those women leaving during the early 1900s — caged in by marriage and family, but yet yearning for something outside of their home and legally allowed to own their own property.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve is not just about a woman with shell shock or a lost memory, but a woman in an era where the modern world was just beginning to take shape.  A world in which women were fighting for independence from their families and husbands, to live lives as they wished to without seeking permission or approval.  Overall, while the ending could leave some readers wanting more, the novel would make for an excellent book club discussion.

About the Author:

Anita Shreve is an American writer. The daughter of an airline pilot and a homemaker, she graduated from Dedham High School in Massachusetts, attended Tufts University and began writing while working as a high school teacher in Reading, MA.

Interested in the read-a-long discussions at War Through the Generations, go here; though there will be spoilers.

17th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in France, England)

 

 

27th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

22nd book (WWI) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Source: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover, 224 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is set in Northern Ireland at the Campbell estate of Dulough, which translates to Black Lake.  A pool, a cold lake, hills, valleys, mountains, cottages, and a massive estate would seem overwhelming to any newlywed, and it is hard to believe that it can be run by just three people — John Campbell, Mary Connelly, and Francis Connelly.  Woven with alternate points of view, Lane provides the reader with a well-rounded view of the hardships this family faces.  Young Philip is named after the first ancestor who built Dulough and threw out the Irish tenants after the Great Famine, and he has a legacy that weighs heavily on his head, but he’s not the only Campbell to feel the weight of family history in this place.  Will the deal with the government be enough to keep the family estate in tact or will the deal break this family from its moorings.

“Finally, he began clearing a patch of brambles and thistles; their roots went deep into the earth and he had to be content with lopping them off at ground level rather than pulling them out altogether.” (page 66-7 ARC)

John is a quiet man who knows how to deal with solitude in the Irish country, but his wife Marianne must grow accustom to the quieter life after living so long in Dublin.  His ability to be alone becomes a detriment in matters of his family, though he does enjoy schooling the children at home.  His relationship with his wife is enigmatic because he is less expressive, and she passively follows his lead until she reaches a breaking point.

“The whole painting gave the impression that Dulough might be engulfed at any moment, the lake rising to envelop the house, the sea covering the island, and the land reclaimed, the work of his ancestor obliterated.” (page 194 ARC)

Deep beneath the surface of this family are hidden bonds that only can surface in tragedy and loss.  From a man who is backed into a corner to maintain a large estate without the inheritance to do so to wife and son who have come to love their home as much, if not more, than their ancestors.  Black Lake by Johanna Lane is by turns as dreary as the rainy countryside and as dangerous as the quick-footed tide that nearly swallows the island where the estate church and graveyard lie.  Readers will be swept away by Lane’s frail family and their struggles.

About the Author:

Johanna Lane was born in Ireland, studied English Literature in Scotland, and earned her MFA at Columbia University. She teaches composition and creative writing in New York City.  Check out her Pinterest board for the book.

12th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in Ireland)

 

 

 

 

32nd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.