Guest Post: The 200th Anniversary of Sense & Sensibility

Depending on how much you love Jane Austen and her books, you may already know this, but Sense & Sensibility turns 200 on October 30 and was her first published novel.

According to GoodReads:

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

While not my favorite of Austen’s work, it’s an accomplishment to have a novel still be well-known and popular among readers almost 200 years after publication. I’m sure many authors would be pleased to have such an accomplishment.

Today, Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Mr. Darcy’s Bite, will share her thoughts on the 200th anniversary.  Please welcome Mary:

Hi, Serena. Thank you for having me back at Savvy Verse & Wit. It’s always a pleasure.

You asked me to write about the significance of the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and my reaction to it and Austen’s novel.

I recently took one of those online quizzes to see which Austen character I most resemble. As it turns out, I am Elinor Dashwood, the main protagonist in Sense and Sensibility. Even though I like Elinor, I have a lot of problems with this novel. I don’t think Edward Ferrars deserves Elinor, and I think Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon are poorly matched. I would like to strangle Lucy Steele and perform surgery on John Willoughby. Although Austen wraps up the story with a happily-ever-after ending for Marianne and Elinor, I don’t think that’s the way it would have played out in real life.

Having said all that, you can still appreciate Austen’s genius with her brilliant prose and delightful wit in this story of a family of four females trying to survive without a strong male presence in their lives. But it is mostly because of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s novel that it is now front and center (that and Emma Thompson’s 1995 brilliant film adaptation).

But in my opinion, Austen’s masterpiece is Pride and Prejudice. Like Edward Ferrars, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a flawed character, but because of his love for Elizabeth, Darcy evolves, recognizes his shortcomings, and becomes a man worthy of her love. It is because of these two strong characters that most of my stories are re-imaginings of Pride and Prejudice, including Mr. Darcy’s Bite. Although Darcy is a werewolf, it is primarily a love story. Obviously, there are difficulties when a loved one grows fur every four weeks, but our favorite couple is determined to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every full moon until they find their dream.

I did write a short-story parody of Sense and Sensibility titled Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele in which Elinor doesn’t wait on Edward to make an offer of marriage. Instead, Elinor hops in the driver’s seat and drives the bus (or phaeton) herself. I wanted to shine some comedic light on a story that has a lot of darkness in it.

Every author hopes that with each succeeding work of fiction, they become a better writer. I certainly think that is true of Jane Austen. Although flawed, Sense and Sensibility is still a novel well worth reading. In fact, the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America is using this novel and Austen’s anniversary as the focus of their meeting in Fort Worth this month. It will be the main topic of conversation among hundreds of Jane Austen admirers now and for decades to come.

Thanks again, Serena, for having me.

Mary, it is always a pleasure to host you.

Mr. Darcy’s Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen

With Halloween and all of the blog-related events — RIP, All Hallow’s Eve, Frightful Fall Read-a-Thon, and Halloween Hootenanny — I’ve selected a few fun horror/spooky reads for October.

I have not officially joined any of the challenges or read-a-thons just because I never know how much reading I can do these days, but I am hosting Stephen King’s IT read-a-long with Anna in which we discuss the 1,000+ page book once per month through the end of the year.

First spooky read for October is Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Mr. Darcy’s Bite, which I shamelessly admit attracted me with its ominous cover.

Simonsen’s latest Pride & Prejudice incarnation, Mr. Darcy’s Bite, begins after the reunion between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy at Pemberley.  However, not all is pleasant in paradise because Darcy’s behavior has become peculiar, and he visits her at Longbourn for several months, though with long gaps between visits.  Lizzy’s mother keeps pressuring her about when she’s going to get engaged, and Lizzy is becoming concerned that Darcy’s affections for her are not as strong as she had thought.  She has plenty of time to stew on her speculations about his behavior, but just as she is about to call him out on his absences, he invites her back to Pemberley.  This is where everything changes for them and the challenges begin.

“‘You are very bossy.  You order people around with your harsh tone of voice or by pushing them about with your muzzle.  You may be the master of Pemberley, but you will not be the master of me.  I must be free to speak my mind.’

‘When have you not spoken your mind?’ Darcy stepped away from her, and with his hands behind his back, he recited word for word a part of Elizabeth’s refusal of his offer of marriage.”  (page 69 of ARC)

A dark secret is revealed, and Lizzy must determine whether in addition to their class and social differences, this secret changes her feelings for Darcy.  Can she overcome the secrecy, live with keeping secrets from her family and friends as a member of the Darcy family, and the monthly absences of her husband?  Simonsen captures Lizzy and Darcy’s characters so well from their moments of pride to their moments of misunderstanding.  Like her other novels, obstacles are thrown in the path of our love birds, and new characters are introduced, including the conceited Lady Helen Granyard who could rival Austen’s Lady Catherine in pride and social engineering.

Lizzy’s jealousy of Helen’s beauty pales compared to her worries that Helen’s intimate knowledge of the Darcy secret could supplant Darcy’s love for her.  What’s also a nice surprise here is that Georgiana gains strength in social encounters, enabling her to confront Lady Catherine at one point when she normally would have demurred.  Simonsen evolves the characters of not only Darcy and Elizabeth in this paranormal tale, but that of her secondary characters Georgiana and Anne de Bourgh.

If you’re an Austen purist who can let their hair down a bit, Mr. Darcy’s Bite could fit your need for the paranormal this Halloween season without scaring you senseless.  Simonsen’s work is always a delight to read, and Mr. Darcy’s Bite is no exception.

About the Author:

Mary Simonsen has combined her love of history and the novels of Jane Austen in her first novel, which explores universal truths about love and conflict that cross generations and oceans. The author lives in Peoria and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Check out the rest of the stops on Mary’s tour.

Mailbox Monday #136 and Library Loot #6

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailboxmeme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell for review in September from Sourcebooks.

2.  Out of Breath by Blair Richmond for review in October.

3.  Mr. Darcy's Undoing by Abigail Reynolds from Sourcebooks for review in October.

4.  Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen from Sourcebooks for review in October.

5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey from Random House for review in the fall.

Library Loot:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

1.  Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

2.  Sugar in My Bowl by Erica Jong

What did you receive this week?