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Inquiring readers: Are you tired of Zoom workshops? Don’t be. At times the easiest way to attend workshops abroad is via the internet. This workshop is sponsored by The Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. (Austen fans will recognize the house!)

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Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, Wikimedia Commons

The following text is from the website (click on the link of the title below)

VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB: NORTHANGER ABBEY

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Northanger Abbey, H.M. Brock, Wikimedia Commons

Back by popular demand… snap up a ticket to our virtual book club! Bring your thoughts, ideas and observations on ‘Northanger Abbey’… bring tea and quotes and questions… expect stimulating discussion and debate!

“Join us for a lively online book club, discussing all things Northanger Abbey! We’ll get the ball rolling with questions, ideas and provocations about this bright, brilliant novel, and then it’s over to you – as a group we’ll share thoughts, theories, favourites and best-bits.”

Date: Tuesday 6 September

Time: 7pm – 8pm (British Summer Time – 

those in other countries are responsible for figuring out their time)

Location: This event will take place online. Join us from the comfort of your own home!

Tickets: £6.50 (Major Credit Cards are accepted)

(Note: As of August 17, 2022 

6.50 British Pounds = 7.831456 US Dollars

1 GBP = 1.20484 USD

1 USD = 0.829986 GBP)

As of August 17th, 8 PM U.S. EST, 49 seats are still open

BOOK HERE  (please make sure you select the right date on the calendar!)

  • 💻 This event will take place on Zoom. Please provide a valid email address, as you will be emailed a link to join the tour in the run up to the event. 
  • 🎫 If you are joining as a group or household, please buy one ticket for each person attending.  All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum. 
  • ⏰ Timings are given in UK time (British Summertime) – please do check what the event time is in your territory, to ensure you log in at the right time.

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If the time is inconvenient for this workshop, Jane Austen & Co., based in the U.S., offers free zoom presentations of past workshops. Click on the above link to enter the site. Click on this link to enter videos and workshops of past events since 2020.

Videos Jane Austen+Co

Image of past videos available to the public: Staying at Home With Jane Austen; Race & the Regency; and Asia & the Regency

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Having just made a big move myself, I was intrigued by the thought that Jane Austen herself—not to mention several of her characters—knew what it took to move an entire household from one place to another.

One of the best resources available to us regarding a big move is the letter Austen wrote to Cassandra on January 3, 1801, prior to their family’s move to Bath from Steventon. From it, and from the details in her novels, we learn many interesting details about what a big move entailed.

If you’ve ever wanted some Regency advice on moving house, this is for you!

Image of Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons
Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons

Send Your Servants Ahead

In terms of logistics, members of the genteel class usually sent servants ahead of them when they went from one house to another, as we see when Mr. Bingley goes to Netherfield:

Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.

Pride and Prejudice

Similarly, Elinor and Marianne, when arriving in London with Mrs. Jennings after three days of travel, are greeted by “all the luxury of a good fire.” The house is “handsome, and handsomely fitted up.” Elinor writes to her mother before a dinner that will not “be ready in less than two hours from their arrival.” It’s clear that Mrs. Jennings employs servants who clean, cook, shop, and prepare the house for her visits.

Hire Good People

When preparing to move to Bath, Jane Austen’s mother wanted to keep two maids: “My mother looks forward with as much certainty as you can do to our keeping two maids; my father is the only one not in the secret.”

With her typical flair for humor, Austen hoped to engage other servants as well: “We plan having a steady cook and a young, giddy housemaid, with a sedate, middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office of husband to the former and sweetheart to the latter. No children, of course, to be allowed on either side.”

Do Your Research

In Austen’s letter, she talks about several areas of Bath where they hoped to find a house: Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and “some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street.”

About Westgate Buildings, Austen wrote: “though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.” Regarding Charles Street, she thought it “preferable”: “The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance.” And concerning the third area: “The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend.”

4 Syndey Place, Bath

Mrs. Austen seemed to have a preference: “her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince’s Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had.”

None of the Austens were in favor of Oxford Buildings: “we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape.”

Bring Your Art

We know from Austen’s letter that they planned to take the following pictures and paintings from Steventon to Bath: “[T]he battle-piece, Mr. Nibbs, Sir William East, and all the old heterogeneous miscellany, manuscript, Scriptural pieces dispersed over the house, are to be given to James.”

Good artwork is hard to find.

Of special note, Jane tells Cassandra, “Your own drawings will not cease to be your own, and the two paintings on tin will be at your disposal.”

Good Furniture is Worth Moving

Apparently, Rev. and Mrs. Austen had a very good bed that was irreplaceable: “My father and mother, wisely aware of the difficulty of finding in all Bath such a bed as their own, have resolved on taking it with them…” Austen wrote this about the rest of the household beds: “all the beds, indeed, that we shall want are to be removed — viz., besides theirs, our own two, the best for a spare one, and two for servants; and these necessary articles will probably be the only material ones that it would answer to send down.”

When it came to their dressers, they decided it was time for an upgrade: “I do not think it will be worth while to remove any of our chests of drawers; we shall be able to get some of a much more commodious sort, made of deal, and painted to look very neat…”

Image of dining room at the Jane Austen House Museum
Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton.

As to the rest of their furniture, they decided it would be better to replace most of it in Bath: “We have thought at times of removing the sideboard, or a Pembroke table, or some other piece of furniture, but, upon the whole, it has ended in thinking that the trouble and risk of the removal would be more than the advantage of having them at a place where everything may be purchased. Pray send your opinion.”

Jane’s final comments to Cassandra are amusing as ever: “My mother bargains for having no trouble at all in furnishing our house in Bath, and I have engaged for your willingly undertaking to do it all.”

Visit People on the Way

In Austen’s letter, she explains their family travel plans: “[M]y mother and our two selves are to travel down together, and my father follow us afterwards in about a fortnight or three weeks. We have promised to spend a couple of days at Ibthorp in our way. We must all meet at Bath, you know, before we set out for the sea, and, everything considered, I think the first plan as good as any.”

Ibthorpe, Photo by Rachel Dodge

Not So Different

Moving house in Jane Austen’s day was not quite so different from today. Though the modes of transportation and the methods of research and communication were somewhat different, I was delighted to find that the Austens’ moving plans were surprisingly applicable to mine! (Except for the servants.)


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Coming this fall: The Secret Garden Devotional. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

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Inquiring readers; Almost a week ago I attended an author’s gathering and book signing in Columbia, MD. The occasion was held at The King’s Contrivance Restaurant, a suitable setting for this lovely get together with Jane Porter and Denise Holcomb, who found the restaurant, invited guests, and kept tabs on RSVPs. I counted around 21 people. You might recognize Denise’s name, for she is a regular visitor to this blog and frequently leaves a comment.

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Jane Porter’s masthead forjaneporter.com. Learn about this NY Times bestselling author’s accomplishments at this site.

I first thought this event was Jane Austen related. Jane Porter’s charming presence and the beauty of the location overcame my brief disappointment when I realized it was not. All the guests were authors, editors, or bloggers and book reviewers, so I was in good company. The event celebrated Jane’s recent release of her latest novel: Flirting With Fifty.

(Hover cursor over images for description.) I had only a short discussion with Ms Porter about her latest publication which deals with a late life romance for contemporary women. This book has been promoted by AARP, a membership organization for people 50 years and older. Her earlier novel in this series, Flirting With Forty, was turned into a successful cable movie. Our talk ranged over the dearth of novels of romance for women over a certain age and how her recent novels addressed the issue, and how women change in outlook and attitude as they mature. I agreed that there was a market and interest for women who had lived past their 20’s and 30’s and learned live’s lessons, both personally and career wise. Jane was gracious to spend a few minutes chatting with me, for there were others who wanted her attention.

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Denise Holcomb

I sat at a table with Denise and a friend of hers, who writes romance book reviews. We ordered our lunch. Mine was delicious, starting with a shellfish bisque, a main entree of fruit of the sea with shrimp, calamari and crabmeat, and ended with an English trifle. (I won’t describe the other choices :) When one lives in a mid-Atlantic state near the Chesapeake Bay, one must take advantage of the fresh seafood!}

After our delicious lunch (and a glass of pinot grigio in my case nursed over two hours), Jane Porter spoke to the group. She had already introduced the authors and the editor to her publishing house, Tule Publishing. Porter, among the many novels she has written and published, is also the founder & editorial director of Tule Publishing.

Whew! Where does she find the energy? She also plies homes between Sacramento, CA, and Hawaii, for her husband is a surfer. (Be still my romantic heart.)

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The menu with an edible orange and cardamon cookie

One thing I have learned attending Jane Austen related conferences and meetings, and Romance Writers Conferences of America is that getting one’s foot in the door as an author is an arduous ordeal. Once one is successfully published, the work of getting one’s book noticed through publicity and personal appearances starts. It’s a nonstop effort.

jane porter swag

Swag: Free book: Christmas Night; Pink Bag with ‘Read Jane;” “Flirting With Jane” signed book bought with substantial savings; Banana Bread Recipe; sticky note pad, round emery board, and at the top an orange cardamon “cookie” with a frosted image of Jane’s latest published book.

After lunch, Jane talked about her motivation as a writer, which began in her childhood when she wrote stories. Six-seven other authors discussed their passion for writing in various stages of their lives that compelled them to follow that arduous though satisfying road. None said it was easy (believe me, I know), but all sallied forth and found a home in Tule Publishing. 

I left so uplifted with the conversation afterwards and entered my car with gifts in hand. (I purchased Flirting With Fifty at an incredibly low price and had the book signed.) Leaving the meeting sated, I mused about the conversation on my way back over busy throughways and byways. When I arrived home, I realized that I had agreed to review one of my favorite new author’s books from Tule Publishing: Katherine Cowley’s The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. My review of this mystery series based on the middle sister in the Bennet household — Mary — is scheduled for early September.

Small world.

 

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Inquiring readers, Persuasion-lite is a cinematic reworking of Jane Austen’s final novel, finished before her death, but not published until afterward. Coming off the heels of Netflix’s highly successful Bridgerton (in this cast of Persuasion-lite you can surmise the former series’ influence) and the popularity of PBS’s Sanditon, the decision-makers behind Netflix productions gave the go ahead to a film that ‘modernized’ Austen’s book in order to introduce young audiences to Jane Austen. Or so the story goes. To do so, Chefs Moderne created a story-telling recipe to appeal to newcomers.

Persuasion’s traditional recipe: 

This rich, full-bodied classic was created by a Chef in her prime. Her finished recipe transfigured deceptively simple components into rich flavors heretofore undiscovered by the ordinary palate. The original ingredients, while considered old-fashioned today, are still accessible to epicureans who wish to savor the recipe’s nuanced complexity and its historical references. 

Time to digest: hours, with repeated enjoyment over a lifetime. Three Michelin stars were awarded to this Chef, who served distinct dishes that were executed to perfection. (Some might say she would have been awarded four stars had this rating system included such a category.)

Netflix’s Persuasion-lite recipe:

This adaptation took a traditional recipe and simplified it to its basic components, using only those ingredients readily accessible in any grocery store today. While it echoes the original, it pales in comparison and fails to plumb the classic’s rich depths. To be fair, there were hints of originality in the spices. This recipe has been rewritten in modern terms that defy belief.

Time to digest: One hour and 47 minutes. One may partake of repeated helpings at the Netflix buffet. A number of diners might find this meal delicious and insist on more helpings; a number will push half eaten plates away or not order the meal again. Sadly the Chefs Moderne who adapted the recipe were not awarded a single Michelin star, since their efforts resulted in a dish that leaves the diner hungry.

Primary Ingredients:

Anne Elliot 

The original recipe described a complex woman of 27 who has lost the bloom of youth. She regrets her decision at nineteen to reject Frederick Wentworth’s proposal due to Lady Russell’s persuasive influence. He had not yet made his mark in life. Anne is a woman of character and conviction who must negotiate the difficulties of living with a shallow father and sisters. As the neglected middle child, she lives largely in their selfish shadows, submitting to her family’s and friends’ needs. When Wentworth reenters her life unexpectedly, she observes her long lost love from afar. From his indifference he seems all but lost to her. Under the Classic Chef’s direction, Anne’s journey back to her Captain via circuitous routes is touching, romantic, and memorable. 

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Dakota Johnson sharing Anne Elliot’s thoughts. Netflix publicity photo.

The Netflix recipe describes Anne as an opinionated cheeky woman (Dakota Johnson) who gazes at and talks to the viewers (breaking the fourth wall) while stroking her pet rabbit (see image above from Netflix publicity), sharing her thoughts in contemporary language, and swilling red wine. She tells us what’s on her mind and in her mind throughout the production. Her observations, starting with her missing Captain Wentworth, the love of her life, are often amusing. In no way does this reworked Anne reflect Austen’s language or intent. In fact, her comical mannerisms and frequent faux pas wind up as a shallow, one-note substitution for the fully realized original. The makeup department also notably applied lipstick to her mouth, thereby diminishing Anne’s transformation from a wan and mousy woman into someone who blossoms with love when reunited with her captain. 

Captain Wentworth

The classic recipe describes Wentworth as a vigorous, successful male, whose pride prevents him from revealing the hurt and, yes, love he still feels for the woman who rejected him. In the classic recipe, one can find instances of his kindness towards Anne and his growing realization that this complex, level-headed, and kind woman is worthy of his regard now as much (even more) as then.

The modern Wentworth is certainly handsome (Cosmo Jarvis), but as written for this lite version, he remains on the sidelines. I wanted him sprinkled more vigorously into this plot, but had to make do with his weak, almost secondary role. Only when Anne reads his letter out loud (it is considered to be one of the best love letters ever written) does the real and complex Austen hero come to the fore.

Mary Musgrove

Her role (Mia McKenna-Bruce) adds much comic spice and her presence in the modern version seems major compared to her irritating presence in the classic. Certainly her ingredient is one-note and overly exagerrated, but her character remains true to Austen’s depiction of a selfish, prickly, and whining sister. One memorable addition not in the classic, but quite original, is of Anne answering her sister in Italian during Mary’s nonstop self-indulgent monologues – which she fails to notice.

William Elliot

His role is stronger in the lite recipe than in the classic. In fact, his (Henry Golding’s) presence overpowers Wentworth’s at times and Anne seems more susceptible to his dubious charms. Why is beyond me, for he shares with her his sleazy plan to prevent a possible marriage between Sir Walter and his daughter’s widowed companion in Bath, a Mrs Clay, who in the original recipe sported a snaggle tooth but who, in the lite version, has an ample bosom. William’s sole aim was to prevent Sir Walter from siring an heir that would knock him out of first place for inheriting what remains of the Elliot estate. His final scene in the film elicited a guffaw from me, but Austen’s classic wit did not look for laughter in the cheap seats and the ending in Persuasion-lite made no sense, for William would never have married a woman with no station in life or money.

Henrietta, Louisa, and Charles Musgrove (Respectively: Izuka Hoyle, Nia Towle, and  Ben Bailey-Smith). 

Sisters-in-law and husband of Mary Musgrove, they pop in and out of the lite narrative to showcase the sisters’ friendship with Anne and her former and current relationship to Charles. Louisa’s story arc especially moves the plot forward. Charles is Mary’s long suffering husband in the classic version, but the Chefs Moderne use him to demonstrate Anne’s awkward drunken confession during the Musgrove’s dinner party to inform the assembled company that Charles had proposed to her first. The Classic’s sensible, thoughtful Anne would rather have died than commit such crude impropriety.

Supporting Ingredients:

Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot

Both characters are sadly given short shrift. Their curt treatment was perhaps intentional, but during their short on screen time, the two actors made their mark. Richard Grant’s performance, while over the top funny, reminds me more of Billy Nighy’s comedic turn as Mr. Woodhouse in Emma. 2020 than the character described by Austen. In Grant’s case, his Sir Walter is certainly fixated on his self-important status, which in the lite version was funny. In the classic version, however, Austen made it clear that as a baronet he sat at the lowest end of the peerage scale, making his egotistical turn even more absurd. 

Elizabeth  (Yolanda Kettle) is not more beautiful than Anne, as described in the Classic. In fact, she looks anemically pale next to her sister’s vivid coloring. Except for Elizabeth’s sumptuous wardrobe and meticulous hairstyles, one would not have thought her to be the favored older sister. Her mean-spiritedness remains intact, however, and contrasts nicely with Anne’s, well, niceness.

Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird)

This lady’s well meaning advice separated Anne from her captain. She plays the loving mother substitute and appears just enough in Persuasion-lite to remind us that Anne has had someone in her corner since her mother’s death. As in the Classic, she shows more concern for her young friend than her actual family.

A variety of  ingredients (which, sadly, are mostly unrecognizable for uninformed palates in this lite version):

Admiral and Mrs Croft, Captain and Mrs Harville, Mr & Mrs Musgrove and their two young grandsons, Captain Benwick, Mrs Clay, and Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret. (Mrs Smith is undetectable.) 

Those unfamiliar with the classic recipe will miss their almost absent presence or wonder about their inclusion. Mrs Smith, who made an appearance in the Classic, is ignored, but she was an important witness to William Elliot’s character.

I defy those new to Austen to accurately suss out these characters’ relationship with Anne or the Elliot family. Sir Walter’s attraction to Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret is given more importance (we already know he’s a peerage snob) than the elder Musgroves and Mary’s two young boys, or Admiral and Mrs Croft, who play important roles in Anne’s journey back to Wentworth.

Spices:

Clothing

Some critics who reviewed Persuasion-lite found the clothes drab and lackluster. Their critiques should have been amended to Anne’s clothes only. Since the makeup department never removed the bloom off her rose, her wardrobe substituted for her appearance, which was ‘“so altered that [Wentworth] should not have known her again.” Her gray and brown spinsterish gowns brighten as she is exposed more to Wentworth’s company. The other actors and actresses are appropriately fashionable for their stations, which reflect clothing in 1816-17 England. I also thought that the homespun, handmade feel of Anne’s wardrobe made sense, in that she was the least favored daughter and probably had her clothes sewn by a local seamstress, whereas Elizabeth and Mary most likely demanded gowns made by modistes in London. 

Sites:

Ah, lovely England with its historic villages and great mansions.These were wonderfully represented with beautiful exteriors, interiors and gardens. Two locations played prominent roles.

Lyme Regis: This seaside village plays a pivotal role in both the Classic and Lite versions. The basic storyline of Austen’s plot remains in the lite version, but details are missing. Still, Lyme Regis, the Cobb, the village, and it beautiful shoreline are a visual treat, and many of the scenes do echo the Classic version,  and even include bits and pieces of original dialogue.

Lyme-Regis-Persuasion-Netflix (1)

First glimpse of William Elliot’s carriage in Lyme Regis. At the window from left, Anne Elliot and to her right the Musgrove sisters. To the far right, Mary Musgrove nee Elliot.

Bath: Ah, the buildings, the streets, the views of the Royal Crescent, the walk down the stairs in the Upper Assembly Rooms. There was no promenade in the Pump rooms, where Anne’s famous line to William Elliot is widely quoted (but looked over in the Lite version;)

“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’

‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion

Although this lovely quote was not included, some of Anne’s conversations were used in Bath, as well as Captain Wentworth’s love letter. Since these scenes lead to the denouement, they ended the film on a high note.

Language: 

Here’s where the Chefs Moderne took the greatest license. Instead of using the beautiful language in the Classic, the Chefs Moderne chose modern phrases. I defy you to find them in a Regency era lexicon.

“We are strangers. Worse than strangers. We’re exes.” (Anne Elliot)

“It is often said if you’re a five in London, you’re a ten in Bath!” (Anne Elliot breaking the 4th wall when she looks directly into the camera to converse with the viewer.)

“Marriage is transactional” (Lady Russell)

“Thanks”

“I am an empath” (Mary Musgrove)

“Fart around”

“He’s a ten – I never trust a ten” (Anne about William Elliot) 

“Embodying gratitude” (Mary again)

Comment: 

Good grief. The Chefs Moderne must have burned their candles down to their wicks to come up with this drivel. After watching Persuasion-lite, those not initiated to Austen’s novels and who love this filmed version, might turn to the novel. Imagine their surprise when they discover that her 205 year old book,  filled with the language, customs, and manners of her day, varies significantly from this comic book version.

Personal request: Gentle readers, feel free to agree or disagree with my musings. Let’s keep our discourse genteel and agreeable for the sake of my sanity. I thank you in advance.

Other Critics Reviews:

Negative

 “At no point during Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut do you ever get the sense that anyone’s actually read Persuasion.” – Dakota Johnson is woefully miscast in mortifying Jane Austen adaptation – Clarisse Loughrey, The Independent

“Our demure protagonist Anne Elliot is forever doing supercilious takes and wry monologues to camera, taking despairing swigs from a bottle of red wine in private, occasionally nursing a quirky pet rabbit, and at the end (unforgivably) gives us a wink to seal the deal of our adoringly complicit approval.” Persuasion review – Dakota Johnson looks the part as Jane Austen gets Fleabagged, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Positive

“For anyone not too bothered by departures from the novel, the romantic denouement will be immensely pleasurable.: – Dakota Johnson in Netflix’s ‘Persuasion’: Film Review, David Rooney, Chief Film Critic, The Hollywood Reporter

More reviews: 

Netflix’s Persuasion the worst film of the year?, Olivia Pym, GQ Magazine

Persuasion review – a travesty of Jane Austen, Slash Film,

Trailer of the film:

Under this trailer, J.Dion wrote:

“Anne’s strength is her quiet, consistency. She is intelligent and thoughtful.  Altering her character for modern sensibilities is insulting not only to Austin’s character but to modern audiences.  There are many “Anne’s” in this world they and deserve  to be valued for who they are and the enrichment they bring to all. 

Persuasion is my favorite of Austen’s novel. Unfortunately this looks to be another instance  of the “title and names are unchanged but the characters are missing.” 

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Book Review by Brenda S. Cox

“I have had ample time to consider the difference between my former, naïve ideas of love and happiness, and the more mature and accurate view of them I now possess. I find that my opinions are quite transformed. How differently I feel about everything now! – about what I want, about what will make me happy.”—Marianne Dashwood in the last chapter of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

Colonel Brandon is a bit mysterious. He has a tragic past, which we only see in glimpses. Readers sometimes think he is too serious for Marianne, and we don’t see much of their courtship or love story. Movies add some of this in, but not enough, in my opinion.

Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, fills in the blanks about Brandon’s background, his connections with both Eliza’s, and his romance with Marianne.

So, I loved reading Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, which filled in the blanks and brought Brandon more to life for me. The story is consistent with Sense and Sensibility, but adds new insights to the novel.

Sometimes I hesitate to read a parallel Austen story, thinking I will already know everything in it since I know the novel so well. But this time each page brought something new. Even when familiar incidents were included, from Brandon’s perspective, I sometimes had to go back to S&S and check—was it really like that? And it was.

I asked the author to tell us more about why she wrote this book, and what she loved about writing it. Here’s what she shared with us:

Shannon Winslow’s Thoughts on Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

If you’re unfamiliar with my work, the first thing you should know is that I’m a little different – probably in a lot of ways, but I’m talking about my writing philosophy. It’s different from most other JAFF authors in at least two respects. Let me explain.

First, I love ALL of Jane Austen’s novels. Okay, maybe not equally. Like most people, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, but they’re ALL worth reading. They’re ALL worthy of our attention. So, early on, I decided I wanted to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s six. And I’m almost there!

I have Pride and Prejudice covered (The Darcys of Pemberley, Return to Longbourn, The Ladies of Rosings Park, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words). I wrote The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (probably the book of which I’m proudest!) for her fans who wish she’d enjoyed the romance and happy ending she crafted for all her heroines. I count Leap of Hope as my Mansfield Park book (although there’s a lot of P&P in it too). And I have a campy sequel to Northanger Abbey: Murder at Northanger Abbey. Now with Colonel Brandon in His Own Words for Sense and Sensibility, I only have Emma left to go!

The second major difference between me and most other JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) authors is that I don’t write “variations” per se. I can’t swear that I never will, but so far the books I’ve written expand on (or supplement) Jane Austen’s stories; they don’t change them. So all my books agree with each other and with canon. It’s just the approach that works best for me. I guess I’m sappy enough to believe that there’s one “true story” for the characters I’ve come to know and love, and that’s the one Jane Austen wrote. Adding on (with sequels, minor character stories, etc.) simply allows us to spend more time in their delightful company.

In other words, filling in the blanks Jane Austen left behind is my bread and butter, and there are a LOT of intriguing blanks when it comes to Colonel Brandon. Sense and Sensibility follows Marianne’s and Elinor’s movements primarily, so they are well covered. But there’s quite a bit of time when the men (Edward and Colonel Brandon) are “off camera,” so to speak, creating interesting blanks in the record. Since I really enjoyed writing the first-person, hero’s point of view in my previous book (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words), I decided to do the same kind of thing for my S&S novel. But should I go with Edward or Colonel Brandon? Hmm.

No contest. In my opinion, Colonel Brandon is not only the more admirable character, he also has the more interesting backstory to work with. There’s so much we don’t know about him, though, and much of what we do happened long before the scope of the original novel. What were his family relationships like? And his sad history with Eliza, which scarred him for life? These things are briefly mentioned in Sense and Sensibility, but we don’t get any details. We don’t see and experience them for ourselves. What about his military years in India? That sounds like a research rabbit hole waiting to be explored. Lots of story potential!

I was also excited to flesh out Brandon’s romance with Marianne, huge portions of which are only hinted at by Jane Austen. She simply didn’t have the time and space to go into their 2-year courtship in any depth, but I did! I cover the day they met, their slow, gentle courtship, the proposal itself (with a very satisfying twist!), and then a brief glimpse into their married life. Everything is from Brandon’s point of view and in His Own Words.

It was such a joy to spend this past year with Colonel Brandon – quiet hero and consummate gentleman – poking around in his head, discovering more about the man, learning what he believes and how he thinks. I love and respect him all the more now! I hope you are a fan as well, or I trust you will be after reading his full story in Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.

More on the Book and the Author

Here’s the cover copy of the book:

Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.

Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.

Shannon Winslow, whose goal is to fill in the blanks Austen left behind.

Shannon Winslow says an ordinary trip to Costco fifteen years ago changed her life when she picked up a copy of the ’95 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. She’s been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to write her own stories a la Austen. To date, she has authored eleven novels and a Jane Austen Devotional, with no end to her creative output in sight. Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit her at her website and follow her on Facebook.

From Brenda again:

I highly recommend Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, especially to read in this year of focusing on Sense and Sensibility. I think it will add to your appreciation of S&S. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England will be out this fall, Lord willing. If you’re interested in faith aspects of the book, see this review. And for Austen news, follow her on Facebook.

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