Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress: A Review


Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Paperback: 464 pages. Also avaliable as an e-book.

ISBN: 979-0-345-52496-6

Source: Supplied by the editor

Laurel Ann Nattress (of should be proud of her achievement as represented in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It (JAMMDI) anthology. The short stories complied here are a reminder to us of the enduring heart of Austen which acts as old friends to us. We all come to Austen for various reasons, but just like a cold winter’s night curled up on the couch under a blanket, with a cup of hot cider, we find a familiar comfort that only Austen can give.

I am going to do this book review a little differently as this is an anthology and not a full length novel. I am going to talk about a few of my favorite stories and some of my not so favorite stories.


Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James: A clever story which asks the question, what would happen if Jane Austen met her literary creations? Not all her creations are happy with their portrayals either. Syrie draws on factual accounts of how Austen’s works were received when they first published which adds a sense of realism to the story, in addition to being cleverly funny. This story just proves why Syrie James is one of my favorite authors.

When Only a Darcy Will Do by Beth Pattillo: The plot: an American girl studying in London, England who is trying to make ends-meat by giving Jane Austen tours and finding the Mr. Darcy she didn’t realize was there. This is an enchanting tale with an unexpected ending.

What Would Austen Do? by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway: Having a male lead, not a female lead, was a fresh change which I can support. This story was laugh-out-loud funny and well written. A high school boy is accused of doing something improper (like drugs) by school administrators because he has good manners and dresses differently from all the other kids. GASP! This was a charming tale and was cleverly done.

The Love Letter by Brenna Aubrey: The winner of the JAMMDI contest and a well deserved winner at that. She writes a modern twist on Persuasion, which is wonderfully executed and exhibites the same tense emotion of the original work which inspired it. I just have one question: Did our hero pass his medical boards or not?


The Chase by Carrie Bebris: This story stood out because it is not inspired by an Austen work and is not about Austen herself. This story is about her brother Francis William Austen and it focuses on a particular battle in his Navel career which helped elevate him to post-captain. I really enjoyed this story as it was off the beaten path. It was almost out of place in the anthology, but not quite. This is a gem hidden within.


A Night at Northanger by Lauren Willig

Jane and the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery by Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen, Yeah,Yeah,Yeah!  By Janet Mullany

Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss by Jo Beverley


Note: The opinions expressed below are merely that, opinions, and are in no way a reflection on the talent of the author’s themselves. For we know these authors are talented and that we cannot dispute.

Faux Jane by F.J. Meier: The ability of the author (a husband and wife team) is not in dispute, but I did not like this story at all. I couldn’t warm to the characters, the dialogue was difficult to follow and I felt this story was poorly executed.

Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane by Adriana Trigiani: This wasn’t a bad story, but a minor quibble of mine keeps me from embracing it wholeheartedly. This is a letter from Jane Austen to her soon to be married niece Anna. A Regency piece that had me up until the mention of tweets, emails and text messaging which caused me to discredit the story. Like I said it is a minor quibble, but a quibble none the less.

Me and Mr. Darcy, Again by Alexandra Potter: I really wanted to like this story, but I just couldn’t. Emily, our heroine, has hopped across the pond on an impromptu vacation after a fight with her boyfriend Spike. She can also see Mr. Darcy and this is where my problems arose. I’m not against fictional characters being given a life of their own in a story, but in this story it just didn’t feel right. It felt forced in order to drive the plot. My response to this story was merely tepid.

With a few notable exceptions, I enjoyed every story in this anthology. The stories that appear are a tribute to what Jane Austen has given us and are a stunning example of how she continues to inspire us.

Final Recommendation: For admirers of Austen, you will enjoy this anthology of Austen inspired shorts.

Editor Bio:
A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. Classically trained as a landscape designer at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, she has also worked in marketing for a Grand Opera company and at present she delights in introducing neophytes to the charms of Miss Austen’s prose as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.


Anonymous said...

How charming and funny was What Would Austen Do? When I read the description of this and ordered the book I was sure that my favorites would be the Regency setting stories - who knew that I would fall for James Austen?
I also enjoyed Jane Austens Cat, Waiting, Heard of You and Jane and the Gentleman Rogue.

Bren said...

hey Kate, so glad you liked my story and the anthology. I'm just finishing reading it myself and there are so many stories that I just LOVE. Thanks for your kind words!

Brenna Aubrey

Anonymous said...

I second What Would Austen Do. ROTFL. Book note says that it is going to be expanded to a novel. Have not read anything that funny in ages.

Nanci M