Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writing Something Very Far From Jane Austen

Elizabeth Aston has, up till now, written a series of books about characters tangentially related to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.  Some of them are better than others, but all of them are somewhat romantic, fairly well written, and have accurate historical detail.  That being said, I wasn't overly excited when I saw that she was publishing her first modern book, about a lost manuscript of Jane Austen's.  At first, I wasn't planning to read it as well, as believe it or not, I'm not a huge fan of Austen paraliterature for its own sake (for the sake of romance I'm a fan of anything, of course ;))  I decided to give it a try anyway...

So first of all, the writing.  Sentence structure, syntax wise, it was good - not uneven, very easy reading.  I did find it a bit abrupt at times,  I definitely felt overdramatic (I feel like everything I read these days falls under the heading of "manufactured melodrama").  But it was fine, especially after I got used to it.  My main complaint was really the premise of the book more than anything.  The main character is an author who has never read Jane Austen because her stock in trade is Victorian lower class misery and she feels Austen is complete whitewash fantasy land and totally uninteresting.  Of course, she is disabused of this notion as she meets the eclectic group of people who fall under the category of Janeites and then spends an enthralled 3 days reading all 6 books straight.  Now actually, I thought it was cute for her to read those books that way but I had two major issues with the whole way her hate/love of Jane Austen was handled.  1) Who cares if Austen is all about escapism into a fictional world that never existed? Certainly not I - that's why I read these books.  I mean, yes, she's also a great comedic writer and her characters can be very realistic, her social commentary continues to be relevant and all that, but I read those books b/c I love the story and it's the greatest romance ever written, IMO (and a *whole* lot of other people's too :)) 2) There are a lot of reasons people don't like Austen, or prefer the Brontes to Austen and even though I COMPLETELY disagree with them, setting up a naive author as the strawman who discovers her mistakes upon first reading P&P is not enough of defense against their arguments (whatever they are...) So that was my main complaint in the beginning

Then she discovered how much she loved the books and got started writing and that whole issue kind of just receeded.... to bring up another in its place - based on the back of this book and my previous experience with the author (and also my peek at the last page of the book which was an epilogue with (spoiler alert :)) a wedding announcement, I was expecting a pretty decent romance.  And there were some scenes from Henry (the guy)'s POV, so there was certainly potential for it.  but... there just wasn't - seriously, there was nothing.  Georgina realizes she loves Henry, does nothing about it, and then at the VERY END they get together with absolutely NO fanfare.  so basically, no point to reading this book at all.

The redeeming feature was the ending was actually a bit of a surprise, especially given that the rest of the book just kind of went along (not that I would complain if it went along the way I wanted :)) and everything was resolved okay. still... it could have been *so much better*

verdict: 2/5 (I know that does seems harsh... but I just don't see where more stars are going to come from)

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