Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Intimations of Jane Austen

Intimations of Austen is a collection of short stories related to the works of Jane Austen. I received a copy to review from the author, fellow book blogger Jane Greensmith, whose blog you can enjoy here.

Since Jane tends to read literary books and writes a literary, intelligent blog, I’m not sure why the literariness of the stories surprised me. Perhaps because most of the Austen-related fiction I’ve read is, well, not. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy it, but most of it just isn’t what you would call literary. But Intimations of Austen is different.

Greensmith’s writing is truly exquisite. I’m always amazed when authors can write in such a poetic manner. Her words were like a dancer gliding over a smooth lake. I realize that’s not exactly possible, but for some reason that’s the image that comes to mind. That’s why I don’t usually write in metaphors and similes. I’m definitely more Hemingway than Tolstoy. But reading Greensmith’s work felt like reading poetry.

I also enjoyed that these stories were quite different from other Austen fan fiction I’ve read. Most of those tell exactly the same story from say, Darcy’s point of view, or are about what happens when Austen’s original books end. And there is a little bit of that here, but most of the stories offer something a little different. What if Darcy and Elizabeth don’t get married? What would happen when they meet 20 years later? What if Darcy reads words as colors, and connects those colors to the person’s soul? What if Jane Bennet loved someone before she met Charles Bingley? What is Mrs. Bennet really thinking?

Although I enjoyed all of the stories, even the one where Elizabeth and Darcy are not married (although at first I thought I was misreading something and had to start that story three times before it made sense, because I kept assuming that couldn’t be right!), I did have a few favorites. I really liked The Color of Love because it was so different. It mixed a little bit of science fiction with Mr. Darcy! In this story, Darcy reads in color based on the person writing. He can therefore judge people based solely on seeing their handwriting, causing him to make quick impressions of people. I enjoyed how Greensmith wove that into the existing story, giving us a fresh perspective on Darcy’s actions without simply telling the story from his point of view and having him tell us why he does what he does, she shows us why.

I also really liked the story told from Mrs. Bennet’s perspective, simply because she’s such a picked on character (well-deservedly for the most part), The Last Baby. She’s quite easy to tease, but here we get a quick glimpse into her mind and begin to understand her a bit more. You feel a little sorry for her because you learn she did want to learn new things, but after she started having babies Mr. Bennet wasn’t interested in teaching her anymore and her job became producing a boy so they wouldn’t lose their home.

There are seven other stories in this collection, and no, not all of them related to Pride and Prejudice, so make sure you check it out for yourself so that you can enjoy all of these enchanting stories!

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