Friday, August 3, 2012

Austenesque Review

Austenesque Review

Second Impressions by Ava Farmer

This sequel to Pride and Prejudice finds the Darcys, the Bennets, the Bingleys and their friends (the Wentworths, The Knightleys) 10 years after the conclusion of their novels. Most of the characters are content but not all and some look forward to the promise of the future.

Ava Farmer is the pen name of Sandy Lerner, the founder of the amazing Chawton House Library. She has the very best resources at hand and has clearly made a thorough study of Jane Austen's works and her world. Therein lies the problem. This book really has no plot. The plot doesn't kick in until the last few chapters. Most of Book 1 sets the stage and tells the reader everything the Darcys and family have been up to in the last ten years. The dialogue is about nothing and doesn't advance the plot or bring the characters to life.

Book 2 is largely a travelougue of a trip to Europe. We're told everything the Darcys are seeing but not often are we told how they react to it unless their reaction is negative. All of the descriptions are incredibly detailed but make for tedious reading. I love historical details but there were just too many in this book. The book reads very much like a travel diary of the period. When it's in a diary, it's vastly more interesting than when in a novel where one expects a plot with a beginning, middle and end. There are small glimpses of plot but mostly nothing happens. The Darcys don't seem at all like Miss Austen described them.  I loved Elizabeth's intelligence, wit and fortitude in the original but none of that comes across in this book. In fact, Elizabeth comes across as a silly, stupid, incapable ninny. Georgiana is something of a bluestocking and somewhat headstrong but still shy and reserved. She doesn't confide in Elizabeth and for some reason Elizabeth can not figure out what is wrong with her sister nor does she want to pry and ask. She and Darcy are mainly concerned with marrying their sister off.

Another big problem with this book is the "stile" in which it is written. The author copies Jane Austen's spelling, grammar and punctuation exactly but also throws in a lot of French phrases left untranslated (I studied French for 5 years) and also some archaic words that most modern readers will not understand. The author lacks Austen's wit and insight into human behavior that makes Austen's novels timely and readable 200 years later. 

I really appreciate all the hard work that went into making this novel. It took many years of research for it to come together. I also appreciate the attempt to copy Jane Austen's writing patterns - no easy feat I'm sure.I am sure that the scholars at Chawton House adore this novel and love picking up references to things they've read but the casual fan will have a hard time getting through this novel. It took me a month to read and I consider myself an ardent Janeite and scholar. I think this book will require a "second impression" to see whether it improves.

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