Austenesque · stuff I read

Sanditon by Jane Austen and Kate Riordan: A blog tour review with Austenprose!

Riordan_Sanditon(TP)

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the vein of Downton Abbey, Jane Austen’s beloved but unfinished masterpiece-often considered her most modern and exciting novel-gets a spectacular second act in this tie-in to a major new limited television series.

Written only months before Austen’s death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself… and ultimately find love.

AUTHOR BIO:

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist from England. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at the Guardian newspaper, followed by a stint as deputy editor for the lifestyle section of London bible, Time Out magazine. There she had assignments that saw her racing reindeers in Lapland, going undercover in London’s premier department store and gleaning writing tips (none-too subtly) during interviews with some of her favorite authors. After becoming a freelancer, she left London behind and moved to the beautiful Cotswolds in order to write her first novel.

When Jane Austen died, she left behind six completed novels (four published) and fragments of several more, including the beginning of Sanditon, a novel about a young woman visiting an up-and-coming resort town. Only about sixty pages exist, several of them more in the vein of “plot-bunny problems for Future Jane to solve later,” definitely not enough to determine Austen’s intention for the resolution of the plot but just enough to establish her cast of characters: Miss Charlotte Heywood, the many Parkers, Lady Denham and her household, and Miss Lambe.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century and Sanditon has been adapted as an eight-part television series airing in the US on PBS January 12 – February 23, 2020. Screenwriter Andrew Davies – responsible for Colin Firth’s wet-shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice (at the very least) – took on the task of fleshing out Austen’s world of seaside resorts and invalids and creating a plot where not had existed. And it is a very pretty adaptation, with lovely costumes and beautiful British actors (oh, hello, Theo James). It is a very sexy adaptation, too, which is to be expected in a Davies adaptation and it, uh, goes rather beyond wet shirts. There’s a gorgeous companion book in the vein of the Downton Abbey tie-ins that looks behind the scenes of the show (this show is totally Regency era catnip for Downton Abbey fans). I haven’t watched more than the first few episodes of the show because I finished the novelization by Kate Riordan.

And I didn’t like the ending.

Now. I had also prepped for this release by re-reading Austen’s original fragment (I have multiple editions of her fragments and juvenilia but the Penguin Classics edition that includes The Watsons and Lady Susan is the most readable, in my opinion). So I had Austen’s sentence structure and style fresh in my mind when I started Kate Riordan’s adaptation of Andrew Davies script. The two styles do not mesh well in my mind. Modern prose is very prescriptive, telling you what characters are touching and doing as if describing a movie scene to the reader. In addition, this adaptation and novelization is rather…earthy. Austen would have known all about sex and what people get up to when alone (she was a Georgian, not a Victorian, and spent more than enough of her time helping her sisters-in-law during their confinements) but she certainly wouldn’t have put it on the page, even as a fade-to-black scene. So it was a bit jarring.

Then there’s the ending. I’m not going to totally spoil it, but quit reading now if you want to finish out either the show or the novel without a whiff of spoilage. So. If one is a show runner, who wants to keep Sanditon going for more than one season, you go for this ending. Look at the mileage Downton Abbey got for three seasons with the will-they-won’t-they antagonism of Mary and Matthew. If one is a reader who reads Austen extensively, owns multiple editions of her novels, and regularly imbibes Regency romance novels? This ending is so unsatisfying. I sincerely hope the show gets second season pickup because I can’t believe this is where Austen would have left her characters. (Well, to be honest, she wouldn’t have put some of them in some of these situations in the first place, in my opinion.)

Verdict? Enjoy the TV show but don’t re-read Austen’s original right before reading the novelization.

I’m participating in a blog tour organized by Lauren Ann of Austenprose! Visit her site to read Laurel Ann’s review of Sanditon and find a list of other bloggers featuring Sanditon on their pages. Thanks Laurel Ann for the review opportunity!

Dear FTC: I received finished copies of Sanditon and The World of Sanditon from the publisher for participating in the blog tour.

Austenesque · stuff I read

The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall

The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour Banner FinalHello! Today marks the last few stops on the #Janeite blog tour for Diana Birchall’s new Austen Variation, The Bride of Northanger, stopping here with a review (waves!) and also a spotlight at My Love for Jane Austen. Many thanks and hugs to Laurel Ann of Austenprose for organizing the tour and visit her review and kick-off post for a list of other participating blogs for interviews and more reviews.

48205456._SY475_BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other…

Diana Birchall’s new sequel to Austen’s Northanger Abbey opens the night before Catherine Morland’s wedding to Henry Tilney as Henry arrives at the Morland family home to dutifully inform them that the Tilney family appears to operate under a curse: that the wife of the eldest Tilney son will die young (apparently the family was cursed during the Dissolution). Catherine, now rid of her youthful flights of fancy, dismisses this so-called curse. Henry is, of course, the second son and furthermore, as rational, modern people, they don’t believe in curses. So Catherine and Henry marry and settle into a pleasant life at the vicarage…until General Tilney (and his ominous wedding gift) summons the young couple to a strange dinner party at Northanger Abbey. This sets off a year full of mysterious events, ghostly sightings, and deaths worthy of Catherine’s horrid Gothic novels.

And those deaths are firmly in the realm of gruesome twists of fate, serving up grisly demises for several familiar characters. Birchall made an interesting choice in this novel, to both attempt the ironic tone Austen used when poking fun at Gothic fiction and go full-Gothic at the climax of the plot. It starts out very light, with Catherine enjoying married life and expanding her reading – and education – by reading works of philosophy and history under Henry’s direction. Even the initial trip to the Abbey stays on the lighter side with a glimpse of a possible ghost to tickle Catherine’s imagination. The plot, though, begins to delve into horrors that steadily pull away from the recreation of Austen’s tone. In one scene Catherine is made to sit a vigil over a dead body since no one else from the family is available to do it and the sequence of events is quite unnerving, far more so than searching a cupboard to find a mysterious document (which turned out to be a laundry list) or speculating whether General Tilney killed his wife. Each further mishap gets a bit more squicky-making. (Sorry about the vagueness, but there are quite a lot of twists to the plot that I’m trying to avoid spoiling.) The plot of The Bride of Northanger is much closer to a true Gothic novel in the vein of The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho than Austen’s lively send-up. If you’ve read any of the Gothics that Catherine so enjoyed then you’ll recognize a number of the plot elements.

The book reads quite well. I took it with me on a short trip and read almost the whole thing on a two-and-a-half hour plane ride. It was fun to see so many of the original characters again, so despite my wish to have a bit more Austenian irony and a few less deaths it was quite enjoyable.

The Bride of Northanger is out now!

Dear FTC: I received a review copy of this book via the blog tour organizer.

Austenesque · mini-review · stuff I read

Austentatious: The Evolving World of Jane Austen Fans by Holly Luetkenhaus and Zoe Weinstein

cfacdfe7-e9a7-45da-a4ee-119630f54791Summary from Goodreads:
The amount of fan-generated content about Jane Austen and her novels has long surpassed the author’s original canon. Adaptations like Clueless, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen’s Fight Club, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have given Austen fans priceless opportunities to enjoy the classic texts anew, and continue to bring new and younger fans into the fold. Now, through online culture, the amount and type of fan-created works has exponentially multiplied in recent years. Fans write stories, create art, make videos, and craft memes, all in homage to one of the most celebrated authors of all time.

This book explores online fan spaces in search of “Janeites” all over the world to discover what fans are making, how fans are sharing their work, and why it matters that so many women and nonbinary individuals find a haven not only in Jane Austen, but also in Jane Austen fandom. In relatable chapters based on firsthand experience, the authors explore how Austen fandom has and continues to build communities around women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. Whether Janeites are shrewdly picking up on the latent sexual tension between women in Emma or casting people of color in leading roles, Luetkenhaus and Weinstein argue that Austen fans are particularly adept at marrying fantasy and feminism.

New book about Jane Austen and fan culture? Where and when? *grin* This is very much my jam.

Austentatious is a fun yet academic examination of Austen fan culture, from fanon, online communities, and shipping to book-to-screen adaptations and queer representation. I really appreciated Chapter 2 about the adaptation of Austen’s Emma into the movie Clueless (total Betty!), which probably shows my age. There are good chapters near the end about Austen and LGBTQ+ themes/ships which provided some interesting perspectives about how the canon novels can be interpreted and how they are adapted via shipping. The book is a little short, with only nine chapters, so I would have liked a few more chapters poking into more crevices.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.

Austenesque · stuff I read

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

43124133Summary from Goodreads:
A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

I’d been hearing about Ayesha at Last since it published in Canada last year – a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a Toronto Muslim community.

SOLD. Where could I buy this? (Ugh, I had to wait until it got picked up in the US and then read a galley.)

Poet Ayesha (our Lizzie Bennet character) is working as a substitute high school teacher in order to repay her uncle for saving her family/paying for school after they were forced to emigrate to Canada when her reported father was killed in India. She gets roped into helping plan a youth meeting at the local Muslim community center, first to assist her cousin Hafsa (the Lydia character) and then to pretend to be Hafsa when Hafsa clearly has other (read: non-boring and more likely to lead to a financially lucrative marriage) things to do. Computer programmer Khalid (come through, Fitzwilliam Darcy) is under a lot of pressure – his father died recently, his overbearing mother is on his back about getting married, and he just got a bigoted new boss at his job who is concern-trolling his choices as a man who practices a somewhat more conservative form of Islam (she lived in Saudi Arabia for six months….qu’elle horreur). But he makes time to help with the planning committee and so he meets “Hafsa.”

Turns out they’ve also met before, at a poetry-slam. Khalid got dragged to it by his coworker, a much-less devout man determined to shake up Khalid’s more-rigid world-view. Ayesha is there – she’s kind-of dragged to it by a friend but it’s also one of the only creative outlets she has – and they immediately don’t like each other. Khalid is appalled at the mixing of the sexes, the availability of alcohol, and the fact that this Muslim woman would get up in front of an audience and recite poetry. Ayesha has already had her patience tested by “veil-chasers” and she doesn’t have time for a conservative guy who acts like women have only one place and that’s inside the home. She recites a poem clearly meant to provoke Khalid, the result of which is that he starts to admire her despite himself.

Now that the two of them are thrown together on this planning committee, Khalid starts to fall for “Hafsa” despite the fact that she isn’t a “good Muslim girl”. Ayesha tolerates him, and perhaps comes to see him as a possible friend…or more. But when Khalid’s mother gets wind of their friendship, and a specter from Khalid’s past returns, everything starts to go off the rails.

The first twenty pages aside (read at lunch before grocery shopping) I INHALED this this book. Jalaluddin very cleverly kept the bones of Austen’s masterpiece, and a few well-placed near-quotes, and used it to tell a fresh story about appearances, religious intolerance, and how a culture changes over time. I really liked how Jalaluddin allowed Khalid to re-examine how he practices Islam but he never loses his faith or throws it away; opening up his practice allows him to see that he was closed-off to those he could help, like his sister or his office-mate. Plot-wise, there aren’t too many changes from the original – “Lizzie” and “Darcy” meet, have mutual disdain, he starts to like her, there’s some rejection, they start over, then “Lydia” throws a spanner in the whole works – but the change of setting and culture puts a new spin on the whole. Oh, and when Khalid’s boss gets her comeuppance….I almost stood up on my chair and cheered. There’s even Ayesha’s Shakespeare-quoting, ex-professor Nana and sharp-eyed Nani (who gives an amazing roti cooking lesson) as stand-ins for our beloved Uncle and Aunt Gardiner. A must-read this summer.

Ayesha at Last is out today in the US, complete with that beautiful cover.

Dear FTC: I read a digitally from the publisher via Edelweiss and I have a copy of the paper book waiting for me to purchase at work.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (London Celebrities #4)

40957180

Summary from Goodreads:
In which experienced West End actress Freddy Carlton takes on an Austen-inspired play, a scandal at a country estate, an enthusiastic search for a passion outside of acting…and the (some people might say icy*) heart of London’s most feared theater critic.

*if those people were being nice

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.

The Austen Playbook is a super-cute contemporary romance between a frosty, Jason Isaacs-as-Lucius Malfoy look-alike theatre critic (who, due to descriptions of his nose, actually resembles a blonde Richard Armitage in my head #sorrynotsorry) and a bubbly, musical-theatre actress at a career crossroads. I really liked how Griff and Freddy worked out the mystery, worked toward each other (Freddy needling Griff about how much of a feared theatre critic he is is hilarious), and that what looked vaguely like a love-triangle in the making did NOT go there. However, the resolution of the novel is a bit overstuffed with extra side-plots, especially the one about the sister and her hideous boyfriend. It was one too many layers and not necessary to the set-up for the next book, in my opinion.

Now, I had been hoping that we would see more of this actual “Jane Austen characters smashed together in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure whodunnit” but wound up disappointed (although I’d fire the casting director of that fictional TV production because holy cats was those were some bad choices). The whole idea sounded really genius, though, and I’m surprised some TV showrunner hasn’t actually done something like this. (Jasper Fforde toyed with it at the end of First Among Sequels.)

Even though this is book four in the London Celebrities series, you can read it without having read the previous three. I hadn’t. But I’m definitely going to check them out now.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book on my Nook.

Austenesque · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (The Rajes #1)

41154302Summary from Goodreads:
Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:
· Never trust an outsider
· Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
· And never, ever, defy your family
Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…
A family trying to build home in a new land.
A man who has never felt at home anywhere.
And a choice to be made between the two.

‘Tis a year of Austen re-tellings – Unmarriageable was out a little earlier this year (that I haven’t got to, yet, because I didn’t have a galley), Ayesha at Last is finally publishing States-side in June, an adaptation of Emma coming in August, and this month we have Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors.

In this version of Pride and Prejudice, we don’t have strict analogues for each original Austen character. Fitzwilliam Darcy is now Dr. Trisha Raje, a brilliant neurosurgeon and the younger child in a privileged Indian-American family. In undergrad she met and befriended Julia Wickham, who later almost destroyed the life and political career of Trisha’s brother Yash; Trisha has been on the outskirts of her family ever since. Feisty Lizzie is now DJ Caine (Darcy James, just to be tricky), a talented French-trained chef who moves to the Bay Area to support his sister Emma as she seeks treatment for a brain tumor that can only be removed by Trisha Raje. But removing the tumor will destroy Emma’s sight, the worst result for a visual artist. Trisha and DJ get off on the wrong foot at a Raje family ‘do he’s hired to cater and then Julia Wickham (in full hippie-white-lady-with-dreds mode) returns to town and lends an ear to Emma and DJ….

I had a little trouble getting into this book, which annoyed me as an Austen fan. I think it’s because Dev introduces SO MANY characters at once, so we’re trying to sort out who’s who and what they do and who has history, etc because it’s very expansive instead of insular. There are a lot of B-plots (Yash, older sister Nisha and her husband, Emma’s decision regarding surgery and her art, the cousin with visions who is the obvious Mary stand-in) that create a lot of extra stuff Trisha and DJ have to work around aside from the obvious “pride” and “prejudice” themes imported from the Austen original. But once I got past the first 40 pages (i.e. I put on my giant headphones in the airport terminal) and got a basic handle on who-was-who, I was able to sink right in. I really liked how Dev did a “remix” of the characters and shook everything up a bit (Julia Wickham is the only character who performs exactly the same function in this book as George Wickham does in the original).

There are two things I have issues with in this book. First, many characters in this book – Trisha first among them – violate HIPAA repeatedly and cavalierly. This is plainly irresponsible. Tangential to this is a lack of support from social work or patient advocacy for Emma (although this is what allows the Wickham character to get close to Emma and DJ, so plot bunny). Second, there is an explanation of what Julia Wickham did to Yash that draws from #metoo and gets part of it very wrong. [I’m going to do some minor spoiling – it’s not a secret that Original Wickham is a sexual predator and has a thing for teenagers so it stands to reason that Julia Wickham is a predator, too – but skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to stay un-spoiled.] Julia roofies Yash, among other things, and assaults him (this is the “incident” Trisha feels she is being punished for). When this is finally revealed to the reader, we are given the scene between Trisha and Yash talking it over from Trisha’s point-of-view – and Trisha thinks that if this came to light, that even if Yash was the victim it would set back progress women were making with #metoo (I’m paraphrasing). This is a misreading of #metoo – we don’t fight that fight just for women who are assaulted by men, but also for men assaulted by women, and so on. It’s a very tone-deaf couple of paragraphs.  Which is unfortunate because Sonali Dev gets so much of the classism, racism (DJ is biracial – Anglo-Indian and Rwandan – and he experiences racism from both his paternal family in London and from the police in the US), privilege, and misogyny right in setting her Pride and Prejudice in 2019 California.

But those things aside, I did like it a lot. An excellent vacation book to read in the airport/on the plane.

Appetite warning: This book will make you VERY hungry because DJ is an amazing chef. All food described in this book is drool-inducing.

Dear FTC: I had a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss but I also bought a paper copy after I came back from vacation.

Austenesque · mini-review · stuff I read

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley

31450766Summary from Goodreads:
“Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen’s world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity.”–Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire
Take a trip back to Jane Austen’s world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses–both grand and small–of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a ‘life without incident’.
Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but–in the end–a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.
Illustrated with two sections of color plates, Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home is a richly entertaining and illuminating new book about one of the world’s favorite novelists and one of the subjects she returned to over and over in her unforgettable novels: home.

Jane Austen at Home is a lovely, meticulously-constructed biography of Jane Austen that uses the location and atmosphere of Austen’s homes – from Steventon, to Bath, to Lyme, to Godmersham, to Southampton, to Chawton, to London, and finally Winchester – as a jumping off point to examine how these physical places tell us about Austen’s life. Worsley also examines how the single, impoverished women of the Austen family and their friends/near relations stuck together to create a found family of their own.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book when it came out and have been savoring it very slowly.

Austenesque · stuff I read

Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman

35260525Summary from Goodreads:
One of the Chicago Reader’s Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018

A raucous tour through the world of Mr. Darcy imitations, tailored gowns, and tipsy ballroom dancing

The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother’s world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza.

While the long tradition of Austen devotees includes the likes of Henry James and E. M. Forster, it is at the conferences and reenactments where Janeism truly lives. In Camp Austen, Scheinman tells the story of his indoctrination into this enthusiastic world and his struggle to shake his mother’s influence while navigating hasty theatrical adaptations, undaunted scholars in cravats, and unseemly petticoat fittings.

In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you’ve never seen it before.

Continuing on my “will read all your books about Jane Austen ever” bent, I picked up a galley of Camp Austen by Tim Scheinman. I was expecting something a bit closer to A Jane Austen Education, about a dude who wouldn’t read Austen because “women’s fiction” who becomes a fan in grad school, but Camp Austen turned out to be a love-letter to Scheinman’s mom.

Camp Austen is a sweet little book about a journalist/academic who grew up around Jane Austen academics (chiefly, his mom) and fandom (she lectured at Jane Austen conferences, as well as her teaching job). He winds up helping at the inaugural Jane Austen Summer Camp one summer in grad school. It’s not that he never read any Austen, but it turns out he read the juvenilia as a kid, and liked it then read some for school and so on, and has just been surrounded by Austeniana for years. By dint of being a) the son of a prominent Janeite and b) a reasonably decent-looking younger person of the male persuasion (of which there aren’t many at Janeite gigs) he winds up getting immersed in the fandom for a good 18 months while his mom recovers from getting new knees. He gets fitted for an authentic Regency era suit of evening clothes, he learns set dancing, he gets to be Mr. Darcy. The book is partially a love-letter to a thing his mom loves, which he likes but isn’t his passion, and partially how something like how the Janeite fandom works (very surface level compared to something like Deborah Yaffe’s Among the Janeites, which gets into all the crevices, and Yaffe pops up as a friend here). Scheinman is blessedly free from the “Jane Austen’s books are silly ladies novels and not for dudes” attitude.

Camp Austen is out March 6 in the US – definitely a fun book for Janeites everywhere.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.