Review & Contest: Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Publisher: Ballentine Books/ Random House
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Pages: 432
Source: NetGalley

Stories by: Lauren Willig • Adriana Trigiani • Jo Beverley • Alexandra Potter • Laurie Viera Rigler • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Syrie James • Stephanie Barron • Amanda Grange • Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Carrie Bebris • Diana Birchall • Monica Fairview • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret C. Sullivan • and Brenna Aubrey, the winner of a story contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley

“My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” If you just heaved a contented sigh at Mr. Darcy’s heartfelt words, then you, dear reader, are in good company. Here is a delightful collection of never-before-published stories inspired by Jane Austen—her novels, her life, her wit, her world.

In Lauren Willig’s “A Night at Northanger,” a young woman who doesn’t believe in ghosts meets a familiar specter at the infamous abbey; Jane Odiwe’s “Waiting” captures the exquisite uncertainty of Persuasion’s Wentworth and Anne as they await her family’s approval of their betrothal; Adriana Trigiani’s “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” imagines a modern-day Austen giving her niece advice upon her engagement; in Diana Birchall’s “Jane Austen’s Cat,” our beloved Jane tells her nieces “cat tales” based on her novels; Laurie Viera Rigler’s “Intolerable Stupidity” finds Mr. Darcy bringing charges against all the writers of Pride and Prejudice sequels, spin-offs, and retellings; in Janet Mullany’s “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” a teacher at an all-girls school invokes the Beatles to help her students understand Sense and Sensibility; and in Jo Beverley’s “Jane and the Mistletoe Kiss,” a widow doesn’t believe she’ll have a second chance at love . . . until a Miss Austen suggests otherwise.

Regency or contemporary, romantic or fantastical, each of these marvelous stories reaffirms the incomparable influence of one of history’s most cherished authors.

Review: Who would have thought that a book containing short stories centered on the works of Jane Austen could be so utterly entertaining? Each one is an inspiration to Jane Austen and how strong she made her characters. Each one is able to definitely stand the test of time. Characters that even when taken today and developed into new stories still stand strong on their own.

From the first we are drawn into the lives of Ms. Austen and her characters. In Jane’s Nightmare by Syrie James, we find the characters attacking Jane so to speak and letting her know what she did wrong in developing their personalities. As she dreams they each let her know whether they are to perfect, need a little more backbone or whatever they say that their flaws are. She realizes that she should have made them more real. It is rather funny how characters become so real that you find yourself talking to them all the time. Past and present ones even.

Each story as it relates to Ms. Austen’s stories in some way let us see how much she writes a part of herself in some way into each character. In, A Night at Northanger by Lauren Willig, for instance; Jane is not compared to Ms. Bennett but to that of the proud Mr. Darcy.

Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane by Adriana Trigiani, let’s us imagine what it would be like to get life advice from Ms. Austen if she were to write us a letter today. It was refreshing to read letters in a day and age where letter writing has become a lost art form and has given way to an email or a text. Something to think about and maybe give writing letters another chance.

The Ghostwriter by Elizabeth Ashton, we get the chance to visit with a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued spirit of Austen, who pulls no punches. Ms. Austen’s spirit let’s a young woman whose lover has left her because he can’t compete with fictional Mr. Darcy, hear things only a best friend can say to you. It was wonderful that the ghost of Ms. Austen just came right out and told her that she needed to “pull herself together”, “her tears made her face blotchy”, and “her nose was running”. Things you need to hear and only hear from a really good friend. This very witty and charming story found me laughing out loud.

One of my favorites is, Jane Austen, Yeah Yeah Yeah! By Janet Mullany, where we find ourselves in the 1960’s and detention; as a young teacher helps her students learn how to appreciate Sense and Sensibility by aptly applying it to their lives. While helping the students she how something that was written a long time ago and still apply to today, she finds herself discovering things about herself and her own life.

Another favorite on mine was: What Would Austen Do, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. In this we find that even boys can find charm and help in reading stories by Ms. Austen. This story had a very clever way of letting the reader know that it is okay to be different.

The collection ended with, Intolerable Stupidity by Laura Viera Rigler; in which she takes us into the courtroom with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Poking fun at the way Mr. Darcy is perceived differently by each person that reads his story in Pride and Prejudice. He complains about being wet all the time, vampire teeth and everything else that people have interpreted into his character over the years. Recently Colin Firth coming out of the lake wet, which Mr. Darcy himself would never have done. It just wasn’t heard of in his time. The vampire teeth were just a scare tactic and not real. He wouldn’t draw blood from his neighbor’s, would you? Aunt Catherine as the judge is perfect as she is appalled by the unsavory ways that he has been portrayed.

I could write something about each story but that would just ruin it for you.

Overall I loved this collection allot. Each and every contributor understands and loves the work of Ms. Austen. Jane Austen Made Me Do It; is a very clever collection of short stories written a wide array of genres and subjects that take us from gothic romance to fantasy. We find Jane herself along with many of her more recognizable characters in each story. Each story is unique but when added makes every person wanting to be a Jane Austen follower.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves Jane Austen. Even if you never read anything written by her this collection makes you want to go out and read her classic stories, and fall in love all over again.

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The following contest is open to US residents only due to shipping costs.  HOWEVER, if you’re international and are willing to help out with shipping by making a donation to the blog, you are more than welcome to enter the contest.