Monday, November 7, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Title: Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart
Author: Laurel Ann Nattress, editor

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Jane Austen / Austen-Inspired / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Regency / Contemporary)
Publisher/Publication Date: Ballantine Books (10/11/2011)
Source: The editor.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes - a few stories a night before bed, with cocoa -- perfection!
One-sentence summary: Twenty-two short stories inspired by Jane Austen's novels and life.
Reading Challenges: British Books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's bold albeit a bit pink (but since I like pink that works for me) -- I appreciate the lack of curlique-ish font.

First line: A wedding must always be an occasion for joy, except when the husband is unwise enough to come under his wife's influence. from “Nothing Less Than Fairy-land,” by Monica Fairview

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, depending on your passion for Austen-inspired fiction. The big names in this volume make it a keeper!

Why did I get this book?: I love Austen sequels.

Review: I hate to admit this, but Pride and Prejudice is possibly my least favorite Austen novel. Terrible but true. (I'm a Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility fangirl all the way.) I say this to explain that I don't have any deep emotional attachment to Elizabeth and Darcy, which is why I love P&P inspired sequels and re-imaginings.

Purists looking for another Austen won't find that in this collection of twenty-two short stories, but for those who want to revisit Austen's literary worlds with others who are as giddy, swoony, and charmed by Austen will find this nearly 450-page book satisfying. The stories range from sequels of Austen's novels and parallel retellings (P&P from Lydia Bennett's viewpoint, for example) to contemporary retellings emulating Austen's plots, as well as original works that involve, usually, a devoted Austen fan learning an important lesson on love. Only seven of the stories were oriented around P&P; nearly all of Austen's novels are featured. I was surprised to find so many stories inspired by Austen's relatives in this collection: her brother, Francis Austen and two featuring her nieces. One of the stories included has a real life happily-ever-after: Brenna Aubrey's "The Love Letter" was selected from eighty-eight submissions to be included in this volume in an open short story contest. To be published alongside Lauren Willig, Syrie James, Adriana Trigiani, and Stephanie Barron (among others), is a huge treat for a first-time author, and the added sweetness of the story's birth made me enjoy it all the more!

My own tastes tend toward Austen sequels rather than tales of modern day Janeites, so I was surprised to find that my two favorite stories in this collection were contemporary ones. “Faux Jane,” by F. J. Meier (Frank Delaney & Diane Meier) features Nicola and Charles Scott (who reminded me a bit of Hammett's Nick and Nora, actually), two frenetic, pretentious, educated, ludicrous and hilarious New Yorkers who decide to step in when Nicola's friend purchases a signed first edition of P&P. “What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, features teenaged James Austen (whose mother may or may not have married his father solely for his surname) who signs up for a country dance class and discovers what's likeable about Austen's novels. Having enjoyed one of Janet Mullany's (non-Austen) novels earlier this year, I was unsurprised to discover I got a kick out of her story, “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!". Set in 1964 at a girl's school in England, Mullany's story mixes Beatles-mania and Austen with charming results.

Whether you're new to Austen sequels, spin-offs, and other Austenesque reveries or already a fan, give this volume a try: there's a wide range of styles and stories featured, and the authors in this volume are the best out there. Wildly diverting, a little irreverent, but wholly devoted to Austen, this collection was a wonderful treat when my days were aggravating, unromantic, and I was in need of a escape that was new and familiar.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 11/18. Be sure to return on Wednesday for my interview with Laurel Ann Nattress.


  1. Can you believe that I've never read any Austen? Shame one me, I know.

  2. Great review, Audra. My copy of the collection arrived recently and I'm looking forward to reading the many stories.

    PS - P&P isn't my favourite Austen, either. I'm a Persuasion fan.

  3. I really liked this one too and agree with the ones you picked as favorites, I enjoyed them too.

  4. @Michelle: No shame at all! There are plenty of classics I've never read! If you've seen any of the Austen films/miniseries, I think you could easily get into the volume, too -- there's sort of a pop cultural understanding of Austen out there, I think that imbues all these stories.

    @Melissa: Thank you -- enjoy it. Can't wait to see what stories you enjoy! There's a few Persuasion inspired ones that made me very happy!

    @Anne: Thanks for popping by -- I was so pleasantly surprised by the range of stories and focus -- really enjoyable!

  5. What a fun idea! Usually I stay away from Austen sequels simply because there are so many out there both good and terrible. I like that this collection contains a decent mix of sequels and contemporaries which would keep me interested. I might just have to give this one a try.

  6. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed it. I love P&P but not as much as Persuasion, so I was glad to see so much variety in the stories.

  7. I'm planning to read my way through Austen next year, and this story collection intrigues me. I tend to enjoy thematic collections, but I think I'll wait until I've read all of her novels first (I'm slow to the party, I know!)

  8. Oh, I am so glad that you liked this one! I have had my eye on it for some time now, and am excited about getting the chance to read it one day. It sounds like it's perfect to dip in and out of, and I loved reading your thoughts on it. Thanks for the great giveaway as well!

  9. I am afraid this one wouldn't be for me! I positively LOATHE Austen spinoffs and sequels, and it really bothers me that so many authors can't come up with their own material but just farm another writer's works without really doing anything new with it. I guess I just see it as fan fiction, which I guess it's harmless enough to write, but I don't think it should be published. I know I'm in the minority on this, but I'll be staying away from this one!

  10. Your review is so much more awesome than mine was :)

  11. @Jenna: This is a great starter collection then -- many of the authors featured in this book have written full-length sequels and spinoffs and you can get a sense of each author's style.

    @Anna: The variety was wonderful! I shouldn't have been surprised, since I think Nattress does a lovely job on her blog.

    @Carrie: Such fun -- I can't wait to see what you think of Austen's works!

    @Heather: It is exactly dip-in-dip-out-able -- it was my after dinner treat each night for about a week.

    @Steph: It's totally fan fiction. And I so understand what you mean -- weirdly enough, despite my love for Austen-spinoffs and sequels, I get wicked cranky when I see other authors being used in the same fashion (hands off my Brontes and Alcott!). I'm not swoon-y for Austen the way I am for Alcott or the Brontes, I guess -- it doesn't bother me so much.

    @Blodeuedd: Awww! Thank you -- but it's no contest -- I just read your review and appreciated your honest assessment of each story! I was back-and-forth about doing so but wasn't sure it'd be that interesting. You and I agreed on a lot of the stories (I'm going to be commenting on your blog about which ones!). :)

  12. I love all things Jane Austen! I'd love to read this. Short stories sounds interesting.


  13. I've been waiting on your reaction to this collection, and I'm glad that you enjoyed it...however, I may have to disown you since P&P is your least favorite Austen novel! I would have kept you around if you said it merely wasn't your favorite! :( I'm kidding. To each her own, I say. I still have not read Persuasion, and S&S is my least favorite, though I'm told to read Mansfield Park before deciding.

  14. I'm with you about Austen: I liked P&P but feel S&S is a better novel, sadly neglected by teachers/colleges/etc. I usually stay away from the redux of literature (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) but this seems more along my lines. Thanks for the review!

  15. Thanks bunches for the giveaway! :)

  16. @ Michelle - Never too late to start!
    @ Steph - These books seem to be divided into the contemporary Austen-inspired, the very good historicals and the historical romances (with Darcy in the title usually). I like the second group best and of those the best are 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter' (from Lady Susan) and 'A Match for Mary Bennet' (sequel to P&P) In fact the Lady Vernon authors wrote the best story in the anthology - What Would Austen Do? which IS a contemporary YA but LOL funny.

  17. Like so many others Jane Austin books read in junior high school are one reason I love to read. Would love to read this. Thanks for the giveaway

  18. Sounds like a great read. :) Thanks for the opportunity.